Grantaire didn't believe in luck. Not the good kind of luck, anyway. He believed in the kind of luck that came in packages sent by a man named Murphy. He believed in the kind of luck that saw his friend, Bossuet, evicted from his apartment for a rule infraction he hadn't even been home to witness, much less commit. Grantaire believed in the kind of luck that had him inheriting a restaurant -- a restaurant of all things! -- from a family he'd barely even known, when he barely knew the first thing about cooking beyond making Easy Mac.
Grantaire believed in the kind of luck that would have him meet the best looking man he'd ever seen, much less talked to, when he was in his ratty old cooking clothes, crawling around on the ground chasing after a crab he didn't even want, yet had somehow been talked into buying. He believed in the kind of luck that would have him boast of his nonexistent culinary skills in an attempt to calm his nerves in the face of Tall, Blonde and Handsome, and telling him that he made the best "Crab Napoleon" the world had ever seen… and having Napoleon actually turn out to be a sore point with the man. Oh well. After that debacle, Grantaire was never going to see Tall, Blonde and Handsome, again, so really what was the point in dwelling?
In short? Grantaire believed in bad luck. It was the only kind he and his friends ever seemed to have.
When Grantaire returned to the Corinthe, it was to yet another sign of his wonderful streak of luck. There were exactly three customers in the restaurant -- the same three who were always in the restaurant… the only three who were ever in the restaurant. Bahorel was sitting in one corner playing table football with Jehan. He'd barely touched the chili he'd ordered before Grantaire left to do the shopping. Jehan had eaten his meal, but he was wise enough to only ever order grilled cheese… and even Grantaire couldn't screw that up. Feuilly was sitting at the bar, determinedly working his way through his coffee and nothing else. And that was everyone. It was lunch and the restaurant was dead. Utterly dead. Like always.
Maybe Eponine had been right when Grantaire had run into her at the market. Maybe the rumors were true. Maybe the Corinthe wasn't going to make it.
Trudging past his regulars and Joly, who was covering the bar, with barely a nod in greeting, Grantaire went through into the kitchen. Bossuet was cooking up another grilled cheese. Grantaire deposited the supplies on the counter and slumped next to Bossuet, letting out a sigh so dramatic that even Jehan would have been proud. "Tell me that your day has been better than mine so far."
Without looking up from the pan he was holding, Bossuet leaned over and pressed his shoulder against Grantaire's. "Come on, R. I'm sure it wasn't as bad as all that."
"It really, really was." Grantaire let out another melodramatic sigh and turned to hitch himself up on the counter next to the bags. He reached inside one and pulled out the runaway crab who had caused his altercation with Tall, Blonde, and Handsome and said to Bossuet, "What do you know about cooking one of these?"
Bossuet stared at the crab for a moment, then at Grantaire, then back at the crab. The crab had the audacity to lift his pincer and wave. Bossuet lifted his hand and waved back, an enchanted smile on his face. When he was able to look away again, he turned back to Grantaire. "I know enough about cooking one of them to know that I can't cook that one now that we've been introduced."
A laugh escaped Grantaire before he could quite control it. After placing the crab carefully up on the shelf above the counter, he hopped down. "Well, then I guess I'd better not introduce you to the rest of them. I paid $59 for them. We can't set them all free!" His smile turned melancholy, then, "Then again, according to Eponine, we'll all be out of a job come next month, so what's another wasted 59 bucks?"
Bossuet froze in the act of sliding the grilled cheese onto a plate, shoulders tensing. And Grantaire knew. Because the look on Bossuet's face wasn't one of shock -- it was one of guilt. He'd already known. Which meant that Joly knew, too. Which meant it was true.
Grantaire grabbed the pan out of Bossuet's hands and finished plating the grilled cheese, artfully arranging the side dishes and a few sprigs of parsley. Plating was the only culinary art that he had any skill at. Those few cooking classes he'd taken before dropping out of culinary school had been good for that, if nothing else. He'd been better in the kitchen once, when it had just been him and his mother, playing around and cooking for fun -- when she read the recipes and he just dove in and did what felt right. But he'd never been good with numbers and the volumes and measures and proportions in recipes had scared him off going any further in his studies than the basics once he had to interpret them on his own. But there was no help for it. He was a failure, and his failing restaurant was a testimony to that.
Grantaire took the plate out to the main floor and asked, "OK, who ordered the grilled cheese?"
