The kids are just getting settled at their desks, but one seat is empty. Grantaire looks at it and sighs. He doesn't have to take roll to know it's Gavroche who's missing. He scrubs a hand through his hair and is just about to instruct the children who are present to get out their slates and chalk and start practicing their letters while Grantaire goes and finds Gavroche and drags him to school, but before he can the door flies open and Gavroche himself bursts in like a whirlwind, looking mad-eyed and eager in a way that Grantaire knows can't have anything to do with schoolwork or lessons.
"Take your seat, Gavroche. You're late," Grantaire says.
Gavroche ignores him. He stands in the doorway, bouncing on the balls of his feet and gripping the door frame with both hands. "There's a ship falling out of the sky!"
Grantaire represses a sigh. It's one of the more creative attempts Gavroche has come up with to try to create a diversion from schoolwork, and Grantaire would enjoy his imagination if he hadn't made a promise to his sister, half a year earlier. "That's enough, Gav. We're going to learn addition today. Take your seat, or you'll fall behind."
Gavroche just glares at him. "But I mean it! It's out there falling from the sky in a ball of fire!" He turns and runs back out of the schoolhouse before Grantaire can catch him to stop him.
In an instant, all the students are on their feet and scrambling out the door after him, and Grantaire knows these kids well enough to know that trying to stop them would be about as fruitless as trying to hold back a dust storm. He sighs and scrubs a hand over his face, then follows out after the last of them, so that when they see Gavroche is just making up stories, he can herd them all back inside again.
The gasps and sharp cries that he hears as he comes around the schoolhouse to where the children have gathered put him on edge before he's even reached them. They all have their heads tipped back, their faces craned up toward the sky. Grantaire follows where they're looking with a sense of dread.
Gavroche was right. There's a fireball in the sky, streaking down toward earth. Grantaire doesn't even take the time to swear, he just grabs the nearest children at hand and drags them back against the schoolhouse wall, then corrals the rest and shuffles them back as well, where they'll at least have the protection of the building at their back. He quickly instructs them all to cover their ears. Whatever that fireball is, ship or meteor or something else, it's going to hit in moments, and when it does--
Fire fills the sky, a brilliant explosion that makes the kids cry out, in fear this time rather than excitement. The shockwave hits them a moment later, shaking the boards of the schoolhouse and rattling the windows in their frames.
As soon as it's passed, the kids pull away from Grantaire and the safety of the school, darting out across the school grounds to stare into the distance, where a great plume of dust has risen up to color the sky a dingy shade of brown. "What was that?" someone cries, and Gavroche answers, "I told you, it's a ship!"
Gavroche runs toward it first, and all the children follow after him. Grantaire runs with them, fear sitting thick and bitter in the back of his throat. If it's a ship, there's going to be people inside it, dead or dying or injured. And even if it wasn't, if it was a meteor or some other type of space debris, it looked like it went down over in the Houcheloup farmstead, and she's going to need help clearing out the damaged parts of her fields.
He hopes it's just a space rock pulled out of orbit and come crashing down onto their little moon. But as they get nearer, his hopes are dashed. The twisted, mangled shape in the middle of Mrs. Houcheloup's field is definitely metal, not rock. It's not a ship, though, just a little pod, barely big enough to hold a handful of people.
Maybe it got ejected without anyone inside it, Grantaire thinks as he hurries through the growing corn, calling out warnings to the children to be careful where they step because Mrs. Houcheloup's going to have a poor enough harvest as it is now, without them trampling what remains of her crop. Maybe it's empty. Maybe whatever ship the pod belongs to had a technical malfunction, or somebody in the cockpit leaned against the wrong button and it got jettisoned for no reason at all. There are salvagers on their little outer-system moon who could strip an empty pod down in a matter of hours, and the whole settlement would benefit from their windfall.
The children hold back when they're still about twenty feet away from the wreckage, standing arrayed around the crash site as though there's a forcefield keeping them out. Grantaire surveys them all with a quick glance as he starts toward the crashed pod, but the one face he expects to see there, pushed forward to the very front, is missing. His stomach twists itself into a painful knot. "Gavroche. Where is he? Where's Gavroche gone?"
The children glance past him toward the pod, almost as one. Grantaire doesn't need anymore confirmation. He spins and races toward it, tripping over the loose clods of dirt thrown up by the impact, shouting Gavroche's name.
There's a hole ripped into the side of the pod, jagged metal torn away to reveal wires and conduits and, past that, the twisted passage that must have once been a hallway. "Gavroche!" Grantaire shouts into it.
He's answered by a clang of metal, and a grunt, and then by the blessed sight of Gavroche's head poking out around a bit of fallen sheeting. "There's people in here, R," he says, and Grantaire's climbing into the pod before he realizes he's made the decision to move. "Two of 'em. They're hurt real bad."
"Are they dead?" It's hard to imagine anyone could have survived a crash like this, not when bodies are so much easier twisted and mangled than steel. The pod is destroyed. Is there any chance at all the people inside might not be?
But Gavroche gives his head a quick shake. "They're still bleeding."
"Fuck shit god damn," Grantaire swears and doesn't even care that Gavroche is right there listening to him and will assuredly use this as ammunition the next time Grantaire warns him to watch his mouth. He can worry about the kid and his love for foul language later, when there aren't people bleeding out onto Mrs. Houcheloup's fields.
It's a tight fit through the deformed corridors. By the time he makes it through to the hatch that Gavroche disappeared down, he's earned himself a dozen shallow cuts, a collection of bruises, and a throbbing burn on the palm of one hand from the exposed pipe he'd grabbed when a drift of rubble shifted and collapsed beneath his feet, and discovered the hard way that it was scalding hot. Soon enough, though, he makes it to the hatch and slides through feet-first into a cramped cockpit that's thick with the smell of blood and fried electronics. There's an older man moaning in one of the seats, and a young lady in the other who Grantaire thinks would be lovely if it weren't for the blood staining her golden hair and the unnatural angle her arm is bent at.
Gavroche is with the man, slapping his cheeks and saying, "Hey. Hey, mister. Are you awake?"
The man moans and his head lolls about on his neck. Grantaire spares him only a quick glance as he moves to crouch in front of the girl and feel for a pulse at her throat. He has to shut his eyes and tune out the noises coming from Gavroche and the man in order to focus.
Eventually, he finds it, weak and faint but there. She's alive — at least for the moment. But if she's going to have any chance of staying that way, they need to get her and her traveling companion out of there.
The way they came in is out of the question. It was hard enough to maneuver himself through it. Trying to get someone else out, someone who's unconscious and dead weight, is a fool's errand.
He has to move away from the girl in order to search the cockpit for any sort of escape hatch or other door that he can use to get these people out. It's a small enough space, it only takes him a minute to find it, a narrow little hatch that's going to be a pain getting the man's broad frame through, but is at least better than trying to navigate that hallway again.
The electronics in the ship are useless, and the hatch not designed to be opened manually. Grantaire has to tear off a twisted support rod from where it's half-fixed to the wall and use it to pry the door open. But the children, bless them, rush over to help as soon as they see what Grantaire's trying to do. Between the lot of them outside and Grantaire and his pry bar inside, they manage to break the seal and force it open. The children want to clamber inside, they strain up on their toes to see what's going on. Grantaire ushers them back and then turns to the injured passengers.
The girl's closer, and hurt worse. Grantaire goes to her first, reaches down by her side to feel for the latch that'll release her safety harness, but it's either broken or jammed, and won't disconnect.
Falling out of the sky is no less than this piece is crap deserves, Grantaire thinks viciously as he uses the sharp, broken end of the spar to saw through the harness's straps and free the girl. Whoever designed this death trap ought to be taken out and shot.
He scoops the girl into his arms and carries her as gingerly as he can to the hatch, and the children waiting to help beyond. He's pathetically grateful that she's unconscious, because he can hear the broken ends of her bones grating together and he's sure if she were awake, she'd be screaming. All it takes is the thought of it for Grantaire's stomach to twist and his appetite for anything but his whiskey bottle to vanish. It's a blessing that she's not awake for it.
They get her out of the pod and the children carry her out of the cornfield and set her down on the grass. She looks like she's been laid out for a wake. It makes something thick and bitter sit heavy in the back of Grantaire's throat, makes him turn and fumble with the older man's harness because it hurts too much to look at her limp form and fear the worst.
The man rouses when Grantaire slings his arm over his shoulders and tries to get him to his feet, at least enough to utter a primal groan and flail back away from Grantaire. His eyes are wide and white-rimmed, like a spooked horse. Grantaire talks to him the same way he would the horse, his voice cast to a low, soothing murmur, his movements slow and non-threatening. "I'm trying to help you," he says. "You crashed. You're hurt. Your companion's already outside. Will you let me take you to her?"
That, at last, gets through to the man. His gaze swings to focus on Grantaire. "Cosette? You have my daughter? Where is she? Is she all right?" He practically throws himself out of the hatch and down onto Mrs. Houcheloup's corn.
Grantaire follows him down. "She's in bad shape," he says unnecessarily. Anyone looking at her can see that. Out in the sunlight, he gives the man a narrow-eyed appraisal. "And so are you. Come on, sit down, before you fall right off your feet."
The man shakes him off violently when Grantaire tries to take his arm. The movement rucks his sleeve up, enough to reveal the yellow band tattooed around his bicep.
Grantaire freezes, and so does he. It's the mark of a criminal, his prison number printed in black ink across the band, there for everyone to see. Oh Christ, he's going to be trouble, and that's the last thing their little settlement needs.
"Please," the man says, his voice gone hoarse and strained. "Please. All I ever stole was to feed my sister's children, so they wouldn't starve. Please, we don't want any trouble. We'll leave as soon as we're able."
In what? Grantaire wants to demand. But the girl's blood is staining Mrs. Houcheloup's fields, and so all he does is swallow down the fear and call, "Gavroche? You'd better run ahead and warn Fantine we're on our way."
The rest of the reason is because they're fast friends, she and Grantaire, and he's done enough to help give her girls at least the very basics of an education that he knows he can convince her to give up a pair of her beds. She may make a token protest, but she won't mind too much. And also because, as the only one on their moon who cares about keeping her girls healthy and clean, she's the nearest their settlement has to an actual doctor.
She comes out to meet them halfway into town, her skirts tucked up to keep them out of the way and Gavroche jogging right at her heels. "What happened?" she asks, brisk and efficient as she holds her arms out to take Cosette from Grantaire.
Grantaire keeps holding on to her, because Fantine is a thin wisp of a thing and she'd probably kill him for thinking so, but he's stronger than she is, and the brothel isn't that much farther away. His arms are burning, but he'll live. The fear that the girl won't makes it easy to keep going, and ignore his discomfort. "Their pod crashed down onto Mrs. Houcheloup's land. We pulled them out, but..." He trails off and shrugs one shoulder. It's obvious enough that the girl's in terrible condition.
Fantine's face goes taut and grey as she takes the girl in with a glance. She gives a single, brisk nod and says, "Hurry, then. I'll clear out Giselle and Lisette's rooms. They're on the first floor, so you won't have to try to carry her up the stairs."
Grantaire just nods in return. "It's early enough, can you clear the bar out? We don't need people seeing these two coming in."
Fantine's gaze flashes to his, holds it and seems to demand all his secrets. But they're on the outskirts of town and the man is glancing around anxiously, tugging his sleeve down over his bicep and glaring like he'll willingly kill anyone he thinks might pose a threat to him or his daughter. "Later," Grantaire mouths at her. Then adds, out loud, "All this blood and guts, it'll turn your customers' stomachs. You're kind enough to let these two take your girls' beds, I wouldn't have them scaring away any more of your business."
Fantine accepts it with a slight inclination of her head and a hand reached out onto Grantaire's forearm to give a brief squeeze. "I'll go make sure the beds are empty, and the bar." She leave it at that, and hurries back the way she came.
With Gavroche's help, running ahead and creating diversions in his own inimitable way, they manage to get the girl to Fantine's without attracting any undue attention to themselves. The bar is, in fact, empty, and Grantaire could kiss Fantine for that. She stands just beside the door that leads to the rooms on the first floor and guides them back to the ones that have been made ready for them.
"Take that one for yourself," Grantaire says, tipping his head toward the first open door they pass, and carries Cosette into the second. The man ignores him entirely, though, and follows on his heels into the room. It's small and sparse and cramped with all of them crowded in there, designed only for two, not for a crowd. Grantaire lays the girl out on the bed then feels for her pulse again, because she's so pale and so still that it's hard to believe she could possibly still be alive.
"Cosette?" The man drops to his knees beside the bed and clasps her hand. Her palm is dwarfed in his. It just makes her look more fragile, more broken. "Cosette, it's all right now. Papa's here. You'll be just fine."
Grantaire moves aside, letting Fantine through. She tries to nudge the man over, and when he doesn't even seem to have noticed she's there, much less that she wants something from him, she gives a sharp sigh and takes Cosette's hand from his.
He stiffens as violently as if she'd struck him, and turns his face up to hers with a ferocious glare. Grantaire starts forward, his gaze already sweeping the room, identifying what's available to be used as a weapon. Fantine just meets the man's gaze with her own, though, cool and level and direct. "If you want me to help her," she says, "then you need to get out of the way."
The moment stretches. Grantaire's fingers itch to be wrapped around something solid and heavy and good for defense, but there's nothing. Not in easy reach, anyway, and he feels like a spooked hare, frozen in place and not daring to move lest he set off something terrible.
The man relents first, with a sudden rush of breath that leaves his shoulders slumped with defeat. He backs out to the bedroom's door and then hovers there, gripping the frame with white-knuckled fingers and staring desperately at them all.
Grantaire knows Fantine well enough to know to come forward and drop to his knees beside the bed, to roll out the medical kit she brought and start handing her items as she needs them. There's a razor blade to cut the girl's sleeve off her arm, a wad of gauze and a bottle of grain alcohol for disinfectant. Cosette doesn't even stir when Fantine pours it over the wound, though just the sight of it makes Grantaire grimace in sympathy. He's been on the receiving end of Fantine's ministrations more times than he can count, and it's not always pleasant, but it is effective.
Cosette's arm had been stained with blood, rivulets of it drawing tracks down her arm like old riverbeds cut across the desert. It had been gruesome and distressing, but now, with all that washed away, it's worse. There's nothing now to conceal the way the girl's flesh is torn open, the jagged end of white bone jutting up out of the wound. The old man makes a sound like he's been stabbed in the gut and tries to push forward, but Fantine holds him back with a glance. "Do you have a medkit on your pod?"
Grantaire's expression twists. Fantine didn't see the pod. If they did have a kit, it isn't likely to have survived the crash. And if by some miracle it had, the chances of them finding it in the twisted wreckage are slim to none. The chances of getting hurt or killed in the search, though, are much higher.
But the man just shakes his head, his expression shadowed by something bitter. "We took it on short notice," he says, with a little grimace and a twitch of his branded arm that makes it obvious — as though it hadn't been already — that when he says took, he actually means stole. "There wasn't time to check supplies. And even if there had been, no one would have sold to the likes of me." He scrubs a hand across his mouth and gives Fantine a harrowed look. "Don't tell me you can't help her. Please, you're the only chance she has. She's my whole world. Please."
By the time he's finished begging, he's in the room with the sleeve of Fantine's dress caught between his fingers. She extracts it from his grip delicately. "I have basic supplies. Bandages, gauze. Some medicines. I have antibiotics, and I'll give her what we can spare. But they're not strong. If she goes septic, they might not be enough."
"Just do what you can. Please. You have to." He gulps and stares at her, his face gone ashen beneath the scruff of his beard. "Her arm—"
"We'll set it, as best we're able. We'll do what we can for her. But you need to know what we're up against. And you need to let us work."
He nods frantically and promises he will, and when Fantine calls one of her girls up to see him down to a quiet spot in the bar, he goes after extracting a promise that Fantine will let him know the very instant anything changes.
When he's gone, escorted away by the whore, who murmurs soothingly as his voice cracks and trembles on the edge of tears, it leaves only Fantine and Grantaire in the room. And Cosette, lying motionless. Grantaire looks down at her and rubs a hand over the back of his neck. "I suppose you mean me to be the one who helps you set it." It's not a question. They know each other too well, by now.
Fantine doesn't reply as though it was one, either, only moves around the bed and motions Grantaire to stand where she wants him. "You've the strength for it," she says, and only that.
Grantaire leans down and grabs onto Cosette, one arm wrapped under hers and the other braced across her shoulder so that when Fantine grasps her elbow to pull and twist, she's got something to leverage against. They've done this before -- more times than Grantaire can count, certainly more times than he cares to remember -- when one of the girls was mistreated by a customer, or when Fauchelevent got caught up in the spokes of his wagon wheels and his arm twisted right out of his socket, and Grantaire helps because he can, and because he's needed, but it still makes his stomach churn. The fact that those didn't involve the bone breaking through the skin didn't make them any more pleasant, and only marginally less grotesque.
The only blessing, this time, is that Cosette's still unconscious, so at least Grantaire doesn't have to fight to hold her down, or listen to her scream as Fantine forces the bone back into place. Still, the grating off the bone against itself makes his stomach churn all on its own.
It's not a clean break. It takes work and effort on Fantine's part to try to get the ends of the bones lined up as well as possible, so Cosette will have any chance at all of it healing and being functional again. By the time she's finished, Grantaire's brow is beaded with sweat, half from the effort of the work, and half from the struggle to fight back nausea. Fantine's no better, wisps of hair escaped from her pins and plastered with sweat along her temples and brow. When she finally steps back and reaches for a towel to wipe off her hands, Grantaire lets go of Cosette and draws in a great breath. He knows it's not true, but even so, he still feels as though he hadn't breathed at all through the whole thing. His chest hurts and he wants to go join Cosette's father downstairs at the bar and drink until he remembers why it was he thought staying here in this tiny settlement on this tiny moon was a bright idea in the first place.
"It's not clean work," Fantine says, frowning down at Cosette. "But it's the best we can manage. It'll have to do." She gets out the medkit she keeps stocked for her girls, extracts gauze and bandages and a sling and sets to work, wrapping Cosette's arm up securely so she won't dislodge it in a panic when she finally wakes up ("If," a treacherous voice whispers in the back of his head, but Grantaire sets it out of his mind and keeps himself focused, on Fantine and on the task at hand.)
They dress the open wounds, which look moderately less alarming now that they don't have raw bone jutting through them, and Fantine applies more alcohol before she bandages it all up. And when all that's finished and there's nothing more that they can do for her until they see whether the wound means to fester or not, Fantine turns to face Grantaire and fixes him with a level look.
The weight of that gaze upon him makes Grantaire want to squirm. Instead, he just cocks his head and demands, "What is it?"
Fantine holds her hands out. Grantaire takes them, and she uses the gesture to turn his over, sliding her palms beneath his. She glances down at them, then up at Grantaire, and quirks a brow. "You'll let me see to you now." That's not a question, either, and it's only then that Grantaire remembers about his palm, and the burn still throbbing across it.
He looks down at it and grimaces. He didn't do it any favors, using it as much as he did to get Cosette here, and then helping Fantine see to her. The skin is red and inflamed, especially across the heel of his palm, and now that there aren't medical emergencies preoccupying his attention, the pain works deep into his hand and up his arm until the whole limb feels useless.
She clucks her tongue, then gathers her kit and turns away. Grantaire follows her through the halls and up the stairs to her own room, set a little away from the other girls', now that the only men she takes to her bed are the ones she brings there for her own pleasure.
Grantaire sits on the edge of the bed while she lays the kit out just as she had downstairs. She pulls a chair up to the bedside and sits in front of him, takes his hand in hers and lays it palm-up on her knee. She touches the burn lightly and watches how it makes him suck in a breath. "That was very foolish."
Grantaire glances up and finds her gaze on his. "Which part?"
She gives a sharp sigh. "All of it, R. You could have been killed, or Gavroche, or one of the other children--"
"The kids didn't get anywhere near it. All but Gav, and you know how well he listens to orders. I had to go in after him. And then he found them, and I couldn't leave them there, Fantine." She opens a jar of something noxious-smelling, scoops the paste inside onto her fingers, and spreads it across Grantaire's burn. It makes him hiss and jerk his arm back, but she's got a firm grasp on his wrist and he can't go anywhere.
"And what about the rest?" she asks quietly, smearing the cream across his burn. Because the physical danger of the wreckage is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons why what Grantaire did was stupidly dangerous, and he knows it.
"I didn't see his tattoo until I got them out." The cream makes his burn hurt ferociously, but as the ointment begins to melt and to seep into his skin, it brings with it cool relief. "And the girl doesn't have one. Whatever her father's sins, she didn't deserve to die for them."
Fantine hums a noncommittal noise. "We don't have a pod to lend them, and the girl's in no condition to be moved. If the law shows up looking for them, we'll have little recourse."
"I know, Fantine." He sighs and slumps forward, leaning his head in his arms as much as he's able, while she's still got hold of his hands. "I'll make some calls, see what I can do."
She gives him a sharp glance. Her fingers tighten around his wrists. "That's not what I meant. R... You don't have to do that."
"Don't I?" He lets out an unsteady breath and lifts his head enough to meet her gaze. Hers has gone sharp and concerned, and he wants to hug her, but she's still holding on to him. "We're all in danger if they stay."
In a settlement like theirs, on a tiny moon circling a planet too far away from the system's center for anyone to bother with unless they bring attention to themselves, the law is what they make of it. Every item is Fantine's kit is illegal, medical contraband smuggled in without a license because it was needed. Everyone else in the settlement has engaged in similar sorts of minor illegalities out of necessity, because sometimes you have to bend the rules when you've been left to survive by your own devices. If this were an inner-system moon, they could call for a Capital transport for the girl, and they'd whisk her off to the nearest hospital facility and piece her back together in the space of a few hours. But no one will come to a call like that from all the way out here.
Not any official ships, anyway.
He has to wait while Fantine finishes with him. She bandages his hand up carefully and makes him promise not to use it for at least a day, and then when he thinks he can escape and go do what he has to, she makes him sit while she cleans the myriad cuts he's got across his shoulders and arms and face.
"Take better care of yourself, R," she says when she's at last decided herself satisfied, and she takes hold of his arm so he has to stay there and meet her gaze, instead of shrugging her off and sidling out. "Even small wounds can fester."
"Nah," Grantaire says, and flashes her a grin. "Not mine. I've got too much alcohol coursing through my veins. I'm a walking antiseptic."
"You think so, do you?" Her lips quirk, and she doesn't look pleased, but she opens her hand and releases him, so he makes his escape while he can.
But then, of course, there's nowhere to go but home. The temptation to linger in Fantine's bar and steel his nerves with a drink or two or a dozen is alluring, but Fantine is bound to be down shortly, if only to check in on Cosette's father, and she'll just frown and disapprove if she sees Grantaire there drinking himself stupid.
So home it is, and he'll just have to do this sober.
He at least clears off the desk in the corner, and pulls out the one thing he owns that's slick and modern and new, instead of beat up and worn down and second- or third- or fourth-hand. It's a shiny little communicator, and he still remembers the slick, cold feel of it when Éponine pressed it into his palm and hissed, "Fucking use it, R, or I swear to God..."
He does. Or, well, he did, for a while. But there's been Gavroche to take care of -- and they both know that's a job in and of itself -- and lessons to plan, children in need of extra tutoring or Fantine in need of help around her place, and usually when he does think to use it he's drunk and it's too late to call because he'd just be waking her up.
He lays the communicator out on the desk and fiddles with the button that will connect him to her, but he doesn't press it, not yet. There's a weight on his chest that makes it hard to breathe.
Finally, when he's dithered enough that he's frustrated even himself, he bites off an oath (and glances around quickly to be sure that Gavroche isn't home and lingering around to overhear him) and stabs the button to connect the call.
A wavering film of light appears in the air above the communicator. Some people like to set their communicators to play music or maybe a brief, entertaining recording while it waits to connect, but Éponine's not that sort, so all Grantaire gets is the wavering light and silence, until abruptly the light flashes bright, and then reforms itself into a hologram of Éponine's face, floating in the air just above the communicator.
"R?" Her face is drawn, her brow pinched with worry. "What's wrong? Is Gavroche okay?"
Grantaire leans back in his chair and lets himself laugh. Just a little, and not very mirthful. "Nothing. Gav's fine. He's fine, Ep, stop glaring at me like that. You'd have been proud of him today." Or at least, she would have once she stopped throttling Grantaire for allowing him into such a dangerous situation in the first place. "Why do you think something's wrong?"
The corners of her mouth pull back. "Because you're calling me," she says dryly. And then, leaning forward and narrowing her eyes, "And because you're bleeding. Christ, R, what's going on? Tell me."
"I'm not--" He shakes his head and cuts himself off with a sigh. "Fantine patched me up. It's just a scrape. Éponine, will you stop worrying about that and listen to me?"
She's already got her mouth open to say something else, but at Grantaire's words, she snaps it shut and blinks at him for a moment. "You're worrying me," she says at last. "You're not acting like yourself. What's happened?"
He wants to tell her. God, does he want to, even knowing she'd likely be even more brutal in scolding Grantaire for putting himself and the settlement -- and her brother -- in jeopardy. But with a convict in their midst and the law surely tearing the system apart looking for him, Grantaire doesn't trust their commline not to be compromised, so he just gives his head a quick shake. "Later," he says.
That gets nothing but a furious glare from Éponine.
"Later! I promise. Right now, I just need you to do me a favor."
"Anything," she says without hesitation, and he'd kiss her if she were there.
For once in his life, he's glad she's not, though, because he knows the reaction his next words are going to get. "I need you to talk to Apollo for me."
It's painful, the way she reacts just as he knew she would. The dawning light across her face, the way her eyes go wide and her lips part on a breath and the corners of her mouth twitch back because she's trying not to smile, not to beam at him. And this is why he's glad she's not there, because it's hard enough to put that light out of her eyes when she's halfway across the system. If she were standing right there in front of him looking at him like that, he doesn't know that he'd have the strength to do it.
He leans his head in his hand so that he doesn't have to look at her as he mutters, "Not about that. Come on, Ep, you know it's not about that."
She sucks air through her teeth and he knows she's disappointed. "Grantaire."
From her, it's the equivalent of a mother calling her child by his full name. Grantaire flinches. "Please don't."
"Hasn't this gone on long enough? If you two would just talk to each other—"
"I talk. He doesn't listen. That's the problem."
"Giving him the cold shoulder isn't the answer. How's he supposed to learn to listen when you've gone quiet?"
Grantaire grabs fistfuls of hair at the back of his neck and fights the urge to smash the communicator into tiny pieces. "I'm going to disconnect if you keep doing this, Ep."
"Come home, R." She stares at him desperately from the communicator's hologram. "We all miss you."
It makes a smile pull at the corners of his mouth, but there's little humor in the gesture. "Some of you, maybe."
"All of us." She says it firmly, with no room for argument, and the stern set of her jaw defies Grantaire to contradict her.
"How's Marius? Still oblivious?"
It makes her sigh, makes the corners of her mouth pinch with unhappiness. "Trying to avoid talking about it by changing the topic is beneath you, R. I've seen toddlers manage it with more finesse than that."
"So that's a yes, then." He gives her a lopsided, sympathetic smile. "Sorry. You deserve better." He drums his fingers against the desk. "We both do."
"Oh Christ." She rolls her eyes. "You're impossible. Fine, if you're going to be like that, then just tell me what it is you want from us and be on your way."
"I need your help," he says. His tongue trips on the words, because what he wants to say is I need his help, but he won't allow himself that. "You guys have connections to the underworld that I don't have access to anymore."
Irritation and impatience and the rest of the after-effects of their conversation all evaporate from Éponine's face, leaving her focused and leaning forward, her fingers wrapped in a tight grip around the edge of her table. "What have you gotten into?"
He dismisses the question with a wave of his hand. "Just ask, will you? See if he'll ask around and see if anyone knows of a nearby medtransport that'd be willing to take on a pair of passengers."
"I take it this is a less-than-legal sort of transport commission."
"Of course." His smile his flat and humorless. "Will you do that for me, Ep?"
"I'll ask. I'll see. He might not..." She hesitates and trails off, frowning.
She doesn't have to finish. Grantaire already knows what she's going to say. He might not be willing to do anything. He might speed off to the other end of the system as soon as he hears Grantaire's name. He might shut down completely and refuse to even acknowledge that Éponine is talking about Grantaire.
He might a lot of things, and all of them feel possible, even likely. Certainly, the prospect that he'll agree to help Grantaire is probably last on the list of probable outcomes.
"I know." He smiles at her. "Thanks, Ep."
"Don't be a stranger, R." She says it suddenly, fiercely, her hands curling into fists in front of her. "I mean it. I gave you that for a reason."
"I will," he promises. "I've just been busy."
She scowls at him.
"I will!" He holds his hand up, fingers spread. "Promise."
Éponine just looks at his hand, flinches, and then sighs. Grantaire glances at it, and the thick wad of bandages and gauze that make it look far fatter and more swollen than it really is. "That looks worse than it is."
"Yeah, I'll just bet it does." Her smile pulls sideways, lopsided and sardonic. "Take care of yourself, R."
"I promise," he says again, and then he's reaching for the communicator button, but she's already disconnected, leaving him with only static and the unsteady light of the empty hologram.
He shuts the communicator down and tucks it away safely out of sight, then just sits there in front of his desk with his fingers plowed through his hair, his back bent. Getting help from Enjolras is long odds any way you slice it. And meanwhile, Cosette's still badly hurt, and their settlement is still in growing danger with every passing minute that those two remain among them. Grantaire's not willing to gamble with the town's safety on the prospect that Enjolras might finally come through for Grantaire when he needs him.
He really doesn't have the sorts of connections that Enjolras does any longer, neither the depth nor the breadth of them. But he does have some, a few old acquaintances he's still in occasional contact with. He'll probably have better luck with them than Éponine will with Enjolras.
And maybe, God willing, one of them will have the connection he needs, and they'll be able to get these fugitives on their way before they bring any trouble down upon all their heads.
The bar -- and the town beyond it -- are already abuzz with news of the pod's crash and the strangers' arrival. Grantaire finds a shadowed corner to tuck himself into, where he can drink in peace without anyone trying to drag him into their conversations. He sits, and he drinks, and he listens.
The bar is full of speculation about who the newcomers are, why they crashed, what they might want with their little settlement. No one, though, seems to be talking about the fact that one of them is a convict, and that's no small relief. At least it means those who know are keeping their mouths shut. Maybe, just maybe, they can keep word of it from spreading to Capital ears before they have a chance to get those two off-planet and on their way.
The wine seems particularly bitter tonight, but Fantine's not known for serving the cheap stuff. Grantaire grimaces at the bottle and swallows it down anyway, because wine is wine, and because Éponine's words are still playing through his head, and he's still far too sober for that.
It's well past dark, and he's somehow managed to fall asleep with his head on the table, when he's startled awake by a small hand on his arm. He jolts upright and stares at it, and then at Gavroche on the other end of it, standing there watching him in silence with a frown wrinkling his forehead.
"We've got school tomorrow, R. You can't teach worth shit when you're hungover."
"Language," Grantaire scolds him automatically. Gavroche just rolls his eyes and tugs at Grantaire's arm, pulling him up to his feet. Gavroche is right, though. Grantaire tries to keep his drinking to the nights when he doesn't have to teach the next day, because while he enjoys his job and he sees the value in it, hangovers steal all the patience and grace he needs for it and leaves him a snarling, short-tempered mess. The kids deserve better than that from him.
He leaves his mostly-empty wine bottle on the table for one of the girls to pick up and lets Gavroche lead him stumbling home. "I talked to your sister tonight," he mumbles when they're halfway down the street.
Gavroche's hand goes momentarily tight around his wrist. "You did?" There's energy and excitement vibrating in his voice. "What did she say?"
"She said you need to watch your language or I'll wash your mouth out with soap."
Gavroche snorts and grins back over his shoulder at Grantaire. "No, she didn't. Ep taught me all the bad words I know."
Grantaire believes it, too. Éponine swears like a dockworker when she gets going, colorfully and inventively. Still, he shakes his head and says, "She had bad role models. You've got better ones. And I mean it about the washing, just you see if I don't."
Gavroche just keeps grinning at him, unconvinced. After a moment, though, his smile fades and leaves him staring back at Grantaire, frowning again, his mouth turned down in a sharp scowl. "You talked to her." This time it's got the force of an accusation behind it. "Why didn't you let me talk to her?"
Grantaire fights back the urge to sigh. "It wasn't a long conversation, Gav. And you were off running around somewhere." He chucks Gavroche on the shoulder and lifts his brows at him. "If you were home a bit more, maybe you'd actually get a chance to say hi to her, huh?"
Gavroche rolls his eyes dramatically, like being asked to spend time in Grantaire's house is the most onerous demand ever. "She never wants to talk to me."
"Hey." Grantaire stops them both, and pulls Gavroche around to face him. "She loves you. She misses you. The first thing out of her mouth when I called her was asking if you were all right."
That just makes Gavroche heave a sigh. "Of course I'm all right. I'm not a baby."
Grantaire smiles, then crouches down and lifts Gavroche up to ride on his shoulders. Gavroche holds on to handfuls of his hair, heels kicking against Grantaire's ribs. "I told her she'd have been proud of you today."
"Really?" Gavroche sounds reluctantly hopeful, like he's pleased by the idea of it, but only despite himself.
"You bet." Grantaire pats his knee. "I'm proud of you. You helped saved those people."
Gavroche leans down, his cheek resting against the top of Grantaire's head, his arms wrapping under Grantaire's chin in a choking hug. Grantaire makes a show of gagging and wheezing until Gavroche laughs and releases him, and digs his heel into Grantaire's ribs in retaliation.
"But," Grantaire says, turning his voice stern, and gives him a pinch on his calf. "If you ever do anything so foolhardy again, I swear to you, I'll string you up by your toes. You could've been killed, Gav."
Gavroche sighs again, dramatically. "I'm fine, though."
"All the same. You could've been, and then do you know what your sister would have done?"
He giggles. There's a grin in his voice when he says, "String you up by your toes."
"That's right. And then she'd get scary and make me cry. So have a little pity for me and at least try to be careful, all right?"
It's as close to a promise of obedience as Grantaire's ever going to get from him, so he accepts it with a nod and lets the conversation turn to more pleasant things as they make their way towards home. Gavroche tells him about going out with some of the other kids from town to watch the salvagers take the pod apart, and how he snuck in when they weren't looking and took a commscreen for himself, but then got busted on his way back out of the pod and thought the salvager was going to tan his hide for it.
