Most clubbers end their nights in Aphrodite's temple. The music is slow, hypnotic, the priests playing music, pouring drinks, handing out condoms (“Aphrodite is not the goddess of childbirth,” one of the older priestesses told him the first time he came in and expressed surprise at the ready supply). The worshippers move against each other on the dance floor, against the walls, against the altar, in the private rooms in the back. They ask for Aphrodite's blessing on a one-night-stand (please-gods-don't-let-me-get-an-STD), search for someone to end the night with (please-gods-let-someone-else-be-desperate-too), or simply pray that their next night will be more successful (please-gods-let-me-stop-being-alone).
Grantaire goes up to the altar alone, kneels at the side of it, away from the three people frantic against each other, almost on top of it. He burns his incense and sits there for a minute, gathering his thoughts. He's been paying his respects to Dionysus (but then, when doesn't he?), he won't be at his most eloquent tonight. But Aphrodite has heard everything he has to say to her anyway. He decides on a simple devotion this time (I give to you all the love I wasted on someone who doesn't return it today. I'll probably give you the same tomorrow. It isn't in the book of devotions, but sometimes, when Enjolras has been particularly wonderful, and particularly cutting, it's all he can say).
When he finishes he kisses his fingers, presses them to the altar, and goes out into the crowd. Someone catches him by the shirt, leaves a bite of a kiss on his mouth. He doesn't even know if it's a man or a woman, they're gone by the time he's blinked. Someone else, a girl, probably not from the city if he's a judge (Grantaire knows how to recognize people new to a city temple, especially Aphrodite's. He was one once), grabs him and holds on, determined enough that he thinks of giving in. He kisses her instead, soft on the mouth. “You can find someone better,” he promises her, and extricates himself, heads for the door.
He's caught twice more, almost stays for a man with golden hair, and stumbles out onto the street at last, ignoring the leers and jeers of people passing.
It's five before he makes it home, fumbling his key in the lock until he makes it in. Éponine is up, hair piled on her head, last night's lipstick smudging on this morning's cup of coffee. She frowns at him when she sees him. “Paying your respects?”
“And what's wrong with that?”
“I don't know how you can bear to worship her, of all the gods.”
“Worshiping love is something I can understand.” He shrugs. It isn't the first time they've argued about it. Neither of them is going to change the other's mind at this time of morning. “What are you doing up?”
“I was out. Secular club. Less people wanting to get married and make a hundred babies there.”
“Hera's priests really need to get in on the club scene.”
Éponine snorts. “Can you imagine? Sounds more like a country club than the kind you go dancing in. The white-picket-fence crowd. I'd rather Aphrodite than that.”
“And so you should.” He pours coffee from her pot into his mug, which she left out on the counter for him. Éponine is his favorite roommate ever. “I don't know why I'm drinking coffee. I was at work until midnight and then out after that. I should go to bed.”
“Sleep can wait. I have work in two hours, I decided to just not go to bed.” She takes a swig of her coffee. “Is there a meeting tonight?”
He looks down at his mug. “Yes.”
“Maybe if you stopped going, you could start paying your devotions to the muses instead. R, you're just hurting yourself, don't say you're doing it for Aphrodite, you're doing it for you.”
“If I thought that not seeing him would help, I would never go to the Musain again, and that's a promise.” He doesn't ask if not seeing Marius helps. Grantaire tries his best not to be cruel. He has enough bad traits going for him already. Instead, he changes the subject. “How's your paper on Echo going?”
“Way too hard to find sources that don't demonize her. And when they don't demonize her, they have Narcissus actually in love with her too, which sucks. There was that one YA novel from a few years ago I had hopes for, but then the flower fell in love with her voice or what-the-fuck-ever and it got predictable from there.”
“So you should write the great Echo novel.”
“Yeah, you keep telling me that.” She chews on her lip. “I don't know, she should get a happy ending, but fuck Narcissus.”
“Modern parable?” He drags one of the pads of paper he stashes around the apartment closer to him and starts sketching. “Some guy—or girl, that could be novel—falls in love with Echo, she turns back into a nymph, nobody's words echo anymore. Sounds like it should be a short film, figure out the sound effects for the end without any echo in them at all. Talk to Feuilly about it, maybe, he's good with a camera.”
Éponine salutes him with her coffee cup. “Thanks for that help, R, really. That helps me so much with my thesis.”
“I'm just saying. And you'll do it, you did a paper on Cassandra good enough to make your professor worry about offending Apollo.”
“Oh, shut up,” Éponine says, but she's smiling. “Tell me how your night was, and I'll tell you about mine, and we'll worry about my paper and your hopeless infatuation later.”
Grantaire, as always, takes her up on the offer, and tells her about the girls with the birds' nests of hair in the temple of Dionysus who claim they're modern Maenads, and the Hades-worshippers who read too many books about vampires wandering the streets until she's laughing and has forgotten all about telling him not to mess around with unrequited love. Again.
Bahorel snorts. He's drinking wine like water, the legacy of a half-satyr. “And if our fate is determined before we're born, then what's the point of any of us? So many Barbie dolls acting out the gods' stories?”
“Makes one wonder why Zeus wants to fuck anyone,” Bossuet mutters, and grins when Joly frowns at him. “Can't get much more cursed, Jolllly.”
“You say that now, and then tomorrow you're going to wake up with a cucumber instead of a dick and I will cry.”
“I think it's got to be somewhere in between, you know?” says Courfeyrac, grinning at Joly while Bossuet makes alarmed noises. “Like, the Fates may decide when we die, but we decide how. And if we entertain the gods enough along the way, maybe we even get to decide to live a little longer.”
“If only that were true,” says Grantaire. “Alas, I've heard stories about Achilles and King Arthur and Marie Antoinette and Kurt Cobain and all the other gods-blessed folk who didn't exactly live long full lives, so allow me my skepticism.”
Courfeyrac grins over at him. “Trust you to come in with the most pessimistic view possible. And the first two, anyway, were heroes, and heroes don't count. Heroes aren't entertaining.”
“What about the last two, then? No one can deny they had style.”
“No view works in all situations, I suppose,” says Combeferre. “Though Marie Antoinette and her complicated relationship with the pantheon are the subject of wide study.”
“Either way, the lives of those who catch the attention of the gods don't tend to be long and happy, so you'll excuse me if I retain my anonymity.”
“And that is precisely how the status quo remains,” says a voice from the other corner, and there goes any thought of Grantaire looking at anyone else tonight. “Nobody changes anything because nobody wants to risk the wrath of the gods, when it is men who don't want things to change. Who's to say it would even bring their wrath to change things? They put up quite well with the invention of electricity, with revolution and war and the redrawing of many a border. Why shouldn't they put up with people who change systematic inequality?” Enjolras stands and walks to the middle of the room and raises his eyebrows at Grantaire. “I assume that's what you meant, R?”
“You said it, not I.”
“But you meant it. What, that's your excuse for not caring to participate during these meetings? You fear the gods will curse you? Believe me, Grantaire, if the gods were to go after someone in these meetings, it would be someone who contributed.”
Grantaire doesn't flinch. He's heard worse. Still, Jehan hisses “Enjolras, that's enough” from where he's sitting.
“I'm merely reassuring him.”
“Your kindness knows no bounds, truly. Though I would like to hear you explain how exactly you think you'll get people to join in your revolution when it's been a generation or two since the last major curse and nobody wants to be the one to break that streak.”
“I tell them to ignore the gods, if that's what it takes. If they're feeling capricious they'll find someone to curse revolution or no, and if they're wise, they'll curse someone who's actually doing the world harm.”
Nobody seems in the mood to interrupt them today. Grantaire gives it a moment, just to be sure, but Enjolras is still glaring at him like he has the right of the argument, and Grantaire can't have that. “But you see, the people doing the world harm? They claim to do it in the name of the gods. The gods don't care what kind of evil you do as long as one of them gets the glory for it. The people who get in trouble are the ones who spit in the gods' faces.”
“So it's better to be a coward and never let things change at all?”
“It's better to live.”
“It hardly counts as living. You should know.”
“Enjolras,” says Combeferre, and Enjolras visibly backs down, packs all that passion back in until he's standing there cool and implacable and Aphrodite and Eros, if Grantaire didn't love him to distraction he'd hate Enjolras as much as Enjolras hates him.
“If the gods are as afraid of change as you think they are,” he says, every word deliberate, “then they are at best tyrants and at worst fools.” There's silence, then, at that baiting, Grantaire flinching despite himself. Arachne isn't just a legend. Neither is Medusa. Nor is Napoleon, Henry VIII if sensationalist history is to be believed, Julius Caesar. Enjolras is treading dangerous ground. Still, after a few seconds, everyone relaxes. “See?” Enjolras says. He doesn't even have the grace to look smug.
“Enjolras,” Combeferre says again, and then stands up. “We have a meeting to begin. If I could have your attention, please?”
Grantaire settles back in his chair and takes a bottle of wine when Joly offers one to him. Enjolras won't be expecting a contribution from him, after all.
Enjolras looks wrecked in a way Grantaire has never seen him before, like he's hungover or drugged out or just at the end of his rope—which he must be, if he's standing in front of Grantaire, panting and silent and wearing something that would be a glare if he weren't wide-eyed. “What's wrong? Are you in trouble?”
All he gets is a nod, no words, so Grantaire steps out of the way and then Enjolras is inside his apartment. He doesn't do the instinctual look around that Grantaire always does when he enters someone's space for the first time, looking for little clues he hasn't noticed about them before. Either he's distressed or he never does it, and Grantaire hates himself for noticing or caring, much less wondering which it is.
“You're going to have to tell me what's wrong. I'm terrible at charades.”
“I hurt Combeferre.” The words scream through Grantaire, make him clutch at the wall, the sound of them ricocheting in his skull until the pain is nearly unbearable before fading out. It takes a moment for him to parse the meaning.
“Enjolras,” he says, appalled. “With—what's wrong with your voice?”
“Cursed,” Enjolras says, glaring like he shouldn't need to say it. Again, the word is a physical pain, Enjolras's beautiful, strong voice hidden behind the overtones that make Grantaire gasp and reach for the wall again. “Paper?” It's worse every time.
It takes Grantaire a moment to breathe through the pain. “One moment. Okay. Yes or no questions. Does it hurt you?” Enjolras shakes his head. “Is Combeferre okay?” Another shake of the head, this one with a tight jaw. “Do I need to call emergency services to get to him? Fuck, is he dead?” A third shake, emphatic, Enjolras going pale and sick-looking at the thought. “Did he send you away?” A fourth. Grantaire's head is still ringing. “Is this … is this the gods punishing you? About yesterday?” A pause, and a nod. Grantaire's heart sinks (Aphrodite, I hurt him, I didn't think I had that power and I never wanted it). “I'll get you paper. Sit. Drink water. Kitchen's over there.” He jerks his head and turns on his heel to go to his bedroom to gather paper, a shirt, and his wits.
People get cursed. There are a very few people with the kind of magic that does it, even if there hasn't been a Circe-level magic-worker since the eighteenth century, and sometimes they're unscrupulous with it. The gods curse people—whether it's like the Lesgles family line, with their penchant for small disasters that family legends say stemmed from the sixteenth century and offending Poseidon, or other mostly-temporary discomforts. The big curses, the ones that really hurt people, those are rare. Enjolras must have been walking a fine line for a while, for this to come even after what he said.
When enough time must have passed for Enjolras to be impatient, Grantaire scoops up a shirt and pulls it over his head, grabs a mostly-empty sketchbook and some pens and goes back out to the main room. “My phone is charging or I'd just say we should have this conversation by text,” he says, and Enjolras starts from where he's sitting at the kitchen table picking at the tablecloth and looks up at him. Grantaire sits down at the table opposite him. “Triage: you need to tell me more about what's up with Combeferre.”
Enjolras takes the sketchbook and a pen and tilts it away from Grantaire while he writes. Grantaire starts the coffee machine while he waits. Finally, Enjolras clears his throat and Grantaire turns and takes the sketchbook from him. Enjolras's handwriting is dense, and he writes even on the blank paper like there are regimented lines there. Woke up, told him good morning, he was in pain. Kept talking because I didn't understand, but it kept hurting him, he finally told me to shut up. I remembered I'd been dreaming. Thought I was imagining things but it was true. Got my coat and left as soon as I realized. Forgot my phone, so texting wouldn't work anyway.
“I'll call him when my phone is charged and tell him what's up, though he's smart. I'm pretty sure he's already guessed.” He pushes the sketchbook back over to Enjolras. “You said you dreamed about the curse?” Enjolras just nods. “Who was it? Do you know? Any information about what its aim was, or any way of breaking it?”
Zeus. Just said he wanted to take away my voice if I was going to use it to say such things. Fuck him.
Grantaire winces. Zeus is not the best-case scenario. “He didn't intimate that he wanted to fuck you, by chance? That would be a neat way of getting through this.”
As if I would. But no. And I won't beg or apologize.
“Then you might not ever speak again. We'll ask Jehan. I'm surprised he didn't see this coming.” Grantaire gets up and pours them both coffee. His hands are shaking, he notes, and he clenches them around his mug when he sits down. “Why did you come to me?”
Because this is your fault. Those words hurt enough that Enjolras might as well have said them out loud. For a second, Grantaire isn't entirely sure he didn't. He must flinch, or make some kind of sign that the words upset him, because Enjolras goes back to his paper, and in a moment there's a grudging but probably-sincere Not as much as it is mine, of course.
“So what do you expect me to do?”
Talk to people for me, until I can make more permanent arrangements.
“What, not break the curse?”
Do you really think that will work? I'm willing to adapt.
Grantaire shakes his head. “Trust this to be the one thing in this world that makes you give in and take it like it's what you deserve. Are you excited to be cursed? You can truly speak on the cruelty of the gods now, can't you? You may have lost your voice, but you've certainly gained people who would be willing to listen to it. And of course you'd never in a million years dream of apologizing. I pushed you into saying it aloud, even if you were thinking it before that. It could be half apology and half blaming it on me.”
“Shut up,” Enjolras snarls aloud, and at least Grantaire feels like he deserves the pain this time. Enjolras stops, though, going white-faced, and after a second, he pulls the sketchbook back to himself. I apologize. No matter how provoking you're being, I don't intend to make this curse a weapon unless it's against Mount Olympus itself. I won't be a monster.
“A great thought, although I'm willing to bet they will have protected themselves from the effects of the curse.” Grantaire frowns and takes a few sips of his coffee. He hates it bitter and black, but he's too lazy to get out the milk and sugar. At least it's waking him enough for him to come around to the idea that this is real, that he drove Enjolras to getting himself cursed. “I'm sorry,” he finally says. “For any part I had in it.” Enjolras doesn't answer, just grips the pen white-knuckled and looks away from Grantaire. Grantaire wishes desperately Éponine were here. She and Enjolras like each other, or at least respect each other, and this might be easier with her here. She's the one who studies the history of the odder legends, when she isn't taking computer programming classes so she can get Gav out of her parents' house. “Can you … will this kill someone? If you talk too much?”
Enjolras shrugs, still not looking at him, but then he sighs and looks down at the paper, writes a few words. Probably. Combeferre was bleeding when I stopped. Not much, but bleeding.
“I'm going to check my phone battery,” says Grantaire, and scrambles away from the table to stand in his room again until he can force himself to swallow down the horror and the fear, until he can go back out into the main room and say he still can't make a call.
He and Enjolras finish the rest of their coffees in silence.
“He's with me.” He's clutching a ripped-out piece of paper in his hand, Enjolras's handwriting in urgent all-caps: TELL HIM I'M SORRY. “He's sorry. He didn't think—it's a curse, I guess I should start. He had a dream, Zeus was there, and he thought it was really a dream but clearly it wasn't.”
Combeferre breathes out. “Thank you for taking care of him, R. I'm—I assume he doesn't want to come home.”
“I think he feels guilty. You're the one thing he'd ever feel guilty about.”
“I'll come over there.”
“I don't think he wants to see you. I'm sorry. I'm doing what I can, but I don't know how much that is, and I'm sorry.”
When Combeferre speaks, he does it in the way he has that brooks no argument. Enjolras could convince a fish to fly, but when Combeferre says things a certain way, the universe bends itself to his will. “Don't let him convince you that any of this was your fault. When he's feeling better, he won't blame you, so you shouldn't blame yourself.”
“I was the one who pushed him into saying it. I could have let it go.”
“So he would have said it in two weeks, in front of a crowd, and the gods would have made a public punishment of it, and he would have killed someone before he realized.”
Grantaire sits down on his bed, tries not to think of what Enjolras would do if one of the people listening to him speak fell dead on the ground. “Or he wouldn't have said it.”
“You don't honestly think he would never have said it, or something like it? I've known him since we were fourteen, and it's been a matter of time that whole time. Enjolras doesn't trust the gods. And I suppose with good reason, but he doesn't know how to come at problems sideways.”
Combeferre is trying to be comforting. The least Grantaire can do is try to sound comforted. “Thanks. We'll figure this out. Would you let everyone know? Everyone deserves to know.”
“I'll cancel the—”
“Don't,” says Grantaire. “Meetings can continue. Just different. He doesn't want that.”
“I'm sure he doesn't, but today, at least, he doesn't get a choice. Today, we need to register his curse with the bureau, set up some kind of communication system for him, and get him off your hands.”
“Thank you, Combeferre. I'm sorry.”
“What the hell are you sorry for, R? I've told you, and I believe it, that this isn't your fault. It isn't anyone's fault, really. It was an inevitability, and all we can hope is that it's an inevitability we can somehow reverse. I'm going to call Courfeyrac and the bureau. Are you going to be okay?”
“I'm always fine.”
Combeferre does him the favor of not refuting that. “Tell him it's fine, and I'm fine. He won't believe you, but he should at least hear it.” He hangs up. Combeferre doesn't believe in pleasantries.
Grantaire breathes for a minute before he goes back out to his living room. Enjolras is sitting there with a roll of packing tape on his lap, staring down at it contemplatively. “Well,” he says, in as much of an obnoxious drawl as he can muster, just to watch Enjolras startle and glare, “at least you had the heart to pick clear tape so the world won't be deprived of your rosebud lips. I applaud your kindness.” Enjolras glares, lips parting before he clamps them shut. Grantaire stands fidgeting in his doorway. “Combeferre says that he's fine, and that there's no need to apologize.” Enjolras shakes his head sharply. “I didn't believe him either, but he told me to tell you. He's going to call the bureau, probably you'll have some forms to fill out later. Tonight's meeting is cancelled.”
That makes Enjolras not only shake his head, but rap something out on the table, and—oh, of course he knows Morse code, and that will be helpful, but Grantaire can't help grinning at the emphatic NO he spells.
“Combeferre said you don't get a choice about this. We need to find you a way to communicate first. Experiment or something.”
Enjolras frowns and beckons him over, all his usual imperiousness feeling faintly ridiculous in Grantaire's tiny, cluttered apartment. He takes out the sketchbook. Experiment how?
“By talking to me, I suppose. Seeing how long it takes to hurt unbearably, or how loud you feel like you're talking versus how loud it comes across.”
What, and hurt you?
Grantaire sits down on the couch simply because there's nowhere else to sit. It's nice not to be facing Enjolras anyway, so he stares at the bricks-and-plywood that make up his coffee table when he answers. “I can't really think of any other reason you would have come to me, if you blame me for your curse.”
Enjolras makes a soft, unhappy noise that comes to Grantaire's nervous system like microphone feedback, making him flinch despite himself. There's the sound of pen scratching against paper, then, and a minute later the sketchbook drops in Grantaire's lap. You must think I'm some kind of monster. I told you, I'm not going to let this make me into a monster or a weapon or anything of the kind. There will be no experimenting. I'm just going to be silent.
“I don't think you're a monster. And I don't think tape is going to do you much good.” It's a bright sunny morning, out there in Paris. If it were any other day Grantaire would have woken up and gone outside until his evening shift, taken a book and found a bench and whiled the day away. “We'll figure out how to remind you to be quiet. I think you'd look very fetching in a ball gag.” Enjolras whacks his knee and then points again at the first sentence he wrote. Grantaire sighs and turns to him. Enjolras looks stricken, and Grantaire has never made him look anything but angry before, or once or twice grudgingly amused. He's not sure he likes it. “You aren't a monster, Enjolras, you're angry. I don't think you're wrong to be.”
Enjolras takes the sketchbook back, frowning down at it while he thinks. When he speaks out loud, the words just seem to flow out, he never needs time to think about them, and it's odd to see him hesitate and think his words out. You would have fought me on it, if we were at a meeting. You never would have let me blame you. And I shouldn't have. I
was am angry, but even I can see I shouldn't be, not at you. You never worry about telling me to fuck off.
“Will it help you if I tell you to shut up and stop blaming me?” He's not sure he believes it, but Enjolras came to him for help. He'll give it in whatever form Enjolras needs.
Not much is going to help.
Grantaire's phone rings before he has to think of something to say to that, and he goes to the kitchen to answer Courfeyrac's phone call, glad for an excuse to change the subject. Much as he'd love to have the power to comfort Enjolras, he very clearly doesn't.
Less than five minutes after Grantaire makes the call, Combeferre and Courfeyrac are at his door. They must have been at the cafe down the street, and he musters up something that he hopes looks like a smile before he gestures them in to where Enjolras is standing like he's facing a firing squad. Grantaire isn't sure what will break the impasse, but Courfeyrac opens his arms and Enjolras walks into them, burying his face in Courfeyrac's shoulder and taking deep, shuddery breaths.
Grantaire looks away. He's got no business seeing Enjolras fall apart. Combeferre comes over to him after a moment, when Courfeyrac has starting murmuring soothing nonsense in Enjolras's ear. “I brought the paperwork,” he says, like this is an event they're planning. “The forms haven't been updated since at least the seventies, Enjolras is going to hate having to fill them out.”
“You should say hi to him.”
“Let Courfeyrac deal with him first. It goes much more easily after that.” Combeferre gives him a sideways look and lowers his voice. “Are you okay?”
“Doesn't matter much if I am, does it? As long as he is.”
“I'm ashamed you think so little of me.”
“Of myself,” Grantaire corrects. He's nothing if not scrupulously honest. In most respects, anyway. “He's upset. I don't know what to do,” he adds when Combeferre doesn't seem to have an answer to that.
“You've been doing fine.” Combeferre is still frowning at him like he's waiting for something, and Grantaire moves to the kitchen to put on a kettle mostly for something to do with his hands. If Combeferre and Courfeyrac have been at a cafe they probably don't need a beverage, but Combeferre doesn't object and Courfeyrac is still standing in Grantaire's doorway stroking Enjolras's hair.
The kettle has almost boiled by the time Enjolras finally lifts his head from Courfeyrac's shoulder. He keeps hold of him, though, drags him over to Grantaire's couch and sits him down, picking up the sketchbook and starting to write. “Go over there, hand him the forms. Or leave, if you want. I'll keep myself busy.”
Combeferre frowns at him while he gets mugs out of the cabinet. “We'll stay here a little while, if it's all the same. I don't want to take him outside for a little while.”
“He says stop talking about him and both of you come over here,” says Courfeyrac, and there isn't much to do but obey that.
Grantaire sits on the floor despite Combeferre's polite objection and leaves his kettle to cool uselessly back down. Nobody was going to drink the tea anyway. It's not like a warm beverage will soothe Enjolras's throat, or any of their nerves. “So what do we do?”
“We fill out the forms,” says Combeferre, and doesn't even look at Enjolras, who is wearing a hilariously offended expression, before he continues. “I know how much you hate bureaucracy, but you're going to have to deal with it. It's illegal not to register a curse with the bureau, no matter how underfunded it is, and no matter if you think a curse is unjust or not. You're going to get sympathy for it, anyway.” He drops the forms on Enjolras's lap and Enjolras scowls and starts filling out the top.
“I know, I know, you don't want sympathy,” says Courfeyrac, like he knows just what Enjolras is thinking. He probably does. The three of them are as close as the Fates or the Graces. It feels like intruding, sitting on the floor watching them. “Say something for me, would you? I'm curious.”
“No,” says Grantaire before Enjolras can snap up to look horrified at Courfeyrac. “He doesn't want to cause people pain for science. We've had this discussion.” Combeferre gives him a sharp look, but Grantaire ignores it. “I'm thinking we should pop him in a soundproof room, have him rant at a recorder. I wonder if it would record the weird overtones? They seem to be psychological, to be honest.”
Combeferre nods at him. “We'll give it a try, thank you. Enjolras, I swear to Athena, if you get self-righteous on this form I am going to make you fill it out again. Some poor employee is going to be processing it, not the gods themselves.” Enjolras, who had been glowering at the paper, moves to glower at Combeferre. “Glare all you like, it won't make a difference. I can see you thinking it.”
The three of them sit on his couch for half an hour while Enjolras fills in the form, which is apparently tedious judging by his expression, and Grantaire sits on the floor, feeling useless and stupid and wishing Enjolras weren't using his sketchbook as a clipboard, because then at least he could draw in it while he waits. “We should go,” Combeferre says almost the second Enjolras puts the pen down, and puts his hand on Enjolras's shoulder when Enjolras looks like he might object. “Éponine will be home soon. R doesn't have the space for you, and I'm fine having you at home. We need to work out how to change meetings and get you participation grades in your classes.”
Grantaire stands up first, and there's a flurry of movement after that. Courfeyrac hugs him and Combeferre clasps his shoulder like he does to Enjolras, and it's remarkable how steadying it is. Enjolras just meets his eyes for a second, frowning, before he lets the other two shepherd him out the door.
For a minute, Grantaire just stands there, because there isn't much else to do, given the situation. Eventually, he goes over to the shrine in the window, the one he uses when he doesn't want to go out at night. He lights his incense, prays Please don't let him be punished for something I provoked him into forever as hard as he can. It's still burning when Éponine comes home.
Enjolras gestures him over and starts typing on the tablet. A much better idea than the sketchbook, and less likely to waste heinous amounts of expensive paper. That's good. The last note on it is I'll wait for him but it's being rapidly scrolled up the screen as he types Éponine let me in before she went to class. I didn't break in. She only left about twenty minutes ago, said you were running late.
“You could have texted me. And I'm not exactly sure why you're here. Combeferre and Courfeyrac were going to take care of you, from what I could tell, and don't you have classes to go to? Surely the great Enjolras won't let himself take a day off even in the face of the wrath of the gods.”
The university e-mailed me this morning and as good as told me I'm not welcome in my classes for the foreseeable future. Grantaire hisses at that. They say it's for my own comfort, but I'm well aware I'm a liability, and that people treat the cursed like plague victims.
“If only rebellion were a communicable disease, you would have all of Paris marching to storm Mount Olympus.” Grantaire sits down and twists his hands in his lap. “So you came to me because you're angry about the university?” He frowns. “Combeferre and Courfeyrac don't know, I assume.” Enjolras shakes his head. “You ought to tell them.”
They're both in class. And I'm going to need time to argue them out of missing classes in protest.
Grantaire raises his eyebrows. “I thought you would be in favor of that.”
Protest doesn't do any good when it's just playing into the hands of the establishment. I wonder how many students are suspended a year for curses, or how many workers are fired. There aren't any figures, I've been researching. The Curse Support Bureau is frankly useless, if the gods are going to meddle in our affairs we should at least make the process smoother.
“I smell a cause coming on. It's a good one, though. More practical than attempting to dismantle the pantheon, anyway.” Enjolras gives him a surprised look. “What? I am capable of agreeing with you. I do it often, in fact, in principle. It's the execution where we diverge. Or, I should say, the belief in a possible execution that won't end in, well, this.” He makes a gesture that encompasses Enjolras and his tablet. “And you still haven't told me why you came to me.”
