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His Loving Lips of Wine

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Art by RsCreighton

5:25:53

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Part One 1:04:27

Part Two 1:15:04

Part Three 1:01:54

Part Four 1:06:14

Part Five 58:13

Grantaire wakes with his head throbbing, which is no less than he expected. Who could blame him for overindulging, when it was all in the name of honoring the marriage of his three very best friends? It was a union worth toasting, and he had done so freely and with abandon long into the night, well aware that he would suffer for it in the morning, but willing to pay that price for a night spent celebrating the enduring happiness of the people he loved best in the world.

The headache is expected, but the pounding at his door is not. Usually his friends are kinder than to come calling on him scant hours after he finally staggered his way to bed. And Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta are the only ones likely to call on him at all, and they'll have already departed upon their honeymoon by now, and if the gods are fair at all, they'll be thinking only of each other until their return.

The knocking continues, more insistent by the moment, until Grantaire can think only to stagger out of bed and make it stop before it splits his skull open. He stumbles across his rooms to throw open his door and snarl, "What?"

There's a child on the other side, smudged with dirt and looking not sorry at all for the disturbance. "Begging your pardon," he says, and doesn't sound like he means it one bit. "But the carriage is waiting for you."

"Carriage?" Grantaire laughs, but stops quickly, as it only makes his head hurt worse. "You have the wrong door."

"I don't," the child says, sticking out his chin and giving Grantaire a look like he'll drag him out by his shirt tails if it comes to it. "You're Grantaire, and I'm here to escort you, and you should really stop blinking at me and get your boots on. It doesn't do to keep these folks waiting."

Grantaire squints at him for a long moment, but the child stays as he is, heaving a great sigh and rolling his eyes toward the ceiling. "I'm not hungover. I'm still drunk," Grantaire says, with the weight of proclamation.

The child heaves a sigh and leans in, through the doorway, and grabs Grantaire by the sleeve of his shirt. "Congratulations," he says, dry as dust, and pulls Grantaire down the hallway to the stairs, and outside to the street. Where there is, in fact, a carriage waiting, and a bay stallion pawing at the cobbles and tossing his head as he waits for them.

"Right, then. In you get," the child says, giving him a shove at the carriage.

Grantaire may be hungover, or even still drunk, but he digs his heels in and turns about to face the child, frowning. "Hold on, now," he says. "Who are you? And where exactly do you expect me to be going?"

The child sighs as though Grantaire is personally responsible for every tragedy in his life. "I'm Gavroche. This is Zephyr." He pats the horse's neck. "He'll take you to her estate, if you'll stop dilly-dallying."

"Her who?" Grantaire demands, gripping onto the frame of the carriage door as Gavroche tries to bully him into it.

That, of all things, makes Gavroche flash a smile. "Think," he says. "Think very hard about what happened last night, and who you might have offended well enough to make her want to curse you." Somehow, despite Grantaire's best intentions, he's got Grantaire inside the carriage. He gives one final push, making sure that Grantaire's stockinged feet are in, and then he swings the door shut. Grantaire scrambles up and pulls the shade back from the window in time to see Gavroche give a high whistle that sends the horse, Zephyr, pulling away from the side of the street at a brisk pace.

The jolt of the wheels over the cobbles jars his tailbone until he drags himself up and onto the seat. And then he sits with his fingers wrapped around the edge of the upholstery, because really, there is only one goddess he could have pissed off last night, and really, hasn't she cursed him enough for one lifetime?

Still, without the wine clouding his judgment, it's clear enough what he did to anger her. What he said.

He'd meant it well. Musichetta and Bossuet and Joly had been sitting together at their table, their faces bright with warmth and with love, and Grantaire had only meant to tell them how lucky they were to have found such happiness with one another. He'd meant it as a toast, to praise their good fortune and wish them a lifetime full of it.

He'd been drunk. He knows better than to open his mouth when he's drunk, but he always forgets it once there's wine sliding through his veins and making everything seem a grander idea than it is.

The details are blurry, for which he's profoundly grateful. But he recalls enough to understand why Aphrodite would have a quarrel with him this morning. It had seemed a natural segue at the time, to slide from telling his friends how lucky they were to have found one another, to expounding about how fickle love is for the rest of the world, how little happiness is guaranteed to a man. How Aphrodite toys with men's hearts, leaving them searching for love for a lifetime and then withholding it from them, how she probably laughs when they die alone and wretched.

He should have known better than to speak of Aphrodite while inebriated. His friends should have stopped him. They've all endured his drunken rants long enough to know that it only ever leads to one end: the prophecy, the prophecy made at Grantaire's birth, when his parents had hoped for promises of fortune or success or long life, and instead they'd been told that their child would never marry man nor woman, not in all the days of his life.

He knows what he did to anger Aphrodite last night, but he's never been able to find an answer to what he might have done to her all those years earlier, when he was but a newborn babe, to make her curse him to a life without love. Can she really blame him for his bitterness, or for saying such things?

He supposes she can. It's a god's prerogative. But he welcomes the chance to see her face to face, and demand an answer from her. Let her explain how she can justify cursing an infant, and then he'll take whatever new curse she feels like bestowing upon him.

What's one more, when he's already carried the burden of one all the days of his life?

Zephyr flies through the city faster than even the fleetest carriage horse Grantaire has seen before. When they finally clatter to a stop, Grantaire tumbles out and finds himself standing at the end of a long walk that leads past ornate iron gates and up to a grand, towering house. It looks like the sort of place a goddess would call home.

Behind him, Zephyr snorts and tosses his head. His hooves ring out against the stones, and he takes off again without a coachman to guide him, before Grantaire can think of climbing back in and avoiding whatever fate Aphrodite has in store for him.

It's just as well. There's little point in running from gods, or hiding from them. They'll find you anyway, and they'll just be annoyed by the chase. Best to get it over with quickly, and learn how she intends to make his life a further misery.

It's early yet, the sun still low in the sky, and the stones paving the walkway are cold beneath his stockinged feet. He should have listened to Gavroche, and put on his shoes. And a coat, he thinks, as he wraps his arms around himself against the morning chill.

The walking path seems to stretch on forever, a league at least, and yet he reaches the steps up to the house too soon. He climbs them, bracing himself to be met with a goddess's wrath, but when he grasps the heavy brass knocker on the door, cast in the fashion of a pair of folded bird's wings, and knocks upon it, he's answered by a moment of silence followed by the door swinging open on quiet hinges, and only emptiness beyond.

He steps inside, where there's the warmth and cushion of a rug beneath his feet. He's braced for it, so he doesn't startle when the door swings shut behind him, leaving him in the dim, poorly-lit foyer. There are a few candelabra throughout, their candles burning low, but after the brightness outside it seems a meager illumination.

While Grantaire stands on the edge of the rug, blinking to try to adjust his eyes to the dim light, a strong draft steals through the foyer, swirls around him strong enough to flutter his shirt tails and throw his hair into his eyes, and then it gusts hard through the room and snuffs out all the candles at once, throwing Grantaire into complete darkness.

He stands there blinking, this time in surprise. He takes a step forward, then stops with the realization that he has no idea where he intends to go, nor any notion of how to get there.

"Hello?" he calls, and his voice echoes through the barren room. He gets no answer in response. He drops his voice to grumble, "Not that I'm complaining, but this is rather tamer than I expected, as curses go."

That gets no response either, which is much as he suspected. A moment later, though, the draft blows through the room once more. This time, the air is warm rather than cool, and as it dies down something gentle touches Grantaire's elbow.

He jumps near out of his skin and spins about, his heart pounding and his lungs suddenly fighting for air.

"I'm sorry," says a voice, very near him, and it's definitely not Aphrodite, because this one is low and rich and very, very male. "I didn't mean to startle you." The touch comes again, a hand on his elbow, and this time Grantaire only jumps a little.

He gives a broken laugh and shakes his head. "Didn't mean to-- Right, because sending someone to drag me out of bed first thing in the morning and bring me here and then leave me in the dark, none of that is startling."

There's a pause and then, again, "I'm sorry," softer and perhaps a bit more genuine this time. "It had to be done."

"Which part?" Grantaire demands, orienting himself toward the sound of that voice. It's a nice voice, and if he weren't waiting for a goddess's curse to fall on his head, he'd be inclined to let it lure him in like it seems to want to do.

"All of it," the voice says quietly.

"Oh, all right, as long as we're being clear." Grantaire takes a breath and decides to be brave. Or perhaps just foolish, but it's all the same in the end. He faces the voice, says, "You're not Aphrodite," with all the strength he can muster put into his own voice.

There's a pause, and then the voice chuckles, just a little. "No. Decidedly not."

"The boy said I was being brought here because I'd angered Aphrodite and she wanted to curse me."

Another pause. This time, when the voice speaks, it's thoughtful, maybe a little rueful. "Yes. That's true."

Grantaire lets a breath out all at once. "Are you my curse, then? Is it an aggravation curse? You speak in riddles and I just want answers."

"I can't tell you any more than I have." The hand on his elbow tightens just a little, leading him forward. "Come with me."

Grantaire goes, because he seems to have little alternative. This strange man, with his disembodied voice and his gentle touch, moves through the darkness as though it were nothing, as though it were illuminated by the bright, midday sun. He never hesitates or stumbles, and he guides Grantaire through hallways and around corners.

"Will you give me a name, at least?" Grantaire asks when the silence has grown unbearable. "Something to call you by?"

"E--" The voice stops suddenly, choked off as though this stranger had to stop himself abruptly. There's a moment of quiet, and then, "Enjolras. You may call me that, if you like."

"Enjolras." Grantaire tries out the name, considering. And then, when they've turned down at least half a dozen more corridors and Grantaire still has no more answers than he started with, nor any idea where he's being taken to or what awaits him there, "Who are you, Enjolras?" He's not Aphrodite, but he moves through this place as though it's his home. He knows this place so intimately that he can navigate his way through it in total darkness without once missing a step.

Enjolras stops moving and stands still at Grantaire's side for a moment. "I'm your intended," he says at last, and Grantaire has to throw a hand out, groping through the darkness for a chair, a wall, for anything to steady himself as his knees threaten to give out beneath him.

"What?"

*

Grantaire's still trying to wrap his head around it by the time Enjolras has found a room and a chair and hurriedly urged Grantaire into it. "Are you all right?" Enjolras asks him, his voice low and urgent. "It was a bit of a shock to put it that way, I suppose, but there's really no good way to break that sort of news--"

"You can't marry me," Grantaire says on a bubble of hysterical laughter. "You can't."

Enjolras breaks off, and when he speaks again, he sounds affronted. "Why not?"

"Because I'm cursed. The seer said so, on the day of my birth. That I'd never marry, not a man nor a woman. Eternal loneliness, that's my lot." Grantaire squints towards where Enjolras's voice is coming from. He can't see anything, though. The darkness is complete and impenetrable. "Are you my new curse? Did she send you to tempt me to defy her, and marry anyway?"

"Prophecies are predictions, not edicts," Enjolras says, his words clipped like he's losing patience. "You're not forbidden from marrying, if you choose to."

"No," Grantaire says, and he knows his words are turning bitter, knows this is what got him into trouble in the first place, but he can't help it. "Just cursed to never find someone willing to pledge their troth to me."

"That can't be," Enjolras says, and he's lost the edge on his voice. It's soft and gentle and warm and it lures Grantaire in, as enticing as a cup of warm milk and honey on a cold night. "I'm here, aren't I? I'm willing."

Grantaire chokes on a laugh. "A goddess's cruel trick, I think, meant to tease me with what I cannot have."

"Then let's defy a goddess." Enjolras's voice is warmer, richer, like he's smiling. It makes Grantaire's heart clench hard in his chest. "Would you like to?"

"Yes," he breathes. Part of him thinks it's a fool's mission, that Aphrodite will appear before them to prevent it before she'll allow her curse to be broken. Part of him thinks maybe, just maybe, he can stand up in defiance against the gods and claim his life for his own.

Either way, he'll be better off than he is now, waiting in the dark on a goddess's whim. Either they'll marry and the prophecy will be disproved, or Aphrodite will appear to stop them and then Grantaire can demand she curse him, if she means to, and then allow him to return home and get back to his life and to sleeping off this hangover.

"Yes," he says again, and reaches out to clasp Enjolras's hand hard in his. "Let's."

*

Enjolras leads him through the darkness into another room. This one feels cooler and more open. Their footsteps echo more. Grantaire twists his head to see, but everything remains cloaked in shadows, not even a glimmer of light to be seen. "Do you not want me to see you?" he asks after a moment where they're both standing and silent. "Do you have some unfortunate birthmark or something and you think the sight of it would scare me away?"

"Something like that," Enjolras says, his voice twisted with quiet humor.

"Or perhaps you think it's I who's hideous, and you can only go through with the ceremony if you don't have to look upon me."

Enjolras lets out a soft breath and says, "Grantaire," chiding. Then his hand slips from where it's been on Grantaire's elbow, down to link with Grantaire's hand, and they stand there with their fingers clasped for a moment.

"There are words to say," Enjolras says after a moment, quietly. "But they speak of love, and I wouldn't have us begin with lies between us. I don't know you well enough to love you, nor you I. But I choose this, freely and of my own will. I choose to pledge my troth to you, and join our lives, and be as one from this day forward."

It's as good a vow as any, for their situation. Grantaire repeats the words, slowly, deliberately. And with every word, he expects the doors to fly open and light to flood them as Aphrodite arrives to prevent the union she cursed him to never experience.

The doors stay closed. The room remains dark, just the two of them and the quiet words they exchange. Enjolras produces a length of soft rope and wraps their clasped hands in it, to bind them together. And then he presses something into Grantaire's palm, cool and round -- a ring, to symbolize the bond in a way that they can wear permanently, as they cannot the rope.

Grantaire closes his fingers around it until the metal warms against his skin. And then he takes Enjolras's hand in his and slides the ring onto his finger, down to settle at its base.

When he's finished, Enjolras takes Grantaire's hand in his, and Grantaire thinks now, surely now at the last moment Aphrodite will appear and deny them this. But she doesn't come, and the ring slides onto his finger as though it were made to fit him. Grantaire rubs his thumb over it, the solid heaviness of it, and he is wed, in defiance of gods and prophecy.

He laughs, a little giddy and more than a little hysterical. How easy it was. He'd have thought there would be more dramatics involved in defying the gods, not just a few quiet words and a pair of rings exchanged in the dark.

"What is it?" Enjolras asks him when he cannot control his laughter.

Grantaire shakes his head, says only, "Husband," as though it explains everything, because it does. And then, because he's giddy and happy and terrified and relieved all at once, and because it is a husband's prerogative, he shakes off the rope and reaches out until he finds Enjolras's face and takes it between his hands. "May I kiss you?" he asks. "We are wedded and we haven't even kissed, how terribly traditional of us."

He feels Enjolras release a soft breath that might be humor or surprise. And then movement, Enjolras's hand on his shoulder, his other on the small of Grantaire's back, guiding him in. Grantaire takes one small step, and then another, and then he can feel the warmth coming off of Enjolras's body and he tips his face up, slides his hands around to the back of Enjolras's neck to urge him down.

They miss, at first. Enjolras's lips brush Grantaire's cheek, just beside his nose, and they share a breath of laughter between them before they try again, and get it right. Enjolras's lips are warm on his, soft. They linger just like that a moment, the chaste press of their lips together. And then Grantaire lets out a breath and ventures for more, letting his lips part just a little, letting them glide against Enjolras's.

Enjolras's fingers curl in his shoulder and at his waist, pressing into Grantaire's skin. He leans in, increasing the pressure, and takes Grantaire's lower lip between his. He pulls at it lightly, and sucks on it with even greater tenderness, and Grantaire goes very still against him, breathing hard into the kiss and waiting to see what Enjolras means to do next.

Enjolras traces his tongue across Grantaire's lip, slow and deliberate. Grantaire shivers hard within his embrace and moves forward, takes his lip back for his own but offers his tongue in its place. He's not methodical like Enjolras is, he's eager, and he licks into Enjolras's mouth until Enjolras makes a low noise and the hand on Grantaire's shoulder moves up into his hair.

It isn't the sort of kiss that Grantaire expected, or even intended when he asked for one, like they're lovers rather than newly-wedded strangers. But Enjolras's breath gusts against his mouth and he seems to be enjoying himself at least as well as Grantaire is. And if they're to be married, even if it's only to defy Aphrodite, they might at least take what pleasure they can find in it.

He only asked for one kiss, though, so he eases back a little. Not stopping, not that, but he doesn't drive the kiss on as he had been, giving Enjolras the opportunity to end it if he so wishes.

Enjolras makes a small sound into the kiss and the corners of his mouth turn down as though he's unhappy. He closes the hand in Grantaire's hair and presses forward, pulls him in and nips at his lips until Grantaire loses his breath in the kiss and returns it once more.

They don't part until Grantaire's plastered up against Enjolras, arms wrapped around his neck and gasping ragged breaths into the kiss. Even then, Enjolras holds him close, and only turns his face to the side to gasp against the tender skin of Grantaire's throat.

Grantaire tips his head back, hums to himself and smiles when it makes Enjolras nip at his skin. "Well," he murmurs, sliding his fingers through Enjolras's hair. It's longer than Grantaire's, which Grantaire appreciates, though not so curled. "At least we know the obligations of the marital bed shan't be a chore."

Enjolras goes very still against him. His breath comes quickly, but that and the rise and fall of his chest is the only part of him that moves. His fingers go tight on Grantaire's back, then loosen. "There aren't any obligations," he says, his lips tracing faint patterns across Grantaire's skin. "That isn't what I married you for, nor you me."

"No," Grantaire agrees. "But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy our good fortune."

"You would want to?" Enjolras asks, and he sounds skeptical.

Grantaire hums again, in thought this time, and Enjolras's hand flattens against the small of his back as though he can't help but respond to the sound of it. "Are you surprised?" Grantaire asks. "You needn't be." And he presses his hips in to Enjolras's, so he can feel the effect the kisses have had upon him, and there's no mistaking his meaning.

Enjolras makes a noise, and it's a good noise, soft and wanting. He doesn't pull back, but he doesn't move to take things further, either. Grantaire grazes a thumb along the line of his jaw, over his cheek, brings it to rest at the corner of Enjolras's mouth. "The question, I suppose," he says quietly, "is whether you would want to."

Enjolras turns his head, pressing his brow against Grantaire's shoulder. His hands glide up Grantaire's spine and back down again. "Yes, I think."

"You think?" Grantaire's lips curve. "Be sure."

"Yes," Enjolras says again, firmer. His hands close on Grantaire's waist, pulling him in hard so there's no mistaking the press of his erection against Grantaire's belly. One hand lifts to cup the back of Grantaire's neck, and he doesn't even need to apply any pressure before Grantaire is leaning in, sliding their mouths together, the kiss gone straight to open and wanting, a prelude to more.

This is nothing like what Grantaire expected his future to hold when he woke this morning to a throbbing head and a pounding at the door. Less than a day earlier, he railed about the fickleness of Aphrodite. And now he's wed, and it may not be a love match, but they know they are compatible in this, at least. There are worse ways to start a marriage.

When Grantaire starts making impatient noises against Enjolras's mouth, he breaks away, then leaves a chaste kiss on his lips as though to ease the separation, or as though unable to bear it himself. "Come," he says, and his hand slides from Grantaire's nape down to cup his elbow. "I'll show you to the bed chamber."

Grantaire stays at his side as Enjolras leads him through the house, and through the dark. It's no easy task, keeping pace when Enjolras moves with the easy of familiarity, even in the blinding dark, and instinct urges Grantaire to go slow, to feel his way and take his time. But Enjolras's hand is steadying on his arm, and he never once leads Grantaire astray, nor allows him walk into a wall.

It's not a long walk, before Enjolras's gait pauses and there's the sound of a latch, and the quiet creak of hinges. "Here," Enjolras says, and leads him inside.

Grantaire stops just through the door, and takes one step to the side to allow Enjolras in past him. It's as dark here as it has been in the rest of the house, and Grantaire says, wry, "Do you think we might light the lamps here, at least? I'll be better if I can see what I'm doing."

"No," Enjolras says abruptly, his tone harsher than the conversation calls for. "No lamps. No light."

It makes Grantaire hesitate and turn to him. "Even now? Whatever it is you don't want me to see, how bad could it be? You can't think I'm shallow enough to care."

"No lamps," Enjolras says again. "Promise me. I'll ask you for nothing else in this marriage, but promise me that."

Grantaire lets out a breath and shakes his head, mystified. But it's a small thing to ask, so he shrugs so that Enjolras can feel it in the motion of the arm he's taken hold of again, and keeps his voice light as he says, "Very well. You'll just have to tell me how I'm doing, then." And he turns in toward Enjolras and kisses him again, because it's a much finer way to enjoy married life than arguing.

Enjolras lets go of his elbow and slides his arms around Grantaire's back. The embrace brings them in close, pressed together from chest to knees. Grantaire slides his hands up Enjolras's back as he kisses him, and tugs at his shirt until Enjolras gets the idea, and puts enough distance between them that he can pull it off. When he returns, Grantaire's hands land on warm, bare skin.

Grantaire traces his fingers along the contours of muscles. Enjolras is strong, that much is obvious. Each muscle is well-defined, and when Grantaire strokes down his stomach and they tighten beneath his hand, he can feel Enjolras's strength for himself.

There's no point in putting on a show when the darkness is blinding to the both of them. So when the kissing has left him breathless and he's traced his hands over every inch of Enjolras's bared skin, Grantaire steps back and strips his own clothing off quickly, with little fuss. He pulls his shirt off overhead, toes out of his socks, pushes trousers and undergarments off his hips to puddle about his feet and steps out of them, toward the quiet sound of Enjolras breathing.

He steps right into Enjolras's outstretched hands. One lands on his chest, spread broad across it. The other is lower, the heel of his hand on Grantaire's waist, fingers wrapped around his and holding onto him. Grantaire leans in against his touch, humming and happy. The sound of Enjolras's breathing goes a little ragged between them, and the hand on Grantaire's waist slides down to palm his hip. The one on Grantaire's chest moves, too, until his thumb presses in against Grantaire's nipple and Grantaire lets out a sharp breath, grinning into the darkness.

Grantaire's nude but Enjolras isn't, everything from the waist down still clothed. It's fine cloth, but compared to the smooth warmth of his skin it feels like the coarsest homespun. Grantaire pulls at the fastenings at the front of Enjolras's trousers until they come loose and he can push everything down and off.

"Bed?" Grantaire says softly. "You're going to have to lead the way."

Enjolras guides him backwards with careful steps. Grantaire lets himself be led until he feels the edge of the bed at the backs of his knees and he sits down on it. When Enjolras shifts to follow, Grantaire braces his hands on his hips and holds him back. "Stay there a moment?"

Enjolras stays. Grantaire rubs circles over his skin and leans in to kiss his chest, his stomach, lower. He circles the fingers of one hand around Enjolras's cock and strokes, testing the length and the girth of him. When he's done so, he gives a thin, breathless laugh and leans to press his face in against Enjolras's stomach. "You'll break me," he says faintly, and shivers at the delightful prospect of it.

Enjolras's hand goes to his cheek, stroking like Grantaire needs gentling. "We don't have to." His voice is low, solemn. "There are other ways to enjoy our marriage bed."

Grantaire laughs again, stronger this time. "No. Don't you dare." He turns his head, moves just a bit until he can get his lips around the head of Enjolras's cock and suck at him. "Don't back out on me now."

Enjolras says nothing, just lets out a sharp breath like it's startled out of him. The hand on Grantaire's cheek slides down to his jaw. His thumb traces it, then comes to rest at the corner of Grantaire's mouth, presses there as Grantaire stretches wide to take him in.

He has no hope of fitting Enjolras's full length in his mouth. He didn't come virginal to his marriage bed, but he's not that practiced. But he takes what he can, and he's skilled enough to know how to use his tongue, and how to grasp the rest and stroke to make up for his lack. When Enjolras's breath goes just a little unsteady and his other hand lands on Grantaire's shoulder as though for balance, Grantaire smiles around him and gives another, harder suck.

Enjolras is quiet to start, and he holds himself still. The unsteady breathing turns ragged, then strained. The hand on Grantaire's shoulder curls, fingers pressing in. Grantaire strains forward, swallowing down just a little more of him, flirting with the edge of too much, and is rewarded when Enjolras gives a soft moan and locks his knees as though he fears his legs will buckle.

Grantaire pulls off and kisses down his cock, mapping the veins and ridges with his lips and his tongue until he has it memorized even without the benefit of sight. He licks at him and closes his hand around the head of his cock, rubbing his thumb in firm circles around and grins against his skin when Enjolras's quiet noises choke off into a sharp moan.

He laps up Enjolras's cock to the head again, and drags his tongue over the path his fingers just traced in a slow caress. He ends with a light kiss at the very tip of his cock and settles back so only his hand is on him, stroking leisurely as Enjolras clutches at his shoulder and gasps like he's dying.

"Don't go off without warning me," Grantaire says. "I still want you in me."

Enjolras breathes audibly for a minute, for two. His hips flex into Grantaire's grip until at last he's able to speak, to say, "You could keep going, and I could return the favor. And then you could have me in you later, when we've both recovered."