"But then he let me keep it after all, R. He said it was an old and outdated piece of cra-- piece of trash, and I could have it if I wanted it because I'd be saving him on the trouble of finding some place to toss it. So I took it home and now it's mine."
Grantaire grins and cranes his head to look up at Gavroche. "And what are you going to do with a dead commscreen, hmm? Are you looking to go into salvaging, too?"
Gavroche scoffs. "No, that's boring. I'm going to build a comm unit all by myself, and then I can talk to all sorts of people whenever I want."
"People like Éponine?" Grantaire asks lightly.
Gavroche's weight shifts above him as he shrugs a shoulder. "Oh, sure," he says, overly casual in the way he gets when he's trying too hard not to reveal how much he cares about something. "I guess I could talk to her, too."
"She'd love that, you know."
"Of course she would. We're family." He says it like it's blindingly obvious, and Grantaire must be the biggest idiot on the moon not to realize it.
Grantaire pulls Gavroche down off his shoulders and hugs him tight right there in the street, until Gavroche starts squirming and wiggles his way out of Grantaire's arms, looking pleased and embarrassed all at once. "You drank too much," he says with a stern frown, then takes Grantaire's hand and they finish the walk home together.
"Did you eat?" Grantaire asks as he lets them into the house. It's dark and hot inside, and he moves around the common room turning up the lamps until there's enough light to see by.
"One of Fantine's girls gave me some bread and butter before I left." Gavroche throws himself down into the chair, with its lumpy cushion and loose leg, and pulls a chunk of wood and a whittling knife out of his pocket.
"That's not a proper supper. Go get one of the meal bars from the kitchen, all right?"
Gavroche rolls his eyes and pulls a face, but hops up and goes to do so obediently. He returns with half of one and makes a show of taking a bite so Grantaire can see it. When he catches Grantaire frowning at him, he heaves another sigh. "I'm not hungry enough for a whole one! You eat it."
Grantaire shakes his head and takes their other chair for his own. This one's in even worse shape than Gavroche's, with an arm that's broken clean off from that time a few months ago when Grantaire and Gavroche were play-wrestling and got a little too rambunctious for the size of the place. Grantaire makes another mental note to talk to the carpenter about fixing it, and what he might want in trade for the work, then slumps down into it so his spine is bowed and his neck is propped on the edge of the chair's back. "I'm fine, Gav. Save it for later."
"Wine isn't a proper supper either, you know."
Grantaire loves Éponine like a sister and misses her every single day, but he could kill her just a little bit for teaching her brother the fine art of sass. He lifts his head from the back of the chair and fixes Gavroche with as stern a frown as he can manage while still half drunk. "Enough of that. Wrap the rest of it up and keep it in case you get hungry later. And make sure you've done your figures before you run off, so you'll be able to keep pace in class tomorrow."
Gavroche just makes another face at him. But after a moment, he puts down his whittling and goes to get his slate and chalk from the bedroom, so Grantaire leaves him to it, and shuts his eyes and runs a hand over his face. Gavroche is right about one thing, he's going to suffer for the wine in the morning, and it's going to make tomorrow a very long day indeed. But at least tonight, it offers him some hope of being able to get to sleep without being plagued by thoughts of Éponine and Enjolras and everything he left behind when he came here.
Still, there are appearances to be kept, so Grantaire just smiles right back, and does his best to be as bright and cheerful as he ever is in front of the children. He makes it through the day without snapping any chalk sticks in a fit of headache-induced violence, which he counts a victory, particularly when Fameuil scrapes his fingernails across his slate to try to upset Zéphine sitting beside him. (They're some of the older children in the class, nearly to their majority, and Grantaire secretly suspects they'll be married and having babies inside of five years, but for now they're still under the impression that they hate each other, and he's inclined to allow them their delusions, at least so long as it doesn't disturb the rest of the class.)
When he dismisses the class and everyone runs on back to their homes and their families -- and Gavroche runs off with Gervais to no doubt get into mischief -- Grantaire walks into town and all the way to Fantine's.
It's still early afternoon and business hasn't even begun to pick up. There's one lonely man drinking in the corner of the bar, and two whores on the other side of the room leaning together, whispering and giggling to each other. Grantaire nods to the man and waves fond greetings to the girls as he makes his way through the tables and chairs to the stairway to the upper floors.
He finds Fantine in her room, fussing with her hair in a mirror much bigger and nicer than Grantaire's and humming a half-familiar tune beneath her breath as she readies herself for the night's crowds. She smiles at Grantaire when she catches his eye in the reflection, then turns about to face him. "You look terrible."
"Thanks," he says, droll. He comes forward and kisses her cheek, lightly so as not to disturb her rouge. "You look lovely."
"Well, thank you for saying so." Her smile is bright and genuinely pleased. "What brings you by? You look like you want to be nowhere so much as at home in bed, so it can't be for pleasure."
"Sure it can. Your company would make up for even the worst hangover." He pulls up a chair and settles down at her side. There's a curl out of place lying over her shoulder, and he reaches to brush it back. "How are our patients today?"
"Cosette's awake, thank God. I feared if she stayed under much longer, she'd never wake. Though her arm's bad enough she's been dopey on laudanum most of the day. I've hardly been able to pry Valjean away from her bedside long enough to give him a look, but he seems well enough. That goose egg on his head seems alarming, but he's been clear and alert all day, so I'm trying not to be too concerned about it." She tips her head to the side and looks him over with narrowed eyes and a knowing smirk. "You're concerned about them, are you?"
"I'm concerned about us. You saw his tattoo, you know what it means. We'll have Capital ships touching down in search of them in no time, just you watch, and they'll tear our town apart in the search and leave ruins in their wake. Assuming they don't put us all in chains for harboring him in the first place."
She reaches over and pats him on the knee. He makes a face at her, but she just smiles at him in reply. "You can go down and see how they're doing for yourself, if you like."
He'd protest that he doesn't need her permission to look in on them, that there's not a person in her establishment who'd stop him from going anywhere he pleased, but it would be a Pyrrhic victory. Instead he just rises, kisses her cheek again and says, "Well, if you're going to be on the floor tonight, somebody ought to go stick their head in and make sure those two are doing all right," as though it were her suggestion that put the idea in his head in the first place. "I'll be down later for some hair of the dog."
She clucks her tongue at him, and it might be disapproval, but she leaves it at that as she rises and bustles out to go see to her girls, so Grantaire lets it lie, too. He offers her his arm as they go down the stairs together, then gives her a careful hug before they part at the ground floor landing. "Knock 'em dead."
Her smile flashes, full of dimples and warmth. Grantaire leaves her there to make his way to the first floor bedrooms, and the two in the back that have been given over to Valjean and Cosette.
The door to Cosette's room is ajar when he reaches it, and the low murmur of voices drifts from within, so Grantaire raps his knuckles against the door frame and waits until he hears a clear, sweet voice call out, "Yes? Come in," before he pushes it open the rest of the way and lingers in the doorway.
Cosette's awake indeed, and lying with her back propped up on what looks like every pillow in the brothel. She looks pale and wan, but her eyes are open and she's animate, so Grantaire figures that's nothing but an improvement. Valjean sits hunched in a chair at her side, gripping the hand of her unbroken arm so tight Grantaire wonders if he fears she'll fly away from him like a kite on a gusty day, if he loosens his hold.
Cosette watches him with a distant but curious look. There's a glassy-eyed sheen to her gaze that must be the laudanum, but it's either wearing off or she's dosing herself with a conservative hand, because she's much more alert and attentive than he'd have expected her to be. "Hello," she says, and there's a lilt at the end of the word that makes it into a question, politely curious.
Grantaire offers her a smile and steps just into the room, just beyond the threshold. "Hi. I don't mean to bother you, I just wanted to come and see how you were doing for myself."
Her expression of polite, if puzzled, curiosity doesn't change. Valjean pats her hand and murmurs, "My dear, this is--" He breaks off and glances at Grantaire. "I believe Miss Fantine said your name was R?"
Grantaire shifts his weight from one foot to the other and back again. R's a personal nickname, a private nickname. It feels wrong coming from the mouth of a virtual stranger. "It's Grantaire, properly, but R will do fine, if you like," he says, and hopes it doesn't come out too brusque. Gavroche was right about the hangover. He's terrible with people when he's like this.
"Oh!" Cosette's face lightens. A smile spreads across it, so sweet and bright it's physically painful to look at. "You're the one who saved us, then. We owe you our lives."
"Oh Christ." Grantaire thunks his head back against the wall. "If you're going to start in like that, I'm just going to leave."
"Please don't." She shifts, trying to sit up straighter, but it jostles her arm and makes her eyes go wide, her face grey. Valjean is there in an instant, pulling her back down again, whispering urgently about how she must take care of herself, for his sake if not her own.
"I'm sorry," she whispers when she's settled again, looking over Valjean's shoulder to Grantaire. "Please don't go. I won't fuss if you'd rather I didn't. You are the one who pulled us out of the pod and brought us here, though, aren't you?"
Grantaire nods, quick and jerky. Cosette smiles, though the corners of her mouth are still tight enough that Grantaire can tell she's in pain. "I'll say thank you, then, at leave it at that."
"I can't stay," he says, though it's not exactly the truth. He could if he wanted to. He's spent too many evenings at Fantine's to count, and Gavroche always either finds him here, or finds someone he can give doe eyes to in exchange for a bit of supper, or goes home by himself and has a meal bar if throwing himself on others' pity proves fruitless. The world won't end if Grantaire stays, but he isn't sure he wants to, with these people here looking at him like he's someone amazing when he knows he's not.
Cosette's smile doesn't waver, though, even as Grantaire edges toward the door. "Thank you for visiting, Grantaire. I hope you'll come back soon, when you can stay for longer."
Valjean looks like he's not certain he agrees. His right hand is clenched into a white-knuckled fist on his lap, and Grantaire can guess that he's remembering when Grantaire pulled him out of the pod, and saw the tattoo on his arm. Cosette doesn't know him as anything but her savior, but he's sure his face gave away his true ambivalence to Valjean there in Mrs. Houcheloup's corn fields.
"I'll see what I can do," he promises to Cosette, because her arm is broken and she must be in a great amount of pain even with the laudanum, and Grantaire doesn't have it in him to be cruel to people who are already suffering. "I'm glad to see you awake, you were giving us all a scare. I hope you feel better quickly."
"Thank you," she says again, with that same bright smile shining out of her pale face. Grantaire nods awkwardly and takes his leave while he still can.
The bar is growing busy by the time he makes it back there. And Fantine's in the center of it all, flirting with the customers and charming the credits right out of their pockets. She's bright and personable and she'll protect her girls with the ferocity of a mother bear defending her cubs, which is why some people -- like Grantaire -- have sworn her their undying loyalty and patronage. Most of the others, though, come back because Fantine's got a knack for matchmaking that has to be seen to be believed. After five minutes of idle chatter with a man, she can pair him with the girl who's best equipped to give him exactly what he needs, whether that's a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear or just a soft, kind girl to lose himself and his troubles in for an evening.
There's a running joke amongst the brothel and its customers that Grantaire is the only hot-blooded man in the settlement who Fantine can't match. Sometimes new girls try their luck in the hopes that they might finally be the one to win him over, but the truth is that Grantaire is perhaps the one person in town whom Fantine has never tried to work her magic on.
They both know there's only one person who's a true match for Grantaire, and the prospect of crying out his woes about it to some girl only makes Grantaire weary beyond belief. He's happier being celibate, and he makes up for it by buying Fantine's liquor, instead of her girls. And in that respect, Grantaire's her very best customer.
Tonight, he lingers long enough to exchange a few words with Fantine, and to down a shot of brandy to try to take the edge off of his hangover, and then he makes his excuses and extricates himself from conversation with one of the girls, a temperamental brunette who's been with Fantine for years and who's one of Grantaire's favorites. She sends him off with a kiss on his cheek and a swat on his backside, just for the way it makes him jump and pull faces at her. And then he's out in the late evening air, the sky turning to cobalt above him as the heat of the day finally starts to slip toward the chill of nightfall.
Gavroche is waiting for him when he gets home, with his bit of wood and his knife. The wood's starting to take on a shape, though what shape precisely that is Grantaire couldn't hazard a guess. He pulls his broken chair up besides Gavroche's and ruffles his hair, asks the obligatory questions about whether he's eaten, and what, and whether he's finished his homework yet. And when that's satisfied, he pulls out a book to read in companionable silence while Gavroche works on his whittling.
Gavroche lasts approximately five minutes before he nudges Grantaire's chair with a bare toe. "It's too quiet in here. Read out loud to me," he demands.
Grantaire smiles to himself and obeys.
After that, he resolves to try to get his life and his routines back to normal. He sticks his head in to say hello whenever he's at Fantine's, because it's only polite, but beyond that, he keeps to his usual habits, drinking at the bar and teaching during the day and chasing Gavroche all over the town and back trying to keep him out of trouble. Two days in, he feels like he's just about managed it when Gavroche comes running into the house while Grantaire's trying to improvise a soup on the cooktop. "R! There's a ship," he cries.
Grantaire twists to give him a look over his shoulder. Gavroche's face is bright with excitement, but Gavroche is an accomplished dissembler, and none of the people Grantaire's reached out to have even gotten back to him about whether helping him find transport for Valjean and Cosette is possible, much less to let him know to be expecting a pick-up. "A ship," he echoes dubiously, giving Gavroche his best if-you-come-clean-to-me-right-now-we'll-call-it-even-and-I-won't-have-to-ground-you look.
Gavroche's expression turns long-suffering. "That's what I said. Come on, R." He grabs Grantaire's wrist and pulls him toward the door.
Grantaire resists long enough to give the soup a quick stir, then relents, but only because the bright yellow band drawn around Valjean's bicep is still emblazoned in his memory, and the risk that the ship might be a Capital transport far outweighs his reluctance to fall victim to one of Gavroche's pranks.
Gavroche is small, but strong, and in this he's relentless. Grantaire half-stumbles out of the house and down the porch onto the street. He tips his head back, hand lifted to shield his eyes from the sun, and scans the sky.
"There!" Gavroche loses patience and points. "See, I told you! It's a ship."
It's a black dot against the dust-colored sky, is what it is. But as Grantaire stands there squinting at it, it slowly grows bigger and more distinct. After a few moments, the whine of an engine can be heard, like a mosquito buzzing about the ear. A few moments after that, the whine has grown to a roar, and Grantaire's stomach is cold as ice.
He knows those engines, the slight hiss and pop that's an undercurrent to the whine, the way if you listen close enough you can pick out a thrumming beat in the roar, like it's the ship's heart thumping strong and steady even as it screams down through the atmosphere.
The ship's trajectory seems to be bringing it down just outside of town. Grantaire's feet carry him that way without thought, despite the frantic beating of his heart and the sickness in the pit of his stomach. He's an addict, a drunk crawling to the bar and spending the last credits to his name on just one more drink. He can't keep away, even though he knows it's going to ruin him.
Gavroche runs at his heels, pulling at his arm. "It's them, isn't it?" he demands, his voice shaking, his eyes bright. "Isn't it?"
Grantaire shakes his head. It's not denial, just refusal. He can't answer Gavroche right now. He can scarcely breathe as it is. Speech is beyond him. Coherence is just a distant memory.
The ship is near enough to make out clearly by the time they reach the edge of town, hovering overhead with its thrusters burning to slow itself from a screaming plummet to a gentle descent as it comes to settle in the dust, a few hundred yards from the road.
Grantaire walks toward it, one hand gripped in the back of Gavroche's collar to keep him from running ahead. The engines die slowly and the ship settles down into the dirt. Grantaire stands just outside the shadow of its bulk and waits as gears grind and hydraulics hiss and the ship's cargo hatch unfurls slowly to make a ramp to the ground just before Grantaire's feet.
Gavroche is like a wildcat in Grantaire's grip, twisting and fighting for freedom, but Grantaire holds onto him until the first shadowed figure appears at the top of the ramp.
Of course, Grantaire thinks as the indistinct form steps out into the sunlight and reveals the tattered red coat, the gold-kissed hair, the gaze that sweeps over everything before him like a general surveying his troops. Of course it would be him at the front.
Grantaire turns his face aside and fights to breathe steadily as Enjolras's boots thump their way down the ramp to stop in front of him. He lets go of Gavroche's collar and lets him scramble up into the ship's belly, hollering his sister's name, and with his hands free, Grantaire wraps his arms across his chest and feels the tension rippling across his shoulders and down his back. "You didn't have to come." His voice is tight, shaking with the effort of restraint. "This wasn't what I wanted. Why are you here?" He could strangle Éponine for letting this happen. She could have at least warned him that they were inbound, instead of letting him discover it when the Musain appeared in the sky. He's going to revoke her best friend status. And then he's going to kill her.
"We were closer than any of the medtransports. And we have a doctor, after all."
"You're outlaws, Enjolras."
"Oh my God." Grantaire fists his hands in his hair. "Is splitting hairs really important right now? You're going to bring trouble to us. We don't need you here. Wouldn't you be better off sabotaging Capital supply ships or something?"
Enjolras pays Grantaire's protest as much mind as he ever does, which is to say that he ignores it completely, turning his head to look off at something beyond Grantaire's shoulder. "Where can we find this person?"
"There's two of them, and they're at Fantine's, and Enjolras, stop." Grantaire grabs his arm out of desperation. "Go away. I don't know what Éponine told you--"
Enjolras turns at the pressure of Grantaire's hand on his arm and looks at him, the full force of his attention focused straight on Grantaire and it nearly knocks Grantaire's feet right out from under him. "She told me that someone was injured and needed our help."
Grantaire hisses air through his teeth. His fingers tighten on Enjolras's arm despite himself. "That's not what I said. That's not what I told her. All I wanted was for you to make a few calls."
Enjolras lifts one shoulder in a shrug. "We were closer than anyone else. This was the more expedient choice."
And Grantaire could kill him, he really could. The skin of Enjolras's arm has gone white and bloodless beneath Grantaire's fingers, he's gripping him so hard, but he can't quite manage to make himself release him. "You're not listening to me. You're putting us all in danger by being here."
Enjolras looks down at the fingers wrapped around his arm, then back up at Grantaire, his expression cool and expectant, waiting for Grantaire to release him simply because he desires it. Grantaire considers punching him in his stupid smug face. "You're not saying anything pertinent to the matter at hand." He looks back over his shoulder, toward the belly of the ship, and calls out, "It's all right, the natives are friendly." He glances back at Grantaire and the corner of his mouth twitches. From anyone else, it'd hardly be worth noticing. From Enjolras, it's as much of a smile as they ever get. "Mostly."
Éponine comes down first, with Gavroche in her arms and wrapped around her like he's never going to let her go. His mouth is running at a mile a minute and she smiles and nods along with his stories, but as she reaches the bottom of the ramp, her gaze slides to Grantaire. It's wary enough that there's no question she knows what she did.
"I'm going to kill you," he says.
She just lifts her brows at him. "You asked me to help those people. That's what we're here for. To help."
"You are a terrible best friend and I hate you."
"No, you don't." She sets Gavroche down, despite his protests, and turns to face him squarely. A smile flirts with the corners of her mouth. Her hair's shorter now than it had been, just brushing her shoulders, and he wonders if she cut it on a whim, or for practical reasons, or for necessity. It's a rough job, hasty and uneven, and whoever cut it for her ought to never be allowed to touch a pair of scissors again. "Hey, kid," she says softly when they've stared at each other for too long. "It's been a while."
Grantaire moves without thought, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her into a fierce embrace. She laughs a little, softly, like she's startled, and pulls his head down to lean on her shoulder. "Hey. It's all right. None of that now."
"I missed you," he says, muffled against her shoulder. Her arms tighten around him in response. "Now you have to leave."
"We just got here. Give a girl at least a few minutes to catch up, will you?"
Grantaire straightens and shakes his head. He seeks her gaze out and grips her hands tight. Enjolras never listens, but Éponine... Éponine might. "Everyone on this moon is in danger as long as you are all here. We only survive because we stay under the radar. I missed you, of course I missed you. I wish you could stay, but you have to leave."
"R." She puts her hands on his shoulders and gives him a level look. "You know we're careful. You know we know how to spot and ditch a tail. No one followed us. No one knows where we are." She pulls him in again for another hug. "And we're just here to pick up your uninvited guests, anyway. We'll be out of your hair before you know it." She lets go of him and turns, catching his arm to guide him along, walking at her side. "Or maybe," she adds, too light, too casual, "you'll come to your senses and leave with us, and then everyone will be happy."
Grantaire stops mid-stride. "No, Ep. That's not going to happen."
She gives a sharp sigh and turns back to face him. "Hasn't this gone on long enough? You need to come home, R. We need you."
"I wasn't happy," he says quietly, and watches her flinch. "What makes you think coming back would make things any different?"
"People change, R."
"People, maybe." He shakes his head slowly. "Not him."
"You know that's not true--"
"I don't, actually." She's going to make him angry, and he's had enough of being angry with her for one lifetime, so he pulls away and turns back to the ship, where there are half a dozen more familiar faces disembarking. Joly, with his medkit slung over one shoulder, and Jehan with his perpetual look of wide-eyed wonder and his dozen knives strapped to various limbs and body parts. Bossuet's wearing the flak jacket that he never leaves the ship without, because it never hurts to be on the safe side were he's concerned. There's Marius and Courfeyrac, their heads bent together as they debate something on the screen of Courfeyrac's scanner, though they both abandon the discussion as one to grab Grantaire up into hugs as soon as he comes near enough for them to reach, and Combeferre bringing up the rear, lingering away from the group long enough to close up the Musain and run through a quick check of her lock and alarm systems before they leave her unattended.
Grantaire hugs them each in turn, fiercely, and by the time he's greeted everyone his eyes are stinging with tears he refuses to shed. He somehow ends up at the center of their pack, boisterous conversation and joking coming at him from every angle, and it feels so much like coming home that he wants to run, fast and far until they're all left well behind him and he has the space to breathe, and to remember why he left.
Gavroche ends up in the middle of them all too, bouncing in between Grantaire and Éponine, spinning tales about his adventures planet-side and regaling everyone with stories that Grantaire is pretty sure are only half made-up. He shows off his whittling to Bahorel, who identifies it as a desert cat much faster than Grantaire ever managed, and impresses Jehan with knife tricks that make Éponine arch a brow and grin sidelong at Grantaire.
"I ask you to keep my baby brother out of trouble and this is how you let him spend his time, hmm?"
Grantaire can feel the blood drain out of his face. "I've never seen him do that before, I swear."
"Well, yeah." Gavroche shoots him a look that makes it clear he thinks Grantaire is a few bales short of a wagon load and pities him for it. "You would've made me stop."
That makes Jehan and Bahorel both protest that it's a useful skill, and handy in a fight. Gavroche puffs up his chest and struts into town while Éponine looks after him with an expression torn between fondness and a dawning sense of horror.
"I told you you shouldn't have come," Grantaire mutters to her when the conversations around them grow loud enough to keep it from anyone else's ears. "There'll be no keeping him from it, now that he's got those two's approval."
"You're a resourceful man. I'm sure you'll figure something out." She just laughs when Grantaire makes a face at her.
Through it all, Enjolras strides at the front of the group, his shoulders thrown back and his head held high. The rest of them keep half a step back without any mutual agreement or even conscious decision. Grantaire keeps one eye on him despite himself. Enjolras shines like the sun, he always has. And Grantaire is a man who has lived six months in the shade, and has forgotten the harm that light can do to those it shines down upon.
No, that's not true, he thinks. He knows. He just doesn't have the sense — or the strength — to look away, despite that knowledge. He's an idiot who deserves whatever fate befalls him.
Éponine rocks her shoulder against his without warning, hard enough to knock him stumbling a step to the side. "I know that look," she says before he can even demand, What the fuck? "You're feeling sorry for yourself. Knock it off."
"I am not—"
"You are. You had that same look back when that job went south on Arras, and then we lost you down the neck of a bottle for two weeks."
"That's called stress, Éponine. If you wanted me to avoid it, you shouldn't have brought him here."
There's a commotion in front of them, and it's only then that Grantaire realizes how close to the front of the pack they've gotten. Combeferre and Courfeyrac are ahead of them, but the rest have fallen in beside and behind. The commotion is because Enjolras has suddenly stopped in his tracks, causing Combeferre and Courfeyrac to nearly run him over.
He turns back. His gaze slides past the other two and focuses in right on Grantaire. "She didn't."
Grantaire frowns at him uncertainly. "What?"
Enjolras huffs like he's irritated at Grantaire's incomprehension, like this is something they should have been able to work out between them with two words and a little intense eye contact. "She didn't bring me. I insisted."
"You what?" Grantaire just stares at him, because none of this makes any sense. "Why on earth would you do that?"
Enjolras gives an impatient sweep of his hand and starts walking again, gaze forward but voice pitched back. "I told you. Someone's injured, and oppressed by the law. You asked for help, and we were the closest available. Why wouldn't I have?"
Oh so very many reasons, Grantaire thinks. Not least of which is because, when Grantaire chose to leave the Musain and settle here, Enjolras had been so gripped with cold fury that Grantaire wouldn't have been surprised if any request for help he made sent Enjolras running to the other side of the system as fast as his engines would propel him.
But then, Enjolras always was the one to act on logic and reason. His pride would probably have kept him from turning down some new pet cause just because it was Grantaire who brought it to his attention. He'd have kept himself cold and impersonal and if he'd felt anything at all -- which is something that Grantaire has had reason to doubt, more times than he can count -- he'd have buried it beneath the obligations of his cause.
"That's not an answer," Grantaire says, but he doesn't hold out much hope of ever getting one from him.
"If you still need one after that," Enjolras snaps, "then you never did understand what we're doing at all."
"No, you're right. I just tagged along for the scenery, I suppose." Grantaire's voice slips toward bitter, and Éponine gives him a concerned glance. "God, Apollo, just stop, you're not going to help anyone by doing this."
Enjolras does stop, standing rigid with his back still to Grantaire, to all of them. "I am helping them," he says with a nod to Fantine's brothel, shining bright with lights at the end of the street. "Those two. They need us." He turns his head, looking over his shoulder at Grantaire. "I don't expect you to understand it, though. Anyone who could walk away from our cause--"
"Oh my God, you're a real piece of work." Grantaire scrubs his hands over his face and wonders what the chances are that Fantine will have the liquor out at the bar already, despite the early hour. Maybe if he asks her really nicely, she'll pull it out just for him. "If you think my leaving had anything to do with your god damned cause..."
Enjolras scoffs, short and dismissive. "Please. It wasn't ever any secret that you didn't believe in what we do. But you were willing to help, and we weren't exactly in a position to turn away volunteers. I thought..." He makes a sharp, frustrated sound. "I thought you'd come around, eventually. I thought you'd see what we were doing and how it benefitted people, and you wouldn't be able to help but believe in what we do. That was my mistake, I suppose."
Grantaire stares at Enjolras's back, at the ramrod-straight line of his spine and all the new places where his coat has had to be patched and repaired, and he contemplates the odds that he'd be able to grab the back of that collar, throw Enjolras down into the dust and beat him until he finally understands, before the others around them dragged him off. It's a distant thought, though, and before he can decide that the long odds would be worth the satisfaction of seeing something other than cool superiority on Enjolras's face, a firm hand closes on his upper arm and pulls him half a step sideways. "Don't," Combeferre says, bending down to murmur the word close against Grantaire's ear.
Grantaire pulls away from him and shoots him a furious look. "I don't know why everyone's always trying to coddle his feelings when he never gives a shit about--"
"It's not his feelings we're worried about, you idiot." Éponine presses close against his other side. He's pinned between the two of them and it makes him feel trapped, suffocated. "You're just courting misery, looking to give him excuses to drive you to homicide. Let it go, and I'll buy you a drink tonight and you can drown your woes on my tab, all right?"
He turns his head to fix her with a glare. "Give me a little credit. It'll take more than five minutes in his presence to make me need to drink." It's not a lie. Wanting a drink and needing one are two very different things.
"Come on, R, I'm offering to pay. Since when do you turn down a free drink?"
Since I came here, he thinks darkly, but holds his tongue. Since you gave me charge of your brother and told me to be a good influence. He's not exactly good at living up to the expectations Éponine placed upon him, but he's trying.
He keeps his mouth shut the rest of the way to Fantine's, mostly because he's just too exhausted to stomach the idea of another argument, with any of them. From somewhere on Enjolras's other side, Courfeyrac mutters something only half-distinguishable about how it's remarkable that people can give speeches that move thousands, yet be completely clueless when it comes to the people right in front of them. Grantaire grins savagely, and decides he likes Courfeyrac best.
Despite his determined silence, Éponine tries to engage him in conversation as they walk. He just aims her a sidelong glance and keeps his peace. She'll get the message eventually, he thinks, but five minutes later when she's still talking like it's an actual conversation instead of a monologue, he decides he either gave her too much credit or underestimated her, and he's not sure which.
"Thanks for trying," he says at last with a sigh, "but that's not exactly helping."
She's knocked off her stride only for a moment, a breath of silence before she turns and grins at him. "You think so? I got you talking to me, after all."
"I hate you," he says without any real heat behind it.
"Shut up, you love me." She slings her arm around his shoulders and kisses him noisily on the cheek. "Admit it, you don't know what you'd do without me."
"I hate to disillusion you," he says, "but I've been on my own for six months, and doing just fine by it."
She laughs like he's told a wonderful joke, kisses him again, and then they've reached Fantine's and the great pack of them that's been making its way through the streets has to shuffle and shift around so they can all make it through the double-wide doors into the common room.
Fantine's there, as she always is, making sure things are tidy and ready before night comes. She looks up with a polite smile when the first of them trickle through the doors. It slips to startled shock, and then a brilliant grin when she takes them in. "Oh, my dears. It's been too long." She leaves off her straightening-up to come over and hug them each in turn. "What a lovely surprise. R didn't tell me you were coming."
"R didn't know," Grantaire says dryly from where he's stepped aside, to allow the others their hellos.
Her gaze finds him, even through the press of the others trying to get close enough to greet her. Her smile is brilliant and sincere, but when her gaze lands on Grantaire, it's questioning, concerned. She makes her way to him, past everyone else, and gives him a hug and a kiss on the cheek just like she has all the others.
Grantaire ducks his head, his mouth pulling into a crooked grin. "I don't know what you're doing that for," he says. "You saw me yesterday."
She just squeezes his shoulders and looks at him seriously. "Took you by surprise, did he?" she murmurs, low enough that the others won't be able to hear it over the noise of Courfeyrac and Bossuet good-naturedly bickering over who gets the next hug.
Grantaire's smile is strained and mirthless. "He always does."
"Are you all right?"
He huffs out a sharp breath. "I'm fine, of course." He inclines his head toward the others, pushing in behind her. "Go on, let them say hi to you. I'll keep."
She hesitates a moment, but in the end, she nods and turns to them, smile fixed back in place. Still, her hand slides from his shoulder down his arm as she does so, and it finds his briefly and squeezes it before she steps away.
"We hear you have two seeking asylum," Enjolras says. "We've come to provide them transport to somewhere they can live safely."
"It's very kind of you," Fantine says, but Enjolras scoffs at the sentiment. "Come, I'll show you where they're staying." She glances to Joly and inclines her head at him. "I'm glad you're here, Doctor. She's sorely in need of your attention."
They all follow Fantine out of the common room and through the halls lined by the girls' bedrooms. They lose Courfeyrac when he spies an old favorite through an open door and he rushes to her with a cry, but otherwise the whole lot of them end up crowding up to the doors at the end of the hallway.
They're none of them quiet or inconspicuous. Valjean comes out as they're all making their way through the hall, wide-eyed and in his shirtsleeves. "What is this?" he demands, tugging in an absent gesture at the cuff of his right sleeve. "Have you come for us?" He swings wildly, and it's only luck that it's Bahorel he takes aim at, who ducks his blow easily and then catches his arm and twists it behind his back, pinning Valjean up against the wall before any of the rest of them have a chance to so much as voice a protest.
Valjean struggles, but his brawn is matched by Bahorel's. "Leave her be," he cries. "She's hurt, and she's done nothing to deserve this. Take me, if you must, but leave her out of this."
"Be calm," Enjolras says, stepping up to Valjean's side. He lays a hand on his shoulder. Valjean stares at him, his eyes as wide and white as a spooked horse. "We aren't the law. We're here to help."
"We brought a doctor," Combeferre adds, and all the fight goes out of Valjean.
"Oh, please. You have to look at her. Please help her."
"Perhaps you'd better go in first, R," Bossuet suggests dryly. "So she doesn't take a swing at one of us, too."
There's no point in protesting that Cosette's arm is in no shape for her to be throwing punches at anybody. But it's a good point all the same, especially after the commotion her father's made out here in the hall. She'll be frightened if they just come pouring into her room, all these rowdy strangers, and he wouldn't want her to harm herself because of her fear. So he nods and pushes his way past the others to her door, and cracks it open only wide enough for him to slip through inside.
The lamp in the room is turned low, but Cosette's awake, her eyes tracking him as he crosses the room to her bedside. "What's going on out there?" she asks, and her voice only trembles a little. "I heard Papa. He sounded upset. Is he okay?"
"Everything's fine." He settles on the edge of the bed and pats her hand on her uninjured side. "My friends are here to see you, is all. One of them is a doctor. The rest will be taking you and your father somewhere safe, just as soon as Joly gets you patched up and ready to be moved. Can I let them in?"
She nods, smiling. The expression is a little wan, a little more dull than it's been the past few days, but the warmth behind it is still real. "Yes, please. I'd like to meet them."
Grantaire doesn't even have to go and let them in. The door opens as soon as Cosette speaks, everyone tumbling in and looking completely unchagrined even in the face of the disapproving look that Grantaire gives them all. "Didn't your mothers teach you better than to eavesdrop at keyholes?"
"Nope," Jehan says brightly, and shoulders the others back so he can get to her first. "At your service, miss."
The others snicker behind his back. Cosette gives them all a look that's a little wide-eyed when it finally settles back onto Grantaire. "You've got a lot of friends, R." A smile flirts at the corners of her mouth. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised."
"They're charming, but don't let that fool you. Most of them are bastards."
"That's why you fit in so well," Bahorel calls from the back of the pack, to rousing laughter from all the rest.