Enjolras pauses over his tablet like he's just having to think of an answer to that, which is stupid. Even if he came over on a whim, Éponine had to have got some kind of reason out of him to let him stay. Éponine isn't very fond of Enjolras, which is probably Grantaire's fault, and he feels like he should make it up to both of them sometime, because he thinks they'd like each other if it weren't for him. Didn't really want to talk to anyone else, he finally types, which is about as clear as mud.
Grantaire leaves it, though. He doubts he'll get a better answer, and if Enjolras doesn't want him prying, he won't do it. “Well, you're welcome to sit around. I have to leave for the other job at five, but you can have the afternoon, anyway. I hope you brought something to do.”
Enjolras brandishes the tablet in answer, and Grantaire goes to his bedroom to get his laptop and his current sketchbook. He's working on a piece on his easel right now, but he doesn't care to share that with Enjolras, so he'll have to content himself with sketching. It's the same book Enjolras was writing in, and Grantaire makes sure to flip past those pages before Enjolras can see the changes, how he drew pencil sketches of Enjolras looking angry, depressed, afraid behind his scribbled words.
He starts a fresh page, doodling little studies while Enjolras types what is probably an angry letter to the university on his tablet. There's silence for a while, Grantaire not starting music out of force of habit, used to having to turn it down to argue with Enjolras whenever they happen to be alone together, before Enjolras pokes him in the side at one particular sketch, raising his eyebrows in obvious question. “We've got to teach you some sign language,” says Grantaire. “And learn it ourselves. Useful anyway, for noisy protests,” he adds when Enjolras looks like he's going to object. Enjolras points at his paper again. “You're nosy. And it's a martyr, one of the monotheists'. Shows up a lot in neoclassical painting, the artists liked the imagery, it's sort of fascinating.”
I didn't think you were taking classes, Enjolras types.
“I'm not. Too broke, and I'd rather look things up on my own time anyway. Doesn't get me a shiny degree, but really, what good does a shiny degree do an artist? Just means that then I'd be overqualified to be a waiter.”
Enjolras looks like he's gearing up to a rant, probably about potential and trying to live up to it, but for once he deflates when Grantaire shakes his head. Are you interested in the neoclassical movement? he finally types, in the pained manner of an elderly relative trying desperately to find something he'll talk about.
“Sometimes. All that great marble, you know? I mean, a lot of it's bullshit, classical sculpture was painted and the neoclassicals liked things to look all pristine, probably because things were stuffy as shit back then and if they were going to have nudes at least they would have clean-looking ones.” He flips a page and starts another sketch, this one more explicitly one of the figures from the monotheist myth he's fondest of, a boy named David who took on a giant. Grantaire refuses to admit he has a type. “But seeing what people do with the style is cool anyway.”
I don't know much about it.
Grantaire snorts. “I wouldn't expect you to. Art isn't exactly your subject, is it?”
Neither is poetry, but I know what a villanelle is thanks to Jehan.
Enjolras keeps looking at him expectantly, a frown line between his eyebrows, and Grantaire can't ever say no to him for long, so he gives in and talks about art movements and common mythological figures in art as opposed to religious art, the differences in styles and intentions. “They actually have a way more cohesive record of their myth than we do,” he concludes. “But you probably knew that already.”
Some of it. I don't know much about religion.
“Of course not.” Grantaire checks the time on his laptop, and isn't really surprised at how much time has passed. He knows how he can get. He's more surprised that Enjolras never stopped him. “Are you ready to tell me what you're here for? Because I don't think it was to hear me talk about art and religion.”
Enjolras frowns more, but he starts typing, tilting his screen away from Grantaire until he shoves the tablet into his lap. It's been brought to my attention that I was unfair to you yesterday, and I wanted to apologize. The situation I'm in is not your fault, and no one with sense could possibly blame you. We argue often, but my views on the gods and their treatment of humanity are my own. You were kind to help me.
“Give my thanks to Combeferre.” Enjolras opens his mouth and then, scowling, punches the back of the couch, bringing up a tiny cloud of dust. Grantaire and Éponine don't do their duty to Hestia very well sometimes. “Fine, fine, my thanks to you as well, David.” Eyebrows. “A myth. Come on, I can't do all your work for you.”
You aren't very gracious at accepting apologies.
“I'm out of practice at it, forgive me.” Grantaire stands up. “I've got to get ready for work. You're welcome to sit around if you want, but the restaurant is in the opposite direction to anywhere you want to be, and I imagine you want to talk to Combeferre and Courfeyrac sooner rather than later about your plan of attack.”
Enjolras doesn't object, so Grantaire wanders into his bedroom to put on his uniform, which at least isn't painful to wear. He's had to wear some shitty uniforms in his day, so this one doesn't even register, despite the cheerful embroidered Gorgon under the Stone Soup stitched on the breast pocket of the shirt. Enjolras, when he sees it, makes a truly hilarious face, so it's worth it for that alone. Still, he holds his tablet up to Grantaire and Grantaire takes it. Thank you for having me. I'll text you about meetings, or Combeferre will.
“Leaving, then?” Enjolras nods. “I'll walk you to the door.” It's only five feet to the door, so Grantaire feels faintly ridiculous opening it to gesture him out, but Enjolras doesn't seem to mind. He steps out, buttoning his jacket as he goes, and turns around once he's outside. “Thanks for stopping by,” Grantaire says, since Enjolras seems to be expecting something from him. The silence is unnerving. “It's going to be okay, you know? You'll figure something out. I believe in you.” Enjolras's lips quirk. “Yeah, yeah, don't tell anyone and don't let it go to your head.”
Enjolras waves, and Grantaire shuts the door. There isn't much else to do.
He watches Enjolras walk away out the window, making sure he's well away down the street before he puts on his own jacket and starts his walk to work.
Combeferre stands to begin, clearing his throat as he goes. “As I'm sure you're all aware, things will by necessity be changing for us for a while. I'll be taking point on meetings. Enjolras can be reached by e-mail or text or chat, and we're thinking of having some virtual meetings when the loss of his voice would be devastating rather than detrimental to a discussion.”
If it were Enjolras speaking, Grantaire would chime in there, say “The loss of Enjolras's dulcet tones is always devastating.” If it were Enjolras speaking, though, he supposes he wouldn't need to. Instead, even when there's a glance or two at him at the obvious opening, he keeps his peace. He doesn't need to push back against Combeferre, maybe because Combeferre makes arguments, not pronouncements. Maybe because Grantaire argues for pleasure more than principle. He catches Enjolras looking at him a few times, though mostly Enjolras stays clutching the arms of his chair and watching Combeferre with a horrible look on his face, the kind Grantaire thinks he must wear on his worst days, when he's so in love it might choke him and knows nothing will change that.
He's glad, for all of three seconds, when Marius comes flying through the door halfway through the meeting, his face red, panting like he ran halfway across Paris. Marius always serves to entertain, and he fumbles just enough that he might overcome everyone treating Enjolras with kid gloves, but then he turns around at the door and there's a woman behind him, all straight brown hair and pink sundress and wide smile. Jehan jerks when he sees them, which is the first sign Grantaire has that Marius didn't just show up in a passion to announce that whoever this is wants to change the world or has a curse as well or something. His stomach sinks just as Marius chirps “Eros shot us! On my way here! I wanted you to meet her at once, isn't she—shit, oh gods.” He clears his throat and turns to the woman at his side. “Mademoiselle, I'm afraid I don't know your name.” He peers down at her hand, though he doesn't bother removing it from his, and anxiously adds “It is Mademoiselle, right?”
“It is.” She has a warm voice, low, and she looks at Marius like he's made of kittens and good wine. “And my name is Cosette. Fauchelevent.”
“Marius,” Courfeyrac says, and he sounds careful in a way that Courfeyrac never sounds careful. Grantaire looks away from the spectacle at the door, but he can't get a clear sightline on Courfeyrac. Combeferre is there next to him, hand on Courfeyrac's shoulder, and that's probably more telling than either of them wants it to be. “Is this metaphorical, or are you actually arrow-shot?”
Cosette frowns a little, looking from Courfeyrac to Marius. “Oh, are you—” She's smart enough to realize when to stop, and kind enough to do it, which makes Grantaire like her, but it leaves the silence hanging awkwardly. “Yes,” she says, because Marius seems to be surfacing from his daze, and that means he's clammed up into embarrassed silence. “We're actually arrow-shot, I've got ...” She tugs the strap of her dress off her shoulder and there's the red bloom of an arrow-shot, something most people just see in textbooks or movies.
“Congratulations,” says Courfeyrac, back to warm so fast that Grantaire could almost pretend he hadn't noticed anything wrong if it weren't for Combeferre's protective stance and the way Enjolras is frowning and not even at the gods meddling in Marius's life. Grantaire thought Courfeyrac wore his heart on his sleeve the way Grantaire always has, but it seems he might have been wrong. He makes a note to buy Courfeyrac (and Éponine, gods, Éponine won't take this well) a drink later and stands up, getting all the attention on himself he can.
“Well, Marius, our congratulations to you and Cosette.” Marius beams at him, and then over at Cosette. “Come, sit down, tell us all about it.” There's a thump, and Grantaire knows it's Enjolras before he even looks in that direction. He's got his fist on the table, probably from pounding it there for attention, and he's glaring murder at Grantaire, who doesn't really have it in him to glare back. “David, just leave it. If we give attention to your curse, we give it to Marius's blessing too. That's how it's got to work.”
Enjolras stares, or maybe glares, Grantaire forces himself not to care which, but he doesn't raise an objection, and neither does Combeferre, so Grantaire concentrates on asking Marius and Cosette encouraging questions until they talk to him and each other, and by the time he's done everyone seems more at ease with it, and Courfeyrac is doing a good enough job of acting happy that Grantaire wonders if he was imagining it.
Cosette is the one who ends the meeting, jolting when Marius asks about her family and blurting “Fuck, I haven't even told my dad!” That gets things bustling, Marius getting up with her like it was never a question that he would go too, and Grantaire waves them out, everyone else calling out congratulations that sound a lot more sincere than they did at the beginning of the meeting. Cosette, to Grantaire's surprise, hugs Courfeyrac tight, whispering something in his ear, and then kisses Grantaire on the cheek. “Thank you,” she whispers, and then they're out the door.
“I think maybe we should call the meeting finished for today,” says Combeferre, after everyone passes a few dazed seconds. Bahorel snorts, and that gets everyone chatting again, packing up their things.
Grantaire catches Enjolras's eye again while he packs his own, and finds Enjolras scowling, but he doesn't have anything to do with that, so he just gives him a jerky nod—one of them has to acknowledge the other somehow, if they can't argue like usual—and then turns to Joly to ask if he has any plans tomorrow night or if there's a chance of a drink.
“I hope you went to work,” he tells her, lighting up a stick of incense and going over to the shrine in the window.
“I have a terrible flu,” she tells him flatly, but she smiles a second later, so she may be over the worst of it. Éponine is nothing if not resilient. She's had to be. “And that had better not be for Aphrodite, R, I can't bear that tonight.”
He puts the stick in the shrine. “Who's it for, then?”
“It's your prayer.”
“Come on, who shall we pray to? We'll be nice devout roommates, my parents would be pleased. Artemis, to free you of the ravening beasts that are men? The muses, to help you get your Echo paper done on time?”
“Athena, to keep poor fools from falling for people they haven't got a chance with.”
He snorts and sends up the prayer before going over to the couch and moving her feet out of the way. “You might have had a chance, if it weren't for the arrow,” he offers.
“Don't be kind, R, I don't need that today. I never had a chance. If I had a chance he would have fallen in love with me sometime in the last three years that I've known him, and it's fine. It really is. I never really thought he would love me, and I was fine with that. He was something nice to think about. What would you do, if Enjolras suddenly loved you back?”
Grantaire shakes his head and pushes her book down so he can look at her. “Marius never hated you.”
“He never felt much of anything for me at all.” Someone starts knocking on the door, and Éponine grimaces, putting her book over her face. “I'm not here. I don't want to talk to anyone.”
“I'll send whoever it is away if they're here to talk to you,” Grantaire promises, and gets up to get the door. He's expecting one of their friends, maybe even Courfeyrac here to commiserate with Éponine (though they don't know each other very well) and he's surprised to find Enjolras standing in front of him when he opens the door. Grantaire's first thought is panic that Enjolras might have heard part of his conversation with Éponine. The second thought is the one he verbalizes, though it's a close thing. “This is starting to become alarmingly familiar. To what do I owe the honor?”
Éponine sits up on the couch. “It really is starting to be familiar. Should I go?”
Enjolras shakes his head and holds up his tablet, a prepared message already on it. Combeferre kicked me out.
Grantaire relays this to Éponine, and then turns back to Enjolras, gesturing him inside. “Not showing enough sympathy to Courfeyrac?” Enjolras gives him a confused, sideways sort of look. “Not a mind-reader, David. And if you're asking how I knew about Courfeyrac, I'm ashamed of you. After the Marius debacle, it was fairly obvious.”
“I refuse to talk about this,” Éponine informs them, and goes back to her book.
Enjolras is still frowning like Grantaire said something surprising, so Grantaire sighs. “Come on, we'll go to my room, it's sort of clean in there, I haven't been home long enough to mess it up recently.”
Éponine waves them off, and Grantaire leads Enjolras into his bedroom, feeling faintly like a mother duck with a particularly grumpy duckling. There's the problem of seating, when they get there, since there isn't really anywhere but the bed and the floor, but Grantaire solves it by sitting on the bed and then thumping it firmly until Enjolras comes and sits down. It's still unnerving to sit in silence with him.
“So,” Grantaire says when Enjolras shows no sign of lunging for his tablet. “Disparaging Courfeyrac's taste? Too busy railing about whether arrow-shot counts as consent to sympathize with him?” Enjolras's blush answers before his nod does. “For some people it wouldn't. For some people, maybe, it does.”
That makes Enjolras go for his tablet. It has to be consistent.
“People aren't consistent, why should our standards be? Look. Marius, and I am guessing Cosette, must have grown up on stories of the wonders of arrow-shot love. So they're excited, they think it's real. And maybe it is.”
So what, would you be happy if it were you who came to the meeting yesterday with Cosette on your arm?
“I like Cosette, don't blame her for the gods' choice, or for hurting Courfeyrac,” Grantaire warns. Enjolras scowls and points down at his tablet again. “No, I wouldn't. I would resent my feelings being tugged around, and I would really resent someone being forced to love me. Even if it was someone I cared for already. What's a curse for one may be a blessing for another.”
Enjolras shakes his head. Just because the arrow-shot is overwhelming doesn't mean it's right.
“So you think they should ignore it and make themselves miserable? Like it or not, they're in it now. They've got choices, but don't you dare tell them they shouldn't make the one that will make them most happy.” Grantaire sighs, fingers twitching for something to do. “Look, I'd say maybe we should worry less about the circumstances and worry more about the fact that the gods clearly still have their eye on us.”
That makes Enjolras snap to look up at him instead of looking like he's thinking about checking the news on his tablet. You think it's related to the curse?
“I don't believe in coincidence. For what it's worth, I think it means that someone on Mount Olympus is thinking kindly of us—stop it, listen to me first.” Enjolras stops before he can explode, his face red with anger, and stares at Grantaire. “Marius could have been arrow-shot to fall in love with someone married, someone cruel, an animal, for pity's sake. Instead, it's Cosette, who seems lovely. Or he could have been shot and not her, and can you imagine Marius's response to unrequited but destined love? There would be poorly-written sonnets. Or someone else in our group could have been shot, someone who wouldn't take it as a blessing—you, or me, or Joly or Bossuet with anyone but each other.”
You think someone—Aphrodite or Eros or both—is somehow saying they're on our side? That seems unlikely. What could we have done for them?
“Maybe they believe the curse is unjust.” Maybe all Grantaire's prayers to Aphrodite haven't gone completely unheard. “Or maybe they're just telling you the gods still have their eyes on us, but wanted to choose a less cruel way of doing it, I don't know.”
I won't tread carefully.
“You never do.” Grantaire sighs and flops back on his bed. It might be mean, making it more difficult for Enjolras to shove his words in his face, but he doesn't particularly want to look at him right now either. “I'm not saying you're wrong, you know? About any of it. The gods can be cruel. They aren't perfect beings free of caprice and feeling—that's just you. But like it or not, they're there.” Enjolras doesn't move, or scoff, or force Grantaire to hear his response by saying it out loud and hurting him. “Nobody likes the thought that they aren't in control of their lives. But think of it this way, David—if they were in control of our lives, they wouldn't feel the need to curse us when we annoy them.”
There's silence, and Grantaire decides not to sit up and see if Enjolras is glaring or ignoring him or typing endlessly on his tablet. Out in the main room, it seems like Éponine has turned on some music, humming softly along with it. Maybe she's making herself dinner, which is a good sign. Éponine doesn't eat much when she's upset.
“Courfeyrac and Éponine should spend some time together in mutual—”
Grantaire is interrupted by a tablet to the face, and he splutters a little before he sets to reading it. If you don't think I'm wrong, I don't understand why you argue so, all the time. You clearly don't like me very much—I have feelings just like anyone, and maybe you've convinced yourself I don't but that just means you don't know me very well. I wouldn't be here if I didn't have feelings. It skips a few lines. Thank you for that last, though. I know the gods aren't going anywhere. But is it such a bad thing to want to live life without interference?
“Probably neither of us knows each other that well,” he says when he's read it over three times and Enjolras lets out an impatient huff, and sits up. “But I like you fine. And I do know you have feelings. Maybe it's easier to think you don't.” He doesn't let Enjolras snatch the tablet back to write Why? as he so clearly wants to do. “That is a question you don't want the answer to.”
This time, Enjolras does take the tablet back. I think I can decide that for myself. Why is it easier to think I don't have feelings?
“Fine. It's an answer I don't want to give you, and I'd prefer you don't argue with that.”
The tablet is gone for a while this time, Enjolras typing and deleting and typing again until he seems satisfied with what he comes up with. He seems weirdly hesitant with the written word in a way Grantaire has never heard him when he speaks, even when he's speaking extemporaneously. Maybe we should know each other better. We're friends, or anyway we have all the same friends, which is close enough. You're an artist, you're observant, you seem to know a lot of random information. You're a good debater, if a regrettably cynical one. You worship Dionysus, from what I can tell. Tell me something about you I don't know.
Grantaire looks up at him, a little surprised. “Aphrodite, actually. For something you don't know. I pay my respects to Dionysus, all drunks do, but Aphrodite is the one I pray to most often.” Enjolras blinks, and Grantaire looks over at the wall before he can ask any more details. “And nobody but Éponine knows that. So there, you know me better already. And you, let's see … you're a student of politics and a believer in the betterment of man. You don't trust the gods and you don't trust love, at least not the romantic kind. You love your friends to distraction, which is why I don't necessarily count myself among their number. The gods couldn't have done much worse to you than take your voice away. What's something I don't know?”
A pause, then the tablet in his lap again. I almost studied mathematics instead. I used to sing.
“Oh, siren!” Grantaire frowns. “They really couldn't have punished you worse. Any other instruments?” Enjolras gives him a startled look and then puts his hands on the sheets like he's playing an invisible piano. “We should find you a keyboard or something, figure out musical signals. Any way for you to communicate. Any word from the university about letting you come back?”
I'm talking to a caseworker from the Curse Bureau. She's very good, but nothing yet. Tell me something else about yourself.
Enjolras never lets things go. Grantaire shouldn't be surprised, but he's definitely relieved when they're interrupted by a knock on his bedroom door. Éponine pokes her head in and frowns between them like she isn't sure whether Grantaire is breaking his own heart or Enjolras is doing the honors. “Anyone who wants microwaved dinner should be out in the main room in two minutes, I'm feeding us.”
Grantaire stands up. “Thanks, Éponine. We'll be glad to. Right, Enjolras?”
Enjolras nods, but he spends most of dinner frowning at Grantaire with a different expression on his face than usual even while he argues with Éponine about the depiction of the cursed in popular literature through history.
Enjolras is the first one to shake her hand, with grudging acceptance, but Combeferre greets her. “We're always glad to have new members. I'm sure you've been made aware of our recent unusual circumstances, and I'm glad that hasn't impacted your decision.”
“You're not the first cursed person I've met,” she tells Enjolras in answer to that, and then moves on to shake everyone else's hands, Marius following along behind her in the puppy-dog fashion he did to Courfeyrac in the early days when he still wasn't used to being around people his own age. He's more starry-eyed this time, if that were possible.
Courfeyrac is one of the last they make it around to, and Marius is smiling, totally oblivious, when he says “Cosette, Courfeyrac is my roommate and he's been staying with Enjolras while they figure the curse out, but I really hope you like him, he's my best friend.”
Cosette gets it, anyway. “I'm sure we'll get along,” she says, and holds Courfeyrac's hand more than she shakes it. Courfeyrac, because he's a better person than most, gives her a kiss on the cheek and tells her something that makes her smile too quietly for Grantaire to pick up.
“Marius, Courfeyrac has a meeting to help run,” Grantaire says before he's sure what he's saying. “Why don't you and Cosette come sit with me? We'll have a table of distraction over here while I make sure Cosette is good enough for you.”
Courfeyrac and Cosette give him almost identical smiles of relief, and when Grantaire catches Enjolras's eye he's watching thoughtfully and gives him a nod that might even be approving. Marius, all unknowing, sits down with a cheerful smile, and then leaps right back out of his seat to pull Cosette's chair out. Sometimes Grantaire can see why Éponine and Courfeyrac both adore him so. “R, you've met Cosette,” says Marius, like that's the greatest honor anyone could have bestowed on him.
“He has.” Cosette smiles and sips the coffee she must have bought before coming into the back room. “He's told me about you all over the past few days, I feel as though I know you already.”
“I'll have to fight my reputation now, will I? That will take some doing.”
“I only told her good things,” Marius assures him, eyes wide and horror-struck.
“Then he must have told you a great deal less about me than he did the others,” Grantaire says, and winks at her to at least make a play of joking.
Joly and Bossuet, the last two to arrive (late, a text from Joly announced, because Bossuet fell face-first in a puddle the second he got out of his last class), come through the door then, and Combeferre calls them all to order. They actually do business this time, Enjolras interrupting on occasion by pressing some kind of button on his tablet that makes a trumpet fanfare (Courfeyrac snorts every time, so it's probably his fault, and Enjolras is probably only keeping it because he upset Courfeyrac the other day) and then handing it to Combeferre for him to read aloud.
Grantaire keeps quiet, even if he wants to argue sometimes, if only for the sake of it. They're talking about the stigma on the cursed—Enjolras must have given in and decided they might as well talk about the ten-ton elephant in the room—and Grantaire can spot the flaws in Combeferre's pleas for equal treatment, for assistance and accessibility for the cursed, but he keeps them to himself. It doesn't sound like fun to bait anyone today.
When the meeting ends, Marius frowns at Grantaire like he's only just realizing he never spoke up the whole time. “Are you okay?”
Dear, sweet Marius. Never observant about the things that matter, but apparently he picked up perfectly well on Grantaire's unusual quiet. “Giving something new a try,” is all he says, and Cosette distracts Marius a second later by asking him about the history of the group. Grantaire feels a little disloyal liking her, given Éponine is his best friend, but he's already fond of her and he doubts that will change.
Courfeyrac draws him aside the second he gets up to mingle. “You're freaking Enjolras out,” he says. “Or upsetting him. It's hard to decode his tone of voice when the tone of his voice is mostly—”
“Sonic screeching, yeah. And I have no idea why he cares. For all he knows I'm just saving my arguments for when I can make them to him again and get an answer back. We have something special, after all.”
“When—this isn't laryngitis, R.”
“I know that. Everyone's always telling me to be more optimistic, though. Can you blame me if I try it now, of all times?” He nudges Courfeyrac with his shoulder and doesn't look over at Marius and Cosette because he doesn't need to. “Are you okay?”
“I'm happy for him. I would be stupid not to be.” Courfeyrac frowns. “How's Éponine?”
“How is Marius the only one who doesn't understand these things? She's okay. Or pretending she's okay. It's hard to know sometimes, with Éponine. You two should hang out.”
Courfeyrac snorts. “That would go well, I'm sure. You have, however, distracted me from my initial mission in talking to you.”
“Enjolras is very nearly as oblivious as Marius, or maybe willfully blind. I'm a sight more obvious than you or Éponine.”
“It is very hard getting him to shut up about you right now.”
Grantaire shakes his head and makes sure he's meeting Courfeyrac's eyes when he finds the phrasing for what he wants to say. “Would you want anyone to give you hope about Marius right now?”
“Ouch.” Courfeyrac grimaces, but he doesn't seem overly hurt, so Grantaire doesn't apologize. “But this isn't me trying to do that, R, this is just me saying that he's trying to figure you out. And he apologized to me the other night when he came home, and it was either you or Combeferre that had something to do with it.”
“Combeferre, definitely. Mostly we talked about how he actually does have feelings and how we feel about the gods. You know, slumber party conversation. I thought about asking if he wanted me to paint his toenails but then I figured he would give me a rant about the fumes hurting the environment.”
Courfeyrac, in a way that really shouldn't surprise Grantaire, cuts all the excess out of that and answers, eyebrows raised, “You're the reason he asked me if I thought he was a robot, then?”
“I never once called him a robot.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I don't know, maybe I am. It was a weird conversation.”
Courfeyrac frowns and pulls him a little further away from the next table, where Bahorel and Jehan aren't exactly eavesdropping on their conversation but aren't exactly having one of their own either. “Are you okay?”
“Shouldn't you be telling me to leave him be and stop giving him existential crises when he's already down? He's one of your best friends.”
“Yeah, but he isn't in love with you. You're the one most likely to be hurt by his sudden desire for your company.”
It probably says something about Grantaire and just how little hope he has that he barely even winces at that. “I get hurt by him fairly frequently, Courfeyrac. I don't think it will be any worse now that he's trying to be civil to me for whatever reason. Any insight on that, by the way?”
“I'm as mystified as you are. Enjolras isn't exactly given to confiding in people at the best of times, and I wouldn't really call this the best of times.” Courfeyrac gives him a brief hug. “You've been great about all this. He won't tell you that, and you probably don't believe it because you probably blame yourself, but I'm fairly sure that not only he but Combeferre and I would be tearing our hair out by now if it weren't for you.”
“Well, let me know if you or Combeferre ever needs to get out for a while. Apparently being in my apartment eating shitty microwave meals is good for the soul. Who knew?”
“For the lovely Éponine, it won't take much tempting to get us over there.” Courfeyrac ruffles his hair. “Let us know if you want Enjolras to leave you alone. I get that sometimes a person needs space.”
“You are better than any of us deserves.” Grantaire makes a show of checking the time. “It's getting to be evening and I have a late shift at work. Give everyone my goodbyes. Let me know if you need me.”
“And the same to you,” says Courfeyrac, and doesn't stop him even though he's probably aware that Grantaire isn't actually working for another hour and a half and has plenty of time and his uniform in his bag.
“Find him a piano,” Grantaire blurts before he can think better of it, and shrugs at Courfeyrac's raised eyebrow. “He's got to have some way to make noise. He says he used to play. Let him do it.”
With that, Grantaire turns before he has to see Courfeyrac's response to that and leaves, goes to Aphrodite's temple even though it's practically empty with light still in the sky. Don't let me get my hopes up, he prays near the altar until his phone alarm breaks the peaceful silence, and then he runs off to work not feeling much better about the world.
He feels worse when he checks his phone on his break and finds a text message from Enjolras that just says You don't need to stop talking at meetings just because I did. “This the opposite of what I wanted,” says Grantaire, maybe to himself and maybe to Aphrodite, and goes back to work.
Grantaire squints down at his phone, exhausted after a night shift followed by a breakfast shift followed by taking Feuilly out for lunch because someone has to make sure he eats in between classes. He's sitting in his living room mostly because the bedroom seems too far, and the text isn't unexpected so much as it is mystifying. Thank Courfeyrac, then, he finally sends back.
It wasn't Courfeyrac's idea. I'm thanking you.