Grantaire hums happily, chuckling as Enjolras pushes into his fist. "Tempting. I'm not a very patient man, though. I don't want to wait." He catches Enjolras by the arm, fingers wrapped around his wrist where it's still braced on Grantaire's shoulder, and keeps hold of it when he slides back on the bed, pulling Enjolras with him. "Come here," he says, coaxing. "Come on. I promise you, you can have my mouth again later." Grantaire licks up Enjolras's throat as Enjolras stretches out over him, his arms locked to hold himself up, his chest heaving. "We can do everything later, whatever you might want. But right now, I want you."

Grantaire bites at his jaw, then pushes his fingers through Enjolras's hair and tilts his face to his for a kiss. Enjolras makes a noise against his mouth. For all his protests, he sounds content. He sounds pleased.

He kisses Grantaire with a hand against the side of his neck, slow and thorough until the speeding of Grantaire's heart settles into something deeper and even more powerful. Grantaire shifts beneath him, makes room for him between his thighs. He arches up, pressing them together at the hips, at the stomach, at the chest. He curls his arms around Enjolras's back and pulls him down and kisses him back until he's warm and languid and wanting.

And then, only then, does Enjolras break away and tip Grantaire's head back, kissing his neck, the hollow of his throat, skin over his breastbone. He kisses his nipple and sucks it into his mouth and sets the edge of his teeth to it, until Grantaire arches beneath him with a hoarse sound catching in his throat, and then he moves on. He kisses Grantaire's stomach and circles his tongue around his navel. He catches Grantaire behind the thighs and pushes his knees up until they're bent, out until they're spread. Grantaire can't see him kneeling between his legs but he knows he must be, his back bowed as he bends over Grantaire, strands of hair like silk against Grantaire's stomach as he takes Grantaire's cock into his mouth and sucks hard, just for a moment, just until Grantaire rises up off the bed like the curve of a bow, pulled taut and straining.

Enjolras lets him slide out of his mouth too soon, continuing along the path he's set himself on. He leaves kisses across Grantaire's skin and pushes his legs up as he moves down. For a moment, all Grantaire feels is the brush of Enjolras's breath and his thumbs pressing into the backs of his knees. And then there's heat, pressure, exhilarating movement.

Grantaire sucks in air at the first touch of Enjolras's tongue, and loses it in a rush when Enjolras makes a sound against his skin like he's the best thing Enjolras has ever tasted. He moves his mouth against Grantaire's entrance like he's kissing him there, too, all warm and spit-slick until it doesn't take any pressure at all for Enjolras to open him to his tongue.

Grantaire gropes out, casting about for an anchor until his hand finds Enjolras's head and curls in the hair at the back of it. He doesn't pull, he's got better manners than that, just holds on as Enjolras's tongue moves against him, works inside him, and sends the rest of the world reeling around him.

He's breathing words he can't remember deciding to speak, desperate little sounds, "Please," and "Oh," and "There, gods," and he brings the hand that isn't fixed in Enjolras's hair down to grasp at his own cock. He wants so fiercely that it's an ache, a throbbing wound in the very center of him, and as he jerks himself off with quick strokes it starts to fill that void, until Enjolras goes still against him and then draws back.

Grantaire sobs out his desperation and tightens his grip in Enjolras's hair. Enjolras shakes his head, reaches a hand up and carefully opens Grantaire's fist. "Don't do that," he says, reaching to lay his other hand over the one on Grantaire's dick, stilling him.

Grantaire tosses his head upon the blankets and shudders beneath the light pressure of his hand.

"Don't," Enjolras says again, softer, entreating. "You're moving too fast, if you want me in you. You're not ready yet."

Grantaire pushes up against Enjolras's hand for the way it makes their skin drag together, and makes his breath come shorter and sharper. "Then get me ready."

He can hear the smile in Enjolras's voice, the warmth of humor when he says, "I'm trying, you know." He bends down to kiss Grantaire's stomach, then moves back. His hands slide to Grantaire's ankles, then fall away. "Don't move," he says, and the bed shifts beneath his weight, and he's gone.

Grantaire scrubs his hands over his face and pulls them through his hair. Enjolras is only gone a moment, barely long enough for Grantaire to start to feel the first twinges of self-consciousness as he lies there, spread open and wanting across the bed. But then Enjolras is back, a touch on Grantaire's ankle and the mattress dipping beneath his weight again as he climbs back onto the bed.

"Stay there," he says. "Just like that. Just a moment." And there's a sound Grantaire can't place, like metal on glass, and another disorienting instant where he feels untethered without Enjolras's hands on him.

He's back before Grantaire can draw breath to protest the loss, sliding down the bed, his shoulders bumping into Grantaire's knees until Grantaire makes more room for him between them. Enjolras kisses him between his thighs again and strokes a hand over Grantaire's hip and up and down his thigh as he moves his mouth away and replaces it with the pressure of a finger at Grantaire's entrance, warm and slicked with grease or oil, so that it slides in up to the first knuckle easily.

Grantaire gasps, feeling as though he's drowning as Enjolras moves inside him and the air in the room grows thicker. Enjolras kisses the insides of his thighs, scrapes his teeth over the tender skin there and sucks hard enough to leave bruises as he works his finger in with slow, maddening movements. By the time he's up to the second knuckle, Grantaire's brow is soaked with sweat. It drips to sting his eyes and dampens his hair, and when Enjolras spends minutes working him open enough to take him up to the third knuckle, Grantaire bucks beneath him and chokes on air at the sudden, shocking sensation of it.

"Shh." Enjolras soothes him, stroking a hand over his stomach. His kisses turn tender as he leaves a dotting trail over them on Grantaire's thigh, his lips soft and gentle where he presses them to the stinging skin that will surely show bruises in the light. "Not yet. Be patient."

"You are asking quite a lot from me," Grantaire says, his voice shaking.

Enjolras huffs a laugh against his skin and works his finger out and back in again, a careful, steady glide. "I'll make it worth the wait."

"You're very sure of yourself." He has cause to be, but Grantaire can't help but tease. It's no less than he deserves, as much as he's stringing Grantaire along and drawing it out until it's as much torment as it is pleasure.

Enjolras hums and leaves a new bruise, sucking on the crease between hip and thigh. "Yes," he says, and he sounds so damn smug.

Grantaire can't help but laugh and reach down to ruffle a hand through Enjolras's hair. "Let's see it, then. Impress me."

He can't be sure if it's the goading, or if the laughter rippling through him served to relax him to Enjolras's satisfaction, but whatever the reason Enjolras answers with another stroke of his finger inside Grantaire, fucking him with it, and he keeps the pace slow but it's steady, insistent. It's just what Grantaire needs and he shudders against Enjolras and shifts, rocking down onto Enjolras's finger as Enjolras pushes into him.

"Ready for another?" Enjolras asks against his skin.

"Yes."

Enjolras pulls out all the way, leaving Grantaire empty and groaning. He strokes a hand over Grantaire, roaming from his knee up to his stomach, and pours a thin stream of something warm over him, so that it wets his thighs and slicks his cock and drips down between his legs. Enjolras presses two fingers there and rubs it into Grantaire's skin, pushes at his entrance until Grantaire catches his breath at the stretch, and then returns to rubbing, rubbing, his fingers slippery on skin that's so sensitive that every touch makes Grantaire shiver and bear down against him, straining for more.

Enjolras is slow and careful, maddening with it. By the time Grantaire's taken two fingers to the last knuckle, he's shuddering and slack-jawed, a trembling mess spread across the bed. Enjolras crooks his fingers and finds a place that ignites a firestorm of sparks. It electrifies Grantaire, has him arcing off the bed and moaning wildly, and then, when Enjolras relents, leaves him slumped back on the bedding, gasping and stunned by it.

"More?" Enjolras asks him, smiling and nipping at his skin.

It takes Grantaire an effort to scrounge up enough sense to gasp, "Do that again."

When Grantaire has taken three fingers, he moans at every touch, every movement, unable to help himself. His cock is a dripping mess across his stomach and his thighs tremble and shake with need and Enjolras is still being so slow, so careful. He leaves kisses across Grantaire's stomach and thighs like he thinks that'll soothe him, like there's anything in the world that could do so right now. He hums against Grantaire's skin like he's pleased, and murmurs praise and encouragement, and when Grantaire's taken all three fingers as deep as they'll go, Enjolras stays there on one elbow between Grantaire's legs and fucks him like that for several glorious minutes. He drips more oil over his fingers and Grantaire's flesh, making everything slick and filthy and good, and it's so close to what Grantaire wants that he covers his face with his hands and sobs into his palms.

And then Enjolras says, softly, coaxing, "One more," and Grantaire chokes on air and shakes his head wildly.

"No," he groans. "No. Please. Don't make me wait."

"One more," Enjolras says, "and then you can have me."

Grantaire gasps and stares blindly up at the darkness overhead. It's too much. It's overwhelming, as he feels Enjolras push a fourth finger in alongside the three Grantaire has already taken. His cock is aching for a touch, for release, and Enjolras isn't even in him yet. He's never going to survive it. The prophecy will be true after all, because he's going to die in his marriage bed, before he's ever even made it to the second day of their union.

He doesn't know how long it takes, he only knows it feels like forever, like Enjolras is acting as though they have all the time in the world when Grantaire is dying right there under him. But finally, eventually, he feels the quiet ache of the stretch as he takes the last knuckle within him, four fingers stretching him open. And then Enjolras twists them and Grantaire jolts and grabs for him, grabs him by the wrist and the shoulder and drags him up the bed.

Enjolras resists, only long enough to slide his fingers out of Grantaire carefully. And then he lets himself be pulled up and he braces himself with his hands on either side of Grantaire's shoulders and he doesn't deny him when Grantaire wraps his arms and his legs around him, pulls him down to settle his weight onto him and fucks against him, his cock sliding wet and sticky where it's pressed between their stomachs.

Enjolras shifts his weight, touches a hand to Grantaire's jaw and kisses him, deep and dirty. Grantaire moans wantonly into the kiss, and moans again when Enjolras takes the hand from his jaw and reaches down between them to adjust the angle, so that when he shifts his weight forward the broad head of his cock presses against Grantaire's entrance, bearing into him, as slow and inexorable as the tide. And Grantaire is abruptly grateful for all the time Enjolras took to prepare him, because Enjolras worked him open enough to take four fingers and he still feels as though there's no way Grantaire is going to be able to fit him.

Enjolras ends the kiss as Grantaire bites back a groan, but he still stays close, his breath on Grantaire's lips, their brows touching, their noses brushing against one another, his mouth so close that all Grantaire has to do is tilt his head back to receive another kiss. Enjolras gives him a series of them, light and coaxing as his hips flex and he pushes deeper into Grantaire.

"You--" Grantaire gasps between each syllable, but forces the words out all the same. "You promised you'd fuck me."

Enjolras smiles against his mouth. He takes Grantaire's lip between his teeth, infinitely gentle, and suckles and laps at it, and when Grantaire is shivering beneath him and making low sounds into the kiss, Enjolras scrapes it between his teeth and makes him cry out quietly and fight not to tighten around him. "What do you think I'm doing?"

"Tormenting me," Grantaire gasps, and shudders as his cock throbs and drips onto his stomach.

"I promised I'd make the wait worth it, too." Enjolras shifts his weight forward, pushing deeper into Grantaire, rocking him up the bed a little. Grantaire claws down his back, wild with it, but too cautious to risk moving beneath Enjolras and dislodging him.

Enjolras makes it slow, and nearly as torturous as it is overwhelmingly pleasurable, but finally, when Grantaire is soaked with sweat and moaning against his mouth, he nudges Grantaire's legs just a little bit wider and seats himself to the hilt inside of him.

Grantaire aches and strains around him, and his hips move of their own will, flexing up with small, needy movements as he takes a moment to get accustomed to the length and the girth of Enjolras filling him up. When he can breathe again, and the wildness has settled down from a fierce, frantic thing to an ember, blazing hot and with a single-minded purpose inside of him, Grantaire locks his ankles behind Enjolras's back and says, "Now. Now fuck me."

Enjolras does. He starts off slow about it, still careful, his breath just a little ragged where he pants against Grantaire's mouth. But once Grantaire has taken the fullness of him, he starts moving and he doesn't stop. A slow glide back and forth, pressing deep into Grantaire on every stroke, turns into a longer, slicker glide. The drag of Enjolras's skin against his incredible, and Grantaire gasps against his mouth and bites at his lips until he can lure him into a kiss. And then they stay like that, sharing breath as Enjolras sweeps his tongue through Grantaire's mouth and lays claim to it, rocking in time against one another when Grantaire curls his hand in the hair at Enjolras's nape and pushes him back. He turns the tables, exploring Enjolras's mouth with his kiss until he knows just where to lick and how to suck to make Enjolras's arms shudder and his hips speed up. He whispers encouragement, entreating Enjolras to move faster, to fuck him harder. Then he gasps it, then groans it, as Enjolras heeds him, and obeys.

Grantaire throws his head back when it's too much, when Enjolras's hips drive into his and everything in him feels drawn tight and ready to break apart under the pressure building up inside him. Enjolras bends his head and sucks at his neck instead, leaves bruises there to match the ones no doubt blooming on Grantaire's thighs. Every stroke feels like an electric current coursing through him. It's perfect, and he wraps his arms around Enjolras's shoulders and pushes his fingers into his hair and tells him so.

Enjolras's lips curve on his skin. He keeps his pace, keeps everything perfect, balancing Grantaire on the knife's edge between too much and not enough. And in between the bruises he leaves on Grantaire's throat, he breathes words against his skin, murmurs of praise and pleasure. He tells Grantaire he's gorgeous, that he's so good, that Enjolras could stay like this forever, and Grantaire chokes out a desperate laugh and shakes his head.

"Not forever," he says, dropping a leg from around Enjolras's hips to brace on the bed so he can push up into each thrust. "We'll do this again. We'll do this all the time. But you have to let a man catch his breath, and sleep, and maybe eat. I'm only human. I have my limits. You'll break me apart."

Enjolras makes a considering sound as he drives into Grantaire, just a little harder. "I suppose so. Would you like to come?"

This time, Grantaire's laughter is wild and free. "So much."

Enjolras nods and reaches down between them to take hold of Grantaire's cock as he makes each stroke just a little faster, a little deeper. Grantaire's cock is still wet with the oil Enjolras dripped over it, and as Enjolras begins to pump it, it makes every movement slick and slippery and good. He thrusts up into Enjolras's fist, pushes back down as Enjolras fucks him, and feels everything start spiraling away from him, slipping out of control.

"Like that," he breathes. "Just like that." And Enjolras fucks him hard through the last few strokes, until the stretch of him inside and the tight grip of his fist and Grantaire shatters apart beneath him, shaking and gasping and groaning as his body twitches and shudders beneath the onslaught.

Enjolras stills inside him but keeps his grip tight, stroking Grantaire through it until he gives a final, broken gasp and reaches down to push Enjolras's hand away from his oversensitive skin. His chest heaves and his lungs burn and he's sweaty and filthy and so satisfied, he feels could happily never move from that spot.

Enjolras cups his face in his hands and kisses him, slow and sweet. "A little more?" he asks, and shifts his weight just enough that Grantaire catches his breath at the reminder that Enjolras is still within him, still straining for his own release.

"You really do mean to break me," he says faintly.

Enjolras laps the salt from his skin and moves in him again, the same, small motion. It sets off sparks in Grantaire, not enough to rouse him again, but enough to make him stretch and arch lazily beneath Enjolras's weight. "I won't. I promise."

"Come on, then," he says, and loops his arms around Enjolras's neck. He hooks his leg back up over his hip and guides him down into a lazy kiss.

Enjolras moves in him, short and shallow. It's an easy pace now, where the one Grantaire set was driven by frantic desperation. He kisses Grantaire and fucks him the same way he worked him open to start, like there's nowhere else in the world he'd rather be, nothing else he'd rather be doing, and he means to savor it the way one would a fine brandy. When he comes, it's with their mouths together and their hands joined. Grantaire feels the shiver of his breath and the shudder of Enjolras's hips against his. Enjolras grips his waist tight and locks himself deep, and twitches inside him for long minutes until he finally collapses, spent, all his weight on Grantaire.

Grantaire wraps him in his arms and tangles their legs together, and traces aimless patterns with his fingertips through the sweet cooling on Enjolras's back.

"You said I was gorgeous," Grantaire murmurs.

Enjolras lifts his head and says, "Hmm?" fuzzily, like he's already halfway to sleep from the sex.

Grantaire curls a strand of Enjolras's hair around his finger. "You can't know that. You've never seen me."

"I don't need to see you to know you. To know how you rise to my touch." He shifts and it moves him, where he's still inside Grantaire even though he's gone soft, and every movement threatens to dislodge him. Grantaire sucks in a breath and arches at the sudden, unexpected pleasure.

"See?" There's the warmth of a smile in Enjolras's voice. "Lovely."

Grantaire is too exhausted, too replete to argue with him. He pulls Enjolras back down and hooks a leg around his, holding him in place. "I am sad to say," he murmurs, keeping his eyes shut despite the dark, letting sleep secure its grip on him, "that you brought me to our wedding day with a terrible hangover. I'm going to sleep the last of it off now, if you don't mind."

Enjolras makes a low, contented sound. He strokes a hand over Grantaire's hair and down his neck, leaves a trail of gentle touches across his skin like he's counting the marks he left upon him. "Sleep," he agrees softly. "Everything else will keep."

Grantaire listens for the sound of Enjolras's breathing to slow and deepen, joining him as he drifts off to oblivion. But he falls asleep before he hears it, and he sleeps deeply, undisturbed by dreams.

*

He wakes to sunlight across his eyes, bright and blinding. He throws an arm over his face with a groan, but there's nothing for it. After a moment lying in bed, taking inventory of the soreness of his muscles, the throbbing in his head that has receded with sleep to a minor annoyance, he curls his back towards the light and drags the blankets up over his head, where he can blink his eyes open and rub the grit from them without threat of being blinded.

The sunlight filters through the pattern of the blanket, casting colored shadows across the sheets and Grantaire's skin. He stretches underneath it, taking stock of how his back aches just a little, his thighs, his shoulders. They hurt with the soreness of muscles well used, and it's a satisfying sensation. He wets his lips with his tongue and feels the way they sting, made sensitive from Enjolras's kisses. His throat and neck and the insides of his thighs sting as well, but he'll have to wait until he's out from under the blankets to catalogue those, where he can see the color of the bruises without the light through the blanket distorting it, and where he can press his fingers to the bruises and remember the feel of Enjolras's mouth there as he made them, sucking hard.

He reaches out to either side, but finds the bed empty, Enjolras gone. Something crinkles beneath his fingertips and he grasps it, the hard, sharp edges of folded paper, and pushes his head out from beneath the blankets to see what he's found.

It's a sheet of fine paper, folded and sealed with wax, and that makes Grantaire laugh in surprise and bemusement. The wax signet bears the letter E in curling script, flanked by the same bird's wings that adorned the brass knocker at the door.

Grantaire traces a finger over the wax and wonders just what he's married into, and how he came to the attention of someone wealthy enough to own a signet ring.

His eyes have adjusted to the light by now, no longer blinded by it. He pushes the blankets back further so he can sit up, his back against the headboard, and break the wax seal. He unfolds the paper to find a brief letter within, scrawled in ink in an elegant hand:

Grantaire--

Please forgive my absence. Duty calls, and cares little for a man's desire to enjoy his wedding day in peace. Please feel free to make yourself acquainted with our home. I don't expect I'll be back before dark.

--E

Grantaire reads it again, then leans across the bed to look out the window that stands over it, casting its light upon him. Outside, the sun has passed its zenith and just begin its descent toward the far horizon. Afternoon, then, and he has hours yet until Enjolras's return.

He pushes the blankets off entirely, shivering a little at the prickle of chill in the room, and swings his legs over the side of the bed. Now, like this, he can see the bruises that Enjolras left upon him, a scattering of them across the insides of his thighs, and the sight arrests him. He presses his fingers into the marks as he meant to, and catches his breath at the slight ache.

He doesn't dislike them, far from it. But he thinks, wry, that he's going to have to find a way to distract his husband's attention elsewhere this coming night, or he's not going to be able to walk for the way the bruises press and rub against one another.

He takes stock of the room, now that he's able. The bed is broad, which he already knew from how they'd sprawled themselves out across it earlier, and ornate, which he did not. The rest of the room is well-furnished as well, with rugs and furniture polished to a gleam, with gilt-edged lamps and, drawn near the bed, an elaborately-carved chair that holds what appears to be Grantaire's clothing, washed and pressed and folded neater than he's ever bothered with before in his life.

Grantaire takes each garment up one at a time and dresses. He feels out of place now, with these threadbare clothes upon his back, where he hadn't had the opportunity to feel so before. But these clothes mark his poverty, his day-to-day struggle just to make ends meet and keep a roof over his head and food in his stomach. And everything Grantaire has seen here marks Enjolras as a man of wealth and stature. Grantaire feels out of breath as he casts his gaze about the room and wonders all over again what could possess a man like this to choose someone like Grantaire for his husband. All to vex a goddess and disprove a prophecy? He can't make sense of it.

Perhaps Enjolras is someone likewise scorned by Aphrodite, cursed to a life without love, but unlike Grantaire, with the wealth and the means to take matters into his own hands. Perhaps he figured they had that in common, to build the foundation of a relationship upon. Grantaire's heard of worse reasons for two people to wed.

He makes his way out of the bedroom barefoot, trying not to marvel at the way his toes sink into the plush rugs, or the fine furnishings in the rest of the house. Everything is polish and silver and glass, ornate detailings and rooms so vast he feels lost standing in the center of them.

The sound of quiet footsteps behind him makes him turn, catching his breath and prepared to see Enjolras for the first time. But it's a woman standing in the doorway he left open behind himself, small and round and she smiles kindle at him. "You must be hungry," she says. "You've had an exciting day, I'd wager, and no breakfast to start it off right. I've had a plate brought up to the sitting room for you, if you'd care to eat."

"Sitting room," Grantaire echoes, faint and disbelieving. He's never in his life been in a place with enough rooms to spare that they could have one dedicated solely to sitting.

The woman seems to mistake his wonder, because her smile warms and she comes forward to take him by the arm as she says, "Well, it's a bit uncouth, I suppose, but the master won't mind. And I didn't suppose you'd want to sit all by your lonesome at the dining table."

"The master," Grantaire says to himself, and hesitates a moment at her side. "You must mean Enjolras?"

She blinks at him a moment, like she's startled, but then the smile's back just as it had been before, as sure as ever. "Of course I do. He told us you're to want for nothing, so if there's anything you need you just let me know and I'll see it's done. But some luncheon first, I think, yes?" She guides him through the halls and into a room that's as fine as any of the others, with deep rugs and plush chairs and large windows set into one wall, letting in the golden afternoon light. There's a plate on a small table in the middle of the room, but Grantaire gravitates to one of the armchairs by the window, where he can fold himself up into it and stare outside at the grounds, all the green grass and the brilliant blue of the sky overhead and the gentle swaying of the trees in a light breeze.

She looks at him a moment, then smiles and takes up the plate and the silverware to bring it to him. "It'll be our little secret," she says in a whisper, and makes Grantaire laugh, a little surprised and a lot wondering.

"Thank you," he says. The smell of the food wafting up to him makes his stomach rumble abruptly, and that makes her smile deepen and the corners of her eyes crease, as though it's the best compliment he could have paid her. "I'm sorry, I don't know your name."

She reaches out and pats his shoulder. "I'm Madam Houcheloup, my dear. Now, when you're done, you just leaves those in here and I'll see they're taken care of. And if you need anything at all, just say the word." She stands there a moment looking down at him, then reaches to pat his shoulder once more, a tide of emotion sweeping across her face. "It's no bother," she says, as though she can read the protest already forming on Grantaire's tongue. "We're glad to have you, you know. The house has been empty for too long. It'll be good to have some life back in it."

"It's a very large house," Grantaire says faintly, because he doesn't know how to respond to the rest. "And I'm just one man. I don't know how well I'll be able to fill it."

"We'll see," she says, and moves back towards the sitting room's doorway, to leave him to his meal. "We will see."

*

After he's eaten, Grantaire returns to his exploration of the house. He finds rooms upon rooms, one vast and devoid of furniture that he thinks must be a ballroom, and the dining room that Mme. Houcheloup had mentioned. He stands in the doorway of that one and gives a desperate little laugh, because the table's impossibly long, with twenty or more chairs set around it, and Grantaire's glad for Mme. Houcheloup's kindness and foresight in having his meal brought to the sitting room instead, because he feels dwarfed just standing here, and doesn't think he could have borne it to stay long enough to finish a meal.

Elsewhere, there are more rooms. He finds several bedrooms, small immaculate things, and he wonders if there are other residents of the house or if they're meant for guests. And then, just as he's starting to wonder if he might be able to find his way back to their own bedroom, because it's too large and too grand out here for him, he finds the most wondrous room of all. There's no silver or gilt in this one, no ornate trimmings, just the same deep, luxurious rugs and a grand room whose walls are lined with shelves, and whose shelves are full of books.

He makes a sound, he's sure he does. He can't help himself, as he comes forward to stand in the light coming through the tall windows, set with colored glass. He walks around the room and selects books at random, drawn to the texture of the cover or the thickness of the book or the shine of the gold leaf on the spine. And when he's filled his arms, he carries them all to the center of the room, where there are plush armchairs and small tables set beside each of them, where he can sink deep into the upholstery and curl his legs up and open the cover of the first book, to learn what sort of a man his husband is, and what sort of books he cares to fill his shelves with.