"Enough of that, all of you," Joly scolds gently as he makes his way to Cosette's bed. "If you can't be quiet, then you can leave until I'm done working." He reaches for Cosette and hesitates when his hand is hovering just above hers. His gaze seeks her out. "May I?"
"Yes, of course." She lifts her hand and places it in his.
Joly turns her hand over, palm facing up, and lays two of his fingers over her wrist. Grantaire violently motions the others to silence when they start whispering amongst themselves, and after a moment, Joly sets her hand down on the bed with a small, pinched frown. "It's faster than it ought to be, and thready," he announces.
Cosette watches him with wide, worried eyes. "What does that mean?"
"It could mean any number of things. It's too soon to say." He shoots a glance over his shoulder at the rest of them, all watching him, waiting on every word. His frown grows deeper, more pinched. "I need to examine her," he says. "We don't need an audience for that. You all can go on and make yourselves useful for Fantine, if you like." The sharpness of his tone makes it obvious that's not a suggestion.
Grantaire waits until the others have all filed out, all but Marius, who continues to hang back by the end of Cosette's bed, watching her like he can't tear his eyes away. "She's going to be all right, isn't she?" he asks in an undertone.
"She's going to be just fine," Cosette says from the bed, her lips curved and her voice warming with humor. Grantaire glances at her and finds her gaze on Marius. "But thank you for your concern." Her gaze slides sideways to Joly and some of the good humor fades away beneath concern, leaving her looking drawn and tired. "I am, right, Doctor?"
Joly doesn't answer, just pats her hand and says, "Let's have a look at that arm, then," and Cosette smiles like that's answer enough, but it makes Grantaire hiss air between his teeth and turn his gaze away, because he knows. He's been on the receiving end of that not-answer enough times in his travels on the Musain, and he's stood by waiting for a prognosis for his friends even more frequently. Joly will do everything he can to keep a patient comfortable and confident, but he won't lie. If he avoids reassuring a patient after they've asked a question like that, it's because he doesn't think the answer will bring them any peace.
"Do you need an assistant?" he asks as Joly moves around the bed to Cosette's other side, with her broken arm.
Joly nods and gives him a brief, grateful smile. "Come here and hold her shoulder. This could hurt as I remove the splinting, but it'll hurt less if she's got someone to help her keep still."
"I could--" Marius starts, pushing away from the doorway.
"You can come sit right here," Cosette says before he can take more than half a step, and pats the bed beside her, on her good side. "And keep me company, yes?"
Marius nods, eager as a puppy. "Yes, of course." He comes and, instead of sitting on the bedside as the rest of them have done, drops down to his knees beside it and takes her hand between both of his. He looks like he's about to propose marriage, and five minutes after they've met, they both look like they'd be thrilled if she accepted. Grantaire sighs and thinks maybe he'd better take Éponine up on her offer to buy him drinks tonight after all, because he rather suspects she's going to need him to return the favor the next time she's landside.
They lean their heads together, whispering quietly about something like they really are sweethearts. The distraction will be good for Cosette, Grantaire thinks, so he takes his position by her other shoulder and grips it tight, using his weight to keep it pinned to the bed as Joly starts unwrapping the bandages.
Fantine's skilled at first-aid, and Grantaire has seen her coax her girls through illnesses and injuries that he would have sworn would have required a doctor to heal. She knows to change the bandages regularly, to clean the wound out between each bandage change. Grantaire expects -- hopes -- to see a clean, healing wound beneath the splints and the gauze, but as Joly peels the layers of bandages away, they start to turn brown and foul-smelling, and Grantaire turns his face away because he knows that the sight of her arm is going to be horrifying.
He listens to the quiet murmur of her voice instead, the easy back-and-forth between her and Marius, like they've known each other their entire lives. When her breath hitches, though, and her words turn strained with pain, he can't help but glance back down to where Joly is working.
He's got all the bandages off now, laid open and her arm resting on top of them. It looks pale and a little too thin, but Grantaire was expecting that. There's no shattered bone sticking out through the wound anymore, for which Grantaire is profoundly grateful. But the wound itself is red and inflamed, and the redness is spreading in streaks up her arm that turns Grantaire's stomach because he knows what that means, and it's nothing good.
"It's infected," Joly says in a low undertone, and Grantaire nods and swallows back bile at the thought of what that could mean for Cosette. "And it's making its way into her bloodstream." He hisses out a sharp breath and his fingers tighten momentarily on Cosette's wrist. "I know you'd rather we hadn't, but it's a good thing we came. If she'd waited any longer, there might be no helping her."
Cosette turns her head away from the conversation with Marius, looking to them. She keeps her eyes fixed firmly on Joly's face, and away from where her arm lies beside her. "It's bad," she says, and her voice wavers, but it's not a question. On her other side, Marius grips her hand tight.
"Do you know what sepsis is?" Joly asks her gently.
She shakes her head and her eyes get even wider, her face even paler. Grantaire pets her hair to try to soothe her. "Tell me."
"It's an infection of the blood, rather than the tissues. It's very dangerous." He pats her hand, very gently, so as not to disturb her unbound arm. "You're very lucky. If we'd been a little farther away, or if Fantine wasn't as good as she is with taking care of injuries, it might have killed you already."
Cosette looks little comforted by the thought. "You're going to have to take my arm," she says, and though her words are steady and there's a tightness to the corners of her mouth that shows her strength, there's the shine of fear and unshed tears in her eyes. She's so young, Grantaire thinks. And she had the bad luck to crash into this little moon, where life is so hard.
"That carries its own risks," Joly says. "If it comes to it, I will, yes. But I'd like to give you antibiotics first, and see if we can fight it off that way."
"Miss Fantine's already been giving me antibiotics. I've taken every one of them, I swear."
Joly smiles, then. "Miss Fantine's antibiotics have probably saved your arm, if not your life. But I've got stronger ones that might be able to fight the infection off completely."
Cosette smiles and looks relieved, but Grantaire thinks might and feels ill.
Joly pulls his medkit up onto the bed and opens it, rifling through the contents. After a moment, he pulls out a bottle of pills, as well as a vial and a syringe. He sets the bottle on the little table beside Cosette's bed, then moves around to Cosette's other side, with her uninjured arm. "This is antibiotics, too," he tells her as he draws the medication up into the syringe. "This'll hit your system faster than the pills would, so we'll start with this to get a jump start on the infection, and follow up with the pills for your next doses."
Cosette nods and turns her gaze firmly back to Marius when Joly swabs her arm and prepares to give her the injection. While he works, Grantaire picks up the bottle of antibiotics from the bedside table and turns it over and over in his hands. He's not a doctor, but he recognizes the name of the medication on its label. He was there when they stole these pills. It had been a mid-system planet, wealthy enough to have some of the luxuries of life like strong antibiotics, but not so upscale that the Musain and its crew would have been out of place enough to draw attention to themselves. He'd stood lookout while the others had gathered up as many vials and bottles as their arms and their bags could carry, and now, as then, he is resolute, he is not going to think about the people who had to do without that medication so that Cosette could have it today, he's not. (But standing lookout meant that he'd seen the young girl in the wheelchair come wheeling down the hall, hooked up to an IV that was no doubt saving her life. And it was true that the man who owned the clinic had been corrupt, selling his services and his medications at a drastic mark-up to those who could afford it, and withholding them from the less fortunate who hadn't had the cash to spare. The man was corrupt, and deserved to have his stock stolen and redistributed to those who'd been denied access to it, Grantaire was comfortable with that. But what of the girl? They'd been stealing from her, too, and from everyone else in that clinic who had needed those drugs. Were they all corrupt? Had they all deserved to go without their medications, so that others wouldn't have to?)
(But he's not thinking about that, because thinking about it just makes him yearn for a bottle of brandy and a night of oblivion.)
Joly plucks the bottle of antibiotics from Grantaire's hands, and Grantaire hadn't even realized that he was done giving Cosette the injection. He tucks his hands in his lap, feeling chastised. "Will you need help getting her back to the ship?" He half expects that Marius will jump at the chance to volunteer in his stead, and he's more than a little relieved by it, because Éponine will be waiting for him in the bar, and now he really does need the drink she promised him.
Marius, bless him, immediately insists that if Joly needs any assistance he would be honored to provide it, but Joly speaks over it, holding a hand up to quiet him. "No, she's not going anywhere."
Grantaire lifts his head up and looks at him, dread settling heavy in his gut. "She has to. They can't stay here."
"She's fighting off sepsis, R. That arm's badly infected, and if we move her at all before the antibiotics have a chance to get it under control, it could send it straight to her bloodstream and kill her before there's anything I can do to stop it. She's not stable enough to be moved, not yet."
Grantaire grits his teeth and wishes he had that bottle of antibiotics back, something hard and strong that he could wrap his fingers around and squeeze until he'd mastered the urge to start smashing things. "How long?" he demands.
"Three days, at the very least. Three days, and then I'll examine her again and see how it's looking."
Three days. Three more days with a fugitive parolee hiding in their midst. Three more days with a group of some of the most highly sought-after rebels in the system docked on the outskirts of their settlement. Three days, and what's the chance that someone won't come looking for one of them in that time, and bring the destruction of everything Grantaire's town has worked for along with it? Of everything Grantaire has worked for.
Three days with Enjolras still around, under foot, driving Grantaire clear out of his mind. There isn't enough alcohol in the system to make that tolerable.
"R?" Joly says quietly, and puts a hand on his arm.
Grantaire startles and jerks back. "Sorry. You don't need me here anymore, do you?" He tips his head toward Marius. "He can help you, if you need any more assistance, right?"
"I'd be happy to," Marius says immediately, looking at Joly with his eyes shining bright with hope.
Joly nods, a crooked smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. "Yes, I can make do with him. I know you've got that date with Éponine at the bar, and I wouldn't want to make you late. I think she's killed men for less."
If Éponine's impatience were the biggest problem he had, Grantaire would have counted himself lucky. But he leaves Joly to his assumptions and just smiles wan thanks and slips away while he still can.
It's getting on toward evening, and while the brothel isn't nearly as busy as it will be once night truly falls, there are enough people in the bar, drinking and flirting with Fantine's girls, to keep it from feeling lonely and depressing. Éponine's sitting at a table with a drink already, flirting happily with one of the whores who Grantaire remembers she'd always gotten on well with. She raises her glass to Grantaire in salute or maybe merely acknowledgment when she notices him across the bar, and says something to the girl that makes her smile and kiss Éponine's cheek before she sidles away in search of customers elsewhere.
"You didn't have to send her away on my account," Grantaire says as he takes the chair beside her. "You two were friends, weren't you?"
"Were," she agrees, and raises her brows at Grantaire like he's being an idiot again. "Meanwhile, you are my friend. Present tense trumps past." She flags down a serving girl, then looks expectantly at Grantaire.
"Brandy," he mutters, and her eyebrows climb higher.
"Having a rough time of it, are you?"
"Joly says you can't leave for three days." He eyes her drink and wonders if pity would keep her from maiming him if he stole it and gulped it down while waiting on that brandy.
Éponine gives a low whistle. "That bad?"
"Of course it is! We can barely stand to be within twenty paces of each other without wanting to rip each other's faces off."
Éponine kicks him beneath the table with the sturdy toe of her boot. "I meant the girl, you self-absorbed idiot."
Grantaire gives her a wounded look and rubs at his shin. "She's gone septic, or nearly has. Joly says he can't move her until the antibiotics have started to kick in and beat the infection back, or it'll push it into her bloodstream and then the sepsis will kill her before the antibiotics can keep it in check."
Éponine hisses air out between her teeth. "Poor kid." And then her expression softens and turns sympathetic as she looks at him. "Poor R. Whatever are you going to do, with a whole wide moon that you have to share between the two of you."
"It's a small town, Éponine. And you know he'll just find excuses to drive me crazy."
"And you'll find excuses to infuriate him, yes. That seems to be the only way this symbiotic relationship functions."
Grantaire gives a hollow laugh and leans his head on his arms. "Symbiotic? I think you're giving us both a bit too much credit. Mutually parasitic, maybe."
She gives a low hum and rubs his back between his shoulder blades. She doesn't sound convinced. "You were good together, R. For a little while there, you were good for each other."
Grantaire just shakes his head without lifting it from his arms. "Trickery. Illusions. The honeymoon phase. Call it what you will, but it wasn't real. We were just too busy dragging each other into bed to remember all the reasons we couldn't stand each other. Where's my brandy?"
She laughs, light and a little breathless. "All right." That sounds unconvinced, too. "If you say so. Ah, here it is now."
He manages to lift his head for the liquor. The serving girl gives it to him with a smile. He downs the shot in a gulp and gestures for her to leave the bottle.
Éponine eyes him in silence for a long moment. "I see you're not planning on taking advantage of being on my tab tonight," she says at last. "That's a relief."
"I'll pay for the bottle, Ep. I just need--"
"You need a lot of things." She pushes the bottle across the table. Not far enough that he can't reach it, but far enough to make her point. "Getting black-out drunk isn't one of them. You've got a child to take care of, or don't you remember?"
Grantaire glares at her. "I'm not going to black out. I just want a drink."
She stares him down for a moment. He holds her gaze, and eventually she sighs and pulls a hand through her hair. "You can have the bottle back," she says at last. "But I want you to do something in exchange."
He could point out the unfairness of promising him a drink and then holding it hostage, but what alcohol he has had is starting to turn the edges of his thoughts slippery, and Éponine runs verbal circles around him more often than not at the best of times. He's not inclined to give her more ammunition, so he just nods and demands, "Fine. What?"
The sigh she gives this time is long and drawn-out. By the end of it, her expression has gentled. She reaches across the table and grips his hands in hers. "Just talk to him, R."
When he realizes her meaning, he jerks back, and nearly succeeds in pulling out of her hold. "Christ. That again? What's the point? We're just going to fight. He's just going to continue to be superior and infuriating, and I'm going to continue to be unwilling to let him stomp all over me, and it's just going to end in screaming and things getting broken and us not speaking to each other again for another six months."
"Maybe," she says easily. Her fingers tighten briefly around his. "Maybe not. You could always try not to antagonize him, R."
"And he could try not to be an inflexible asshole, but that never seems to happen either, does it?"
She makes that humming sound again that means she disagrees but she's pretending she doesn't. "Well, here's your chance," she says, and inclines her head.
Grantaire twists and looks where she's indicated. Of course, he thinks when he sees Enjolras standing in the bar, at the very outskirts of it, half a step inside the door and standing with his arms pulled behind his back and his expression as sour as if he'd been sucking on a lemon. When he notices Grantaire looking at him, his brows snap down into a scowl.
Grantaire groans and leans his forehead against the table's surface. "This is a terrible idea and I hate you."
"You love me." He can tell she's grinning.
"The two aren't mutually exclusive." He lifts his head and look to Enjolras again, and it's probably the alcohol talking him into bad ideas, but his temper has run away with him and he's too far gone to care. "Fine," he says, and pushes up from his seat. "You want me to talk to him, I'll talk to him. And you can see first-hand the way these things always go." He snatches up the bottle of brandy before she can do anything with it and carries it with him as he stomps over to where Enjolras is standing.
"It's a bar," he snaps.
Enjolras raises his brow and rakes him with a cool look. "I beg your pardon?"
"It's a bar, and you chose to come in here. If you're going to disapprove of drinking inside a saloon you are courting your own misery and I have no sympathy for you." He lifts the bottle to his mouth and drinks from it, just to drive his point home.
The corners of Enjolras's mouth tighten. His arms are already folded across his chest, but they tighten as he look at Grantaire, as he watches his throat work to swallow the brandy and his gaze follows the movement of Grantaire's hand as he wipes his mouth clean. "We don't harbor fugitives," he says when Grantaire's finished, and that's enough of a topic change that Grantaire rocks back on his heels and frowns at him.
It's the alcohol that makes it take a moment before he realizes what -- who -- Enjolras is talking about. "Bullshit. Éponine. Hell, Prouvaire for that matter, or Courfeyrac, or all of you."
They're all outlaws, technically, all wanted and hunted by the law. It's why it's such a fucking nightmare to have them here, because there's little the Capital would like better than to get its hands on the rebels who have been making problems for them and lock them up, at best, or make very public, very gruesome examples of them, at worst. The only one of them who's ever managed to keep off the radar is Grantaire. And he's not one of them anymore, so he doesn't think that should count.
The accusation makes Enjolras's scowl grow deeper, the set of his mouth even tighter. "That's different, of course. We're rebels, hunted down for sedition because we have the revolutionary notion that people ought to be free. He's a criminal, by his own admission. He broke his parole, again by his own admission. I know you know we're no friends of the Capital, but we can't afford to make all enemies of our enemy into our friends. That's a quick path to capture, and the end of everything we've been fighting for."
"You're such a god damned coward. You're splitting hairs and you know it, and you don't even have the decency to admit it." Grantaire wants to take a swing at him. He suspects he'd just end up laid out on his back, though. Grantaire can hold his own in a brawl, but when Enjolras fights, he throws everything that he is into it, and he doesn't balk at playing dirty. "You've moved heaven and earth before to help people who had just as much of a criminal record as Valjean, if not more. The only reason you're digging your heels in now is because it's me asking, because I need it and you like having me over a barrel. Because you'd rather let this whole fucking moon be destroyed than bend enough to do me a favor. Do you want me to beg? Is that what you're waiting for?" The worst of it is that he doesn't even know whether or not he'd do it, if Enjolras asked. The thought of begging Enjolras for anything makes Grantaire want to tell him to go screw himself. The thought of making one concession in exchange for getting Enjolras out of there and out of Grantaire's hair, on the other hand, is sorely tempting.
But Enjolras doesn't say yes, doesn't lean back and smirk and wait for Grantaire to prostrate himself before him, like Grantaire is expecting. He throws his hands up and rolls his eyes and snaps, "Two hours ago, you were telling me that you didn't need us and that we should leave. How exactly is that doing you a favor? This may shock you to hear, but this isn't about you, R."
And that's the problem, that's the problem right there. Enjolras has never been able to understand, or maybe just unable to accept, that just because he didn't do something with Grantaire in mind doesn't mean it doesn't have an effect. Doesn't mean he's not involved in it all the same. "What exactly did you think was going on when I asked if you knew anyone who might transport them undocumented? Why else would we need to circumvent the system than because they've got records? If you weren't willing to take on that risk yourself, then you should have sent a medtransport like I fucking asked you to, instead of deciding once again that you knew best."
He's so angry he could throw a punch and damn the consequences, and Enjolras looks just as livid. The only thing that saves them from coming to blows is that Éponine saunters up and slings her arms around both their shoulders. "Boys, boys." Her tone is light, but when she slides her gaze sidelong to Grantaire, it's cutting. "Let's play nice, shall we?"
Grantaire scowls and tries to shrug her arm off, but she doesn't let him.
"If Fantine has to throw your asses out for brawling, then I'm never going to be able to be seen in public with either of you again out of sheer embarrassment, and that'll be a real drag. So maybe try not to act like children, hmm?"
Enjolras turns his head to glare at her. When he speaks, his words are bitten-off, stiff with anger. "Miss Thenardier—"
It startles a laugh out of Grantaire. "Oh, come off it, Apollo." He uses the nickname deliberately, because he knows it infuriates Enjolras, and because he knows Enjolras only ever calls Éponine Miss Thenardier when he's truly vexed with her. And she may not be Grantaire's favorite person on the moon right now, but he still thinks that anyone who has the nerve take issue with her deserves everything that's coming to him.
Éponine just gives Grantaire a flat look for his trouble, like she's thoroughly unamused. "Both of you. Stop squalling like children and use your words, like the grown men I know you are."
Grantaire knows better than to try to argue with her. Enjolras opens his mouth to speak, because he's a brilliant rebel and a charismatic captain but he never did have the sense God gave a turnip. Éponine just fixes him with a look, and Grantaire can practically see the words shrivel up on his tongue beneath the force of her glare.
"I have seen you move the hearts and minds of thousands with the force of your rhetoric alone. Don't you dare tell me words are beyond you now."
Slowly, deliberately, Enjolras brushes Éponine's arm off his shoulder. He glances at Grantaire and his gaze is wildly uncertain for the space of a breath, before he locks all that away beneath icy disdain. "Don't mistake silence for impotence, Éponine." He's calling her by her name again, at least. "You might consider for a moment the possibility that if I am silent, it is simply because I have absolutely nothing left to say."
Grantaire snorts. "That'll be the day."
Éponine slaps a hand on both of their chests and pushes between them, holding them back before either of them make a move toward each other. Enjolras's eyes are sparking fire over her shoulder, though, burning straight into Grantaire, and there's nothing she can do to keep that at bay.
"All right, new plan. You." She fixes Enjolras with a look. "I changed my mind. You can shut up. And you." She turns her head to look at Grantaire and throws one hand out, pointing to the table they've both left sitting empty and abandoned. "We had a date, and I'm not going to be ditched just because you've got your pants in a twist. Go sit down, order another drink on my tab, and act like you missed me."
Grantaire obeys. He's done a lot of stupid things in his life, but he's not foolhardy enough to cross Éponine when she gets like this. He leaves with little more than a final, lingering glare at Enjolras and waves one of Fantine's girls over, because all of the sudden the brandy's not really cutting it.
He makes a point of not watching to see what happens with Éponine and Enjolras. But after a moment she rejoins him at the table, and he glances back the way she came to find that Enjolras has gone.
"Stop that." Éponine kicks him beneath the table. "I'm your date tonight. You want to spend an evening staring moon-eyed at our fearless leader, you can make a date with him for tomorrow." She leans in, snags the bottle that the girl's just brought back before he even has a chance to reach for it, and drinks from it with a sharp grin. "Tonight's mine."
Grantaire sighs and turns back to her. "You know a date isn't what I want from him."
Éponine lifts her brows at him. "Really? You should tell me what is, then, because I'm rather under the impression that you don't even know yourself. So what is it. What do you want?"
Grantaire runs his tongue over his cheek and wishes idly that he had better taste in friends. "Peace," he says at last. "Freedom."
Éponine gives a bark of laughter. "Oh my God, R, it's a good thing you never took an active role in any jobs with us. You're a dreadful liar."
"Watch it." He levels a finger at her. "If you keep that up, I'm not going to ask you on a second date after all."
Éponine's smile is slow and sly. "Who are you kidding? I'm the best date you've had in six months, and we both know it." She shifts her weight sideways, rocking her shoulder against his. "I could have you wrapped around my little finger with one smile, kiddo."
"Could?" He leans his head onto her shoulder and smiles when she reaches up to scratch her fingers through his hair. "You already do."
She hums a pleased, amused noise and makes a gesture to someone over Grantaire's shoulder who he can't see. When, a moment later, a girl shows up with drinks for both of them, Grantaire says, "Bless you," and resolves to keep Enjolras out of his thoughts for the rest of the night. Éponine is his best friend, and it's been six months since they've seen each other, and tonight is for them, for catching up. If she can be generous enough to buy the drinks, then he can keep himself in line enough not to ruin their evening with his obsessions.
There's no sign of Gavroche, but that's no surprise. He's so full of energy and enthusiasm that trying to keep him in his seat during the school week is rather like trying to leash a tornado, and when his rest day comes around, he's like a wound spring finally loosed, flying off into adventure and mischief from the moment he wakes until the dark of nightfall finally drives him back indoors.
Grantaire makes oats for breakfast, since they'll reheat nicely if Gavroche gets hungry and stops by in search of something to eat, and because he knows Gavroche is more likely to choose to go hungry than to eat a meal bar of his own volition. And once Grantaire's had his share and washed his bowl and spoon, he gets dressed and heads out of the house, walking over to Mrs. Houcheloup's farmstead.
The morning's warm already, and threatens true heat well before the sun's reached its zenith. Mrs. Houcheloup is already out working when Grantaire reaches the edge of her property, hauling water to the livestock's troughs. Grantaire hails her, waving across the distance still between them, and trots over to take one of the heavy buckets from her.
"Oh, you dear. Thank you." She heaves a sigh and wipes her freed hand over her brow. "What brings you out here?" A spark of humor lights her eyes. "You're not out here chasing down your little hellion, are you? Should I be worrying about my crops being trampled, or my animals getting spooked?"
Grantaire returns her smile and shakes his head. "He's off somewhere, making trouble for someone no doubt. But I came out to see whether you might need any help with those crops of yours. I know the pod destroyed a lot of them when it crashed down, and the salvagers never leave things quite as set-to-rights as we might hope."
She heaves the water over the fence into her pigs' trough, then drops the bucket to clasp him. He's still holding his, though, and the water sloshes out to wet the legs of his pants. "Bless you, dearheart. I was just wondering how I was going to fit that all in, on top of the usual chores about this place. It's a job in its own right."
He smiles and empties his bucket as well, or what remains in it. "Well, it'll all go twice as fast with two pairs of hands to do the work. Let's go take a look at the damage, shall we?"
They head over to her cornfields together. It looks worse now than it did before. At least then there had been the crashed pod to draw the attention away from the damage. Now there's just a furrow sliced through the middle of her neat rows of crops, earth churned up like waves on the sea, the land torn open. And there's flotsam, too, though the salvagers have come and gone. They've left plenty in their wake, though, twisted spears of metal too scorched to be worth the effort of removing them, and smashed electronics too broken to hold any value. All of it has to be removed before the crops can be replanted, and now that the salvagers have had their fill, there's no one left but Mrs. Houcheloup to do the work.
And now Grantaire as well, to help share the load. He grabs the nearest spar of twisted metal and starts the hard work of dragging it off the field, half braced across his shoulder with the other end dragging through the dirt. The spar is heavy and the work hard, and it doesn't take long before the burn across his hand is starting to throb, despite Fantine's excellent first aid. He grimaces and stretches it out, then goes back to work. Life out here is too harsh and too demanding for anyone in the settlement to let minor injuries get in the way of the work that needs to be done.
There's a sound behind him like a grunt of exertion. He turns to see what Mrs. Houcheloup's got and whether he can help her with it, but she's still over in the fields, gathering up an armful of shattered plascreen's from the pod's electronics displays, and paying him little mind to speak of. The sound came from the other side of the field, where a figure with wheat-colored hair and a flame-colored coat stands with his arms crossed as he watches Grantaire, a crooked curve to his lips that makes it clear the sound Grantaire heard wasn't exertion at all, and most likely laughter or scorn than anything else.
It sets Grantaire's teeth on edge. He spins on his heel and stalks around the edge of the field to where Enjolras is standing. His gaze tracks Grantaire all the way, but he doesn't speak until Grantaire pulls up right in front of him. "What are you doing here? Are you determined to get underfoot every time I turn around? Go back to your ship, Apollo. I've managed here for six months without you, I don't need you looking over my shoulder now like you think I'm going to fuck something up if you're not there to stop me."
"You've got quite a high opinion of me and my motives." Enjolras's voice is dry as dust. "I'm flattered. As a matter of fact, I came over to see if there was any assistance I or my crew could offer. I didn't expect to find you here already providing it."
Of course not. Because why would Enjolras ever assume that Grantaire is willing or capable of doing anything, when it's just so much easier to default to thinking of him as feckless and irresponsible?
The only thing that keeps Grantaire from telling him that he can just fuck off with his supercilious offers of aid and spend that time making sure that he and his will be ready to leave just as soon as Cosette is on the mend is the knowledge of Mrs. Houcheloup's need. The more hands they have to help, the sooner they'll be able to get her farm set to rights, and the sooner she can get back to the never-ending work that running a farm involves. Grantaire can't in good conscience send away someone who's willing to help her out, no matter how much the idea of working beside him might get Grantaire's hackles up. He can suffer through it, for her sake.
"Well, don't just stand there, then," he snaps, and spins about again. "There's work to be done, and the day's not getting any younger."
He's three strides away before he hears the sound of Enjolras's footsteps following after him, easy and measured. Grantaire curls his hands at his sides and keeps his gaze forward. His jaw is tight enough that it aches and his teeth grit together, but the sight of Mrs. Houcheloup ahead of him plucking wreckage out of her field helps him hold himself in check, despite how badly he wants to explode at Enjolras and let loose a year's worth of frustration and anger.
She straightens as they near and turns toward Grantaire. Her gaze slips over his shoulder, to where he's sure Enjolras is just behind him, and her smile turns a shade puzzled. "Hello. Who is this, then?"
"This is Enjolras," Grantaire says, and does his best to keep from spitting out the words. "He's captain of the Musain and will be taking Cosette and her father off somewhere safe once she's stable enough to be moved. In the meantime, he's here to help, too."
Grantaire steps aside so he's not in between the two of them. Enjolras smiles politely at her and dips his head in a respectful nod. "Ma'am," he says. "If you'll just tell me where you need me, I'm at your disposal."
Mrs. Houcheloup's gaze slips sideways to Grantaire, and he doesn't have to guess why. It's no secret around town why Grantaire joined their settlement, or who it was who drove him to it. Anyone who's drunk long enough with Grantaire will have heard Enjolras's name, and in a town as small as this one is, that means everyone's heard it by now. The only surprising thing is that Mrs. Houcheloup hadn't heard that Enjolras and the Musain were in town before now, but Grantaire supposes she was preoccupied with her own concerns.
He loves her anew for not giving any other indication that she recognized Enjolras's name or the history between them, aside from that one quick glance. She just nods, hands Enjolras a shovel, and says, "That one beam out there looks buried pretty well, we're going to have to dig it up to move it."
Enjolras nods and starts for it immediately. Grantaire hesitates only a moment, watching him go, before he sighs and follows after to help.
Before the morning's half over, the temperature's risen considerably and Enjolras has shed his coat to work in his shirtsleeves, cuffs rolled up to his elbows and the thin linen plastered to his back with sweat. It's distracting, watching him work like this, being witness to the play of muscles in his arms and across his shoulders, and it infuriates Grantaire that he's so easily distracted by it.
He works in silence, letting Mrs. Houcheloup and Enjolras carry the conversation, because he's pretty certain that if he let himself speak he'd only end up snapping something ill-advised and starting a fight that'll ruin any chance they have of finishing the work on Mrs. Houcheloup's farm before the day's out.
When the sun's high overhead, Mrs. Houcheloup dusts off her hands and calls out, "All right, boys, come on up to the house and take a load off your feet for a minute."
Enjolras protests immediately, insisting that there's still work left to do and he doesn't need to rest just yet. Grantaire holds his arms crossed over his chest and slants Enjolras a sidelong glance. He's grudgingly pleased by Enjolras's insistence, by his willingness to keep working. But Grantaire knows that Mrs. Houcheloup won't sit down until they do, and she's looking flushed from the heat. "The temperature will be a little better in an hour or two," he says to Enjolras, for her sake, and starts up toward the house. "We might as well wait it out, and get some food in our bellies besides."
Enjolras's disapproval is palpable as he follows the two of them up the winding cobblestone path to Mrs. Houcheloup's farmhouse. Inside, it smells like flour and yeast and good things. Grantaire follows after her into the kitchen and drops down into a chair around the narrow table. "You must have been up at the crack of dawn to get all this cooking done. Mrs. Houcheloup, you're a marvel."
She flushes with pleasure and spoons stew into three bowl, gives them all thick slices of bread to dip into it, and then pours tall glasses of water for each of them as well.
Home cooked food is a rare luxury amongst these parts, where most people subsist on the Capital-issued compressed meal bars that pack a full day's worth of nutrients into a few tasteless bites. But with her crops and her livestock, Mrs. Houcheloup is one of the rare ones who can afford to put actual food on her table every once in a while, and Grantaire is pathetically grateful that she's generous enough to share it with them.
They eat in silence, shoveling food into their mouths, driven by the hunger that the morning's work has created in them and the appealing aroma of the stew, with chunks of honest-to-God beef falling apart in it and flavored with pieces of actual bacon from her pigs. It's in deference to her, and in acknowledgment of the kindness she's done by sharing what she has with them. Occasionally, Grantaire glances across the table at Enjolras, but he's always got his eyes on his bowl, or shut entirely with an expression of indulgent pleasure as he lavishes Mrs. Houcheloup and her cooking with praise until she turns pink and presses her palms to her cheek with delight.
Grantaire made Enjolras a birthday cake once. An Old World custom, and ridiculously frivolous. He'd nearly had an apoplexy when he'd seen the amount of butter and sugar and other luxuries the old, time-worn recipe had called for. It had taken six solid months of planning and sourcing and bartering, and in the end he'd only been able to make enough for one -- a cupcake -- but it had been flavored with precious vanilla, and topped with sweet, rich frosting, and when Grantaire had set it before him and let him open his eyes, Enjolras's face had washed with such awe that it had made it all worth it.
He's always liked his indulgences, but the spaceship of a group of fugitive rebels is an austere place at the best of times, and he was never the sort to indulge himself, not when there were better uses he could put the time or the money to. But he'd allow others to indulge him sometimes, if they were clever enough and sneaky enough to surprise him with it -- or as now, when there was the matter of hospitality on the line -- and doing so had been one of Grantaire's great pleasures in life.
The expression on his face now, mingled delight and guilt and hunger for more, is painful in its familiarity. Grantaire has to look away from it, because his ingrained response to seeing that expression on Enjolras's face is to grin and pull him into an embrace and whisper in his ear about how much he deserves it until he can chase the guilt away and leave him nothing but pleased, if maybe a little baffled.
But they haven't been those people in six months or longer, and that's not who they are to each other anymore. He tightens his fingers around his spoon and focuses on scraping the very last bits of sauce out of his bowl. Enjolras wouldn't welcome it, even if he were so foolish as to let himself slip back into old habits.
Grantaire shoves the last of his bread into his mouth. He feels a pang of guilt over not savoring it, but the panic wrapping its fingers around his heart is a more pressing concern. He takes his bowl and silverware to Mrs. Houcheloup's sink and starts to wash it, until she comes over and swats at him and insists that she can do that on her own and he's more of a help to her out in the fields, if that's what he's worried about.
He takes that as the command he knows it wasn't meant to be, and escapes out into the heat and the sunlight. Enjolras will be along behind him soon enough, he knows, but for now it's enough to be able to tip his face up to the sunshine and breathe deep, pulling the earth-scented air into his lungs in slow, rhythmic breaths until he's mastered himself enough to not do something stupid and draw attention to himself.