There isn't much to say to that, or at least not much Grantaire can think of. I'm glad you like it. Thank Courfeyrac anyway.
Enjolras doesn't answer right away, so Grantaire figures that's the end of it. He'll find some way to use it to communicate in a way that might work better than slamming things around until he gets attention and then shoving his tablet in people's faces, and maybe things will go at least a bit back towards normal.
Just as Grantaire is about to collect his energy in order to stand and either make coffee so he can stay awake until a reasonable hour or go to his bed and not come out until morning (the main deciding factor will be just how much his head swims when he stands), he gets another text. This one, he discovers, is from Combeferre, and when he opens it all it contains is a picture. Predictably, it's of Enjolras, scowling down at a keyboard in his lap.
I have no idea what that's supposed to mean, Grantaire sends back, and manages to struggle to his feet. Bed it is, then.
“So this is a regular thing now,” Grantaire says, and doesn't bother to make it a question. Éponine, who refused to answer the door, claiming the knock was “familiar,” snorts from her seat on the kitchen counter, where she's rearranging their spice rack. Enjolras rolls his eyes and gives him a sharp nod. “Just checking. Any reason? Or is this just a visit?”
Enjolras taps the keyboard, and then pulls out his tablet to type a few sentences while Grantaire shuts the door and has a brief conversation consisting entirely of raised eyebrows with Éponine. I wanted to practice communicating with people besides Combeferre and Courfeyrac. And I didn't see you at the meeting last night.
“I've missed for work before. Ep, do you want to join us? We can play Name That Tune.”
“I'm fine where I am, thanks.”
I know you have, and I knew where you were, Bossuet mentioned. I just thought I would come and see you.
Grantaire clenches his jaw to keep the peace. He'd rather tell Enjolras that whatever reasons Enjolras has for this sudden campaign of friendship are probably insulting ones and he'd rather go back to pining for him across the Musain, but he suspects the repercussions would be more than he could stand. “Well then,” he says instead. “You know the way to the couch. We're just having a quiet night in here. We might have watched a movie, but we weren't married to the idea.”
Enjolras sits down and swings the keyboard off his back, pressing the button to turn it on. He'll go through batteries at an alarming rate, no doubt. He doesn't seem to have an opening conversational sally. Instead, he taps out a few notes, looking thoughtful, but they don't resolve themselves into a tune.
“Did you want to do anything in particular?” Grantaire asks, and gives Éponine a helpless look. She throws her hands up in the air and turns back to the spice rack, leaving him to catch the tail end of Enjolras shaking his head. “Have you and your caseworker worked anything out about going back to classes?”
Enjolras finds his tablet for that. Fantine says I should work on communication systems before then. I might have to drop the semester, and she recommends online courses.
“You'd have a case for discrimination if they kicked you out of online courses.” Grantaire sits down and eyes the keyboard. “I've only got one number, unfortunately, or I'd say we should play duets.”
“I'm sure you'll make beautiful music together,” Éponine calls across the apartment.
What's the song? Enjolras asks. and then he puts the tablet down and plays the first few bars of “Fur Elise,” probably just to prove he can, face showing exactly what he thinks of this particular of Beethoven's masterpieces while he does so.
“I'm offended, it's much better than that.” He filches the keyboard off Enjolras's lap and gets through about three bars of “Chopsticks” before Enjolras takes it back, and then there's ringing in his ears that takes a second to resolve itself into Enjolras laughing.
Enjolras seems to realize he's making noise the same time Grantaire does, maybe because of the sound of breaking glass and Éponine saying “Jesus fuck” out in the kitchen. There's shaky, horrified silence at that, Enjolras whipping to look between them like he's afraid one of them will drop dead right there.
“Are you okay, Éponine?” Grantaire asks, because he has to, even if it makes Enjolras look pained.
“Just startled. Dropped the container of oregano, nobody with bare feet walk in the kitchen till it's cleaned up. Has either of us ever used oregano?”
“I might have tried to get high off it once,” Grantaire offers, and touches Enjolras's shoulder because he's still looking like he's worried he's a monster again. “No harm done, Enjolras. Nothing hurt. You just laughed, that's all.”
Enjolras grabs his tablet back and bows his head over it and Grantaire lets him have the moment to collect himself because Enjolras's eyes are shiny and if he starts crying Grantaire doesn't know what he'll do. I'm sorry, the tablet says when he hands it over. Tell Éponine I'm sorry too. I still haven't learned to check myself in time if something surprises me. Fantine and I are working on that too.
“He says sorry, even though that's stupid and none of it's his fault,” Grantaire says, and gets a grunt of acknowledgment from Éponine, who's probably paying attention to clean-up rather than to Enjolras. Enjolras is scowling at him, which is at least a familiar expression. “It's not your fault this is the punishment the gods chose, or that they chose to punish you at all. People say things like that about them every day, who even knows why they decided that this time it was worth a curse?”
You don't need to be comforting on my behalf. I'd rather you weren't, actually. I came over here and endangered you and Éponine.
“So you propose to become a hermit? You wouldn't last a week, David.” He reaches over and plays a few tentative notes of “Chopsticks” again. “We'd all deal with a little pain if it meant you were laughing, I think. You don't do it much.”
Enjolras frowns and then goes back to his keyboard and then plays a few bars of something that takes a second to resolve itself, hilariously, into “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love.”
“Yeah, yeah, your friends are going to get hurt, but that doesn't mean we're going to spend less time with you.” Grantaire is glad he chose a song that ridiculous to express his feelings, because it means the smile on his face is at least close to honest. “Now, unless you're going to run off like a nymph from a satyr, show me what you can do on that thing.”
For a second, he thinks Enjolras is going to run off after all, because he still looks that horrified. Grantaire supposes he's glad that it's he instead of Combeferre or Courfeyrac who got him to make noise, because if either of those two got hurt because of him he'd be running for the hills and finding himself a nice cozy cave. With the sound of Éponine cleaning up in the kitchen, though, Enjolras tentatively plays a few chords, nothing in particular.
“We should come up with name signals for you on that,” Grantaire says, almost at random. “All of us can learn them, so when you just want someone's attention you can play a bit of music instead of going through dramatic charades getting their attention.” Enjolras's face lights up, and that, it seems, means the danger is passed. He plays a few more chords, up the keyboard. Up is probably a question. “Bits of tunes that already exist, probably. Like a ringtone, you know? Mostly because it's way more fun that way but also because people are more likely to remember if they know that I'm 'Little Brown Jug' or whatever rather than do-mi-sol-fa-re-mi or something.”
Enjolras plays a few bars of “Chopsticks” and then the question chords again, his eyebrows raised.
“I play some guitar, and did French horn back at school. I just don't know the piano. Come on, let's come up with songs. What can you come up with for Bahorel?”
As it turns out, Enjolras can tap out pretty much any tune he's heard, and that he has an entertainingly wide range of ridiculous pop songs in his arsenal, in no less than four languages. Éponine ends up on the couch with them, laughing whenever Enjolras makes a facetious suggestion for anyone's call, which end up chosen more often than not. She ends up getting “Killer Queen,” and Marius “How Much is That Doggy in the Window” at Enjolras's own suggestion. Combeferre gets some snippet of something classical, Debussy maybe, that Enjolras assures them he'll recognize. Grantaire gets “Chopsticks,” which probably serves him right.
The language evolves throughout the night, half text on the tablet and half tunes on the keyboard. The rising chords stay as queries, and they start going minor when Grantaire annoys Enjolras too much. If they aren't paying proper attention, he just smashes the keyboard with the volume on high and they start again from there. After Éponine excuses herself to read in her room, they even have their first proper argument since the curse, which is a strange sort of relief, with Grantaire arguing out loud and Enjolras smashing on his keyboard and playing impassioned bits of music in between typing out his arguments (at one point when Grantaire concedes a point he even plays the “Hallelujah Chorus,” because Grantaire forgets sometimes that he's sort of a shit. Grantaire wins the point back by saying that Enjolras should probably avoid religious music unless he wants the gods to take him seriously).
It's nearly midnight by the time Grantaire finally yawns enough times to make Enjolras play a few measures of a lullaby and then his rising chords. “Yeah, I should sleep. Get Combeferre to help you make a recording of all this tomorrow though, have him send it around. We should have done it but it's kind of late for it now.”
To his surprise, when he stands, Enjolras does too, without keyboard or tablet, and gives Grantaire a firm hug, the kind he does—well, the kind he does for his friends. For Combeferre and Courfeyrac and Jehan and Joly and all the others, and even Marius a few times, but never Grantaire.
“Oh,” says Grantaire, in a tone that would give him away to anyone with any observatory skills at all. Enjolras just pats him on the back and releases him. “You're welcome.” That has to have been Enjolras's thanks. If it's just something he expects to do now Grantaire may not survive.
Enjolras clasps his hand, warm and smiling, and then moves on, packing his things busily up like he has no idea how thrown Grantaire is. Probably he doesn't. He lingers at the door, fumbling in the bag at his hip for his phone, which he uses instead of his tablet sometimes when he wants to be more portable.
“I'll be at the next meeting unless something weird happens with work,” says Grantaire, because that's probably the question. “Good night. Thanks for stopping by. I was glad I could be helpful.”
Enjolras is still frowning like he has something to say, but he stops searching for his phone. Instead, he gives Grantaire a brief nod and a pat on the shoulder before disappearing down the hallway.
Grantaire lights a stick of incense almost as soon as the door is shut after him, and puts it in the shrine for Aphrodite. I give you all the love I wasted on someone who doesn't return it today. I'll probably give you the same tomorrow.
Éponine comes out while it's still burning, props her sharp chin on his shoulder, and blessedly doesn't ask any questions.
Grantaire raises his eyebrows. “One would think the publicity would please him.”
“The journalist is … unfortunately sensationalist.” Combeferre's expression makes it very clear how much of an understatement that is, and Grantaire can extrapolate the trouble from there. People like reading about those with the gods' blessings and curses, but it's for the spectacle, not much else. “Normally I ask Courfeyrac to help with this kind of thing, but he's out to lunch with Marius and Cosette.”
“Poor Courfeyrac. And poor you. I guess I should go, then?”
“No, he'll be glad to see you. Unless you'd rather not see him when he's in a bad mood.”
“Come on, do you really think that makes a difference where Enjolras and I are concerned? If he's not in a bad mood when he sees me, he certainly is by the time we part.”
Combeferre frowns at him. “That isn't true. Especially not lately. R, I know you're—just don't assume that if he doesn't return your feelings he hates you. There's space in between.”
“I do know that. And his friendship is a lot more than I would have expected a month ago, but I can't help but be a little suspicious of—” Grantaire stops when the music does, and he's glad he did a few seconds later when Enjolras appears in a door, probably the one to his bedroom, scowl lightening into surprise when he sees who's talking out in the main room. “I came to see if you wanted to go for a walk, but I hear you're having a bad day. I'll go, if you prefer.”
Enjolras points at him in a way that Grantaire can't pretend to interpret as anything but an order to stay exactly where he is and disappears back into his room. When Grantaire looks at Combeferre again, he's still frowning, though not at anything in particular. Or maybe he's just too polite to frown at Grantaire. They don't say anything until Enjolras appears again, wearing a jacket and scarf, keyboard slung across his back and tablet clutched in his hand. “Text me if you'll be out late,” Combeferre says, since it's fairly clear Enjolras has elected to go on the offered walk.
“I'll have him back before dark, I have a dinner shift at Stone Soup anyway.” Enjolras grimaces at the name, but Grantaire isn't fooled, Enjolras likes puns as much as any of the rest of them. “Come on, David, we'll go to a park and see if we can convince anyone you're a busker, make a little money.”
Enjolras rolls his eyes and doesn't even bother scowling at him. Instead, he goes over to Combeferre and the two of them have one of their silent conversations, the kind they had even before Zeus took Enjolras's voice away. Grantaire isn't totally comfortable with the amount of looks both of them flick over at him, but he makes a point of scrutinizing their bookshelves instead of trying to interpret whatever they're saying to each other. One of them (or both of them, he supposes) has a fondness for autobiography, judging by the dizzying array of memoirs in three languages dotting the shelves. His money's on Combeferre.
After a minute, Enjolras pats Combeferre on the back and brushes past Grantaire towards the door. Grantaire follows, with one last look in Combeferre's direction, and takes the lead once they get out onto the street, walking onto one of Grantaire's favorite routes, away from the bulk of the people without missing the bulk of the scenery. It's taken him years, ever since he moved to Paris, to curate his routes like this, and he's glad when Enjolras doesn't insist on going anywhere else. He seems content to be led, as much as Enjolras ever is.
Grantaire thinks about filling the silence, but it isn't really fair to do it when Enjolras can't answer, so he sticks his hands in his pockets and they just walk instead, mostly side by side but sometimes with Grantaire in the front, and it probably looks like they aren't walking together at all, or like they're on the most awkward blind date in history. They stop in a park eventually, because Grantaire doesn't want to have to order Enjolras's coffee and either embarrass Enjolras by seeming to not let him talk, or himself by revealing that he's got Enjolras's coffee order memorized.
Enjolras sets his keyboard on his lap when they get there, but he doesn't switch it on. A few people passing slow down, willing to be seduced by a handsome potential busker, but Enjolras ignores them, just tips his head back and closes his eyes and soaks the sunshine in, and they keep going. “I'm surprised you agreed to come out,” Grantaire says eventually, because it's not really his nature to be silent forever, any more than it is Enjolras's. Enjolras doesn't even bother waking his tablet up, though, just shrugs and rolls his eyes, a plain why wouldn't I that isn't plain at all. “I don't know, you're having a bad day, I don't exactly have a history of making those much better for you.”
That makes Enjolras sigh and pull out his tablet, powering it up to tap out Don't fish for compliments on it.
“I'm not. And you don't have to answer, I'm just talking shit, I do that. I'm just a little bemused by our sudden friendship, that's all. If I'd asked you out for a walk before all this, you would have been the one questioning me about my motives.”
Enjolras frowns down at his tablet. You've been a help to me since all this happened. I'm pleased we're better friends now.
You don't need to sound so disbelieving about it. We're friends. You said it.
“And the gods forfend I take it back. I'm not questioning that we're friends. I'm just saying it's weird.” He snorts and taps a restless rhythm out on his knee, looking away from the tablet. “Makes sense in some ways, I guess. Better if I'm the one around if you lose control, rather than Combeferre or Courfeyrac.”
He's not altogether surprised when Enjolras tugs on his sleeve a few seconds later, pushing his tablet towards him. He is a little surprised at how hurt Enjolras looks, hurt more than angry. You can't think that little of me.
“I don't. I think you assess risks even if sometimes you don't care much about the consequences.” Enjolras doesn't move, just keeps looking horrified, and Grantaire thinks about stopping. He's never been good at stopping where Enjolras is concerned, won't stop arguing or following him or loving him. This time, he sighs and looks away. “Let's not have this conversation. We're being friends. See? We're out for a lovely walk in the park.”
The volume on the keyboard is low when Enjolras turns it on and plays a few hesitant bars of “Chopsticks.” Grantaire looks at him. It's beyond cruel to ignore Enjolras when he's got so few ways of getting attention now. He's frowning again. At least that's familiar. When he sees Grantaire is looking, he goes back to his tablet. You should explain this. I don't want you to think I have ulterior motives for spending time with you. I would be upset if you got hurt just the same as I would be upset if Combeferre or Courfeyrac did. I told you the first day this happened that I wouldn't be a monster.
“You showed up at my door that day because you were angry at me. I'm not saying you're going to hurt me deliberately—of course you aren't—but you've got to be honest. Better me than one of them.” All he gets to that is a discordant smash of notes. “Hell, I would rather it be me than one of them.”
You don't think very much of me.
“You don't pay very much attention.” Annoyed question-chords. “This all got off-track, sorry, this isn't going to take your mind off your shitty day.” Another smash. “I think the world of you, David. I just don't think you're all that fond of me. I don't blame you for that. Not like I've gone out of my way to endear you to me.”
He has to wait this time for Enjolras to type all his thoughts out. We almost had this conversation once. You said you agree with me frequently and I asked why you argue with me, and you didn't answer. And if you wanted to be better friends, you could have just talked to me at any time. I can't be that unapproachable.
“It must have escaped your notice, but you're difficult to 'just talk' to. It was always about some cause or other, and as I think I said, I agree that the world is shit. It's just the points past that we seem to have trouble agreeing on. And ...” Grantaire makes sure he's looking at the tablet and not Enjolras's face. He can give himself that measure of protection, anyway. “And I think I should stop there.”
I don't think that. What were you going to say?
“Ah, fuck.” He looks away, and it's still not fair to Enjolras, but he doesn't think he'll be able to say this if he can see Enjolras's reaction while he does. “If we were arguing, at least I had your mostly-undivided attention, and I figured it was likely all I was going to get. Not that I don't believe what I said, but I wouldn't have said it out loud if it weren't for that. I never expected—I don't expect anything from you. I wouldn't have ever said anything, if things hadn't changed, but it's one thing to feel that way and just be someone you argue with who's friends with your friends, and it's another to feel that way and try to be friends with you, and you deserve to know.”
There's a long, long silence. Grantaire closes his eyes, and Enjolras doesn't try to touch him. Maybe he's typing, but Grantaire pays attention to the sounds of people walking by and nearby pigeons instead. Finally, there's “Chopsticks” again, played very quietly, followed by the question chords when Grantaire doesn't look over at him right away. Deserve to know what? says the tablet when Grantaire makes himself turn. He can't bring himself to look at Enjolras's face.
“You can't tell me you heard that little speech and don't know exactly what I'm talking about.”
If you're infatuated with me, that doesn't mean we can't be friends. Courfeyrac and Marius are friends.
“And look what's happening to Courfeyrac!” Grantaire lowers his voice again when a man passing by stops and gives them a hard look. “Don't sugarcoat it. I love you.”
Enjolras types fast this time. I don't think you do, actually.
Grantaire starts and looks him in the face. Enjolras is scowling, but there's a little panic in his eyes too. Grantaire can't blame him. He hasn't been on the wrong side of unrequited love, but he imagines it isn't pleasant. “You can't tell me how I feel just to make things easier for yourself.”
I don't think you can love someone you don't know, and you don't. You've made sure of that, apparently, so you can idealize me or whatever it is you think you're doing that you call love.
“I don't really care what you think about it, Enjolras, because they aren't your feelings, are they? They're mine to define and to choose what to do with and how fucking dare you throw them in my face like this?” He breathes in and out a few times and dares to stay Enjolras's hand when he goes to start typing again, obviously itching to say more. “I haven't finished yet. I don't want anything from you. Nothing you don't want to give, anyway, which means I effectively want nothing. You don't have to make this into something you're comfortable with, something you can break down into bite-sized chunks and argue to death. And it probably sucks to know, but if you want to be friends, really friends, you have to know it. It's frankly embarrassing for both of us that you don't. Everyone else we know does.”
Question chords. Grantaire looks at Enjolras's fingers on the keys. He can't look at his face for too long.
“I've been fairly obvious. I figured you just didn't want to think about it. Which you clearly don't. And which is why I'm suspicious of you suddenly wanting to be friends, to bring this conversation back around to its beginnings. If you'd ever even looked at me, you would have known. So I'm not sure exactly what you're getting out of this, unless it's to minimize damage.” He stands up, and it's unavoidable looking at Enjolras then. He's closed off, the same face he wears when Grantaire has said something nigh-unforgivable in a meeting. It hurts worse than expected, after a few weeks of Enjolras looking more open and expressive. Having to. “I don't exactly feel like continuing our walk, if you'll excuse me. I'm sure you know your way home from here.”
Enjolras looks like he wants to object, but Grantaire turns around and starts walking. The keyboard, volume suddenly turned up, plays the angriest fucking version of “Chopsticks” Grantaire has ever heard, rapidly followed by dramatic smashes of chords that might as well be him shouting for Grantaire to stop and turn around and explain again, explain better. He ducks around a corner instead, one of the side paths everyone overlooks, and isn't surprised to see Enjolras go striding past it a minute later in what he thinks is pursuit.
When the coast is clear, he heads back towards his own apartment. Sorry, he texts Combeferre on the way, inadequate as that is.
What did you two do? is the generous response, and Grantaire decides that he'll let Enjolras be the one to explain it this time. He's going to go home, call in sick to work, and drown himself in the bottle of whiskey he's been saving for a special occasion.
He's well on his way to drunk by the time someone knocks on his bedroom door. “Unless you're here for booze and sympathy, you should probably go away,” he says, just loud enough that Éponine will hear him.
“Booze and sympathy sounds great,” says Courfeyrac, and the only reason Grantaire doesn't sit up is because he's pretty sure his head will spin right off his neck if he does.
Instead, he flops out a hand to gesture Courfeyrac in. “I thought you would be on Enjolras's side of all this.”
“I'm not convinced there are sides, and if there were, your side is the side with the alcohol, and for tonight, that definitely means we're allies.” Courfeyrac sits down on his bed at that, making the mattress bounce, and filches the bottle right from Grantaire's hand.
“That's right, you had lunch with Marius and Cosette. Are they as unbearable in close quarters as they are in larger groups?”
“Oh, shut up.” Courfeyrac takes a swig from the bottle and doesn't even flinch. He isn't usually one of the big drinkers at meetings or after them, but he seems just as intent as Grantaire is on getting drunk tonight. “I like Cosette. And you do too, from what I can tell. If it weren't for Marius, I probably would have asked her out if I'd just met her somewhere.”
“If it weren't for you loving Marius, or her loving Marius?”
“Both, I suppose.” Courfeyrac frowns. “How's Éponine doing about all this?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. She's been visiting Gavroche a lot, that's usually a help. She's been saying that if we can ever afford a bigger place she'd like to move him in with us. Her parents mostly ignore him, which is better than what they did with her, but ignoring still isn't great.”
“You really don't want to talk about Enjolras.”
“I really don't. I suspect you're going to do it anyway. Did you come on your own, or were you sent?”
“On my own. I probably would have punched Enjolras if I'd stayed too much longer.” Courfeyrac shifts until he's facing Grantaire, and Grantaire resists the urge to put his pillow over his face. “He shouldn't have said that to you. Any of it.”
Grantaire doesn't pick up his pillow, but he does look away. “How do you know what he said?”
“He didn't delete his half of the conversation with you, he let Combeferre and I read it. So I don't know exactly what you said but I have some idea, and everything he said was bad enough.”
“I made him uncomfortable. I wasn't really expecting him to do anything else.” Grantaire groans and takes the whiskey back. It doesn't even burn going down at this point. “Do you agree that I'm not really in love with him?”
Courfeyrac slings an arm around him. “I wouldn't feel so fucking sorry for you if I thought you weren't actually in love with him. Same with everyone else.”
“Always nice to be the object of pity.”
“I do have to wonder about your timing, though. You two are finally getting to be friends—he wouldn't shut up about you and the music. Thank you for thinking of it, R, really. But wouldn't it be wiser to wait a little longer if you wanted to tempt him to love you back?”
“That was never the intention.” He takes another drink before Courfeyrac confiscates the bottle. “I've never been out to get him to love me back. Were you, with Marius?”
“Not actively. But it would have been nice. I think we maybe would have made it there if it weren't for this.” Courfeyrac shrugs. “But like I said, I like Cosette, and we were talking about you anyway. And why you chose now to tell him.”
Grantaire frowns, and tries to articulate it in a way that Courfeyrac will understand, since Enjolras didn't understand it earlier. “It felt like false pretenses,” he finally settles on. Courfeyrac makes an inquiring noise. “If we were going to be actual friends, and that's a big enough if, it would have felt like false pretenses if he'd gone into it not knowing I'm stupid over him. It would have come out eventually and he would have been angry. Call this cutting my losses.”
“It's one thing when you aren't close, but when you are ...” Courfeyrac trails off when Grantaire nods. “He doesn't really appreciate knowing, but I appreciate you telling him, for what it's worth. I never thought you would try to seduce him via friendship, but if all the cards are on the table, that's something.” He grimaces and drinks again. “Your timing, however, really does leave something to be desired.”
Grantaire flinches. Courfeyrac has pretty much taken possession of his whiskey, but he's willing to accept that as the price of sympathy. “I know, he was already having a shitty day in the middle of a whole shitty situation and this probably didn't make anyone's life easier. I owe Combeferre about twenty drinks.”
“If Combeferre cashed in on all the drinks and favors people owed him at this point, he would never be sober again, so it's lucky he's a better person than most of us are.”
“I'll drink to that.”
“You'll drink to anything, R.” Courfeyrac hands the bottle over, though, and Grantaire lets the whiskey burn his throat. “Seriously, though. You're going to be okay?”
Grantaire flops over until he can meet Courfeyrac's eyes properly. He's already looking a little glassy-eyed, and Grantaire is going to have to text Combeferre at some point and say Courfeyrac is staying with him because Courfeyrac can't text for shit when he's drunk and Combeferre doesn't need to be worrying about both of his best friends tonight. “I'm not a lot worse off than I was before the curse ever happened. The only difference is that now he knows, and that's better, right? It's got to be better. At least this way I won't get my hopes up if he ever decides to darken my doorstep again.”
Courfeyrac takes the bottle back only to put it over to the side and then pulls Grantaire in for a hug, rearranging them until Grantaire's face is pressed into his shoulder. “I wish he did love you. Not just for you, for him too. I think it would be good for him to love you.”
“You were brave. Whatever else happens, you were brave, and you told the truth. So good for you. Now, the way I see it we have two options: we can sit here and finish off your bottle and cuddle in your bed, or we can get up and go out and do something. Head to a club and find people to at least spend a night with.”
Grantaire sighs and doesn't pick his head up. “I vote for the whiskey and the hugs, thanks.”
Courfeyrac laughs. “Yeah, I do too.”
I'm told I owe you an apology, it starts, and Grantaire really shouldn't be surprised that Enjolras chooses to phrase it like that. I shouldn't have tried to dictate or deny your feelings, however you label them, and I do apologize for that. I hope you'll come to the meeting today. I would like things to go back to normal as much as possible.
It leaves off there, and Grantaire thinks about being frustrated by that, but it gets across exactly what Enjolras was trying to say so he has no idea why he would have said anything else, not really. Enjolras is willing to accept that his feelings exist as long as he can go on acting like they don't, and that's not surprising. Grantaire is less sure that Enjolras really knows what he's asking for when he asks for things to go back to normal, because “normal” for Grantaire involves a lot of staring at Enjolras when he shouldn't and baiting him for attention, and that will be very different now that Enjolras knows.
“Save me,” he tells Éponine when she comes back from work and her parents' place.
“We really need to get laid,” she says, which is probably true but definitely not a conversation he's having right now. “Just don't go to the meeting, R. Everyone would forgive you if you didn't, and you know that everyone already knows what happened so they'll get your reasons.”
“If I don't go tonight, chances are I'll never go back again.” Possibly melodrama, possibly true. Grantaire hasn't decided which yet. “So, I was wondering if you would come to the meeting with me.”
“To the meeting at the Musain.”
“What other meetings do I go to?”
“The meeting where Marius will show up with Cosette and I'll be forced to watch them rub noses or whatever for a few hours while Combeferre reads out Enjolras's rant of the week.”
“Um, possibly that meeting, yes.” Grantaire ducks his head. “I shouldn't have asked. Joly and Bossuet will protect me, and I think Courfeyrac is on my side, if there are sides.”
Éponine sighs and drops down on the couch next to him. “We can just stay in and watch movies. Because I can pretty much guarantee that if you go, you're just going to end up drinking more wine than either your wallet or your liver can afford and getting in a fight with him, and I'm really fucking sick of him making you like this.”
“It's not his fault I'm in love with him. It's not like he gave me encouragement.”
She ruffles his hair and then moves until she can put her arm around him. “Go to the meeting, you're going to go anyway. I can't come, that's just me, I'm almost okay letting Marius go but I don't want to hate his girlfriend when I finally meet her, so I'll be here to pick up the pieces when you get home. That's as good as I can do.”