He reads for hours, until the light has died and he has to move around the library, lighting and turning up the lamps to see by, until he lifts his head from the page and blinks to discover that someone's brought supper to him, the plate resting at his elbow and the deliverer of it come and gone with Grantaire none the wiser. He eats and then he reads again, until a draft blows through the room, setting the curtains to whispering against one another.

Grantaire raises his head just as the draft blows the lamps out, leaving him blinking in the sudden darkness. "I was in the middle of a sentence," he says, chiding.

There's a low chuckle, and the steady rumble of Enjolras's voice. "My apologies. I'll see to it your spot is marked for later."

"I can mark my own place, thank you," Grantaire says, and perhaps he's too acerbic for a man newly wed, who's yet to make the full acquaintance of his husband. But he was enjoying himself, and now the moment is lost. He leaves a slip of paper from his pocket between the pages, shuts the book and sets it aside and then waits, not foolish enough to try to navigate his own way through an unfamiliar room.

He hears the sound of footsteps across the floor, nearing him, and then senses movement a moment before there's a touch on his arm. It's light, but Grantaire startles all the same. Only once he's settled does Enjolras slide his hand down to curve around his elbow and guide him forward.

"You're persistent about the lamps," Grantaire observes as he stumbles over the transition from rug to marble floor and back again. "I haven't married myself to a wanted criminal, have I? You're not some sort of fiendish murderer wanted for killing a string of nubile young husbands after plying them with one really spectacular wedding night?"

Enjolras's laughter is low and warm and runs down Grantaire's spine like a caress. It has him shivering and pressing in just a little closer to Enjolras's side. Warmth spreads out across his skin from every point of contact between them. "I'm no murderer, I promise."

"See, I'd believe you." Enjolras's hand tightens minutely on his arm and they stop. A second later there's the click of a latch, and the whisper of well-oiled hinges. "But if you were inclined to mariticide, you would say that, wouldn't you?"

Enjolras's voice is still rich with good humor as he leads Grantaire through the door. "Is there nothing I can do to earn your trust?"

"Well." Grantaire hesitates a step inside, the teasing smile fading from his face. "There is one thing."

Enjolras is quiet for a moment, for two. "It's the only promise I asked you to make to me," he says at length, quiet and far too solemn. "It's the only vow I'll ask you to keep."

It's too soon, too serious for their first day of marriage. Grantaire forces air into his lungs and forces a smile so Enjolras will hear it in his voice. "We'll have to think of something else, then." He reaches out, catches hold of Enjolras's arm as Enjolras has hold of his. And, to guide them to a new topic, one that's hopefully less fraught than this, he says, "Where have you brought me?"

"They're my rooms. Ours," he corrects himself hastily, just a moment too late. "The same we came to this morning."

Grantaire's long, post-coital nap is ruining his sense of time, and the hours spent together in darkness isn't helping. It hardly feels like it could have only been this morning that he came here, and that they wedded. He lets out a long breath and turns his head about, trying to find his bearings in the room, though there's nothing to see. "Do you intend to spend all our time together exercising your marital privilege?" he asks, wry.

Enjolras is quiet a long moment again. "It's not my privilege," he says at length, and he's too serious again. "And it's not your obligation. If you don't wish to--"

"Gods." Grantaire lets out his breath on a laugh and turns, catching a better hold of Enjolras's arm. "It's not that. I think I demonstrated rather succinctly this morning what it is I do and do not desire." He slides the hand down, stroking over the coarse hairs on Enjolras's forearm until he finds his hand, and threads their fingers together. He makes his tone light, playful. "Only, I'm not sure the bed can withstand such abuse twice in a single day." A lie: the bed was sturdy as an oak, and never even shuddered beneath them. He adds, more honest, "And I must confess, I myself could use a little more time to recover."

The quality of the silence between them, this time, goes sharp and tense. "Are you unwell? Did I hurt--"

"No." Grantaire silences him immediately, stepping in and rising up onto his toes to press a kiss to Enjolras's mouth. "No. Don't think it. You did nothing that didn't please me. It's a good sore. I wouldn't have it otherwise."

Enjolras lifts a hand to slide it around the back of Grantaire's neck. His lips part as he leans into the kiss. He doesn't take it deep, but he makes it more than it is, and Grantaire sighs into his mouth. "There are other ways I could please you," Enjolras murmurs against his lips. "Ways that would not test the limits of your soreness, if you desired it."

Grantaire takes a moment to think of al the glorious possibilities, to think of Enjolras's hand or his mouth upon him, coaxing another release out of him. Then he laughs, light, and shakes his head, spreads a hand on Enjolras's chest and pushes him back with it until Enjolras makes a sound and falls away beneath his touch, and Grantaire follows him down to find them both sprawled across the bed, made up nice and neat after the dishevel Grantaire left it in earlier. "We are going about this all in reverse, I think," he says, stretching out to lie at Enjolras's side and curl against him, but he doesn't kiss him again and he keeps his hand high on Enjolras's chest, just above the beat of his heart. "We had our wedding night in the morning, and now-- Now we are wed, and I do not know a thing about you. It's rather late to be only just getting acquainted with one's husband, I suppose, but it seems to be just our style." He lies down, his head on Enjolras's shoulder, and hums a happy sound when Enjolras shifts to free his arm from beneath Grantaire's weight so he can wrap it around his back and hold him close.

"There's little to me to tell about, I'm afraid," Enjolras says. "And I fear that what there is to say would bore you."

Grantaire has seen his home and the books on his shelves. He doesn't believe that for even an instant. But instead he says, "Well, I already know you aren't a homicidal madman."

"Do you?" Enjolras sounds surprised.

Grantaire grins into the darkness. "I'm going on faith. What's a marriage without trust, after all?"

Enjolras is quiet, just breathing beside Grantaire for a moment. "You have me at a disadvantage, then. You must tell me something about yourself, to make up the difference."

Grantaire hums, a thoughtful noise as he stares up into the darkness above him and concentrates on the feeling of Enjolras sifting his fingers through his hair. "That's not true. You know I've earned a goddess's wrath, and the prophecy that was made at my birth. All I know is something you aren't. If anyone's at a disadvantage, it's me, not you."

Enjolras twists a strand of Grantaire's hair around his finger. The gentle tug of it is going to lure Grantaire to sleep, despite the fact that he's been awake for only a few hours yet. "How did you earn her wrath? You must have done something very bad. If the gods were quick to anger, all of humanity would be walking around with curses upon their heads."

"Not very bad," Grantaire says. "Just very stupid." He tells Enjolras about the wedding, about Joly and Musichetta and Bossuet and their happiness, and how Grantaire had gotten in his cups and grown bitter, and the things he had declaimed.

Enjolras goes tense beside him and then he laughs, shaking with it. His arm tightens around Grantaire, pulling him in even closer than he already is. "Oh, stupid indeed. I'd have liked to see her face when she heard you, though."

"I wouldn't!" Grantaire shivers at the thought, less for the idea of what Aphrodite might have done to him if they found one another face to face, and more for the thought of what else Grantaire might have said to her, without his usual sense to still his tongue. "I'm sure I'd have found myself transformed to a toad, or a snake, or wisp of vapor upon the breeze."

Enjolras makes a sound that Grantaire can't interpret. He can't be sure if it's meant as agreement or dissent. "She's usually more creative than that. Once you've truly angered her, she likes to think up the very direst of fates to inflict upon you. She'll charge you to answer a riddle that cannot be solved, or she'll bring you to a field of clover that stretches from one horizon to the next and bid you to find the one amongst them that bears five leaves upon its stem."

"I feel as though I should forswear you while I can," Grantaire murmurs. "Before she hears the words you speak and takes it in her mind to punish me for my collusion."

"No." Enjolras tightens his arm around Grantaire's shoulder. His hand slides down Grantaire's side and back up again, stroking as though to reassure him. "She's already made one claim on you and had it rendered forfeit. She can't make another." His hand settles at Grantaire's waist, curving around it, pressing firmly against his skin. "I wouldn't let her."

Grantaire lies very still in his arms. His thoughts race through his mind, until he cannot contain them and says, "What do you mean by that?"

Enjolras is silent for a beat, for two, for three. "Sorry?" He sounds wary, or perhaps just uncertain.

Grantaire sits up. Enjolras tightens his arm around him, trying to keep him in place, then lets his arm fall away entirely when Grantaire ignores him. He sits and leans in, one hand braced on Enjolras's chest and the other, he thinks, on his stomach, and he says, "What do you mean by that? What claim? You said--" He means to say that Enjolras reassured him he was not Aphrodite's curse, earlier that morning when Grantaire first came here. First was brought here. But even as he speaks the word he realizes they're false. Grantaire asked him, and made a joke of it because he was frightened and overwhelmed, but Enjolras had never said anything of the sort. He'd never denied it. And when they'd wed... Enjolras had couched it in terms of defying a goddess and disproving a prophecy, but Grantaire remembers now, he remembers what Enjolras had said before that. That Grantaire was his intended.

"Enjolras," he says, and his voice shakes with anger and with intent as he leans forward, bearing his weight down on the hands planted on Enjolras's skin. "Enjolras, you tell me now and you tell me true. Are you Aphrodite's curse?"

"No." Enjolras says it right away, says it sharply and like he's irritated by the suggestion, and Grantaire can breathe, at least. "I told you--"

"You told me her claim was forfeit. There isn't anything in this world that can keep a god from exacting a vengeance they've claimed as their due."

"There's one thing," Enjolras says quietly. He lays a hand over Grantaire's where it's pressed above his heart. He leaves it there a moment, and then he slides his fingers down to trace around the wedding ring circling Grantaire's finger.

"That's a lie. If a spouse could supersede a goddess's claim, then no one with a ring upon their finger would ever be cursed."

"There were...extenuating circumstances," Enjolras says slowly, as though each word pains him. "It was luck. I was in the right place at the right time to hear Aphrodite make her claim upon you. The circumstances happened to be right that I could make a counter claim, and hold her curse at bay."

"Why? You don't even know me."

"I told you true, this morning. I don't like to see men cursed for petty reasons. It was in my power to prevent this one."

"By wedding me. A stranger."

"Yes," Enjolras says softly, and touches the ring again like it means something.

Grantaire drops down onto the bed again, but he lies stiff now, his arms crossed over his chest even as Enjolras settles again at his side. Long moments of silence pass between them, until Enjolras shifts at his side and then touches him, his fingertips a feather's weight against Grantaire's breastbone. "Grantaire," he says like it's a revelation. "Your heart is racing."

"My husband is lying to me," Grantaire snaps. "The response is appropriate."

Enjolras hesitates, and then he takes his hand away. They lie quiet and still beside one another, touching only where Grantaire's head lies on Enjolras's arm as though it's a pillow.

"Do you wish to be unbound from me?" Enjolras asks him after long moments in which Grantaire's heart continues to pound, and his breath continues to come quick and sharp. "I will do it, if that's what you desire."

"Don't make false promises," Grantaire says, sharp, still angry. "I know how a wedding works the same as any other man. We make vows to join our lives, and then we join our bodies to consecrate the bond. We've been joined, and there aren't any words we can speak now to unbind us."

"We could," Enjolras says quietly. "I could. If you said that was what you wished. But you should know before you decide that if you deny my claim upon you, Aphrodite will be free to reaffirm hers. But the choice is yours, and I will abide by it."

"Some choice," Grantaire says, faint and breathy. And he lies there with Enjolras's skin warm on his, his touches gentle despite Grantaire's anger, and he thinks, Is this truly worse to bear than a goddess's curse?

He can't know. The pounding of his heart and the pulse of anger through him tells him it's intolerable. But he has lived his life under the shadow of one of Aphrodite's curses already, the prophecy proclaimed on his birth, when he was an infant who'd done nothing to her. How much worse of a torment might she devise for him, now that he'd declaimed against her and injured her pride? Did he wish to spend the rest of his days searching an endless field for an impossible piece of clover, or floating as a formless wisp? Would either of those fates be better than remaining wed to a man who had been nothing but gentle with him, but hadn't told him the full truth?

Grantaire takes a deep breath and lets it out carefully, then does so a second time, and a third. On the fourth, he rolls over to face Enjolras. He doesn't touch him but he faces him, instead of giving him his back. "Do not lie to me again," he says.

Enjolras lets out a breath, too, as though he'd been holding his as well. "I told you at the start. There are things I can't tell you, things I swore not to, in order to convince Aphrodite to relinquish her claim. If I am forsworn..."

It all comes back to the same, in the end, doesn't it? If they break the vows they made, to one another or to her, then Grantaire's life is hers once more, to do with as she pleases. He shuts his eyes and grabs for Enjolras's hand. He squeezes it tight. "Do not lie to me again."

Enjolras breathes carefully, evenly. "I will not speak a dishonest word," he says at last, solemn and with the weight of promise behind it. Another vow between them, binding them. "I swear it."

"Good." Grantaire nods once, mostly to himself since they're still blinded, and Enjolras can't see the gesture. He lets go of his anger and his panic, lets it drain out of him until he's lying softly at Enjolras's side once more. He's not as relaxed as he had been, but it's a start.

"Tell me something," he says into the darkness between them. "Tell me something true."

Enjolras is quiet a long moment. Grantaire would think he hadn't heard the question, or would not answer it, but for the way that Enjolras's hand has found its way to the small of his back again, and his fingers trace delicate patterns there. "I have five brothers and a sister," he says, and it startles a laugh from Grantaire.

"Gods on high! Growing up in your house must have been an adventure."

"It was." He can tell Enjolras is smiling and it warms him, eases away the last of the stiffness in him. "You?"

"Oh, my life's always an adventure." He reaches out and gives Enjolras's chest a light pat. "Case in point."

Enjolras chuckles, his chest shaking beneath Grantaire's hand. "Siblings, I mean."

"A sister. Younger. The gods saved all their blessings for her, which is as it should be. She's far more deserving than me."

"You love her," Enjolras says.

"Of course I do." Grantaire pushes up onto an elbow. He'd stare at Enjolras, if he could see him at all. "Don't you love yours, and your brothers?"

Enjolras makes a thoughtful sound. "Yes. I do love them. We're not close, though. They don't live in the city, and we don't see each other very often."

Grantaire thinks about that, about having a large, boisterous family and then watching it splinter as everyone grows up and grows apart. "That's sad," he says, eventually.

Enjolras makes the thinking noise again. "It is what it is. I'm not dissatisfied with my life."

You wedded a stranger on a moment's whim, Grantaire thinks, but doesn't say it. They've only just finished arguing, and he's loathe to get it started again.

"Tell me something else," he says instead.

This time, the sound Enjolras makes sounds like frustration. "There's little to say. Mine is not the sort of life that's full of stories to enthrall friends and loved ones. It's dull, really."

"I do not believe that for an instant," Grantaire says. He settles closer to Enjolras, moving his head from arm to shoulder. "Tell me about your library."

"You liked that, did you?" Enjolras's voice warms, and Grantaire is stricken by the sudden urge to reach up and press his hands to Enjolras's face, to feel the way his smile stretches across it, since he can't see. He indulges it, reaches and skims his fingertips over the curve of Enjolras's smile, the sharp corners of it. He hesitates, and when Enjolras's smile doesn't fade beneath his fingers, he trails them up to trace the sharp cut of his cheekbones, the line of his nose, straight and strong. He sweeps a thumb along Enjolras's brows and then makes his way back down to the point of his chin. He hasn't even seen the face of his husband, but he can memorize his features in this way, at least.

Enjolras catches his hand after several moments. Grantaire thinks he means to pull his hand away and put an end to his exploration, but when he moves it, it's only to draw it down and press a searing kiss to the center of his palm. Grantaire catches his breath and traces one finger along fullness of Enjolras's lips, softer now that his expression has gone more somber.

"Tell me about the library," Grantaire says again, softer now, entreating.

Enjolras kisses the pads of his fingers. "There are books. And shelves."

Grantaire leans in and bites at the fleshy part of his lip in chastisement, but Enjolras seems unrepentant. "How did you come by them?"

"I commissioned a carpenter to come and build them into the walls."

"Enjolras."

Enjolras laughs quietly, and Grantaire has to lean in and kiss him like that, too, so he can know how Enjolras's lips feel on his own when they're curved and happy. "I've acquired them over the years, from here and there, as one does. Until one day I looked around and realized I had mountains of them piled up, and I needed a place to put them all before I became lost someday, buried beneath an avalanche of them. Name one, and perhaps I can give you a more precise pedigree."

Grantaire gives him one of the titles he'd pulled off the shelves earlier, intrigued enough by the title to want a second look. He hadn't gotten to it in his reading before Enjolras had interrupted him, though, so he listens with rapt attention as Enjolras says, "Oh," with a little sigh and the warmth of a smile, and, "That one. Well, you see, I was just outside of Marseille a few years back, and there was this little shop..."

Grantaire settles in for the story, rolled onto his side so that he's half-draped against Enjolras, pressed warm together and listening to the steady, even thump of Enjolras's heart where Grantaire's head lies on his chest, as the steady cadence of Enjolras's voice carries him away to the south, and the sunny beaches of a seaside town.

*

Grantaire doesn't remember falling asleep, just the steady, even cadence of Enjolras's voice long into the night, but he wakes with the sun streaming across his face and the bed, as before, rumpled but empty. He mutters a curse at Enjolras for being so devoted to darkness at night but so cavalier about leaving the curtains drawn come morning, and staggers out of bed to pull the curtains closed against the bright morning light.

The curtains are heavy, but they can't block all the light, and there's enough left filtering through that Grantaire knows he won't be able to get back to any sort of decent sleep. Still, he lingers in bed a while, face pressed to the pillow, letting the fogginess of sleep flee from his brain.

When he rouses again, perhaps an hour later, he is feeling less inclined to hate the world. They climbed into bed last night without stripping and fell asleep still clothed, and he makes a face as he pulls at his sleep-rumpled shirt and wonders at the likelihood that Enjolras might have clothes of his size stored away somewhere in one of the home's many rooms.

Perhaps he'll be truly lucky and Enjolras will have boots to fit his feet, as well. The rugs are lovely, but Grantaire's constant state of barefootedness is growing less charming by the day.

He ventures out, and considers his explorations of the day before. There's the library that beckons him back, but there's still more house to explore, as well, and he is torn between the two.

He compromises, exploring more of the house until the rumbling of his stomach drives him to seek out the kitchens and Mme. Houcheloup. And after he's fed himself, he makes his way back to the library and his stack of books still left upon the side table.

He leaves the book Enjolras interrupted him at, with its slip of paper for a place marker, and digs out instead the one Enjolras spoke to him of last night, about how he'd purchased it from a little shop outside Marseille and the improbable adventure he'd had trying to get it home in one piece. He sits with the book on his lap and traces his fingers over the fine leather binding, smiling to himself as he thinks of Enjolras holding this book, carrying it across the country to add to his collection.

It's a simple book, unremarkable in its contents. But the story behind it catches Grantaire's interest, and he reads with that in mind. And when his back is sore and his eyes are tired for the endless stream of words passing before them, he marks his place in that one, too, and sets it aside and rises to walk about the house once more, and stretch out his unused muscles.

He finds a parlor on the northern side of the house, one wall entirely set with windows so that the light floods in, and he stands there before them for longer than he means to, catching his breath as he stares out at the loveliness of the grounds, the sparkle of the light as it comes through the cut glass of the windows, the way the lead around the panes frames it all like a masterful composition. He itches for his oil paints and his canvases, so he can try to capture the beauty of this moment to hold on to when the light fades and the darkness of night comes. Even a sheet of paper and a bit of charcoal would do, though it would be a shame to render these vivid colors in black and white.

When an hour or so has passed and the light outside has changed, Grantaire pulls himself away from the view and finds Mme. Houcheloup again to ask about paper and charcoal and, while he's at it, perhaps a change of clothes or boots at the very least. She fusses over him, plucking at his wrinkled shirt and clicking her tongue, muttering something about how Enjolras has been neglecting to care for him as a husband should.

"I can care for myself," he reassures her, laughing. "Only I don't know this part of the city very well, and I didn't think to bring any money with me when I was brought here." Not that he'd had much to spare to begin with, but that's beside the point. "But mostly," he adds, and sticks out a leg to wiggle his bare toes at her, "it's difficult to go out and buy shoes, when one does not possess shoes to start with. They'd haul me off to an asylum if they saw me wandering the streets barefooted like this."

Mme. Houcheloup huffs as though insulted by the very notion. "As though the master would stand for that!" She ushers him off to a room that's smaller and plainer than most of the others he's seen, intended for the servants, he thinks, and has him sit while she takes his measurements and jots down a list. "I'll send for something to be brought for you," she assures him. "You should have said something, dear, we could have done this yesterday and had you clothed already."

"I was somewhat preoccupied yesterday," he says, and she beams at him as though delighted to hear it.

It's not much later when she shoos him off, insisting that she'll have garments brought in time for him to change into on the morrow. "And my charcoals," he reminds her, and she flashes him a smile before settling back into exasperation that he suspects is more feigned than it is genuine.

"Yes, yes, your charcoals too, dear, of course. Go on now! You've better things to be doing than sitting here wiling away your day with the likes of me. I'll have supper brought to you in the sitting room later tonight, yes?"

He thinks he can almost manage to find his way back to the sitting room he'd eaten in the day before, so he nods and thanks her, and then excuses himself while she's still flushing and waving him off, going on about how it's nothing at all.

The memory of the sunshine spilling over the grounds lures him outside. He'd only seen the front of the manor when he'd arrived, which had been grand and stately, all stone and pillar and wrought iron, the walk lined with towering trees cultivated into particular shapes, the fence that circled the grounds tall and imposing and capped with wicked-looking spikes at its height. Behind the manor, though, where it's meant for the household rather than guests, it's lush and green and far more natural, trees and shrubs planted strategically and then left to grow as they pleased. Grantaire's feet sink into the plush carpet of grass, cool on his bare soles, as he crosses the lawn and loses himself in the trees that line the property.

There's a breeze coming across the grounds, stirring through his hair and bringing with it the scent of green, growing things. Grantaire lies down in the grass in the dappled shade and thinks how, if he were home, he'd be squeezed into his tiny flat, where the air is still and stale, struggling to find enough light to paint by. He thinks about bringing his paints out here, setting up an easel. He could paint all day and into the evening, if he were so inclined.

Eventually, the sun begins to dip down toward the horizon. The shadows grow long and the air cool, and Grantaire retreats back inside. He goes to the library to find his books and read some more, but his pile is gone, the little table where he left them bare and the gaps where he'd taken them from the shelves still empty.

He stands still in the middle of the library for a moment, frowning, turning over possibilities in his mind. Mme. Houcheloup seems the most likely explanation, and she doesn't seem the sort to confiscate his books without some kindness intended behind it, so on a hunch, he takes himself back to the bedroom.

He opens the door and steps through to find that there's a lamp burning he hadn't lit, and his little pile of books stacked neatly with their markers in place, waiting for him. And there's something else, a crackle to the air perhaps, an electric current that skitters across his skin and prickles down his spine and makes the hair at his nape stand on end.

He hesitates, there just inside the doorway, and shuts his eyes and hopes he's not about to make a fool of himself. He clears his throat, to announce his presence, then says, "You should blow the lamp out. I'd like to come in."

The sensation across his skin intensifies, like the charged, electric moment just before lightning lets loose from a thundercloud. And then the draft sweeps through the room and the lamp gutters and goes out, its light flickering against Grantaire's eyelids before giving way to blackness.

He opens his eyes to the darkness and comes more fully inside. Then he stops again, because the curtains are still drawn, faint light still coming through from the window by the bed. It's not a lot of light, especially to his eyes, that haven't adjusted to the darkness yet. But it's enough to make out a shape moving across the room, the impression of height, greater than Grantaire would have estimated, broad shoulders that he already knows the strength and the breadth of, from grabbing and grasping at them the morning before.

He moves swiftly across the bedroom and flicks the curtains closed, and the room is dark once more, completely. Grantaire listens to the sound of his steps across the rug, the slightly-quickened rise and fall of his breathing. He reaches out, when Enjolras's steps draw near, and his hand lands on Enjolras's chest, just a little to one side of where his heart beats beneath his ribs.

"My books," he says quietly. "You brought them here?"

Enjolras takes another step closer, pressing into Grantaire's touch. "I thought you might like to read them, in the mornings after I've gone. This way, you don't have to cross half the house in order to do so."

Grantaire grins and slides his hand up to curve around the side of Enjolras's neck. "You are just trying to find an excuse to keep me in your bed."

Enjolras hums like it's a pleasing thought, a happy one. "Well," he says. "Did I succeed?"

Grantaire laughs and reaches with his other hand, to find Enjolras's and thread their fingers together. "There's not much point to standing around in the dark, I suppose." He tugs on Enjolras's hand, pulling him with him in the direction of the bed. "Don't let me trip and break my neck. It would be an inauspicious start to our marriage."

"I won't," Enjolras assures him, his voice low and warm. They cross a few more steps across the room until Enjolras's hand tightens around Grantaire's and he stops, reaches out with his other until he finds the edge of the mattress and can sit down on it.

"Well, then, husband. You have me in your bed once more." Grantaire reaches out. His hand finds Enjolras's hip. His fingers curve around it. "What do you intend to do with me in it?"

It's a tease, and he means it as such. More than that, it's a provocation, and he knows he's hit his mark at the way Enjolras's breath catches, the way he leans ever so slightly into Grantaire's grip.