When Enjolras and Mrs. Houcheloup come out a few moments later, Grantaire's out in the field with Enjolras's abandoned shovel, working to dig up the end of the last remaining beam. It was driven deep in the crash, and the earth is cool and damp on Grantaire's hands and it's grinding into the knees of his trousers, but the steady rhythm of the work is a comfort. He wipes the back of his wrist across his brow and sits back on his haunches as they approach. "Do you have any more shovels, Mrs. Houcheloup? I think if all three of us work on it, we can have this out and moved before the hour's out, and then spend the afternoon on replanting your crops.
"I think I do, I'll see if I can find them, dear," she says, and starts off toward the toolshed on the other side of the field. Grantaire watches her go, too aware of Enjolras standing near his shoulder, breathing quietly, and realizes he may have made a tactical error in sending her away.
Enjolras doesn't say anything, not even when Mrs. Houcheloup disappears into the toolshed and they're by themselves. Grantaire is stiff, tension pulling at the muscles in his shoulders as he waits for Enjolras to break the silence and say something intolerable.
He doesn't, though. He keeps his silence and that's almost worse, like the long, strained moments before a storm hits in which there's nothing to do but brace yourself and try not to imagine all the ways things can go terribly wrong. When Mrs. Houcheloup emerges from the shed and starts back toward them, two shovels held overhead in victory, Grantaire breathes a sigh of relief and resumes his digging. The sooner they get the last of this wreckage cleared out, the sooner Enjolras can be on his way and Grantaire can try to reestablish the peace of his life that Valjean and his pod shattered when they crashed down onto this moon.
The rest of the afternoon passes mostly in silence as they dedicate their attention to the work at hand. By the time evening comes and the sun begins to sink toward the horizon, they've removed all of the large, twisted spars to the outskirts of the fields, cleared the last of the electronics and broken plascreens from the earth, and made a start at tilling the broken earth into the straight, neat rows that'll be needed for planting. That'll have to wait for later, though, as the light's dying and the heat turning to a chill that makes Grantaire shiver in the breeze and sends Enjolras over to the fence to retrieve his coat from where he'd hung it.
Mrs. Houcheloup tries to invite them back up to the house for supper, but they both demur, thanking her sincerely but insisting they couldn't possibly impinge on her hospitality any more than they already have. When Mrs. Houcheloup thanks them for their work and pronounces that she can manage the planting on her own the next morning and they can both get back to their own obligations, Enjolras nods, reassures her that if she's in need of anything else for as long as they're in town she needn't do anything but say so, and then he leaves. He's quickly lost in the thickening shadows of twilight, leaving Grantaire watching after him at Mrs. Houcheloup's side.
A moment passes, and she gives a long sigh. "Well," she says at last, like it means something, and looks at Grantaire with her brow wrinkled. "I see the town rumor mill got this one right, at least."
Grantaire turns enough to lift a brow at her. "What have they been saying about us, then?"
"That you're mad for each other."
Grantaire gives a breath of laughter. "Mad at each other, I think you mean."
She fixes him with a sharp look. "I know what I've heard, and I know what I saw, and I stand by what I said."
Grantaire just smiles sadly and shakes his head. "Don't go getting your hopes up, Mrs. Houcheloup. He's leaving in two more days."
She hums and smiles and just says again, "I know what I saw."
Grantaire hugs her and wishes her farewell, and quietly reminds her that if there's anything she needs, anything at all--
"I know." She laughs and pats his shoulder. "You and your captain will fight each other for the honor of who gets to help me with it. Go on, now, and see to your hellion. I'm sure he's gotten into some pickle or another that he'll need you to talk him out of."
Gavroche is slippery as an eel and trouble rarely sticks to him, but Grantaire doesn't say that, he just hugs her again and then makes his way toward home, hunching his shoulders against the cool breeze.
It's dark out by the time he steps through his front door, which he's sure is the only reason that Gavroche is there. The remainder of the oats Grantaire left on the stove have been eaten, and while Gavroche didn't bother to wash the pot, he did at least put it in the sink and fill it with water to soak, which is progress. He's got his knife and his whittling and is sitting with his knees pulled up in Grantaire's chair, and he smiles brilliantly when Grantaire lets himself inside.
"The town's talking about you and Enjolras." He announces it like it's the best thing he's heard, and he's been dying having to sit on it all day until Grantaire got home.
"So I heard." Grantaire kicks his boots off just inside the door and comes over to drop down into the chair beside Gavroche's. "You should know better than to listen to gossip, half the time it's dead wrong."
"And half the time it's right." He flips his bit of wood over to work on the back. The desert cat is really taking shape, it's features starting to appear in the amorphous piece of wood. "I like knowing what people are saying."
"I just bet you do." Grantaire sighs and leans his head back. The edge of the chair presses sharp against the base of his skull. He's going to need to get up and find his medical kit to clean and rebandage his hand soon, but for now, he doesn't really want to move. "Don't listen to what they have to say about me and Enjolras, all right? You have questions, you ask me. I've never lied to you, have I?" Gavroche shakes his head grudgingly. "And I don't intend to start now."
"You mean it?"
"Of course." Grantaire puts on a wounded expression, pressing his hand over his heart at the idea that Gavroche would doubt his sincerity.
Gavroche sets the knife and wood down and scrambles up onto his knees, leaning in toward Grantaire intently. "Are you going to move back onto the Musain?"
"No," Grantaire says gently.
Gavroche's expression twists. "Are you going to go back to the Musain ever?"
Grantaire shuts his eyes and rubs his hand over his brow. "I'm needed here. I'm useful here. I don't want to leave, and I don't intend to."
Gavroche humphs and gives him the side-eye. "That's not no."
"It is, Gav. If you pay attention."
He groans and throws himself back into the chair, staring up at the ceiling with an expression that seems to beg God to grant him endurance. "You were useful on the ship, you know."
"Where's your slate, Gav? Have you finished your figures?"
Gavroche groans again. "I did them last night, all of them."
"Good. Bring it here and I'll give you some more to practice with."
Gavroche's jaw drops open, his expression turning outraged. "That's not fair!"
"This doesn't have anything to do with fairness. It has to do with making sure you know what you need to." He waves Gavroche on. Gavroche goes unhappily, sulking and dragging his feet all the way into the bedroom and then back out, his slate board clutched in his hands and his expression set in a mutinous scowl.
He shoves it at Grantaire like he's handing his life over to the executioner, then flops back into the chair, crosses his arms over his chest, and sulks.
Grantaire looks over the figures and Gavroche's sloppy handwriting, checking his work. It's showing improvement -- he's got a much stronger grasp of his numbers than he did six months ago when they first moved in here. Grantaire wipes the slate clean and writes half a dozen new math problems for him, then hands it over and says only, "Watch your carrying, that's where you run into trouble."
Gavroche glares at him, the slate ignored on is lap while Grantaire reads by the candle light and pretends he doesn't notice. When ten minutes have passed and Gavroche hasn't moved, Grantaire says, "When you get those finished I'll read to you for a while. If you get them all right, I'll let you choose the book."
That, at last, lights an interested spark in Gavroche's eyes. "You promise?"
"Cross my heart." Grantaire draws a cross over the left side of his chest.
"Even if I want to read one of the books on the high shelf?"
Grantaire's lips twitch. "Yes. But I'm going to censor the bad words."
"Aw, come on. You take all the fun out of it!"
"Sorry." Grantaire smiles blithely. "I did tell you I wouldn't lie. And your sister will have my head if she finds out I read you dirty words. She already thinks I'm not being as good an influence on you as I ought to be."
"She's crazy. I'll tell her. You never let me have any fun at all."
Grantaire laughs, sharp and amused. "Oh yes, please do. She'll be delighted by that." He reaches out to nudge at Gavroche's slate. "Go on. They won't solve themselves."
Gavroche kicks his heels against the chair in protest, but eventually he does settle down and bend his head over the slate. Grantaire watches from the edges of his vision as Gavroche moves from one equation to the next. When he's finished the last of them, Grantaire expects him to throw the slate at Grantaire and demand freedom from the work, but instead, Gavroche's brow furrows and he moves back to the beginning, hovering his chalk over the board, his lips moving around silent words.
He's checking his math, Grantaire realizes, and his heart about bursts with pride. When Gavroche finally hands the slate over and glares at Grantaire like he's defying him to find a mistake, Grantaire accepts it and fervently hopes that he won't. Because he told Gavroche he could only choose the book if he got them all right, and because he told Gavroche that he'd always tell him the truth. But he really wants to reward Gavroche for his effort, for going above and beyond what Grantaire's ever seen him do before.
Everything's correct, and Grantaire's swamped with relief when he realizes it. He hands the slate back to Gavroche with a smile and tips his head toward the small shelf of books. "Go get something from the high shelf, then, before it's too late for us to finish a chapter."
All the glares and sullenness that Gavroche has directed at him all evening is worth it for the way his face lights up when he realize what Grantaire's said, and what it means. "I got them all right?" he demands, fingers curling tight around the arm of his chair.
Grantaire smiles and nods. "I'm proud of you, Gav."
It makes him flush with pleasure, and that makes him scowl and feign indifference as he hurries across the room to choose a book. Grantaire sets aside his own and takes Gavroche's when he holds it out, and opens it up to the first page. Gavroche throws himself into his chair eagerly, and listens with rapt attention for the rest of the night, until his eyes are drooping so heavily that Grantaire marks their place, closes the book, and declares it time for bed.
Gavroche puts up the usual protests, but goes all the same. When he's tucked in and on his way to sleep, Grantaire retires to his own bed, grateful beyond words to be sent to sleep with thoughts of this pleasant evening to occupy his mind, rather than the trying day that came before it.
The last school day was math, so today it's science. The crops are coming in and most everyone in town has found their lives preoccupied by the growing season in one way or another, so Grantaire opts for a lesson on the seasons and how a planet's orbit affects them, and how their moon, in orbit around a planet with its own orbit, is likewise affected in sometimes strange and surprising ways.
It's a lesson that leads to lots of questions from the students, which is no surprise at all. Grantaire's halfway through answering them when a flash of movement at the very edges of his vision draws his attention and he turns his head without thought, a teacher's automatic response to what is almost certainly students getting themselves into mischief.
It's not, though. Everyone on that side of the room is sitting obediently, those with questions holding their arms up and waiting more or less patiently for their turn to be called on. But behind them, in the schoolhouse's doorway (he'd left the door open to allow a breeze through, so they wouldn't all suffocate in the heat), backlit by the sun, is Enjolras leaning against the door frame and watching him in silence like he's judging him.
Grantaire snaps his mouth shut mid-sentence and stares at him hard, but Enjolras doesn't react. The student whose question Grantaire had been in the middle of answering gives him a puzzled look, and Grantaire has to draw a breath and search for calm, for strength.
It takes all of it that he can muster to turn his gaze from Enjolras and back to the student, to make himself remember what the question had been, and where he had been in giving his answer. It takes him a moment, but then he has it, and he finishes his explanation and moves on to the next student, and then the next.
Enjolras doesn't move from the doorway, and he doesn't speak. Maybe it's petty and churlish, but Grantaire decides that until Enjolras does, he's just going to proceed as normal, as though he isn't there at all. If Enjolras wants Grantaire's attention, he can damn well ask for it. Grantaire's not going to offer it up for free and unbidden, not anymore.
He gets through another hour of class before Enjolras moves from the doorway, stepping inside the schoolhouse. Grantaire tenses, hesitating as he's explaining about the theory behind the three-body problem to one of the older and more advanced students. He's not sure what he's expecting, but it's not for Enjolras to slide behind one of the empty desks at the back, prop his chin on his fist, and watch Grantaire like he's listening raptly.
It takes Grantaire a moment to recover his bearings and resume his explanation. He hates that Enjolras is here, that he's throwing off Grantaire's equilibrium and making him awkward at this, when it ought to be easy and natural. He hates that the students are giving him curious looks every time he hesitates or stumbles, and a few of the ones toward the back have noticed that Enjolras is there and keep glancing between the two of them like they're a puzzle waiting to be solved.
Eventually, he dismisses them all for lunch, earlier than he usually does but he'll just have to hope that none of them notice, or at least that they're too grateful for the freedom to try to go reading too much into it. They all grab up their lunch sacks and go pouring outside, all but Enjolras, who's still sitting in the chair like an attentive student, watching Grantaire with a gaze that he can't decipher.
"You can't possibly be that interested in the three-body problem," Grantaire snaps at last, folding his arms across his chest and staring Enjolras down across the space between them. "I know you know more advanced physics than this."
"I do." Enjolras shifts from his upright, attentive position, leaning back and stretching out, kicking his legs out under the chair of the desk in front of him. "But I wanted to watch you work."
Air hisses out of Grantaire's lungs. He wants to start hurling erasers at Enjolras, wants to get chalk dust all over that stupid red coat. He wants to shout invectives at him that would make even Gavroche turn wide-eyed with shock and drive him out, out of the schoolhouse and out of the settlement and back out of Grantaire's life, because he'd been making a decent one for himself before Enjolras and the Musain showed back up in it, and he wants that back, that calm surety of knowing where he belongs and what he's meant to do every day.
But there are still children nearby, eating their lunches outside in the schoolhouse's shade, so Grantaire only hisses, "I don't need a babysitter, damn it, I'm capable of doing my job without your supervision," and comes to stand over him, fists balled and pulse jumping.
Enjolras straightens slowly, and looks up at Grantaire with a frown. "I never thought you weren't capable of doing your job, R." The nickname, from him, makes Grantaire flinch.
"Don't give me that bullshit. You told me as much when I left."
"I--" Enjolras's brow furrows, and he snaps his mouth shut with a frown. "I didn't expect you would fail," he says at last, slowly, like he's trying out the feel of the words as he speaks them. "But I didn't expect you to excel so thoroughly, either. You're..." He sighs and pulls a hand through his hair, leaving it more disheveled than before. The wrinkles creased across his brow seem puzzled, bewildered. "You're good," he says at last, like it's a greater mystery than the solution to the three-body problem. "You're good with the children. They pay attention to you. They respect you."
It hardly seems like that, some days, but Grantaire just presses his lips together and gives his head a violent shake. "And there you go, sounding surprised again. If you're just going to sit here and be condescending, then you can go, please. You're disrupting my classroom."
"The children are learning just fine."
Grantaire curls his hands into fists until his nails bite into his palms. "The ones in the back know you're here, and are wondering why. They're distracted, and that means they're not fully focused on the lesson at hand. Now that they've all been outside with a chance to talk to one another, everyone's going to know you're here, and there'll be no hope of keeping them focused on schoolwork for as long as you stay. So go. You're affecting my ability to do my job, and it's the kids who are going to suffer for it. They don't deserve that."
Enjolras rises slowly, his expression twisted and unhappy. The set to his mouth is an unhappy one and Grantaire braces himself for Enjolras's refusal, for a retraction of his previous pronouncement and a condemnation of his skills as a teacher after all, if he can't even keep his own classroom in line. But Enjolras just takes him in for a moment, and Grantaire hasn't the faintest idea what it is he's looking for on Grantaire's face. But he doesn't yield, and after a moment, Enjolras sighs and shakes his head. "I wanted to see what it was all for," he says quietly. "But it's been good for you, I can see that now. And you're good for them." He straightens his spine and squares his shoulders. "I won't stay, then. I wouldn't want to be a distraction." It makes Grantaire bark a short, incredulous laugh.
Enjolras turns and starts out. At the door, though, he hesitates. It's all Grantaire can do not to bang his head on the chalkboard in frustration. Enjolras turns back, one hand still gripping the frame. "You should teach that one about constant-pattern solutions. She seemed keen on the problem, and if I don't miss my guess, I bet she'd take any further instruction you cared to give her and run with it."
"Are you telling me how to do my job now, Apollo?"
He frowns at the nickname, as he was meant to, and gives a sharp sigh. This time, he leaves without a further word, stalking out into the sunshine and the dust. Grantaire settles down behind his desk to try to salvage what's left of the lunch break, and start working on lesson plans for the next few days.
And if he writes down a note to himself to remember to look for passages in his books that might explain about constant-pattern solutions to the three-body problem, it's only because he'd already had the notion in his head before Enjolras felt the need to stick his nose into it. The girl's bright and smart and interested, which is more than he can say for most of the students in his classroom, and Grantaire's already been giving her extra homework and more challenging problems, in the areas that she seems most interested in. He doesn't need Enjolras to come in here and watch for half an hour and tell him how to do his damn job.
The rest of the day goes as smoothly as can be hoped, at least once Grantaire deals with the inevitable barrage of questions from the children about who Enjolras was and why he was there listening in on the lesson and whether the rumors they've heard about town are true that he and Grantaire are married and Enjolras has shown up in his spaceship to whisk Grantaire off to the stars to be with his family where he belongs.
Grantaire quashes those notions firmly, then turns everyone's attention back to the work at hand. By the time the day's out and he releases the children to return to their homes, the persistent preoccupation with Enjolras's presence has been reduced to only a few passing mentions and a handful of curious glances. That, Grantaire can deal with. God knows, he's made it through worse.
When all the children have left and the classroom has been tidied up in preparation for the next day, Grantaire takes himself home, feeling even wearier than he usually does after a long day's work. When he steps through the door of his home to find Éponine sitting in his chair, her feet kicked up on his stool as she pages through the book he started reading to Gavroche, he just stands swaying in the entryway for a moment, and strongly considers dropping to his knees before her and kissing her feet.
She glances up from the book and arches a brow at him with a grin that's sharp as a knife point. "Gav has you reading this, doesn't he?" She gestures with the book.
"I don't know what you're talking about, that's my own personal reading for after he's gone to bed."
She gives a sharp laugh and swings her feet down to the floor, straightening. "Bullshit. You're a terrible liar." She surveys him with a quick, appraising glance and her lips purse. "You look like hell, R."
"You always know just what to say to cheer me up. Go on, flatter me some more." He drops into the chair beside hers and scoots it over close enough that he can lean his head on her shoulder. "Long day, that's all. I'm tired. Does Gav know you're here?"
She shakes her head. "Figured I'd surprise him."
"He's not likely to be home before nightfall, but you're welcome to stay if you want." He groans as he tries to lever himself upright again. "Are you hungry? We've got meal bars--"
"Not that hungry." She pulls a face.
"I've a handful of oats left from Myriel's crop, there's not much but it'd be enough for a single serving."
"Stop trying to feed me, R, I'm not wasting away and we've food of our own on the Musain. I'm the one trying to do something nice for you here, and you're going to take all the wind out of my sails if you insist on beating me to the punch."
"Something nice? For me?" He eyes her, a slow grin pulling at the corners of his mouth. "I thought you were here to surprise Gav."
"It's a double surprise. He gets to spend the evening with me, and you get to go sneak onto the Musain while everyone's out socializing at Fantine's and use my water allotment to take a nice hot shower."
The smile falls right off of Grantaire's face. He sits bolt upright and leans toward Éponine, grabbing onto her arm. "Don't toy with me, woman. My nerves can't take it."
She laughs and pulls out of his grip, reaches into her pocket to pull out her clunky keys and toss them to him. "I thought, what does a girl who travels the solar system get as a gift for her very best friend?"
"So you brought me hot water." He leans out of his chair and kisses her noisily on the cheek. "And this is why you're my very best friend." He grabs the keys and practically has his shoes shoved back onto his feet before he's even finished speaking. "You'll make sure Gav eats supper?"
Her smile is sharp with amusement. "Of course."
"And that he finishes his homework before he cons you into reading him something horribly inappropriate for a boy his age?"
She scoffs. "Who do you think you're talking to? I taught him everything he knows about trickery and manipulation."
"He's learned a few new tricks since you've been gone. Watch yourself around him."
"I know how to keep my own brother out of trouble, all right? Now go! I don't want to see you back here before sunset, you hear? I've got some serious catching up to do with my little brother, and you're just going to hog him for yourself if you stay."
Grantaire goes, but not without a parting protest that he would not, called back over his shoulder and drowned out by the sound of her laughter.
The promise of a hot bath is an alluring one, and keeps Grantaire's steps quick as he makes his way to the field where they'd set the Musain down. Here in their settlement, folks consider themselves lucky just to have a water pump, and not to have to haul buckets up out of a well by hand. Running water is a miracle most here have never even witnessed for themselves, and hot water even more of a marvel. Grantaire has been suffering through cold baths for six months, and before tonight he'd have said that there wasn't a thing in the system that could get him to willingly set foot back on the Musain again, but Éponine's found the exception.
Here in their settlement where there's always work to be done, there's never time or wood to spare to heat their bathwater to anything more than lukewarm. Grantaire hasn't had a true hot shower since the last time he was on the Musain, who has enough heat running through her engines to warm as much water as they could ever care to use. On the Musain, it's the water that's the rarity, but the rationing restrictions will have been lifted now that they're planet-side, with streams and lakes aplenty to replenish their stores. Grantaire could stand under the hot water for an hour and no one would do any more than cluck their tongue at him for making the next person wait.
He very well might do just that, he thinks, a lightness to his steps that hasn't been there since at least before Valjean and Cosette crashed down into the corn.
The Musain is dark and closed up tight when he gets to it, everyone gone off to Fantine's as promised. Grantaire circles around to the small airlock on the side and uses Éponine's keys to unlock the hatch and slip inside.
The corridors are shadowed, but his subconscious still remembers where the control panels are, his hand reaching without thought to turn the lights up to a comfortable glow. It's maybe a mistake, though, because now instead of looking eerie with its thick shadows and dark corners, it just looks somehow both familiar and foreign at once, and it drives a sharp splinter of something unpleasant right into his chest, lodged there so that suddenly every breath hurts.
He spent years on this ship, living and working and making friends here. The cramped table in the galley saw more than its fair share of debates staged around it, while Enjolras broke his meal bar into tiny pieces as he scowled, or Combeferre sipped thoughtfully at a water pouch while somebody made their point. There's the deep scratch in a panel along the corridor that up to the cockpit, from an incident with Bahorel and a contraband Old World sword that had been sharper than he'd expected, and scorch marks underneath the cabinets in the galley from when Gavroche tried to set the whole place on fire in the process of making Éponine a birthday dinner.
There are other scars too, places that are dented or scuffed, a plascreen that's got a spiderweb of cracks in one corner, not obtrusive enough to be worth the expense of replacing it, and these make the unsettled feeling in the pit of Grantaire's stomach even worse, because these are ones he doesn't know the origin of, ones whose stories have happened in the past six months, while he's been away. It feels wrong. He used to know these halls better than anyone, but it's just kept right on changing in his absence. Now it's half old friend, half stranger, and Grantaire hurries to the bathroom before it can really do his head in.
The bathroom is just the same as it's ever been, with the narrow plas-walled shower stall and the tiny sink and tinier mirror. Grantaire strips out of his clothes and leaves them folded neatly on a chair in the common room just down the hall, so they won't get wet or steamy in the bathroom, then turns the water on and steps under it while it's still cold. It plasters his curls against his head and drips in rivulets down his face, and he's shivering by the time the water starts to heat up, but that just makes the warmth of it coursing over him even more delicious. He tips his face up to the spray and lets it beat against his face, hot water streaming down his throat and across his chest, down over his stomach and his thighs to swirl around his feet before spiraling down the drain, until every part of him is warm and muscles that feel like they've been knotted for the better part of a year start to finally relax.
There's soap in there, a little harsh and smelling of nothing but antiseptic. That's Joly's contribution, his insistence, because when Jehan bought a little bar of lavender scented soap at one of the planet settlements they'd stopped at, Joly had launched into a rant about how they might as well not bother washing at all if they're going to lather up with that.
Grantaire is not a fan of the antiseptic smell. But it smells like home, like friends and family and all the good times he had on the Musain. He shuts his eyes and turns so the water can hit his back, and tries very hard to remember some of the bad memories, to balance things out. It's not as though there's any shortage of them.
He scrubs the soap through his hair, then follows it up with Éponine's conditioner. She'll gripe at him when he tells her, but then she'll forgive him, and he'd rather use hers than impinge on anyone else's unwitting hospitality. And then, while rinsing the conditioner out, he spends a solid ten minutes just standing under the spray, luxuriating in the heat. Éponine warned him against coming home too early, but she needn't have worried. The greater concern will be getting Grantaire to ever leave.
It doesn't escape his consideration that that may have been part of her plan. She's made no bones about her desire to get him back on the Musain full time, but if that's her aim, then she gave up her water allotment for nothing. It would take a hell of a lot more than the promise of hot showers to get him to do that. Like maybe an actual, honest-to-God miracle.
Eventually he starts to feel like a prune, and his skin is flushed red from the shower's spray, so he reluctantly turns the water off and steps out. The air in the bathroom is steamy, but cool by comparison to the water. Gooseflesh prickles up across his shoulders and down his arms. He dries off quickly, then wraps the drying cloth around his hips and bends over to scrub a second through his hair, tousling it up into its usual mess of curls. When he straightens, he wipes the condensation off of the mirror so he can get a look at how much of a disaster his hair is.
Enjolras's face stares back at him, twisted in a quizzical expression like he's waiting for an answer to a question never voiced.
Grantaire recoils so violently he trips over his own feet and jars his shoulders back against the shower door. He whips around to where Enjolras is standing in the door, and the words, "What the fuck are you doing?" erupt out of his mouth with a snarl.
Enjolras just raises a brow with the same cool, distant amusement that never fails to drive Grantaire crazy. "I was just thinking of asking the same thing. Seeing as how we're in my ship, after all."
The Musain is everyone's ship. Enjolras has insisted on that from the very start, and he may have been the one to buy it originally, but everyone who crews it shares joint ownership. Enjolras only ever calls it his ship when he's trying to make a point, and he only ever seems to want to make that sort of point with Grantaire.
"I'm sure it must have been quite a mystery, what a person might possibly be doing with running water in a bathroom. I'd hate for the curiosity to have kept you up at night."
The corners of Enjolras's mouth pull tight. He's standing in the middle of the doorway, blocking Grantaire in, but the knowledge of just how little space Grantaire has behind him makes his heart beat rapidly against his ribs, so he shoves his way past Enjolras and out into the hall.
Enjolras mostly lets him. "I thought you were Combeferre," he says at Grantaire's back. "He left Fantine's a while back, and I assumed he came back here."
It makes the intrusion a little less infuriating. Enjolras and Combeferre have known each other longer than anyone else on the Musain, and they have the sort of friendship that has no boundaries. They've been known to sit on each other's beds, carrying on a debate, completely oblivious to the fact that the other is getting changed right there in front of him. If Enjolras had had something to say to Combeferre, he wouldn't have hesitated a moment to stride right on in and have the conversation through the shower door.
Only a little, though. These days, all Enjolras has to do is share the same planet in order to infuriate Grantaire. He stalks down the corridor toward the common room, where his clothes are waiting for him, because he absolutely cannot have an argument with Enjolras while he's wearing only a towel.
"Éponine let me use her water allotment," he snaps back over his shoulder. "So if you've got a problem with it, take it up with her."
Enjolras is silent for as long as it takes them to make two long strides down the hall. "I don't have a problem with it."
"Right. Because that explains why you were standing there scowling at me in the shower."
"I wasn't-- Christ, R, will you talk to me?" He catches Grantaire by the arm and spins him around.
"You want me to talk? Now you want me to talk?" Grantaire braces his hands on Enjolras's shoulders and shoves him hard enough he takes a swift step back and releases Grantaire's arm. "It's a little late for that. You weren't interested in anything I had to say six months ago."
"That's a lie. I've always been interested in what you have to say."
The laughter that forces its way out of Grantaire's throat is choked and bitter. "Could have fooled me." He snatches his clothes off the chair and continues down the adjoining hall toward Éponine's room, because it'll have a hatch he can close to keep Enjolras on the other side, and because he knows she won't mind if he uses her space to get dressed in.
"You can't run away from me forever, Grantaire."
It stops Grantaire in his tracks. He hates it when Enjolras calls him R now, because it carries too many memories of times when he'd said it warmly, fondly, when it had been a good thing. But for all that, Enjolras never calls him by his full name, not since the day he cornered Grantaire in his bunk with an intent frown furrowing his brow and launched into a speech about how he'd noticed that Grantaire always called himself R when he was talking to himself, and always signed his name that way, and he wanted to know if Grantaire preferred to go by that name, because Enjolras fervently believed in everybody's right to choose their own identity and what they're known by, and he'd hate to find that he'd been inadvertently calling Grantaire by a name didn't care to use.
Grantaire had smirked at him, and said, R is fine, Apollo, and Grantaire's name had never passed Enjolras's lips since. He doesn't know what it means that Enjolras has chosen to use it now, but he turns back slowly and stares Enjolras down. "You're the one in the ship, who's been avoiding the necessity of declaring a home port for years. Am I really the one who's running?"
"You ran from me," he hisses.
"I left you. It's not the same thing."
"You were scared."
Grantaire chokes on laughter and shakes his head. "No. I really wasn't. I was angry. Am angry. And if you'd listened to a single word that had come out of my mouth back then, you'd know that. So now tell me again how you want me to talk."
"Six months of silence hasn't done us any favors, has it? You had to go to Éponine to ask me for help, instead of coming straight to me."
He bares his teeth, because what he really wants to do is tear Enjolras's face off, but the snarl will have to suffice. "I asked Éponine to ask a question, that's all. And you don't get to be jealous that I talk to her and not to you. Éponine is my friend."
Enjolras's eyes blaze, as hot and dark as coals. "Weren't we?"
Grantaire's mouth is already open, ready to spit words at Enjolras just as quickly as he lobs them back. But suddenly there are none at hand, and he shuts his mouth and just stares at Enjolras, blinking and stunned. "No," he says at last. "No, we weren't. We were strangers, to start. And then we argued constantly, and then we fell into bed together. But we weren't ever friends in any of that, no."
Now it's Enjolras's turn to stare at Grantaire in silence. There's a flush rising on his cheeks, streaking down his throat. He looks as worked up as he does before he gives some of his most brilliant, most impassioned speeches, but all he does is stare at Grantaire like he is, for once in his life at a loss for words. "I always considered you a friend," he says harshly.
"Don't tell me how I felt, R! I always did." He slams a fist against Grantaire's shoulder, and Grantaire feels rocked by it, stunned by it. His hand stays where it landed, fingers uncurling until his palm is pressed to Grantaire's skin, and it's the first time in six months that they've had any real contact between them, anything that wasn't just grabbing each other's arms and yanking them around to demand the other's attention. His skin is warm and his hand fits perfectly to the curve of Grantaire's shoulder and Grantaire hates it. "You were always my friend, from the very start. And if what you felt for me wasn't the same, wasn't as strong--"
It's galvanizing, the fury and pain that dump into his system at Enjolras's words. He pulls away from Enjolras's touch and beats his fists against Enjolras's shoulders to shove him back. The jolt is viscerally satisfying so he does it again, and again, until he's just beating on Enjolras wildly, his breath sawing desperately through his lungs. "Oh, fuck you, fuck you, Apollo. I loved you more than anything! I'd have died for you, how could you not know that?" He's half a breath away from crying and it infuriates him, but he can't help it. He should have known that coming here was a terrible idea. He should have known better.
"Died for me, maybe." Enjolras's voice is cool and distant again. It makes Grantaire shiver and smack a fist against his shoulder again. "But not stayed for me."
"Fuck you." He snarls it, a low rumble that's working its way up to something violent, something that's going to tear Grantaire apart and expose the raw hole in his chest that he's been carrying with him ever since he stepped off the Musain and left it in the dust behind him. "Oh, go to hell, Apollo. I stayed. I stayed for months, when I knew I should have left. You were killing me, and I still stayed and tried to work it out. But you didn't even want to try to meet me halfway, and I couldn't make things better on my own. You were too busy with your god damned cause to have any time or attention to spare for me."
Enjolras pulls himself up short and frowns at Grantaire like he's only just seeing him for the first time. "It was your cause, too."
"No." Grantaire's laughter is tainted with the taste of bile sitting thick on the back of his tongue. "No. You were my cause."
"You believed the same things we did. You can't change the past because you like it better that way. I was there. I talked with you. I know you believed in what we were doing."
"I believed in you, Apollo." Grantaire leans his head back against the corridor wall and lets his eyes slide shut. He's exhausted. Six months of carrying all this festering inside and he's so run down by it that he barely has the will left to keep up the fight. "It was always you. But you didn't believe in me back."
"I love you." It's violent, furious. It drives Grantaire back and leaves him blinking from the force of it, stunned, because Enjolras has never said those words. Not when they were together and happy, not when things were falling apart and he tried everything in his power to get Grantaire to stay, not ever. Grantaire said it, freely and effusively, but Enjolras's love was always expressed in little ways, in a pleased smile when Grantaire appeared in a doorway, or an absentminded kiss to the crown of his head for no reason at all.
"Those words are coming a little late, don't you think? If it took you six months to work your way up to saying them--"
Enjolras growls, his eyes burning with frustration, his hands balling into fists. He grabs Grantaire by the shoulders again, shoves him back hard against the corridor wall. When Grantaire gasps and opens his mouth to protest the manhandling, Enjolras grabs a handful of his hair and jerks Grantaire's mouth to his.
Oh, it's unfair, it's so unfair. Grantaire has never been able to hold out against Enjolras's kisses. Even now there's fury pumping through his veins, but there's fire sliding in to join it, wrapping through him until he's alight with it, his skin tingling, his breath coming short and sharp. His hands spring open, then close again, curling into Enjolras's shoulders. Grantaire tries to push him away, but there's no moving him. He just crowds forward, pushing Grantaire back until he's pinned against the wall, and uses the hand in his hair to tip his head back, so Enjolras can kiss him even more thoroughly.
God, but Grantaire missed this. They were always at their best when they were burning up the sheets between them. Desire had never been their problem. Enjolras was as passionate in this as he was in every other aspect of his life, and Grantaire had always been helpless in the face of it, his body responding like he's an instrument Enjolras has spent a lifetime learning how to play.
Even now, he's flushed and short of breath and wanting, from just one kiss. He hates himself for his weakness, and he hates Enjolras for knowing it, and exploiting it. He smacks his fists ineffectually against Enjolras's broad shoulders again, and tears his mouth from Enjolras's long enough to gasp, "Don't do this, you bastard, don't, you're not this cruel."
"I love you," Enjolras snarls, like he's angry, like the fact that he has to say it is more infuriating than any of his causes.
Enjolras leans in, trying for another kiss, but Grantaire shakes his head as he tries to claim his mouth. "Not enough."
That makes Enjolras's hands clench hard on Grantaire's shoulders, makes fire leap in his eyes and his face transform with fury and hurt. "How dare you? I love you, I have loved you, with everything that I have. And now you'll tell me that it's not enough? That there's some sort of bar I haven't met yet?"