Grantaire knows when to push her, and this is not one of those times, so he leaves it be and asks her about how Gav is doing, which keeps them both occupied until it's about time for him to go to the meeting and his phone goes with a text. It's Joly, who has been otherwise silent on the subject of Grantaire finally telling Enjolras he's in love with him, and all it says is Looking forward to seeing you later, which means he's got to go.
“Call me if you need me,” says Éponine when he puts his jacket on, and he nods because there's not much else he can say to that and Éponine doesn't like being thanked.
He's not the last one to get to the meeting, but only Marius, Cosette, and Feuilly aren't there, so it feels like a massive crowd when he walks through the door to the back room where they're having their meeting. Joly, Bossuet, and Bahorel are at a table with a bottle of wine and gesture him over before he has time to think about what else he might be supposed to be doing. Jehan is at the next table on his own, looking drawn and tired, but he smiles when Grantaire sits down within arm's reach and gives him a gentle pat on the arm.
It takes until Marius and Cosette come in for Grantaire to pluck up the courage to even glance in Enjolras's direction. Enjolras isn't looking at him, which is probably a blessing. He's frowning at Marius and Cosette instead, while Courfeyrac gets up and says hello (Courfeyrac is a better person than Grantaire is, Grantaire thinks about Enjolras being arrow-shot and feels sick at the thought, and doesn't think he could even bear to look at the other person). It's not the actually-angry frown, Grantaire knows that one too well, but he doesn't know what it does mean, then.
“Feuilly got stuck on the Metro,” Combeferre says, standing up and startling what seems like everyone. “He'll be late, and said we should get started.”
When Enjolras leads the meetings, Grantaire has an excuse to stare at him. Combeferre is a good speaker, and he constructs his arguments arguably better than Enjolras does, if without some of Enjolras's obvious passion and charisma, but he doesn't catch Grantaire's attention as easily. He still finds himself drifting to look over to the corner Enjolras has relegated himself to, and Enjolras catches him more than once as the meeting goes on.
They're talking about the Curse Bureau, and about governmental organizations (not to mention non-governmental ones) that liaise, or supposedly liaise, with the gods, and Grantaire would normally be arguing with whoever was speaking about inevitable prejudice against the cursed and potential solutions for it. He thinks about doing it—Enjolras asked for normal, and Grantaire can't really help wanting to give him what he asks for—but he doesn't really have the energy for it.
The meeting stumbles to a close early. Grantaire can't decide if it's because Combeferre is more concise even when he's clearly trying to incorporate Enjolras's words as well as his own or because Grantaire didn't interrupt him once. Almost as soon as it finishes, Enjolras plays the tune he uses to summon Jehan, and then Bossuet's, and the two of them go over, probably to be assigned whatever tasks Enjolras has seen fit to give them this time.
Grantaire leaves almost as soon as he can get away, when Bahorel has stopped regaling him with stories about the latest boxing matches he's been in and seen in an attempt to cheer him up. Combeferre sees him going and frowns but doesn't make a move to stop him, and Feuilly obviously notices, but Jehan stops him before he can get up.
But the universe isn't exactly in his favor these days, so just about when he's about to make a turn (he could go home to Éponine, which is the smart course of action, or he could go to Aphrodite's temple, say his prayers, and then find someone to spend the night with, someone who at least wants him for that long), there are running steps behind him and he knows who it is before Enjolras catches his arm and spins him around.
“To what do I owe the honor?”
Enjolras didn't bring his jacket or his keyboard with him, but he has his tablet, and he shoves it in Grantaire's face, an angry What was that? written on it.
“What was what?” Grantaire asks, honestly baffled. “I came to the meeting, things are back to normal, right? That's what you wanted.”
Enjolras takes his tablet back. That wasn't normal. You didn't talk. If you're angry at me, you have to explain why. I apologized.
“Oh, I have to, do I?” Grantaire sighs and gets them out of the middle of the sidewalk, since people keep banging into them. “I'm not angry. I promise. I freaked out the other day, but it's fine. We're fine.”
Something is off.
“Nymphs and satyrs, Enjolras, of course something is off. Something is going to continue to be off, probably, until we both get used to you knowing.” Grantaire lowers his voice, since they're still in public and he really doesn't want to go back to the Musain to have this conversation where all their lovely, well-meaning friends will listen in. “Look, normal for you is me not loving you, which is not the same as my normal, and there isn't really a good way to deal with that. You're going to have to forgive me if I need a little bit of time before I can figure out how to pretend I don't want you.”
I'm willing to get used to it, until you get over me. Your friendship has been valuable since I was cursed. I'm willing to deal with awkwardness as long as you don't close me out entirely.
Grantaire snorts. “Getting over you isn't really on the table, David, especially if you're still wanting to spend time with me.” Enjolras frowns and starts writing on his tablet again, but Grantaire shakes his head. “Look, I'll try. Okay? But I didn't talk in the meeting because Combeferre isn't as fun to argue with as you are, and because it's sort of humiliating wearing my heart on my sleeve and having the whole room know it. That's all. I'm not … I don't know. Punishing you, or whatever the fuck you think I'm doing. This is about me.”
For once, Enjolras is the one who drops his gaze, and he takes great care with what he's typing on his tablet. Grantaire does him the courtesy of not reading it upside down even though Enjolras isn't bothering to hide it from him. He waits until it's complete and Enjolras passes it over to him. Combeferre told me I was being selfish about this. So did Courfeyrac, much more loudly. I apologize for that too. This may be uncomfortable for me, but it must be much worse for you.
“Thanks. I guess.” Grantaire must make a face, based off the way Enjolras rolls his eyes, but he couldn't for the life of him say he's doing it on purpose. This whole conversation is surreal, talking civilly with Enjolras about how painfully in love with him he is. “I don't know what we're doing. But you had to know. You would have hated me if we kept hanging out and you found out months or years later. So I guess we're both being selfish?”
His phone buzzes in his pocket just seconds before Enjolras's does, and he checks it because he doesn't want to have to see Enjolras's response to that. The text is from Courfeyrac. Consider this your rescue. Combeferre is asking him to come back.
Sure enough, Enjolras is frowning down at his phone, back in business mode, and when he looks up at Grantaire he already looks like he's going to tell him he has to go. Grantaire saves him the trouble. “You've got to go back to the meeting, there's still stuff about the visibility campaign to talk about, I'm betting.” Enjolras nods. “Then go, I promise I've walked home alone before.”
Enjolras nods a few times and disappears, leaving Grantaire to text Courfeyrac a brief thank-you and decide where he's going.
Grantaire stumbles back into his apartment at five in the morning, mussed and exhausted and far more sober than he wants to be, a number he probably won't call scrawled on his arm. Éponine is asleep on the couch because she's a better friend than he deserves, and he makes sure she's covered up in his extra blanket before he goes into his room to sleep off the night.
Enjolras, though, doesn't text or stop by or anything, and Grantaire does him the same courtesy. They both need time to process everything.
After a week, Combeferre calls. “I need your help,” he snaps before Grantaire can even finish with his greeting.
“What do you need help with? Something carried, leftovers for the homeless from one of my shitty restaurants, my sparkling wit while—”
Grantaire waits a second, but Combeferre isn't forthcoming with more information. “What about Enjolras? I'm not exactly the most helpful person where he's concerned.”
“He won't … I'm not helping, and neither is Courfeyrac. You've been helping him through all of this, R, and I know things are strange, but I think he needs—well, at the very least, I need you to help.”
He breathes in, out, in again. “What's wrong?”
“He finally got around to making a recording of his voice, we had a theory it might work, remember?”
Grantaire flinches. “It didn't?”
“He can't hear the difference in his own voice when he's just talking. It was the first time he heard himself.”
“Okay.” Grantaire is already in his shoes, and he's halfway into his jacket. “Don't tell him I'm coming, he'll just try to be tragic and independent and none of us need to deal with that shit today.”
Combeferre laughs a little, though he doesn't exactly sound amused. “I know him that well, believe me.”
“And destroy the recording. Every copy of it you can, if he made copies, which hopefully he will not have been stupid or reckless enough to do.” He doesn't give reasons, but hopefully Combeferre doesn't need them.
“Bring earplugs,” says Combeferre.
Grantaire pauses at the door, his keys in his hands. “He isn't talking, is he? To try to drive you away? Because in that case you need to get out of there and worry about him—”
“He's crying,” says Combeferre, and Grantaire hangs up and runs.
He doesn't have earplugs—seriously, nobody has earplugs these days unless they have really good sex with someone who snores loudly—but he pops his mp3 player out of his pocket when he gets to Enjolras and Combeferre's building and puts the earbuds in before turning on some music. It's not an ideal solution, but it's something.
Combeferre meets him at the door to the apartment, since Grantaire followed a resident in. Combeferre always looks serious, but today it's more than usual, even though he's wearing plaid earmuffs that must be Courfeyrac's and should just look comical. “He's mostly stopped,” Combeferre says, loud enough for Grantaire to hear it over the low hum of his music. “Better safe than sorry, though.” A second later, he blinks and looks down at his phone. “Enjolras wants to know who's here and says whoever it is should go away.”
“Tough shit. Are you okay?”
“I'm better than he is right now, anyway.” When Grantaire frowns and tries to think of something to say to that, Combeferre shakes his head. “I'll go talk to Jehan or Feuilly later. Courfeyrac doesn't need this loaded on top of everything else, which is why I sent him away, and neither do you. You're here for Enjolras.”
“Let me know if there's anything I can do for you, though.”
“Just see what you can do for him. I wouldn't have called if I didn't think you could help.” Combeferre steps aside and Grantaire comes in. They have actual hooks for jackets and coats, like real adults, so Grantaire makes a point of using one of them, and takes his shoes off too, since their nice clean apartment seems like a place for stocking feet. “You'd better go in there before he keeps texting to ask who's there and tell me to send them away, it's only going to make his mood worse.”
“Do yourself a favor and go out for a while. If he's upset, he's not going to forgive himself if he hurts you by accident again. We'll be okay here. I'll call you when he wants you back and I'll get out if he decides to be a dick. Okay?”
“I'll stay close,” says Combeferre, and nods over to Enjolras's bedroom door.
Grantaire goes over and knocks, since that seems to be what's expected of him. There's no answer, of course, but at least it lets Enjolras know that they're done talking about him. “It's Grantaire. I'm coming in unless you text me in the next ten seconds to say no, and then I'm just going to wait out here until you open the door. You'll have to piss eventually.”
By some miracle, his phone doesn't buzz in the generous fifteen seconds he allows Enjolras. When he tries the door, it isn't locked, so he goes carefully in, turning his music down until he can barely hear it. He'll turn it up again if Enjolras does anything stupid, but for now he can't hear Enjolras crying so he doesn't think he has to worry too much about protecting himself. Enjolras is sitting on his bed, cross-legged. He isn't crying, not actively anyway, but his eyes are red and his breathing is unsteady and he's hunched in on himself and Grantaire wishes he could think of anything at all comforting to say.
Instead, he brings Enjolras his keyboard and his tablet from where they're resting on the desk and sits down on the floor next to the bed. “Combeferre is worried. Did he delete the recording?” Enjolras nods jerkily. “Good. That kind of thing always gets out, and that would not have been good press for the cursed if it hit the media.” Grantaire looks down at his knees so he doesn't have to meet Enjolras's eyes for the next part. “And it removes a lot of the possibility of you doing something rash and deciding to martyr yourself with your own voice to prove the cruelty of the gods.”
There's a long pause before Enjolras plays the question chords. It could mean he's wondering how the hell Grantaire came up with the idea in the first place or if he thinks Enjolras really would or, worst of all, how Grantaire knew what he was planning.
Fortunately, the answer to all three questions is the same. “I'm very good at coming up with the worst-case scenario. Would you actually do it?” This pause is only long enough to make him start worrying before Enjolras plays the sol-do that they agreed meant “no,” since Grantaire can't really look at him right now. He takes it to mean “Not now that I've calmed down” and decides it's good enough. “So, you heard what they did to you. You've known for ages, why did hearing it make a difference?”
He looks up at Enjolras during this pause to find Enjolras typing on his tablet, and he takes it when it's offered. I don't know, but it did. I knew it hurt, but I didn't think it sounded like that. I don't know what I did think, but it was horrible.
“I'm sorry.” He shakes his head when Enjolras frowns and snatches for his tablet. “I'm not taking the blame, you seem to have decided it isn't my fault after all and I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. There's a social convention where people say they're sorry when offering condolences, and I'm partaking. I thought you'd appreciate it.”
Enjolras doesn't roll his eyes, just looks away. Not ready to be cheered up, then. Not that Grantaire is really the best person for that job.
“You can feel sorry for yourself all you want, the gods know I would, and from what I can tell beyond that first day you haven't really been that upset, but you did worry Combeferre. Enough to call me, of all people.” Grantaire snorts. “Apparently I'm helpful. Who knew?” Enjolras is still unimpressed. “Work with me a little here. For once, I'm trying to help.”
Enjolras goes for his tablet this time. You aren't. You have nothing to say about this from experience or anything else valuable. You would have never tried to break your curse in the first place. You never would have been cursed in the first place, because you don't talk about things needing to change. You don't have the right to scold me for being discouraged.
“I don't have the right, but I'm willing to do it anyway.” Grantaire spreads his hands. “I don't know what's going to help.”
You can't help. I just said that.
Grantaire doesn't let himself flinch. “However, I'm here. Doing my best. And if you're going to give up, you could at least tell us that.”
Enjolras pushes his keyboard away. Done with the conversation, then. Sure enough, the next words that appear on his tablet are Go away.
“Fine. If you'll talk to Combeferre, or e-mail your caseworker at the Curse Bureau, she seems nice from what you've mentioned about her, or send for Courfeyrac, or someone. You don't do well on your own, and you're only going to do worse today.”
I'm not good company today. You might have noticed.
“We're your friends, Enjolras, we don't give a fuck if you're not good company, we're just worried, and with good reason. I'll shut up if you want, I'll back off, or I'll call someone else, but you need someone here.”
You say you're in love with me and you won't listen to me, even about my own comfort. That seems backwards.
Grantaire flinches back but refuses to stand up and pace like that makes him want to do. Enjolras is lashing out, and he's allowed, but if Grantaire leaves, he's going to lash out at himself, and that's what he's here to prevent. “You don't get to use that as a weapon. I don't care if you're mad at me, fine, get mad. But you don't get to tell me how to be in love with you when nothing is going to make you love me back.” Enjolras looks away and keep scowling. “What good is sitting in here sulking going to do? No, tell me, I'm curious. Have you decided to take a leaf from my book and give up? If you're upset, that's fine, but that doesn't seem like you.”
Enjolras grabs for his tablet. What else am I supposed to do?
“Find a way to break the curse, find a way to keep going, I don't care. I'm the coward. That's not you.”
Something in that presses a button, judging how fast Enjolras goes pale and then blotchy red. Grantaire feels a little guilty for that, but glad too, because when Enjolras is focusing on him and angry, he looks more like himself, shoulders straight for the first time since Grantaire came in. Leave me alone. I'm not allowed one day to grieve?
“Not if it means you're giving up. You don't do that.”
You can't tell me what I can or can't do.
“No, but I can say that I can't believe the one situation where I'm telling you not to give up and that you should keep trying to change things is the one time you refuse to do just that.”
“Go away,” Enjolras says, he says it, and Grantaire reels back a little where he sits. He can't help it. It's just as bad as the first time. Enjolras seems to realize what he did, but he's still angry, and Grantaire sees him drawing breath and turns his music up to blasting at the same time Enjolras says “Get out” loud enough that he must be shouting to his own ears. Even through the music, it makes Grantaire want to clutch at his skull. Instead, he lunges forward and claps his hand over Enjolras's mouth.
For a moment, neither of them moves, neither of them even breathes. The only sound is the music in Grantaire's ears, probably tinnily leaking out so Enjolras can hear the piano music he's been listening to lately. Enjolras's breath is warm against his palm, and his shoulder is trembling a little where Grantaire's other hand rests, and for a second Grantaire hates himself fiercely, because this isn't the time for the helpless surge of arousal in his gut. “I'm going to stop you before you do something you'll regret,” Grantaire finally whispers. “I shouldn't have provoked you that much. I just want you to be okay. Okay?”
Enjolras nods, just the barest jerk of one, and Grantaire backs off, turning his music off and then taking his earbuds out. Enjolras will probably be scrupulously silent, now, and it feels disrespectful to keep listening to music for this part of the conversation. As soon as Enjolras is free, he goes for his tablet. That was inexcusable, it says when he hands it over.
“Yeah, I get that. I'm sorry.”
That only makes Enjolras look more stricken, which was not at all the intention. He takes his tablet back and Grantaire waits while he types. No, me. I mean, it was inexcusable to say anything out loud just because I was angry at you. I swore to myself I wouldn't do that, I told you that first day I wouldn't be a monster, and look what I did. I knew what I was doing. I can't begin to ask for forgiveness.
“Hey.” Grantaire moves his hands to Enjolras's knees. Enjolras likes contact. It's probably weird for both of them, given it's Grantaire and Grantaire generally avoids touching Enjolras so he doesn't explode, but they could use it right now. “I made you angry on purpose. I knew there was a possibility of incurring risk. But when you're pissed off, you're more likely to do something, and watching you sit here looking traumatized sucked.”
You can't do that. I'm dangerous.
“Not to flatter your ego too much, but you always have been. How many times have we all risked arrest working with you? And it's not like the police treat us like delicate flowers. And to be honest? Yelling at me when I've provoked you is not the worst treatment I've had from you, despite the physical pain.”
Enjolras scowls and looks down at his tablet, taking a lot of time to type out a few words. I don't know why you love me.
“Stupid question.” Enjolras keeps frowning, and Grantaire sighs. “I'll give you a list, if you want the ego boost. It will be humiliating, but I'll do it. However, more relevantly, your curse just means you have to be careful. It doesn't mean you should be left out on Antarctic ice to torture penguins. Sulk if you want, but don't let it beat you, because the whole point of it in the first place is that you spoke out against the gods. Why give them the pleasure of seeing the curse worked?”
Enjolras flinches and looks around like he's expecting a god to show up and give Grantaire a curse to match his, which is almost sweet. Grantaire finally drops his hands, and Enjolras types a little more. It's still strange that you're the one telling me all this.
“None of the others would have pissed you off enough to make you listen. It's my one talent.”
Do you think I should be fighting the gods?
“I think you should be being you.” Grantaire sighs when Enjolras just looks at him. “I'm never sure. I see the point of worshiping what the gods stand for—that's why I pick Aphrodite, more often than not. But that doesn't mean I'm not aware of how cruel they can be, if one goes for the theory of religion that says they micromanage. Or even if one goes for any theory that allows them enough power to prevent some of the bad things in the world from happening. It's probably going to make more of a difference if you try to change humans. Impossible as that is, it's at least slightly less impossible than changing the gods.”
Mostly I do. But sometimes I wish I could shout at the sky long enough for that to make a change.
“You could try it, see if any gods fall deaf and bleeding at your feet, but I don't think it's a very effective strategy.” He settles himself more comfortably on the floor. “But don't give up. If nothing else, the universe will go out of balance. It needs someone who believes in the possibility of change to make up for my cynicism.”
Enjolras doesn't seem to have much to say to that for a few minutes. He pulls his keyboard a little closer but only plays a few seemingly-random notes on it. They need to give him a larger musical vocabulary, it will probably come in handy. When he finally starts typing again, Grantaire makes sure he's giving him his undivided attention. He can at least do that, after prodding him into scaring them both. You said I should be thinking about how to break the curse. Nobody else has mentioned it as a possibility, especially given I'm not going to retract what I said. You think it can be done?
“I think it's stupid not to try, anyway. Not every curse has been permanent. I mean, usually it's repentance that does it, but there could be another way. We can do research. You can ask your counselor. Combeferre may know something, Combeferre knows everything.”
I'll think about it. Grantaire just nods, and the two of them sit there in silence rapidly heading in the direction of awkward. He only starts a little when Enjolras hands him the tablet again. I'm doing a little better now. You can leave. You probably had other plans today.
“Work tonight, but nothing else. I can hang around a little while longer.” He nods at the keyboard. “You can play a little. Show me what you can do when you aren't just trying to summon your friends to your side.”
Enjolras watches him with his brows drawn together for a minute before he finally nods, pulling the keyboard onto his lap. He makes a point of playing the lowest note and then the highest—reminding Grantaire it's not a full-length keyboard, maybe, so he can't be blamed for missed notes. Then he starts playing, rambling through a few tunes before settling on something that Grantaire thinks might be Chopin.
He isn't great. He's not in practice and he misses notes and sometimes he has to stop and scowl and start something else, maybe having lost whatever other parts of the pieces he had memorized. It's nice anyway, though, Grantaire leaning against the bed, his head dangerously close to Enjolras's knee while Enjolras plays for him.
It's probably close to two hours, stretching the time Grantaire can give in good conscience before he has to run home and get ready for work, before Combeferre knocks softly on the door. “Come on in,” Grantaire says when Enjolras stops playing, and stands up when Combeferre pokes his head in, obviously doing his best not to look worried. “Things are better in here. I should get home, though, I have work. You two will be okay?”
Combeferre meets Enjolras's eyes to have one of their silent conversations before he turns back to Grantaire to nod. “We'll be fine. Thank you, R. I owe you one.”
“All I did was make him too angry to sulk anymore,” Grantaire says with a shrug, and turns to give Enjolras a wave. “I'll see you soon, I'm sure. I think I'm scheduled to work during the next meeting, but the one after, maybe.”
Enjolras waves in response, and Grantaire heads for the bedroom door. There isn't anything else to say, really, and he should get on his shoes and get out of their hair. Enjolras stops him by tapping out “Chopsticks,” though, and he turns around expectantly. Enjolras frowns for a second before making a gesture that Grantaire vaguely remembers someone telling him was sign language for “Thank you.”
“You're welcome,” he says, and leaves before he can do anything else stupid.
“I know you're pissed off at him, but he didn't do anything I didn't pretty much ask for, and believe me, I know exactly how that sounds.” He opens the text and blinks at it. It continues to say the same thing. “He wants me to meet his curse caseworker, apparently. This afternoon.”
Éponine puts her feet on the floor, so she probably thinks it's as serious as he does. “What's that, like meeting the parents or something?”
“Shut up, this is going to be a crisis. I can feel the crisis coming on. I may need crisis wine.”
“For fuck's sake.” Éponine sighs and stands up, and then drags him to his feet because she's a cruel human being. “We both know you're going, and we both know you're going to be sober for it, so you're going to ask him what time and where he wants to meet and then you're going to put on something that doesn't have a million paint stains on it and make nice with his curse counselor. Just be careful with yourself while you do it.”
“I've never really been good at self-preservation where he's concerned.” Where are we meeting? he texts back.
“I know that. All of your friends know that, actually.” She frowns. “And now he does, and I don't think he's going to use you on purpose, but you put yourself in actual physical danger going near him the other day and you're probably going to do it again. I mean, good for you for helping him, R—and I'm only going to say that once—but make sure you're being taken care of too.”
Grantaire gives her a quick one-armed hug, which is generally all she allows. She actually hugs back this time, so she really is worried. “Combeferre is keeping an eye on me. And so is Courfeyrac, when he's not pining. Everyone is keeping an eye on me and treating me like a spun-sugar delphinium. When I get my heart broken, it's going to be my own damn fault.”
“Of course it will be, and I'll be a good friend and drag you off to Aphrodite's temple so you can fuck other people. Now go get dressed.”
There's really no reason to disobey Éponine (pretty much ever, but especially when he's about to do things she thinks are stupid ideas), so Grantaire goes and puts on jeans that are mostly clean and a shirt that he wears to job interviews and tries to keep away from art supplies as much as possible. There isn't much to be done about the rest of him, but if Enjolras's counselor spends her career talking to cursed people he probably won't be the worst thing she's ever seen.
By the time Enjolras knocks on the door (twelve minutes after his fifteen-minute text, and Grantaire is going to pretend he doesn't know that), Éponine is back to complaining about the impossibility of finding Echo-related sources without wading through a lot of shit about Narcissus and Grantaire is getting charcoal on his jeans while trying to sketch out his nervousness. Enjolras looks tired and stressed but better than the last time Grantaire saw him (not that that's saying much), keyboard slung across his back and tablet tucked under his arm. He waves when he sees Grantaire, and then peeks around him to wave at Éponine.
“Yeah, yeah. Have him back before curfew,” says Éponine, and most of Grantaire wants to beg her to please stop glaring at Enjolras, it's really not his fault that Grantaire provoked him into losing his temper, but part of him kind of likes that she's getting protective over him, so he ends up not saying anything at all.
Enjolras salutes, which is somewhere between hilarious and mildly disturbing. Enjolras really isn't the type to salute. “We should get going,” says Grantaire before the exchange turns into anything else, and grabs his jacket and keys before he heads out the door. “Are we walking?” Enjolras nods. “And are you going to explain why I'm coming to meet your caseworker?”
Enjolras gestures to the sidewalk and their feet and then his tablet, so the answer is probably no. Enjolras really sucks at charades, but that's clear enough.
“Sign language. Seriously. It's remiss of us not to have all been doing research about it from day one. The music is great, but it needs some supplementary help. Not everybody speaks Beethoven.” Enjolras gives him a sideways look. “Well, of course I do, but what about poor Bossuet? He's tone-deaf.”
He doesn't get a response, but that's fine. It's a nice day, and Enjolras is sure of where he's going, leading him through the streets, stopping patiently a few times when Grantaire runs into people he knows and says hello. A few of them look like they're expecting him to introduce them to Enjolras, but he's really not sure how to explain the curse thing, so he extricates himself from the conversations as quickly as he can.
The Curse Bureau is housed in a broken-down building Grantaire thinks he's passed once or twice, mostly on his way to somewhere unsavory. The receptionist looks bored as fuck and frowns at Grantaire when she sees him. “Are you new? This isn't the office you should be at if you're applying for curse aid.”
“No, I'm just here with this one, actually.” He checks his phone. Six minutes to the hour, which is probably when Enjolras's appointment starts.
“Right.” She squints like there's some sort of trick going on. “Fantine mentioned he might be bringing a guest. I'll dig up a confidentiality form. Hopefully we've still got copies.”
Enjolras goes to sit in one of the dilapidated chairs in the waiting room, one of the plastic ones as opposed to the ones with cushioning, which Grantaire decides is wise when he receives a clipboard from the bored receptionist and goes looking for a place to sit. The confidentiality agreement has that uniquely tired look of old bureaucratic forms photocopied a thousand times and inevitably to be filed somewhere no one will ever see them again except in the unlikely event of them being sued for Grantaire's presence in Enjolras's private session, and Grantaire fills it out with commentary under his breath and catches Enjolras smiling out of the corner of his eye a few times while he does it.
At the hour almost exactly, a woman comes down to the waiting room. She's blonde and beautiful even though she looks pinched and exhausted, and she could easily be Enjolras's secret hot aunt, down to the stubborn set of her chin and her bright red earrings. “Enjolras, good to see you. I see you brought Grantaire. The two of you can come with me, we'll talk in my office.”
Enjolras shakes her hand when he stands, so Grantaire follows suit, handing the form over to the receptionist, who gives it a loathing look, and then him one. He would probably like her, if he met her elsewhere, but she doesn't seem too enthusiastic about her career. And considering her career is meant to involve helping Enjolras, he can't say he's too fond of her in this context.
Fantine's office is on the second floor, which pretty obviously used to be full of offices and counselors but now only seems to have four rooms open out of about twenty. The paint is peeling in the hallway, but her office is warm and well-painted, the furniture comfortable-looking if not pretty, with curtains on the window and a collection of pictures on the walls that look like they must be by some of Paris's various street artists. “Please sit down, both of you,” she says, and sure enough there are two chairs sitting opposite her desk, though they don't match.