No one answered.
Grantaire sighed. "Did I just take Bossuet's lunch away from him?"
Bossuet walked up behind Grantaire and relieved him of the plate. "Yes, you did. But I won't hold it against you, since you arranged it so much prettier than I could ever have done." Going to sit at the bar by Joly, he leaned over and the two started furiously whispering.
"The room's not that big, Bossuet. I can hear you, and I'd bet everyone else can, too."
Joly came around the bar, then, and ushered Grantaire over to the stool between Bossuet and Feuilly. Bahorel and Jehan ended their game and came over to join them. Jehan's eyes were downcast, his lanky frame hunched over as though he were a schoolboy about to be chastened. "So, it's true, then?"
Joly wrapped an arm around Jehan's shoulders and gave him a tight squeeze. "It's true. Our landlord raised the rent. We were barely making it before and now… now we're not making it, at all." Giving Jehan another squeeze and a soft smile, he added, "You three can't keep the Corinthe afloat on your own, though we appreciate how hard you all try."
Feuilly frowned. "There's nothing you can do? No loans you could take out? Better advertising?"
Joly shook his head and Grantaire snorted. "Better advertising? What the hell would we advertise? Shitty chef makes decent grilled cheese; any food poisoning is at your own risk? Please. No amount of advertising will help if the product sucks."
"So all that talk was just that, after all? Just talk?"
Grantaire froze, his heartbeat increasing what felt like a hundredfold. There was just no way. There was No Way. Even his luck couldn't be that bad. Grantaire slowly turned his bar stool towards the door. And sure enough… there was Tall, Blonde and Handsome from the market.
Before Grantaire could even think to utter a word, Bossuet was already speaking in his defense -- and unknowingly making it all worse. There was no point in saving a reputation that Grantaire couldn't live up to. No matter what amazing words Bossuet spoke to soothe the situation, Grantaire wouldn't be able to deliver and the second that Tall, Blonde, and Handsome took the first bite of whatever mess Grantaire would surely make of those crabs… he'd know that. It was a recipe for disaster if there ever was one.
Grabbing Bossuet by the elbow, Grantaire dragged him away from the group and hissed in his ear, "Are you nuts? If you keep talking like that, he'll actually want me to cook for him!"
Bossuet shrugged. "And?"
"And??" Grantaire flung a hand upwards, then pointed back and forth between the two of them. "And then we'll actually have to cook for him!"
"So we'll cook for him. I think we've got this whole grilled cheese thing down by now."
"You don't understand. He's going to want crab. I just know he's going to want crab. Because why wouldn't he want crab, right? I only told him just this morning that I make the best Crab Napoleon in the city!" Grantaire grabbed onto Bossuet's shirt with both hands and gave him a shake. "I. Don't. Even. Know. What. Crab. Napoleon. Is."
Bossuet thought for a moment, then shrugged, "Simple. We'll tell him we're out of crab."
"No, don't do that."
"Because then he'll leave! I… maybe don't want him to leave."
The look Bossuet turned on him then was full of such understanding that Grantaire wanted nothing more than to run and hide. It was ridiculous. There was nothing in the world that Grantaire had going for him at the moment apart for some amazing friends. He wasn't good looking. He wasn't a good cook. He didn't have money. He was even getting a little round in the middle -- came of a diet of mostly grilled cheese and Easy Mac and no time to get to the gym with Bahorel. He had nothing that would entice Tall, Blonde, and Handsome to want to come back and see him again if he left now. So if this was the only chance he'd have to spend time with the man, no matter how awful it was going to be… Grantaire wanted it to last. And if that was pathetic, well… then he was allowed to be a little pathetic.
Joly had seated Tall, Blonde and Handsome at a table, and Feuilly had followed them over, coffee in hand. Feuilly, unlike Grantaire, had a certain charm to him. He had nice hair, good features, strong hands. And he'd worked his ass off for everything he had in life -- a self-made man, if ever there was one. And though some days he barely had two pennies to rub together, he always spent one of them on a cup of coffee at the Corinthe. Everyone liked Feuilly. Why wouldn't they? And it was clear from the intense conversation that he was having with the man that Tall, Blonde, and Handsome was no exception to that rule.
