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and love was a binary star—

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1.

Grantaire has been coming to their more public gatherings for two months before Enjolras meets him.

In truth, it might be longer than that. He uncomfortably suspects it might be. But Grantaire stays quiet, sitting with his friends in the back, only sometimes raising his glass for a toast. When he does talk, it is only afterward, and it is only to his friends. At least this much, Enjolras has noticed.

But there is something more.

Sometimes, when Grantaire looks at him, Enjolras feels something. It's like the beginning of a headache, some kind of itch, some kind of buzz between his ears.

He doesn't like it.

But it is Enjolras's reaction, and surely no fault of Grantaire's, so Enjolras does his best to ignore it as Joly beckons Enjolras to join their side conversation. Joly seems surprised that Enjolras and Grantaire have not been introduced, and quickly remedies this lack.

"His tongue is clever, his wit is immense, his will is lacking," Joly later confides to Enjolras, sipping wine in the rooms Enjolras shares with Combeferre. "He says he will fight but he will not believe."

Enjolras frowns. "Do you trust him?"

"In some matters." Joly shrugs. "In the one you mean? I want to. I have known him for two years. He is sympathetic to our goals, but he would sooner stop breathing than admit it. He thinks it's all pointless."

Enjolras thinks back on the pressure that built in his brain when Grantaire met his eyes and carefully made no move to touch him.

"But," Joly adds, "I have never before seen him so willing to try."

 

2.

Enjolras has his misgivings, but Grantaire stays. One night, he turns up at the Musain, both eyes blackened, his lip split, and a bemused expression on his face. He sits alone, shaking his head at all comers, until Enjolras detaches himself from Courfeyrac to speak to him.

"Ah, the daylight approaches," proclaims Grantaire. He reaches into his waistcoat and retrieves a letter. He places it on the table and Enjolras reaches to pick it up. Grantaire's eyes track Enjolras's hand and when Enjolras looks at Grantaire again, he must imagine the way Grantaire's injuries disappear in a blink of an eye, only to return one blink later.

Enjolras shakes his head slightly and opens his eyes. Grantaire is still hurt.

And Grantaire is frowning at him. Grantaire reaches forward--

--and Enjolras steps back, propelled by some force.

Grantaire nods at him in understanding. Enjolras does not know what he understands.

 

3.

Grantaire does not leave and Enjolras does not follow.

This is what Enjolras tells Combeferre later.

He dislikes lies, but he dislikes betrayal more, and Grantaire confuses him. Enjolras follows him home. It is not far, and Grantaire hesitates like he can feel Enjolras watching him. Grantaire raises his hand above his head before he goes inside. Enjolras waits, feeling like a fool, and when he is about to turn to leave, Grantaire emerges again. He has changed something about himself, but Enjolras pays little enough attention to clothing to be able to say what it is. But Grantaire seems different now, a different man, and Enjolras follows him through the city.

An hour later, Enjolras finds himself in a restaurant he has not discovered before, and that he did not see until Grantaire entered it. It is small, tucked away in a corner, and the proprietor greets Grantaire like a friend.

Grantaire has many friends, Enjolras has noticed.

Grantaire orders dinner and Enjolras is contemplating leaving or stepping inside to apologize to Grantaire, and then Grantaire looks up and, without hesitation, meets Enjolras's eye.

Enjolras steps inside.

Enjolras sits down.

Grantaire apologizes, "I could feel you there. I am sorry if I delayed you on some errand."

"There was no errand," Enjolras says. He does not know if it's a lie.

 

4.

There is a riot. Grantaire does not fight with them, but he arrives later with cheerfulness, wine, and pastries. Enjolras keeps his distance, but no one else does. And when his friends begin to leave in groups of two and three, they are happier than when they first gathered together.

But Grantaire did not fight with them.

 

5.

They have settled into an equilibrium, and Enjolras does his best to ignore the dual feelings pulling him towards Grantaire, pushing him away.

His frustration grows with Grantaire and Enjolras is ashamed to blame it on the attraction. But he cannot stop thinking that Grantaire could be, should be, so much better. There is so much potential in Grantaire and yet Grantaire remains Grantaire.

But Joly assures him that Grantaire is trying, and Enjolras will let him keep trying.

And now Grantaire is saying that he wants to be helpful, but all Enjolras can see is frustration swirling behind his eyes. Grantaire is clever and quick with his tongue, yes, but yet, despite all of his time with them, Grantaire still holds himself back from truly embracing their cause. He would be a terrible ambassador of the revolution.

Enjolras lets him go anyway. He cannot be sure of anything unless he tests it. So he tests Grantaire.

Grantaire is found wanting.

Enjolras feels the disappointment deep in his chest and something flutters in his brain, trying to escape.

That night, he settles down at his desk with his diary and he writes down his symptoms. Tomorrow, he will give it to Combeferre to wonder and worry over, but he thinks that Combeferre will tell him that this is friendship. That Enjolras cares for Grantaire and is frustrated that Grantaire cannot become the man Enjolras wishes he would be.

But tomorrow, the weather is poor, and Enjolras has other engagements, and he forgets.