Grantaire sits to Enjolras's left and waits for him to set himself up, keyboard propped across the arms of his chair, tablet balancing across it. “So, I didn't exactly get an explanation about my invitation to come to the session,” he says when Enjolras is set up, because Fantine does seem like she's going to start the conversation.
“Enjolras, may I explain for time's sake? You can if you prefer.” Enjolras just makes a gesture that she seems to interpret as an invitation to continue, and Fantine turns to Grantaire with a smile. “Enjolras has told me that you've been of material assistance helping him communicate and that you've been in the way of a few losses of control. I like to meet people in the lives of my clients whenever possible—we're hoping to invite Combeferre soon—and you seemed like a logical place to begin.”
“Well, I'm honored. What am I here to discuss, though?”
“First, I'm here to say that I can offer you a limited number of free sessions to support you while you support Enjolras. If you need help processing, or if you just want to know more ways of helping someone who can't speak, you can call me and I'll do my best to talk you through it.” He nods, although he's fairly sure already that he isn't going to call. “I can also be a resource for general information about curses, things that are on government records that have been ignored or suppressed in the press.”
Grantaire fidgets with the hem of his shirt. “Like statistics on how many curses are broken?”
“Like those, yes.” Fantine presses her lips together and looks even more like Enjolras for a second. It's disconcerting, and Grantaire wants to ask if they've discussed it or if both of them are too serious to care. “Enjolras mentioned that you're encouraging him to research how to break curses.”
“If you're going to tell me getting his hopes up is stupid, I'm going to have to judge you.”
She puts her palms flat on the desk, but she doesn't let him rile her. “Enjolras is level G5 on the scale—the letter because it's a god rather than a magic-user, the five meaning potential but controllable harm to himself and others. By comparison, from what he's told me of your friend Lesgles, he would be a G1, G2 at most. The bad news is that this is France's first reported G5 of the century, so we don't have a lot of reliable data on how often those curses are broken. Worldwide, mid-level curses are broken more often than small ones or large ones, but ones from the gods are a step more difficult. As for actual numbers, level 5s overall break the curses approximately 34% of the time. G5s are more like 28%.”
“One in four isn't too bad. Do you offer support with that?”
“When we can. Enjolras doesn't recall any conditions for the curse being broken, and it depends on how Zeus feels on a given day whether praying to him will be any help. I'm networking with some colleagues worldwide about his case.” Fantine makes very sure he's looking her in the eyes before she continues. “I'm not here to dash his hopes and just tell him to give up and figure out how to live without ever talking again. Can we go forward from here?”
Grantaire looks over to Enjolras, who's looking back at him, frowning. He's used to being frowned at by Enjolras, but this time he seems to have evoked puzzlement more than annoyance. When Grantaire looks at him, he rolls his eyes and nods, which is a good enough answer. “Yes, we can. Sorry. We've already had one giving-up scare this week, I'm not looking forward to the possibility of more.”
She frowns at Enjolras, who actually squirms. It's sort of glorious. “Yes, I heard about that. We'll debrief some about it during this session, I have you for the hour but I don't have anyone scheduled right after you today so we won't have to be in any hurry to finish.”
Fantine, Grantaire is happy to find, is smart and serious and helpful, which is anything but what he might have been led to expect by the general air of the place. She gives them recommendations for video tutorials on sign language, helps them come up with a list of messages Enjolras might want to have musical language for, and updates Enjolras on the progress of talking to the university about getting him back in classes. Enjolras is strangely open with her, given how formal he is even around his friends sometimes—he communicates half by tablet and half by gestures, and includes Grantaire easily enough in the conversation.
At the end of the hour, Grantaire makes to stand up and Fantine stops him with a raised hand. “Enjolras, do you mind waiting for Grantaire for a few minutes? I'd like to have a private conversation with him.”
Enjolras clearly does mind, or doesn't want to be talked about, but he nods and packs himself up anyway before giving Fantine a wave and Grantaire a brief look and going out in the hallway. Which officially makes Fantine one of the two people in the world who can tell Enjolras what to do and have him listen without arguing. “So, what are we talking about?” he asks when Enjolras is out in the hallway and probably eavesdropping.
“Standard practice is to debrief you about your experiences, but I expect you aren't really willing.”
“I wouldn't say that, if you want to remove my briefs I don't think I'll say no.”
Fantine gives him a flash of a wicked smile, there and then gone. “Yes, that's what I thought. At the very least, I want to thank you. All of your friends deserve thanks, but you especially, from what I can tell. Most people get cursed and they lose friends, if only because nobody ever knows what to do, but you've been helping. There haven't been official studies, but it's my personal experience that people with a support network are more likely to break their curses or find a way of living with them.”
Grantaire shrugs. “I couldn't really do anything else.”
“I suppose not.” Fantine frowns, and that's where her resemblance to Enjolras goes to hell, because her frown just makes her look endlessly tired instead of like someone is going to get stabbed. “I do caution you to be careful. People burn out, on curses like this. Enjolras told me he's hurt you, several times. A few times deliberately.”
“Not much could burn me out. I … fuck, whatever. He probably told you about that too. I'm in love with him. It sort of makes it easier to persist.”
“Loving someone doesn't mean you have to hurt yourself. Take it from the voice of experience.” Fantine looks away, over towards the door. Enjolras is probably listening to every word they're saying, but it's not like Grantaire is saying anything Enjolras hasn't heard now. “But keep trying. As I said, you're helping him. And who knows? You could be the one to come up with a cure for the curse.”
Grantaire looks down at his knees before he looks up at her again. “Do you have research on that? People tell a lot of tragic stories, but not a lot of happy ones. I mean, there's that variant on 'Snow White' where it's Aphrodite instead of her stepmother, but obviously everyone's heard of Alexei Romanov, that's an unquestionable case. I mean, then he got murdered, but that's a side point.”
“I'll get you the resources I can. They're thin on the ground. Most Curse Bureaus worldwide don't have the funding to do exit interviews with the people who do manage to find a cure, and there isn't any sort of system for reporting it if they happen to tell us themselves.” Fantine sighs. “I have some books, a few online pamphlets, and you might have some luck scouring the internet, though I can't say I have. There are some curse support forums, and people claim they've been healed there, but there's no verification.”
“Whatever will help. He probably didn't … this is partly my fault. I mean, I keep provoking him into doing stupid things. So that means it's partly my responsibility to fix.” Enjolras keeps saying it isn't, everyone keeps saying it isn't, but Grantaire was the one sitting there in the Musain the day before the curse with Enjolras looking at him like he was something he'd just stepped in, and the one the day after who got a knock on the door and some blame.
“He and I would both argue with you on that, but he's mentioned explicitly that you keep returning to the subject, so I don't think I'm going to convince you otherwise in the few minutes we have. Help him if you want, anyone can help and that means a greater chance of breaking the curse, but take care of yourself as well.”
Grantaire nods. It's not worth anyone's time to argue on the subject, anyway. “It's not like we're together every hour of the day. Combeferre and Courfeyrac—they're the next two you should talk to—deal with him most of the time. I just seem to get in the way of the bad bits.”
“Still. You've been more help than harm.” She smiles again. “I don't suppose you're interested in pursuing a career as a curse caseworker, are you? One of the caseworkers here is planning his retirement, and I'm always on the lookout for people willing to help the cursed without patronizing or trying to shove them off into a corner.”
“I don't think anyone could put Enjolras in a corner if they tried. But I don't have the training, regardless.”
Fantine shrugs and pushes a piece of paper across the table. “It was worth a question. I would encourage Enjolras to take the route, the cursed should be represented in their own bureau, but he'd get too indignant on behalf of everyone who walked through his door. Write down your e-mail for me, please, I'll give you the resources.”
“You have that right. And thanks.” He scribbles his e-mail, and his phone number for good measure, on the paper, then looks up at her again and lowers his voice enough that Enjolras won't hear if he's still listening. “Did he ever ask for the resources on his own?”
“Not before he heard the recording of himself. We were focused more on the practical aspects of living with the curse. I try to be guided by what the people I'm working with want to do. Some people never bother trying to break their curses.”
“Okay, that's … something. I guess. I don't really know.” Grantaire stands up. “Thanks for having me, though.”
Fantine stands too, and hands a business card across the desk to him. “I know you won't call, but I hope you do anyway. Stay in touch even if it's just to keep me updated on Enjolras, I suspect that his self-report is terrible and would be just as bad if he could talk.”
“You've got that right.” There's a sharp rap on the door that only serves to prove Enjolras has been listening in, and Grantaire raises his voice. “Just a second, David, I'm trying to convince Fantine to elope with me, you're ruining my seduction.”
This smile lights Fantine's face up and manages to clear the weariness from her face. “I'm afraid that would be a conflict of interest, but call me when you break the curse.”
“You seem unlikely to give up hope. I would say persistence is half the battle.”
Grantaire snorts. “I'm afraid you have me wrong.”
There's another rap on the door, and Fantine nods towards it. “Fine, look at the materials, then, and call me if there's anything I can do to help. For now, I think he's getting impatient, so you might as well go out there.”
Grantaire shakes her hand. “Thanks for calling me in. I'll keep you updated on him.” She nods and waves him out, and he opens the door, where Enjolras is predictably waiting in a spot where he could obviously hear almost the whole conversation. He's pink-cheeked and looks annoyed and Grantaire decides he doesn't care to deal with it. There's an older man down the hallway poking his head out the door and frowning out at them, probably one of the other caseworkers, and probably as fond of his job as the receptionist downstairs is.
Enjolras leads the way out after a brief scowl that seems to take in Grantaire, the man watching them, and Fantine's closed door. The receptionist doesn't do more than look up briefly when they pass through the entrance, and then they're out on the street and Enjolras doesn't seem inclined to start a conversation about the meeting.
“You must really regret inviting me,” Grantaire says after a few silent minutes' walk. Enjolras shakes his head sharply. “Okay, fine, revising. I know you don't like being talked about, but you had to be aware Fantine and I don't really have much in common but you.” Another shake. “Fine, whatever, be pissy if you want, I don't have the energy. I work tonight.”
Enjolras frowns, or keeps frowning, but it's not one of his worse ones, so he seems to be mostly done with whatever he's annoyed at, or he's saving it for when they can stop somewhere and converse properly. Instead of his tablet, he takes out his phone and starts typing, and several meters down the street Grantaire gets a text. If you were busy, you didn't have to come today. I didn't mean to inconvenience you.
“I would have said no if it were really inconvenient. Maybe. It's not like I say no to you that often unless we're arguing about taking apart the system.”
Enjolras goes back to his phone. He looks like any other twenty-something distracted from a friend by another conversation, which is probably why he's doing it this way instead of on his tablet. Grantaire really should have thought of that before, it's probably wisest for things that aren't paragraphs of text, at least as long as they're out and about. When his phone buzzes again he picks it up to see what Enjolras has to say about that. I'm not sure I'm comfortable having that much impact on what you do. I know I don't get to choose how people feel about me, but I don't want to take advantage.
“You aren't taking advantage. It is what it is. And it's not like I don't have agency. I could and would say no if you told me to, I don't know, chain myself to a police barricade.” Enjolras frowns, apparently unconvinced. Not that Grantaire thinks he's being very convincing. “And seriously, Enjolras, it was just a meeting and I have a few hours before I have to work. I just said that so I wouldn't have you scowling at me for the whole walk home.”
That earns him one more scowl for good measure, but then Enjolras goes back to the phone, and when Grantaire gets another text, this one says Do you really think we can break the curse?
“I figure at least we can try.”
Enjolras doesn't text again for the whole walk home, and Grantaire decides not to interrupt his thoughts. He invites Enjolras up when they get to his apartment building, but he shakes his head and Grantaire decides not to push, just waves and goes up to his apartment and tries not to feel glad that Éponine is off at work and isn't going to interrogate him about the session yet.
Grantaire ends up at a table with Marius and Cosette instead of any of the others, mostly because Joly and Bossuet seem to have invited Bahorel and Courfeyrac into some kind of serious conversation and he isn't in much mood for serious today. They both beam at him, and never let go of eachother's hands. Grantaire doesn't think he's ever seen them out of physical contact, not since the first day they were arrow-shot.
Enjolras plays a few dramatic chords for their attention before Grantaire can do more than say hello to Marius and Cosette, and then he turns the projector on, where the first words read Support for the Curse Bureau.
“The Bureau has almost no resources,” Combeferre says, standing up beside Enjolras, and then smiles around at them all. “He gives the Powerpoint and I give the explanations, for today anyway. We're still working on a long-term solution, but this works for now. And since curses are something that's occupying our attention right now, we thought we could acknowledge that in our latest project.”
Enjolras scrolls down on his tablet, on to the next slide. Curse Bureaus worldwide have been cut in the last fifty years, as curses gained more stigma and less sympathy in the wake of a mid-century rash of cursed soldiers with PTSD losing control and hurting others.
“Instead of giving more support to these people, and to others like them, governments decided they couldn't be seen sympathizing with them when there was so much public outcry. As a result, there's been much less help than there should be for people like Enjolras, much less people in worse circumstances. The people who work at the bureaus help as much as they can, but they're hobbled by paperwork and lack of funding, not to mention by laws that make it acceptable to discriminate against the cursed.” Combeferre nods over at Grantaire, who stiffens in surprise. “You can talk about the state of how things were in there, if you don't mind.”
Grantaire raises his eyebrows. “If you're sure.” Combeferre nods again, but he waits for Enjolras's impatient look. “Yeah, it's pretty sad in there. Not much staff, not much resources for the staff, half the staff seems to hate their jobs and the competent ones burn out. Hell, they tried to recruit me, that should tell you something.” He gets a few startled looks for that one. “No legal department to speak of, no actual academic or scientific study of the cursed, much less how to cure them, no indication that that's even the final goal even though I'm pretty sure that modern democracy is founded on the notion that the justice humans dole out needs to be final, not that of the gods, though I suppose no one has ever been able to accuse the government of not being hypocritical and useless. However, lobbying the government to increase funding isn't going to do shit.”
Enjolras sighs and goes to his tablet, opens up another window and types out I don't suppose we'll be able to stop you enumerating the reasons why.
“Because they aren't going to do it unless public opinion of the cursed changes. You're coming at it from the wrong end.” That gets him stares from everyone. “Public interest campaign, come on, you guys talk about this kind of thing all the time. If you're going to uselessly try to change the minds of humanity, at least pick the public rather than the government. If you're lucky being cursed will start being a fad and you can sneak some funding through the government before they lose interest.”
“Thank you, R,” says Combeferre. “That's a good idea, and we'll take it under advisement. Enjolras, next slide?”
The meeting moves on quickly from there, Combeferre talking statistics, Enjolras bringing up the citations for them from Curse Bureaus worldwide, as well as the few NGOs that offer better support to the cursed but don't have the funding to take on many cases (not that there are any in France anyway). Grantaire keeps quiet even though Enjolras looks at him a few times, and at the end Combeferre brings the conversation around to ideas for a campaign for the cursed that might get them some better press.
Afterwards, Grantaire finds himself alone at the table with Cosette, Marius having miraculously relinquished her hand to go talk to Courfeyrac, both of them laughing and trading gestures. Courfeyrac is a much better person than Grantaire is. When he turns back to look at Cosette, she's turning back from looking in the same place. “I feel sort of awful about it,” she says quietly.
Grantaire doesn't bother pretending he's not sure what she's talking about. “Marius loves you. Courfeyrac gets that. People get over heartbreak.”
“He shouldn't have had to. I mean, I don't think Marius is completely straight, given … well, I don't think he is. So it isn't as though Courfeyrac never had a chance. I feel as though I ruined it for him.”
“If anyone did, Eros did.” Grantaire wonders just how upset she would be if he excused himself for a few minutes to find a bottle of wine. Probably more upset than the wine would be worth, and then Marius would never forgive him, and then Courfeyrac would never forgive him, and then probably Combeferre and Enjolras would get disappointed and angry respectively, and really, their group of friends is way too codependent. “Do you regret it?”
Cosette smiles absently over in Marius's direction just in time for him to turn and beam at her, which does a good job of answering that question. “It's hard to, feeling like this. But it isn't as though it doesn't come with complications. Courfeyrac, for one. My father, for another. He doesn't stay in one place for very long and this time he's going to have to leave me. I don't regret loving Marius, I probably would have found my way there on my own, given the opportunity, but it would have been nice to choose it.”
“So choose what you're going to do about it. Invite Marius to travel with you and your dad, though fair warning you will break lots of hearts if you do that. Or … I don't know. That's what we're all about here these days, fighting the gods.”
Cosette covers his hand with hers. “I'm not quite sure I think that's what you're all about, but thank you anyway. I'll think of something. Marius knows something is up with Courfeyrac, I think, and he's mentioned a friend of yours a few times—Éponine, maybe? He hasn't heard from her since it happened. I don't like that we've hurt people.”
“Éponine will be okay. She's getting there already. Courfeyrac … we'll figure Courfeyrac out.”
“I like him.”
Grantaire snorts. “Then figure him out in bed, that's a neat way of defying the gods without breaking anyone's heart.”
“Believe me, I've thought about it.” Grantaire blinks at her, and Cosette just looks down at their hands, cheeks pink. “It seems like a logical solution, and I'm willing to try, but what if we can't love him as much just because he wasn't shot too? I don't want him to have to deal with that, I think it would be worse for him than thinking we don't want him at all.”
That's a little surprising, but maybe it shouldn't be. “That makes sense,” he says slowly, and sneaks a peek over. “Maybe give him the chance to choose too, though. Try it. If it doesn't work, it doesn't.”
“Is that what happened with you and Enjolras?” Grantaire freezes, stricken, and she winces. “Sorry, I knew there was some kind of story but I didn't really want to ask Marius. I assumed you'd broken up, maybe, or something.”
“No, we were never … I love him, he doesn't love me.” He makes himself shrug. “Old news. Everyone's lives are complicated, I guess, and everyone gets heartbroken occasionally. Kind of the human condition.”
“I shouldn't pry. But thank you, Grantaire—they call you R, right?” He nods. “R, then. I'll talk to Marius. And maybe we'll talk to Courfeyrac. I don't know, but I want people to be happy, and I want to have some control. That's what this is about, right?”
“It can be. I'm not the best person to ask, if you're planning on defying the gods. That would be Enjolras.”
Cosette squeezes his hand. “I think you've been plenty of help. I'm going to go over and talk to them—not about this, not yet, before you get worried—but thank you for this. Especially if Éponine is as good a friend to you as Marius says she is. You don't have much reason to like me. But I like you.”
Without much reason beyond the set of her mouth when she smiles at him and her determination to make things okay, he's reminded of Fantine. It makes him relax a last bit and smile ruefully. “I would probably like you more if you weren't the indirect cause of my roommate's heartbreak, but I like you fine, Cosette. I'm glad you're around, and that you're looking out for Marius. And Courfeyrac, I suppose.”
She stands and kisses him on the cheek. “I'm glad you like me at all, and I do intend to look out for him. Them. I'll talk to you soon, R.” With that, she's across the room, putting a hand on Courfeyrac's arm and then on Marius's, getting involved in their conversation, whatever it is.
Grantaire watches them for a minute or two even though it seems like just a continuation of whatever conversation Courfeyrac and Marius were having before, and when he looks away he catches Enjolras's eye, where Enjolras has been arguing (judging by the amount of negatives and smashed chords Grantaire's been hearing in the background of his talk with Cosette) with Bahorel. For a second, he thinks Enjolras is going to come over, for whatever reason, but then he shakes his head and goes back to Bahorel, and Grantaire stands up and goes for some wine and then a chat with Bossuet.
By the time he leaves, Cosette and Courfeyrac are talking in a corner, both of them laughing, while Marius sits with Jehan and gives them occasional bemused looks. Enjolras plays a bit of “Chopsticks” before Grantaire makes it to the door and smiles and waves when Grantaire turns around, only to shoo him away when he starts to come over.
Grantaire takes the long way home, past Aphrodite's temple. He thinks about going in, but he waits until he gets home and lights incense instead, prays the same prayer as ever and sits up with his sketchbook until Éponine gets home.
It's not that he means to, not really. He means to do the opposite, in fact, because he does want to help Enjolras break his curse. If that means research, he'll do research. There's just the problem that if he does the research and it still doesn't help, he doesn't know what to do. Or if there will be anything to do. Putting off the research won't change the conclusion, but at least it gives him his hopes for a little while longer.
Éponine slaps a paper down in front of him on the third day he spends sitting in the living room between shifts not looking at the PDFs Fantine e-mailed him. He blinks up at her. “What's this?”
“List of people who have had their curses broken, corroborated by about three sources on the internet or from the library, with a brief mention of the cure.” When he stares at her, she crosses her arms and frowns. “I was sick of researching Echo, and also sick of you sitting around here looking tragic. I'm killing two birds with one stone, and you should be grateful.”
“How much should I get my hopes up looking at these?”
“It's not great, but it could be worse.” She nods down at the paper. “Look up John Adams, there or in the books or on the internet. There wasn't a lot of detail, since his curse only lasted a few months, but it sounded a lot like Enjolras's case. Also, shouldn't you be doing this research together? Or shouldn't he be doing it? I'm really not sure how you ended up with this job.”
“Because I couldn't keep my nose out of it, apparently.” Grantaire peeks at the paper. There are only about a dozen names on it, but a dozen is something, anyway. And it's not like data is readily available, as Fantine bemoaned in her e-mail. “I should probably stop. He and Combeferre are probably doing it.”
Éponine sighs. “I can't believe I'm saying this, but text him. Just ask if he's doing it. I'm sure he'd be glad for some help, and your help in particular, because he's suddenly decided not to be an asshole to you. I'm sure this is going to end well.”
“You deserve all sorts of nice things for putting up with me,” Grantaire says. He's going to have to buy her a fairly amazing Christmas present to make up for everything that's happened since Enjolras's curse, he suspects. “And for everything about this. It's sort of shitty timing, what with the Marius thing.”
“I'm done with the Marius thing. It was … I can't get in the middle of that. I don't really want to. There are other guys, and I will date one of them, and this is about you and Enjolras, not me. We'll deal with me when you aren't quite this bad anymore.”
“Unfortunately, my state seems likely to last forever.”
“You are impossible. Do your researching. I'm going to my room and I'm going to watch a movie without you because I do not want to slap you in the face. Text Enjolras.”
Éponine disappears into her room pretty quickly after that, and Grantaire stares at the list for a minute before he decides to look up John Adams, if only to stall texting Enjolras, which would be the wisest course of action. It's a story he's heard a few times in history textbooks, just that Adams had the curse and it was broken, but nobody ever really figured out how. They never really cared too, since he was too busy making America revolt. Now that he's studying it in the context of Enjolras, and with Éponine's magical source-gathering powers, it's a little different. Adams spoke out against the gods, publicly, and got cursed to have his words come out as nonsense as a result. He never showed any sign of repenting, and a few months later he was cured. Éponine's sources say that it was something his wife Abigail did, but that all of their letters from the period were burned so no one can say for sure. Grantaire is going to ignore any potential parallels. He really is.
He texts Enjolras mostly because if his mind is on talking to him it's not on trying to break the curse himself. That's the theory, anyway, though he isn't really sure of the practice. I'm doing some curse-breaking research.
He gets a response less than a minute later. I'm doing classwork, but come over if you want.
Of course you're doing classwork when you are no long actually taking classes.
Are you coming or not?
Grantaire packs a bag with his laptop and some of the paper resources he has. On my way, he texts, and taps on Éponine's door. “I'm not going to ask to come in, just thought I'd let you know I'm going over to Enjolras and Combeferre's. Might be back for dinner, I'm not sure.” The only response he gets to that is the sound of the Star Wars theme getting abruptly louder. She really is annoyed at him if she's watching his favorite movie without him. He makes a note to bring back something lavish and sugary later.
When he gets to Enjolras's apartment and knocks, Enjolras is the one to let him in, waving him through the door. It's a little smaller than Grantaire and Éponine's, probably to make up for it being in a much better part of town, and Enjolras seems to be set up working on an actual desk they have facing their television, because of course Enjolras wants an optimum workspace in every room he's in. “Thanks for inviting me,” he says when Enjolras wordlessly offers him his choice of seat, taking the loveseat, since he likes stretching out.
Enjolras types away on his phone and Grantaire gets a text a minute later. Thanks for doing the research. You don't have to.
“It's something to do. I don't take classes like everyone else, I'm probably the best person for the job.” He opens his bag and smooths Éponine's list out on his lap before he takes out his computer. “Also, Éponine helped a little. Gave me a few names to look up for research.” He looks up Adams first. There's a bunch of historical fiction and very few academic articles from what he can tell, but it's something. “John Adams seems like a good place to start.”
A second later, Enjolras stands up from his desk and comes to peer over Grantaire's shoulder. Grantaire makes an effort to keep his breathing steady, and Enjolras either doesn't notice or doesn't care how close he is so he doesn't go out of his way to keep personal space between them. Enjolras doesn't say anything, or text anything, but he seems to be reading over Grantaire's shoulder.
“It doesn't map perfectly—you aren't married, for one thing. But, I mean, someone who cared about you enough. Combeferre.”
Enjolras frowns and disappears from behind him only to reappear a few seconds later with his tablet and sit down so he can see Grantaire's screen before he starts typing. It doesn't say what caused the curse to break, though, only that it was her who did it. And even then it's just a theory.
“Yeah, but it opens up an avenue or two that wasn't there before, right? If Combeferre, or Courfeyrac, or any of us asked pardon on your behalf to a more forgiving god than Zeus … I mean, we'd have to be pretty honest and say you aren't at all repentant, but it could help. Or, I don't know, true friendship's kiss.”
There's a long pause, Enjolras's hands still over the tablet before he starts typing, and Enjolras never pulls his punches so Grantaire's stomach sinks even before the words appear. You love me. It's a traditional remedy.
“Yes, true love's kiss is a traditional remedy in fairy tales, and also I'm not sure it can be true love if it isn't requited.” Grantaire frowns down at his computer. “I'll ask Aphrodite if she can have pity, if you want to go that road. Tell her I long to hear your dulcet tones again.”
It wouldn't be my first choice of solution.
“Mine either.” Grantaire frowns down at his screen. “What is your first choice of solution? I mean, it takes a god to break a god's curse, and I assume that your ideal solution is not just staying cursed forever.”
It takes Enjolras a while to type his answer, and Grantaire checks a few other links on Adams in the meantime. Someone apparently wrote a romance novel that he's going to have to read when it doesn't hit a little too close to home, it sounds suitably awful. I suppose my ideal solution would be for Zeus or one of the other gods to realize on their own that I may not have been respectful, but I wasn't dishonest either, and to lift the curse on those grounds.
“That seems likely.” Enjolras frowns at him. “What, I thought you would appreciate honesty.”
I just can't come up with any other solutions, none that seem satisfying to me, anyway. I don't want one of my friends to have to sacrifice or debase themselves for me any more than I want to do it myself.
“We'd be willing to do it, if there was a chance, you know we would. I'd play the Orpheus to your Eurydice any day, if we could figure out how, and somehow I'd even resist looking back.” Grantaire keeps typing, name after name from Éponine's list. Repentance, repentance, wisely complaining to a god who was mad at Dionysus when Dionysus had done the cursing, doing a great service for the gods (possible, if they could talk Enjolras into it. He seems the old-fashioned hero type, it's only a pity there aren't really any monsters, any twelve labors for him to do), repentance again. Enjolras sits close enough to him that Grantaire's skin prickles all over and stares over his shoulder, stopping him occasionally when he moves on from something too quickly.
They only stop when Combeferre lets himself in, drawing up short at the sight of the two of them on the loveseat. Grantaire doesn't know what it looks like, only that Combeferre blinks in surprise before smoothing his face over into calm. “R, I didn't know you were coming over.”