Grantaire let go of Bossuet and walked over to the table, raising an eyebrow at Feuilly. Feuilly took the hint and turned to go join Bahorel and Jehan, but Tall, Blonde, and Handsome reached out to stop him. He even handed over a business card and asked that Feuilly stay in touch. Because, of course he did. Before departing, Feuilly patted Grantaire's shoulder and leaned in close to say, "Before you get your back up, we were discussing the plight of the small business owner in this city and how unfair rental practices are driving some of them out of business. He's the store manager at Combeferre's Department Store and he runs a social justice group on the side. He's promised to look into the matter." With a sly wink, he added, "Seems he has an interest in small business owners -- or at least in one particular small business owner."
Everyone loved Feuilly, and Grantaire was no exception, either. Right at that moment, Grantaire could have kissed him. He should have known that Feuilly would have picked up on his interest and would do what he could to help that interest along. Leaning in close, he said, "You are the best wingman, ever."
Feuilly laughed and whispered back, "Just don't tell Jehan you said so, right?"
When Feuilly finally managed to complete his leave-taking, Grantaire turned back to Tall, Blonde, and Handsome and said, "So, I'm guessing you're here for the crab?"
Tall, Blonde and Handsome steepled his long fingers in front of him, and smirked. "It seems only fair. He took a bite out of me just this morning. And I've been thinking about the merits of naming a food after Napoleon. Perhaps it's a better idea than I first thought -- after all, there is some appeal in getting to stab the man's namesake with a fork."
Grantaire swallowed hard but forced himself to remain calm. "One crab Napoleon, coming right up, then. In the meantime, can I interest you in a cup of coffee?"
When Tall, Blonde and Handsome agreed, Grantaire motioned to Joly to take care of it. Ignoring Bahorel, Jehan, and Feuilly where they were clustered together and whispering like the co-conspirators they probably were, Grantaire grabbed Bossuet and dragged him into the kitchen. He was all but hyperventilating by the time he got there. "What am I going to do? I don't know how to cook a crab! I don't even know what Crab Napoleon is. I'm going to make awful food, like always, and he's going to hate it and he's going to hate me and I'm never going to see him aga--"
Bossuet cut that rant short by taking Grantaire's shoulders in his hands and giving him a firm shake to stop the flow of words. When Grantaire fell silent, taking in great gulps of air, Bossuet said, calmly and with authority, "You can do this. You used to help your mom in the kitchen all the time when we were kids. Surely some of that knowledge percolated through your skull. You just have to tap into it. Use it. You can do this." Bossuet released him. "Now, go outside and get some air while I get these guys cooked." When Grantaire moved to protest, Bossuet shook his head. "You don't need to see that. It'll just upset you. Go outside. Breathe for a minute. Get on your phone and try and find a recipe for 'Crab Napoleon.'" When Grantaire looked like he might protest again, Bossuet took Grantaire's head in his hands, leaned in, and firmly touched their foreheads together. "I've got your back. We can do this. It's going to be OK. Now, go."
"Crab Napoleon doesn't exist."
Bossuet looked up from the pot he was stirring with a blank look on his face. "What do you mean 'it doesn't exist'?"
"I mean, it doesn't exist. There is no recipe for Crab Napoleon. Because It. Doesn't. Exist." Grantaire dropped his head onto Bossuet's shoulder. "I'm so dead. What am I gonna do?"
Bossuet was silent for a moment, gently running his hand down Grantaire's back as he thought. Finally, he stopped stroking, straightened up and said, "We'll improvise."
"We'll do what?"
"We'll make it up." Clapping a hand on Grantaire's shoulder, Bossuet smiled a brilliant smile. "Moment of truth, Grantaire. If you want something badly enough, then you make it happen. We're going to make this happen. And Tall, Blonde and Handsome is going to fall so hard for your cooking that he'll never want to eat anyone else's food ever again."
Grantaire met Bossuet's gaze, let himself bask in the earnest good faith that was all but pouring off the man and whispered, "You really think I can do this?"
"No." Bossuet took Grantaire's shoulders in his hands. "I know you can do this." Giving Grantaire's shoulders a tight squeeze, he said, "Now, let's get to work."
Ten minutes later, Joly appeared in the doorway of the kitchen, looking more than a little frazzled and halfway to tipsy. Grantaire couldn't even find it in himself to be annoyed. Normally his friends avoided drinking around him, at least during business hours, but if Joly was so distraught over this morning that he needed a little help to take the edge off… well, Grantaire was right there with him. And just now… well. At least whatever he and Bossuet had put together looked pretty. He had no idea how it would taste, wasn't even sure he could duplicate what they'd done if he tried, but… it looked good. It looked delicious. And it actually smelled delicious, too. He couldn't quite believe it.