"Do you--" Enjolras stops, clears his throat. One of his hands comes down to cover Grantaire's, his palm against the back of Grantaire's hand, his fingers wrapped loosely around Grantaire's wrist. Enjolras's thumb traces light, spiraling circles over Grantaire's pulse point, where the skin is so thin and sensitive that Grantaire shivers at just that caress. "Are you still sore from yesterday?"

Grantaire is, a little, but not unpleasantly so. Not enough that the implication of what Enjolras is asking doesn't make him grin into the darkness. "Do you want to fuck me again? Is that what you mean?"

Enjolras is quiet for a moment, for two. He still has his hand on Grantaire's wrist, though, and his thumb still traces those same, easy circles, so Grantaire waits, growing more intrigued by the moment until Enjolras clears his throat and says, "That's...not precisely what I had in mind."

Grantaire laughs, out of delight more than anything else, and slides backwards to get more fully on the bed. Enjolras comes with him, unwilling to relinquish his hold on Grantaire's wrist, until they are both half-sprawled and haphazard across the mattress. "Tell me, then," he says.

Enjolras is quiet again, just breathing and stroking the inside of Grantaire's wrist. When he moves, it's slowly but with purpose, like a great cat stalking through a jungle. He releases Grantaire's wrist from his grasp and curves one hand over Grantaire's shoulder, the other on his waist. He uses them to bear Grantaire back, until Grantaire gets the picture and lies down on the bed. Enjolras rises above him, body stretched over his and pinning him down, and Grantaire's breath goes a little quick, a little thin. He rears up, seeking a kiss, but Enjolras presses him down again. And when he's lying where Enjolras wishes, Enjolras leans in and gives him the kiss that he wanted, slow and warm and languid.

Grantaire sighs into it. He wraps his arms around Enjolras's back and takes advantage of the way Enjolras is braced over him to slide a thigh up between his. Enjolras makes a low, wanting sound against his mouth, and when Grantaire pulls him down into it, increasing the pressure, the noise Enjolras makes goes high and sharp. His hands clench on Grantaire's shoulder and waist and he rocks down against Grantaire's thigh, breath shuddering into the kiss.

Grantaire could stay like this for ages. Their evening's only just started, they've got time to linger and enjoy it. But after only a moment Enjolras rises up, away from the pressure of his knee. He hangs his head low, hair tickling Grantaire's neck, and fights to breathe. "I had something other than that in mind as well," he says eventually, and bends down to kiss under Grantaire's jaw, his throat, the hollow behind his collarbone.

Grantaire pushes his fingers through his hair, encouraging his kisses. "Do you intend to clue me in to your plans at some point this evening?"

Enjolras hums against his skin and noses aside the neck of his shirt to kiss his shoulder. "At some point." Grantaire laughs and tugs at his hair, and he retaliates with the scrape of his teeth across Grantaire's shoulder. Then, abruptly, the weight and warmth of him over Grantaire is gone, just the pressure of his thighs on either side of Grantaire's. "Come on. Sit up, let's take this off," he says, pulling at Grantaire until he sits, and then pulling at his shirt until he's worked it off over his head.

Enjolras spreads his hands on Grantaire's chest and pushes him down again, then bends over him like he was before. He kisses Grantaire's shoulder, where the skin stings a little from his bite, and then continues a meandering path across Grantaire's chest until his lips find Grantaire's nipple, drawn hard and tight with desire.

He lingers there, pulling Grantaire's nipple into his mouth and dragging the flat of his tongue across it, and when Grantaire arcs beneath him at the jolt of sensation, he makes an appreciative noise against his skin and curves his hands around Grantaire's waist, holding him like that, drawn tight as a bow and quivering with it as Enjolras's mouth works over him.

Grantaire tightens his fingers in Enjolras's hair, pulling him down harder even as he arches up, straining for more. Enjolras laps and sucks at him, sets the edge of his teeth to Grantaire's nipple until he's shuddering beneath him. And when Grantaire's flushed and desperate, his hips twitching up in search of friction with every touch, Enjolras pulls away and leaves him with nothing but the cool caress of his breath.

Grantaire hisses air between his teeth and tugs at Enjolras's hair, to little avail. Enjolras turns his head to kiss the inside of Grantaire's wrist, and just as Grantaire is taking a breath to get demanding, Enjolras bends down and takes his other nipple into his mouth, and does it all again.

By the time Enjolras moves on, Grantaire feels wrung out beneath him, panting and shuddering and his nipples so sensitive from Enjolras's lips and tongue and the wicked scrape of his teeth that even the brush of the air across them, as Enjolras slides down and presses a kiss to his stomach, makes him twitch.

He's been hard forever, or at least it feels like it, his cock an aching throb where it's pressed against his stomach. Enjolras kisses down his stomach, lingers just a moment at his navel to bite at the edge of it, and then works Grantaire's trousers down his hips and off. He pushes Grantaire's legs wide to make room for his shoulders between them, and Grantaire throws his head back and gasps for air, undone before Enjolras has even reached where Grantaire wants him most.

Enjolras draws back once he's settled fully between Grantaire's thighs. Grantaire can feel only the faint caress of his breath and, he thinks, the weight of his regard, which is ridiculous when neither of them can see a thing. But then there's a touch on his cock, the light skim of a finger gliding along his shaft, feeling out the path of the veins just beneath his skin until Enjolras can trace them like he's memorized them.

Grantaire grabs onto fistfuls of the sheets to anchor himself, shuddering beneath Enjolras's careful exploration. When his touch reaches the head of Grantaire's cock and skims around it, stroking over exquisitely sensitive nerves, Grantaire gasps and pushes his hips up against Enjolras's hand as something goes tight and anticipatory, and his cock drips against his stomach.

Enjolras makes a sound like he's pleased, like he's never been happier in his life than he is now, stretched out between Grantaire's thighs and driving him mad with the lightest caress. He catches the fluid on his fingertips and rubs it back in with slow, lazy circles that are going to drive Grantaire out of his mind.

Abruptly, Enjolras's weight shifts above him. The bed creaks with the movement, and then Enjolras's hair is tickling across Grantaire's thighs and his breath is warm on his cock and very, very close.

Enjolras takes him into his mouth carefully, delicately, his lips wrapped just behind the head of Grantaire's cock. He laps his tongue over it like he means to lick it clean of the mess he himself rubbed into it, and he braces one hand on Grantaire's thigh as he does so, his weight pressing in, his fingers digging tight.

That's an anchor, too, steadying Grantaire when he feels as though he might fly out of his skin. He frees one hand from the sheets and reaches down to tangle it in Enjolras's hair instead, holding on without pulling or steadying. Just seeking connection, the warmth of Enjolras's scalp against his palm, the silk of his hair as it wraps around his fingers.

Enjolras works over the head of his cock until Grantaire's twitching in his mouth, every breath a quiet little gasp. And then he shifts the hand on Grantaire's thigh, uses it to press instead of to grip, and holds Grantaire's hips down against the bed as he leans over him and takes him deeper, takes all of him until Grantaire can feel the back of his throat and Enjolras is still pressing forward, still straining to take the very last inch until at last his lips are pressed tight to the base of his cock and Grantaire is voicing stunned obscenities into the darkness between them, breathing, "Fuck, oh Enjolras, fuck, fuck. Please move, please, please move."

Enjolras does so, slowly, like he's testing the waters. He pulls back, dragging his tongue along Grantaire's cock, but just a few inches and then he sinks down again. His cheeks hollow as he sucks at Grantaire, and the heat and tightness is maddening. Grantaire gasps for air like a fish, fingers stroking over Enjolras's scalp, encouraging him on. When Enjolras moves again, Grantaire makes a punched-out sound, and the next time Enjolras goes a little farther, a little faster.

It builds gradually, in jolts and starts, an inch at a time. Every time Grantaire makes a noise, Enjolras gives him a little more, until Grantaire's moaning brokenly, ceaselessly, and Enjolras is moving fast, his head bobbing over Grantaire as he pulls out to suck at the head of his cock, then swallows him down again, and again, and again.

Grantaire writhes beneath him, mindless with it, gasping out profanity and encouragement. At some point, Enjolras lifts the hand from his thigh to grasp Grantaire's wrist and free his hand from Enjolras's hair. Enjolras presses the hand down to the bed, threads his fingers through it and pins it there, and Grantaire isn't sure if it's because he was pulling or to try to hold him still and keep him from moving, but it doesn't matter. All that matters is Enjolras's mouth sliding over him, the wetness, the heat, the slick, heady friction.

"I'm--" Grantaire gasps when he can feel the orgasm burning through him, twisting up tight in his gut. "Enjolras, Enjolras, I'm going to--"

Enjolras slides up and then off him, to speak. "You can, if you want," he says, and his hand pumps over Grantaire, his mouth stays close, the words breathed over his skin as Enjolras laps and presses kisses to him, so that Grantaire is not hurtling toward oblivion anymore but Enjolras keeps him poised there on the knife's edge, precariously balanced.

Grantaire rubs his thumb over Enjolras's knuckle, where their hands are joined together. He wants, but-- "What about you?"

Enjolras's lips curve on his skin. "There are options. Many of them."

"What do you want?"

Enjolras hums and licks him. "First things first," he says. The point of his tongue finds a place just beneath the head of Grantaire's cock that's exquisitely sensitive, and works there until Grantaire cries out and bows up beneath him, tipping wildly toward oblivion. His cock pulses and Enjolras makes a victorious sound and laps up the fluid that wells at the tip like that was his aim all along. "What do you want?"

There are options for this, too, enough of them to be staggering. But this time, at least, the choice is easy, obvious. Grantaire lifts his hand from the bed, bringing Enjolras's with it, and brings it up to press kisses across Enjolras's knuckles. "Your mouth," he gasps. "Please."

"I was hoping you'd say that," Enjolras says, his voice warm and rich with unmitigated pleasure. And then he bends low and sucks Grantaire down again, and he's moving just as fast and frantic as he was before.

Grantaire grips his hand hard, gasping against it. Enjolras sucks him deep, and deeper, and deeper still, and it's too much, it's more than Grantaire ever thought he'd be able to bear.

His orgasm tears through him with all the force of an explosion, has him jolting wildly upon the bed, his hips jerking up to fuck into Enjolras's mouth, and Enjolras holds him there, lips sealed around the base of Grantaire's cock as he pulses and comes hard in Enjolras's mouth, and Enjolras swallows down every drop.

When his orgasm has wrung him dry and finally released him from its grip, Grantaire slumps back onto the bed. Enjolras follows with him, licking him clean like he still can't get enough even as Grantaire goes soft in his mouth, until Grantaire sucks air through his teeth and his hand goes tight on Enjolras's shoulder. He pushes him off, then pulls him up. Enjolras moves under his direction, lets himself be guided up and into a loose, messy kiss. When Grantaire reaches between them slide his hand past the waistband of Enjolras's trousers and take his cock in his fist, Enjolras hisses air into the kiss, and Grantaire pulls back just enough to breathe against his lips, "Now, what do you want?"

Enjolras pushes forward into Grantaire's grip, and Grantaire moves with him, stroking him. Enjolras brings a hand to the side of his neck and tips his head forward, their brows pressed together and their breath shuddering warm against one another's lips as they move in time with one another. "This," Enjolras breathes, and catches Grantaire's lips in a brief, shallow kiss. "Just like this."

Grantaire nods against him and gives him another long, slow stroke that makes Enjolras's spine curve. "Take your clothes off," he says. And, "Last time there was oil. Where--"

Enjolras pulls back and shifts off of him. There's the brief, hurried rustle of cloth, and then the sound of Enjolras's discarded clothing hitting the floor. He's gone a moment longer but when he returns, kneeling up over Grantaire's lap, there's that same sound of metal on glass, a stopper being removed. "Give me your hand."

Grantaire holds his hand out, palm up. Enjolras finds it with one hand, then uses the other to pour a stream of oil into his palm, enough that it puddles and drips through his fingers and makes a mess on his stomach.

Grantaire doesn't care. He reaches for Enjolras and grasps him again, twists his wrist as he strokes him to be sure that everything is well-slicked and slippery, and relishes the way Enjolras groans and pushes into his fist.

He doesn't draw it out, doesn't try to linger or tease. Grantaire is loose-limbed and replete with his orgasm, and Enjolras has more than earned his own release. He grasps him firmly and his hand pumps quickly over him and the oil makes everything easy and good. They stay like that a moment, Enjolras on his knees over him, until Grantaire does something that knocks the air from his lungs and makes him hunch over, then drop forward onto his elbows so his weight is stretched over Grantaire again and his breath is hot on Grantaire's mouth.

"Come for me," Grantaire breathes, and wishes he could see Enjolras and could look on his face while they're like this. "I want you to."

Enjolras's laughter is strangled and desperate. "Like this," he says. "Keep doing this and I will. I will."

Grantaire does, twisting his wrist on each stroke for the way it makes Enjolras choke on air. He drops kisses against Enjolras's slack mouth and rubs the heel of his hand against the head of Enjolras's cock on every upstroke. It's not long before Enjolras is gasping hard above him, his hips twitching, and it's only a moment after that when Enjolras makes a sound like he's dying and pushes hard into Grantaire's fist as he shudders and spills himself over Grantaire's fingers and across his stomach.

He manages to lower himself carefully onto Grantaire before his arms give out, but only just, and then he lies draped over him like a blanket, heavy, his chest heaving as he catches his breath. The weight and the warmth is steadying and Grantaire lets himself drift a little beneath it, his thoughts gone quiet and still until Enjolras rouses enough to turn his head and kiss Grantaire's shoulder.

"Mm." Grantaire smiles even though he can't see it, and hopes he can hear it in his voice. "You left quite a mess upon me."

Enjolras laughs like it's startled out of him. "My apologies." He catches Grantaire's hand, his fingers warm and strong around his wrist, and lifts it up between them.

Grantaire startles when the warm, wet heat of Enjolras's mouth envelops his finger. Enjolras sucks it clean, his tongue delving into the creases of his knuckles, then moves on to the next, and leaves Grantaire breathless with it. By the time he's finished and Grantaire's hand is clean again, there's nothing he can do but wrap his arms around Enjolras's shoulders and kiss him hard.

When they part, many long minutes later, Enjolras lets out a long sigh and settles himself in at Grantaire's side, half-draped across him but not so much as to crush Grantaire beneath his weight. His lips skim Grantaire's shoulder, his neck, the edge of his ear. "Now then, let's catch up," he murmurs, and lays his head on the pillow beside Grantaire's head. "Have you been keeping yourself well entertained in my absence?"

"Well enough," Grantaire says. "I started the book we talked about last night."

"Oh? How did you find it?"

Grantaire considers his answer a moment. "Enlightening," he says at last.

"Did you read the whole day?" It's asked easily, without any weight of judgment or censure. "I shall have to invest in better upholstery, if you mean to live in the library. You'll bruise your spine in that chair."

"The chair is fine. But no, not all the day. I explored the grounds some."

Enjolras is quiet a moment, and there's a strange weight to the question when he asks, "What did you think?"

"They're very lovely."

"Do you think so?"

Grantaire makes an aggravated sound, a rattle in the back of his throat. "You know they are. It's your house, you wouldn't have it the way it is if you didn't like it."

"But I'm asking what you think."

"And I told you." Grantaire reaches out and pinches him, somewhere on his side, by his waist. "Don't go fishing for compliments, it's not becoming."

Enjolras makes an unconvinced noise. "What else did you do?"

"You know, you might actually stick around one of these days so you can see, and I won't have to summarize my exceedingly banal day for you when there are better things we might be doing in bed."

Enjolras is quiet, not saying anything, not even moving. Grantaire can still feel the rise and fall of Enjolras's chest against his arm, but other than that he might as well have been turned to stone. And Grantaire remembers abruptly Enjolras insisting that there were things he couldn't say to Grantaire because of the promise he'd made to Aphrodite, and remembers him swearing not to speak another lie to Grantaire. His silence is damning, and the weight of it presses down on Grantaire's chest until he can scarcely breathe.

He clears his throat, says, "Right. Anyway. I spoke with Mme. Houcheloup."

"She speaks well of you," Enjolras says, the words a rush like he's only been waiting for the opportunity to say something that's true.

Grantaire hesitates, taken aback. "I didn't realize she spoke of me, much less enough to offer an opinion."

"You would have to try very hard to vex Mme. Houcheloup enough to make her dislike you. She has her reasons." He leaves a trail of soft kisses along the line of Grantaire's collarbone. "What did you two discuss?"

"The possibility of acquiring more than one set of garments for me, mostly," Grantaire says, "as I'm afraid it never occurred to me to prepare a trousseau."

Enjolras goes still against him, and then lifts his head like he's looking down at him, or would like to, were it not for the darkness. "I have been remiss," he says at length, and sounds like it's taken him by surprise, and he's none too pleased by that fact. "I didn't think--"

"Well." Grantaire has to clear his throat in order to keep his voice light. "It's not as though you have ever actually had the chance to see that I have been wearing the same garments for two days in a row."

"I should apologize." Enjolras says it like it's almost a question, like he's not truly sure but he thinks perhaps that's what Grantaire wants of him. "I have been remiss--"

Grantaire sighs a little and runs his hands over Enjolras's hair. "You shouldn't do anything," he says. "Except perhaps end this silliness and allow your husband to maintain his sight while in your presence."

Enjolras is quiet, quiet, quiet. Grantaire shuts his eyes and mouths a silent oath to himself before he forces levity and brightness into his voice. "Or perhaps you should simply learn to have better manners than to exhaust him to the bone then keep him from sleep with such endless questions." He rolls, setting his back to Enjolras's front, letting Enjolras's arm drape heavy and comforting over his side. "If you don't let me sleep now, I'll have to make up for it in the morning, and then I'll have nothing at all of interest to report to you tomorrow night."

"Well, then." Enjolras ghosts a kiss across Grantaire's hair and wraps his arm tight about his middle. "I have already been remiss once today. I shan't compound the error by keeping you from your rest, as well."

Grantaire nods and settles back into Enjolras's embrace. It would almost be a pleasant way to drift to sleep, if only he could keep his thoughts from fixing on all the secrets that lie between them, even when they're pressed skin to skin.

*

In the morning Grantaire wakes to discover a folding screen erected in the bedroom, and behind it, a copper bathtub filled with steaming, scented water. There's a small table set beside the tub, with soap and a cloth to dry himself off with, and what looks to be a set of clothes folded neatly and awaiting him, though Grantaire can tell at a glance that they're not the clothes he brought with him when he arrived.

After the night's exertions, he's covered with sweat and smeared with oil and more, and he climbs into the bath happily. The water is hot enough to sting just a little, just the way he likes it. He sinks down beneath the surface to wet his hair, then comes up just until the water is at his chin, letting the warmth of it seep into his skin.

The water's gone tepid by the time he's managed to convince himself to abandon the water long enough to scrub the soap across his skin and then rinse off. And even then he abandons the tub reluctantly.

The clothing, when he unfolds them, prove to be simple but fine. The cloth is smooth and luxurious against his fingertips, the stitching even, the fit perfect. Grantaire's heart thumps against his breastbone. Even thinking of wearing clothing such as these makes him feel like an imposter. They'll make him look like a wealthy man, like a man of status, and he's not. He married one, but you can't become well-bred by association. It's something in the bones of those who grew up with enough wealth and power to be accustomed to its presence. Grantaire feels like a child trying to fit into his father's clothes.

He dresses in them anyway, because even this is better than the thought of wearing the same clothes for the third day in a row. And when the shirt's settled on his back and the trousers buttoned up and the boots slipped onto his feet, he resolves to put it all out of his mind.

But he still makes a point of asking Mme. Houcheloup, after breakfast, if she might see to it that his old garments are washed, so at least he'll have something of his own to change into if the fineness of these clothes prove too much to bear.

She assures him she will, and gives him a kiss on the cheek and a charcoal drawing set, and Grantaire takes it all out to sit in the grass beneath the trees, with the morning still new and cool around him, and sketch the house and the grounds.

It soothes his artistic itch somewhat, but doesn't fully satisfy it. He still wishes he had his paints at hand, that he could try to capture the particular shade of gold of the sun shining through the delicate leaves of the trees.

When he's filled half a dozen pages and the itch to draw and paint has settled to a dull buzzing beneath his skin, and the sun's climbed up high into the sky, he takes himself back inside. He nearly makes it all the way to the library before he recalls that Enjolras moved his books, and they won't be there waiting for him.

He makes his way back across the house to the bedroom, then, and though it's midday and he's never once seen Enjolras about the house during daylight hours, still he hesitates with the door open and knocks upon it, just in case.

He feels a little foolish when his knock receives no answer but silence, and lets himself inside. There's a chair to curl up in, and a table with his books beside it, but after a moment's consideration he selects Enjolras's book from Marseille and sprawls out across the newly-made bed with it, where the grand leaded window lets the daylight in across him and the book both, where he can bask in the sun's warmth and enjoy the view of the grounds outside as he reads.

He must light the lamps and turn their flames up as the hour grows late, and the light outside dim. But the book has caught his fancy and so he keeps it in one hand, reading even as he strikes the match and lights the wicks. And when the room is glowing with the golden, flickering light of the lamps, he sprawls out across the bed again, on his back with the book held aloft to catch the lamplight.

He doesn't notice that evening has come and gone until a draft blows through the room and blows all the lamps out, despite the protection of their glass chimneys, and he's left blinking in the dark with the book still held up on outstretched arms.

He brings it down to lay it upon his chest, still open to mark his place, and turns toward the door, where Enjolras must be, because the house never has a draft except when he arrives in the evenings. "You might give some warning, and allow me to finish my paragraph, or even mark my place."

Footsteps whisper across the carpet. Enjolras touches his shoulder lightly, as though to let him know he's there, before he takes the book from his hands. "I'll see you don't lose your place," he says as he sets it aside. And then, wry and a little warm with amusement, "You know, when we joked about moving the books in here to try to keep you in my bed, I did not mean you to confine yourself to it."

"I didn't." Grantaire stretches out the slight soreness in his back from lying in bed half the day, then rolls onto his side to face Enjolras. "I only wound up here at the end."

"Well, then." He can hear the smile in Enjolras's voice, the pleasure in it. The mattress dips beneath his weight as he sits on its edge, above where Grantaire is lying, and then it seems only natural for Grantaire to drop down from the elbow he's held himself propped up on and lay his head in Enjolras's lap.

Enjolras sifts his fingers through Grantaire's hair, stroking gently. "How did you spend your time today?"

Grantaire chokes out a laugh. "I enjoyed the grounds again. I read. There isn't much to tell beyond that. If you mean to ask me for an accounting of my days every evening, you should see to it that there's more to be done by a solitary man within these walls. You'll grow bored of me telling you the same thing every day."

"I wouldn't." Enjolras is smiling again, or smiling still, the warmth of it still evident in his voice. He strokes the fine hair at Grantaire's temple, and strokes the curve of his ear while he's there. "But I shouldn't like you to become bored yourself." He rubs his thumb in circles at Grantaire's earlobe, and Grantaire shivers against him at the fine, delicate sensation. "We shall have to think of something."

"But for now..."

"Hm?"

Grantaire presses into his touch, the fingers that are still sliding gently through his hair. "For now I'd say I'm quite content just as we are."

Enjolras hums, happy, pleased. "Then we'll stay just like this."

And they do, for a time. At least until the twisting sensation in Grantaire's chest that winds tighter with every careful pull of Enjolras's fingers through his hair becomes so great that Grantaire can't bear it, can hardly breathe past it. And then he sits and drags Enjolras in against him and kisses him hard, because it's only then that he feels like he can break the surface and finally pull air into his lungs.

"Do you like the clothes?" Enjolras asks him quietly, sometime later when he's got Grantaire spread on his back and is pushing up the shirt's hem to kiss across his stomach.

Grantaire doesn't know how to say they make me feel like I don't belong more than my own ratty clothes ever could without it sidetracking Enjolras from the matter at hand, so instead he snaps, "I'd like them better on your floor," and grins viciously at the ceiling when Enjolras takes it as the invitation it was meant.

Somehow he ends up on his stomach, when all is said and done, on his knees with his face buried in his arms while Enjolras pulls at his cock and works him open on his tongue. He brings Grantaire to a sobbing, desperate orgasm like that, and afterwards, when Grantaire has recovered and is not so much of a boneless wreck, he prods Enjolras off the bed to stand beside it, and Grantaire sits and sucks him off and lets him come down his throat like he'd wanted to the first night.

The next day is the fourth of their marriage, and the first that finds Grantaire with a vague, unsettled feeling stirring beneath his breast. He reads, as he has been, but the book struggles to hold his attention. He sprawls out in the shade beneath the trees and draws, but his fingers feel thick and clumsy, and every line he draws across the paper dissatisfies.

When Enjolras returns that evening, Grantaire pulls him to the bed. He pushes him onto his back, presses the bottle of oil into his hands and demands he open him up. And Enjolras obeys, stroking a hand up and down Grantaire's side as he presses a finger into him, and two, and three, like he thinks Grantaire needs to be soothed.

Soothing is the last thing Grantaire wants. He wants the bright, hot spark of nerves, he wants sensation buzzing across his skin. He sinks his weight down against Enjolras's hand, taking him deeper and faster. And when Enjolras has three fingers in him, long before he would declare Grantaire ready enough for him, Grantaire bats his hand away and rises up.

He sinks down onto Enjolras's cock in one long glide. Enjolras makes a choking sound and grasps at his hips, gasps, "Wait, wait. Fuck, you're tight."