“I can get out if you like. I just told Enjolras I was going to do some research on curse-breaking and he told me to come over and do it.” He shoves his laptop away, though it only gets a few inches before Enjolras scowls and snatches it away from him, continuing his reading on one of the articles Fantine sent that's interesting but not very helpful, on different cultures' gods and how their curses get broken. He'll have to remember to send that one to Éponine, though, it's definitely up her alley.
“Not at all, please stay, especially if you're doing research. I haven't time to do much yet.” He frowns and looks between them. “I'll join, if you like.”
Grantaire turns to Enjolras. “What do you say, David? It's your choice.”
Enjolras types on his tablet and then waves it at Combeferre until Combeferre comes over, shucking his jacket and shoes on the floor as he goes (it's kind of a relief that Combeferre is messy. Grantaire would have to give serious thought to him being an android if not for that), and takes it. His eyebrows go up when he sees what Enjolras wrote. “Fine, if you're sure. But you're more of a priority than my classes are, at the moment.”
Enjolras frowns and reaches over Grantaire (Grantaire is not going to swoon, he really is not, even if Enjolras is practically in his lap) to play his sol-do. “I think he means he shouldn't be,” Grantaire volunteers, if only to get Enjolras back to a more handleable distance away from him.
“Are you working later, R?”
“I worked this morning, nothing this evening. I thought about going out, but research seemed like a better idea.”
Combeferre gives Enjolras a quick look that manages to be a silent conversation all on its own before he nods. “You're welcome for dinner. I'll cook, I'll need a break from studying fairly soon anyway.” Grantaire nods, maybe stupidly, and Combeferre squints at the screen of the laptop. “I need to get in contact with Fantine and ask her about these articles, they seem interesting.”
“I'll forward them to you, no need to wait. Though definitely get in contact with Fantine, if only to convince her to marry me.” Enjolras nudges his shoulder and he scrolls down on the laptop, since that's what nudging seems to entail. Enjolras nudges again and he turns to find Enjolras making a point of rolling his eyes. “Don't judge, our love is pure.”
Combeferre looks between the two of them and frowns, though he doesn't seem to be doing it at Grantaire, so that's something. “Good luck with your studying, then. I'll start work on dinner once I'm finished with the chapter I started after class.”
Grantaire tries to settle back down to reading through Fantine's resources when Combeferre goes into his room and pulls the door shut behind him, but it's difficult with Enjolras as close as he is, since he hasn't really retreated at all since practically climbing on top of Grantaire, and it's starting to be a problem. “Okay, personal space,” Grantaire says when he can't take it any more, and Enjolras looks up from the laptop screen, startled. “I know you climb all over your friends, and it means you're comfortable with me, and that's great, but please have mercy.”
Enjolras draws back and frowns at that before typing on his tablet. I'm sorry. It didn't occur to me.
“I know. But look, this is what I said when I said things can't be normal. Apparently we're friends now, which, great, so we can't be the arguing-about-everything kind of normal. We just can't be the kind of normal that involves being in constant physical contact, because I will actually perish of sexual frustration.”
Enjolras really doesn't have any options but silence, but it's awkward anyway, even if Enjolras also makes sure there are a few inches between them before he thinks through what to type. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable.
“You're doing a great job of not treating me like I'm outraging your maiden honor since the whole I'm-in-love-with-you thing, so I'm grateful for that. Just, you know. Rein it in a little.” He picks up one of the stacks of printouts that seems to have more information about Adams's curse in it. “Read this. I am going to stick with the laptop and think about literally anything else.”
That doesn't make Enjolras look very happy, but he starts reading through the printouts, typing notes as he goes, and Grantaire concentrates on his screen until Combeferre comes out to rescue them, fifteen minutes later, and asks for updates on their research while he cooks.
Dinner with Enjolras and Combeferre is an odd experience, when they're away from everyone else. Enjolras keeps his keyboard on the table and eats with one hand while answering Combeferre's queries with gestures or music, although they don't seem to need much besides their psychic powers to communicate. Combeferre asks Grantaire about his jobs and the research, and Grantaire ends up in an argument that's probably half angry pop songs with Enjolras about whether or not the gods' blessings should be recorded and administered by the government like their curses are.
Enjolras gets a text from Courfeyrac that leads to a conversation about three seconds after he offers to do the dishes, so Grantaire does them instead, and isn't exactly surprised when Combeferre comes to lean on the counter next to him after a few minutes. “Are you okay?”
“As okay as any of us. Being friends with him is a stupid idea, isn't it?”
“In general, no. He's a good friend, when he thinks to be. For you, I don't know.”
Grantaire groans. “There's an etiquette to one of your acquaintances confessing he's pining after you, and it doesn't involve being better friends with him.”
Combeferre doesn't answer for a while, and Enjolras is shut in his bedroom texting Courfeyrac, so Grantaire just does the dishes and then leaves the pans to soak because there's only so much of being a good guest that he can take. “I want you to be okay, but he's one of my best friends,” Combeferre finally says. “You're helping him. Not much is helping him.”
“I'm not going to run in the opposite direction. Not much can make me do that, clearly.” He digs his phone out of his pocket and frowns at it. “I should get some dessert and take it to Éponine, she's annoyed at me and I'm his guest, not yours. You've got other things to be doing.”
“Just studying. And you've been helping with the curse, that means you more than earned dinner. But if you want to go home, then of course, by all means, do it.” Combeferre frowns. “Tell Éponine I'm thinking of her. She doesn't … I know I hardly know her, but I do know Courfeyrac. If she's taking this anything like he is she certainly deserves the dessert.”
“Yeah, I'll pass it on.” And she'll get annoyed at Combeferre for the presumption, but that's not Combeferre's problem. It's mostly Grantaire's, since he'll be the one she snaps at. But he probably deserves some snapping, he's been a pretty shitty friend lately. “Tell him to have a good night, okay? And to text if he wants to go over Fantine's materials some more, or if you do. I don't want to interrupt him talking to Courfeyrac. Even if I think Courfeyrac has it a little better than Éponine, given a conversation I had with Cosette.”
Combeferre's eyebrows go up. “I'd like to ask, but I suspect it's the kind of thing that isn't my business and I'll just have to ask Courfeyrac and Enjolras what they know about it.”
“It's probably your business, but I don't want to jinx things. But I think it'll be okay.”
“I hope it is.”
Grantaire doesn't pretend that Combeferre isn't the master of double meanings, just nods and heads over to the couch to pick up his papers and his laptop. “There's a meeting in a few days, right? I'll be late, my work schedule is irregular lately, I really should get a grown-up job where I don't have to write my schedule on a whiteboard every week, but I think I'll be there.”
“I'll look forward to seeing you. And I'll let Enjolras know where you've gone.” Combeferre frowns. “And that it might be kindest of him to leave you alone for a little while, though I can't promise anything.”
Grantaire goes in search of his shoes, bag packed, and makes sure he's looking down at his laces and not at Combeferre. “I'm going to end up with my heart broken, but I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't worry too much about that, it's going to happen somehow anyway and it may as well be good in the meantime.”
“I'll just tell him to be kind. And you to look out for yourself.”
Grantaire gets into his jacket and looks up just long enough to smile at Combeferre. “Oh, I always do my best at that. I'm going to get going before he comes out again, okay?” Combeferre nods, and Grantaire leaves before he can convince himself to do anything else.
He stops by a bakery way nicer than he usually lets himself spend money in on the way home and picks up about six different kinds of pastry for Éponine, and ends up watching the end of Return of the Jedi on her bed when he gets home and bribes her with his spoils. Neither of them mentions Enjolras or Marius at all.
It seems he shouldn't have worried, because when he gets to the meeting focus seems to be split about evenly between Enjolras and Combeferre, standing at the front of the room with what seem to be plans for a public interest campaign for the cursed (Grantaire refuses to feel warmed by that, if only because he has little faith in the possibility of it working), and Marius. Mostly because, Grantaire figures out two seconds after he enters, catching a glare from Enjolras and a wrinkled nose from Joly, who smells him as he passes, Marius is redder than Enjolras's favorite shirt and fidgeting where he sits and not making eye contact with anyone.
Cosette, when Grantaire thinks to look at her, is sitting next to Marius of course, with her hands folded tightly in her lap and nervous anticipation written in every line of her. Either they've talked to Courfeyrac, or she's clued Marius in to the idea that they might want to talk to Courfeyrac, and a look over at Courfeyrac, obviously confused and worried, makes Grantaire guess it's more likely the latter. He decides not to get involved. Cosette seems to know what she's doing and Courfeyrac is fairly quick on the uptake, and he figures Marius is unlikely to break anyone else's heart at this point.
“We have some posters mocked up,” Combeferre says, and Grantaire moves over to a table where no one else will have to deal with him smelling like someone's compost pile, getting a frown from Enjolras as he goes. “R, we might ask you to look at them.”
“I imagine I'm going to look at them right now.”
Combeferre gives him a thin smile. “I suppose you are.” Enjolras clicks over to the next slide, and sure enough there's a picture of him, probably from someone's Facebook album, with the words Why would you treat me any differently if I were cursed? superimposed over it.
Grantaire groans. “Oh, you are kidding me. Enjolras, I know you have no idea how humans work, but I am frankly appalled at you, Combeferre.” Both of them scowl, Bahorel snorts, and Grantaire leans back in his chair. “That slogan is going to get you nothing. Too general, for one thing, and also people have a ready answer to that one, and that answer is that if you're cursed people assume you've done something wrong, period. Which is what we're trying to change.”
Cosette puts her hand in the air. “Also, I know he's just the only cursed person you know and this is an example, not a final draft, but can I preemptively say that it's going to be fairly easy to win people over with a gorgeous young white man? Cursed people in marginalized groups are going to have it way worse.”
“Thank you, Cosette. We'll definitely keep that in mind going forward,” says Combeferre. “We don't want to make anyone out themselves, so it will be a delicate balance finding subjects for the campaign, whatever the campaign ends up being.”
Enjolras switches screens on his tablet and types out Any helpful suggestions, R?
“My suggestions are never helpful,” Grantaire says, mostly for form's sake. “Maudit mais pas mauvais, though. It's better than asking why they treat you differently. Of course they treat you differently. Also, yeah, Cosette is right, if the posters are all you they're going to think we got models. I mean, no exploiting the cursed, but visual curses would probably be more helpful—even if it's just artwork. Put it over paintings of, I don't know, Medusa or something, there are all sorts of Gorgon redemptionists these days. Cain, maybe, for the monotheists, I think that's the one with the mark, and if you're going for diversity ...”
“And if we use artwork,” says Courfeyrac, “we won't be exposing anyone to worse scrutiny if their curse is invisible—we want to help, not harm.”
Combeferre nods. “Thank you, R—and Courfeyrac, of course. If you have any sources for artwork in the public domain, let us know, and if you think of alternatives as well. We don't want to expose anyone to scrutiny, but it's undeniable fact that having photographs will have more impact than paintings.”
The meeting moves on from there, Enjolras trying to get through a few more slides before it becomes obvious that all anyone wants to talk about is the campaign, exactly how many issues for the cursed they should put on posters, and whether they should try to get the Curse Bureau or at least Fantine on their side about it. Grantaire chimes in a few more times, mostly to remind them that the government isn't actually going to encourage them to try to sway public opinion, and to bait Enjolras whenever he starts overestimating humanity again, but falls silent as the meeting degenerates into its usual conversations on vaguely relevant topics.
Grantaire is half tuned into a vigorous debate between Combeferre and Feuilly about whether it's biting off more than they can chew to bring in immigration rights for the cursed, especially those ostracized or injured by the communities they currently live in, when Courfeyrac gets up to cross the room, on his way to the door, probably to grab a drink, and Cosette grabs his arm as he passes.
Courfeyrac turns to Cosette and Marius with a smile, because Courfeyrac continues to be a better man than Grantaire, and Marius immediately transitions from red to maroon. Courfeyrac frowns between them, asks a question quietly enough that Grantaire can't pick it up even when he strains to hear it. Cosette shakes her head, hand on Marius's shoulder, and Grantaire looks around the room. Nobody else seems to be watching them this time, maybe distracted by Combeferre and Feuilly, and when he turns back Marius is muttering something under the sound of Bahorel cheering for a particularly good point on Combeferre's side. Cosette nods this time, and then looks around at the room and then at Marius, maybe noting that her destined mate is sort of terrible at not making public scenes.
A few seconds later, Cosette and Marius are gathering up their coats and phones, and Courfeyrac has doubled back to get his, a frown on his face that says Marius didn't quite blurt everything out. Grantaire thinks about catching him before he leaves the Musain to tell him it's okay, that Cosette at least knows what she's doing, but it's Courfeyrac's business. Grantaire wouldn't believe anyone who told him that Enjolras was inviting him for a talk followed by passionate and unwise lovemaking.
Courfeyrac gets out without being stopped, but when Grantaire looks around again, Combeferre is distracted from his arguments, and Enjolras is frowning and—getting up, which isn't good. Grantaire intercepts him before he makes the door and drags him over to where he's been sitting all night. Enjolras's nose wrinkles, either at the smell or at Grantaire's high-handed behavior, but Courfeyrac deserves a chance to figure things out on his own, without a friend coming to the well-meaning rescue. “Let him deal with it,” Grantaire hisses. “He went with them, it's his own damn choice.”
Enjolras takes out his phone, since his tablet and his keyboard are both back over where he was sitting before. Grantaire's phone buzzes a few seconds later. I just don't want to see him hurt.
“That's great, David, very noble, but it's still his choice.” Grantaire sighs when Enjolras doesn't look comforted by that at all. “He went out there of his own free will, so I don't really see what the problem is.”
This text is long enough that it comes to his phone split into pieces, and Grantaire takes a minute to make sure they're in the right order. Something was strange with Marius and Cosette tonight, I don't want them to tell him they know about his feelings and they aren't welcome, he already knows that and it will only hurt him worse, so I don't want him to have to deal with it. I know it's overprotective but he would do the same for me.
Grantaire ponders that for a moment. “That's bullshit,” he says, and shakes his head when Enjolras stiffens and starts typing again. “Not that you're lying, not that kind of bullshit, I totally get why you think it, but has it maybe occurred to you that Marius and Cosette are sort of stupidly nice people? They wouldn't have tried to gently let him down, Cosette would stop Marius if he tried. So therefore, they want to talk to Courfeyrac for another reason. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt?”
What benefit is there to give them? They're arrow-shot, and seem more than willing to give in to that. I don't know what part Courfeyrac has in it.
“I might have a bit of insider information, but I don't want to say anything that may not turn out to be true so you're just going to have to wait on that front. But, okay, they chose to go with Eros's decision—you don't think they could choose to rebel against it a little too?” If they're asking Courfeyrac what he thinks they're asking him, Cosette must have managed to lessen at least some of her fears that she won't be able to love Courfeyrac as much as Marius.
I don't know what you're talking about.
“Look, I know you're pissed about Marius not fighting the gods, not to mention that he accidentally broke Courfeyrac's heart a little in the process, but he's trying to fix it. Love is not the worst-case scenario, Enjolras.”
Enjolras frowns down at the table. When they're forced, it could be he finally texts.
“They're trying to make sure they aren't cursed. They aren't just walking into this blindly. And neither is Courfeyrac.” Grantaire gets his own phone out and types a text to Courfeyrac, while he's thinking of it: text Enjolras when your hands are free, he's worried. “And honestly? You have other things to worry about.”
He's one of my best friends.
“So let him have the chance to be happy, and pick up the pieces afterwards if it goes badly. That's all you can do, really.” Over in the center of the room, Joly seems to have joined the immigration argument properly, to the extent of stealing Enjolras's tablet to search for statistics, and Grantaire watches it happen for a minute while Enjolras thinks things over, and then turns back to find Enjolras watching him with an expression on his face Grantaire doesn't recognize. “You don't always get to choose who you love, but you can always choose what to do about it.”
Enjolras looks away, and for a minute, Grantaire thinks that's the end of it. Eventually, he picks up his phone again, and Grantaire already knows he isn't going to like what he sees when he opens up the text he gets. Did you feel like you had a choice with me?
“Someone needs to teach you the fine art of not poking at bruises,” Grantaire mutters, and shakes his head when Enjolras flinches. “You're you, Enjolras. No, I don't feel like I had much choice, even if it's in a different way than Marius and Cosette. But I never chose to try to seduce you or anything like that either.”
Grantaire sighs. “Lots of reasons, many of them too complicated to discuss with all our friends sitting four feet away. One of them is going to think to start eavesdropping soon, and while my feelings for you are the worst-kept secret in the group, I'd still prefer they not become a matter of general discussion.” Enjolras is still frowning, a milder version of the expression he wears when Grantaire talks about being more acceptable to damage than Combeferre or Courfeyrac. “Look, the feelings are about you, so you've got some right to hear about them, know about them, but can there be a line on this? I'd rather not discuss exactly how pathetic I am.”
Fine, I'm sorry. Enjolras looks up from his phone and frowns at him when Grantaire tries not to show his relief at that, then starts typing again. You aren't pathetic.
“Well, regardless.” Grantaire stands up. “I need a drink, it was a long shift at work.” Enjolras nods slowly, and Grantaire takes the opportunity to get up and flee for safer climes, getting himself a bottle of wine and then going to lounge over Bahorel's shoulder and point out that some of the so-called third-world countries they're getting immigration data from actually have a better history of working for the cursed than France does.
Within a few minutes, Enjolras is back with the group, snatching his tablet back from Joly and doing some rapid research that leads to him smashing on his keyboard for them to listen and then getting into a debate with Combeferre about how wide they should cast their net on the campaign, which Grantaire stays well out of. He's tempted fate enough for one night.
When Enjolras is distracted, Grantaire slips out, whispering goodbyes to people as he goes, and makes his way to Aphrodite's temple. He gets a text from Courfeyrac just before he makes it to the doors, a simple Thank you that he hopes means what he thinks it does.
Just in case, he makes himself pray thanks on their behalf instead of anything on his own. If he were Aphrodite, he'd be getting sick of hearing his whining by now.
“Fired,” he says, and goes facedown in the couch because he's allowed dramatics sometimes.
“Were you still drunk?”
Éponine is his favorite because she's the only person he knows who could say that without a single scrap of judgment in her tone. “No, I was barely tipsy last night, I was just late. And he'd been looking for excuses.” Grantaire makes a considering noise into the arm of the couch. “Probably because I have been drunk there a time or two, mind you, but that's the only thing that makes washing dishes bearable. Maybe I should apply for that daycare after all. Are they still hiring?”
“You can't show up drunk at a daycare.”
That's her serious tone, and Grantaire lifts his face up to meet her eyes and make sure he gives her a serious response. “I wouldn't. I understand there's a difference between ceramic and small human beings, believe me.”
She relaxes. “Good. Now, do you want coffee before I go to work, or do you want to have a pity party?”
“Can I have coffee and pity?”
“Pity, then. I mean, self-pity. I'm not really expecting you to join in.” He makes himself sit up and meet her eyes. “Things were weird last night. I might have to prepare you for some shitty news.”
Éponine frowns. “I hope that by that you mean actually telling me the shitty news, I really don't want you to tiptoe around things. What is it, Marius proposed to Cosette and he's going to call me to ask me to be his best man?”
“No. Well, not that I know of. Has Marius been calling you?”
“Yeah, and I've been ignoring him. I can only handle so much at one time, and what's the shitty news you don't want to deal with telling me?”
Grantaire makes himself sit up. Éponine would always rather hear something sooner than later,and she'll be pissed off at him for telling her, and for admitting that part of it was his idea, but Éponine's been pissed off at him before, and he has been at her, and they survive it. It just takes a few days of avoiding each other. “I think Marius and Cosette might have decided to give it a try with Courfeyrac.”
Éponine puts her mug down carefully on the counter. Grantaire pretends he doesn't hear it clatter a little where her hands are shaking. “Give it a try how?”
“I'm not sure, but, you know … like Joly and Bossuet with that woman they see sometimes. Only maybe more than sometimes?” He takes a deep breath. “It was kind of my idea.”
“Okay.” She closes her eyes. “I guess … I mean, two people isn't much different than one, if he isn't going to love me he can love whoever the fuck he wants but … fuck you, R. Aren't you supposed to be on my side?”
“Courfeyrac was pining too. And I'm always on your side.” She snorts. “I know I'm not going to be your favorite person for a while, and you're definitely right to be mad. I just wanted you to know. That's all.”
“Right. I know.” She picks her coffee cup up. “I'm going to get ready for work. You go back to sulking on the couch.”
Grantaire does, though he does it on his back instead of his stomach this time, and Éponine slams out of her room and out of the apartment wordlessly fifteen minutes later, dressed for work and carrying a bag that means she's probably going to stay elsewhere for a night or two. For a minute, he debates sending her an apology text, but she knows he's sorry and that doesn't make her any less angry, and he'd be angry at him too, if he were her. If she'd met Cosette and they'd hit it off, he would have tried to encourage her, maybe, but as it is he couldn't really have done anything else, and he can't say he regrets it, just regrets hurting Éponine.
He doesn't have a shift at Stone Soup until five, and he doesn't really want to sleep, so he ends up eventually picking up Fantine's materials and going through them again. There aren't any magical answers he can find, nothing that makes him want to text Enjolras and tell him he's figured out a solution, and after twenty minutes he gives up in disgust and goes back to staring at the ceiling in a sulk.
When his phone buzzes, he expects it to be Éponine with something either scathing or understanding to say, or maybe Courfeyrac with further details about last night. Instead, it's Enjolras, and maybe that shouldn't be as surprising as it is. Are you free to study today?
He thinks about it a minute, about dealing with Enjolras when he's already tired and sad and worried about Éponine and money. It's not like he has secrets from him at this point, there won't be the need to not say it hanging over his head, but he's still on edge around him, so after a minute he texts back Not good company today, sorry but no.
It's less than a minute before he gets a reply. Are you okay? There isn't really an answer to that that's both honest and useful, and when Grantaire lets two minutes go by thinking about answers instead of typing them, he gets another text. Coming over.
Not necessary, he sends back immediately, but he doesn't get a text in return, which means that Enjolras is coming over, if he's any judge at all. He levers himself off the couch and tidies a little, not that the apartment is any messier than usual, and doesn't jump when there's a sharp tap on the door twenty minutes later, when he's gone back to sitting on the couch and staring at the shrine in the window. “Door's open,” he calls, and Enjolras comes in, keyboard on his back and a messenger bag slung over his shoulder. He frowns at Grantaire, and Grantaire says the first thing that comes to mind, which is “I only unlocked it a few minutes ago, I know better than that in this neighborhood.”
Enjolras stands there like he's waiting to be invited in or something like that, and Grantaire blinks a few times before he gestures him over to the couch, where Enjolras sits, dumps out his messenger bag (which seems to be full of the entire curse section from three different libraries), and grabs for his tablet. What's wrong?
“Shitty morning.” Grantaire helps Enjolras with his keyboard, moving books aside until he can set it flat and then turning it on. “You must go through batteries on this thing like nobody's business.” Enjolras plays his question chords the second they're all set, and Grantaire can't really pretend it's anything but a reiteration of his previous question. “Fired from one of my jobs, and then broke Éponine's heart. Don't really want to talk about either, thanks. How's Courfeyrac?”
Enjolras squints at his tablet for a minute before he types. I got a text from him saying everything is okay and he'll tell me more tonight. Do you think that's good?
“Yeah, David, I think that's good.” This time, Enjolras squints at him, and Grantaire sits down on the couch beside him because if they're sitting next to each other it's harder for Enjolras to stare at him. “I told Éponine about the possibility of Courfeyrac and Marius and Cosette. I figured she deserved to know, so she can prepare herself, or something. I knew it would make her upset, I just hate her being upset anyway.”
Enjolras plays a few lines of something sad, maybe his version of a sympathetic apology, and then leans back and grabs for one of the books now spread out around them. It is, to Grantaire's amusement, a children's book from what he can tell, fairy tales about curses and what people did about them.
“I'm not going to be much use to you today,” he warns.
That makes Enjolras pause and reach for his tablet again. You don't have to help if you don't want to. But you're having a bad day and Combeferre is in lectures and I thought it might help to have company. For both of us. I'll leave if you really want.
“Stay if you like. I don't work until five.” He picks up one of the books. “Did you clear the library out of anything that might have anything to possibly do with breaking curses?”
I thought if you were trying, I should try. So yes. There's got to be an answer somewhere, and I want to find it.
“Then we'll find it.” And Grantaire will keep today's pessimism to himself, because Enjolras doesn't need a bad mood taken out on him. When Enjolras goes back to his book, Grantaire picks up one of the others, something that at least looks academic, if musty. He has no patience for academia, which is why he's a waiter (and former dishwasher, and occasional bartender, and possibly child-herder if he does end up applying for that job) and not a student, but he's going to be miserable no matter what he reads, so he might as well take one of the unpleasant ones off Enjolras's hands.
They read in silence for a while. Enjolras takes notes on his tablet and Grantaire tries not to snort aloud at how much bullshit there is in the so-called academic writing, and holds himself ramrod-straight. Enjolras is comfortable with him now, and that's great, but Grantaire doesn't exactly share the comfort. He's having a shitty day and he'd love to be able to lean up against Enjolras like he would Éponine or Jehan or Joly, but they aren't the kind of friends. Might never be, because Grantaire would always be touching him a little bit because he wants him, and that's not good.
Eventually, Grantaire tips his head back against the couch and lets the book fall shut in his lap. It's only a few seconds before Enjolras taps him on the arm, gentler than he's used to Enjolras being. “Headache,” he says, since that's at least part of it. “You keep doing your research, I'm fine.”
After a second, there's a hand in his hair, which Grantaire is pretty sure he's hallucinating for approximately three seconds before Enjolras's fingers start moving, rubbing firmly over his scalp, and he almost moans before he pulls sharply away. When he opens his eyes, Enjolras is very much in his space, a frown notched between his brows, and he mouths a What?
“Have mercy, we are really not going to do anything productive if you touch me.” That doesn't make the frown go away, not that he's surprised. Enjolras has never let anything go in his life. “It feels nice, but it doesn't help. Surely you understand that.”
After a second, Enjolras backs off, still looking displeased. He picks up his tablet when Grantaire doesn't continue. I was trying to help.
“I know you were, the impulse is great, full points for impulse, but you can't do that. It's really not fair, and it's not fair that it's not fair, but I still can't have you touch me. Not and stay sane.”
There's a pause way longer than Grantaire thinks that warrants. That usually leads to paragraphs on the tablet, but this time it only leads to Enjolras drawing away, nodding and looking down at his lap, and then picking up another book and starting to read it without another word. Grantaire stays where he is and breathes for a few more minutes before giving up on the academic book and starting another. He tries to pretend the silence isn't awkward, but every time Enjolras decides he's done with a book he makes such a point of not touching Grantaire that it would be funny if it weren't so uncomfortable.
A few minutes after noon, he gets a text from Courfeyrac. Guess who I'm having lunch with! You get two guesses and you need both of them because it's two people.
“Courfeyrac is out to lunch with Marius and Cosette,” Grantaire says, and Enjolras starts a little where he sits, looking up from his current book. “So, see, it seems to be going okay so far.”
Enjolras frowns again, that searching look that's been cropping up, and Grantaire ducks his head to pretend to read some more. He's read a dizzying amount of fairy tales and even a translated book that is actually titled Chicken Soup for the Cursed Soul, which mostly seems like complete shit. When he tips his head back, too tired of reading to even pretend anymore, there are a few seconds and then Enjolras touches his arm again, though when Grantaire opens his eyes he's reaching across the space in between them.
“This isn't helping my mood, unfortunately,” Grantaire says, and shrugs. He pretends that shrugging Enjolras's hand off him isn't the main point of that, but he probably isn't fooling either of them. “You're too stubborn not to find a cure for this, but I don't think it's going to be today, and all I'm doing is making my headache worse when I do have another job to go to tonight, since it would be nice to keep one of them.”