"Magic. It must have been magic. There's no other possible explanation. Except possession. Maybe I've been possessed by the spirit of Gordon Ramsay. That's it."
Bossuet snorted. "Yeah, you're possessed, all right. By some big blue eyes and gorgeous blonde hair. No magic to it. I told you -- you want something badly enough, you make it happen. Now let's get this out to him and see if it tastes as good as it looks."
Joly picked up the plate and turned to leave, but Grantaire stopped him before he'd gone two steps. "Wait, wait! I have to-- just wait, OK?" He pulled out his phone and took a picture of the plate. Even if it turned out that it tasted awful, Grantaire wanted at least this one memory of having made something beautiful.
Moments later, Grantaire and Bossuet were both hovering at the windows of the kitchen door, waiting with baited breath for Tall, Blonde, and Handsome to take his first bite. When his eyes fluttered closed and he sucked in a breath, Grantaire caught his own breath, too. But he went back for a second forkful, and a third, even a fourth, the look on his face growing more and more enraptured with each bite. Bossuet was already doing a victory dance, but Grantaire was too transfixed by the sight to move, or even to look away. Forget the fact that it was Tall, Blonde, and Handsome. There was a person -- an actual customer who wasn't one of Grantaire's friends -- sitting in his restaurant, enjoying food that he had made.
Grantaire felt like he could fly.
Enjolras felt like he was flying. When he'd come across Grantaire in the market that morning -- a man who was unimpressive in just about every way it was possible for a man to be unimpressive -- he'd never have dreamed that there was such skill to back up the boast he had made. A crab Napoleon? Who'd ever even heard of such a thing? Enjolras didn't even really like seafood. He had no idea what had possessed him to track Grantaire down and ask him to put his money where his mouth was, but he was glad he had. That food… his mouth was watering just thinking about it. But it hadn't just been the food. It had been… a feeling. It was the kind of feeling that Enjolras used to get when he was a child and his mother was baking a special cake just for his birthday, just because she loved him. She'd put her best into those cakes, and, even if she had trouble saying the words sometimes, Enjolras could feel her love in every bite.
There had been love in that crab Napoleon. And Enjolras was still floating on how warm and wonderful -- almost giddy -- it had made him feel. He already wanted to go back.
It took Courfeyrac grabbing onto the sleeve of his suit jacket for Enjolras to realize that he'd been calling his name. It was hard to come back down from that high; it felt like crashing, and Enjolras refocused on Courfeyrac with only the greatest of efforts. "What did you say?"
Courfeyrac raised an eyebrow. "You're joking, right? I asked where you've been. I asked at least five times. Are you OK?"
Enjolras put a hand to his forehead. Was he OK? Just a moment ago he'd felt wonderful, like he was soaring. Now… It wasn't that he felt poorly. He felt as he always felt. It was just that how he always felt… well. It didn't feel very good compared to how he'd felt after eating that amazing crab. He wanted that feeling back. Courfeyrac's hand on his arm stopped him before he got down more than two steps.
"For real, Enjolras. Are you high on something? Should I be calling a doctor?"
Enjolras shook his head. "No. I'm not-- It isn't-- I just-- Courfeyrac, have you ever eaten something that makes you feel like you could fly?"
Courfeyrac's eyes widened and he took a firmer grip on Enjolras' arm, slowly pulling him back up the stairs and onto the landing. The worried look on his face would have been comical if it weren't for the fact that Enjolras hated to worry any of his friends, Courfeyrac most of all. They'd been friends since they were children, and Courfeyrac had always looked out for him. Right now, Courfeyrac was unobtrusively checking his pupils, looking for what, Enjolras could only guess -- drugs, concussion, fever… who knew? Enjolras only knew that the cure for what was currently ailing him was back at the Corinthe and he had to get back there as soon as he could. Until then, he needed to reassure Courfeyrac that he was all right. And there was only one way to get Courfeyrac to quit his worrying -- and that was to do his job. Forcing his head down out of the clouds, Enjolras started walking again. "Courfeyrac, I'm fine. Really. We'll go over the budgets as soon as the meeting is over."