"Oh Christ." Grantaire thunks his head back against the wall. "Stop that. That's not how I meant it. You don't get to make this about you."
"It's about us." He's snarling it, right in Grantaire's face. "That makes it about me as much as it is about you."
"And the same goes in reverse. But it never worked out that way, did it?" Grantaire hates the way Enjolras's eyes go soft and confused, like he really has no idea what Grantaire's talking about. It's worse, he thinks, than if he'd done it on purpose, if he'd known. "You want me to talk now, but what about before? I talked myself sick and you never heard me. I told you on St. Cloud that you were taking too great a risk, and what happened?"
Enjolras's mouth goes tight and unhappy. "That all worked out fine."
"We nearly lost the Musain, is what. It all worked out, sure, but that was only down to luck. We could all be rotting away in Capital detainment cells right now, and then who would fight for your precious cause?"
Enjolras's hands pull away from Grantaire's shoulders momentarily, just long enough to make Grantaire think that maybe Enjolras will let him go, maybe he'll be able to get off the Musain and back home before all the scars that he and Enjolras have left upon each other crack open and turn just as fresh and raw as ever.
Before he can move, though, Enjolras's hands are back, pressed open and flat, and they pull down Grantaire's chest with an intimacy that's as infuriating as it is familiar. "Some things are worth dying for," he says, still sharp and angry, despite the way his hands are moving over Grantaire's skin. "Worth losing life or liberty for."
"Maybe," Grantaire concedes, because in the whole of his life he's only ever found one, and then he ran half a system to get away from him. "But some things aren't. You're stupid and foolhardy and you let your exuberance run away with you, you're so focused on the people you want to help that you're blind to the way you're endangering the people who are right next to you, and damn it, Enjolras, will you stop trying to kiss me for two minutes? It's no wonder why I think you never listen." He turns his face away from Enjolras's and drives an elbow into his ribs to try to force him back.
Enjolras grunts at the jab, but doesn't retreat. He just keeps crowding in close, leans his brow against Grantaire's and slides his hands up into his hair. Grantaire is abruptly aware that they're pressed close together and he's wearing nothing but a towel wrapped precariously around his hips. "I missed arguing with you," Enjolras breathes into the space between them.
"Bullshit." Grantaire has to shut his eyes and fight for control for a moment.
"No one ever fights with me like you did."
"Now that I believe. No one else is foolish enough to."
Enjolras makes a sharp, unhappy noise. "No one else dares to." He slides his hands through Grantaire's hair, down to cup the edge of his jaw, turning Grantaire's face up to him. His eyes are very intent and very blue and Grantaire is so, so fucked. "Tell me no," he says. "Tell me to stop."
"Oh fuck you. That's not fair." Grantaire leans his forehead against the center of Enjolras's chest, in the little V of his coat where there's only thin cotton and warm skin between them, and lets out an unsteady breath. He should put distance between them, he should do as Enjolras says and tell him no, but he can't. He's never in his life been able to refuse Enjolras anything, except once, when he asked him to stay.
"Tell me to stop," Enjolras says again, lifting Grantaire's head and tilting his own to breathe the words against his lips.
And Grantaire can't, he can't. He knows he should, but his body won't respond to the thought. Enjolras sweeps his hands down Grantaire's sides and Grantaire leans into him. He grazes his lips across Grantaire's, and Grantaire is already parting for the kiss, already breathing in his breath like it's the only source of oxygen in the vacuum of space.
It would be so easy to lose himself in this, to just let the past six months slip away like they were nothing and let himself have this. Enjolras groans against his mouth and Grantaire knows that groan, knows before he moves the way he'll slide an arm around Grantaire's back and pull them in flush against one another. In another time, another place, Grantaire would have laughed and caught him by the hips. He'd have let Enjolras feel how hard he was through the layers of their clothes and teased him with it until his kisses grew sharp and demanding.
There's a part of him that wants to, and maybe that part is just as big as the part that resists. But he knows better. He knows that illusions are all well and good, but the thing about them is that eventually they shatter, and it's all the worse when reality comes crashing back in. God knows, he's already lived through that once, and it was more than enough for him. It's why he left, in the end.
Enjolras bites at his lips, impatient. His hands skim low on Grantaire's hips, fingers brushing the edge of the towel like he's thinking about tugging it loose and letting it fall to the floor. Grantaire grabs onto it and pulls his hips away from Enjolras's. When Enjolras makes a sharp, unhappy sound and skims his thumbs over the hollows of his hips, Grantaire pulls back and says, "Stop."
Enjolras freezes, motionless as a statue but for the rise and fall of his chest as he breathes, rapid and shallow. He shuts his eyes and doesn't move, and Grantaire would be more reassured by that if he hadn't frozen in place with his hands still on Grantaire's hips, his fingers still pressing dents into his skin like if only he holds on tight enough, this time he can keep Grantaire from leaving.
"I need to get dressed," Grantaire says quietly, turning his face away. They're two steps away from the alcove where he left his clothing, but it feels like miles.
Enjolras releases an unsteady breath and takes one hand from Grantaire's hips, only to lift it up to sweep his thumb over the front of Grantaire's shoulder, just beneath his collar bone. "You were supposed to be safe," he says quietly.
Grantaire opens his eyes and frowns at him. "What?"
Enjolras is scowling. He presses his thumb to that same spot, harder. Grantaire looks down and sees that it's right over the puckered, ugly scar that he got a month or so after they joined the settlement, when a neighbor's combine threw a gear in the middle of harvesting that had nearly torn straight through Grantaire's shoulder, and likely would have killed him if he'd been standing half a foot to his right. "You teach children," Enjolras says, like he's angry. "You're off in the outer rings of the system on a moon so tiny it doesn't even have a name, well beyond the usual reach of the law. You were supposed to be safe here."
Grantaire shakes his head slowly, at a loss. "I don't understand what you're going on about. Yes, I teach. Yes, it's a backwater moon no one's ever heard of. That's why we used it as our home port, on the Musain. What does that have to do--"
"You're scarred." The words hiss out of Enjolras like he can't hold them back any more. He presses against the scar on Grantaire's shoulder harder, before he abruptly pulls his hand away as though Grantaire suddenly became too hot to touch, or Enjolras feared that he himself had. Grantaire flexes his shoulder to soothe the ache and scowls at him. "It's only been six months, and you've got half a dozen new scars on you I've never seen before." There's another on Grantaire's side just below his ribs, where he grazed against a loose nail sticking out of a storefront and nearly gave himself tetanus for the trouble. Enjolras skims the backs of his knuckles over the long, thin scar and makes a sound like he's been shot.
"It's not an easy place to make a living." Grantaire grunts and pulls away from Enjolras's touch. "I think I'm insulted that you thought I was coming here for a life of ease and sloth."
"It's not that." The gesture Enjolras makes is quick, dismissive, impatient. "That's not the point. You were supposed to be safer here. It's why I let you--"
Grantaire doesn't make a sound, but Enjolras breaks off as abruptly as if Grantaire had interrupted him, and stares intently at Grantaire's face. Whatever it is he sees there -- whatever it is he saw there, to cut him off so effectively -- it makes his lips press into a thin, flat line. He doesn't go so far as to stop back, but he does pull up and draw away, putting space between them.
"I'm sorry," Grantaire says slowly, carefully. "What's that you were saying? It sounded like you had some harebrained notion about letting me do something, when I'm pretty damn sure you've never had any right to start doling out permission about anything to do with my life."
Enjolras draws a measured breath. "That's not what I meant."
"That's sure how it sounded."
"It's just that, when you asked me to leave you here--"
"I didn't ask." Grantaire wants to bury his face in his hands. He wants to be anywhere but here, doing anything but this. "I told you where I was going, and told you to bring me here. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you have, or had, the final word in any of the decisions that I've made for myself."
Enjolras takes one step back, putting the width of the corridor between them. Grantaire gulps air like he's been drowning, head tipped back against the wall, lungs heaving. "That's not what I meant, either."
"You're good with words, Apollo. I have a hard time believing you'd say anything you didn't wholeheartedly mean."
"You drive me crazy."
That startles Grantaire enough to lift his head, to blink at Enjolras across the few scant feet between them. There's a part of him, a part that's large enough that he's a little embarrassed about it, that's pleased by the admission.
Enjolras's hands ball into fists and he bares his teeth, as frustrated as Grantaire's ever seen him. Enjolras doesn't get frustrated, generally. He gets angry and vibrant and impassioned, he pounds his fists on tabletops and makes passionate speeches, but he saves frustration for the things that are truly beyond his reach. And he's a man who's dedicated himself to taking on the governing body that runs the entire solar system, so there's not much that he doesn't believe he can change, if he sets his mind to it. "I can't even think when I'm around you, how am I supposed to be able to be eloquent?"
"You've never had a problem with that before."
"I have when it's you. I always have."
Grantaire drops his gaze from the raw earnestness in Enjolras's. He adjusts the set of the towel around his hips, wrapping it tighter, more securely. "I'm going to put my clothes on now." He sidles down the hall, toward the table where he left them. "And then I'm going to go home. Don't worry if Éponine doesn't show up tonight, it'll only be because I've killed her."
Enjolras doesn't speak until Grantaire's grabbed his folded clothes and slid past him once more, back towards the cramped bathroom. "You can't run forever, R," he says when Grantaire's got his hand on the latch to the bathroom door.
Grantaire leans his brow against the jamb for a moment. "One of these days, you're going to give up the chase," he says. "And then you'll realize that nothing I've done has been about running."
"You are the worst," Grantaire says as he lets himself in and drops down into the other chair.
Éponine glances up at him, but finishes the verse before she shuts the book, keeping her finger tucked between the pages to mark their place. "He's my brother, I can indulge him if I want to."
Grantaire gives a hollow laugh. "Enjolras was in the Musain."
The slight, teasing smirk that pulls at her lips vanishes abruptly, leaving her with only a wrinkled frown and a dark look of concern. "He was deeply embroiled in a conversation with Fantine's girls when I left. I think he was making sure he didn't have to get up in arms about the state of their health care or something. He didn't look like he intended to leave any time soon."
"Well, he did. And he caught me in a towel." Gavroche covers his face with his hands and giggles. Grantaire fixes him with a look. "Traitor. See if I show you any sympathy when you finally realize that you keep tormenting that girl in class because you've got a hopeless crush on her."
That stops the laughter, at least, and gets him a look of mingled shock and horror. Éponine just laughs and scrubs her hand through Gavroche's hair. She sobers when she turns her attention back to Grantaire. "I'm sorry, R, I should have gone back with you and played lookout. Was it awful? You look like it was awful."
"He kissed me."
Her brows climb high. She sits back in the chair and looks him over, taking him in like she's trying to assess how bad the damage is. "Did you leave him breathing, at least? It's going to be a hassle if we have to find a new captain."
Grantaire shuts his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose between his fingers. "I kissed him back."
"You what?" That, surprisingly, is from Gavroche, not Éponine.
"Just a little."
"No, I'm with Gav." Éponine stretches a foot out across the space between the chairs and nudges his calf with the toe of her boot. "You what?"
"I am so fucked."
She laughs, quietly and sympathetically. "Sweetie, you've been fucked since you saw him in port and came stumbling up to us, drunk and reeking of gin, and talked your way onto a position on the crew. The only ones who didn't realize it from the start were you and him."
"You are not helping. And you're still the worst."
"That's okay, you love me anyway." She slides Gavroche off of her thighs, chucks him in the shoulder when he starts to complain, and comes over to slide into the chair with Grantaire, a lapful of wiry muscles and familiarity. She wraps him in her arms, and he's got his face buried in her shoulder, his breath turning ragged, before he even realizes what she's done. "Is it really so bad? We'll be gone in a few days anyway. What harm could a few kisses do?"
"You're fired," he mutters against her skin. "Totally fired. I'm going to have to hold open interviews for a new best friend. It's going to be very inconvenient."
"Nice try, but my question stands." She slides her hand under his jaw and tips his face up to hers. "You wouldn't be the first exes to hop in the sack together. It might get it out of your system."
"I've had six months to get him out of my system. For all the good it's done me."
"Mmhmm." She's got a crooked smile on her face that makes him hate her a little bit. It's almost a smirk, but keeps just on the right side of kindness to not be. "You've been trying for six months, alone, through the sheer might of your will power and stubbornness. So maybe it's time to try something else. Pull out the big guns."
Gavroche perks up at the mention of guns. Grantaire waves him off and shakes his head. "You're just saying that because you want us to get back together so you've got your best friend back on the Musain with you, you greedy vixen."
Éponine clucks her tongue and pinches his bicep, hard enough to make him help in protest. "Give me a little credit, please. I want it for a lot more reasons than just that."
"You know, most friends would pat me on the head and say 'Poor R' and let me have my pity party."
"Probably," she agrees. "But you're not best friends with them, you're best friends with me. Now I wonder why that is?"
"Because I have terrible taste in the people I love, obviously."
Gavroche huffs, insulted. Grantaire reaches out to ruffle his hair. He rolls his eyes like Grantaire's crisis is boring and he'd like Grantaire to get on with it so they can get back to the interesting things, like dirty poems and both of them doting all their attention onto him.
"You have wonderful taste, as a matter of fact. I'm fabulous, if you hadn't noticed. And so is Gav." He settles somewhat at the inclusion of his name as someone Grantaire loves. "Even Enjolras is, for the most part, when he's not shoving his foot in his mouth."
"Or his head up his ass," Grantaire mutters.
Éponine flashes him a quick grin. "Or that." She rises off of Grantaire's lap, stretching, and pulls Gavroche to her for a rough hug. "Now, I suppose I'd better head back and make sure you didn't inflict too much damage on our captain."
"I told him not to expect you back tonight, if you want to stay."
Her smile is slower than the others, just slow enough that he knows it's borne of genuine pleasure. "I'd love to," she says. "But the rest of the crew is going to be heading back soon, and he's likely to kill them all if someone makes an insensitive comment while drunk and thoughtless. And we've already lost enough crew as it is, I'd hate to lose more." She gives him another hug before she slips her shoes on and starts for the door. "You've got your communicator, you can always use it if you need to talk more later, all right?"
Grantaire rolls his eyes. "You're not off-planet, Ep, if I want to talk to you I can just take a ten minute walk."
"Sure, or that works too." She pulls him close and squeezes her arms tight around his ribs. "Just don't hesitate, okay? I mean it."
"I know." He squeezes back and for one long minute, with his best friend hugging him tight and Gavroche standing there leaning against his side as though to share in the hug vicariously, everything feels almost all right.
Fantine's it is, then, he decides, as though there were ever any other real alternative, and starts out on the short walk into town. The exercise is good for him, it clears his mind and eases some of the tension that's been gathering between his shoulders ever since the night before. By the time he reaches Fantine's, he feels halfway to normal.
There's music and light and laughter inside. A patron whom Grantaire suspects is very drunk is playing a rousing, cacophonous song on Fantine's piano, belting out dirty lyrics that Grantaire knows aren't the original words to the song. He's reluctantly impressed by the man's ability to string rhymes together while stumbling drunk, and takes his own seat at the bar, at the other end from the piano, to spare his eardrums. "Whiskey," he orders, and downs the first shot as soon as it's set before him.
When he's had two more, he feels marginally more capable of facing the world. But going home still sounds like the worst idea ever, so instead he waves off the bartender's offer of a fourth shot and makes instead for the rooms in the back, the long hallway with the two doors at the end that aren't open for business.
He knocks on Cosette's door and waits, fidgeting and nervous, until Cosette's clear voice calls from within, "Yes? Come in."
He cracks the door open and leans his head inside with a smile, until she recognizes him and an answering smile blooms across her face. She waves him in eagerly and scoots herself up higher in the bed, so he comes in and drags the room's chair over to the side of the bed so he can sit next to her.
"This is a surprise," she says. "How are you, R? And what brings you by?"
He reaches out and pats her hand where it's lying on the bed on top of the blankets. "Do I need an excuse to stop by and see how the girl I saved from burning wreckage is doing?"
Her smile is bright and completely genuine. "It was metal. It wasn't burning."
"Artistic license," he says, and winks to make her laugh. "But enough flirting, how are you doing?"
"I feel much better. Joly doesn't cluck his tongue too hard over my arm when he comes by to change the bandages, but I can't bear to look, so I don't know for sure. He'd tell me if it were getting worse, or weren't getting better, wouldn't he?"
"He'd be here sleeping by the foot of your bed and shoving pills and syrups down your throat as fast as you could swallow them, if he thought you weren't improving the way you ought to be." He pats her uninjured hand where it lies on the bed. "And he's not the sort to mince words, no. He's always honest, even if what he has to say isn't what you want to hear."
"That's a relief, then," she says, and eases back down against her pillows. "He's supposed to be by this afternoon to change the bandages again. Will you stay? You can see how it's looking and then tell me, since I don't have the stomach to look for myself."
"I can do that." It's a better way to spend the afternoon than running up his tab at Fantine's bar, in any case. He readjusts his chair so it's positioned right up next to Cosette's bed, then slumps down into it and kicks his feet up onto the edge of her mattress. "Will you do something for me, though?"
"Anything," she says, and God, it makes his chest hurt how readily she offers up that promise. He'd fear that she was going to get her heart broken into pieces some day, if she kept wearing it right there on her sleeve, but for the way he remembers Marius looking at her, when they'd first come here with Joly to examine her. There's a spray of desert willow on the bedside table in a tin cup that Grantaire recognizes as Marius's from the Musain, and the fact that Cosette's placed it in a position of prominence and kept the cup topped up with water to keep the little flowers fresh makes Grantaire think that Marius's infatuation might be requited.
They're both of them like puppies, all big, earnest eyes and ready smiles. They'd do well together, Grantaire thinks. And he's going to have to stop teasing Éponine about firing her as his best friend, because when she finds out that Marius is besotted she's going to need him for a shoulder to cry on and the same brand of realistic pep talks that she's so fond of bestowing upon him. They're going to need each other.
Cosette's still watching him, though, waiting to hear what it is he might ask of her, so Grantaire shakes off the passing mood, keeps his smile sharp and bright, and says, "Tell me a story, while we wait for the good doctor to make his appearance. The more exciting, the better."
Her smile stays in place, but turns a little wistful. "I haven't had that much excitement in my life, I'm afraid."
He raises his eyebrows at her and nudges her shoulder with his knuckles. "You crash landed in a pod on a backwater moon with your convict father, took refuge in a whorehouse, and fell in with a drunk schoolteacher and a group of fugitive revolutionaries. Don't sell yourself short, kid."
She gives him a sharp sigh and an exasperated look. "You already know that story, though."
"Tell me another one, then. Lie. Make things up. I won't mind, just make it something good."
Cosette rolls her eyes, and then her smile turns sharp and a little wicked. "Very well," she says, and settles down more comfortably against her pillows. "Listen up, then. This is a good one."
Grantaire grins and does as he's told. The tale Cosette tells is one of how she and her father were chased from their last hide-out when a Capital ship had settled into orbit around their planet and broadcast promise of a reward for their detainment to everyone down below. They'd escaped by a hair, and only due to the mercy of a man named Fauchelevent, a botanist whom her father had known long before Cosette was born, and who had taken them onto his ship and smuggled them in the hold straight through the Capital's checkpoints with no one the wiser, despite their scanners and analyzers meant to root out stowaways and fugitives.
"Twenty years later and they happen upon each other on the same planet?" Grantaire says, and scoffs. "Come now, Cosette, if you're going to make up stories you have to learn to make them believable. There's no point in it if people know you're pulling their leg before the story's half over."
"You're assuming I am making it up," she says, a light of mischief in her eye. "What if it's the honest truth?"
"Life doesn't work like that. Things just working out, coincidences lining up in a row one after another like dominoes… No. It's messier than that, and crueler than that."
Her smile starts to fade, leaving her unhappy, and looking at Grantaire like he's something tragic. "Sometimes it does. You were there to pull Papa and me out of our pod, after all. Was that not a fortunate coincidence?"
"Gavroche saw you falling out of the sky."
"And he just happened to be there to see, and just happened to be the ward of a man who is the sort of person to go running toward a crash site instead of away, and to go crawling through wreckage to save complete strangers instead of keeping himself at a safe distance." She raises her brows and leans toward Grantaire, dropping her voice to a stage whisper. "Perhaps it's a true story. Perhaps it's a lie. But you'll never know, will you?"
Grantaire sits back and looks at her anew. "Oh, you're devious. Éponine's going to like you, once she gets over her heartbreak."
Cosette's expression shifts toward curiosity, her brow wrinkling as she gives Grantaire a questioning look. He just shakes his head, though, and declares that it's his turn to tell a story, and hers to guess whether it's true or not. She seems keen enough on the idea, so they spend the better part of an hour that way, trading stories and lies, each trying to outdo the other, so busy laughing and exclaiming at one another that they scarcely notice the door's swung open until Joly clears his throat from the doorway, gives Grantaire an unreadable look, and then steps inside.
"How are you today, Miss Fauchelevent?" he asks, the very picture of courtesy.
Grantaire spares a blink for him before he snaps his head around to stare at Cosette. She's watching him with a crooked smile like she's waiting for his reaction, and it spreads to a grin when she gets it. "Now you'll be wondering forever, won't you?" She turns her attention back to Joly before Grantaire can do more than gape at her in astonishment and chagrin. "Quite well, Doctor. Or at least I hope I am. I suppose it remains for you to say for sure."
"You're looking better by the day. I think it's safe to say the antibiotics are doing their job, but let's have a look at that arm to be sure."
She nods and shifts on the bed, laying her arm out for Joly's access. Grantaire stays by her other side and watches anxiously as Joly begins to unwrap the bandages.
There's a simple splint beneath the outermost layer of gauze, not sturdy enough for long term use but enough to keep Cosette's bones in place while she's on bed rest, and easy enough to remove and replace during her frequent bandage changes.
As the layers fall away, the deeper ones start to look less pristine, tinged a little with the brown and yellow of blood and suppuration. But the wound beneath is clean and looks to be healing nicely, its edges already turning pink with tender new skin. And more importantly, the streaks of angry, inflamed red have retreated, leaving the skin around the site only a little swollen and a little pink.
Cosette beams at it, and Grantaire has never seen anyone so happy while looking at their own mangled limb. "It's good, isn't it?" she asks Joly eagerly. "This means we can leave, right?"
Joly hums a little, noncommittal, but it's a satisfied sound. He's almost smiling as he wraps Cosette's arm back up in fresh gauze and a new splint. "It's good," he agrees as he tucks the last wrap securely. Cosette lets out a rush of air and beams at him. "Let's see how you can stand and walk before I go and get your hopes up. I won't have done you any favors if I send you off only for you to find halfway to the next planet that you can't walk without your bones shifting and suddenly every movement is agony."
It turns the brightness down on Cosette's smile some, but she rallies and nods, strong and decisive. "Yes, let's. I've had enough of being in this bed, besides." She pulls her legs up, braces her arm to try to lever herself upright, then glances at Grantaire with her brows raised and a teasing grin. "A little help, if you please?"
He helps her upright, then gives her his arm to hold as she turns slowly, spinning around to let her legs dangle over the edge of the bed. Her feet are bare and pale, and she tucks them against one another as though they're chilled being exposed to the open air in the room. He supposes, after three days spent under the blankets, they probably would be.
If Grantaire had been the one tied to a bed for three days, he'd have hurled himself out of it the moment he was granted permission, and probably done himself greater damage in his enthusiasm. Cosette's slow about it, though. Careful. She slides to the edge of the bed with a look of intense concentration on her face, and eases her feet down like she's afraid she'll find broken glass embedded in the floorboards. When both feet are flat on the floor, she exhales a sharp breath like she's relieved, like she expected to never be able to manage even this much again.
Grantaire shifts around to stand in front of her, holding on to her hand. He pulls, ever so slightly. Not enough to pull her up, but enough to give her something to pull back against, so she can get herself upright and onto her feet.
She lets out another sharp breath once she's there, upright and wavering and staring at Grantaire like she could burst with happiness. Joly's behind her, on the other side of the bed, and he surveys her critically, his brow wrinkled. "Try walking," he says. "Keep holding on to R there, that's good, there's no need to rush things. R, help lead her to the other side of the room and back."
Grantaire does so. He doesn't take any of her weight himself, lets her do all the work, but he keeps her hands firmly in his, his eyes on her face, ready to wrap an arm around her waist or grab onto her if she needs him. They go five steps across the room, and Cosette reaches out and taps the wall like they're playing tag, before they turn around and make their way back the way they came.
When they reach the bedside, Cosette drops down onto it heavily, holding her splinted arm against her side to protect it, and turns to give Joly a wide-eyed look over her shoulder. "I feel like I've run halfway across the moon and back." She sounds like it too, winded and panting for breath.
Joly just nods and makes a note in the handheld comm unit he uses to take his notes and keep his medical records. "You've been through a battle, Miss Fauchelevent. You may feel as though you've been lying in bed for the better part of a week and therefore you ought to be fully rested and bouncing with energy, but while you've been lying there, your body's been waging a war. It's natural that it's weak. You'll have to work to regain your strength."
Cosette nods, steely-eyed and solemn.
"Do that a few more times throughout the day." He nods toward the wall she'd walked to. "Sit up as much as you're able, with your legs off the bed. But be sure to rest if you're tired, don't overexert yourself. In the morning, if you're able to make it there and back again, this time by yourself, I'll clear you to leave."
Cosette's face brightens with an eager-eyed look that makes Grantaire suspect that she'll drive herself half to exhaustion trying to work up the stamina to meet Joly's challenge. "I'll make it," she says, her voice firm with resolve. "You'll see."
Grantaire believes her. And if he didn't think she'd manage it just fine on her own, he'd be sorely tempted to volunteer to stay and help her with it. Half a day, that's all. Half a day and then she and her father can be on their way to safety, and Grantaire will be able to breathe again knowing that he's not sharing the same small moon with Enjolras. He'll be able to get back to the life he's been making for himself here, and the strain of the past week can become nothing more than a memory.
Part of him -- a large part, if he's honest -- wants to be there. To see Cosette's progress and to celebrate with them all, and to say good-bye to his friends.
He doesn't have that luxury, though. He has a job to do, and children who depend on him. It's better this way, anyway. A clean break, without any of the pain of a lingering, emotional good-bye. He'll call Éponine on the communicator later to apologize for not wishing her, at least, a proper farewell, and the rest of his friends will understand.
Gavroche takes off as soon as they're out the door, as is his wont. He likes to meet up with the other children as they make their way toward the schoolhouse, to play and talk and to try to lead them astray, into adventures and explorations that promise to be much more interesting than schoolwork. Grantaire calls after him, "Don't think I won't make you stay after if you show up late," as he always does, and then leaves him to it. He focuses better on the days when he's able to get his energy out before class starts.
Grantaire reaches the schoolhouse and lets himself inside, to make sure everything's ready and tidied up before the children start arriving. There's not much to do in the way of last-minute lesson planning, but he starts writing the lesson on the board just to get a head start as the first, earliest students start making their way in and settling at their desks.
There's still a few minutes left before class starts when the door flies open so hard it swings all the way around and bangs off of the wall. Grantaire spins, startled, but unsurprised when it's Gavroche standing in the doorway, his hair already a mess and his eyes gone wide and eager. "There's something in the sky!" he cries.
Grantaire sighs and tightens his fingers around his stick of chalk. "Come on in, Gav. If you're in your seat in the next two minutes, I won't have to mark you tardy."
Gavroche's brow wrinkles and he doesn't move. "R. There's something in the sky, maybe it's another ship."
Grantaire shakes his head. "That seems unlikely. We've already seen more traffic here in the past week than we have in the six months before it."
"It's convenient that these sightings keep happening just before class starts, isn't it?" He gestures to Gavroche's seat where it stands, still empty and waiting. "Go on, sit down. We're talking about Old World literature today, I think you'll like it. They were fond of guns and violence and adventure. It's right up your alley."
He's been looking forward to getting to this lesson for weeks now, for the opportunity to finally engage Gavroche in something he might find interesting. But Gavroche just stomps down the aisle and drops into his chair with a mutinous expression, and the whole time that Grantaire tells the class about Old World themes of violence and danger, Gavroche sulks, glaring sullenly at Grantaire like he's the most unfair ever.
Halfway through the lesson, just as Grantaire's getting to the really good stuff and Gavroche is starting to look like maybe he's reconsidering his persistent apathy, there's a pounding at the door that makes Grantaire and half the students jump. They all twist about, staring at the door in the back of the classroom. Gavroche is on his knees, backwards in his chair, leaning out over the desk of the student behind him as though if only he were a few inches closer, he could see right through the door and discover who'd come calling.
"Open your books to page fifty-three and start reading," Grantaire says, and starts down the aisle toward the back of the class. "Those of you sitting next to the younger students still learning their letters, help them out."
Gavroche scrambles out of his chair and after Grantaire. "No one here knocks like that." His voice vibrates with energy and excitement. He may have started to be grudgingly interested in Grantaire's lesson, but fictitious adventures written by men a thousand years before can never hold a candle to real life intrigue, no matter how exciting the stories may be.
"Back in your seat," Grantaire tells him gently, and gives him a little scoot in the right direction. "At least pretend to be doing your schoolwork, will you, so whoever it is who's come visiting won't think I'm completely useless at my job."
Gavroche just pulls a face and rolls his eyes. "You're not completely useless."
"Thank you so much. I am so reassured." Grantaire gives him another push, then turns back toward the door as whoever it is on the other side pounds again.
"Hold on to your hat, I'm coming," he calls, then reaches the door and pulls it open.
Standing on the schoolhouse's front step is a man Grantaire's never seen before, his hair slicked back neatly and his clothes pressed into crisp, precise lines. It wouldn't have taken any more than that for Grantaire to know that he's come from off-moon, probably from some inner-system planet -- no one in the settlement would bother with either the hair on the pressing, not when work and the environment would quickly destroy both. His uniform is a solid shade of blue used only by Capital officials, marred only by a layer of dust that coats his shoes and clings to the hem of his trousers. Grantaire swallows down the knot of panic the sight of the man in front of him causes and resists the urge to slam the door in his face. Whoever he is, his presence here can mean nothing but trouble.
Instead, he forces a smile onto his face. "Can I help you?"
"Sir." The stranger gives him a respectful nod. "My name is Javert. I need to speak with you for a moment."
"You're interrupting our lesson, I'm afraid. You'll have to come back this afternoon, when class has let out."
It's too much to hope that that will put the man off, of course. His brow creases with a frown, the corners of his mouth turning down. "You mistake me. I'm a law enforcement officer from the Capital--"
"I know. Or I figured as much."
That, at least, startles him. Javert's brows climb high an instant before they snap back down again into an expression that Grantaire supposes is meant to be stern and imposing. "Then you know that I can compel you to speak with me now, if I must. I'd prefer it not come to that, of course. This is a matter that concerns the children, and their safety." He inclines his head, indicating past Grantaire's shoulder. Grantaire twists and finds every pair of eyes in the room trained on them.
"Back to your reading," he says to them, perhaps a bit more stern than is entirely warranted. Most of the children jump and hurry back to their books, though Gavroche stays staring at him, an accusation in his eyes.
Grantaire ignores him because he has to, because whatever this is about, whatever Javert has come for, it can mean nothing but trouble for any of them, and Grantaire has to find out what it is. "Come with me, then," he says to Javert and turns and walks back up the aisle to the front of the room, to the far corner where his desk and chair are, where they can have some semblance of privacy if they keep their voices low.
He takes his chair and leaves Javert standing, because it pleases some part of him that clearly has a death wish. "Very well, tell me. What is it that poses a threat to the children?"
Javert leans forward, his hands braced against the desktop, very intense. "I am in search of a convict who broke his parole and went on the run."
"I don't see how that has anything to do with us, or the children."
"We've tracked him to this planet. Your moon here seems the most likely place for a man of his ilk to hide."
Grantaire's throat is as dry as the dust outside. He swallows and tries not to be obvious about it. "It's a big moon, and we're not the only settlement on it. I assure you, we'd have noticed if there were a new face in town. I'm sorry, but I think you're looking in the wrong place."
Javert doesn't relent as Grantaire had hoped. He gives a brief, dismissive wave of his hand. "We have other officers combing through the other settlements. My gut says he would have come here, though. It's easier to avoid people in a smaller settlement. You have more wilderness around your town, more places for such a man to hide."
"He'd have to come out eventually," Grantaire points out. "He couldn't hide forever. And I haven't seen him, nor heard of anyone else in town who has. I think you're chasing a ghost, Inspector."
Javert nods once, but seems unconvinced. He glances over the classroom as though he might find the man hiding there amongst the students. "Thank you for your help, then. I knew the man responsible for the upbringing of the town's children could be relied upon to do the right thing. I'll have to ask around in town, I suppose, and hope to find equally trustworthy folks there." He inclines his head again. "Good day. I'm sorry for disturbing your class."
Fuck. Fuck. Grantaire pinches the bridge of his nose while Javert's back is turned and fights to breathe easily. "Children, that's enough for today," he says, directing his voice to the room but making sure to speak loud enough for Javert to hear. "Put your books away, we're ending early today."
Javert stops in the doorway and turns back, frowning like he deeply disapproves of children being given leisure time. Grantaire doesn't even pretend he hasn't noticed Javert's regard, just meets his gaze across the length of the schoolhouse and holds it evenly. "If there is a dangerous convict in the community, then the safest place for the children to be is at home with their families."
Some of the intensity on Javert's face eases, and he nods.
"Gav, come here." Grantaire crouches down as Gavroche slides out of his chair and hurries up to Grantaire.
"I told you," he hisses. "I told you I saw something, you never listen to me."
"I know." Grantaire smooths his hands over Gavroche's hair and the sides of his face, keeping his voice hushed. "I know, Gav, I'm sorry." He raises his voice, not enough to be obvious about it, just enough to sound like a normal conversation, not one that they're trying to hide from prying ears. "I need you to go home, okay?"
"What?" Gavroche stares at him like Grantaire has just asked him to do something dreadful.
"It's important, okay?" He grips Gavroche's hands hard, until Gavroche refocuses on him, scowling. "I need you to do this for me. I need you to make sure no one I care about is hurt by this criminal." There's a shift in Gavroche's eyes, a dawning understanding. He goes still in Grantaire's hands, focused, like a hound waiting to be loosed on the hunt. "Do you understand me, Gav?"