Enjolras goes for his tablet and tilts it away from Grantaire as he types and then retypes things for a good two minutes. I'm sorry about that. And of course. I'll go. Combeferre should be back from classes in an hour or two. And I'm sorry for wishing myself on you. I just wanted to see you. Are you going to look for another job?
“Kind of have to. There's a daycare, might see if they'll take me on there.” Grantaire stands up and starts packing books up. “And I'm sorry for being bad company. We've still got to figure this out, I guess.”
Enjolras packs his bag and gets his keyboard set as well. I'll keep you updated on any more research. And on Courfeyrac, if you'd like and he doesn't tell you himself.
“I'd appreciate it. I'm a little invested in this working out.” Enjolras throws him an unreadable look from where he's checking his phone. “Their relationship, I mean, sorry. I'll see you around, I guess?” Enjolras nods. “And I'll try to be better company next time.”
They hover together at the door for a few seconds before Enjolras finally gives Grantaire a too-hard clap on the shoulder and goes out. Grantaire texts Courfeyrac to say congratulations and then goes back to the couch to sulk until it's time to go to work again.
It takes a while to think of anything to pray—well, more to the point, to think of a way to narrow it down from please fix everything, which is the kind of prayer gods don't take very kindly to.
He's unsteady on his feet by the time he goes up to the altar. The only person up there so far is one of the priestesses he vaguely recognizes from his frequent visits, a girl with short dark hair and a nose piercing who he always thinks Éponine would like, and she gives him a brief smile in between fixing up tonight's offerings so they look pretty—flowers, condoms, someone's lace underwear, a dildo that gets pride of place. Grantaire stays there on his knees for a while. He wants to pray for Courfeyrac, who probably doesn't need the prayers, and he wants to pray for Éponine, who probably doesn't want them. He doesn't just want to say the same damn thing he always does, because things have changed too much lately.
He won't ask, he finally decides on, but I will. Even if he doesn't love me, I love him, and I worship you. I don't know what I can offer besides what I always do, but I'll do anything I can. And then, because it hardly feels like a prayer without it: I offer you all the love I wasted on someone who doesn't return it today. I'll probably offer you the same thing tomorrow.
“You're here a lot,” says the priestess when he stands up, head tilted like she's examining him.
“I'm in love a lot.” Grantaire stuffs his hands in his pockets. “Do you get a lot of sad people pining around here?”
“More than you could possibly know. Everyone's in love at least half the time in Paris.” She frowns at him. “They're probably not worth it.”
“Unfortunately, he is.” He gives her a nod. “Thanks, though. My best to the goddess. I keep meaning to bring a physical offering, and I will one of these nights.”
She smiles. “Offerings are always welcome, but so are prayers.” She eyes him up and down. “So are other kinds of offerings, if your pining doesn't make for exclusivity.”
“Mostly it doesn't, but I'm a mess today and you undoubtedly deserve and have had better.” He kisses her hand instead of anything else. “And you'll undoubtedly find better tonight.”
That startles a laugh out of her. “Too bad. And good luck with him, for whatever that's worth.”
“I suppose we'll have to see if a priestess wishing me luck makes for a difference from anyone else.”
She snorts. “Impossible,” she pronounces, and kisses him on the cheek, surprisingly sisterly given she just asked him to have sex with her. “Love isn't wasted, no matter if they love you back or not,” she adds, and goes back to arranging the offerings while he blinks at the echo to his thoughts. It was a clear dismissal, though, so he doesn't ask, just walks off the altar and through the dance floor, starting to fill up.
His phone buzzes with a text just as he's starting to wonder about just dancing, even if he's probably not going to have sex with anyone tonight. You and Éponine aren't home, Enjolras and Combeferre are dealing with Enjolras having some kind of crisis, and I want to talk to someone, where are you? Courfeyrac has written.
At Aphrodite's temple getting drunk, you're welcome to come join and thank the goddess for your threesome.
It's five minutes before he gets another text, and he's made it back to the bar and ordered something—anything—stronger than wine by that time. I'll be there in twenty.
Courfeyrac makes it to him in twenty-five, which is actually better than Grantaire was expecting, given the temple is starting to get more crowded. He's dressed for clubbing and grinning, and the grin only gets a little dimmed when he takes in the state Grantaire is in. Grantaire pushes over the drink he's had waiting for a few minutes. “Congratulations on Marius and Cosette. Things are going well?”
“No sex yet, but that's okay.” Courfeyrac shrugs and takes a few sips of the drink before making a face and flagging down the priest at the bar to ask for something lighter to start with. “They seem willing to try, and I definitely am. It may not work out, but I'm okay with that. A chance is good.”
“Cheers.” Grantaire takes another gulp of his drink. It doesn't even burn going down anymore.
“Are you going to tell me why you're drinking alone at Aphrodite's temple, or am I supposed to guess?”
“Take your pick.” Grantaire scowls down at the table. “Éponine's upset because I told her about the three of you, figured she should find out sooner rather than later. Enjolras came over today and he doesn't seem to understand that the polite thing to do when someone is stupidly in love with you is to leave them to pine in peace until you can both pretend that they might be over you. Got fired from one of my jobs for being late.”
Courfeyrac frowns. “Doesn't sound like a good day. I'm sorry about Éponine.”
“It isn't your fault.”
“And you having seen Enjolras explains a lot about why he was too busy monopolizing Combeferre's attention for either of them to congratulate me.”
Grantaire looks down at the wood of the bar, painstakingly etched with dirty pictures he keeps meaning to take a rubbing of. “I don't know why he's getting—no, that's not fair. I get why he's upset.”
Courfeyrac blinks at him. “You do?”
“Maybe not exactly, but it's Enjolras. He loves his friends and apparently that's a category I'm in these days, and whenever he tries to help me it upsets me worse. It's got to suck for him.”
Courfeyrac laughs. “Yeah, I guess it does.” The bartender brings him his drink and he gulps down half of it in one go. “But you don't need to worry about his hurt feelings. Just don't, I don't know, don't cut him out of your life completely or anything dramatic like that.”
“I wouldn't. Probably couldn't. If nothing else, I seem to be person number one on his list of people to help him with his curse, even though I'm pretty sure Combeferre is better at that kind of thing than I am. Hell, Éponine is better at that kind of thing than I am, as she proved by dropping a list of relevant sources in my lap.”
“You'd have to ask him why he wants your help, if you really want to know.” Courfeyrac takes another drink at a much more reasonable speed. “And I mean actually asking him, not assuming you know his motives and then wandering off to tragically play the balalaika in the snow.”
Grantaire eyes him. “How much have you had to drink?”
“I've been reading Russian literature lately, it's all Jehan's fault. They're all very tragic. And so are you, it's a very good match.” Courfeyrac nudges him with a shoulder. “If you want to know, ask. It's as simple as that. And if you don't actually want to know, then don't ask.”
“Wise advice for life.”
“You are impossible.” Courfeyrac polishes off his drink. One of them is going to have to carry the other home and Grantaire is not sure which. As long as one of them is sober enough to keep the pair of them from falling over, it will have to do. “Come on, I'm going to say my prayers as you so politely told me to do, and then we're going to dance. There is very little point in coming to Aphrodite's temple at night if you aren't going to dance. Or have sex, but I'm not going to have sex with you tonight.”
“I'm not going to have sex with you either.” Grantaire polishes off his drink. “But we can dance, if you want to dance.”
He hovers by the altar while Courfeyrac kneels there for a few minutes, watching the crowd as the dance floor fills up, and then he lets Courfeyrac grab him by the elbow and pull him out into the middle of the floor, and they stay there until it's a mess of hands and limbs and wet kisses, at which point Grantaire excuses himself, tosses a shot of whiskey, and waits for Courfeyrac by the door.
“We'll go back to yours,” says Courfeyrac, more sober than he has a right to be. “I want to give Marius space tonight, make sure he's definitely sure about everything, and if Éponine is away then I'll crash in her bed and then clean her room by way of apology in the morning.”
“I'm glad for you,” Grantaire tells him, and lets Courfeyrac put an arm around his shoulders to steer home.
When he gets home, Enjolras is sitting outside his door, without the messenger bag of books this time, but with his keyboard and his tablet. Grantaire freezes when he sees him, and Enjolras scrambles to his feet. “You didn't text. Sorry, I was out,” says Grantaire, and wants to kick himself for the inanity.
Enjolras is holding onto the strap that holds his keyboard in place and frowning, but he nods, maybe to say it's fine, maybe just to agree that he didn't text and that Grantaire was indeed out.
“I'm in a somewhat better mood today,” Grantaire offers, letting them both in. “Went out with Courfeyrac last night. He's doing well too. Have you talked to him?” Enjolras nods. “Coffee?” Another nod, so Grantaire goes to the kitchen and gets the pot started. “You didn't bring your research. Any particular reason you stopped by?”
Enjolras looks up from where he's looking at the sketches and notes Grantaire and Éponine have taped to their refrigerator, a collage of whatever's been on their minds lately. He has yet to make a sketch of Echo that satisfies her. When Grantaire keeps waiting for an answer, he finally takes his tablet out. I wanted to talk to you.
“Well, that sounds ominous.” Grantaire goes back to staring at the coffeepot, because it seems like a slightly better option than staring at Enjolras. “I didn't mean to hurt your feelings yesterday, or anything like that. Some days I'm just better off left to myself, and through no fault of your own, you press some buttons that make things difficult.” When he sneaks a peek over his shoulder, Enjolras is frowning and nodding and not really looking at him, and that's what makes him blurt out the question Courfeyrac told him to ask. “Why did you ask me to start helping you in the first place?”
Enjolras doesn't do anything on his tablet, but he does turn to fully face Grantaire, and Grantaire turns towards him in response, until they're only a few feet apart, staring at each other across the kitchen.
“Courfeyrac said I should just ask, and stop making assumptions, so I thought I would. I don't want to insult you again and say it's because I'm acceptable collateral damage, because that was cruel, I know that was cruel, but Combeferre is better at research, and Courfeyrac is better at feelings, and there's a whole list of people who might know more than me, and maybe it's just because I'm determined and I love you, and that's fine, but I'd sort of like to—”
Enjolras kisses him, hands framing his face, his lips chapped like maybe he's been biting them to keep from talking, and Grantaire should push him away, but Grantaire can't say much for his self-control. He kisses back instead, hands flying up to catch Enjolras's jacket so he has some kind of anchor, and lets Enjorlas press him back against the counter, bodies pressed up close. He opens his mouth and it's maybe more of a gasp than an invitation, but Enjolras presses the advantage anyway, slips his tongue inside, and Enjolras is obviously inexperienced, less nights spent at Aphrodite's club with strangers, and his clumsiness is what makes the kiss filthy, more teeth than is wise and hands clutching tight where they rest until Grantaire's eyes are almost watering from Enjolras pulling on his hair.
Grantaire should have the willpower to pull away. This isn't an answer, not in the way he wanted an answer. It's Enjolras kissing him, which is something he's dreamed about for years (though he never quite could have imagined this, the way he can feel Enjolras's chest rise and fall against his, the shape of his lips and how they fit to Grantaire's so easily), but it's more questions than answers, in the end. It's only hard to remember that when Enjolras presses their hips together, rocking into him either on purpose or because he wants Grantaire to die. It's hard to stop when he doesn't know what made Enjolras decide to do it, much less if he'll ever do it again.
It stops when Enjolras moans, and Grantaire is already flinching back, even before his ears register the pain. Enjolras stumbles back at the same time, eyes wide, mouth open, chest heaving. He looks like a wreck. He looks like the best thing Grantaire has ever seen and better than he does in most of Grantaire's fantasies, and Grantaire puts as much space between them as he can before he reaches out again.
“That wasn't an answer.” Enjolras steps forward, apologetic and concerned and Grantaire puts his hands up to keep him away before he's even thinking about it. “And don't not-answer me again unless you want me to have a heart attack when you can't call an ambulance.” It's taking everything he has not to put his hand up to his mouth, and his pulse is hammering in his own ears. He desperately, desperately wishes Enjolras could talk, could take control of this as he clearly wants to and maybe even convince Grantaire that this isn't the worst idea either of them has had since the curse, but he can't. That means it's Grantaire's job. “No,” he says, since that's a good place to start.
Enjolras reaches for his tablet. He's still got his keyboard on his back, he's barely through the door, and Grantaire feels like the universe has turned upside down in the last five minutes. He hopes it hasn't been more than five minutes, it would be bad if he lost that much time to kissing Enjolras. A sneaked glance at the coffeepot proves that it can't have been very long because the pot is still brewing. Why not? the tablet says when Enjolras turns it to face Grantaire.
He takes the cheap shot, because he's still too busy trying to breathe to come up with a real answer. “Are you really trying to get me to qualify my lack of consent?”
He hates arguing with Enjolras this way, because he has to wait when he wants to shout and be shouted at. He'd feel like he was on steadier ground if he had that. While he waits, he turns off the coffeepot, since chances are he's going to convince Enjolras to leave and think this through, which means Enjolras won't want coffee, and once Enjolras goes, Grantaire definitely isn't going to want coffee. I'm trying to get you to explain, Enjolras finally writes and shows to him. You love me. You can say no, but I'd like to know why.
Grantaire paces past him and out into the living room, because he needs more space for this conversation. His heart still feels like it's in his throat and he can't meet Enjolras's eyes and it's hard to gather his thoughts, but he has to do it. “How I feel isn't the question,” he finally starts, and knows that it's going to piss Enjolras off even more than baiting him about consent. “Or maybe it is,” he adds, because he's got to be fair. He's got to be reasonable. “Because how I feel right now is that you don't love me back, and you could say it, fuck, you could shout it, see if you could carve it into my brain with your superpowers, and I probably wouldn't believe it. And I know you don't have to love someone to start a relationship with them, or to kiss them, but … I can't do this.”
When he dares a look at Enjolras, he's white-faced and tense, and he holds Grantaire's eyes for a few seconds before he starts typing again. Grantaire makes himself stand still instead of backing away when Enjolras comes closer to show him the tablet. Why wouldn't you believe me?
“Mostly because I'm a mess, and partly because you're a mess.” Grantaire runs his hand through his hair and that's a stupid idea, because he has a very recent sense-memory of that feeling. “And also partly because the timing sucks. You're cursed, and I'm helping you, and we've gone from acquaintances who yell at each other a lot to friends in a month, but I'm worried if we cure you you're going to end up regretting this. Things are kind of fraught.” Enjolras mouths something. It takes Grantaire a second to realize it's “if.” “When.”
Enjolras looks away for a long minute before he picks his tablet up again. You think I don't know how I'm feeling?
“Maybe. I don't know. It sounds bad, but kind of.”
What if I could prove it?
Grantaire spreads his hands, helpless. “Is there a way to prove it? I don't know. And what are you trying to prove? That you mean it? Because I get that much. I just don't know if you'll keep meaning it, or what kind of feelings are behind it.”
You keep proving it to me.
“Fuck, don't.” Grantaire puts his hand over his eyes. “I don't, though. I just keep loving you. And it's really humiliating having to say it this many times. I'm glad we're friends. Let's leave it that way for a while, okay?”
He takes his hand down when he hears Enjolras start shifting again, and steps back before Enjolras can touch him, just takes the tablet instead. I'll respect your decision. But I believe what I'm feeling is real. I don't want to spend time with you because you're helping me, I want to spend time with you because I like you.
“Like me? Eros help us.”
I'll prove it if I need to.
“I'm not asking you to prove anything, that's not what this is, and that wasn't even my point, my point was the word 'like' as opposed to the word I've been using.” Enjolras frowns and looks like he has something to say to that, but Grantaire hands his tablet back and backs off again. “I'm just not going to do this. Not now. And I need you to go.” Enjolras shakes his head, and Grantaire shakes his in return. “I know it's in your nature to hash everything out at once, but I'm not going to do this right now.”
It takes way too long for Enjolras to finally nod, and then he goes back to typing on his tablet. I'll go, but we're going to talk about it someday. I'm not going to ignore it forever. I might have taken a while to come around, but you can't punish me for that.
“Punishing you? No, never mind, that's going to be another argument, this is not punishment, this is me being tired and hungover and still unable to process the fact that you kissed me. Please leave.”
Enjolras frowns at him and he looks sad, and Grantaire really tries not to look at him as he finally nods and heads for the door instead of reaching for his tablet again. They stand awkwardly in the doorway for a few seconds when they get there, Enjolras clutching his tablet to his chest looking more tired than Grantaire thinks he's ever seen him, even after everything this curse has done to him. Grantaire doesn't really have anything to say, but neither of them is moving, so he's just opened his mouth to speak when Enjolras hugs him, quick and one-armed and hard, before ducking out the door.
Grantaire listens to him go all the way down the stairs before he shuts his door, and it's mostly on autopilot that he takes out his phone and texts Éponine. I know you're mad, but you said you would be here to pick up the pieces, he just kissed me and I sent him away, please help.
He's more than three-quarters of the way to drunk (he was doing well, he was doing so well until Combeferre and Courfeyrac texted within two minutes of one another, He's trying from one and You okay? from the other, and then it was sort of a lost cause) when she unlocks the door and sighs at him. “At least now we're in the same boat,” she says, and instead of getting a bottle of liquor of her own, she comes to the couch and wraps him up in a hug that's all sharp angles until he feels surrounded by her.
“I probably don't deserve sympathy, at least he thinks he's got feelings for me.”
“It's you, so that's probably worse punishment,” she says, because she knows him well. “Are you supposed to be working tonight?” He shakes his head. “Okay. Then we're going to stay in here and turn off the lights and pretend we aren't home in case anyone comes over to pity us, you're going to braid my hair while I type a belated congratulatory e-mail to Marius, and then we're going to cuddle in bed and I'll pretend you aren't crying. Sound like a plan?”
He squeezes her tighter. “A great plan,” he says, and takes his phone out of his pocket to leave it in the living room. There's a new text, Enjolras's name attached, but he decides it's probably wiser not to open it.
It's less than an hour before he gets a response. Enjolras just left, our scheduled session was devoted mostly to talking about you. I'm not a relationship counselor. I'm free at three.
He thinks about sending an apology for that, but he sends a confirmation instead and spends the rest of the morning and the early part of the afternoon listlessly wandering the internet looking at jobs to apply to before writing a note to tell Éponine where he is and getting ready to go out. That, of course, requires picking his phone up for the first time all day. The top message is from Éponine (pick up eggs if you go out, don't talk to him if you don't want to), and there are a few from Combeferre and Courfeyrac, but there are seven from Enjolras, and he doesn't have the courage to open any of them because he still has no idea what he's doing.
Grantaire puts the phone in his pocket and walks over to the Curse Bureau office a little slower than he probably should, getting there two minutes before three to get a loathing look from the same receptionist as before. “Fantine said you were coming,” she says in the tone of one preparing to hex him so he actually has a reason to be there.
“Curse support meeting, very important business, I'll just go up, shall I?”
“You'll fill out a form,” she says, and glares at him until he takes it from her and gives all sorts of useless information about the reason for his visit that will be remembered by neither god nor man in twenty minutes.
Fantine comes for him before he can make it upstairs, smiling at the receptionist and then at him. She's tired again, her hair falling out of its pins, but her smile is honest and only grows more so when he makes a point of opening the door to the upstairs for her and bowing her through it. “How are you doing?” she asks him while they go up.
“Bit of a stressful week, I'm afraid, and you?”
“Bit of a stressful day,” she says wryly, and really, if Grantaire weren't so in love with Enjolras he might actually attempt elopement with her. “But I imagine we'll be talking about that more when we sit down.” The same man from the other day pokes his head out of his office as they pass, and she gives him a wave while he scowls like no one ever should dare to talk in a public hallway. Fantine waits until he's sitting down across from her before she lets the smile drop off her face. “The first thing you should know is that I'm not going to tell you anything about Enjolras's session this morning. That's confidential, and I like you, but I'm not going to betray my professional ethics.”
Grantaire puts his hands up and shakes his head. “I wouldn't ask. Especially because, as you said, it has nothing to do with the curse, or mostly doesn't. I want to talk about Abigail Adams.”
That seems to surprise her, enough to make her rock back a little in her chair. “Abigail Adams?”
“Wife of one of the earlier presidents in the US, and when he was cursed, she—”
“Fixed it, yes, I'm aware of the case, John Adams was in some of the materials I gave you, if I recall. Nobody knows what she did, but they suspect it was her.”
“Do you have any theories?”
He looks at his lap. “He's never going to apologize. I could beg on his behalf, if that's what you thought she did.”
“What makes this so urgent all of a sudden? Enjolras and Combeferre have both told me that you've been very helpful doing research, and both of them mentioned John and Abigail Adams as well, so I'm wondering where this is coming from.”
Grantaire clenches his hands. “Do you have statistics on, I don't know, is there even a word for it? I want to say Stockholm Syndrome, but I know that's not it. People who are cursed getting attached to the people who help them with it.”
Fantine sighs and rubs her hand over her face before she answers. “There haven't been statistics on it in the context of curses, but there don't really need to be. As a species, we like and love people who help and comfort us. It's natural. It doesn't mean that whatever emotions are born as a result mean any less than if they'd just sprung up out of nowhere.”
“How am I supposed to—no, sorry, you said you aren't a relationship counselor. And you definitely aren't a go-between.” Grantaire looks anywhere but at Fantine. “I don't know why I thought this meeting was a good idea.”
“Grantaire.” He looks back over at her. She's giving him a look like Courfeyrac does sometimes when he's being particularly pathetic. “Let's take his feelings out of this for a minute. Has your attitude towards him changed at all since he was cursed? Or your feelings?”
“Yes, obviously.” She raises her eyebrows. “We spend more time together. That's obviously going to have an impact. It's only gotten worse. I mean, more. I suppose calling it 'worse' isn't exactly the nicest way of putting it.”
“And do you think that's because you're taking care of him because he's cursed? Because there's just as much evidence that we come to love people that we take care of.”
Grantaire opens his mouth and shuts it again. “I know what you're getting at,” he says finally, because he does, just like he's pretty sure that Enjolras meant what he was saying last night. The problem with him is always going to be believing things.
“Yes, I'm pretty sure I do.”
Fantine stares at him for a minute, long enough he's fairly sure he's going to be kicked out of her office, before she relaxes. “Tell me your theories about John and Abigail Adams,” she finally says. “And then we can talk about Galileo and gods reversing each other's curses merely because it suits their own purposes. We have fifty minutes left and talking to you about curse-breaking theory is better than resisting the urge to smoke out my window and filling out papers.”
They end up going over the hour, until a woman a few years older than Fantine, who looks like she has all the color drained out of her, knocks on the door and blinks in surprise when she sees Grantaire sitting across from Fantine, interrupted in the middle of arguing whether the self-report on the cursed is as high as the government claims it is. “Department meeting,” she says in tones as dour as her person. “I didn't know you had an appointment.”
“He's support network for one of my newer cases, and we've gone over, I'll be there in just a minute.” The door closes again, and Fantine gives Grantaire an apologetic frown. “Feel free to e-mail me about this anytime, even after Enjolras isn't a client of the bureau anymore. You have a lot to say.” The frown melts into a smile. “And I still say you should come work here someday. You can get at least some qualifications without full-time school.”
Grantaire stands up and shakes her hand. “I'll keep it in mind, but for the moment I think I'm going to stick with the waiter thing, and maybe with the working with kids if that works out.”
“I can't decide whether to wish you luck or not.” She picks up a notebook from her desk, as well as a few pens and what looks like a book of crossword puzzles, which only makes him like her more. “Keep in touch, Grantaire. And I hope you figure something out.”
He grimaces. “I'll let you know or Enjolras will.”
She ruffles his hair going by and is the one to bow him out of her office, letting him go out of the hallway and downstairs without anyone interrupting him. He waves at the receptionist, mostly to see whether he'll get glared at, and only gets ignored in return.
When he gets out onto the street, he checks his phone. There's another text from Enjolras, and he takes a deep breath and opens it, since there comes a point when hiding his head in the sand probably becomes cruel. Please let me or someone know you're okay, it says, which of course only serves to make him feel worse.
I'm okay, just need a little while to think. I don't want to be a mistake. Or make one. He winces when he sends it, but there's no reason not to be honest at this point.
Grantaire doesn't know what it says about either of them that when he opens the text he gets in return that he already knows it's going to say You aren't a mistake.
Enjolras puts up with his silence until he misses a meeting, at which point he receives a text that says Courfeyrac says I'm not allowed to go try to convince you. Bahorel says you're being stupid. I'm inclined to believe him.
Mostly against better judgment, Grantaire texts back. New job, had to change shifts at the old one, I have excuses. We can go back to not-normal soon.
The normal idea was stupid.
Grantaire doesn't answer that one and flops down on the couch next to Éponine when he gets home a few minutes after midnight, exhausted from chasing kids around and then serving what seemed like half of Paris dinner. “I think I'm starting to believe him,” he says when she looks up from her laptop, where she seems to be finally getting close to finished on her Echo paper.
“Is that good or bad?” she asks, and looks away from her screen for his answer.
“I think that depends on whether I should believe him.”
“If you're going to go around in logic-defying circles, you can do it with five-year-olds, they enjoy that kind of thing.” Éponine goes back to her paper, then, but she doesn't shove him off when he buries his face in her shoulder and leaves it there for five minutes before he goes to bed, since it turns out working at a daycare means he has to be awake and at least slightly energetic in the mornings.
We have another meeting on Friday, his phone tells him in the morning.
“My life was much easier when you hated me,” he says out loud, and gets ready for work instead of answering.
No. Is he missing?
Haven't heard from him for a few hours. Didn't seem upset when I talked to him last, so I assumed he was going to you. Text if you hear from him, if neither of us have in the morning we'll alert the others and Fantine.
Grantaire thinks about going out after Enjolras, but he's a grown man, and probably with Courfeyrac or something else that doesn't require turning the city upside down trying to find him. Or he's on his way over. The possibility is enough to get Grantaire out of bed and cleaning his room, making sure the laundry that's gotten much worse since kids started smearing their hands all over him is all in one spot and that his sketchbooks are out of the way. He goes out to the living room after, to put dishes away where they've been drying and to clear Éponine's research off the coffee table. She's sleeping, and he's been a shitty friend lately, so he leaves her to it, just sits on the couch with a blanket around his legs and falls into a doze.
He isn't surprised when there's a knock on the door close to one, even if it's a more tentative knock than Enjolras usually uses. Enjolras has something to say to him, and apparently he's done with being avoided, so the only thing for it is to open the door, and Grantaire struggles his way off the couch to do it.
Enjolras might have knocked quietly, but he's in a mess when the door opens, pink-cheeked and breathing hard, his eyes wide and his hair in a mess. He doesn't have his keyboard, but he shoves his tablet into Grantaire's hands and brushes past him. He smells faintly of alcohol and other people's perfume, like Grantaire's used to smelling on his clothes after a night at a club or the temple, and Grantaire blinks at him before he looks down at the screen. Please kiss me. I'll explain afterwards, it says.
Grantaire scowls down at it and then up at Enjolras, who is looking at him with something Grantaire can't call hope without feeling his knees buckle a little. “I'd prefer an explanation now, thanks,” he hisses, because he doesn't want to wake Éponine but this also isn't going to help anything. “This is what the problem was before.”
Enjolras takes the tablet back, but only to put it down on the nearest surface he can find before he grabs Grantaire's sleeve and gives him a pleading look. Please, he mouths, and Grantaire breathes in and out, the sound hitching, and it feels so loud with Enjolras so close.
He closes his eyes when he kisses Enjolras, presses their mouths together and keeps his hands where they are, their only other point of contact Enjolras's hand clenched tight in his sleeve. Enjolras's mouth is just as soft before, and Grantaire allows himself a few lingering seconds before he pulls back just enough that they aren't kissing anymore but just sharing breath, a lock of Enjolras's hair just brushing against his forehead. When he opens his eyes, Enjolras's are still closed, and there's a smile hovering around his mouth.