And then it was Courfeyrac's turn to send his head up into the clouds. "The meeting! That's right. We're late for the meeting. Wait, wait!" Grabbing at Enjolras' sleeve, again, he stopped them at one of the mirrors on the floor, fussing with his hair, the lay of his jacket. Glancing quickly in Enjolras' direction as he adjusted the knot of his tie, he asked, "Do I look all right?"
Enjolras let out a heavy sigh and crossed his arms over his chest. "Courfeyrac. Are we back on this, again? You've been putting yourself on display and falling at Combeferre's feet for the better part of oh… all the time we've known him. Don’t you think he'd have let you know if he were interested by now?" When Courfeyrac's only response was a short whine and a pleading look, Enjolras rolled his eyes upwards. "Seriously, I love Combeferre like a brother, and I'll admit he's not bad looking but… I really don't get what you see in him that practically sends you into paroxysms of lust whenever he's in the room. What do you see in him that I don't?"
Another short whine followed by a huff. "I don't-- no. No, I do know. I can't explain it, but it's his hands. They drive me wild. I want them all over me. I was so unbelievably relieved when he switched from being a pre-med major to a business major. The thought of him in rubber gloves was fucking killing me. And if you think I'm not aware of how embarrassing it is to feel like this about one of my two best friends… believe me, I'm aware. And I don't know how much more of it that I can take before I explode. Enjolras… help me."
Enjolras threw his hands in the air. "You know what makes him tick as well as I do! If you can't figure it out and you are attracted to him, what makes you think I have any chance when I'm not? What makes you think I have any great secret knowledge that will help you?"
"Because you're EnjolrasandCombeferre. You're practically soul mates. I bet there's plenty you know about each other that I don't know. I bet you have a secret handshake. I bet you stay up late every night on Walkie-Talkies sharing all the intimate secrets of your life."
Enjolras took Courfeyrac's hands in his and gave them a shake, a soft smile coming to rest on his lips. "I think you're mistaking he and I for you and I. We're the ones who used to have the secret handshake. We're the ones who stayed up late with the Walkie-Talkies." Seeing Courfeyrac finally start to relax, Enjolras let go of his hands. "You know what makes Combeferre tick. He wants to make the world a better place. He wants to see the better world of the future come in his own lifetime. He wants people to be happy. The same as we all do. Now, come on. We have a meeting to get to."
Though still looking far from happy with that pronouncement, Courfeyrac tabled any further objections and followed Enjolras upstairs to the restaurant. Combeferre had been more fretful about it than usual and had insisted that they have this meeting. It was time to see what the latest hang-up in the construction of the Musain was.
What a day. Grantaire couldn't help but smile as he settled down at one of the tables, an old cookbook open in front of him. He couldn’t explain why, but somehow… it all made sense. For a change, looking at one of these books wasn't scary. The words didn't swim in frightening configurations on the page. And the numbers… well. He could ignore the numbers. Somehow, just by looking at the ingredients, he finally understood how they were supposed to fit together into the finished product. It made reading these things much easier if he could just ignore the numbers. He had no idea where this understanding was coming from, but he was eager to test it. Turning the book towards Bossuet and Joly as they sat down to join him, he said, "What do you think?"
Joly leaned over to read the title of the recipe which had captured Grantaire's attention. "Caramel éclairs?"
Bossuet laughed. "First Napoleons, now éclairs. What's next, crème brûlée?"
Grantaire shoved hard at Bossuet's shoulder. "Oh, haha. Very funny. I'm serious. What do you think? Do you think I could do it?"
Bossuet reached out to take one of Grantaire's hands in his while Joly took the other, then reached over to grab Bossuet's other hand. Both smiled at him, but it was Joly who said it: "I think Bossuet was right in what he said earlier. I think if you want something badly enough, you can do it. Isn't today proof of that? You wanted to impress Tall, Blonde and Handsome… and you did."
Bossuet interrupted with a, "And judging by the look on his face when he left, you'd have him at your beck and call in a heartbeat if you offered to cook for him, again."
Judging by the immediate wince that followed that statement and the sour look Joly threw in his boyfriend's direction, Grantaire guessed that Joly had kicked him under the table. Joly turned back to Grantaire and said, "The point is that you wanted to impress him and you did. You wanted it badly enough and you did it. You want this? You can do it." He smiled then, eyes crinkling at the corners. "I have faith in you. You can do anything you set your mind to."