"I understand." He stares straight into Grantaire's eyes as he says it, and Grantaire knows that he does.
"Can you do this for me?"
"Yes. I'll do what you want."
"You'll go straight home?" he asks, for Javert's benefit.
Gavroche nods. "I'll run straight there, quick as I can."
"Good boy." Grantaire kisses his forehead, then releases him. "Go on, then. Quick as you can."
Gavroche nods and scampers out, dodging around Javert to get out the door. Javert is still standing there, watching Grantaire, and it makes his skin itch. It's an effort to rise as though nothing is wrong, to dust off his hands and start gathering up the slates and sticks of chalks and books the children left out on their desks, in their rush to escape the drudgery of schoolwork before Grantaire changed his mind.
He spares Javert a glance, takes pains to make it brief and in passing, the curious gaze of someone who's only just noticed that they've got company. "Is there anything else I can help you with, Inspector?"
"No." Javert clears his throat and stands straighter, his back stiff as the barrel of a rifle. "But you will alert me if you see a strange man about the settlement, won't you?"
"You mean besides you?" He lets his smile go sharp and sarcastic. It's not the wisest thing he's ever done, but he can't resist the urge. "Yes, I will. You have my word."
Go, his mind chants, battering at the confines of his skull. Go, go, go.
Javert leaves, at long last. As soon as the door is shut behind him, Grantaire allows himself to release the torn, strangled noise that's been fighting to escape from him from the moment he saw the color of Javert's uniform. That's the only concession he makes, though -- he forces himself to sit, to wait, though it's excruciating. His heart batters against his ribs and his breath comes quick and shallow and he wants to run. He wants to race into town as fast as he can, to find Fantine and Cosette and Valjean and all his friends and assure himself that they're safe. He wants to tell them all to run, run now, to leave while they still have the chance, before Javert realizes that there's bigger quarry on their little moon than just one wayward parolee. He wants to grab Enjolras by the shoulders and shake him until he can't see straight, to shout I told you so right in his face because he did. He told them all that it wasn't safe, that this was going to happen, and no one listened to him and now the Capital is here and it'll be a minor miracle if they manage to get everyone away without being discovered.
His thoughts race as he forces himself to sit behind his desk, his palms spread flat across the desktop and shaking as he counts his breaths and tries his best to keep them slow and measured.
When five minutes have passed by his estimation, he gets up and puts his coat on and leaves, walking at a steady pace. His legs are shaking and he has to shove his hands into his coat's pockets to keep them from trembling, too. He needs to look unremarkable but he suspects he probably looks like a junkie coming off a high, strung-out and wild-eyed. He's going to give them all away, but he can't stay away, he just can't.
It feels like it takes a year for him to make it into town and reach Fantine's. The sight of her brothel standing at the end of the street nearly takes him down with the sudden weight of relief. He draws a sharp, gasping breath and lets himself walk a little faster, a little more urgently. It's just one block, what can it hurt, he needs to get there, to be there, he needs to see for himself that the people he cares about are all right.
He's nearly made it, he's standing on the front step reaching for the door knob when the sound of his name behind him makes him flinch.
He turns slowly. Of course it's Javert standing behind him at the base of the steps, frowning up at him. "Inspector." He forces himself to smile. It probably looks pained. A million excuses poise on the tip of his tongue, justifications for why he's there, explanations about what he might be doing. But he's lived amongst criminals and others who have to lie to survive long enough to know that that's the quickest way to draw suspicion onto himself. So he holds the flood back and waits for Javert to say something.
Javert's expression turns pinched and his lip curls in a distasteful sneer. "I can't say as I approve of the overseer of our children's education frequenting a house of ill-repute..."
He's waiting for Grantaire to simper and apologize, leaving him a perfect opening to explain how that isn't what this is at all. But it's the perfect cover, and Grantaire's not about to open the question of what he is actually there for, so he just keeps his smile in place, letting it turn brittle and sharp at the edges. "A man has needs," he says easily. And then, "Our settlement isn't ruled by the Capital's morality laws, and there's not a soul in town who'd object to my frequenting this establishment, so I don't expect that any of our laws will forbid it any time soon, either."
Javert huffs and scowls, and when that doesn't suffice to set Grantaire off his course, he pulls his shoulders back sharply and stalks off up the street.
"Good day, Inspector," Grantaire calls after him, because he's not above indulging in a little bit of pettiness once in a while, especially when the occasion calls for it. And then he slips inside Fantine's, shuts and latches the door behind himself, and lets all the air out of his lungs.
He half expects to find the place abuzz with activity, but at first glance, there doesn't seem to be anything out of order. One of Fantine's girls is playing the piano while others dance or flirt with their customers, there are girls sitting on men's laps and batting their eyes, hiking up the hems of their skirts to bare a glimpse of thigh. Grantaire stands with his back against the door and stares, and wants to scream at every single one of them for blinking at him with big, startled eyes, like they've got no idea why he might burst inside half mad with panic. Like this is a normal day, when it's as far from normal as Grantaire's ever had.
Fantine's on the other side of the common room, keeping an eye on her girls and her customers. Grantaire's gaze fixes on her and he can't stop the feelings of betrayal that even she would be as calm as relaxed as any other day, when she knows what's at stake for him, and what Javert's presence would mean for him.
She rises smoothly, smiles and says something quiet to the men gathered around her, probably excusing herself. She glides over to Grantaire and takes him by the arm, uses her other to reach past him and flick the lock open.
"The Capital," he says in protest, pulling against her hold on his arm, but her grip is tighter than it seems and she doesn't release him.
Her smile stays fixed in place. Her voice remains low and calm and even. "I know. Gav got here in time. They're all in the back rooms, well hidden. Come with me, I'll bring you to them. You can't stand out here looking like you're going to hyperventilate any moment, you'll ruin the facade."
All the indignation drains out of him in a rush. Of course this is a ruse, no doubt carefully crafted by Fantine. And she was sitting out here to oversee the charade, not the business. "Yes, please," he says desperately. All the long minutes of stress and worry have left him drained, wobbly-kneed. He holds onto her arm for support and strength as she leads him back, through the hallway and back to the room where Cosette has been staying all week.
It's crowded now, Cosette sitting up in bed with her knees pulled up to her chest, Valjean pressed in close beside her. Jehan is on the edge of the bed as well, one of his daggers held sheathed in his hands like he's going to personally slice up anyone who comes through that door with ill intentions.
They're all there, Joly and Bossuet and Bahorel, who paces across the width of the room and keeps frowning out the narrow window like he's thinking of just shattering the glass and making a break for it with as many of the others as he can carry. Éponine's by the window as well, leaning against the frame with her arms wrapped around her ribs and her brow furrowed. Courfeyrac is kneeling before the bed's edge trying to keep Cosette distracted from the worry written on her face by telling one of his favorite stories of the mishaps that he and Marius got into together on other planets. Marius sits on the other side of Cosette from Valjean, pressed in just as close, and they grip each other's hands even as he protests Courfeyrac's narration, insisting that it wasn't trouble that he and Courfeyrac got into together, it was trouble that Courfeyrac got him into. Cosette's expression lightens a few scant degrees the longer the argument goes on, a ghost of a smile turning up the corners of her mouth, so Grantaire's not sure how much of the bickering is genuine and how much is exaggerated for her benefit.
And of course Enjolras is there, standing tense in the corner with his arms folded, his expression set into grim lines. Everyone tenses when the door first swings open, but they all relax when they see it's Fantine, and relax further when they see Grantaire with her. All but Enjolras, whose gaze goes sharp and eager on Grantaire when he sees them.
"Tell us," he says before Grantaire can even draw breath to greet his friends and ensure they're all okay. Enjolras strides forward two steps and stands imposing in front of Grantaire. "Tell us what happened. Gavroche's story was somewhat limited."
Grantaire sighs and scrubs a hand over his face. He needs a drink, but if ever there was a situation where he ought to abstain, this is it. He crosses the room to stand next to Éponine, shoulder to shoulder and leaning in hard against her support.
He tells them everything, from the moment Gavroche burst into the schoolhouse to announce that he'd seen something in the sky straight through to the conversation with Javert on Fantine's doorstep. Everyone listens with rapt attention, tense, only interrupting to draw sharp breaths during the story's more dramatic moments.
When he's finished, his voice trails off, leaving an oppressive silence crowding the room. He glances around and finds everyone looking some variation of frightened, concerned, or furious. Enjolras looks livid, his expression burning bright. Grantaire sighs before he's even spoken, because he knows this is going to lead to something terrible.
"He's just one man," Enjolras says. "We're more than a match for one man. We can take him on ourselves, together."
Grantaire hisses air out between his teeth. "Don't you think the price you all carry on your head is big enough already? You've already got the Capital hounding you, is it too much to ask that you don't give them more reason to want to see you in a cell, or made an example of?"
Enjolras slides his gaze to Grantaire. It's thoroughly unimpressed. "We're not going to hide just because there's a risk, that's not who we are or what we do."
"Oh my god, do you even listen to the words coming out of your mouth? There's a world of difference between hiding out of fear and cowardice, and not taking foolish risks. You don't need to prove that you're brave, Apollo, we all know it."
Enjolras's eyes flare and his spine straightens, but before he can lash back in reaction to Grantaire's words, Comebeferre steps in between them, giving them each stern looks, his frown disapproving and imperious. "Stop this. Now is not the time." He takes a deep breath and squares off with Enjolras. "There's no sense in confronting this man if we can avoid it, is there?"
Enjolras's mouth goes flat and displeased. His throat works in silence for a moment before he finally concedes, "No, of course not." He holds Combeferre's gaze for a moment, then gives a single, sharp nod. "All right. We'll play it covert, then. We'll sneak out of here and around to the other side of town, where we can slip over to the Musain. If all goes well, we'll make it there unseen and undiscovered, and we can simply board and take off before anyone even knows where here."
It makes Grantaire let his breath out, relief and worry combining to make him light-headed. "He's all over town," he says. "And we're not exactly a small group. It won't be a simple matter, to avoid notice."
"I can help," Gavroche says, speaking up from where he's sitting on the footrest of Cosette's bed, barefoot and drumming his feet against the mattress. "Please let me help."
"Gav, no," Éponine starts to say, but Gavroche gives her a fierce scowl and turns his attention back to Enjolras, waiting for his answer. His fingers curl around the edge of the footrest, and to anyone else he'd look more or less relaxed, but Grantaire has known him long enough and well enough to know the signs.
His shoulders are tight and his knuckles, where he's got his fingers curled around the footrest, have gone white and bloodless, and the fact that he's sitting up straight instead of slouching or leaning or curling up in a blanket like it's a nest is the biggest giveaway of all. He only ever sits like that when he's tense, a wound spring just waiting to be released.
Enjolras glances at Éponine briefly, but the furious glare she turns on him seems to have little effect. He looks back at Gavroche and comes over to the bed, to drop down to a knee beside it so that they're more on a level. "What are you thinking?" he asks quietly, and Grantaire thinks he ought to be holding Éponine back so she doesn't do something stupid, but mostly he just wants to step forward beside her and do something stupid together.
"The other kids." Gavroche leans in intently toward Enjolras. "The ones I'm in class with. We know each other, and I can get them to help. We can be your lookouts, and send up a whistle if we see this fellow."
"No." Éponine's hands ball into fists at her sides. "Damn it, Gav, I sent you here to keep you safe."
"Safe is boring," Gavroche says with a dismissive shrug. "And if you're worried about safety, why didn't you stay, too?"
"You know I couldn't." She presses her lips flat. Grantaire hooks his arm through hers and holds on tight, offering what support he can. "This isn't about that. This is about you, and keeping you safe."
"I want to keep you safe!" He shouts it, abruptly, making most of them flinch or startle at the sudden noise of it. Éponine doesn't, though, she just stays there as she is, staring at her brother across the length of the bed that separates them. "You do this all the time, why won't you let me? You're all my friends and I want to help!"
"You only watch," Grantaire says sternly, fixing him with a scowl. "You sit and you play games with your friends and maybe you send up a whistle if you see him, but that's it. No heroics, Gav, or we'll truss you up right now and carry you to the Musain like a sack of potatoes."
"R..." Éponine grabs his arm with tight fingers and an expression that clearly says, What the hell do you think you're doing?
"If we forbid him," he says in an undertone, half turning back to her, "he'll just go and do it anyway, and probably get into the thick of things, where we don't want him. This keeps him out of trouble, but lets him feel like he's being useful." He turns back to Gavroche and raises an eyebrow at him. "Will you do that? Keep out of trouble, only watch, let the rest of us handle anything that comes up?"
Gavroche nods eagerly. "Yes, I promise. Please, Ep."
"I gave you one job, R." Éponine sighs and tugs at fistfuls of her own hair. "You kind of suck at it. But yes, very well. You can help, if you do exactly as we say." The expression she turns on him is fearsome. "But if you take even one step out of line, so help me--"
"I know, I know." Gavroche is beaming, impervious to his sister's ferocity. He bounces off the bed and throws his arms around Éponine's waist, hugging her tight. "I promise. Thank you, Ep."
He's off before they can give him any further warnings or instructions, scampering across the room and cracking the door open to peer out into the hallway before he slides through and disappears, nothing but the light patter of his feet on the floorboards giving him away. Grantaire shuts his eyes and listens as they fade away towards the back entrance of the building.
A hand lays heavily on his shoulder, gives it what he supposes is meant to be a reassuring squeeze. He opens his eyes expecting Éponine, but it's Enjolras standing before him, clasping his shoulder and giving him a grave look. Grantaire startles so badly he'd topple over, if it weren't for the wall already at his back.
"We'll give him half an hour to rally the children," Enjolras says quietly. "And then we'll make our way to the Musain."
Grantaire swallows, but is mouth is as parched as the desert and it doesn't help. His voice creaks and threatens to break when he speaks. "Those are my kids, Apollo. I've taught them for six months and I know them all. If anything happens to even one of them--"
"It won't. We won't let it."
Grantaire's laughter is bitter, and it hurts as it tears through his throat. "You'll pardon me if I don't find platitudes reassuring."
"We won't," Éponine says, and where Enjolras's words had carried conviction and idealism behind them, hers are dark and grim, heavy with the promise of the violence she'll rain down on anyone who dares to touch the children. Grantaire draws an unsteady breath and nods acceptance to her.
Enjolras's brows pinch together. His mouth pulls sideways, stretched and flat, and Grantaire has a moment to wonder if he's annoyed that Grantaire accepted Éponine's reassurances but not his own. But then he's turning away, snapping out commands and solidifying plans, and whatever impression he gave to make Grantaire think that is gone, and Enjolras is just as he ever was. Grantaire sighs and leans in harder against Éponine's shoulder, and they clasp each other's hands as Enjolras puts his plan into motion.
"Let's go, then," Enjolras says quietly, grimly. "Everyone, be careful out there. Be quiet."
"Wait," Grantaire says, and shakes off Éponine's hand as he comes forward. "Let me go first."
Enjolras's brows start to pull down into an unhappy frown, but Grantaire waves a hand in a sharp gesture, cutting off whatever protest he's forming. "He's already seen me, he already expects me to be in here. If he happens to be roaming the halls and runs into me, it's going to be a lot less of a catastrophe than if he runs into any of you. It's not my photo that's plastered all over wanted notices across half the system, after all."
Enjolras doesn't look any happier about the idea. He glares at Grantaire as though he thinks the force of his disapproval will change his mind, as though it ever has. But then he gives a jerky nod and steps aside. "Let us know when the path is clear."
Grantaire gives him a sarcastic salute and pulls the door open, just wide enough to sidle through out into the hallway.
The corridor is empty and the only sounds come from the rooms around them, the muffled sounds of conversation or laughter or fucking. Grantaire hurries down the hall towards the doorway that leads to the common room, then backtracks and tiptoes the other way, all the way to the back entrance, and when he's satisfied that the hallways is deserted, he makes his way back to the bedroom they've all been squeezed into and knocks on it softly three times in a distinctive pattern.
The door opens and Enjolras is the first one out. "We haven't used that code in months."
"And yet, you understood what I meant just fine." He shoulders past Enjolras, back into the room to help usher the others out while Enjolras takes the lead, guiding everyone toward the exit.
Grantaire's instinct is to find Cosette and make sure she's doing all right, but she has Valjean on one side and Marius on the other, both of them doting on her with all their might. She doesn't need him, so he settles in at Éponine's side instead, and shoves his hands in his pockets to give them something to do, and tries futilely to relax the tension that he can feel crawling up his neck and across the back of his skull, giving him a throbbing headache.
The tension -- and the headache -- only get worse when they step out of Fantine's and into the sunlight. The back of Fantine's faces out onto the farmland and homesteads that surround the town, but all that open air makes it feel like a very exposed escape. He darts his gaze around, on the lookout for trouble as they creep along behind the town's buildings, dodging around refuse bins and the children who must be there at Gavroche's direction, lounging about playing jacks or dice or cards, bickering with one another as children do and casting them all sidelong, canny glances that reveal too much.
Once, they hear a distant whistle and they all freeze in their tracks, huddling in together behind the cover of the closest building. A few moment's later there's another whistle, and a third, each of them growing fainter. If it's Javert, he's headed away from them, in the opposite direction that they're going.
They all release their breath as one. There's a moment where they jostle and tease one another for being such worrywarts, where Courfeyrac quietly mocks Marius for his wide-eyed look of fright and Marius ignores him in favor of running his hand down Cosette's arms, talking to her in a hushed whisper to make sure she's all right.
They spare a moment to regroup, but only that, and then they're on the move again.
Grantaire keeps toward the back, where he can keep an eye on all his friends, where any danger that comes from behind will have to go through him before it can reach those he cares about. He's surprised when Enjolras eases back from the lead to fall into step beside him.
Grantaire spares him a sidelong glance, but only that. Enjolras keeps walking with his shoulders pulled back and his gaze fixed straight ahead, so Grantaire keeps his peace. Whatever it is that's on his mind, Enjolras will manage to spit it out eventually. In the meantime, Grantaire doesn't have the luxury of extra attention to spare for him. He keeps his gaze moving, his ears tuned for any hint of danger.
He's the first one who hears it, a low, whining hum that grows abruptly louder, coming from high overhead. He tips his head back, searching for the source, as the others hear it and look around in alarm as well.
He finds the telltale plume of white smoke almost immediately. It's a speeder, and there isn't anyone on the moon who owns one so far as Grantaire knows. They're toys for the inner-system elite, or land transportation for those who have the money but not the time for leisure. The Capital likes to use them because they're easily deployed from a ship, and considerably more maneuverable planet-side.
They all retreat back under the overhang of the building they're making their way past. Grantaire finds himself crowded back against the wall, Enjolras's bulk in front of him, shielding him. Grantaire raises an eyebrow at him, says, "Really?", and then elbows him back to give him a little breathing room.
The speeder passes by overhead without stopping. The pitch of its whining engines doesn't change, even once it's out of sight -- it isn't slowing down or circling back, so it must not have noticed them even as it passed overhead. It's a lucky break, but it makes Grantaire nervous. In his experience, they only get so many of those before thing inevitably go pear-shaped, usually in a dramatic fashion.
When the speeder's gone, even the sound of its engines no longer discernible no matter how well they hold their breath and strain to listen, they all start up again. The nerves are getting to everyone, Grantaire can tell. People's shoulders are drawn up tight, their steps quick and darting, their heads swiveling back and forth as they scan every alleyway and hidden corner for potential threats. They're all going to be strung tight as a wire by the time they make it to the Musain.
They make it to the end of town and around its edge without any further excitement, though they're all braced for something terrible to happen. Even Cosette looks concerned, her usual bright smile replaced with a frown as she grips Valjean's arm hard and stares into the shadows like she'll take on anyone who comes for him, broken arm notwithstanding.
The plan seems to be going swimmingly, which is why Grantaire is less than surprised when they get to the thicket that edges the clearing where they left the Musain and the sudden sound of voices and radio static all makes them freeze where they stand, looking around at each other with wide eyes, hardly daring to breathe.
Enjolras is still keeping to Grantaire's side, and his hand wraps like a manacle around Grantaire's wrist as soon as they hear it. Grantaire tries to shake him off, but it only makes him grip tighter. Grantaire frowns at him, but Enjolras isn't even looking at him. His gaze is fixed on the bushes that are shielding them, the only cover between them and whoever it is on the other side.
"Let go of me," Grantaire says on a faint breath, scarcely loud enough to carry even to Enjolras's ears.
Enjolras just shakes his head and keeps his fingers wrapped tight. Grantaire gives a jerk against his grip in protest. "Let go, I don't need you to protect me, Christ, Apollo--"
"Who's there?" The sharp, authoritative call makes them all jump. Cosette looks sick with fear, Valjean looks ready to kill an entire regiment of Capital officials to keep her safe, and the rest of them look somewhere between concerned and angry. The Musain is their home, and not a one of them is likely to tolerate strangers messing about with it.
Grantaire meets Enjolras's gaze. Enjolras holds it, but doesn't release him, he just stares at Grantaire like maybe if he looks earnest enough, he can keep him. "Let go," Grantaire hisses again, shaking his hand violently. "Enjolras, god damn it, if you don't want to see yourself locked up in a Capital cell and all your friends beside you, just trust me for once in your life and let me go--"
"Who is it?" the call comes again, nearer now than before. They're rapidly running out of time and Grantaire can't do anything because Enjolras has suddenly decided to develop a protective streak and it's going to get them all killed, because God knows none of them are going to go down without a fight. "Reveal yourself, by order of the Capital."
Enjolras stares into Grantaire's eyes for an endless moment, his face twisted with helpless frustration. And just when Grantaire's about to say fuck it and position himself in front of everyone else so maybe he can slow down whoever it is who's coming for them and allow some of them a chance for escape, Enjolras's hand springs open, releasing him. "I trust you," he breathes. "I've always--"
There's no time to stay and hear the rest of it. Grantaire whips about and shoves forward through the brush. He comes stumbling out into the clearing and nearly crashes into Javert. "Inspector!" He makes himself look startled. It doesn't take any effort to make himself seem breathless and winded. "I'm sorry, I-- What are you doing out here?" He slides his gaze sideways to the Musain, frowns like he's surprised to see a ship out here on the outskirts of their settlement. "What's this? You found the convict's transport?" It's positively swarming with officers. They're setting up a perimeter and taking scanner readings of the ship, someone's got an electronic decrypter and is trying to break the locks that are keeping them, so far, to the outside of the ship.
Javert's mouth pulls flat and he twists, looking back over his shoulder at the Musain. "Not the convict's," he says. "This ship belongs to a group of rebels who are much more dangerous than one parolee. Be careful out there, sir. I called in the rest of my contingent as soon as I identified the ship, and we'll hunt those rebels down soon enough, but until then..." He straightens and focuses on Grantaire again. The furrows etched into his brow deepen. "What are you doing out here?"
"Gavroche," Grantaire says. "He didn't go home like I told him to. I got worried and was trying to find him. You haven't seen him anywhere, have you?"
Javert's expression darkens with disapproval. "That child could use some discipline."
"I'm sure you're quite right, thank you. I'll keep it in mind." Grantaire backs away, until the branches of the bushes behind him poke him in the back, sharp and prickly. "If you see him, send him home, won't you? Maybe he'll listen to you."
Javert seems displeased by the qualifier in the sentence, by the implication that maybe Gavroche won't. Grantaire supposes it must be difficult to be a Capital officer with the power to make everyone listen to you and do as you say, and confronted by the prospect of an unruly child who cares little for authority or commands. Still, after a moment of looking like he's sucked on a lemon and it was Grantaire who gave it to him and suggested he try it, he gives a sharp, jerky nod. "I shall send the boy home, if I see him."
"Thank you so much. And I'll give a shout, if I see any of those rebels. Or your convict." He nods once, deep enough to be respectful. "Good day, Inspector."
Before Javert can reply, he turns and forges back into the bushes. There are broken twigs and leaves trampled into the dirt where the group had been, just on the other side, but they're gone now, taken the opportunity of his distraction to put distance between them and the officers. Grantaire lets out a breath that he feels like he's been holding since he first came bursting out of the bushes, and he makes his way back toward town until he finds them, a few hundred yards distant, still sheltered by the scrub and arguing amongst themselves, though at least they've got the foresight to keep their voices low.
"Well, that was unfortunate," he says as he steps out to join them. There are mingled expressions of relief and surprise on everyone's faces, except for Enjolras, who looks livid.
He stalks over to Grantaire and grabs him by the arm, shaking him violently. "What were you thinking?" The words are a fierce snarl. His fingers bite into Grantaire's arms. Enjolras shakes him again, then throws him backwards so that his back comes up hard against the trunk of a tree. "You could have been arrested! Or worse, you might have been killed. How could you be so stupid?"
Grantaire doesn't have a chance to reply, because as soon as he's finished, Enjolras grabs him by the front of his shirt, gives him another shake for good measure, and crashes their mouths together for a kiss that's as brutal as it is relentless.
Grantaire can't even breathe beneath the assault of Enjolras's mouth on his, can scarcely think. He grabs onto the sleeves of Enjolras's coat because he needs something to hold on to or the world's going to tilt right out from underneath his feet. He doesn't kiss back, not really, not a lot. But he does let it happen, and when Enjolras breaks away to lean his brow against Grantaire's, still holding him close and panting like he's run for miles, Grantaire is unsteady and more than a little shaken.
"I saved your hide," he says at last, when he manages to find the ability to speak again. "The appropriate response is thank you, Apollo."
He isn't fooling anyone. Cosette looks delighted and Éponine smug. Combeferre looks pleased but a little worried, Courfeyrac and Bahorel elbow each other in the ribs, while Bossuet laments his terrible luck and passes a fistful of credits over to Jehan. The only one who looks like he listened to a word Grantaire said is Enjolras himself, and it's just made him scowl.
"What good is saving my hide if you give me a heart attack in the process?" he demands, then releases Grantaire and spins on his heel, addressing the group at large. "Let's go. We need to get out of here before they expand their search this way. Cosette, how are you doing? Can you make it back to Fantine's?"
"Yes, of course," she says, with her usual brightness, but Grantaire notices that she's leaning more heavily against Valjean than she was when they left. She's getting tired, and no wonder. They'll have to keep an eye on her, make sure she doesn't fall behind as they rush back to the shelter of Fantine's brothel.
The trip back is even more fraught than it was heading out. This time, they know there's a much larger Capital presence in town than just Javert, and they know that Javert and the others are looking out for them, not just for Valjean. The risk is tenfold higher, and the tension follows suit, until Grantaire can't breathe past the worried knot in his throat.
Three more speeders scream by overhead as they creep behind the buildings back to Fantine's, sending them all scrambling for cover. This time, they're not all headed toward the Musain. Some are going in the opposite out, spreading out. Searching. Grantaire presses back under the eave of the building he's taken shelter by and hopes they make it back without all of them succumbing to heart attacks from the strain.
They do make it, eventually, all together and all in one piece. Grantaire digs his keys out and lets them in through the back door that they left by, and Enjolras hisses, "Quietly," to them all as they pour inside, and down the hall back to Cosette's room.
As soon as the door is shut behind the last of them, the silence erupts into a flurry of questions, most of them directed at Grantaire, wanting to know what was going on with the Musain, what Javert said, how much he knew. Grantaire drops down to sit on the floor, his back against the side of the bed, and leans his head in his hands, fingers burrowing deep into his hair. "It's bad," he says, because that's what they all really want to know. "They've got the Musain, and they've identified it. They know we're here." A burst of alarm makes him flinch back. "In town, I mean. Not Fantine's. I don't think he suspects Fantine's, not yet." That's just a matter of time too, though. It's a small town, and eventually Javert and the rest will decide to just tear their way through it to find them. They'll break down doors and rip homes apart and eventually they'll find their way to Fantine's door, and not even her considerable strength will be enough to hold them off.
A burst of noise from outside makes them all jump. But it's just laughter and raucous music playing on Fantine's piano. It's getting on toward evening now, and Fantine's business will be picking up. Every sound makes Grantaire tense until he feels like his shoulders have drawn all the way up to his ears, but nerve-wracking as it may be, the noise is a good thing. The busy whorehouse will provide them better cover than one doing slow business. The noise will let them speak freely without risk of being overheard, instead of having to keep their conversations to low, urgent whispers.
"What's the plan?" Combeferre asks, looking to Enjolras. They all turn, almost as one, focusing their attention on him, waiting to hear what brilliance he'll come up with to get them out of this scrape, like he has all the others.
Grantaire lifts his head enough to rest his chin on his knees, but only that. He watches Enjolras sidelong, most of his attention on the others. Éponine catches his eye and slides over to sit next to him, offering silent comfort.
Enjolras pinches the bridge of his nose and squeezes his eyes shut. A moment passes where they let him think, and then he nods and says, "Right. Night's falling, and we can use the cover of darkness to our advantage. The Musain's locks won't hold out forever, but they're sturdy enough they should buy us a few hours. As long as they haven't breached her and made it inside, they can't hobble her. We'll return to the ship in the dark and take them on. We should have surprise to our advantage, and familiarity with the terrain. We overpower them, get on board, and get out into the black before they even have a chance to get back to their own ship. Once we're airborne, they'll never be able to catch us."
"No," Joly says.
A murmur goes through the group. It's not like Joly to shoot down Enjolras's plans like this, to straight-up refuse them without even a discussion. Enjolras turns to face him, his brow wrinkled. "You have a problem with the plan? Is there an issue I'm overlooking?"
"Cosette," he says simply.
She gives him a quick, startled look. "No, I'm fine. I'm not that tired, and my arm hardly hurts at all, you did a wonderful job splinting it--"
Joly keeps his attention on Enjolras. "I take it you don't mean for us to use lights."
"They'd attract the attention of everyone in a mile radius. We might as well stride up to the Musain banging on drums and singing a victory march, for all the good it would do us. They'll know we're coming long before we get there, and they'll be ready for us."
Joly nods. "I don't disagree. But Cosette's not well enough to go creeping about through unfamiliar territory in the pitch dark. She doesn't have full use of her arm, so her balance is off. She'll fall or trip and break her other arm, or twist her ankle, and then we'll be even worse off than if we marched on them with drums to announce our presence."
A sick feeling twists through Grantaire's stomach as he looks between the two of them. For all that Enjolras talks about the Musain being community property, that they all call it home and it belongs to all of them equally, the truth is that the Musain is Enjolras's. They all love her, but no one so much as he does, and the only thing he loves more than his ship is his cause. Grantaire waits, braced as though for a blow, for Enjolras to suggest the inevitable -- that if Cosette's going to hamper them, then they leave her behind.
She's not a fugitive, after all. Valjean is, and Enjolras's group are, but Grantaire hasn't heard Javert mention one word about seeking a girl. She might be just find here in their town while she finishes healing. Even should Javert find her, she might fare perfectly fine. He might recognize that she's as uninvolved in Valjean's crimes as it's possible to be, just his daughter, standing by his side due to love and solidarity.
Might. Grantaire hates that word. Might is what people say to make themselves feel better when they know their actions could have disastrous consequences, but they'd rather ignore them. He stares at Enjolras, standing in profile, and is surprised that he doesn't flinch from the force of Grantaire's fury. Enjolras is going to suggest that they leave her, and Grantaire is going to have to wash his hands of all of them through sheer disgust.
A moment passes where Enjolras looks at Joly, and then at Cosette. And then he sighs and rubs his brow, and seems to slump like a puppet whose strings have been cut. "No, of course, you're right," he murmurs. "Forgive me, Miss Fauchelevent, I forget your limitations."
"I'm not limited," she says urgently, looking around at all of them. "I can do it, I swear. I've always been agile. Please." There are tears in her eyes when she looks back at Enjolras. "Please, my father, we have to get him out of here before he's found. I won't fall, I won't break my arm or twist my ankle, I swear it, but you have to help him."
Enjolras shakes his head, and touches her shoulder lightly in what Grantaire supposes is meant to be reassurance. "I won't risk your safety any more than I will your freedom. And we won't be leaving anybody behind. Not you, and not your father. We're all leaving."
He says it firmly, with all the strength of his conviction behind it. Most everyone looks bolstered by his certainty, but Grantaire knows the part that Enjolras left unspoken. After so long together, he can read it in his eyes. We're all leaving... or none of us are.
He thinks he may cry when she shakes her head, filled with visions of having to return to Cosette's room, with the noise coming at him from all directions, fueling the panic that's rising up to swallow him whole. But she just smiles and rocks her shoulder against his as she passes and says, for him, he can have it for free.
"That's your livelihood, I can't take that from you," he protests.
She shrugs one shoulder and gives him a smile. "I'll just go out and sit on men's laps in the common room. And maybe I'll find someone out there who wants two girls for the night, and then we can all have beds to sleep in."
He tries again to insist, but she just fixes him with a stern look and leaves, shutting the door firmly behind herself. And then, at least, there's quiet, but the peace he's searching for is still hard to come by.
He tries to sleep, but he can't even keep his eyes closed. Every time he thinks maybe he'll succeed, he realizes that he's lying on his back staring at the ceiling, his thoughts spinning through his head like a whirlwind.
He gives up eventually, and turns the lamp back up, and let's himself pace along the length of the room and back. Whatever the morning brings, it's not going to be pleasant and the chances of all of them getting through it unscathed seem slim to none. There's nothing to do now but wait, and it's driving him mad. The need to do something pulses through him with every beat of his heart, but there's nothing to be done, and so he's left with a tiny room in which to pace and an unsteadiness in his hands as they tremble with the need to have work to do.
He couldn't say what time it is, but it feels well past midnight when the sound of footsteps pause outside his room, and then his door swings open. He opens his mouth to protest about privacy and the courtesy of knocking before intruding upon someone, but then he sees that it's Enjolras standing on the other side and he snaps his mouth shut again without saying a word. He stands there, staring at him, waiting for him to speak and reveal his reason for coming.
Enjolras takes one step inside the room and swings the door shut behind himself. He glances around the room briefly, and his brow pinches into a slight frown. "We've settled on a plan. We'll leave again at the first light of morning, as soon as it's bright enough for Cosette to see where she's putting her feet. Gavroche is going to coordinate the other children to create a diversion on the other side of town, and that should draw enough of the Capital's numbers away from the Musain that we can overtake whoever's left and get on board."
Grantaire gives a sharp nod and waits, because it's more or less what they'd already been discussing before he'd escaped from the room, and surely Enjolras must have had another reason to come and tell him this.