“Grantaire,” he whispers.
Grantaire stumbles back on reflex before he realizes there's no ringing in his ears, no pain, just the soft sound of Enjolras's voice. Enjolras is already looking horrified by then, backing away, and of course, Enjolras can't hear the curse in his own voice, so Grantaire raises his hands. “No, no, it's … it didn't hurt.” Enjolras stops, and Grantaire breathes again. “It didn't hurt, Enjolras, not at all, what did you do?”
“I didn't. You did.” Enjolras's voice is a little hoarse, and grows in confidence when Grantaire doesn't move or wince at his words. There's a smile lighting up his face that Grantaire has never had aimed at him, doesn't even know if he's seen pointed towards Combeferre or pictures of people having sit-ins.
“What on earth did I do?” Grantaire looks quickly towards Éponine's door and makes sure his voice is low when he continues. “You couldn't have just told me the curse was broken when you came in? Why the tablet?”
Enjolras steps forward and puts his hands on Grantaire's shoulders, and Grantaire locks his knees to keep upright. “It wasn't broken when I came in. I needed to kiss someone I love, and if you say Combeferre's name, Grantaire, I swear to Athena I will—”
“Why did—what?” Grantaire blinks until he can make himself move, and then he steps back, even when Enjolras makes a protesting noise and then smiles again like he can't help it. “We're going to sit down,” he says, “and then you're going to explain. How did this happen?”
Enjolras leads him to the couch and sits them down and then stares for a second before shaking himself. “I'm hardly used to talking anymore. I went to Aphrodite's temple.”
“Wait, you what?” The words come out louder than he means them to, and Grantaire winces and lowers his voice again. “You apologized?”
“I—not exactly.” Grantaire snorts, because of course Enjolras didn't apologize to the gods, but it doesn't explain what he did do. “I went to Aphrodite's temple and I told her you deserve better than to have someone who can't tell you he loves you out loud.”
It's like all the air is punched out of his lungs, and Grantaire can't answer that, not how it should be answered, if he even knew what that answer should be. “What?” he finally manages, when Enjolras doesn't do anything but sit there and look expectant with his hand still heavy on Grantaire's arm.
“You would never have believed me if I were still cursed, so I had to fix it,” Enjolras says, like it was that easy. “And you worship Aphrodite, you told me that, and I got the impression you're more devout than you like to let on, so I went there and I prayed until one of the priestesses took me aside and said she had a message for me.” He pauses. “It's strange to be talking again.”
“And that message was that Aphrodite decided to have pity because of me?”
Enjolras shifts closer. “The message was that I should kiss someone I love, and that it would break the curse. There was a loophole, I could have gone to Combeferre or Courfeyrac and it would have broken the curse, but I went to you. And for a second I was afraid it didn't work, I didn't love you enough, but I do.”
“Talk about your trial by fire.” Grantaire can't quite make himself move, but he's starting to believe it, somehow, that Aphrodite did break the curse simply to make Grantaire happy, that Grantaire even had that power with the way she phrased it. Enjolras is still watching him, not quite touching any more than his hand on Grantaire's arm even though they're barely millimeters apart.
“Do you believe me this time? I mean it, R, I mean this.”
Grantaire kisses him. Enjolras makes a surprised noise, but his mouth opens under Grantaire's a second later, and maybe it's odd that Grantaire already knows the taste of him, how hard to press, but it's easy in a way that it shouldn't be. He doesn't linger long, but by the time he pulls away Enjolras's hand has slid from his arm up to the back of his neck, holding him there so he doesn't go far. “This is so fucking surreal,” he says, because he's got to say something.
“Believe me, please.”
“Oh gods,” says Éponine, and both of them snap to look at her bedroom door, where she's standing wearing a shirt that Grantaire is pretty sure she stole from him and a bleary expression. “That was actually you talking, Enjolras. Right?”
Enjolras finally removes his hand from Grantaire's neck, but drops it to rest on his knee instead. “Yes. I'm sorry, did we wake you?”
“I heard voices. Should have known it was you.” She squints at them. “This is happening?”
“It's happening.” Enjolras turns back to Grantaire, biting his lip, and Grantaire's heart lurches, because oh, that's a hopeful look, he can't pretend it's anything else. “It's happening, right?”
He has to clear his throat before he can speak. “I think it's happening.”
Éponine gives him a brief smile. “Do I want to know what did it?”
“Kissing someone I love,” says Enjolras, like that's the kind of thing that's completely normal to say, or like he has no doubts at all. Of course he doesn't, he's Enjolras, and it's hard to have many when Enjolras is steady again, himself again. “It was Aphrodite.”
“Of fucking course it was,” she says, more to herself than anyone else. “Does anyone else know?”
Grantaire hopes his face isn't as red as he feels like it must be. “No, it's been all of five minutes, if that.”
She sighs. “Are you working in the morning?” He shakes his head. “Okay. Enjolras, give me your phone, I'm going to text Combeferre because he's probably going to want to know and I have a feeling we're all going to be really lucky if the two of you make it out of bed before noon tomorrow. If you fuck, have the courtesy to be quiet about it, I do have to work in the morning.”
Grantaire has nothing to say to that, and Enjolras gives him a brief look before he takes out his phone and actually gives it to Éponine. “Use this for anything but texting Combeferre, or pretend to be me while texting Combeferre, and it won't go very well, I promise you that.”
She gives them a quick smile, there and then gone. “I'd like to see you try.” She makes sure she's looking at Grantaire when she speaks again. “Congratulations. I'll put in headphones.”
With that, and with Enjolras's phone clutched in her hand, she disappears back into her bedroom, already typing, and Grantaire takes a few breaths before he turns back to Enjolras, who's somewhere close to the serious expression he wears when he's about to lay out a plan to make some politician very uncomfortable. “I invited myself over for the night, I realize. Is that okay?”
“Yeah, that's—that's fine.” Grantaire listens for the expected sound of Éponine making a point of flopping hard onto her futon so he knows she isn't right at the door listening, and gives him a kiss, just a few seconds before he pulls back. “Okay?”
“More than okay.” Enjolras kisses him, pulling him in tight again until Grantaire puts his arms around his neck, bringing them so close he can almost feel Enjolras's pulse. When they pull apart, it's only far enough that they barely need to whisper. “If we're going to … I'm loud.” Grantaire is going to die. “I'll try not to be, with Éponine here, but I often am. And I've barely … well, I didn't want to hurt Combeferre while doing that.”
“Eros save me,” Grantaire says, and drops his head so he can decide whether he'd rather laugh hysterically or drop to his knees to try to corroborate Enjolras's claim, though he probably should curb the urge to do either. It's hard, especially when Enjolras threads his hands in Grantaire's hair like he did weeks ago trying to give him a massage. “So we're having sex?”
“Look at me?” Grantaire isn't going to say no, not tonight, not when it's still strange hearing Enjolras's voice out loud. Enjolras's pupils are dilated and he always looks like a work of art, but he doesn't look like some kind of beautiful martyr this time. More like the kind of painting artists make when they want to make a tribute to Aphrodite, like the picture of Galatea Rubens did. “We don't have to if you don't want to. I'd like to stay, you're going to convince yourself this is a bad idea again if I don't and I don't think I have any other big gestures to make, but if you don't want to—”
“Are you actually kidding me, of course I want to have sex. I just … wanted to make sure we're on the same page. So right, yes. Sex.” Grantaire drops his head again, because he finds he can't have this conversation and meet Enjolras's eyes at the same time, which says great things about his maturity, he's sure. “There are options. Have you done it?”
Enjolras runs his fingers through Grantaire's hair again. “Not much. Some. I'm assuming you have, though.” Grantaire nods. “And maybe we should go to your room? Éponine probably won't like it if we wake her up and we're right out here.”
Grantaire snorts and makes himself straighten up. “She deserves some payback, it's not like I've never run into her out in the common living spaces doing very uncommon things.” Enjolras smiles, and Grantaire gets more distracted by that then he'd like to admit, but he forces himself to gently disengage and stand up to offer Enjolras his hand anyway. “But I'd like you in my bed.”
Enjolras puts his hand in Grantaire's and then looks up at him, the smile still there but dimmed. “You haven't said it back tonight. Isn't it traditional?”
“You've heard it a lot, and also, I don't think you've said it in so many words. I mean, it's been implied, but—”
He's interrupted by Enjolras pulling himself to his feet and using his momentum to get close and kiss Grantaire again, just a moment, there and then gone again. “I love you. Enough that it broke a curse, it wasn't you being in love with me that did it, it was me. She probably would have broken the curse for you if you'd asked, but then you couldn't have been sure, so I'm glad it happened like this, even if it meant I did have to appeal to the gods when I really shouldn't have—”
Grantaire kisses him, too busy smiling while he does it to be anything but clumsy. “I love you,” he says when he pulls away, and then winces and lowers his voice, because Éponine might kill him if they not only have loud sex in the next room but also have romantic loud sex. “But you knew that already. And I still think you owe me a few times.”
“I'll make up for it,” Enjolras promises, and drags Grantaire towards his bedroom door. Grantaire goes, and they stumble through, door shutting behind them just a shade too loud, before they fall still just inside, a few feet away from the mattress. Grantaire's hands fall to his side, and he thinks it's the first time since Enjolras came through the door that they've been out of contact tonight. Enjolras, only a few inches away, seems to be feeling much the same, judging by the way he's staring at the floor, chest rising and falling slowly in the dark.
“It's been a really fucking strange month,” Grantaire finally says, because one of them has to say something.
“I'm not sure if it feels like it never happened, or like this is some kind of hallucination. Probably not the first, I didn't love you a month ago.”
“Mm, lucky you.”
“Debatable.” Then Enjolras is moving again, not reaching to touch Grantaire but to take off his jacket, dropping it on the floor, and then to the hem of his shirt. He stops there, giving a look sideways. “Is this okay? I don't want to worry about getting clothes out of the way, we may as well start naked if we're going to have sex.”
“Great idea,” Grantaire says faintly, and can't make himself move while Enjolras strips his shirt off in one easy move, and he's fucking gorgeous all over, of course he is, Grantaire could never have expected anything else. He stays frozen until Enjolras gives him a sidelong look, and then he goes for his own shirt, struggling out of it much more clumsily than Enjolras did his. “This is not sexy,” he complains, finally getting it over his head, and then is confronted with the sight of Enjolras bent over untying his shoes instead of just toeing them off like a normal person. “I revise my statement.”
Enjolras straightens up and steps out of his shoes, then deals with his socks, eyes on Grantaire the whole time. “Do you want to help me, then? I just thought it would be faster if we did ourselves.”
“Yeah, and sex is faster when it's masturbation,” Grantaire says, probably nonsensically, and goes over to him, putting his hands on Enjolras's hips and smiling when Enjolras rolls his eyes and goes for the button on Grantaire's pants. “What do you want tonight? I've got supplies, for whatever. I pick them up by habit whenever I go to the temple, they have the good quality stuff.”
They're about the same height, but Enjolras still manages to give him a look through his lashes. Gods help Grantaire if Enjolras learns how to be coy. “I'd like to fuck you. I haven't fucked anyone before, and I want to do it with you. Unless that's something you'd rather not do.”
“No, I'm fine with that,” Grantaire says, and his voice breaks three times, but it's worth the embarrassment because Enjolras kisses him and practically tears at his pants and underwear until Grantaire helps him slide them off his hips. He has to wriggle to get them low enough to step out of, and it presses their hips flush together, his naked erection and Enjolras's clothed one caught between them, and Grantaire pulls out of the kiss just so he can see Enjolras's face when he notes their position, when he looks down between them and his breath catches.
Grantaire is the one to reach out this time, to much more slowly and probably more efficiently unbutton Enjolras's pants and push them down off his hips. Enjolras helps him, steps back just far enough to get out of them without their legs tangling together, and takes his briefs with them as he goes, and when he steps out of the second leg they both stand there a moment to breathe. “Bed?” Enjolras asks after what feels like years of the two of them still and watching each other, mostly holding gazes but sometimes chancing a glance down as well.
“Yes, definitely the bed. Hold on, just let me get ...” He stops, because Enjolras starts walking and then sits down cross-legged on his mattress, and he should look ridiculous, cock bobbing between his thighs, but all Grantaire wants in the world is to go over and kiss him. He fumbles for his stash of condoms and lube in a box in the closet instead, pulling out a few of each and going over to the bed with them, dropping them in a messy little pile on the floor within reach of the bed before he lets Enjolras pull him down beside him.
This time, when Enjolras kisses him, it doesn't stop. Grantaire nudges it along at first, hands cradling Enjolras's face, but Enjolras takes it over soon enough, just the way he does anything, and he snorts a laugh the next time he needs to breathe, getting a peevish look from Enjolras before he dives back in. Grantaire lets himself fall back and pulls Enjolras with him until he's pinned to the mattress by Enjolras's weight, the two of them pressed together as much as they can be from chest to knees.
Enjolras makes soft noises into Grantaire's mouth, gasps and half-moans and bitten-off words, and Grantaire moves to kissing his neck, nuzzling into it, just to hear what he'll say. He's rewarded with a breathless “Grantaire,” and that seems to open the gates for a flood of whispered words while Enjolras's hands run across his back and arms, restless or just mapping his skin out. “Oh, fuck, this is so good, you're amazing, Grantaire.” And when Grantaire dares to suck a mark into his skin just where the collar of his shirt will half cover it, “I love you,” and then Grantaire loses the words again because he needs to kiss Enjolras.
“Wait, fuck, I wanted you to fuck me,” Grantaire finally says, surfacing from the kiss and tipping his head back against the mattress. They're sideways on it, nowhere near the pillows. “You still want to?”
“Yes, of course, please.”
“Then get off me for a second.” Enjolras does instantly, and he never takes his eyes off Grantaire while Grantaire manages to move until his head is on the pillow and his legs are spread enough for Enjolras to kneel between them. “Lube and condoms next to the bed. You're good?”
Enjolras runs his hand down Grantaire's leg, mouth a little bit open. “I'm great,” he whispers, and then he's a flurry of movement, sorting through the pile of supplies in the mostly-dark before he comes back with a few packets of lube before tearing one open and slicking his fingers, tossing the emptied packet to the floor. “I've only done this for myself before, let me know if I hurt you.”
“You haven't done anything yet, and also I'm not a delicate flower, come on.”
He isn't quite surprised when Enjolras goes serious, then, wearing the same expression he does when he discusses strategy with Combeferre or does classwork in the back of the Musain while waiting for a meeting to start. This time, though, he isn't concentrating on some new cause or on a paper that's sure to piss his professors off, and Grantaire shivers all over as Enjolras gets his bearings, slick fingers sliding across his ass until one brushes against his entrance.
Sex is one of the few things in the world that silences Grantaire. Maybe it's because of the amount of sex he's had in temples, but he's never been one for moaning or doing much besides the occasional piece of encouraging or discouraging feedback. This time, he's got Enjolras bent over him, panting out words as he oh-so-slowly works his first finger inside Grantaire. “I've wanted to do this for weeks, I've wanted to do this since you came after I listened to that recording, maybe before, I don't know, how did you do it for so long, it's horrible when it's on your own,” he's whispering, and Grantaire's breathing is high and shaky and he can only concentrate so much on the words before they get to be too much.
Enjolras is a fucking miracle with his fingers, first with one and then with two, stretching just enough, scientifically exact amounts of lube, and someday, someday when Grantaire is willing to stop touching him for a while (maybe when they're fifty, people are supposed to be sick of each other by then), he's going to make Enjolras put on a show for him, show him just what he does to himself. He manages to say that sometime around when Enjolras finds his prostate for the first time, though it's more a too-loud babble of words rather than anything coherent, let alone sexy.
“We're going to do everything,” Enjolras promises, and when he draws away from the kiss Grantaire pulls him down for, he expounds on that theme, in a low rumble that's more growl than whisper, moving his fingers harder in Grantaire, stretching him and opening another packet of lube before he comes in with a third finger, doing something that makes Grantaire gasp and clutch the sheets, arching off the bed.
“You've got to fuck me,” Grantaire finally says, amazed that he can manage even that many words with Enjolras over him, gleaming with sweat and almost never looking away from his eyes.
Enjolras drops his head for a second, mouths his collarbone, breath hot and damp against his skin. “This is going to be fast,” he says finally, “and I'm sorry for that. I'll do better in the morning.”
Grantaire doesn't bother with words, just tugs at Enjolras's shoulders until he moves, grabbing over the side of the bed for a condom and ripping the package open to roll it on over his cock. He stops just long enough to meet Grantaire's eyes, and Grantaire nods. There's an itch under his skin, has been ever since Enjolras took his fingers out, and he wants Enjolras inside him again, wants him maybe worse than he's wanted him for what seems like forever, because now all he has to do is just wait a few seconds more to pull him close.
When Enjolras slides into him, hands at Grantaire's hips hitching him up to the proper angle, he isn't hesitant like Grantaire half-expected. He's steady, and sure, or at least seems like it, and he closes his eyes and lets out a groan that Éponine must be able to hear from the next room when he's finally fully inside. Grantaire is being taken apart from the inside out, and he closes his eyes too, because it's enough to feel this, Enjolras hot and hard inside him, without seeing Enjolras braced above his body, Enjolras with his skin glowing and his hair mussed and his throat working as he strains and breathes and swallows. It's more than enough to be able to hear Enjolras, beyond words but every harsh breath coming out backed by a little noise while they adjust.
Grantaire reaches up to rest his hands on Enjolras's shoulders, and that's what gets Enjolras to make his first thrust. He's inexpert—and fuck, it's probably his first time fucking someone, Grantaire is his first—but the gorgeous noise he makes when he moves back deep into Grantaire more than makes up for it, Grantaire gasping and opening his eyes to find Enjolras watching him in return. He's trembling, barely in control, and his hair only makes him look more wild. Grantaire nods. He can't quite manage words.
The nod is enough, enough to make Enjolras start thrusting, and there's nothing like mercy in it, and it wouldn't be tender either except for the fierce look on his face, the way one of the hands bracing him up moves to Grantaire's face to stroke a lock of hair out of his eyes. Grantaire shifts until he can wrap his legs around Enjolras's waist, and that's what it takes to make it amazing, a frenzy of sweat and skin and Enjolras whispering a litany of words Grantaire can't begin to decode until he isn't whispering anymore. “Fuck, Grantaire, R, please come, I'm going to come soon and I want you to,” he's saying, voice climbing as his thrusts get faster.
“Shush, I'm so glad I can hear you but Éponine probably isn't,” Grantaire says, panting the words out between thrusts, and Enjolras laughs, a giddy too-loud sound that's everything Grantaire wants to hear for the rest of his life, and bends Grantaire in half to kiss him, all tongue and teeth and words muffled in Grantaire's mouth.
Grantaire's the one who has to reach between them, to fist his cock and pump it, the pleasure getting impossibly sharper while Enjolras's thrusts get more out of control.
Enjolras comes first, driving in and staying there, abruptly and completely silent and still, only his chest and his arms trembling as he tries not to collapse on Grantaire, their mouths coming apart so they can watch each other again. Grantaire moves his hand faster, twisting his wrist, and comes with a moan that Éponine will mock him for in the morning.
Both of them freeze there, messy and sticky and shaking.
“Hold on,” Enjolras says finally, and pulls slowly out of him, dropping his head and grimacing. A second later, he flops onto his back next to Grantaire, and both of them breathe for a few moments before Grantaire fumbles for the condom, tying it off and tossing it across the room. If Éponine decides to invade their privacy in the morning she's probably going to have an unpleasant surprise but he can worry about that later.
“She's going to poison my coffee,” Grantaire finally says, because one of them has to say something. Enjolras laughs, and grins at the ceiling. “It's good to hear you again.”
A second later, Enjolras's arm comes around him, tentative until Grantaire turns into it, and then he's holding on tight. “It's good to talk again. Thank you, for everything. This whole time.”
“The thanks are novel, I have to say. What do you think, less than twenty-four hours before our next shouting argument?”
Enjolras kisses him. “I think we could last a few days. Everyone will be very busy. And we'll be busy, or I hope we will.”
“You're a menace.” His breath is starting to slow down again, and his heartbeat with it. “I admit I'm going to miss the piano serenades.”
This laugh is more breath than sound, and Enjolras runs a hand through his hair. “I still have the keyboard. It would be good to keep playing. I was out of practice.”
“You'll have to sing for me too. I remember you said you do.” He spares a thought for Éponine. “Maybe not tonight.”
Enjolras's voice is fading with exhaustion when he answers. “Soon. If you like.” His arm tightens around Grantaire. “I love you, you know.”
“I think I'm starting to get there, but you're going to have to say it again in the morning.”
“We're going to say a lot of things in the morning,” says Enjolras, more a mumble than words, and a second later he's asleep. Grantaire only manages a few moments more, listening to his breath deepening to light snores and to the rustling on the other side of the wall that means Éponine is turning over, before he's falling asleep as well.
He wakes in the morning to the sun through the window hitting his bed and Enjolras's elbow digging uncomfortable into his stomach, the two of them wrapped up tight together because of course Enjolras can't keep his hands to himself even in his sleep. When Grantaire twists to face him properly, Enjolras's eyes are open too, and he's smiling. “Morning,” says Grantaire, voice raspy with sleep. “That happened, then.”
“It did.” Enjolras grins when the words come out and Grantaire shows no sign of flinching, and Grantaire can't blame him. If it's this surreal for him it must be worse for Enjolras. “I still love you. You said I might have to say it in the morning. I'm saying it.”
Grantaire has to duck his head to let that sink in, Enjolras saying it in the light of day, Enjolras meaning it. “Is Éponine still here?” he asks.
“I think I heard the door shut a while ago,” says Enjolras, and then he's tilting Grantaire's face up for a kiss, firm and slow and enough to make Grantaire's knees melt if he were standing up. “I can wait a while to call Combeferre and Fantine, and I need to call the university too and see if I can make up the work I've missed not able to go to classes for a few weeks, and there's still—”
Grantaire puts his hand over Enjolras's mouth. “You can wait a while?” Enjolras nods. “Then let's stay here for a while,” he says, and presses Enjolras down into the pillow to start again.
“How many groceries do I owe you before you forgive me for the loud sex? Taking into account that you deleted your conversation with Combeferre last night and potentially traumatized my … potentially traumatized Enjolras.”
“It was my conversation, I didn't want him snooping, and I think you're allowed to call him your boyfriend when he broke a curse for you.” She ruffles his hair. “I'm happy for you, R. This has been coming for a while.”
He raises his eyebrows. “Came out of nowhere as far as I was concerned.”
“I mean, it wouldn't have been as fast if it weren't for the curse.” She shrugs. “I don't know, I don't know him that well. But Combeferre seems to think so.”
Grantaire eyes her, but Éponine's poker face is like none other. “I am not going to comment on that for my own sanity,” he finally decides. “And also, I am going to get information about that conversation out of you for my own curiosity, cross my heart I won't share with him.”
“Please, as though you aren't going to be a complete pushover whenever you aren't arguing.”
“Éponine,” says Marius, and Grantaire only feels her freeze because their arms are pressed together. He turns with her, and of course there's Marius, Cosette and Courfeyrac behind him, both of them looking apologetic. Marius just looks nervous, so maybe he's figured it out, but he gives Éponine a hug anyway. “It's been a while, hi, you haven't met Cosette yet.”
Cosette smiles and shoulders Marius out of the way. “And I can introduce myself. It's good to meet you, Éponine, Marius and Grantaire have both told me about you and I've been looking forward to meeting you.”
“Nice to meet you too,” says Éponine, and even manages to sound sincere about it, letting Cosette give her a brief squeeze before she pulls away, retreating halfway behind Grantaire before she turns to Courfeyrac, who isn't smiling as much as he probably should be given he's dating arrow-shot people who are both holding his hands as opposed to each other's. “Courfeyrac.”
“Hey, Éponine. We've been missing you at meetings, are you here to yell at us about romanticizing things again?”
She smiles at him, and Grantaire squeezes her elbow. “Only if you insist on romanticizing them. Grantaire's been talking about some kind of cursed visibility campaign, we'll see if I end up with any commentary on that.”
“Okay.” Cosette puts her hand on Marius's arm, because Marius is still frowning at Éponine like he's expecting her to go off like a time bomb. “I'll look forward to getting to know you later, Eponine, there are far too many men around here and I think it will be good for us. If that's okay?”
“That's great.” Éponine nods at Marius. “Congratulations. Text sometime, we can meet up for coffee. All four of us.” She doesn't even wince, and by Courfeyrac's expression, he notices and appreciates it, because he's the one to gently drag the other two away, saying something about asking Jehan a question about a book he was recommending recently.
Combeferre is the next one to approach them, with two drinks in his hands, one of which he hands to Éponine and one of which he takes a pointed sip from when Grantaire tries to take it from him. “I thought you could use some less awkward company,” he says, mostly to Éponine.
“At the very least, the drink is appreciated.”
For a second, Grantaire is afraid that Combeferre is going to bring up Marius, ask if Éponine is okay, but he should have more faith in Combeferre than that. After another second of giving Éponine an assessing expression, he turns to Grantaire. “Thank you. He's probably said it, but I thought that I would as well. He called earlier and explained the full story, Éponine didn't know it when we talked last night.”
“What did you talk about last night?” Grantaire asks, mostly for form's sake, and then blinks. “Wait, when did he call you?”
Combeferre shrugs. “I think you and Éponine were cooking dinner.”
“R,” Enjolras shouts across the room, and Grantaire already knows when he turns that Enjolras is going to be grinning from the sheer ability of doing that. “Come over here, would you?”
“I miss 'Chopsticks,'” he says quietly, getting a laugh from Éponine and a smile from Combeferre, before he goes over to Enjolras, who is in the middle of a conversation with Bahorel. “Are we doing dramatic reenactments? Or did you need someone to argue with you? Always willing to do that service, of course, nothing but the best from—”
Enjolras kisses him, just a brush of their mouths together but definitely more than Grantaire was expecting to get in public. “I just wanted to say hello, and you can't stay in the doorway all night. Nobody's seen you in a week, the least you can do is come with me and greet all of them.”
“This is going to be hilarious,” says Bahorel, but when Grantaire turns to look at him he's smiling one of his honest, warm smiles. “I'm happy for you, though. And R, Enjolras was saying you got a job at a daycare molding the minds of today's youth, are you planning on inviting us in to turn them into good little revolutionaries?”
“That sounds horrifying.”
“Oh, right,” says Enjolras, and grabs Grantaire's hand before turning to face him, like it's natural and they hold hands every day. Grantaire tries not to look as surprised as he feels by that. “I told Fantine I would give her an exit interview, since they aren't required but she wants to collect the data, and when I gave her a vague rundown she said she wanted you to come as well since you're involved. You should let her know when during her regular workday you're free this week.”
“Tuesday morning, I think, I can double check for you, though.”
“Please do.” Feuilly, a few tables over, calls Enjolras's name, and Enjolras excuses himself to Bahorel and drags Grantaire along with him like it's completely natural for him to have Grantaire on a tether. He sits down when they get to Feuilly's table, the two of them talking about community centers and networking for the cursed while Grantaire looks around the room at all of their friends having their own conversations, at Courfeyrac telling Jehan something and gesturing with a hand that isn't Cosette's, at Combeferre laughing at something Éponine was saying.
I offer you all the love that's in this room, he thinks, since his usual devotion doesn't really work anymore. I'll probably offer you the same tomorrow. And then, because it has to be thought, Thank you.
Enjolras elbows him gently and raises his eyebrows when Grantaire turns to him with a start. “What do you think, R?”
Grantaire smiles, and he's the one to take Enjolras's hand this time. “This may be the only time you'll ever hear me say it, but I think it might work.”