Grantaire smiled in return, his heart feeling lighter than it had since he'd inherited the Corinthe. "Well, then gentlemen… let's get cooking, shall we?"
The Corinthe saw more business in the next two weeks than it had seen in the entirety of the past year. Everything Grantaire touched turned to gold. Tall, Blonde, and Handsome had even been back -- often -- to sample other dishes Grantaire had mastered. He'd even shared his name on one of those trips -- Enjolras. Of course, no matter what he went by, it didn't make the "Tall, Blonde, and Handsome" any less true. He seemed especially fond of the caramel éclairs that had been Grantaire's first foray into desserts. He often sent his secretary, Courfeyrac, to pick up whole boxes of them whenever he couldn't make it down for lunch.
It was odd to think it… but Enjolras and Courfeyrac were here often enough that they'd pretty much become regulars. Courfeyrac had even started bringing someone else with him when Enjolras couldn't make it, and once Grantaire got over the initial disappointment of seeing Enjolras less frequently, he'd been vastly amused at the dance the two were engaged in. Courfeyrac's new friend was Combeferre -- and Grantaire had had a moment of more than mild panic when he'd realized that he was that Combeferre… and he was in Grantaire's restaurant. What on Earth could Grantaire possibly have to offer someone like Combeferre? He was heir to the largest department store fortune in the country!
But when he was at the Corinthe, Combeferre was just another face… just another friend. For it was clear that, somehow, he fit in as well here as Enjolras and Courfeyrac did. And so it was with great interest that Grantaire watched the blossoming of his and Courfeyrac's relationship from a friendship into something more… the kind of blossoming that he wished his own relationship with the other member of their trio was doing. When they'd been at the Musain late one night, winding down after some new stress at their own restaurant, Grantaire finally got up the guts to ask Courfeyrac what he'd done to change Combeferre's mind about the nature of their relationship.
Courfeyrac had simply smirked and said, "Don't you know? The secret is in your éclairs, R. One taste and he was putty in my hands. Those things are better than a thousand of Cupid's arrows."
Once they'd left, Grantaire had gotten quietly drunk. His éclairs? Two people who'd pined after each other for years had finally gotten together over his éclairs? It was ridiculous. No food had that kind of power. And if it did… Enjolras ate enough of those éclairs that he should be head over heels for Grantaire by now.
…unless Grantaire had been fooling himself all along and Enjolras didn't feel the same way.
Had Enjolras' flirting been nothing more than politeness? Or maybe he really did only come for the food. Grantaire certainly wasn't much to look at. He was sort of all right at a few things, but no great shakes at any of them… except for cooking, now, apparently. Enjolras spent more time talking to Feuilly when he was here than he did talking to Grantaire. Feuilly had easily gotten roped into joining Enjolras' social justice group and he and Enjolras always had their heads together over some project or another. Only Feuilly's reassurance that they were just friends kept Grantaire from feeling jealous.
It was just… Grantaire couldn't talk to Enjolras. Every time he opened his mouth, he said the wrong thing and offended him. Maybe it was all that social justice crap. Grantaire didn't believe in it. He couldn't believe in it. Not when the only good that had come into his life had nothing to do with society, but what he'd wrestled from society with his own bare hands. Those lofty ideals that Enjolras, Combeferre, and Courfeyrac were so fond of were luxuries that Grantaire couldn't afford… and he wasn't shy about saying so to Enjolras' face.
So, when Enjolras showed up at his doorstep as he was closing, precisely three weeks after they first met, Grantaire wasn't sure what to say. He'd been on the verge of giving up, of admitting that Enjolras would never see in him what Grantaire saw in Enjolras, and that there was no hope for it. But this… he couldn't help but let himself hope that Enjolras being here, alone, without his friends to use as shields… meant something. Taking a deep breath, Grantaire said… "Hey."
Enjolras smiled and offered a soft "Hey" in response.
They then lapsed into silence. A silence that stretched on for two minutes. Grantaire counted all 120 seconds of them.
Finally, Enjolras cleared his throat and said, "I realize that this probably isn't as much of a concern for you anymore, but… you know that Feuilly and I have been working on investigating the small business rental practices in the city, right?" When Grantaire nodded, Enjolras forged ahead. "Well, it turns out that your landlord has been engaged in more than a few questionable actions in the past."
Grantaire leaned against the side of the building, cocking his hip and crossing his arms. "I could have told you that."