Grantaire waits, shivering with the strain. Not of taking Enjolras, but of holding himself still. Finally, Enjolras's breath steadies and his fingers ease up on his hips. He lifts one hand to brush across Grantaire's cheek, asks, "Are you--"

"I'm fine," Grantaire says, and rocks his weight above him. The movement of Enjolras inside him makes him drop his head back and gasp. "I'm great."

Grantaire rides him like that, until they've both come to a spectacular release, and the restless buzz across his skin has settled down to quiet contentment.

The fifth night, they kiss for hours until at last sleep claims them, both still fully dressed. The sixth, Grantaire kisses up Enjolras's thighs and asks quietly if he might work Enjolras open on his mouth and his fingers the way Enjolras has him. Enjolras gasps, "Yes," and comes violently before Grantaire has fit more than two fingers inside him, and then he drags Grantaire up and kisses and kisses him as Grantaire fucks against him, sliding through the mess Enjolras has made across his stomach.

The nights are electric, but the days drag on. Grantaire tries other books in the library, seeking something that might keep his focus, but his attention always wanders. He draws until his hands are a mess of charcoal, but he crumples up more drawings than he keeps. By the seventh day, they've been married a week and the shine of the fancy furnishings has worn off. Grantaire stalks the halls, restlessness burning like banked coals beneath his skin. He wants to scream until the very walls of the manor shake with it.

He waits for Enjolras in their bedroom, pacing across the room and back. When the draft blows through and puts the lamp out, he spins on his heel to face the door and strides forward toward where he knows Enjolras must be. "I am your husband, not your kept pet!" he snarls.

Enjolras takes a sharp breath, but then is quiet for a moment before he ventures, "Grantaire? What is the matter?"

"I am telling you, if you would listen! This is a very pretty cage, but it's a cage all the same, and that wasn't the bargain I made when we wed. I'm through with sitting around biding my time until you show up like some sort of faithful dog waiting on his master's return."

"Grantaire," Enjolras says again, slowly, like he's taking care with each word. "You are not a pet."

Grantaire stands there, breathing hard. He'd lash out if he knew where to aim the blow, and if he thought it would make any difference. "Am I a prisoner?" he demands.

"Of course not!" Enjolras lets out a sharp sigh. "This is not a cage, nor a prison. This is a home. It is your home. You are welcome here, but I never meant you to think you were obliged to stay, and never set foot off the grounds. If you wish to go somewhere, you need only say so, and I'll see that arrangements are made--"

"No."

Enjolras hesitates. "No?"

"No. If I have to look to you for permission and arrangements every time I want to go somewhere, then it's not truly freedom."

Enjolras is quiet again, for longer this time. "Are you dressed?" he asks at length, and Grantaire is taken aback.

"I wasn't waiting naked to scream at you, if that's what you're asking."

There's movement nearby, warmth, and then the light touch of Enjolras's hand at Grantaire's elbow. He stiffens at the contact, just a little, and Enjolras waits without moving until he lets out the air from his lungs, and the tension in him along with it. "But you have your boots on?" Enjolras asks.

"Yes."

"Good. Come with me." He curls the hand on Grantaire's elbow around to hook through his arm and leads him forward through the darkness, away from the bed and toward the door.

Grantaire follows him through the house, and only startles a little bit when Enjolras leads them through the front door and outside, where the night air is cool with a slight breeze and the moon overhead is obscured by clouds spreading patchy and dark across the sky. There's a scattering of stars shining through the cloud cover, enough that Grantaire can watch his feet as they descend the grand front steps to make sure he doesn't trip and send himself sprawling, but not enough that he'd see much more than highlights and the shapes of features, if he turned to look at Enjolras while they stand beneath it.

He doesn't. The urge to do so burns through him, but he keeps his gaze forward, keeps his spine straight and his shoulders back. He is keenly aware of the weight of Enjolras's hand on his elbow, the warmth of him at his side, the quiet crunch of his steps just a little mismatched with Grantaire's.

Enjolras brings him to the manor's stable. It's a small outbuilding that Grantaire can mostly only make out the shape of, a darker silhouette against the darker sky. He waits while Enjolras unlocks and opens the stable door, then allows him to usher him inside. With the door shut behind them both, it's as dark in the stable as it is in their bedroom.

"Don't move," Enjolras says. "Just give me a moment." His hand falls off of Grantaire's arm and his steps move away.

Grantaire hears the rattle of a box, the scrape of a match, the flare of light that brightens to a glow as Enjolras lights a lamp and the flame catches. Grantaire jerks his gaze away automatically, staring down at the stable's floor beneath his boots, his heart beating hard. "Does this mean-- Can I--"

"No," Enjolras says quickly, his words a little choked. "Don't. Just..." He walks back toward him. Grantaire stares down at his feet and doesn't move, doesn't look up, not even as Enjolras's steps pace around him and he settles his hands on Grantaire's shoulders from behind. "Like this?"

Grantaire clears his throat. "Sure."

Enjolras leads him forward like that. In the first stall is a horse who stands nearly as tall as Grantaire at the shoulder. He's a pure, brilliant white and heavily-muscled, and he swings his head out over the stall door as they near.

Grantaire moves to step toward him, to hold out a hand in greeting, but Enjolras's hands tighten on his shoulders, pulling him back. "No. Not Boreas," he says, even as the horse whips his head around and snaps his teeth down on the air where Grantaire's fingers were an instant earlier. "He's...temperamental with people he doesn't know."

Grantaire rubs his hand on his thigh and edges further back from the stall door. It presses his back up against Enjolras's chest and Enjolras takes one hand from his shoulder to wrap his arm around Grantaire's waist. Grantaire stares down at it, the bronzed skin like Enjolras spends his days under the sun, the wiry golden hair dusted across his forearm. He clears his throat again, feeling short of breath. "Yes. I can see that."

The next stall bears a plaque that displays the name Notos, and houses a slender palomino who Enjolras allows Grantaire to greet and pet. The horse's breath is hot on Grantaire's palm, and when he finds no treat for offer in Grantaire's hand, he snorts and swings his head away to investigate Enjolras's pockets, as insistent as though he hadn't eaten in days.

"He's hot-blooded," Enjolras says. "He'll take the bit between his teeth and carry you off halfway across the country if you let him. Do you know how to ride?"

"Only the titled and wealthy learn to ride as a pastime," Grantaire says, dry. "I was rather too busy helping my parents scrape enough together to feed my sister and me every night."

Enjolras doesn't rise to the bait of Grantaire's tone, just leans his chin on Grantaire's head and says, "Probably best to leave him be, then."

He ushers Grantaire quickly past the third stall, and the black-as-night horse within. "Eurus is unpredictable," he murmurs in Grantaire's ear as they shy past him. "His riders tend to have accidents, more often than I'm comfortable with. I'm keeping him unridden, until I've trained him up better and he's regained my confidence."

The last stall homes Zephyr, whom Grantaire met the first day, hitched to the carriage the urchin Gavroche shoved him into. Grantaire doesn't know him well, but trusts him enough to step forward and offer a hand. Enjolras doesn't protest, and Zephyr presses his nose into Grantaire's palm and huffs warm air, then nuzzles against his hand.

"He's the gentlest of the lot," Enjolras says quietly behind him. It's an effort for Grantaire not to turn, drawn by habit to face someone when he's being spoken to. "He'll do well by you, no matter your inexperience. And you're welcome to tack him up and take him out whenever you want to go somewhere. Wherever you may wish to go. You don't need permission, Grantaire. I'd only ask that you let someone know, so we don't worry."

Grantaire lets out a long, slow breath. "I'm closing my eyes," he says and then he turns around and takes Enjolras's face in his hands, rises up on his toes and kisses him.

Enjolras hums against his mouth and leans into the kiss. It's slow and warm and lovely, and when it ends Grantaire presses his face in against Enjolras's chest. He opens his eyes, but all he can see is the red lawn of Enjolras's shirt.

"What was that for?" Enjolras asks him quietly, running a hand over his hair.

Grantaire shuts his eyes and leans more of his weight in against him. "Thank you."

Enjolras's hand pauses atop Grantaire's head. "For granting you your freedom? Why are you thanking me for something you were just screaming at me for thinking I was denying you?"

Grantaire shakes his head so his cheek brushes against Enjolras's chest and the fine weave of his shirt. "For understanding." He lets a moment pass, and then he adds, his lips curving, "And I wasn't screaming."

Enjolras chuckles, his breath warm on the crown of Grantaire's head. "Weren't you? My mistake." He wraps an arm around Grantaire's shoulders and gives them a squeeze. "Come on. Let's go back inside."

Grantaire would be happy to stay, but he nods and lets Enjolras lead him out of the stable. When Enjolras pushes the stable door open, a breeze comes in from outside and blows the lamp out, plunging them into darkness once more.

It's a relief, almost. Grantaire can open his eyes to the cloak of shadows and night and not have to worry about looking on Enjolras unwittingly. He can stop wrestling with his own desire to do so when the light is gone and the choice is taken out of his hands.

They walk back to the house, hand-in-hand, and the silence between them is comfortable. Grantaire tips his head back to gaze up at the stars overhead, too patchy to make out any constellations, and when they're back in the bedroom Enjolras stops him in the middle of the room with a touch on his shoulder, then undresses him with careful touches and lingering caresses.

When they're both bare, Enjolras bears him down onto the bed and slides in behind him, pressed in warm and close, a long stripe of warm skin all along Grantaire's back.

Enjolras lays a trail of gentle kisses at Grantaire's nape, across his shoulder. Grantaire wonders if his tenderness is a response to Grantaire's harshness earlier, shouting at him, but doesn't dare ask. He stretches, instead, luxuriating in it, and reaches back to clasp Enjolras against him.

Later, when the tenderness has built to a slow, aching climax that leaves Grantaire trembling and half-stunned in Enjolras's arms, he presses his face in against Enjolras's shoulder and says against his skin, "I'm going to take Zephyr out tomorrow."

Enjolras doesn't hesitate, doesn't miss a beat as he strokes his hand through Grantaire's hair and twists his fingers in it. "His tack is in the stable. He's... not like most horses. Tell him where you're going, and let him have his head, and he'll get you there just fine." He strokes a thumb up Grantaire's neck and lingers, tracing circles across the sensitive skin just behind Grantaire's ear. "He'll be glad for the exercise, and gladder still if you get some apples from Mme. Houcheloup to bring to him."

Grantaire waits, but Enjolras subsides, resuming his lazy caresses. "That's it?" Grantaire asks after a moment, lifting his head up. The point of his chin must be digging into Enjolras's ribs, like this, but he doesn't protest. There's warmth in his voice when he speaks.

"That, and I look forward to hearing all about it when I return tomorrow night." He drops a kiss on the end of Grantaire's nose. "Let's sleep now, shall we? You'll need to rest if you mean to go for a ride tomorrow."

There's little Grantaire can do but nod his agreement and curl in tighter against Enjolras's side. Tonight, at least, falling asleep is an easy matter, as simple as shutting his eyes and letting go.

*

In the morning, Grantaire chooses his old clothes, cleaned and pressed by Mme. Houcheloup and looking far nicer under her attentions than Grantaire has ever managed himself, but still undeniably working-class garments. He doesn't think he could bear to sit before his friends in the finery that Mme. Houcheloup and Enjolras have procured for him and insist that he's unchanged by this unexpected marriage.

Besides which, wearing such fine things into a neighborhood such as theirs, he'd as likely as not be taken for a proper nobleman and robbed on the street, before he'd made it the three steps to the building in which Joly, Musichetta, and Bossuet rent their flat.

The boots, however, there's nothing for. He can't very well ride through the city in his bare feet. He shoves his feet into them, and tugs the cuffs of his trousers down over them as far as he's able, and he'll just have to hope that no one is paying enough attention to his feet to notice the fineness of the stitching or the quality of the leather.

When he finds Mme. Houcheloup in the kitchen, she has a quick breakfast waiting for him and a cluster of apples to fill his pockets with. "Zephyr's a good lad," she says as she fusses over him and pats his cheek. "He'll see you where you wish to go, and bring you back home safely."

There's a part of Grantaire that wants to protest at the manor being called his home, and not the place to which he's heading. But it would displease Mme. Houcheloup to hear it, and she's been nothing but kind to him, so he holds his tongue and kisses her cheek, and lets her fuss one last time before she decides he ought to take a hand pie with him as well, in case those friends of his don't feed him or he grows hungry on the road.

"Thank you," he tells her earnestly, and she scoffs and turns pink. And because he remembers what Enjolras said the night before, not that he would worry if Grantaire were to leave without a word, but that they would, he clasps her to him and promises, "I'll let you know the moment I return."

The pink on her cheeks shifts to a bright red that she covers beneath a commanding frown. "Do," she says. "And I'll have supper waiting for you."

He hesitates as he gathers up the apples and the pie and everything else she has laden him down with. "They're good friends, and we have much to catch up on. I may be late."

Mme. Houcheloup jerks her chin up and stares him down as though daring him to defy her. "I'll have it waiting all the same."

He is not so stupid as to take that dare, so he kisses her cheek, thanks her once more, and then bids her good-bye, and then he takes himself out to the stables before she can find any more foodstuffs to fill his pockets with.

Boreas is restless when Grantaire lets himself into the barn, tossing his head and snorting loudly, biting at the door of the stall as though wishing it were Grantaire he were sinking his teeth into. Grantaire shies past him, and past the other two, until he reaches Zephyr's stall at the end. The horse watches him across the stall door, his ears up, his eyes alert.

Grantaire pulls one of the apples from his pocket and offers it out to the horse. He gives a sharp whinny and takes it, has it chewed up and swallowed down in an instant and then noses at Grantaire's pockets for more.

He laughs and lets Zephyr find the next and pull it from his pocket, and while he's preoccupied eating it Grantaire moves off to find the tack room, a small room across the stable hall from the horses, filled with saddles and harnesses and the rich smell of leather. He is profoundly relieved to discover, upon a moment's inspection, that each set of tack is labelled with a horse's name in a small, silver plaque somewhere.

He finds the saddle labelled for Zephyr with a moment's searching, and the bridle takes a moment longer, to sort its reins out from the tangle of the others it's hanging with. But then he goes back out to the stall to find Zephyr sniffing around the hay on the floor of his stall, trying to find any stray pieces of apple that he might have dropped while eating.

Grantaire lets himself into the stall, balancing the heavy saddle precariously. When Zephyr sees him, and what he's returned with, he snorts a stomps a hoof once, and then stands very still while Grantaire heaves the saddle up onto his back.

Grantaire pets him, once his arms are unburdened. "You really are gentle, aren't you?" he murmurs, marveling at the way Zephyr stands as though at attention for him, scarcely even shifting his weight around as Grantaire buckles his girth and then sets to work sorting out the tangle that is his bridle and reins.

Zephyr waits patiently for him, his neck arched, and only once whinnies and tosses his head as though impatient, or perhaps as though laughing at Grantaire's ineptitude.

"I've never done this before, thank you," Grantaire mutters at him, and resorts to unclipping the reins from the bridle so he can make sense of them separately. "I think I'm doing all right, all things considered."

Zephyr steps closer to him and nudges at his arm, and Grantaire decides that it's an apology. He reaches out to rub the horse's nose, and breaks off a piece of the hand pie still in his pocket to offer to him.

Finally, Grantaire has the bridle sorted out and ready. Zephyr takes the bit easily, and lowers his head while Grantaire works at securing all the buckles and straps that hold it in place.

When he's finished and everything seems secure, Grantaire reattaches the reins and then gets himself up into the saddle through an awkward combination of jumping, pulling himself up, and scrabbling at the stirrup to get a foot in so he can get enough leverage to swing his other leg over Zephyr's back. He manages it eventually, though, and is only a little winded and a lot grateful that there was no one but the horses there to witness it.

"All right," he says, leaning forward to pat Zephyr's neck. "Let's go home."

Zephyr starts walking as though he understands perfectly what Grantaire means and where he wishes to go, and once they're past the manor's imposing gate and onto the street, he shifts into a rolling gait that eats up the distance between the fancy, well-to-do area of the city where Enjolras lives, and the much more crowded and run-down neighborhood that Grantaire has always called home.

He lets Zephyr have his head, as Enjolras suggested, and sometimes he pats his neck and leans forward to murmur, "Right, then, we'll need to turn north at the next crossroads," and Zephyr leads him right to the front step of his friends' building.

His dismount is not the most graceful thing he's ever done, but he doesn't land on his rear, so he counts it a win. Zephyr looks back at him and Grantaire would swear he's laughing at him. He dusts off the dust from the road, as though it's going to make a difference, or as though his friends are going to care, and ties Zephyr's reins to the handrail that leads up the building's few short steps. "We don't have a fancy stable here for you, I'm afraid," he says as he tugs on the knot to be sure it's secure. "But you just kick up a fuss if you need anything, and we'll be able to hear you from inside. And don't let anyone get any ideas about riding off with you. Most people down here are a good sort, and wouldn't dare, but you always have one or two bad eggs." He pats Zephyr on the withers and scratches his fingers through his mane. "But I expect you're more likely to kick the knees out from under someone who tries to steal you than you are to ride off with a stranger on your back, aren't you?"

Zephyr whinnies and tosses his head, then bends down to eat at a weed poking up between cobblestones at the street's edge. He keeps one ear flicked back toward Grantaire, but otherwise ignores him completely. Grantaire laughs and takes it as his cue to stop fussing and go see his friends.

He feels strange, climbing these stairs he's climbed hundreds of times before. He's wearing his own clothes, his old clothes, and he thought it would be enough, but he still feels as though the man inside them is somehow new, somehow strange.

He can hear conversation coming from behind the door, and it quiets but doesn't go silent at his knock. He listens to the floorboards creak beneath someone's weight as they come to answer the door. When it opens and Musichetta's on the other side, her eyes go wide as she looks Grantaire over, in the instant before she gives a cry and throws herself at him.

"You bastard, where have you been," she cries, but she's beaming at him fit to split her face in two, delighted. "Come in! You'd better have one hell of a story to tell, about where you've been and why you've been gone so long and why you didn't think to tell your very best friends about any of it." She looks him over as she ushers him inside and her smile, impossibly, widens. "You look well."

"Not so well as you," he says, and kisses her cheek as she herds him inside. "Married life is treating you well."

She laughs, high and clear as a bell. "Married life is the best." And then she steps away, lifting her voice to call out, "Joly! Bossuet! Come see what's shown up on our doorstep."

They come out from elsewhere in the flat, Joly in the lead despite his cane and his limp, and when they see him they both cry out like Musichetta did.

Grantaire lets himself be enveloped in hugs. And he hugs back, squeezing his friends tight and pressing his face into someone's shoulder. "I missed you," he says softly as they all three press in tight around him.

"We've missed you." Musichetta pulls him away from the embrace, but only to drag him across the room and press him down into a seat, while they three press in close around him, Joly draped against his shoulder, Bossuet's at his feet with his head on his thigh, Musichetta warm against his other side. She gets a stern look in her eye as she says, "Now. Tell us where you've been, and what could possibly be so interesting as to make you neglect your friends."

"Well..." Grantaire hesitates, knowing the easiest way to begin this, but also well aware of the reaction it'll receive. Still, there's nothing for it. He takes a breath, plunges in, and says, "I got married."

There's a beat of silence, a breath of stillness. And then the small flat erupts in noise and movement, Bossuet exclaiming in surprise and delight, Musichetta beating on his shoulder and demanding, "You what?", Joly beaming so hard over the news that he looks as though he might burst.

"Who?" Musichetta demands, when she has overcome her surprise. "And when? And why? Tell us everything!"

He clears his throat, well aware that he doesn't have any answers that will satisfy them. "He's a stranger," he admits quietly. "Or... he was, a week ago."

"A week ago?" Joly giggles into his hands. "You couldn't wait one day after we were wed to follow in our steps? I didn't take you for the sort."

"No, it's..." Frustration twists through Grantaire. It's difficult to explain, but more difficult still to make them understand. "You remember, at the wedding. The things I said. I woke hungover to a summons from Aphrodite."

All the laughter and good humor in his friends vanishes in an instant, leaving all three somber-faced and watching Grantaire with wide, serious eyes. It's Bossuet who asks, "This marriage, then. Is it her curse? Grantaire." He grabs at Grantaire's hand and holds it tight. "You are well, aren't you? You're happy? If your husband treats you ill--"

"No, no." Grantaire leans down to hug Bossuet and reassure him. "He's not a curse. He's... I don't fully understand it, but he says he was able to prevent her from cursing me at all, by marrying me. He's not... He's not cruel. I'm not unhappy."

Musichetta takes his face between her hands and turns it so that he's looking straight at her, so that he can't look away. "That's not the same thing as being happy."

He sighs and leans in against her, his head on her shoulder. She clucks her tongue and wraps an arm around his shoulders and strokes his hair like he's a child, and he's ridiculously grateful for it. "He's wealthy, you know," he murmurs. "His house is so big it took me days just to walk through the whole thing. His utensils are silver, and there are chandeliers set with crystals all over the house. He has horses. I rode one here today."

"You rode a horse?" Bossuet demands, eyeing him uncertainly.

"...Well. I sat upon its back and it brought me here, in any case."

"Sweetheart." Musichetta pulls his head back down onto her shoulder and pets his hair some more. "None of us will argue that money isn't important, or that marrying into wealth won't make many aspects of life immeasurably easier. But everything you said... none of that is the same as being happy."

"Do you love him?" Joly asks quietly.

Grantaire chokes on a laugh. "I told you, I scarcely know him."

"But do you like him?" Bossuet persists.

"Yes," Grantaire says quietly. He thinks of the night before, of the stables, of how Grantaire greeted him, and he adds, "When I'm not furious with him."

It makes the others grin, makes them loosen up a little, like somehow that is the final piece of reassurance they need to ensure that Grantaire's marriage is worthy of their approval.

"Sweetheart," Musichetta says again, and when he looks to her, she's fixing him with a level look. "This all sounds well enough, but don't think we haven't noticed that you still can't bring yourself to say that you're happy. What is it?" She clasps both his hands in hers and holds his gaze, so very earnest. "Tell us. It will do you good."

Grantaire lets out a long, long breath. He shuts his eyes and lets his head hang forward. "It's petty," he says in a small, quiet voice. "It shouldn't matter."

"If it matters, then it matters," says Joly, pragmatic, as though it's as simple and as obvious as that.

Musichetta pulls him in, and pulls his head onto her shoulder. "What is it?"

"He won't-- He won't let me see him," Grantaire says, and feels stupid as he does so.

There's a moment of silence and stillness. When he forces himself to look at his friends, he finds them all staring at him, blinking as though Grantaire has just said something incomprehensible.

"You mean he avoids you?" Bossuet asks slowly, his brow wrinkling as though trying to grasp the concept of not wanting to spend time with one's spouse. "He leaves you alone in that big old house? No wonder you're unhappy."

"I'm not unhappy," Grantaire says, and then groans and buries his head in his hands. "And no, it's not that. I mean, he does, during the day. He has work -- or business to attend to, I suppose, the nobility never really seems to work, not like the rest of us do. But no, that's not what I mean. He won't let me look at him. He wants to keep the lights off all the time, whenever we're together. We wed in the dark. We do everything in the dark, and he won't tell me why. I don't care what he looks like, I just want to know. I want a face to put to-- to everything else." He turns abruptly, pressing his face in against Musichetta's shoulder and wrapping his arms around her, holding onto her tight.

She shushes him and pets his head while he fights to get his breathing back under control. "Has he said why?" she asks when he's breathing easier.

He shakes his head without lifting it. "I can't ask. He won't speak of it. Every time I try, he closes off from me."

She's quiet for a moment, thoughtful, just her hand running over and over his hair. "But you're not unhappy," she says after a few moments, and she sounds like she doesn't quite believe it, but like she's trying to.

"I'm really not," he says into her shoulder. "I swear it."

"Marriage isn't easy," Joly says. "And it usually involves compromise, if not sacrifice."

Grantaire sniffs and lifts his head, grateful for the opportunity to joke, to lighten the tone of the conversation. "Listen to you, going on like an expert when you've been married all of a week."

Joly grins at him. Musichetta tugs at his hair in mild chastisement. "Yes, but there's three of us, which makes it three times as difficult."

"If you expect me to believe that any of you have ever fought a day in your lives--"

"We're not perfect," Bossuet says, unusually solemn. "We have our conflicts. You know that as well as anyone. But we work through them. By being honest with each other and with ourselves. And by remembering that we value each other more than we do our pride."

"This isn't about pride, it's--" Grantaire stops himself, takes a breath. "You talk to each other. He won't talk to me."

Musichetta snorts quietly. "It sounds like you two do little but talk. Well, that and--"

"Quiet, you," he mutters, his cheeks burning. "As though you all don't enjoy your marital bed."

"Every chance we get," she says with a grin. "But the point is, he does talk to you. It's just not what you want him to be talking about." She reaches toward him and rests her fingers lightly on Grantaire's chest. "You just have to decide if your not-unhappiness with him is great enough to make that worth it."

Grantaire sighs and lays his hand over hers, holding her palm against his heart. "You think I shouldn't say anything. That I should leave well enough alone."

"I think you should be happy. But we all know I'm biased." She leans in and kisses his cheek, and lingers just long enough that he can feel the warmth of her lips on his skin. "Because you're wonderful, Grantaire. You truly are. And you deserve someone who can make you more than just not-unhappy. But that's me." She gives his hand a squeeze and then carefully pulls hers out from underneath it. "You have to decide for yourself what you want, and what you're willing to sacrifice to have it, and where the balance lies between the two."