Enjolras watches Grantaire like he's waiting for a reaction, or waiting for something. When a moment's passed with nothing but silence between them, the corners of his mouth twitch up in the faintest of smiles, and he says, "Also, the floorboards are creaking all the way down the hall from your pacing, and it's keeping everybody up. Try to relax, will you? You won't do any of us any favors if you wear yourself out before dawn even comes."
It's not unkindly meant, but it makes Grantaire bridle all the same. His hands ball into fists at his sides and his shoulders draw up tense and the words burst from him like water through a broken dam. "I can't. I told you this was going to happen, didn't I? I told you that coming here would bring nothing but trouble to this town and these people, and tomorrow I'm going to have to watch all the people I care about be killed or hauled off to some Capital detainment facility where you'll never be seen or heard from again, and why can't you ever just fucking listen to me, Enjolras." He breaks off and stares at him desperately, shaking with it. "I told you, I told you this was going to happen, why couldn't you have just left when I asked you to?"
Enjolras's mouth thins a little, his eyes going dark with anger. "You're the one who asked for help for those two in the first place. Should we have left them here, injured and defenseless? Javert came here looking for them, not for us. He'd have come whether we were here or not. But now, because we are here, at least they stand a chance of making it to freedom."
"If they're not killed in the process," Grantaire says bitterly. He moves away to drop down onto the side of the bed and lean his head in his hands. He's so tired, and he wants a drink so badly. "People always die when you're around, Enjolras. And one of these days it's going to be you, I've made my peace with that." That's a lie, the thought of it sends his mind howling with grief and fury and denial. "But I don't know why you're so determined to make sure that I'm there to witness it. After everything we've been through together, can't you at least take a little pity on me? I can't watch you die. God, that's why I left. Why'd you have to come chase me down just to force me to be a part of it?"
"I'm not," Enjolras says, suddenly violent. "You're not. I'm not going to die, R."
Grantaire gives a laugh that's broken and twisted. He drops his hands to look across the room at Enjolras, and he feels like his heart is breaking. "You can't say that."
"I'm not going to die."
He huffs out a breath and tips his head back to stare up at the featureless ceiling overhead. "You can't know that. Maybe tomorrow you won't, fine. It's not a terrible plan. But some day you will, you know it as well as I do. Some day you're going to meet your match and it's going to be the death of you."
"No." Enjolras crosses the distance between them with measured steps. He sinks down to his knees in front of Grantaire and takes his hands, squeezes them tight between his own. "I'm not going to die. I've got too much to live for."
Grantaire opens his eyes and looks down at him. "You're mad." He's so beautiful, crouched there on his knees and looking up at Grantaire with such an earnest expression. Grantaire slides his hands over the sides of Enjolras's face and then leans down and kisses him because he has to, because he's so beautiful and because someday he is going to die, maybe someday soon, and when he does he's going to take everything that's good and worthy about Grantaire with him.
Enjolras makes a sound against his mouth like he's surprised and brings his hands up to curl around the back of Grantaire's neck, holding him close. His breath stutters against Grantaire's lips as he eases them apart, and Grantaire's lost. He grabs on to Enjolras harder, adjusts the angle so he can seal their mouths together and turn the kiss into something deep and desperate.
Enjolras groans and moves suddenly without loosening his grip on Grantaire, rising up from his knees onto his feet and climbing up onto the bed to straddle Grantaire's lap. "I'm not going anywhere," he says between kisses, pressing in close against Grantaire, one hand falling to the small of his back to drag him in and keep them pressed tight from shoulders to hips. "I'm not going to die, and I'm not going to leave. I did that once and I've had my fill of it. We'll take Valjean and Cosette where they need to go, and then I'm coming back for you, R. And I know you've made a life for yourself here, I don't expect you to uproot it for us, but if you want to you can, there'll always be a place for you on the Musain, or you can stay and I'll stay with you, Combeferre can take the ship and the others--"
Grantaire pulls away from the kiss with a wild laugh. "Oh my god, that's a lie. You wouldn't know what to do with yourself here. You love your causes too well, you'd go moon-mad inside a week."
Enjolras's gaze blazes down on him. "My causes are not the only things that I love. And I care about them because I want to help people. I can help people here."
Grantaire grins, he can't help it. The idea of it is too ridiculous. "Like you helped Mrs. Houcheloup? You'd stroll about town helping people clear their fields and paint their fences and mend their wagons all day long?"
Enjolras scowls like he thinks he's being made fun of, but it's not that. It's just an incomprehensible idea, Enjolras working with his hands here like the rest of them, plowing and planting and pitching in with all the rest of the work that has to be done around a small town like theirs. "If that's what's needed," he says, and he sounds angry but his hands are busy pulling Grantaire's shirt out from his trousers, so Grantaire's not too worried.
"You'd hate it."
Enjolras stills, then, his hands spread warm on Grantaire's waist, and he looks down at him with a serious expression. "If you think I haven't hated it the past six months, then you're sorely mistaken."
Grantaire shakes his head because that's not what he meant, that's not the same. But Enjolras fits his hands more closely around Grantaire's waist and bends his head to leave kisses along his shoulder, and Grantaire lets his protest die, because the morning promises to be cold and bleak, and Enjolras's hands on him are a familiar warmth that he can't make himself refuse. He slides his hands into Enjolras's hair and guides his mouth up for another kiss, as quick and frantic as all the others.
When he trails his hands down Enjolras's stomach to start working on the buttons of his shirt, Enjolras's breath hitches into his mouth, and it makes Grantaire grin. He makes quick work of the buttons and pushes the shirt back off of Enjolras's shoulders, then grabs onto him and drags Enjolras with him as he crawls back across the bed.
Enjolras follows and climbs up over him, kneeling astride Grantaire and pushing him down onto his back with one hand spread wide over his shoulder. Grantaire's panting and breathless, straining against his trousers already, though they're scarcely half undressed and have done little more than trade kisses yet.
Enjolras works at Grantaire's trousers like he can sense his desperation, or maybe just is fueled by his own. When the ties come open, Enjolras pulls them down off Grantaire's hips with impatient tugs and then bends over him, swallows him to the root without any warning at all.
Grantaire grabs onto the back of his head and gives a breathless shout, half rising off the bed in surprise as the heat of Enjolras's mouth surrounds him. "Christ. Fuck." Grantaire twists his fingers in Enjolras's hair and jerks him back down when he tries to pull away. "Your mouth. I forgot what you could do with it."
Enjolras reaches up with one hand, keeping himself braced above Grantaire with the other, to tug Grantaire's fingers out of his hair until he can sit back. Grantaire wants to cry a little at the sudden absence of that heat and warmth. Enjolras wraps his hand around Grantaire's shaft and strokes him as though to make up for it, but it's a poor substitute.
Enjolras has always been able to work miracles with his mouth. Whether he's standing in front of a crowd giving a speech that could move cold marble statues to tears, or pressing Grantaire down beneath him and taking him apart with only the touch of his lips, he's always been able to accomplish the impossible, and it isn't as though Grantaire's forgotten that. But the memory has dulled, and the reality of it is sharp and bright and overwhelming. He could come just like this, in minutes, and he's going to if Enjolras doesn't take mercy upon him. His breath is already sawing through his chest and he wants so much, so badly.
Enjolras bites at his hip, then leaves a trail of open-mouthed kisses across it to lap at the base of Grantaire's cock again. His tongue is wet and teasing and oh my god, Grantaire's going to have an aneurysm. Éponine was right, he absolutely should have been doing this since the moment the Musain touched down. It'll be a wonderful memory to wrap himself up in when the seasons turn cold.
Enjolras bites, teeth pressing into the sensitive skin at the base of Grantaire's cock, just hard enough to make him jump and stifle a shout. Grantaire frowns down at him. The only way he's going to survive this with a shred of his pride intact is if he takes back the control that he so easily gave into Enjolras's hands.
He slides a hand along Enjolras's jaw and presses his thumb against his lips. Enjolras's eyes burn bright as he parts them and scrapes it between his teeth. A shiver steals through Grantaire and he thinks for a moment that possibly he misjudged this plan. But then Enjolras shifts above him, and Grantaire takes advantage of it to haul him up and back into a kiss. And while Enjolras is making startled, happy sounds into his mouth, Grantaire slides a hand into his pants and turns those noises to a ragged gasp.
"R." The way he groans it, so close against Grantaire's ear, makes a shiver slide down his spine. This is dangerous, it's so dangerous. It's too much like how things used to be between them, but there's a part of him that wants that. It was always so easy. Everything else between them was a battle, but this, this always came naturally.
Grantaire strokes him, grip awkward and wrist twisted uncomfortably against the waist of Enjolras's trousers. But it makes Enjolras shudder and hitch his hips into his grasp all the same, and that's all he needs. He grins and presses sharp kisses into the side of Enjolras's throat until he sucks in a quick breath of air, and then works his way down.
Enjolras hums beneath his breath when Grantaire kisses across his chest, and goes taut and silent while Grantaire's lips trail down his stomach. When he tugs Enjolras's trousers down so he can settle between his knees, bent forward to let his breath skate warm over his cock, Enjolras makes a sound like Grantaire's wounded him and passes a hand over his eyes.
"Can I?" Grantaire asks, glancing up at him without putting any more distance between them.
Enjolras gives a hollow laugh. "Can you. Oh my god, R. You can do whatever you like, but yes, you can absolutely do this." He breaks off and swallows, his throat jumping. "Please," he adds, an octave lower and several degrees hoarser.
Grantaire leans in and drags his tongue up Enjoras's cock in a broad stripe. He laughs when Enjolras buries his hands in his hair, closes his lips around the head of Enjolras's cock and sucks at him. It's been six months, but Grantaire's body still remembers his, just how much pressure to use, just how to twist his hand around the shaft and flick his tongue across the head to make Enjolras loose all semblance of control.
And when he's had his fun, when Enjolras is giving sharp, rapid gasps beneath him and his hands curl into fists on the empty air only to spring open again, Grantaire takes Enjolras's bony hips between his hands and braces him against the bed, and swallows Enjolras all the way down to the root.
The litany of soft, breathy oaths that Enjolras lets loose with is a glorious thing. Grantaire flirts with his own limits, keeping to just this side of too much as he sucks him harder and swallows him down faster. Enjolras's gasped obscenities slide to groans and growls and his fingers curl like claws in the back of Grantaire's neck, pulling him in hard.
Grantaire drives him relentlessly, until at last Enjolras catches his face between his hands and eases him back.
Grantaire looks up at him, catching his eye and waiting while Enjolras struggles to master himself, his shoulders heaving and his lips parted. "I want to fuck you," he says, and control slips precariously out of Grantaire's grasp.
"Yes." He's mad for it, as soon as Enjolras says the words. "Yes, now, god. I need you." He crawls up the bed and grabs at Enjolras, pulling him in with hands that suddenly feel thick and clumsy. He swears beneath his breath until Enjolras catches Grantaire's hands in his with a breathless laugh.
"You always were eager." He bends his head so he can watch as he slides his hands over Grantaire's stomach. Grantaire strokes his fingers through Enjolras's hair, because the idea of not touching him in some way is unbearable. "I always liked that about you."
"Hurry up," Grantaire snarls, twisting beneath him. Enjolras clasps him close and it's all bare skin and Enjolras's long limbs, the heat of his flesh against Grantaire's, the promise of his fingertips skimming over the curve of Grantaire's back.
Despite Enjolras's protests, the morning to come has put the thought of death into Grantaire's head, and all he wants now is to claim Enjolras for his own, to touch and kiss and mark him until the whole system knows that Enjolras's life belongs to Grantaire and if anyone tries to take it from him, they'll have a hell of a fight on their hands.
He doesn't know if that's what fuels Enjolras as well, but he feels just as desperate as Grantaire does as he streaks his hands over him, as his fingers dig into flesh and haul Grantaire tighter against him. He hitches Grantaire up so their hips press against one another and leaves biting kisses across his chest, and Grantaire tips his head back and gasps, "Oil. There must be oil, right?" It's a whore's bedroom, she'd hardly be unprepared.
Enjolras pulls away, gasping, and swears beneath his breath as he twists away, rummaging through the small nightstand beside the bed until he makes a sharp noise of victory and comes up with a bottle of oil. His hands are shaking as he pours a small puddle of it into his palm.
Grantaire untangles himself from Enjolras and rolls onto his back, making room for Enjolras between his legs. Enjolras's gaze is a heated promise and Grantaire is hungry for it. He tips his head back and squeezes his eyes shut as he pulls Enjolras in, demanding more.
It takes him by surprise when the first thing Enjolras does with his greased hand is to wrap it around Grantaire's cock and give it a few slick pulls. His mouth gapes open on a wordless sound and he shudders beneath Enjolras, gasping. "Oh Jesus. You can't." He grabs onto Enjolras's wrist and holds him still, even as his hips twitch, pushing up into Enjolras's grip. "If you want to fuck me, you can't do that, or this is going to be over before it's begun." He groans when Enjolras takes his hand away, somehow both eager and disappointed at once. "It's been a while," he adds, and feels stupid saying it, but it's the truth.
Enjolras is sweeping his thumb in a caress over the inside of Grantaire's thigh, his gaze steady on his hands, but he looks up at Grantaire's words. Grantaire feels like a butterfly pinned to a board, helpless beneath the sharp point of that gaze. "Has it?" He starts to grin, the smug bastard.
"How long for you?" Grantaire demands, and moves his leg into Enjolras's touch to urge him higher.
Enjolras doesn't hesitate. "Six months."
It knocks the breath out of Grantaire's lungs, though really, he hadn't expected any different. "No one? Not since--"
"I've been busy." Enjolras scowls and slides his hand up higher, fingers grazing between Grantaire's cheeks.
"Sure. Planets to save, and all that." Grantaire plants his heels in the bed and pushes his hips up, making it easier for Enjolras, giving him greater access. He's rewarded with the brush of oiled fingertips against his hole, and it makes him breathless.
Enjolras is quiet for a moment, just touching him, teasing him. "There couldn't have been anyone else," he says at last. One finger pushes lightly at Grantaire's entrance, easing him open. "You were here."
Grantaire flings an arm over his face and groans. "Fuck. Enjolras. God, you can't say things like that." He shudders as Enjolras works just the very tip of his finger into him, careful and patient like he's afraid he's going to hurt him. Like Grantaire isn't already half-mad beneath him and aching for more.
"I can say whatever I like, so long as it's the truth."
Grantaire squeezes his eyes shut and shakes his head, but it's a futile protest and he knows it. He'd known when he left that Enjolras wasn't the sort to let him go easily. His passions burned bright and hot, but they didn't soon burn themselves out. Grantaire had thought it would take time. He'd thought six months would be enough, for both of them.
But this is just the same as it's always been between them, and he doesn't know why he expected any other part of it to be different. He shakes and bites down hard on the inside of his cheek when Enjolras twists in deeper, up to the first knuckle.
"Christ," he gasps, fighting the urge to drive himself down onto Enjolras's finger. "God, just fuck me." None of the rest of it matters, not right now. Not when they might both be dead tomorrow, or thrown into cramped, lonely cells for the rest of their lives.
Enjolras pulls Grantaire's arm down off his face as he pushes in just a little more. "I like to watch you," he says when Grantaire opens his eyes and meets his gaze. And Grantaire moans and shudders and drips precome onto his stomach like he's a god damned teenager.
Grantaire's about to snap that he could do with less observation and more action, but before he can, Enjolras slides his finger in deeper, from the first knuckle to the second in one smooth glide, and Grantaire's words are lost on a strangled moan. When Enjolras starts to withdraw, he makes a sharp, distressed sound and grabs at him, but Enjolras just shushes him, and the broader, blunter pressure of two fingers bearing him open leaves him gasping, breathless.
"That's it," Enjolras murmurs, and soothes his other hand over Grantaire's thigh. "That's it. Come on. Christ, you're gorgeous."
Grantaire shakes his head in wordless protest because he's not, he's really not, Enjolras is the one who's so beautiful it makes Grantaire want to cry sometimes, who looks like he belongs in a painting or one of those Old World myths about gods and heroes. Grantaire's got scars and callused hands and hair that won't ever consent to be tamed, and half the time he feels like he's somehow pulled some wonderful trick on the world, that he's the one Enjolras looks at like that, like he could spend a year pressed skin-to-skin with him and it still wouldn't be close enough or long enough.
There's few quicker ways to piss Enjolras off than to voice thoughts like that, though, so Grantaire holds them back and just groans, his hips twitching up off the bed, taking Enjolras deeper into him by tiny increments.
"Close?" Enjolras asks, his gaze careful and attentive as he watches Grantaire's face.
"Close, fuck, I'm there, Apollo." He locks his ankles together behind Enjolras and pulls him in, pulls him up. "Fuck me, just fuck me, oh my god."
Enjolras lets out an unsteady breath and crawls up over Grantaire. His hips settle in against Grantaire's, their cocks sliding together, and it makes the breath sob out of Grantaire's lungs. He grabs onto fistfuls of Enjolras's hair and drags him into a kiss that's a little sloppy and a little urgent with desperation. When he tugs at Enjolras's hair, guiding his mouth where Grantaire wants him, Enjolras moans a little into the kiss, and his grin turns sharp against it.
And despite the fact that Grantaire is so far gone that he's begging for it, Enjolras still takes his time, lining their hips up and rocking against Grantaire so that their cocks drag together with delicious friction, sliding a hand under Grantaire's backside so he can grab onto his ass and haul him up into a thrust that's just a tease of the sort of thrusting that Grantaire really wants.
Enjolras curls one arm behind Grantaire's neck and leans their foreheads together, breathing hard as he works a hand between them and takes them both in his grip. His fingers are still slick with oil and it makes his strokes slippery and easy and good, and Grantaire takes Enjolras's face in his hands so he has something to hold on to, and moans wretchedly as Enjolras's fingers stroke around him, and the heel of his hand grazes over the head of his cock on every upstroke, and Enjolras's cock is there solid and hot and sliding against his in a way that's somehow both thoroughly filthy and nowhere near enough.
And finally, finally, when Grantaire's so desperate for it he can't even remember how to form words and all that falls off his lips are garbled, needy sounds and desperate sobs as he gasps for air, finally Enjolras takes his hand away from their cocks and hooks it instead under Grantaire's knee, drawing his leg up, pushing it back toward his chest to adjust the angle of his hips, and Grantaire moans because he knows where this is headed.
His gaze drops and then holds, and Grantaire can tell from the angle of it that he's staring at Grantaire's ass, at the hole that he's already loosened up to make the way easier, that's probably looking slick and obscene from the oil. And he keeps staring like he likes it, as he pours more oil into his palm and strokes it over his cock, and then shifts his stance between Grantaire's thighs so that they line up perfectly, and the broad head of his cock presses against Grantaire's entrance, bearing him open so, so slowly.
Grantaire bites down hard on the heel of his hand to stifle his cries. Enjolras is a god damned tease, and if Grantaire had remembered that he'd have decided to just stay celibate, because this is cruel, it's torture is what it is, and what on earth made him decide that this is how he wanted to spend what could very well be his -- or Enjolras's -- last night alive is completely beyond him.
Enjolras has one hand braced on the bed, holding himself up so he can look down at Grantaire, watching the havoc he wreaks on him. He slides the other up Grantaire's throat to curve beneath his jaw, tipping his head back. He nudges in just a little, and hums a pleased sound when it makes Grantaire shudder beneath him.
"You're a bastard," Grantaire gasps, and Enjolras smiles like he's paid him a compliment.
"You like me that way."
"I don't. I really don't. I like you fucking me, but you're not, and—"
Enjolras shifts his weight forward without warning, bearing down against Grantaire and sinking into him past the head of his cock. Grantaire gasps and swears, clenching around him despite himself. It makes the sudden stretch sharper and more painful and more amazing. "Oh, you fucker, oh my god, Apollo please."
"I don't want to hurt you."
"You're killing me." He wraps his legs around Enjolras's hips and tightens them, urging him in, as he rears up off the bed and takes Enjolras's mouth in a desperate kiss. When he slides a hand between them and down, fingers sliding along Enjolras's shaft and tracing where Grantaire's stretched tight around him, Enjolras lets out a sharp breath like he's been punched, and his eyes go wild a moment before he moves, pushing in, burying himself in Grantaire in two short, urgent thrusts.
Grantaire is too far gone to stop the oaths that fall from his lips, gasped with what meager breath is left to him between the staggering moment when Enjolras has filled him completely, and the sudden sharp spike of alarm when he starts to withdraw. Grantaire's fingers scrabble at his back and he whines, God help him, desperate for it. It makes Enjolras smile, makes him pause when he's drawn back until only the head of his cock remains inside Grantaire, and then sink deep again with a solid thrust that shocks Grantaire into motion like a jolt of electricity.
His hands rake down Enjolras's back and he's probably left marks on him, red welts showing that Enjolras is his, but if Enjolras minds he doesn't give any indication of it. He just presses a kiss to Grantaire's shoulder, open-mouthed and panting, and fucks into him again, and then again.
The rhythm builds slowly, from a stumbling start to one that is as relentless as an engine, Enjolras pounding into Grantaire, both of them making enough noise to make even Fantine's whores blush and raise their brows.
Grantaire is beyond caring about who might be able to hear them and what they might think. Enjolras is in his arms, sweating and gasping against him, and every movement that they make together is filling up the void that's been left by the past six months. Fuck, but he missed this.
He'd stay like this forever if he could, all night long, through dawn and back to night again. But Enjolras's thrusts are taking on a new sort of urgency and there's a tightness coiling in Grantaire's belly that cannot be denied. He closes his hands in Enjolras's hair and gasps against his skin, "Fuck, please, please," until Enjolras moans and drives into him harder.
Grantaire braces a hand on Enjolras's shoulder and pushes him up, not off just up, so Grantaire can look him over and take in the shine of sweat on his skin and the way his stomach muscles ripple every time he drives into Grantaire, and his face, Christ, Grantaire is never going to get enough of watching the pleasure ripple across his face, mingled well with determination and the sort of steely-eyed ferocity that Enjolras is best at.
Grantaire grasps his own cock and pulls himself off urgently and he never once looks away from Enjolras's face, not even when the slide of Enjolras inside him and his own fist around himself becomes too much and he comes, shuddering and jerking and spends himself in long ropes streaked across his stomach, coming harder and more violently than he can remember doing in far, far too long.
Even when the tension drains out of him with the last tremors and he slumps back onto the bed, he doesn't close his eyes. Enjolras is still above him, his face twisting in an expression Grantaire knows well. He slides his hands over Enjolras's cheeks and breathes kisses against his lips. "Come on, Apollo," he murmurs, slipping one hand up to curl in his hair. "Come for me. I know you want to."
Enjolras's breath heaves out of him like he's been punched, and the wrinkles that are already scrawled across his brow grow deeper. "Christ, R." He presses his face against the curve of Grantaire's throat as he drives into him, his hips flexing like pistons, desperate and relentless.
"Come on," Grantaire breathes. He loosens his hand in Enjolras's hair and draws it across his shoulders and down his back. He settles it at the small of Enjolras's back, fingers spread wide, so he can feel every ripple that goes through him, every shudder. And when Enjolras finally groans like he's dying and locks himself deep, Grantaire can feel the fine tremors that steal through him, and the way his lungs heave.
He holds himself frozen inside of Grantaire for long moments, his breath coming hot and fast against the side of Grantaire's throat. Only then does Grantaire shut his eyes, and wrap his arms around Enjolras to hold him tight. The air around them is comfortable and close, warmed by the heat of their own bodies and by the blanket that Enjolras pulls up to cover them both, and Grantaire wants to hold on to that for as long as he can. Because eventually, sense is going to reassert itself and Grantaire's going to remember all the reasons why he came to this moon to begin with, and the lazy lethargy will fade away to be replaced by the sick realization that this was a terrible mistake. And Grantaire wants to keep that moment at bay for as long as possible, because tomorrow's going to be awful enough as it is. He'd really prefer not to start courting misery prematurely, but he's never been able to turn his brain off just because it would have been pleasanter that way. It's not how he's wired.
Enjolras slips out of him as he softens, then slides off to settle in against Grantaire's side. His breathing's slower but his breath's just as warm. "Rest, R," he murmurs against his skin, and curls his arm around Grantaire's waist as though he means to hold him down if he tries to rise. "Morning will come soon enough, and we'll all need to be at our sharpest. Rest."
Grantaire has never been able to refuse Enjolras anything. He shuts his eyes and holds him hard, and by some miracle, any regrets stay far at bay. The only thing he feels as he drifts to sleep is gratitude. To his own surprise, he's grateful that this happened before the morning brings whatever it is it's going to bring.
The brothel is quiet and the sky outside is just starting to turn to a lighter shade of cobalt when Grantaire startles awake, this time with his heart pounding and every nerve ending singing with alarm, instead of fading lazily to wakefulness as he had every other time that night. Beside him, Enjolras is tense too, half-rising up on one arm and twisting to stare at the bedroom door, and it's that that worries Grantaire most of all. Enjolras has slept like the dead all night, even as Grantaire stirred regularly beneath him.
"What was it?" Grantaire asks, scarcely a whisper.
"There was a ruckus. It sounded like someone pounding at the door."
Grantaire's heart jumps straight into his throat and lodges there. "Our door?" He stares at the flimsy bit of wood between them and whatever threat waits outside, and then looks around the room quickly, searching for anything that might make for an improvised weapon.
But Enjolras shakes his head. "The front door, I think. It wasn't that close."
"Fuck," Grantaire breathes. "Fuck." He slides out from beneath Enjolras's weight and grabs for his clothes where they lie discarded on the floor. "Do you think they found us?"
The pounding comes again, rhythmic and demanding. Grantaire jumps despite himself, the hair rising to stand on end at the nape of his neck. Enjolras casts him a sidelong glance and catches his clothes when Grantaire tosses them to him. "It does seem that way." He dresses with quick, efficient movements, while Grantaire is still trying to chase sleep away enough to make his fingers just a little less clumsy.
Enjolras waits for him, standing straight as a ramrod at the end of his bed as he checks on the half-a-dozen weapons he always keeps stashed in hidden pockets and seams. Once Grantaire's got his trousers tied messily and his feet shoved into his boots, Enjolras reaches to take him by the arm and lead him out of their room. "We'd best check in with the others. They're sure to be awake by now, too."
Grantaire nods and shakes Enjolras's hand off of his arm. It's not cruelly meant, though Enjolras cuts him a gaze that makes it clear he thinks it might have been. But the halls are narrow and the enemy stands at the door, and the last thing Grantaire wants is to be held back.
Enjolras raps upon Valjean's door to rouse him if he's still there while Grantaire goes to Cosette's and eases it open. She's there, sitting upright in bed and looking frightened but determined, with her father and most of Enjolras's crew gathered around her. Marius has an arm around her shoulders and a frightful expression on his face, like he'd take on every one of the Capital's men to protect her.
Grantaire passes a hand over his face momentarily, then looks around at all the others. "Well," he says. "It seems we're going to need a new plan. I don't think sneaking out at dawn is going to work after all."
He earns a few wan smiles for his joke, but only that. The scuff of footsteps behind him makes him turn. Enjolras is there, standing in the doorway.
"We fight," he says quietly, his arms crossed over his chest and his face gone hard as stone in an expression that Grantaire knows too well. "These are our friends. This is Fantine's home. We fight for them."
Cosette looks startled to be included amongst the number of their friends, though Grantaire could have told her she needn't be. Enjolras has always been as quick to make friends as he has enemies. They've argued about it before, when Grantaire was still on the Musain and accused Enjolras of naming anyone who needed aid a friend, and spreading himself and their resources too thin because of it.
"Everyone, check your weapons are functioning," Enjolras says. "I fear we're going to need them before the day's done. I'll go speak with Fantine."
Grantaire goes with him. It's not ever a question. Wherever Enjolras goes, Grantaire follows and stands at his side.
They find Fantine in the common room before the main door, dressed neatly as though she wasn't roused from her bed just like the rest of them, and facing down the door with a grim expression and a phaser in one hand, an Old World gunpowder rifle in the other.
"Open this door by order of the Capital!" comes the shout through the door's boards, and Fantine's fingers clench tighter around the weapons, her face turning even harder with fury and determination. "We have a warrant for the revolutionaries harbored within. Send them out and we'll leave you and your business in peace."
Fantine calmly tucks the phaser into the waist of her skirt and checks the rifle to be sure it's loaded. "We'd better get the windows boarded up," she says to Enjolras and Grantaire in a conversational tone. "Procedure will keep them there making their demands for a few moments, but eventually they'll realize we won't give you up, and we'd best be prepared."
Enjolras nods. "Of course. Where can we find nails and boards?"
"The store room in the back has carpentry supplies, so we can make repairs on our own, when possible. Grantaire can show you."
Grantaire gives her a nod of acknowledgment and takes Enjolras's arm to show him the way. It's not far -- one bedroom in the back that's been converted to be lined with shelves rather than furnished with a bed. There's a stack of uneven lumber in one corner, a little warped and battered like it's been salvaged from some other purpose, and on the shelf beside it, several boxes of nails and a few hammers. Enjolras helps him grab them all up, and together they take them into Cosette's room to distribute supplies and instructions to the others.
With all of them working at it, it takes little time at all to get all the first floor windows boarded over. Even so, by the time they're finished the knocking at the door has turned into battering. The door's strong, it won't yield, but they all gather in the common room and stare at it with foreboding all the same.
"Fantine." Enjolras comes up beside her and lays his hand on her arm. "Do you have a room in the middle of the building, without windows, where we can gather the girls?"
"Yes." She pulls her shoulders back and lifts her chin a fraction of a degree. "But we won't be using it."
Enjolras looks pained. "There will be fighting. I'd rather not see you or any of your girls harmed on our account. It's us they want."
"And it's our home they've besieged to get at you. We will fight to protect our home." She turns to meet his gaze. "And our friends."
"Fantine," Enjolras says with a sigh, like she's being unreasonable.
"No. I won't tolerate being shut away, and neither will any of my girls."
"They're strong, Apollo," Grantaire says quietly. "All of them are. They have to be to survive here, doing what they do for a living. You'd be well-advised to make use of them. We're near to outnumbered as it is. We could use them in our ranks."
Enjolras looks torn for a moment, his mouth twisting into an unhappy pucker as he tightens his arms across his chest and looks between them both unhappily. At last, he gives a sharp sigh and a nod. "Very well. We'll thank you and yours for the aid, then. You have weapons with which to arm them?"
Fantine nods. "Most of the girls have their own, but we'll distribute what we have to the others."
"Good. Thank you. And Fantine--"
She pauses as she's gathering her skirts up and starting away, glancing back at him over her shoulder.
"See to it that they all know that this is their choice, and none of them obligated to fight at our sides should they not wish to."
Her smile is faint and strained, but it's a smile nonetheless. "I sincerely doubt that any of them will take you up on that, but I shall."
It only take minutes to see everyone gathered and armed, but by that time, pale streaks of wan morning light have begun to seep through the gaps in the boards that cover the windows. Grantaire rises up onto his knees before the one he's hunkered down in front of, peering through a crack to see outside.
There's at least half a dozen men gathered on their doorstep, and more behind them waiting. His hand tightens on the grip of his phaser as he watches them stir, glancing at each other and at the brothel, eager hunger in their gazes. They're spoiling for a fight. Grantaire lets out a sharp breath and shakes his head as he sinks back down to sit on the floor, his back against the wall and the ceiling overhead.
Enjolras, beside him, gives him a questioning look.
"Not good," Grantaire murmurs. "A dozen, at least, and none of them look inclined to leave before they've had their satisfaction. They aren't bluffing."
"No." Enjolras sighs and fingers off the safety of his phaser. "The Capital rarely does."
They pound against the front door again, and Javert's imperious voice calls out, "We have given you all the warnings we intend to, madam! If you do not send the rebels and fugitives out, we shall come in and seize them ourselves."
The only answer they receive is silence, and the tightening grip of everyone's hands around their weapons. A moment of breathless silence passes, and then the call of, "Fire at will!" is lost beneath the sudden scream of phaser fire.
Half the windows shatter in the first barrage, raining down glass onto their heads. Grantaire curls his arms over his head for protection and presses his back hard against the wall, but Enjolras is there, curling over him, breathing obscenities into his ear.
"Christ, Apollo. I'm fine. I'm fine!" He elbows Enjolras back and twists up onto his knees, aiming his phaser out through a knot hole in one of the boards.
It would have been too much to hope for an easy target, of course. Most of the men outside have taken shelter behind their speeders, or tucked behind the corners of their neighboring buildings. Grantaire can catch a shoulder here, the toe of a boot there, but there's little to take aim at.
He bides his time, holding his breath while a moment passes until someone moves, shifting their weight, maybe, or just growing impatient for return fire. In any case, it's enough to get a bit more of their uniform cap showing above the edge of the speeder they're hiding behind. Enough for Grantaire to target. He takes aim and fires in the space of one breath.
It's not a clean shot. The man he fired at yelps and drops down more completely behind his shelter as the charged electric blast from the phaser sends his hat flying, but if the startled swearing is anything to judge by, Grantaire doubts he struck more than a glancing blow to anything but the man's hat.
Enjolras sends him a sidelong glance when Grantaire sinks down beside him again. "You're out of practice."
"My apologies. If I'd known you were going to bring a Capital contingent down on our heads, I'd have taken pains to maintain my skills."
A shout from outside heralds another round of phaser fire, and whatever Enjolras's retort might have been, it's lost beneath the scream of the guns and the sounds of breaking glass and shattering wood, so near their heads that Grantaire can't help but flinch. Enjolras shoulders him away from the window and takes aim through it, fires off three quick shots and then drops back down, looking pleased with himself.
"Don't gloat, it's terribly unattractive," Grantaire says, and checks the energy readout on his weapon.
Around them, phaser blasts are hitting like hailstones, a constant barrage. Elsewhere in the main room, people swear and return fire. The room fills with the acrid smell of gunpowder and the burnt-ozone scent of the phaser fire. Somewhere further down the wall, a bright flash of light announces that a phaser bolt made it through the boarded windows, and someone gives a high, sharp cry of pain.
Grantaire is half on his feet in a shot, stumbling toward the cry to see who it is that's been injured. Behind him, Enjolras snarls and grabs at him. "God damn it, R, are you stupid? Get down."
Grantaire fights him off, desperate to see through the gunpowder smoke and past all the others crowded up against the walls, checking their weapons and themselves for injury. "Who is it?" he calls desperately down the line. "Who's hit?" Oh God, there's so many people here he cares about, all of them scattered along the frontline. How is he supposed to get through this without a broken heart?