 

6.

Courfeyrac takes them all to the opera and Enjolras relaxes, enjoying watching his friends watch the performance. Enjolras rarely attends the opera, but he is always happy when his friends are happy.

Enjolras is paying no attention to the stage, so he is shocked when Grantaire abruptly stands and makes as if to leave. A host of hands draw him back, but Grantaire looks to Enjolras, his expression lost and forlorn, and Enjolras whispers to Combeferre for an explanation.

"The star-crossed lovers died," Combeferre responds.

Later, Courfeyrac takes Grantaire to the side to apologize, and then approaches Enjolras. "It was a poor choice," he says.

"Grantaire will forgive you," Enjolras says.

"And will you?" Courfeyrac asks.

Enjolras does not understand his meaning.

 

7.

And then, suddenly, he does.

 

8.

He should speak to Grantaire, but for the first time in his life, Enjolras does not know what to say. I'm sorry is not sufficient. This is a cruel twist of fate for Grantaire. Enjolras knows that Grantaire loves as freely as Enjolras does, but while Enjolras loves broadly, Grantaire loves in the specific. It is cruel for their lives to be combined. Grantaire should love someone who can return it without disaster.

Grantaire's love has always been tinged with despair, Enjolras's with hope. But there is nothing to be hoped for here. He understands now what force draws him towards Grantaire, and what force pulls him back. He knows there is no cure, no help that can be had. He is to be permanently off-balance. As his body seeks to love Grantaire, the earth draws him back, reminding him of the future and the work that remains to be done. His will to live is stronger than his will to meld. And yet, it is still agony, being torn between separate desires.

For the first time in his life, Enjolras understands Grantaire and why he chooses not to believe.

Enjolras writes four letters, in the end. He gives all of them to Grantaire. Their fingers nearly brush before Grantaire steps back. The wings flutter harder in Enjolras's head. His headache is constant now.

Grantaire hesitates, stroking his thumb across the paper. Gently, he asks, "is it easier for you if I write?"

Enjolras can barely stand to be in the same room as Grantaire; he can barely stand to be away from him. Yes, this would be easier from a distance. But Enjolras is no coward. He shakes his head. "No."

Grantaire sits and opens the letters one by one. He reads them carefully. Enjolras tries not to watch, tries to busy himself with his own papers and give Grantaire his privacy, but Grantaire beckons him over. Enjolras sits as close as he dares.

Finally, Grantaire looks up and meets Enjolras's eye. Enjolras flashes to Grantaire frowning thoughtfully, but that was before. He blinks several times until he sees Grantaire as he is now. Grantaire smiles a careful, closed smile. "You have nothing to apologize for," he says. "As you can see, I did not want you to know. Your revolution is a burden enough on you. I do not seek to be another one."

Enjolras says, "you are not a burden."

Grantaire laughs. "You know I am."

 

9.

He begins writing to Grantaire, because speaking to him has become too difficult. Grantaire is determined to push Enjolras away with more than merely his natural ability, but they cannot be kept apart for long anymore.

"It's getting worse," Enjolras confides to Combeferre, and Grantaire was partially correct. He is not a burden, but he is a distraction. Enjolras strives to keep his mind on important matters, but he is starting to align himself to Grantaire when they are in a room together. It's disconcerting, to say the least, and, yes, it is a distraction. And on the days when Enjolras cannot help but hate Grantaire more than a little, Grantaire raises his glass in a toast and stays on the far side of the room. But he watches Enjolras constantly.

Theirs is a fragile understanding, but it keeps them through the winter. Grantaire replies to his letters with tales of revels and disappointments. Enjolras tells him of his dreams for the future. They do not speak of love.

In the spring, Grantaire's letters become freer. He is, he says, beginning to understand how dead things become alive again, how one becomes two that must become one again. In meetings, his voice grows louder and louder in his cups until Courfeyrac admonishes him.

The tension snaps on the barricade: they are fighting, they are dying, Enjolras has sent Grantaire away. Perhaps one of them will survive this. It has happened before. Grantaire deserves better than to be tied to this revolution he does not believe in. He may yet survive this night. But Enjolras will not. He knows this.

They are fighting for the future now, but Grantaire has never wanted to be any part of their future. Enjolras wishes him the best in his own, and fights on. He is distracted, he is disappointed, but he is fighting for the future. He can see the dawn.

He feels like he is the dawn. He feels like something is beginning here. His death will create a thing of beauty so bright that it cannot be concealed.

He is content. And, still, he fights.

 

10.

And, then, at the end:

Grantaire stands up.

He declares himself.

He stands next to Enjolras.

And Enjolras knows they are going to die.

He smiles at the soldiers. He takes Grantaire's hand.

The world explodes in thoughts and feelings and memory. He is inside Grantaire, he is Grantaire, and Grantaire is inside Enjolras, they are each other, they breathe as one.

It is too beautiful. It is too much. The human mind cannot bear this for very long, but Enjolras does not let go, Grantaire will not let him. They live an eternity in the moment. Somewhere deep inside, there is an explosion.

When the bullets reach them, they are already dead.