Grantaire sighs heavily and leans his weight in against her. "You aren't helping at all," he laments.

"Aren't I? Well, we'll have to fix that." She shifts beneath him, pushing at him with her shoulder until he grumbles and sits upright, freeing her from his weight. And then she grabs his hands and stands, and pulls him up to his feet as well, and says to the others, "We were going to go get crêpes, weren't we? Well, what's one more to add to the group -- it only means we'll all be in better company." She hooks her arm through Grantaire's as the others clamber to their feet, suddenly exclaiming, and hurry to get coats and boots on before they venture outside. "You're always more genial when you've eaten, Grantaire. We'll get you some good food and ply you with even better conversation, and by the time you head home we'll have seen to it that you've forgotten all about why you were upset in the first place."

"You are the very best friends," Grantaire says with feeling.

Musichetta laughs and leads him out. Bossuet takes his other side, arm wrapped around his shoulders, and Joly comes after on Bossuet's far side, holding on to Bossuet's shoulder with one hand and wielding his cane with the other. "Now," she says, looking down the street that stretches out before them. "Let's see if we can find the crêperie without getting ourselves terribly lost."

"It will be an adventure," Joly says, a bounce in his step.

They walk down the street in a knot, arms slung around each other, jostling and laughing, and for a moment it feels normal. For just a moment, Grantaire feels settled in his own skin once again.

They buy crêpes, and they swap bites between one another so they can all try the different fillings. They're a looser knot on the walk back home, their hands too full to keep their arms around one another, but they still walk with their shoulders bumping and brushing, and they still jockey for position so that by the time they make it back to their building, they've all had a chance to walk next to each other in every combination imaginable.

Upstairs, back in the flat, Grantaire flops down dramatically with a hand over his brow, groaning about how he's too full to even consider moving for at least an hour, and somehow he ends up with the other three piled on top of him, laughing breathlessly as their combined weight squeezes the air from his lungs, but grabbing onto a waist and a shoulder to help keep everyone balanced.

"We missed you," Joly says quietly, leaning his head on Grantaire's shoulder, and Grantaire hugs them all tight.

"I'll come more often," he promises. "I'm sorry it's been so long."

It's been a week. It's possibly the longest they've ever gone without spending time with one another, but it's still not so long. But it feels longer than that. It feels as though the whole world has shifted and changed beneath his feet in the past week, and they're practically strangers to one another.

He doesn't voice the feeling. They'd all scold him for it, and they'd be right to. He just holds on to them tight and repeats the promise to himself as well, his lips moving silently as he swears to come more often. Twice a week at least, he decides, and if that leaves Enjolras lonely then perhaps he'll have a greater sympathy for Grantaire, left alone in that great empty house all day long.

"You should come visit," he says, suddenly taken by the thought. "He has a carriage, I could send it for you. You could come and see the house. It'll be nice not to be the only one gawking at it. He has spare rooms, even, I'm sure you could stay the night."

"And interrupt the only time you get to spend with your new husband? We've better manners than that," Bossuet says from where he's got his face pressed between Joly's shoulder blades.

"But we'll come," Musichetta says, slow and content and sure. "Of course we'll come." She seeks his hand out in the pile of them all until she finds it, and gives it a squeeze.

He squeezes back and lets himself just be happy there in that moment, with his very best friends warm and close around him.

Later, he brings them down to meet Zephyr, when he checks to make sure that the horse is enduring his solitude. They exclaim and call him the prettiest horse they've ever seen, and Bossuet runs back upstairs to find something to feed him, and Zephyr seems to preen beneath their attentions and lets them all rub his nose and pet his neck.

It seems they've had only minutes together before the sky is turning dark and the city lighting its lamps against the oncoming night. His friends watch him more closely as the sky fades to cobalt, and then to black, and the stars outside begin to shine.

It's Musichetta who says it first, her head tipped to the side, her eyes soft on him. "You know, if you wish to go back to him, we wouldn't resent you for it."

He ducks his head, shoulders pulling up until he's so curled into himself he's practically hunchbacked. "It's not that. It's-- Mme. Houcheloup said she was going to have supper ready for me, she couldn't be dissuaded. I wouldn't want to keep her up."

The exchange smiles between the three of them, and then they all rise and come to him and wrap him in hugs, kiss his hair and tell him how much they enjoyed getting to see him.

"And if you don't come back soon, we'll track you and that fine horse down and come knocking at your gate to tell your husband not to be so greedy with you, see if we don't," Bossuet says, giving him an overdramatic stern look as they usher Grantaire to the door.

"You could, if you wanted," Grantaire reminds them and he reels each in for one last hug. "But I will be back. I promise."

They push him out the door without ceremony, and Grantaire stands there in the hallway for a moment before he settles his coat on his shoulders and goes down to where Zephyr is waiting for him, eyeing him as though to scold him for such a long visit.

"It was overdue," Grantaire assures him as he unties him from the rail and uses the steps as a mounting block to help him get himself up onto the horse's back. "And I needed it."

Zephyr snorts and tosses his head, then looks back over his shoulder at Grantaire, his face eloquent with impatience.

Grantaire laughs a little and pats his neck. "Yes, yes," he says. "I'm ready now. Let's go on home."

Zephyr seems to think that the morning's ride was enough for Grantaire to get his bearings, or perhaps he's simply impatient and ready to be home and back in his stall, because the gait he sets is faster than the last. The city seems to fly past them, and it's all Grantaire can do to wrap his fingers in Zephyr's mane and hold on, trusting him to get them back to the manor, and to get them both there in one piece.

They make it home safely, though there are a few near misses that they manage to avoid only due to Zephyr's quick reflexes, and no thanks to Grantaire at all. Grantaire takes the time to brush him down, once his saddle and bridle are removed, and then gives him one last pat on the neck and a quiet, "Thank you," before he takes himself back up to the house.

Night has descended fully upon the city now, and the house is dark when Grantaire lets himself in. He's only grateful that he's explored long enough and well enough to be able to find his way by feel through the halls, until he finds the door to their bedroom and pushes it open.

There's the sound of breathing inside, the quiet noise of fabric moving against itself and footsteps across the rugs. Grantaire stops just inside the door, but the room is dark, no lamps lit.

"Hello," he says quietly, so as not to startle Enjolras.

"You're home." Enjolras's voice is warm and rich with pleasure. "How did you find your friends?"

"Quite well indeed," Grantaire says. He's not going to tell Enjolras about the topic of much of their conversation, he's not such a fool. He takes further steps inside, enough to move out of the entryway and into the room proper. "I told them they could visit whenever they cared to."

He says it cautiously, braced for Enjolras to contradict him. But Enjolras says only, "Yes, of course they can. It's your home as much as mine now, and anyone you wish to invite is more than welcome within these walls."

Grantaire nods and reaches out. His hand finds the warmth of Enjolras's chest, the light texture of his shirt. He lets a long breath out and comes another step forward, until they're standing just in front of one another and Grantaire can lean forward and lay his brow against Enjolras's sternum.

Enjolras loops his arms loosely around Grantaire's back and holds him. He lets him be silent for a moment, and then for another. "But you enjoyed your visit?" he ventures at last. "All is well?"

Grantaire lets out a long, slow breath. "Yes. All is very well. They are newly-wed and quite happy with one another. And they missed me, and I them. It was good to be with one another again."

"And Zephyr did well by you? You found your way there and back again without incident?"

Grantaire lets out a breath of quiet laughter. "Demonstrably so, or I'd not be here, speaking about my day with them, would I?" He says it lightly, though, more of a tease than an admonishment.

Enjolras turns, dropping one arm from around his shoulders while using the other to pull Grantaire in against his side. "Come," he says. "Let us get the dirt of the road off of you, and you can tell me all about it."

Grantaire makes a face into the darkness. "Some day," he says, "you are going to have to spend these days with me, so I might be able to do something with my evening but speak of it."

Enjolras is quiet, and his arm doesn't drop from Grantaire's shoulder, but there's a quiet tension to him that makes Grantaire squeeze his eyes shut and shake his head.

"Or perhaps," he says, fighting for levity, "I shall simply have to start keeping a journal. Then you can acquaint yourself of my days at your leisure, and without relying upon my slipshod memory."

"It's not about the facts, or the knowing of them, of course," Enjolras says quietly. He slides Grantaire's coat off his shoulders and tosses it aside -- onto a chair, perhaps. Grantaire doesn't take him for the sort to leave clothes cast about on the floor unless he is in a particularly single-minded mood, and they're not there yet, not tonight. Not yet. "It's about the conversation."

He does talk to you, Musichetta had said. It's just not what you want him to be talking about.

Grantaire works at the buttons at the collar of his shirt while Enjolras works his way up from the hem, and they meet in the middle and push it off together. The air in the bedroom is cool against his skin after the warmth of his clothing and his coat. "We walked down the street and bought crêpes," he says as he swats Enjolras's hands away and reaches for him, instead, to grasp the edge of his shirt and pull it off over his head.

Grantaire's shorter than he is. He doesn't have the reach he needs to take it off completely. Enjolras has to take over once his arms are stretched overhead, and then his shirt disappears, too, lost to the darkness cloaking the bedroom. "Did you?" He sounds charmed. "What did you have?"

"Strawberries. But Musichetta stole half of it." Grantaire reaches for Enjolras's trousers and pushes them down off his hips.

Enjolras makes a strangled sound when Grantaire drops down to one knee to grasp the heel of his boot and tug it off, and Enjolras's trousers after it. "Your friend is a thief, it would seem." His voice has gone a little thin, a little strained. He puts his hand on Grantaire's shoulder, and Grantaire isn't sure if it's to steady himself or to keep Grantaire where he is.

He tips his face up to Enjolras as he removes the other boot, and Enjolras's trousers entirely, waiting to see if Enjolras has gotten other ideas in his head and means him to occupy his mouth with some other task than conversation. "It's all right, I stole hers back to make up for it. And Bossuet and Joly's too. She had a berry compote in hers. Bossuet had sweet cheese. Joly got the peach compote, mostly because I couldn't decide between it and the strawberry, and he is a very good friend."

Enjolras chuckles quietly. "They are all thieves, then." There's warmth in his voice, but when Grantaire leans in, testing the waters, he tightens his hand on his shoulder and draws him up to his feet instead. "And my husband as well."

"It's true. I'm a scoundrel and a wretch and you should never have married me." With Grantaire on his feet once more, Enjolras reaches for him, slides his palms over Grantaire's stomach and then strips his trousers down to his knees. Grantaire kicks his boots off and steps out of the last of his clothing, holding onto Enjolras for balance as he does so. "It's just your luck that the vows are spoken, and you're stuck with me now."

"I suppose it is," Enjolras says. He sounds so pleased and surprised by that that Grantaire spreads his hands on his chest and pushes him back to the bed. Enjolras drops down backwards onto it, and Grantaire climbs up with him.

They jostle and shift around for a moment, and end with Enjolras at Grantaire's back, his arms wrapped around him, Grantaire's hair probably in his mouth but if it is, Enjolras speaks no complaints. He just holds onto Grantaire and slots his knees in behind his, and Grantaire sighs and leans back against him.

"What of you?" he asks quietly, when he's gathered the courage for it. "You always ask about my day, yet you tell me nothing of your own."

Enjolras makes a sound into Grantaire's hair, against the back of his neck. "My days are dull. The conversation to be had about them would be dull as well."

It startles a laugh out of Grantaire. "And mine aren't? Today was an exception, I'll grant you, but otherwise all I have ever told you about is reading and walking the halls, and you do not seem to have grown bored of the telling yet. You might grant me the opportunity to prove myself as likewise fascinated by mundanity."

Enjolras nuzzles against his ear, his breath a warm caress as he makes small adjustments to how they're lying, finding ways to fit them in even closer against one another. "I fear my own boredom as much as yours. I shall put myself to sleep with the telling, and then lose out on a night of your fine company."

He does talk. It's just not what you want him to be talking about.

Grantaire shuts his eyes against the dark and forces air into his lungs and out again. He fights down the urge to throw Enjolras's arms off of him and put space between them. Perhaps to climb out of bed and flee the room entirely. Enjolras would pursue, but he could light a lamp and hold him at bay that way, perhaps.

He doesn't move. But he trembles a little, wanting it.

"Tell me about your brothers," he says, grasping for something that will make Enjolras talk. He spoke of his sister before, perhaps he will be similarly inclined to open up about his other siblings. "Are they very much like you?"

"Ah," Enjolras says, a sigh. "In some ways, and not in others, as is the way of most families."

Grantaire makes a sound of encouragement and Enjolras starts speaking in low tones about his brothers, and the sort of trouble they got themselves into growing up. By the time they've worn through the night and near to dawn, Enjolras has spoken more than Grantaire thinks he has in the entire week previous, and he counts himself well satisfied by it. But as he starts to drift to sleep, secure in the circle of Enjolras's arms, the thought occurs to him that Grantaire now knows a great deal about Enjolras's siblings, but still very little about Enjolras himself.

*

The time spent with his friends soothes his soul, and for a few more days things are better. He can breathe in the house without feeling as though he's suffocating. He can push Enjolras down into the bed, or be pushed, without it being a means of escaping the crushing weight of it all. They make each other laugh in bed, and sigh, and moan, and it's as it should be. For a few days, at least.

But the quiet awareness of all the things Enjolras is keeping from him and all the ways he's holding himself back still remains like a grain of sand in a shoe, insignificant at first glance but a small, persistent irritation that grows the longer one tries to endure it, and it's not long before the books once again fail to hold his attention and the fence around the grounds starts to feel like a cage.

He lies in a tangle with Enjolras one night, having driven one another to climax so hard that they both by rights out to sleep for a week. Enjolras, for his part, is fast asleep beside Grantaire, snoring quietly where his face is pressed in against Grantaire's shoulder. But Grantaire lies there, wrapped up in him, and stares at the ceiling feeling the weariness that has seeped into every one of his bones, but unable to sleep. The room is dark and the night is quiet, but his heart beats light and quick in his chest, like there's something here to be afraid of. His thoughts spin through his head, refusing to settle.

Eventually, when the weight of Enjolras's head upon him has put his arm to sleep, he untangles himself from Enjolras with slow, cautious movements and works himself away, putting distance between them. Just the width of the bed at first, and then he slides out and edges backwards across the room. Enjolras sleeps on, his breathing deep and slow, and quieter now that his breathing is unobstructed by Grantaire's shoulder.

He's done this before, when he's needed to relieve himself in the middle of the night, or just to stretch his legs. Enjolras usually sleeps deep enough that Grantaire can climb out of bed and back in again without disturbing him. He slinks away this time and wanders the halls, thinks half a dozen times about going back, climbing back into bed and just lying there until sleep finally decides to claim him.

He can't do it. There's an ache in his chest that feels like a hole, gnawing wider and deeper within him. He doesn't even realize his feet have carried him back, but he's standing in the doorway, staring across the darkness of their bedroom.

There's a lamp on the table four paces in from the door, he thinks, and the thoughts come as though from a distance, as though from someone else entirely. There's a tinder box just before it, and Enjolras is sleeping soundly. He could light the lamp and look on him, just for a moment. Just enough to have a face to put to the man he's married, to settle the fears and the doubts waging war within him. And then he could blow the lamp out and slide back into bed, and Enjolras would need never know, and Grantaire could finally know peace. It would only take a glance, that's all. Just a glance, and then he'll be able to feel like he can take a full breath again.

He's across the room without registering the thought. The lamp is in his hand, the chimney removed, the wick turned up. He has the tinder box open and a match in his hand, and there's no turning back now. He has to know. He can't bear another night of this, of his husband keeping secrets and holding himself back, when Grantaire has given up everything to be here.

He strikes the match, and holds his breath when it flares to life. Even that small flame is enough to illuminate the room. He holds the match to the lamp's wick and glances up as it catches, toward the bed, and he freezes.

Enjolras is lying there, in repose as he sleeps, and perhaps its the warm light of the flame but he seems to glow, golden and brilliant. Grantaire's breath stops in his lungs as he looks at him. That first day of their marriage, he'd wondered if Enjolras were disfigured in some way, if that's why he hid in the darkness and refused to let Grantaire see him. But now Grantaire looks an him and he seems the most beautiful thing Grantaire has ever had the good fortune to look upon. His hair curls like gold across their pillow. His skin is bronzed, as though he spends his days standing beneath the sun's radiance. There's a strength to his features, to the angles and lines of it, and a sort of grace as well. His mouth is soft in sleep, and Grantaire wants to kiss him.

Heat singes his fingertips, the match burnt down to where he holds it while his attention has been preoccupied. He jolts his hand back, hissing air through his teeth, and shakes the match out quickly before sucking on his burned fingers.

When he glances up again, Enjolras's eyes are open and on him. And Grantaire had wanted to see him, had wondered what color his eyes might be, but he thinks he could have happily gone his whole life without knowing the precise shade of blue that they turn when Enjolras looks at him like that, filled with disappointment.

"Grantaire," he says, and its grief and admonishment and hurt all wrapped up together in the two syllables of Grantaire's name.

"I--" What is there to say? It's obvious what Grantaire's done, and the intent behind it. His throat closes up, so that he could scarcely speak even if he did have the words. "I didn't--"

"One thing," Enjolras says quietly. This would be so much easier if he was angry, but he just rolls upright so he's sitting with his legs over the edge of the bed and he looks sad. He looks wounded. "I only asked you for one thing."

"Enjolras." Grantaire chokes on the word. He sets the lamp down and reaches out for Enjolras, takes a step toward him, but as soon as he moves Enjolras does as well, jolting to his feet and striding across the room, past Grantaire. He snatches clothes from the armoire, jerks them on with quick, sharp movements, and seems not to hear Grantaire at all when he speaks his name again.

"Enjolras, please," Grantaire whispers, moving toward him. Enjolras has his back to him, but Grantaire can see the way the quiet plea makes tension ripple through him. It pulls his spine up straight and his shoulders back, and he stands there as frozen as stone for the space of two breaths. Grantaire doesn't move, hardly dares even to breathe, for fear of what might happen if he breaks that stillness.

And then Enjolras is gone, striding out of the bedroom with his boots still in his hand. As he spins, vast, white wings unfold from out of nowhere from his back, stretching wide across the full breadth of the room and then snapping shut, stirring up a breeze that spins through the room and blows the lamp out, casting them both into darkness.

Grantaire stands there a moment, stunned. A week ago, the darkness might have hindered him, but he knows the sound of Enjolras's footsteps now. He runs after him, but Enjolras moves faster than he does, and he knows the house better. He goes around a corner, and Grantaire comes to it only a moment later, but by then the hallway ahead of him is empty and there's no clue of where Enjolras might have gone, no more echoing footsteps, nothing but the house sitting as vast and empty and silent as it ever is.

Grantaire searches for him all the same, calling his name to the empty halls, begging him to listen to Grantaire, to at least let him apologize if nothing else. But the only answer he receives is the echo of his own footsteps off the walls and the sky slowly brightening through the windows.

When dawn's come in full and the sky outside is a bright, blinding shade of blue, Grantaire gives up. He's exhausted, from the search and the worry and from the long, restless night that came before it. He thinks he could sleep for a year, but the thought of going back to their bedroom makes his stomach wrap into a queasy knot. So he takes himself to the library instead, draws the curtains over the windows to block out the light and curls on the armchair in a small, miserable ball of agony and self-pity. He leans his head against the chair's back and, eventually, he sleeps.

When he wakes, it's to Mme. Houcheloup standing over him in the dim half-light of the room, looking solemn, and he wishes he had a blanket he could burrow under to escape the look she's leveling at him.

"There's breakfast waiting for you in the sitting room," she says, and only that.

He sits upright, uncurling from the ball he's spent the morning in. His back aches in protest, but it's the least of his concerns. He blinks at her, expect a tirade or at least a scolding for betraying his vows to her employer, but she just raises an eyebrow at him and says, "Get on, then, it's better while it's hot."

"Mme. Houcheloup..." He struggles to his feet, then hesitates there, unsure of what to do. "Last night..."

She clucks her tongue at him and gives her head a quick shake. "You don't need to be talking to me about whatever happened between you two, child. I'm not the one who needs to hear it." She starts out of the library and he trails after her, helpless.

"But... he left."

"Well, and are you surprised by that?" He expects to hear scorn in her voice then, if at all, but it's still even, heavier perhaps with the weight of what's happened between the two of them, but if she's angry with him she hides it will. "He's hurt. Even wounded animals will run and hide when they've injuries that need tending."

"I didn't-- I didn't mean--" He doesn't know how to finish that sentence, because he meant to look, of course he did. And he never wished to hurt Enjolras, but it would be disingenuous of him to say that his hurt surprised him. He'd known Enjolras would react that way, that's why he did it while he slept. The only thing he didn't mean was to be discovered.

It doesn't matter anyway, Mme. Houcheloup seems disinclined to wait for him to sort out what he means to say. She just keeps walking on, leading him to the sitting room where his breakfast waits. And when she's shown him in and he just stands there, staring down at the plate and unable to even consider eating when his guilt still sits in him like a stone, she sighs from the doorway and says, gentler than he deserves, "Eat it anyway, child. Starving yourself will not do anything to fix this."

He sits but doesn't reach for the utensils. "Mme. Houcheloup," he says quietly, staring at the food before him. "What is he?"

She's quiet for a long moment. "That's not mine to tell," she says at last, and he isn't even surprised. She takes her leave then, when he doesn't press the issue, and quietly latches the door behind herself.

He eats a few bites, but it's all he can stomach. Eventually, when the plate has gone cold and the food as unpalatable as she predicted, he sighs and gives in to the inevitable, pushes the plate away and gets to his feet.

Their bedroom door is standing open when he gathers enough courage to go to it, and for a giddy instant he thinks Enjolras must be there waiting for him. But the room is empty, the lamp that he left burning guttered out without anyone to attend to it, and he realizes the door is only open because he left it that way, when he ran after Enjolras.

He doesn't bother shutting it behind himself now. He's not going to be here long.

He sets the tinder box to rights, picking up the matches that scattered when he burned his fingers and tucking everything back inside where it belongs. After that, it only takes a moment to gather his things. He doesn't have much -- only the clothes he wore on his back when he arrived, and the charcoal and drawing papers, which he doesn't technically own but he can't bear to leave behind. He thinks they won't grudge him that one small thing.

He leaves the fine clothes. He won't have use for them, anyway. And when he has everything gathered together and bundled up, he goes out to the stables and gets Zephyr's tack out, bridles and saddles him and clambers up onto his back.

Zephyr carries him to the front gate, and then they stop there just inside of it and Grantaire stares out. He doesn't dare look back. His throat is already thick and painful enough as it is, he doesn't think he could bare it. "All right," he says, past the pain of it all. "Take me home."

Zephyr snorts and tosses his head, but he doesn't move a step.

"Please, just... Just take me home. I need to go home."

Zephyr stomps a hoof but doesn't budge. When Grantaire gingerly presses his heels to the horse's sides, as he's seen other, better riders do to encourage their own mounts, Zephyr whinnies loudly and rears up onto his back legs, pawing at the air with his front. And Grantaire, unprepared, goes tumbling right off and lands hard on his back in the grass.

He lies there a moment, winded and stunned, before he picks himself up and sits, frowning up at Zephyr above him, who's now placidly grazing at the grass as though he's done nothing wrong whatsoever.

"This isn't my home," he snaps as he gets to his feet. "It's obviously not. It's his home, and I can't be here when he comes back. I can't." His voice breaks and he covers his face with a hand, hating it. "I can't. Please, Zephyr. Take me home."

Zephyr ignores him entirely.

Grantaire bites back a muttered oath and snatches his belongings up off the ground. "Fine. Do as you like, then," he says, and he starts through the gate on foot. It'll be a long walk across the city to get back home, but he's had longer. It will give him time to wallow in his misery before he has to face his friends, in any case.

He gets one foot past the boundary of the gate before something brings him up short. He turns back to see what it is and finds Zephyr there, his teeth closed on the sleeve of Grantaire's coat, holding him back.

Grantaire hisses air through his teeth and jerks the fabric free from Zephyr's bite. "Stop!" he says. "I'm going home, whether you'll take me or not."

This time, when Zephyr grabs for his sleeve, he catches skin between his teeth as well. It doesn't hurt, not yet, but there's the threat of it if Grantaire fights and Zephyr bites down harder.

"Fine!" He takes a step back, inside the gate, and Zephyr releases him. Grantaire rubs at his elbow and glares at him. "You're not doing either of us any favors, you know. He won't be pleased to see me still here when he returns." If he returns, Grantaire thinks quietly. But surely he will. Won't he? It's his home, he can't leave it behind forever. Can he?

Zephyr watches him with a knowing, wary gleam in his eye that says he's fully prepared to bite if Grantaire makes another attempt at leaving. So Grantaire just mutters at him as he tucks his belongings under his arm and stalks back to the house. The last thing he sees before he lets himself inside is Zephyr calmly returning himself to the stable, his reins trailing in the grass beside him.

Grantaire will stay, at least until he can devise a way to leave without risking Zephyr leaving the mark of his teeth upon him. But he can't stay in their bedroom, he can't. So he takes his small bundle of things and goes, instead, to one of the spare bedrooms he found during his explorations on his first day here.

The bed is small and the room seems cold compared to theirs. But at least it's unfamiliar, and won't taunt him with the memories of their nights together, or how he'd ruined everything. He leaves his things piled haphazard on the room's chair and climbs onto the bed, lies on top of the blankets curled into a ball and shuts his eyes. He doesn't think he can sleep again, not yet, but at least for a little while he can hide.