A light pink tint overtook Enjolras' cheeks. "I know that. But I needed proof. And now I have it. And the point is… OK, look. The point is that Courfeyrac and I both went to law school, but he actually sat the bar. He's willing to take your case on pro-bono. And when your landlord starts getting desperate to pay his own legal bills with all the trouble we're going to cause him, Combeferre offered to sweep in and buy his properties from him. And Combeferre is the best landlord you could ever ask for -- I know. I've lived in one of his buildings for my entire adult life. He also fired that jerk that we hired as a chef for the Musain. And Courfeyrac suggested that instead of hiring yet another four star jerk, that we use the restaurant to showcase the talent that's already in this city; basically to invite local talent to moonlight at the restaurant on different nights of the week to help boost local small businesses. And he'd like you to be the chef we showcase at our grand opening. We… what I'm saying is that I'd like to do this for you. If you'll let me."
Grantaire stared at Enjolras for a moment, mouth open wide and eyes blinking dumbly, before he could come up with a response. "You… for fuck's sake, Enjolras, why?"
When Enjolras' only response was to blush harder, Grantaire smirked. "Have I got you under the spell of my succulent éclairs, too?" Enjolras' eyes widened and he looked quickly away… and that was all the answer Grantaire needed. Laughing bitterly, he said, "The way to a man's heart is really through his stomach, after all? I'm surprised you're not ranting about free will." At Enjolras' wide-eyed look, Grantaire waved a hand at him. "I've seen the way you look when you walk out of here after eating a few of those things. It's like… it's like you're drugged. Like you're high on something. Like you're not yourself. Like you don't have a care in the world and you don't even care that you don't have a care in the world. It's like you're--"
Grantaire stared at Enjolras, eyebrows climbing up into his hairline. "Excuse me?"
Enjolras took a step closer, a softer look in his eyes than Grantaire had ever seen there. "It's like I'm flying. Grantaire… you make me feel like I'm flying. I won't lie to you; it terrified me at first. I was convinced that you were somehow drugging me and that was why the food tasted so incredible; that was why I couldn't stay away. It only took me a few days to realize… it's not drugs. It's not magic. It's you."
Grantaire backed up a pace, hands held out in front of him as though to ward off the intensity he could see all too clearly in Enjolras' eyes. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Enjolras let Grantaire have his space, even held up his hands in a placating gesture as Grantaire backed up. "You put so much of yourself, of what you feel, into your food, Grantaire… I couldn't reconcile it at first. You say you don't give a shit about humanity, that they can all go rot for all you care. You disagree with me at every turn about how we can make things better for people. But at the core of things… you care. You care about every person who walks into your restaurant. The minute they step across your doorstep, they're your family. I'd even go so far as to say you love them. Your food screams it loud and clear in every bite. And when I eat it… Grantaire, it makes me feel like you love me, too. It makes me feel like I could do anything. You make me feel like I could do anything." He trailed off then, into an embarrassed mumble. "Am I making any sense?"
Grantaire's throat had closed up over his voice, and he could feel a sheen of wetness gathering in the corners of his eyes. All he could do was nod frantically in answer.
Enjolras' answer to that was a beaming smile.
When Grantaire finally convinced his voice to work again, they had stepped closer to each other, drawn into each other's personal space as though they never wanted to be anywhere else. Grantaire reached up and curled his fingers into the fabric of Enjolras' jacket and said, "I thought you didn't even like me." When Enjolras shook his head, sending his hair flying, Grantaire laughed. "I'd really, really like to kiss you, now."
And if Enjolras' smile before had been bright, it was nothing compared to what it was now. He leaned in and pressed his forehead to Grantaire's, his voice just as husky and soft as Grantaire's had been when he answered. "Oh, thank goodness. I was hoping that would be your response."
As Grantaire surged forward, locking his arms around Enjolras' neck, Enjolras caught him and swung him around. There was nothing soft in the way their lips found each other, nor in the way their tongues came together, nor in the way their hands grasped at each other, mapping every inch that they could reach now that they had permission to touch.
It was better than any kiss Grantaire had ever shared with another person. It made him feel light as a feather, as though cooking had been the smallest, most insignificant hurdle to jump and that he really was capable of so much more. Because he understood Enjolras perfectly -- love wasn't in words, it was in actions. And Enjolras' actions spoke louder than any thousand words ever could have. And what they said, loud and clear, was…
~I love you.~