The name that travels back up the line isn't one he recognizes, it's not one of the crew or one of his favorites amongst Fantine's girls. But that's little reassurance, because it's someone, someone he's lived with and worked beside for six months, and whoever she is, she's injured now and it's at least partially his fault. He never should have let Gavroche lead him out of the schoolhouse with unlikely claims of ships falling from the sky. He should have found a way to make Enjolras turn about and leave when he'd shown up for Valjean and Cosette. Someone's going to die, and Grantaire holds as much blame for that as anybody. They're going to lose people he cares about, people his neighbors and friends care about. They're going to lose people, and that's enough to make him want to grieve already.
This was supposed to be a safe place. He was supposed to be able to come here and spend his days doing nothing more hazardous than teaching children their letters. Now his safe, peaceful world is exploding around him and it just makes him want to run.
He sinks back down, his heart pounding even though there's a lull in the attack just at the moment. "Do we have a plan?" he asks in an undertone. "Do we have a plan at all? Or are we just going to sit here until they break through and come in to haul us all off?"
The long stretch of silence that follows his question is not reassuring. "We fight," Enjolras says quietly after a moment has passed. "We fight for the things we believe in, and the people we care about." He cuts Grantaire a sidelong glance. "Is that plan enough for you?"
Grantaire's lips quirk into a wry smile. "I could live with it being a little less tenuous, I think."
Enjolras grimaces and squeezes his hand, and it's as much of an apology as Grantaire's ever gotten from him. He squeezes back before he releases it to rise up onto his knees and fire through the knothole again. This time, he sees someone go down and stay down.
His stomach is sick with it. But these are the things he believes in and the people he cares about, as Enjolras said. And the men outside the door will surely show no such qualms about injuring or killing any of them. He steels himself, and tells himself he can have a meltdown about it all later, and does his best to put it out of his mind.
Time passes differently in a fight, he already knew that. But most of his exposure to it has been fights that the Musain has engaged in, where they've been able to maneuver and strategize against their opponent. Here, inside Fantine's, there's little opportunity for either, just the long, drawn-out barrage of gun- and phaser-fire in both directions, until it starts to feel like life has always been this way, and always will be.
The boards do moderately well at holding back the phaser blasts, but that's little comfort when the battle seems destined to go on forever. Eventually, given enough time, they'll manage to break through, and then what will happen to all of them inside? What will this have been for?
Some time during the fighting, Éponine drops down beside him to take shelter with them. She's got a streak of blood across her cheek that Grantaire doesn't think is hers, and her hair is wild, her eyes lit with a desperate fury. Grantaire drops his gun and throws his arms around her, holding on to her tight. "Are you all right?" he asks in a fierce whisper against her ear.
She hugs him back briefly, just as hard, before she releases him and disentangles herself from his grasp. "I'm fine," she assures him. "But do you know where Gav is?"
Grantaire's stomach twists into a sick knot. "He's not here, is he? He was out with the other children, getting ready for that diversion we thought we were going to need. I didn't think he'd come back. Oh fuck, if he--"
"He didn't," she says quickly, and squeezes his knee. "But if he's out there somewhere"—she gestures with a quick, stabbing motion over her shoulder, indicating the wall behind them, and the town beyond it--"that still leaves a lot of ways for him to get into trouble. Especially once he realizes what's going on here."
The knot in his throat doesn't disappear, despite her meager reassurances. He swallows hard against it. "He's going to do something stupid," he says faintly, and it's not a question. Anyone who's known Gavroche longer than a minute knows that he's the sort to hurl himself into danger unprepared, especially if he knows his sister lies on the other side.
"They wouldn't shoot a child," he says, and tries to believe it. "And if they'd captured him, they'd have let us know by now. They'd try to use him for leverage."
Éponine hums, unconvinced. "It's only a matter of time."
And it's true, it really is. Eventually Gavroche is going to try to get to them, or help them, and given the numbers outside, eventually he's going to get caught. The idea of it makes Grantaire's pulse pound, makes him even more determined to keep that from happening. If they can end the fighting before Gavroche gets caught in the fray...
He isn't even doing anything stupid. He's not being rash or taking undue risks or anything. He just rises up onto his knees and fires out through his knothole, just as he has throughout the whole fight. But this time there's a high whine and a flash of light just as he's squeezing the trigger, and the whole world seems to splinter and explode in his face.
He doesn't remember falling. He doesn't remember taking the phaser blast to the shoulder, either, but he's on his back, staring up at the ceiling as Enjolras screams and snarls above him, and his arm from the shoulder down feels like it's been set on fire.
"Apollo," Grantaire says hoarsely, and struggles to sit up.
"Stop. Don't move." Enjolras holds him down by his good shoulder. His eyes are frantic, and his fingers twitch against Grantaire's shoulder like he's fighting the urge to latch on to him and never let go. "You're hit."
Grantaire's laughter is hoarse and a little manic. "You don't say. Let me up."
"You're wounded, R. You're out of this fight."
And that makes Grantaire struggle beneath him, snarling and fighting to knock his hand away so he can sit up, at the very least. "Like hell I am! This is still my fight, it's still my friends and my home, god damn it. I can aim a gun with one hand, I can fight, I can--"
"God damn it, R," Enjolras snarls, and grabs him by the collar of his shirt to haul him in for a fierce kiss.
The kiss steals Grantaire's breath, leaves him with his head reeling and the fingers of his uninjured hand curled tight in Enjolras's sleeve. But when Enjolras pulls away to lean his forehead against Grantaire's, Grantaire gives a sharp tug at his sleeve to demand his attention and snaps, "I'm not going to sit useless on the sidelines while the rest of you fight just because a phaser blast grazed me."
"Grazed." Enjolras's laughter is hollow, his expression wrecked. "It was a direct hit. If you'd been standing half a foot to your right--"
"I wasn't." Grantaire struggles to sit up, pushing himself upright with his one good arm. "I wasn't, Enjolras. I'm fine."
Enjolras's mouth presses into a flat, furious line. He grabs Grantaire by his good shoulder and hauls him up to his feet. "Come with me," he snaps, and gives Grantaire no opportunity to argue before he's dragging him away from the windows, deeper into the brothel.
Grantaire protests every step of the way, even when the mild jarring of just stumbling after Enjolras makes his shoulder scream in agony so fierce it's hard to breathe through it, much less speak. Enjolras just tightens his grip on Grantaire's arm and keeps dragging him, until they reach one of the whores' bedrooms on the inside of the hallway, surrounded and protected by the rest of the building.
Joly is there, overseeing half a dozen others who have been laid out on mattresses dragged off the beds in other rooms and spread out for the wounded. Cosette is, too, with a pinafore over her dress like an apron and smeared with blood as she moves from patient to patient, giving water and meds. Grantaire isn't surprised to see her acting more as a nurse than a patient, and the splint on her arm doesn't seem to be holding her back overmuch. The rest of the men and women here have sheets stained with seeping gunshot wounds, or limbs seared black and red from phaser fire. Someone in the corner is lying motionless with a sheet pulled up over their face, and Grantaire drops down hard onto the nearest mattress and leans his forehead against his knees, breathing raggedly. "Who died?" he demands, and his voice is broken, ruined.
Joly comes over to crouch beside him and press testing fingers against his injured shoulder. It's all Grantaire can do not to scream. The name he gives is one Grantaire recognizes, not a close friend but someone he knew. She served him in Fantine's bar sometimes, and was always sure to keep his glass topped up, and she grinned and laughed like life as a whore hadn't made her jaded at all when Grantaire flirted with her. And now she's dead and he wants to cry, but mostly he wants to scream and rage.
"If you want to be useful," Enjolras says, and he sounds furious, but Grantaire knows that that's just because he's more comfortable hiding his concern behind anger, "then you can stay here and help Joly. These people need you as much as any of us out there do."
"I'm not a doctor. I don't know how to heal people. But I know how to fight." He tries to rise once more.
Enjolras pushes him back down, with the help of both Joly and Cosette. He leans his forehead against Grantaire's and grips him by the back of the neck. "You left this life so you wouldn't get hurt," he breathes. "Please, just stay here and stay safe. I love you." His voice breaks on the words, and Grantaire hates him, he hates him. "If I don't get the chance to say that again, you have to remember that. I love you."
"Enjolras!" Grantaire fights off the others' restraint, snarling and taking a swing at him, but by the time he bursts out into the hall, Enjolras is out of sight already. "Enjolras, you complete idiot," he screams after him, all the same. "You think that's why I left?"
Enjolras doesn't return and he doesn't answer, and Cosette comes to take Grantaire by the arm and lead him back inside, and Grantaire's so heartsick that this time, he lets her.
Grantaire drops down onto one of the empty mattresses and slams his shoulders back against the wall, glowering. "If he makes it out of this alive," he snarls, "I'm going to kill him myself."
"Well, that's one option," Joly says lightly. He comes over and drops down to his knees beside Grantaire, his mediscanner in hand. "But it does seem counter productive. Sit still, will you, and let me see how bad the damage is?"
"I can tell you now it's not that bad, you don't need a fancy scanner for that. Throw some bandages on it and let me get back to being useful."
"There is use to be had here as much as there is out there," Joly says mildly. He takes hold of Grantaire's wrist and draws his arm out until it's fully extended, then runs the mediscanner over it.
It takes everything Grantaire has to hold still. Cosette kneels by his side and talks to him quietly, trying to keep him distracted. He drums the fingers of his other hand against the mattress, since he can't move the other one without forcing Joly to start over.
When he's finished his scan, Joly lifts the scanner to check the screen and clucks his tongue. "It's bad, R. I should put you in a sling."
"You're not going to, though."
Cosette huffs to herself, like it's some great injustice that Grantaire's going to get out of being in the sling but she wasn't able to.
Joly gives the scanner a pinched-lipped look that makes Grantaire worry, because it means he's truly upset by whatever it is he sees there. "I'll make you a deal," he says at last. "You stay here and help us with the wounded, and I won't put you in a sling. You go out there..." He nods his head toward the door, and the rest of the brothel beyond it. "And I'm going to wrestle you down and force you into a straitjacket, if that's what it takes to keep that arm immobilized."
This time, Cosette laughs, and doesn't seem to mind that she's not circumspect about it at all.
Grantaire glares, but Joly doesn't relent, so he gives a sharp sigh. "Fine." He holds his arm out to Joly. "Patch me up and give me something for the pain and I'm all yours."
Joly slathers an ointment all over his arm that stings at first, but then fades to a soothing warmth as its surface forms a skin that will protect the wound while it heals. He follows it up with a dermal infusion that leaves Grantaire feeling light-headed and woozy and has panic clawing at his throat. He glares at Joly, or tries to, but his head is fuzzy and his muscles don't seem to want to respond to his commands. "Did you drug me?" he demands, but it comes out mostly a slur.
"You've got a third-degree phaser burn, R, what did you think I was going to give you for the pain, paracetamol?" Joly huffs and fiddles with his jet-injector. "Hold your horses, I'm going to give you something else to counteract the medication's sedative effects."
He presses the gun to the inside of Grantaire's wrist and doses him. This one stings like a son of a bitch going in, but Grantaire can feel it making its way through his system, the rush of clarity so abrupt it makes his nerve endings tingle. He feels wide-eyed and alert when it passes, but the pain remains at bay, and at Joly's questioning look, he nods.
"All right, then. Be careful with that arm, just because you can't feel it doesn't mean it's not damaged, and you'll damage it further if you're not careful about it. But come on, get off your ass and help me out, there's plenty of work to be done."
Grantaire climbs out of bed gingerly, braced for pain, but the discomfort that comes is distant, muted by the drugs flooding his system. He knows Joly's right, knows he could do permanent damage if he overexerted his injured arm in this state. Still, he makes a face and gives Joly an incredulous look when he passes Grantaire the mediscanner and motions to the nearest patient.
"Really? A trained monkey could wave a scanner over a person, you don't need me for this."
"I need extra hands, is what I need. And yours have always been good at keeping steady. Stop complaining, or I'm not going to give you your next dose of stimulant when it wears off, and I'll let the drugs have their way with you.
Grantaire relents, but only because the work -- meager as it is -- gives him something to do, something to focus on besides the feel of Enjolras's lips on his as he kissed him good-bye. Something other than the way Enjolras said If I don't get the chance to say that again, not like he was afraid of that outcome but like he was resigned to it, like he already knew that this fight was going to lead him to his death, and he figured the best place for Grantaire to be was here, waving a mediscanner over people's injuries instead of at Enjolras's side. He's going to die and Grantaire's not going to be there to even hold his hand through it, and the pain of that is one that even the strongest narcotics can't touch.
He throws himself into the work, dull though it may be, because he knows there's no alternative. He could go stomping out of here and back to Enjolras, he could shove himself in front of him and fight it out, he could scream in Enjolras's face about how fucking selfish it is of him to expect Grantaire to sit idly by while he throws his life away, but the truth of it is, if Grantaire does that, he's just going to be a distraction. He's just going to force Enjolras's attention onto him and away from the people who are trying to kill him, and that's not going to do anything to help ensure that he makes it through this alive. So Grantaire grits his teeth and tries to breathe through the frantic pounding of his heart and calm the desperate scream in the back of his mind, and he focuses his attention on helping those who are right in front of him.
He grows to hate the sound of footsteps in the hall outside and the creak of the room's door swinging open, because it always means another patient, someone else who's been harmed in the fighting. It always means blood or the smell of singed flesh and Grantaire holding on to a hand or pressing his palm against their cheek, trying to comfort them through their pain during the few minutes it takes Joly to get the painkillers ready.
The sound of quick, running steps outside makes him tense, anticipating some dire emergency. When the door bursts open, it's Gavroche, standing there bright-eyed and breathing hard, and the sight of him knocks all the air from Grantaire's lungs.
"Where is she?" Gavroche demands, surging inside. "Where's Éponine?"
Grantaire catches him, hands on his shoulders, and holds him still. "She's out fighting with the others." He has to grab on to Gavroche tighter, to hold him back as he wheels about and tries to run off just as quickly as he came. "Gav! Stop! You can't go out there."
"She's my sister and I'm going to help her!" he snarls, swiping at Grantaire with his hands like claws.
Grantaire hauls him in, pulls him hard against his chest and wraps him in a strong embrace, holding him so he can't fight, he can't struggle, all he can do is standing shaking in Grantaire's arms and listen to him as Grantaire murmurs against his ear, "She's in a dangerous situation right now, Gav. And if you go out there, she's going to be thinking about keeping you safe, not herself, and that's going to put her at risk. I know you want to help, but if you go out there, you're just going to make it more likely that she gets hurt, not less."
Gavroche trembles in his arms. "R," he says, and his voice is small and scared and broken.
"I know." Grantaire strokes his hands over his hair and hates everyone fiercely. Éponine and Enjolras and Javert and everyone out there holding a phaser or a gun, he hates them all. "I'm sorry. I know."
Gavroche slumps, leaning his face against Grantaire's chest. Grantaire soothes him for a moment, then asks, "Gav, how'd you get here? I thought you were out with your friends."
"I was." He sniffs sharply. "I snuck in. One of the boards in the back corner is loose. It's a tight fit, you couldn't make it, but I'm small. They've got all the doors and windows covered, but who's going to stand watch over a solid wall?"
Grantaire lets his breath out slowly, trying not to be terrified. "Do you think you can get through again without being seen?"
This time when Gavroche sniffs, it's in disdain. "Of course I can. It's getting hot, and those space rats don't know what to do with themselves. The one in the back keeps hiding in the shade and drinking water, I could sneak past him blindfolded and with one hand tied behind my back."
Grantaire's not so sure, but he takes Gavroche at his word. "Okay. If you can -- and only if you can, don't take any big risks -- I want you to get out again, okay? Go hole up with your friends somewhere far away from here. I don't want you catching a stray bullet or blast."
"I'm not leaving either of you!"
"Gavroche, if you get hurt, your sister is going to get herself killed trying to avenge you." He offers Gavroche a wan smile when he lifts his head. "You don't want that, do you?"
Gavroche shakes his head violently.
"Me either. So do us all a favor and go find somewhere safe to hole up until this is all over, all right?"
Gavroche doesn't move or speak for a long moment. Finally when he does, he says, "I'll go. But I'm going to figure out a way to help her out there."
"Gav." Grantaire reaches for him, but Gavroche spins suddenly and runs off, back down the hall the way he came. Grantaire darts after him. "Gavroche! You stay away from those men, do you hear me? I don't want you going anywhere near them!"
"I will." Gavroche's grin is broad enough to make Grantaire narrow his eyes and doubt his sincerity. "I'll stay far away, promise." And then he's gone, darting into one of the rooms and, no doubt, back out through the hole he snuck in through. Grantaire stands there a moment, trembling with fear and concern and the desire to run after him and shake him until he sees reason.
There's nothing to do but go back to Joly and Cosette and all their injured friends and comrades, and help them in whatever ways he can. Grantaire goes, each step feeling heavier than the last, and hopes he didn't just let Gavroche run off to his death.
It galvanizes him into action, and he bursts out into the hall just in time for Éponine to fly into his arms. They catch each other, and he holds her back and takes in her frantic face, and he knows, even before she gasps, "He's doing something stupid."
Grantaire's running almost before she's even finished speaking, and she's right beside him, both of them flying through the halls and back out to the common room, where Grantaire skids to a stop because the front door is open. All his friends and Fantine's whores are crowded around it, staring outside, and Grantaire doesn't have to guess why but he has to be wrong, he has to.
He pushes his way through to the front and the press of the crowd drifts apart easily for him, until he's standing on Fantine's threshold staring out at the Capital men arrayed before them, all their weapons trained on Enjolras, who stands in the street a few feet before them, both hands raised.
"No one else has to be hurt," he's saying, speaking them in a strong voice that Grantaire hates, because the sight of him standing there makes Grantaire feel so weak. "You don't need to kill a house full of whores, that will do nothing for you. All you need is one man: me. Leave this town and these people in peace, and take me into your custody."
"Enjolras, no," Grantaire cries from the doorway, but Enjolras keeps speaking as though he hadn't even heard him.
"Execute me, hang me for treason, do what you must. You'll have your satisfaction, and the people will have their example, their cautionary tale. And you can end this pointless fighting, and see to your wounded."
Javert stands at the center of the men fanned out around Enjolras, and his lip curls as he holds his gun steady on him. "And the rest of your compatriots? Why should we satisfy ourselves with one rebel when a whole regiment of them stand before us, ready for the taking?"
Enjolras scoffs and makes a disdainful gesture. "Sheep, the whole lot of them. Take away their leader and they'll find a new one to follow." A lie, of course. Enjolras knows better than any of them that if he's martyred, the rest of them will just rise up stronger to fight for his causes. "Give them a strong moral example to follow, instead of a rebel like me, and they'll be model citizens. You can show the whole system how the Capital was able to rehabilitate a group of seditious rebels and show them to the light. Make examples of all of us, but I'm the only one who needs to die."
"Enjolras." Grantaire stalks own off the steps toward him. "Don't do this. None of us wants you to do this."
Enjolras turns then, twisting to look over his shoulder. His face is bright with resolve and passion, but when he meets Grantaire's gaze, his eyes are blazing with desperation. "R, you have to," he says quietly, urgently. "This is the life you wanted, one of quiet, and peace. I'm trying to give you that."
"You're an idiot," Grantaire snarls. "The life I wanted is one where you're not dead. I left because you didn't seem to care about your own life half as much as I did, and this is not helping that impression. Stop this and come back inside."
A ripple goes through the armsmen standing before them, each of them shifting and tightening their grips on their weapons and readying themselves for Enjolras's attempted flight, and Grantaire bites off an oath beneath his breath. There's no way Enjolras is getting out of this now, whether Grantaire manages to talk sense to him or not.
Beyond Enjolras, Javert shifts his position so that he's standing just to the side of Enjolras, instead of straight before him, and stares at Grantaire over his shoulder. "The schoolteacher," he snaps, like his presence there amongst Enjolras's ranks is a personal insult. "Grantaire, was it?"
"That's right." Grantaire swallows down the knot in his throat, throws his shoulders back, and steps forward to stand at Enjolras's side. "I'm with them. So you'd better shoot us both together."
Javert tightens his jaw and the grip on his phaser. Grantaire slips his hand into Enjolras's and braces himself for fire, but before he gives the command, Javert's gaze slips past Grantaire and he falters.
Grantaire glances back. He's unsurprised to see that a crowd of people have come to stand at their backs. All the rest of the Musain's crew, and Fantine, and more than a few of her girls. They've all got their weapons, and they've all got them trained on the officers. Even Cosette has an Old World handgun, though who in their right mind would have given her one, Grantaire can't imagine.
It's not enough to get the officers to back down, but the prospect of facing enemy fire at point-blank range does give them pause. It's enough for a stalemate.
"You're going to have to shoot all of us," Jehan says, his free hand hovering over the knife strapped at his hip. "If you want to make an example of us, it's going to have to be as martyrs."
"Damn it, Jehan," Enjolras growls.
"No." Jehan's gun holds steady on the Capital men, but he stares at Enjolras. "You don't get to ask this of us. Not this. We'll follow you to hell itself, Enjolras, but we're not going to play at being reformed for you."
Enjolras starts to say something, no doubt something infuriating. Before he's even formed a full word, though, an explosion rocks the ground beneath them, so violent it nearly throws Grantaire off his feet.
They all whip around as one. Somewhere in the distance a cloud of smoke rises from beyond the trees and Grantaire feels like he's been punched in the gut. "The Musain," he says, but Enjolras tightens his grip on his hand.
"No. We were further to the west. It's not us."
"But then what—"
He doesn't have to finish his question. The alarm running through the officers is answer enough. Grantaire watches, curious, as they hiss between themselves. More than half the number of guns trained on Enjolras, Grantaire, and the others drop down to aim at the ground. The officers turn away, turn to each other, turn to the explosion.
"No!" Javert's voice snaps out over all of them, strident and commanding. "We will not be swayed! There are criminals before us, gentlemen, and it is our sworn duty to bring them to justice."
"Javert," someone hisses. "What good is taking prisoners if we can't get them off-planet?"
"Oh God," someone else groans, dragging a hand through his hair. "I can't be stuck on a backwater moon. Do you know how long it'll take them to send a rescue ship? If we can even get a signal out of this sector. It could be months before anyone even realizes we've gone missing."
They're panicking, almost all of them but Javert. Their ranks are breaking, and there's nothing that needs to be done but to stand there and wait for them to fall apart. As the other officers start to holster their weapons and move toward the explosion, Javert's attention wavers, and he spins away from Enjolras and Grantaire and the others to face down his own allies. "Stop this cowardice," he snarls. "There is justice to be served here, and—"
One of his own men takes a swing at him. His fist connects solidly with Javert's jaw and sends him spinning down to his knees. By the time Javert pushes up out of the dirt, nearly all the others are gone, hurried off to see what they can rescue of their ship.
He braces his hands in the dirt and starts to rise, but before he can do more than get his knees under him, Jehan's got the barrel of his pistol pressed against Javert's temple and one of his knives unsheathed in his hand, flashing silver in the midday sun. "Try it," he says, and smiles prettily.
Javert glares, but he's not a stupid man. He stays where he is.
"Enjolras?" Combeferre comes forward to stand at their side. "What's the plan now?"
Enjolras looks at Javert for a long moment, and Grantaire can read the indecision in his eyes, the debate between seeing to his men and their ship, and seeing vengeance against Javert.
"Let's go," Grantaire says quietly, and settles his palm more closely against Enjolras's. "Let's just go, while we still can."
Enjolras takes a deep breath and then he nods and turns his back on Javert, and the few officers who remain stalwart beside him. "Yes," he says. "Let's go. All of us."
"Not I," Fantine says, tucking her gun into the waist of her skirt so she can come forward toward them. "I've still a business to run, and girls who depend on me." Her mouth twists into a wry smile. "And now, about a dozen windows to replace. I'll have to bid you farewell here."
She embraces them each in turn. She saves Grantaire for last, and hugs him hardest. He presses his face into the curve of her neck and clutches at her. "Fantine," he sighs.
She clucks her tongue and pets his hair. "Don't sound that way. I always knew I'd have to say good-bye to you sooner or later, from the very start." She kisses the crown of his head, and he feels her lips curve against his hair. "I rather expected it would be sooner than it has. So I've come out ahead, in the end." She releases him and sets his back, hands on his shoulders. "Go on, then. Go with them."
Grantaire nods and turns away from her, turns back to the others. They're all waiting for him, most of them pretending not to watch or overhear. "Let's go," he says shortly.
They run to the Musain, or try to. Grantaire isn't the only one of the group who's injured, and some of their injuries are much more debilitating than his. Bossuet's got a tear in the leg of his trousers and a streak of phaser fire cutting across the outside of his thigh, and Grantaire can't imagine how he managed to get shot there, but it gives him a pronounced limp as he hurries along beside the rest of them.
They aren't pursued, though. They make it to the Musain without anyone raising hand or voice to stop them, and there she stands, as tall and proud as ever, though she bears a few new scars from the Capital officers and their attempts to board her — or at least ground her — over the past day.
Combeferre takes care of the locks and gets the cargo ramp lowering so they can all shuffle in. Jehan grabs onto the ramp's edge and hauls himself up and over as it's still only half-lowered, like he can't bear to be parted from her for even another second, then whoops with a joy that's reflected on the others' faces.
All but Éponine, who's standing a few strides distant, her arms wrapped tight around her ribs and looking around the clearing with an expression gone drawn and tense with worry. Grantaire goes to her and he doesn't even have to ask. "Gav." Her voice sounds like she's been crying, but her eyes are dry. "Where's Gav? We can't leave without him."
"We're not leaving anyone." Grantaire grips her hand and looks out into the trees, toward the Capital ship. "He said— Oh Christ. He wanted to help, and I told him to stay away from the officers. He said he was, that he was going to stay far, far away."
Éponine's brows lower and her gaze darkens. "You don't think—"
"It hardly seems our sort of luck that their ship would spontaneously explode for reasons entirely unrelated to any of us, don't you think?"
"Oh fuck, Gav." She wheels about and would start tearing for the Capital ship, but for the grip Grantaire has on her hand, holding her tethered. When he doesn't release her, she spins back, snarling at him. "Let me go! If he's hurt, if he got caught in the blast— Oh Christ, what was he thinking, playing with explosives."
Grantaire tries to draw her into an embrace, but she fights him off with a furious snarl. He thinks, resigned, that he's going to have to follow her all the way to the Capital ship and help her fight her way in and back out, because she's not leaving without Gavroche and he's not leaving without either of them.
Before they can start, though, the sound of something large crashing through the brush has them both drawing apart, turning to face whoever's coming with their hands on their weapons. Grantaire doesn't trust Javert not to have decided to try to take them all into custody singlehandedly after all, but it's not an officer who comes bursting out of the scrub but Gavroche himself, dirty and scuffed and looking so, so pleased with himself.
"Did you see?" he cries as he throws himself into Éponine's arms, heedless of her choked cry or the way she clutches at him like she hasn't seen him in a year. "Did you see what I did? I told you I'd help, R. And I didn't go anywhere near the men, just like you said. They've got bigger problems than us to worry about now, don't they?"
"I saw," Grantaire says, and smiles and ruffles his hair. "And once you're on the Musain and safe, I think your sister and I are going to have to have a very serious chat with you about playing with high explosives." He can't make himself sound stern about it, though, because they're all alive and half an hour earlier he didn't expect they would be, and that's all down to Gavroche and his diversion. So Grantaire just sweeps him into an embrace, once Éponine deigns to let him go, and then ushers them all back toward the Musain and everyone who's waiting on them.
Éponine leads Gavroche up the ramp first, and Grantaire hangs back, looking up into the cargo hold, looking up at the ship herself, the place he called home for so long, and never thought he'd be setting foot on again.
Enjolras is at the top of the ramp, just inside the hold, speaking urgently with Combeferre. He glances briefly down at Grantaire, then hesitates and looks again, and breaks off the conversation with Combeferre with a raised hand, as though to say, Just a moment, hold that thought. He comes down the ramp and reaches for Grantaire like he means to catch his arm, or perhaps his hand, but then hesitates and lets his own drop back to his side. He just stares at Grantaire, and Grantaire waits, growing more confused by the moment.
"You can't stay here." The words burst out of Enjolras suddenly, like he's been trying to hold them back. "I'm sorry, R, I know it's home, but you can't. It was only ever safe here because you weren't associated with us, because no one knew you flew with us. Javert knows, now, though. He recognized you, and you can't gamble that he won't spread the word to every Capital ship in the system just as soon as he's able. You can't stay, you'll just bring trouble to these people again, and I know you don't want that."
"Enjolras." It's a struggle to speak past the thickness choking his throat.
Enjolras gives his head a violent shake and speaks right over him. "We'll take you somewhere. Somewhere else, somewhere safe. Wherever you like, and you can start a new life. You're good with people, you'll make new friends, find new family. You can start over, start clean—"
"Enjolras." Grantaire steps forward and grasps Enjolras's hand, and it silences him effectively, leaves him staring at Grantaire like he's terrified of what might be about to come out of his mouth. "No," he says, and then shakes his head with a sharp, disbelieving laugh. "God, Apollo. No. I'm not starting over. And you're not taking me anywhere." Enjolras starts to look like he's not sure whether to be crestfallen or indignant. Grantaire shakes his head again, and tightens his grip on Enjolras's hand until his knuckles ache. "You chased me off once, and maybe I let you do it. Maybe I was looking for an excuse. But if you want to get rid of me this time, you're going to have to try a hell of a lot harder than that."
Enjolras stares, his expression wavering like he can't make sense of Grantaire's words, or like he thinks he knows what they mean but he can't quite bring himself to believe it. So Grantaire takes pity on him, and steps in close to press his lips to Enjolras's. When he draws back, Enjolras makes a wounded sound and clutches at him. "The Musain is my home," Grantaire says. "And I'm not leaving it again." And he steps off the dust of the moon and onto the Musain, to the comforting feel of metal vibrating faintly beneath his feet. And when Enjolras joins him, gripping his hand so tight it seems he'll never let go, Grantaire doesn't look back.
Grantaire pulls a face and stretches out the artificial skin Joly applied over his healing phaser burn. "I'm on another week of light duty."
Enjolras laughs beneath his breath. "Poor R. Whatever shall you do?" He sets aside the comm and pats the narrow bit of bed beside him.
Grantaire goes to him and climbs in with him, plastered close against his side. Enjolras slips an arm around his shoulder and squeezes him carefully. "Go mad, most likely."
"Well, we can't have that." Enjolras rolls, sliding Grantaire in underneath him and holding himself up above him. "I'll just have to keep you distracted."
"You could do that." Grantaire's breathless already, just from the hint of suggestion. He reaches up for Enjolras, to wrap his arms around his back and pull him down.
Enjolras draws back, though, and pushes Grantaire's arms back down to the mattress with a disapproving click of his tongue. "Ah-ah. Light duty, remember."
"I'm not exactly straining myself."
"Still." Enjolras leans down and slides his lips across Grantaire's, teasing him with a kiss that's too light and too chaste. "I can't have you re-injuring yourself. The resistance needs you, R." He's laughing as he says it, his breath stuttering against Grantaire's lips. "You're just going to have to lie here and let me do all the work, for the good of the people."
"Well, if I must, I must." So Grantaire lies there and contents himself with little more than parting his lips and biting at Enjolras to coax him into a firmer kiss. "We all must make sacrifices."
Enjolras's kisses are slow and methodical, easing Grantaire's mouth open and sliding in to claim him, to set every nerve singing. It's been near a month since Grantaire's been back on the Musain, and he still isn't used to having this. It's still a surprise, every time.
When Grantaire is sighing into the kiss and just about to consider saying the hell with Joly's restrictions and grabbing onto Enjolras to drag him down, Enjolras ends it softly, then rolls them both onto their sides so he can clasp his arm around Grantaire's back and hold him in close.
"What were you doing?" Grantaire asks, tipping his head toward the abandoned communicator. "Did I interrupt?"
"Only a little." Enjolras nuzzles close, his cheek pressed in against Grantaire's shoulder. "I was reading reports about a people's movement on Auteuil against the planetary government. It sounds like they could use our help."
Grantaire frowns, sifting his fingers through Enjolras's hair. He makes a sound he means to be encouraging, but Enjolras must take it as something else, because he draws back and looks down at Grantaire, one brow lifting. "What?"
"Nothing. I'm just thinking."
"R. What is it?"
"It's just — do you remember when we were on Cachan last year? We heard stories about a people's movement on Auteuil then, too, and it turned out to be a ploy by local officials to try to draw out dissenters."
It makes Enjolras's brow crease. He settles down further into the bed and hums thoughtfully. "The rumors the officials spread were founded on truth, though. There really was a people's movement, and they really did need help, even if they weren't the ones asking for it."
"And we nearly got shot out of the sky trying to come in to offer aid." Grantaire gives a sharp sigh. "Look, I'm not saying we don't help, I'm just saying we should be careful, especially after last month. We've got a bigger target on our backs than we ever have before, and our names and faces are still fresh in everyone's memory. We're no good to anyone's movement if we're imprisoned."
It's nice just lying with him, just being close and kissing, and Grantaire resigns that to being ruined with arguing. But Enjolras doesn't bristle, doesn't sit up and scowl at Grantaire and launch into a tirade about all the reasons why he's wrong. He just stays as he is, holding on to Grantaire, and frowns thoughtfully at the wall.
"Apollo?" Grantaire asks, concerned.
"I'll make some calls," Enjolras says. "We have some contacts in the area we might be able to route a communicator signal through so we can talk with people on the surface without giving ourselves away. And then we can coordinate with them and their intel to figure out a way to enter the system unnoticed."
Grantaire pushes up onto an elbow and stares at him. "I'm sorry, what was that?"
"Did you just agree with me?"
Enjolras gives him a bemused, tolerant look. "It's been known to happen."
"Did you just change your mind?"
He sighs and slips a hand down to Grantaire's hip. "That's been known to happen, too."
Enjolras tucks his face against Grantaire's chest and his lips curve against his skin. "More when you're here to talk sense into me."
And there is nothing Grantaire can do in response to that but lie there and grin up at the ceiling. "Guess I'd better stick around, then," he says, and lets Enjolras sweep him into another round of delighted kisses.