*

Days pass and Enjolras doesn't come home. Grantaire isn't certain if he's disappointed by that, or relieved. Mme. Houcheloup starts bringing his meals to him in the spare room he's taken for his own, her gaze heavy with silent disapproval, but she doesn't try to coax him out beyond an occasional comment about how lovely the weather is outside, or how green the grass.

Until one day she comes and stands in his doorway, and Grantaire looks up, startled because he's only just finished picking at his breakfast.

"You have a visitor," she says.

For a wild, hopeful moment he thinks it's Enjolras, that he's come back in this way, calling on Grantaire like a stranger, to make a point of the distance that Grantaire has forced between them. But as he gets to his feet, Mme. Houcheloup steps back to allow him through the door and says, "I had them wait for you in the library."

Them, not him, she says, and Grantaire's left adrift once more. He thanks Mme. Houcheloup and makes his way to the library to see who it is, and who might have come here for him, rather than Enjolras.

When he opens the library door, the first thing he sees are three familiar faces -- Joly, Musichetta, and Bossuet, all looking up together from the book they're bent over, and he has to reach out and grab onto the doorframe to keep his knees steady beneath him.

"There you are," Musichetta says, flipping the book shut and setting it aside. "We told you we'd come hunt you down if you stayed away too long, didn't we?"

"I-- You--" Grantaire's throat closes off, choked with the sudden, overwhelming relief at having his very best friends standing here before him. He staggers forward and wraps his arms around her, hugging her tight.

Musichetta's arms come around him automatically, but she's still for a moment, quiet. "Oh," she breathes, and then her arms are like a vise, and it's such a comfort that it's all Grantaire can do to press his face to her shoulder and try not to shake too hard against her. "Oh sweetie. What's wrong?"

"I ruined it." The words come out strangled, painful. "I ruined everything."

"Shh. It's all right." Musichetta holds onto him and pets his hair, and distantly he's aware of Joly and Bossuet moving in on either side of them, until all three have him wrapped in their arms. "Come on," Musichetta says. "Let's sit down and you can tell us everything."

It's a slow, awkward shuffle because Grantaire refuses to release any of them along the way. They make it eventually, though, and they all pile together into the largest armchair. With the weight of all three of them against him, the warmth of them wrapped around him, Grantaire feels like a drowning man who's finally broken the surface.

"I ruined it," he says again, because that's the salient part, that's the important part.

"Tell us what happened," Joly says, his hair tickling beneath Grantaire's jaw.

He shuts his eyes and he does. He tells them everything. It's wrenching to say it, to admit to it, but his friends' arms tighten around him every time his voice wavers, and when he breaks off and turns his face away from them, ashamed of what he's done, Bossuet strokes his hair and says, "Shh, it's okay. Just tell us."

When he's finished and there's nothing left to tell, he trails off. They're quiet with him, neither passing judgment nor rushing to reassure him, and he's grateful for both.

"Okay," Musichetta says at last from where her head is pillowed against his chest. "What do you want?"

He laughs, but it's a broken, awful sound. "To not be the sort of idiot who ruins the best thing he's got going for him."

They all shift above him, lifting their heads to frown at him or to cluck their tongues in disapproval. Musichetta's mouth sets on a determined expression before she says, "You know what I'm asking. What do you want now?"

He lets out a long, unsteady breath and works a hand out from beneath them to bring it up and scrub it over his face. "To fix it," he says quietly.

"Okay," she says again, and she sits up, perched mostly on the arm of the chair and leaning in, getting into his face so he can't avoid her. "Then you need to talk to him."

He laughs again, short and humorless. "I think if he wanted to hear from me, he'd have given me the opportunity to speak at some point in these past days. He hasn't even been home since."

"So you find him," she says with a one-shouldered shrug, as though it's as easy as that. "Maybe he won't listen. Maybe nothing you have to say will make any difference. But you should try. You owe it to the both of you to try."

"You didn't see him," Grantaire says quietly, miserably. "You didn't see the way he looked at me. I don't think there's anything left to fix."

"Maybe not," she says, and he loves her and hates her for it. "But if there is, and you don't try, then you're throwing that out. If there isn't, then whether you try or not, you lose nothing."

"I'll make a mess of it," he says, his voice growing smaller with every word. "Like I've already done with everything else."

She takes his chin in her hand and turns his face to hers. She searches his gaze thoughtfully for a moment, before she makes a sound and says, "Do you really think it's possible to make a bigger mess of things than you already have?"

It hurts, but it's the truth, and they love him enough not to shield him from it. He scrubs the hand over his face again as his breath goes ragged and uneven. "What if he won't forgive me?" he asks, makes himself ask, even though just thinking it is an agony.

"Then you come home," she says. "And we give you lots and lots of cuddles." She takes his face in her hands again, makes him open his eyes, makes him look at her. Her face is set and stubborn. "But you try first."

Grantaire's throat works in silence for a moment before he's able to make himself speak. "I'm afraid," he whispers.

Musichetta's stern expression transforms, going soft and sympathetic. "I know, darling." She leans her head back down on his chest and they all three hug him tight. "I know."

They're quiet after that. There's not much else left to say. They just hold on to one another until there's a quiet knock at the door, and Mme. Houcheloup comes in, looking like she doesn't think it's strange at all to find them all in a pile together in a chair meant for one. "I thought your guests might be hungry," she says. "I've had a luncheon set up in the courtyard."

He suspects she's using their presence as leverage to get him to eat more than one meal a day. He's certain she's using it to get him out of the house and into the sunshine, for she's never once prepared a meal for him alone in the courtyard. But Musichetta exclaims about how she's ravenous and Bossuet makes mention of a disastrous breakfast attempt that left him with an empty stomach, and so he says nothing to Mme. Houcheloup, just follows behind the rest of them as she leads them outside, to the paved little courtyard where a small table and some chairs have been set up and four plates away them.

He must admit, it's pleasant to sit in the sunshine and listen to his friends talk amongst themselves. It feels almost normal, and he can almost ignore the aching hole in his chest.

He picks at his food, as he picked at his breakfast. He notices Joly eyeing him at it, but none of them make comment and he's grateful for it. He can't help that he has no appetite, that everything he tries to put in his mouth tastes bland and unappealing. He's tried -- for Mme. Houcheloup, he's tried, but he can only choke down so much before the effort grows exhausting.

When the other three have finished eating, Grantaire gives up and pushes his plate away. They still don't say anything about it, though he sees the way they all glance at one another like they're having a silent conversation. Then they're all up on their feet and Bossuet is urging Grantaire to his, and Joly's hooking his arm through Grantaire's and saying, "It's such a lovely day, I don't think I can bear to go back inside just yet. Why don't you show us the grounds, Grantaire?"

He wonders briefly if they're conspiring with Mme. Houcheloup, if she spoke to them before she brought Grantaire to them. But no, their surprise had been genuine when he'd arrived in such a poor mood. This is just how they are.

"Very well," Grantaire says, linking arms with Bossuet as well, because there's nothing he can refuse his friends. "Let's."

They spend hours strolling through the grounds. Grantaire shows them the trees along the edge of the property, how the light filters down green through the canopy of leaves and how he longs to have his paints so he can try to capture it. He shows them the stables and lets them fawn over Zephyr again, who seems well pleased to be reacquainted with them.

When evening descends and darkness blankets the grounds, he finds his friends glancing at him, worried frowns creasing their brows. It's easy enough to guess why. "It's not the first night I've spent here that he hasn't come," he tells them quietly, looking down at the grass beneath his boots. "I'm not going to break apart because it's dark and he's not here."

"Of course not," Joly says, and even sounds like he means it. "We were only wondering if you'd like us to stay the night."

The offer is tempting. He thinks he could find one of the spare rooms with a big bed, and they could all pile on it together. But he thinks it might be harder than sleeping alone, the whispered conversations long into the night too much a reminder of what he had and lost.

They must read his thoughts on his face, because before he's even had a chance to explain his reasoning, they look like they've had their answer. Musichetta nods once, sharply, and says, "Right, then. But you'll let us know if you change your mind." She doesn't make it a question. "And you'll come see us in the next few days, or we're going to have to come storm the place again."

"I'll come see you," he promises as he wraps them all up in a hug. "And I-- I'll try."

"Good." She kisses his cheek before stepping back and letting the others have their turn. "And you'll let us know how you are, whichever way it goes."

"I will. Musichetta, Joly, Bossuet... Thank you."

That prompts another round of hugs before they pry themselves away and bid him good-bye. He sees them off, and he doesn't think he imagines the way that their gazes linger on him as they leave, like they're none of them certain he's going to be all right on his own.

If they were there, he'd remind them that he's been on his own for days now. But then, he expects, they'd counter with the point that he hasn't exactly been well during that time, and so he supposes it's probably best he kept that thought to himself.

*

He sleeps fitfully that night, tosses and turns and spends more of the night awake than he doesn't. And when the sun at last rises and the sky outside brightens with the dawn, he drags himself out of bed and out to the stables.

Zephyr sticks his head out over the door of his stall when he first enters the stable, but then seems disappointed when it's only Grantaire there, and none of his friends. He snorts and pulls his head back inside the stall.

"Yes, good morning to you, too," Grantaire says to him, wry, and starts getting his tack out of the tack room.

When he comes out, huffing as he hauls the weight of the saddle out, Zephyr gets curious and comes over to stick his head out over the stable door again. When he sees the tack laid out and waiting for him, though, he whinnies and pulls back again, snorting and tossing his head and stomping his hooves against the stable floor.

"Zephyr." Grantaire leans against the stable door, watching him as he shies away, and offers one of Mme. Houcheloup's apples in an outstretched hand. Zephyr huffs air and stares at Grantaire like he's spooked, his eyes gone so big that Grantaire can see the whites around them. "Don't be ridiculous, I know you don't want to take me home. And I don't want to end up thrown again. That's not what I'm here for." He tosses into the stall, when Zephyr gives no indication he has the slightest interest in coming closer in order to reach it. "I want to find him. But I need your help."

Slowly, the wild tension in Zephyr eases. He takes a cautious step forward, his neck still arched and his tail twitching like he'll take flight at the slightest provocation.

Grantaire just leans against the stall door and waits. Another moment, and Zephyr takes another step closer, and then another. He eyes Grantaire like he's uncertain, then leans his head out the stall door and nudges him hard in the shoulder with his nose.

Grantaire gives him a smile, then, and reaches a hand out for Zephyr to sniff and lip at. "Will you let me ride you now? Will you help me find him, and make things right?"

Zephyr whinnies and kicks against the stable door. When Grantaire opens it, he comes right out and stands near the assembled tack, and he waits docilely while Grantaire hefts the saddle up onto his back and sorts out the bridle well enough to put it on him. He waits, too, while Grantaire finds a mounting block and drags it over so he can get up on Zephyr's back without making an idiot of himself, and as soon as he's settled and his his feet in the stirrups, Zephyr trots forward down the stable hall, ignoring Grantaire entirely when he pulls on the reins to stop him, startled and thrown off-balance by the sudden movement.

"Zephyr. Zephyr, no," Grantaire says when he stops before Eurus's stall and lips at the latch holding the stall door closed. "Zephyr."

Zephyr ignores him, and continues to ignore him when Grantaire pulls again on the reins to try to turn his attention elsewhere. Grantaire kicks his heels lightly against Zephyr's sides, and Zephyr just snorts and tosses his mane. After a moment, the latch comes free and Eurus's stall door stands ajar.

Zephyr moves on to Notos's stall and does the same, then again to Boreas, until all of the other horses have been freed and Grantaire has his head in his hands, groaning because if Enjolras's horses all take off and are lost, it's going to make it that much harder for Grantaire to convince him to forgive him. And that's going to be a Herculean task to start with.

When all the horses are loosed and gathered together in the stable hall, Zephyr lets up a cry that's loud and high, and quickly taken up by the others. And then he runs, leaping straight into a gallop so wild and reckless that it's all Grantaire can do to grab onto Zephyr's mane and try not to be thrown a second time.

They run together, Zephyr in the lead, Notos and Eurus and Boreas flanking beside and behind him, across the manor grounds and through the gate out into the city proper, where Grantaire is only grateful that it's early enough the streets aren't yet crowded because the horses don't seem inclined to stop for anybody. They fly through the streets, their hooves ringing off the stones like bells, and people scatter before them.

Grantaire holds on tight, harboring no illusions about who's in control here. Zephyr leads them through the affluent area of the city, that Grantaire recognizes from his ride to visit his friends and back, and then through the market district that Grantaire knows well. And then he turns down a street that Grantaire has never had cause to travel before and the familiar parts of the city fall behind them, and Grantaire is lost.

The city is hilly here, much as it is elsewhere. The houses are fine, though not so grand as Enjolras's manor. Here, the streets are clean and trees line the way, casting pleasant shade. The houses look like they were taken from a picture, painted by someone who'd only ever dreamed about what city life might be like, and knew nothing of the dirt and grime that accumulated between the cracks in the stones.

Zephyr leads them up one hill after another, always climbing, and he takes each at a gallop, as though the effort doesn't wind him at all. As they ascend, the homes get more elaborate, the trees tall and graceful, the streets quiet and perfect.

And then they stop, so abruptly that Grantaire is nearly thrown forward over Zephyr's neck. He gathers himself and gets back in the saddle, and sees that there's a vast gate before them, running across the city. It's taller than three men standing on each other's shoulders, and made of wrought iron fashioned into an intricate pattern to look like climbing ivy.

Grantaire knows where they are. If the gods have a name for it, they've never deigned to share it. The rest of the city calls it Elysium, the district of the city reserved for the gods alone, forbidden to all mortals.

Grantaire stares up at the imposing gates and he feels very small, and very very mortal.

"Enjolras is here?" he breathes, and Zephyr tosses his head. That can only mean one thing, and Grantaire feels nauseous to think of it. "Enjolras is a god," he says faintly.

Zephyr stomps a hoof against the street stones, as though impatient with Grantaire's revelations.

"I can't-- I can't." Grantaire loosens his fingers on Zephyr's mane. "It's forbidden. Even if I tried, I couldn't get through the gate."

Zephyr stomps again and tosses his head. He nickers and approaches the gate, grabs a wrought iron leaf between his teeth and pulls at it, hard enough to make the gate sway.

"Don't," Grantaire gasps, tugging at his mane. "Don't. You'll attract attention, and then I'll be the one to pay for it."

Zephyr ignores him. He nickers again, louder, and the other horses come forward. Notos bites and pulls at the fence as well, and Eurus tries, but the curved piece of stem that he bites onto snaps when he tries to pull at it.

Boreas doesn't bite, but he paces across the length of the fence and noses at it. And when he gets to the street's edge, where the gate is hinged to the fence that surrounds Elysium, he moves back, turns around, and aims a kick at the hinge that's so powerful that it sends the whole gate ringing with the impact.

Grantaire flinches back, and covers his face with his hands. "You are all going to get me into so much trouble," he breathes.

Zephyr snorts and shifts beneath him, and none of the horses heed Grantaire's cautions at all. Boreas aims another kick at the hinge, and a third, and the gate groans like it's giving in to the inevitable.

Two more kicks and some more pulling later and the hinge at the bottom is broken, though the one high above their heads remains. The gate isn't open, exactly, but it's sagging, too heavy for that one hinge to support its great weight, and it makes a gap at the bottom that might be wide enough for Grantaire to fit through.

He dismounts from Zephyr and steps toward the gate. The hair along the back of his neck prickles, and any moment he expects someone to come running up, shouting at him to stop. But the street is quiet, despite the commotion the horses made. He comes to stand just before the gate and reaches a hand out to lay his palm on the twisted lines of wrought iron.

He's not sure what he's expecting. A shock, an alarm to go up, a sensation of... Something. But the metal is just metal, rough against his palm and warm from the sun. He slips through the gap in the gate and isn't struck down where he stands for blaspheming the gods and violating their sacred space. He holds his breath, even so, waiting for the inevitable.

Behind him, Zephyr pushes through the gap as well. It's a tight fit for him, where Grantaire was able to pass through easily. But when he's through, he comes and stands just before Grantaire and seems to give him an expectant look, as though to say, Well? What are we waiting for?

Grantaire grasps his saddle and pulls himself up onto Zephyr's back, somewhat gracelessly since he has no mounting block to help him. As soon as he's settled into the saddle, Zephyr takes off at a canter, his hooves ringing off the stones and echoing through the broad, pristine streets.

Farther away from the gate, Grantaire starts to see signs of life -- a street vendor here, selling little bowls of something the likes of which Grantaire has never seen, but which smells heavenly as they race by; a couple there, arm in arm as they stroll together down the street, and eyeing Grantaire in disapproval as he rides by and disrupts the peacefulness of their walk. Even here, Zephyr seems to know his way, taking one turn after another at such speeds that it's all Grantaire can do to wrap his fingers in his mane and hold on.

When they finally stop, Zephyr doesn't even seem winded. Grantaire certainly is, though, and he slides from the saddle and stands leaning in against Zephyr's shoulder, the horse between him and the building he's brought Grantaire to. It's grand and impressive, with intricately-carved columns flanking the door and carvings above the lintel. Grantaire is wearing is worn clothing from home, from before, and he doesn't know that he has the courage to walk through that door, much less to face Enjolras, looking every inch the pauper in the face of Enjolras, who's a god.

Zephyr swings his head around and bites him on the arm, not enough to break the skin but hard enough to sting. Grantaire jerks his arm away and scowls. "Fine! I'm going." He stares at the carved door of the building and squares his shoulders. "If I'm struck down for this, I expect you to take word to my friends about my fate."

Zephyr snorts and noses along the street, searching for any grasses or sprouts that might be coming up in the cracks between the paving stones. The dismissal is clear.

Grantaire steps around him. He makes himself keep moving, one foot in front of the other, because he knows if he stops he'll never work up the gumption to start again.

He reaches the door and reaches out to knock, but it swings easily beneath the slight weight of his hand, startling him. He jumps, then swallows down the knot in his throat when the open door reveals nothing but an empty corridor beyond.

Of course, he thinks, a little wildly. What need to gods have for locked doors?

There are lamps burning along the hallway, and at its end, a brighter glow. Grantaire steps across the threshold, inside.

When he is not immediately struck down for his blasphemy, he lets out his breath and continues forward, down the hall.

At its end, the hall turns. Grantaire turns with it and finds himself at the entrance to what looks like a tavern or a pub, a large room scattered with tables and plush chairs. There are people scattered throughout the room as well, lounging in chairs drinking from elegant glasses, or sitting around tables in twos or threes.

Not people. Gods. And Grantaire's breath goes thick when some of them glance up at his entrance, and then frown and give him a second look.

Someone approaches him and coughs quietly. They're tall and willowy, their brown hair threaded through with green, their skin pigmented into a pattern like bark. A nymph, Grantaire thinks, and this one is looking Grantaire over like he's never seen a human before.

"Who are you?" they demand when their inspection has taken in all of Grantaire and brought them back up to meet his eye.

Grantaire has to clear his throat before he can speak. "I'm here to see Enjolras."

"Who?" The nymph's brow furrows. He leans forward, looking at Grantaire even closer. "You're not one of us. Who are you? You can't be here."

It's not said with belligerence, just bewilderment. Still, Grantaire tenses. He pulls himself up to his full height, which is less than impressive compared to the nymph's, and snaps, "I'm his husband, and I'm here to speak with him."

"That's all well and good," the nymph says, "but there's no one here by that name."

"There is. He's--" Grantaire stops himself before insisting that Enjolras must be here because his horse led him here. And before he can find another way to assert his surety, he's brought up short by a sudden, sickening realization.

Enjolras is a god. And there aren't any gods with that name in the pantheon. Even the name Enjolras gave him is a lie.

"Look," he says, hissing air out through his teeth. "He's a head taller than me, blond hair, blue eyes. He's got wings, apparently, and a fondness for vexing Aphrodite--"

The nymph's expression transforms. "Oh. You mean--" They look Grantaire up and down, and this time, there's a sharper interest in their eyes. "I'll take you to him. But he's going to tell you the same thing I did. You can't be here."

"He's going to have to tell me a lot more than that, if he expects me to leave," Grantaire mutters to himself, and falls into step behind the nymph as they lead Grantaire around the tables and chairs to another corridor that branches off from the main room. It's a short walk down the hall to a door, latched shut. The nymph knocks, and a moment later the door cracks open just enough for someone inside to lean their head out and frown at them.

"What is it?" he asks.

The nymph jerks their head toward Grantaire. "His husband, apparently."

His gaze focuses on Grantaire. "You can't be here," he says.

Grantaire's hands curl at his sides. "You can all keep telling me that as long as you like, but I'm not leaving until I've spoken with him."

"Let him in," says someone from inside, and the voice is subdued but that doesn't matter. It's Enjolras. After a week of knowing him only by the sound of his voice, Grantaire would recognize it anywhere. His heart beats heavily against his chest. "I do believe he means it."

The man at the door retreats enough to glance sideways at someone or something inside the room. And then he heaves a sigh, steps back, and says, "Come in, then. But I'll warn you now, if you upset him further--"

"I'm not going to mince my words just because he's a god, if that's what you mean." Grantaire strides up to Enjolras. He's slouched in an armchair, rumpled, and Grantaire might think he looked dissolute were it not for the dark bags beneath his eyes and the lines creased in around the corners of his mouth. He looks weary, and he looks sad, and it infuriates Grantaire because all he had to do to fix it was to come home.

Grantaire stops just before him, his hands still making tight fists at his sides. "You lied to me."

"I did?" Enjolras sits up, leaning forward. "I never broke any of the vows I made to you, not the first ones that we made when we were wed, not the second, when I swore never to tell you anything false--"

"You lied every time you answered to the name Enjolras! Your friend here knew you by description, but not my name. You deceived me and now I want the truth. Who are you?"

Enjolras looks at him for a long time, unmoving. His throat works in silence, and he drops his gaze down and to the side before he says, quietly, "Eros."

It knocks all the air from Grantaire's lungs. "Eros. Gods on high, you-- You're Aphrodite's son and you never told me, you let me believe--"

One of the others in the room, maybe the nymph, maybe the god who answered the door, comes up beside him and takes his arm. "No!" Grantaire snaps and wrenches his arm away from them. "No, you'll let him answer to me. I've had my fill of waiting and I'm done with it now." He stalks up to Enjolras's chair and grabs onto both arms, leaning in close and framing him in. "You tell me right now and you tell me true. Did you lie when you said you weren't Aphrodite's curse? Was that a lie? Were you meant to curse me?"

A muscle in Enjolras's jaw goes tense and twitches. "No."

Grantaire watches the expressions flickering across his face for a long moment. At length, he steps back, straightens, looking down on Enjolras. "Well you may as well have been," he says quietly.

That, at least, earns a flash of guilt across Enjolras's face. But as soon as it appears, it's lost beneath a flood of anger. He surges to his feet and approaches Grantaire, and now, like this, he looms over him. "I only ever wanted to protect you. And I asked you for one thing, that's it. Only one."

"You asked me to trust you!"

"Yes."

Grantaire covers his face with his hands and laughs wildly into his palms. "And what foundation did you give me to build that trust upon? Nothing. Nothing. You stood before me as a stranger, all in shadows, and you never let me know you better than that. I asked about you, night after night, and you told me instead of your library and your books and your siblings. I know more about your brothers than I do about you." His brow creases and he gives a broken laugh. "Though not all there is to be known, it seems."

"You knew me," Enjolras says, his voice low and dangerous. "You had my mind and my soul there with you, every night. You might have had it every night to come, and all I asked in exchange was that you trust me."

"I should have known you were a god," Grantaire breathes, dropping his hands to look at him. "Any mortal would know, men's hearts don't work like that."

"I know well enough how men's hearts are!" There's a deafening sound, like the rustle of fabric or the sharp, aggravated rustle of feathers. A wind stirs through the room, whipping around the both of them, but Enjolras's wings don't unfold from nowhere like they had before. "You see a pretty face before you and desire it, and you call it love."

Grantaire draws back, his brows climbing high with surprise and more than a little hurt. "Is that what you think of us? Of me?"

Enjolras gives a harsh, humorless laugh. "Can you tell me I'm wrong?"

"I think we proved conclusively enough that I don't need to look on you to desire you."

"Yes." Enjolras's mouth goes tight. His eyes spark with anger. "And that still wasn't enough for you."

"I wanted to know you! And I was weak, I admit it." Grantaire wraps his arms around himself and stares at Enjolras, his throat gone suddenly tight and painful. "You're right. I made a promise to you, and I broke it. You married me and then you hid from me, and I felt the vastness of everything you were keeping from me growing every day. I just wanted--" His hands curl tight around his elbows. "I wanted to know who you were. Not... this." He waves one hand around the room with a broken laugh. "I couldn't have imagined this. But I wanted to know my husband as something more than just a shadow."

"I told you." Enjolras drags his hands through his hair and closes them into fists at the back of his neck. "I told you that there were conditions when Aphrodite relinquished her claim to mine. I told you that if we were forsworn on our vows, she would reassert her claim and there'd be nothing I could do to prevent it."

"So you figured you'd spare her the trouble, and leave me before she had the chance?" Grantaire's throat works. It feels hot and raw and he wants to run, wants to find somewhere he can curl up and wallow in his misery. But if he runs now, he thinks he might not ever get the chance to find Enjolras again. He'll sacrifice a lot for his cowardice, but not that. For maybe the first time in his life, he's found something he's willing to stand up and fight for. "You don't have to. Let her curse me, then. Let her stake her claim. We can still be married. I'm not afraid of her curse, Enjolras. She's already done it once, what more do I have to fear?"

Enjolras drops his head forward. He frees a hand from his hair to scrub it across his brow. "She didn't, actually," he says, very quietly.

Grantaire goes very, very still. "What do you mean?"

"She didn't curse you."

"She did, as a matter of fact. The prophecy--"

"Yes." He lifts his head just enough to catch Grantaire's eye. "The prophecy. Tell me what it said. Tell me exactly."

Grantaire blows out a sharp breath of air, annoyed. "I've told you it before, but very well. The prophecy said that I would never marry man nor woman, not in--" He stops.

Enjolras isn't man nor woman. He's a god. Grantaire had thought they were defying the prophecy when he and Enjolras wed, but they had only been fulfilling it. "Not in all the days of my life," he finishes on a whisper, and Enjolras's eyes are bright and sharp on his.

"It wasn't a curse," he says. "It was just a prophecy."

"But-- But why..."

"She's proud, you know," Enjolras says. "We all are, really. I think she grew tired of hearing you blame her for something she had no part in."

Grantaire crosses his arms again, wrapping them around his stomach. "And you?" he asks, though he hates to. He's afraid of what answer Enjolras will give. "Why did you stand for me against your mother? If it's true, if she didn't curse me and I've been blaming her for it all these years, don't I deserve it?"

Enjolras's eyes go soft. "You know who I am," he says quietly. "You know my domain. Vengeance isn't really my purview. I thought, if I could spare just one person..."

"Enjolras." Grantaire takes a single step toward him, afraid of being rebuffed but unable to keep himself away. "Enjolras, let her have her vengeance, if that's what will satisfy her. I'll take my curse and I'll count myself grateful for it as long as it's not losing you."

Enjolras doesn't retreat. He doesn't come closer, though, either. He drops his head forward again and rubs his hands over his face. When he glances up, he looks weary beyond the telling of it. "You don't understand at all. You still don't. This isn't her vengeance. This is my choice."

The words are painful. Grantaire flinches at them, then moves a step closer, entreating. "I'm sorry. Please, I'm sorry. I know I made a mistake, a huge one, but please just let me try--"

Enjolras's mouth pulls sideways into a solemn expression. "It doesn't matter."

"Why not? Tell me that much, at least."

"You've seen me. And what I am-- Gods. I'm the son of love and beauty." He catches Grantaire's eye and holds it, earnest, like he's willing Grantaire to understand. "Any mortal who looks on me can't help but fancy themselves in love. But it's not true, it's just because of what I am. I wanted--" His breath goes short and ragged. He turns away from Grantaire abruptly, giving him his shoulder. "I wanted to be loved for me, not my face. I thought perhaps, in this, I had that chance. But now you've seen me." His voice goes heavy with grief, and for the first time Grantaire starts to realize that this is about more than just anger over a broken promise. "Now any love you feel for me is tainted. I can't ever know it's true. I'm sorry, Grantaire, I am. I'm sorry it's come to this, but--"

Grantaire staggers forward, breathless all at once. "Enjolras," he breathes. "Enjolras, look at me."

Enjolras turns slowly, his brows drawn into a frown. He stiffens when Grantaire gets close, then even more when Grantaire is in his space, in front of him, leaning close and taking Enjolras's face between his hands.

Grantaire meets his gaze and holds it. "I see you," he says, staring straight into his eyes. "I see you. And I want you to hear me, so pay attention when I say this: I don't love you."

Enjolras flinches, jolting between Grantaire's hands. His eyes go wide and shocked, then narrow with suspicion. "You don't mean that. You're saying it, but you can't--"

Grantaire laughs, wild and free. "I assure you, I can. You're very handsome, Enjolras, of course you know that, but whoever convinced you that you had some sort of preternatural ability to win the hearts of men by looks alone did you a disservice."

"You are standing here begging me not to leave you," Enjolras says stiffly. "And yet you expect me to believe it isn't love?"

"It isn't, I promise you. It's a great many things, but it isn't love, not yet." Grantaire sighs, looking at him. He's half pulled away from Grantaire, would have retreated completely were it not for Grantaire's hands still on his face, holding him there. He's so tense he may as well be one of the statues that stand in his temples, as unyielding as marble, but his eyes shine, and Grantaire doesn't think it's just a flight of fancy that he thinks he sees hope there, a fierce, desperate hope that Grantaire speaks the truth.

"I like you, Enjolras," Grantaire says, solemn and serious. "I like you very much, I'm afraid. I've enjoyed our marriage, brief though it's been. I'd like to know you better. I'd like to have the time and opportunity to fall in love with you. I am capable of appreciating and valuing you, and wishing to have you in my life, without yet loving you." He leans in closer and Enjolras doesn't stiffen, doesn't retreat. He just stands there, staring at Grantaire like he's riveted. Grantaire lets a soft smile play about his mouth. "Yet. Only give me a little time, yeah? We've only been married two weeks, after all." He rises up on his toes and lays a light kiss on Enjolras's mouth, and silently rejoices when Enjolras curves his hands around Grantaire's arms but doesn't push him away, only holds him there. "Give me time, Enjolras. That's all I want from you, is time."

Enjolras leans forward, bending down to press his brow to Grantaire's and curving a hand behind the back of his neck. Grantaire's heart leaps and he has a glorious moment to think that he's done it, that he's convinced him. And then Enjolras says very quietly, "If time is what you want, then you'll give me the same."

Grantaire blinks his eyes open and frowns up at him. "What?"

"Time, Grantaire." He straightens, and uses the hand on Grantaire's arm and the other around the back of his neck to set Grantaire back a step from him. "You'll give me time. To think. To... to decide."

Grantaire struggles to speak past the lump in his throat. "Decide what?" he asks on a whisper.

"What I want."

Grantaire takes a step back and fights to catch his breath. This feels like rejection. He laid his heart bare for Enjolras and begged him for what he wanted and now-- Now he's being sent away. "Please," he whispers.

It makes Enjolras step back from him. "Go home, Grantaire," he says. "Just... go home."

Grantaire has to swallow twice to clear the thickness from his throat. "Will you be coming home, too? After you've had your time?"

Enjolras is quiet for a long, long time. "I don't know," he says at last, hoarse and a little raw.

Grantaire shuts his eyes against the pain of it and nods. There's nothing else to be done. Enjolras will come, or he won't, and there's nothing left to be said to sway him one way or the other. But he asked for time, and it's not the sort of time that Grantaire wants from him, but it's the only thing Grantaire can give him. "I'll go," he says quietly, and turns for the door. "I'm sorry to have interrupted you with your friends."

Said friends are long gone by now, snuck out at some point during the shouting when Grantaire had no attention to spare for anyone but Enjolras. He makes his way past the emptied tables and chairs, out the door and down the hall and outside into the sunshine, and he holds his breath the whole way but Enjolras doesn't come after him, doesn't stop him. He stays behind and watches him go.

Zephyr is waiting for him in the street. He whinnies and flicks his ears forward when Grantaire comes out, and then stomps a hoof and snorts when Enjolras doesn't follow out behind him.

"I'm sorry," Grantaire tells him in an undertone as he gets to him. He leans forward for just a moment and presses his face against Zephyr's coarse fur. "I did what I could. I don't know if it was enough."

Zephyr turns his head around and bites at Grantaire's sleeve. He doesn't catch skin, just grabs at the fabric and tugs.

"There's nothing else." Grantaire grabs onto the saddle and struggles his way up into it. "Let's just go. Please? Let's just go. I did everything I could."

Zephyr snorts and sighs loudly beneath him, his sides heaving with the force of it. And then, slowly, like he's as weary by the setback as Grantaire is, he starts down the hill, away from Enjolras, away from Elysium, back home to a house that stands and waits for him, empty and cold.

*

Mme. Houcheloup doesn't ask him how things went, upon his return. She doesn't do anything but give him a long look followed by a brisk nod, and then usher him off to the sitting room for tea and toast. He's grateful for it -- he doesn't think his stomach could tolerate anything heavier. And when he's finished, she herds him off to the guest room that he's taken for his own, draws the curtains and tucks the blankets in around him like he's a child.

"You just rest now," she says, patting his head. "A good night's sleep never did anyone ill."

He sleeps, wearied by the long ride across town and back again, by the fight, by the emotional turmoil and the weight of fear that he's been carrying around for days. He sleeps deep, but not well, and rises from bed in the morning feeling just as numb and cold as he was when he sank into it. Dawn, when it comes, is as grey and dreary as his mood, and a cold drizzle comes down outside that keeps him inside the house. He curls in a chair in the library, the curtains drawn but the light that comes in is dim and watery.

He sits there for hours watching the rain drip down the windows, trying not to think or feel because the only thoughts he has are worry and the only thing he feels is fear. He dozes off and wakes to the same grey light and the same relentless drizzle, unsure if he's slept a quarter-hour or a whole day. Mme. Houcheloup brings him more tea and more toast, and he picks at half of it before giving up and pushing the plate away.

He sleeps again, and wakes to a hand on his shoulder and the room all in darkness.

"Grantaire. Come on, get up. This is no place to sleep."

Grantaire's heart jumps up into his throat. "Enjolras?" He turns beneath the weight of his hand, reaching up to grasp his wrist and keep him from pulling away. "You're here? You came home?"

He's quiet a moment, and gives a little sigh like he's weary to the bone. "I'm here," he says quietly. He moves the hand on Grantaire's shoulder around to curve beneath his arm, pulling him up.

Grantaire goes, blinking and cotton-headed. Enjolras gets him to his feet and leads him out of the library, through the halls. When they reach the master bedroom, the door standing open and a light glowing within, Grantaire balks. "Enjolras. Are you sure?"

"You can't sleep in that chair."

"There's a guest room I've been staying in. I could-- if you wanted--"

Enjolras sighs again, long and exhausted. "Come to bed, Grantaire," he says, and tugs at his elbow.

Grantaire stumbles across the room toward the bed. He shucks off his trousers as he goes, scrabbles his shirt off over his head, and climbs up onto the bed in just his undergarments. Enjolras follows after him and Grantaire doesn't look, doesn't stare, just waits until he's blown the lamp out and then cautiously slides across the distance between them until they're pressed skin-to-skin.

Enjolras doesn't protest the closeness. He doesn't pull away. Grantaire sighs and stretches out, rolls in against him and pillows his head against Enjolras's chest. Enjolras's heart thumps steadily beneath his cheek and one arm curls loose around his waist.

"Enjolras?" Grantaire murmurs, blinking against the darkness and the grogginess that pulls at him. "You'll still be here in the morning, right?"

Enjolras is quiet for several minutes, just the steady rhythm of his heart beating against the ear Grantaire has pressed to his chest. "Tell me again," he says.

Grantaire doesn't need to ask what he wants. He presses his face against Enjolras and wraps an arm across his chest. "I don't love you," he says, and hears the way Enjolras sighs like that's all he's been waiting for. "And if you wake me up in the middle of the night again I'll love you even less."

It startles a laugh out of Enjolras. He tightens his arm around Grantaire's back , pulling him in close and holding him there. "Go to sleep, Grantaire," he says, and Grantaire does.

*

In the morning the bed is empty, but when Grantaire blinks his eyes open, Enjolras is there just before him, in a chair pulled up to the bedside with his elbows on his knees and his chin on his hands, frowning at Grantaire in what Grantaire hopes is a thoughtful way, and not a displeased one.

He sits up, groaning at the protest of little-used muscles that saw far too much use the day before, and swings his legs over the edge of the bed. He doesn't go to Enjolras, not yet. He isn't sure of his welcome, and Enjolras looks far too wary to risk it.

They sit like that for a moment, watching each other across the scant space between them, silent like they're both waiting for the other to speak.

Enjolras breaks the silence first. "I spoke with my mother," he says, his gaze dropping down and to the side at his words.

Grantaire curls his fingers over the mattress's edge. "And?" He's so proud that his voice doesn't shake on the word. "Is she going to reassert her claim and curse me?"

Enjolras sighs, long and weary. He lifts a hand to pull it through his hair. It's a habit, Grantaire's noticed, and he wonders how many times he's missed the gesture in the dark that stood between them. "She thinks this is all hilarious, actually. She says she couldn't have devised such a scheme if she tried, and counts herself satisfied by the turmoil we've brought one another."

"So you are my curse, then," Grantaire says, and the corner of his mouth kicks up.

Enjolras gives a breath of laughter, quick and sudden, like it's startled out of him. "I suppose I am."

"I expected worse."

Enjolras returns the smile Grantaire offers him, tentative. They're still a long way from being okay, Grantaire thinks, eyeing the carefully-preserved distance separating them, but it's a start. It's better than he expected.

*

Everything is fragile for the next few days. Enjolras stays, unlike the first weeks of their marriage. He's always home, always near, but Grantaire feels every word he might speak dry up to dust on his tongue for fear of saying something that will shatter the tentative accord between them.

He still spends much of his time in the library, reading. Sometimes, he will be in the middle of a page and sense a presence, and glance up to find Enjolras standing over him, looking all too solemn. "Here," he says, and thrusts a book out toward Grantaire.

When Grantaire only blinks at him, his frown deepens and he continues, "You seemed to enjoy that other book that you were reading yesterday. If you like that one, you should read this one after, they go well together."

"Thank you," Grantaire says quietly, still blinking at him, and accepts the book. Enjolras lingers a moment longer like he expects Grantaire to crack the book open and pronounce a verdict upon it now.

Enjolras nods once and returns to the chair he's taken for his own, on these days that they spend in the library, and the wary detente they've established between themselves settles back into place.

When Grantaire grows restless with the reading, he walks the grounds as he's done before, and usually Enjolras accompanies him. They keep enough distance between them that they don't touch, but it's a new and unfamiliar comfort to have Enjolras's steps crunching along beside his as they walk across the grass, and through the litter of leaves that's fallen beneath the shade of the trees.

Enjolras stops him beneath one, points up into the canopy and shows him where a branch is broken off, short and jagged, and tells him how when they were children, his brother climbed out on that branch and it snapped beneath his weight, and he fell and broke his arm.

"Do gods get broken arms, then?" Grantaire wonders on a murmur, his head craned back to stare up at it. It seems very, very high. "Like mortals do?"

Enjolras laughs quietly. "It's not quite the same, I suppose. It takes worse to injure us, and we heal quickly. It wouldn't have killed him, even if he'd fallen from a greater height. It takes far more than a tumble to do that. But we can be wounded." The back of his hand grazes against Grantaire's, and Grantaire catches his breath.

"Were you ever hurt as a child?" he asks, and tries to imagine Enjolras little and young, running about climbing trees and rough-housing with his siblings.

"Oh, certainly. It's part of growing up, isn't it?" His knuckles brush Grantaire's again.

He'd have pulled away if it were accidental, and unwanted, wouldn't he? Grantaire doesn't look at him, staring off across the green and gold of the manor's grounds, as he turns his hand over and lets the edge of his little finger brush against the heel of Enjolras's hand.

For a moment it's that and nothing more, just a small strip of skin touching skin. Then Enjolras shifts, a small movement like he's shrugging a shoulder or adjusting his stance, and his hand slips into Grantaire's like it belongs there.

Grantaire shuts his eyes and curls his fingers through Enjolras's and doesn't dare to speak, for fear of breaking whatever delicate thing this is that's blooming between them.

He knows it's meant as a gesture, the book and the walk and the warmth of Enjolras's hand in his. He only wishes there were something he could do to show Enjolras that he is making the same effort. But he has nothing of his own to give, nothing but the clothes on his back, and most of those Enjolras bought besides.

They finish their walk quietly, hand in hand. It's late enough by then that Mme. Houcheloup will have supper ready, so they make their way to the dining room. It's still too big a table to seat just the two of them without verging on the absurd, but Mme. Houcheloup is so overjoyed to have the both of them here for her to feed that she's taken it upon herself to serve all their meals there for them, with proper place settings and everything. Grantaire hasn't had the heart to speak a word of complaint to her about it, and he suspects the same of Enjolras. So they sit together at the end of the grand dining table, seated opposite each other, and watch each other through stolen glances between bites.

Afterwards they retire to the sitting room, in the way of a proper formal dinner. Enjolras sets himself to his correspondence, and Grantaire occupies himself for a time watching him and contemplating the irony of a god doing something as mundane as writing letters. Soon enough, his attention wanders from that to the sight of it, the curve of Enjolras's spine as he bends forward to consider the lines he writes across the paper, the crease of his brow as his pen hesitates on the page, the flit of a smile across his mouth as something he writes amuses him.

Grantaire wants to paint him. His paints and canvases are still at home, though, far across the city. He'll need to remember to ask his friends to bring them, the next time they come for a visit. For now, though, his urge must go unfulfilled.

He does have his charcoals and his sketch paper, though, thanks to Mme. Houcheloup. It won't do to catch the gold of Enjolras's hair or the spark of blue in his eyes when something makes him smile, but it might take the edge off. He slips out of the sitting room unnoticed, Enjolras's attention wholly occupied by his letter, and returns with sketch pad and charcoal in hand.

He adjusts his chair to have the best vantage, the best ankle. And he folds his legs up, props the sketch pad on his knees, and begins to sketch, sweeping lines of rich black across the page to try to capture the vibrancy of the man before him.

He scarcely notices the passage of time, only the growing image on the sheet before him, and when he does it starts with irritation, because Enjolras rises from his seat to move about the room and light the lamps, and Grantaire wasn't yet finished with his sketch. When Enjolras comes back to his chair, he glances at the half-finished letter before him and hesitates, but then turns to Grantaire instead. "Are you writing letters as well?"

"No, I--" Grantaire stops with a thought and looks up at him. "Come here. Would you like to see?"

Enjolras nods, looking pleased, and comes around to lean a hip against the arm of Grantaire's chair. Grantaire turns the paper to show him the near-finished sketch upon it, of Enjolras leaning his elbows on the table, his hair falling forward and his eyes bright, his normally-fleeting smile caught at its brightest and warming the image. It would be better if he had his paints, but he's pleased with it all the same, and he watches Enjolras closely as he looks at the drawing.

Enjolras's gaze flits across it, like he can't decide on any one feature on which to focus. His mouth goes soft and his lips part a little on a quiet breath, and when he glances up to catch Grantaire's gaze, mostly what Grantaire sees there is shock. "This is remarkable," he says.

Grantaire shifts uncomfortably in his chair. It makes his shoulder brush against Enjolras's side, his arm against his hip. Normally he'd joke at a comment like that. He'd make some wry response about how getting to look on Enjolras at all is such a rarity that he figured he ought to put it on paper so he could look at him whenever he cared to. But he knows how that would make Enjolras frown, so instead he says, warmed by humor rather than tainted with self-deprecation, "It's a good look on you. If you wore it more often, I wouldn't have to record it for posterity."

Enjolras's gaze goes startled, and a war breaks out across his face between a pleased smile and chagrined self-consciousness. Grantaire laughs. "No, don't fight it," he says. "I told you, it's a good look." His gaze drops down to the drawing, to the way Enjolras still has one hand on it, just his fingers on the edge of the paper. He glances back up and bites his lip, then asks, "Would you like it?"

Enjolras catches his breath. "You... You don't mind?"

Grantaire smiles and shakes his head. "Take it." He holds it out, offering it to Enjolras.

Enjolras accepts it with reverent fingers. "It's beautiful," he says. "You've been overly generous in your depiction, I think. I'm honored."

And Grantaire laughs, a bright bubble of sound. He can't help it. "First you think you're so handsome that any mortal would fall in love with you at a glimpse of your face, now you think you're less so than a quick sketch from my inexpert hands? I suppose I should expect such capriciousness from a god."

Enjolras's expression twists a little at the teasing. He looks down at the picture, then back up at Grantaire, and there's something considering in his gaze. Grantaire's laughter dies slowly until they are both just staring at one another, silence and stillness caught between them.

Enjolras crosses the space between them first, with an arm outstretched and a hand curled around the back of Grantaire's neck. Grantaire is frozen, transfixed, barely breathing as Enjolras's brows go pinched with contemplation. The expression clears after a moment and he leans in, so slowly.

Grantaire shuts his eyes in the instant before Enjolras's lips touch his. It's a feather-light kiss, the barest hint of pressure and warmth, and it makes Grantaire tremble. He brings his hands up to hold on to Enjolras, fingers wrapped around his arms, and sways into the kiss.

When Enjolras draws back, Grantaire keeps his eyes closed for a moment. He opens them slowly. Enjolras is still very close before him, his hands on Grantaire's arms but his head dropped forward and his face turned away.

"Thank you," he says at last, heavy with feeling. And Grantaire follows his gaze and realizes he's looking at the portrait once more.

"For the drawing?" Grantaire's mouth curves. "It was an evening's work, you needn't act like I've gifted you some great masterpiece."

"For seeing me that way."

"Oh," he breathes. And there isn't much else he can say to that, so he doesn't, just sets his case of charcoals to rights and shuffles his sketch paper into a tidy stack, and tries to pretend that he can't still feel the warmth of Enjolras's lips on his.

*

Later, when they've retired to the bedroom, Grantaire's mouth still tingles from the phantom pressure of Enjolras's kiss. They move quietly through the room, preparing for bed, and Grantaire glances at him sidelong and through his lashes until he can't bear it a moment longer. He sets down his brush and strides across the room to where Enjolras is sitting on the bed's edge, struggling with the laces on his boots.

He looks up as though surprised when Grantaire is suddenly there beside him, one hand on his shoulder. Grantaire doesn't take the time to explain, or wait for him to ask. He leans in and presses his mouth to Enjolras's, firmer than he had earlier that evening.

Enjolras goes very, very still against him. His breath comes quickly but he's frozen. When Grantaire starts to pull back, mortified, he makes a sound and grabs onto Grantaire's arms, holding him there.

It's another moment before his mouth opens. Grantaire sways into it, then is galvanized into motion at the first, uncertain touch of Enjolras's tongue to his lips. He climbs up on the bed, straddling Enjolras's lap, and opens to the searching pressure of Enjolras's tongue.

The kiss goes from hesitant to frantic in an instant. Enjolras grabs him by the waist and rolls him down onto his back on the bed. The weight of Enjolras above him drives the air from Grantaire's lungs and he grins into the kiss as he bites at Enjolras's mouth and scrambles for purchase on his clothing.

It's an awkward tangle, as they struggle to get Enjolras's shirt off overhead without having to break the kiss any more than necessary. When it comes off finally, Grantaire drops his hands to Enjolras's hips and works at the fastening of his trousers, then shoves them down his thighs and scrambles out from under him to help him remove the boots he'd been struggling with, and then the trousers after.

And then he's naked and golden across the bed and Grantaire stares at him, his gaze tracing up the long length of him. His thighs, where a dusting of golden hair promises an enticing texture for Grantaire's palms. The strong cut of his hip. His cock, already half hard for Grantaire against his stomach. The contoured musculature of his chest and shoulders and arms. And his face, gone avid with want, his eyes boring into Grantaire when he meets his gaze.

Grantaire reaches for him, desperate to have the silky warmth of him in his hand and to feel him come fully hard beneath his grip. But when he moves, Enjolras sits up and holds a hand out to him and says, "No. Wait."

Grantaire waits, trembling. Enjolras closes his open and grimaces like he's only just realized the rejection his words sounded like, and he drops his hand to his side. "Let me undress you first?" he says, more tentative than authoritative.

Grantaire lets out all the air in his lungs at once. He catches Enjolras's hand in his so that when he climbs off the bed to stand beside it, he pulls Enjolras with him.

Enjolras looks at him like he's imagining what Grantaire will look like without his clothes, like he's been imagining it since their very first night together and wants one more moment to cherish the thought before imagination meets reality. And then he's grabbing at Grantaire's shirt and pulling it over his head, smoothing a hand over Grantaire's chest and down his stomach on his way to his trousers.

He isn't shy and he doesn't hesitate, just strips Grantaire bare methodically and then, when he's unclothed, stands with his hands on his shoulders and looks and looks at him.

Grantaire fights for breath. It's a surprise how powerful it is, not only to be able to look but to be seen. He feels Enjolras's gaze like a touch as it travels over him, taking in the shape of his body, the hair down Grantaire's chest, the little triangular scar on his hip that he got when he fell out of a tree as a child.

Grantaire's reluctant to break the silence that's fallen between them. It feels almost reverent. But he reaches out and touches Enjolras on the shoulder, waits until his gaze lifts and then says, quietly, "Will you let me see?"

Enjolras's brows crease with confusion. He tips his head to the side, questioning.

Grantaire circles around him with slow steps until he's behind him. He spreads his palms over Enjolras's shoulder blades, on either side of his spine. Enjolras takes an unsteady breath that has him shuddering beneath Grantaire's palms. "This. Will you let me see?" Grantaire asks again.

Enjolras lets the breath out carefully. It still shivers through him. "Yes," he says, his voice gone tight and hoarse. "If you want."

"Please."

There's an electric crackle and a sound like a sheet snapping in a breeze, and then the smooth silk of skin beneath Grantaire's hands is suddenly the soft texture of feathers and there are wings unfolding from his back, stretching impossibly wide across the room.

"May I touch them?" Grantaire asks on a breath.

Enjolras makes a low noise. "If you like."

Grantaire hesitates, lifting his hand to hover just above the feathers. "I'm not hurting you, am I?"

"No, it-- it's good. They're very sensitive." He lets out a long breath. "It's good."

Grantaire lays his hand on Enjolras's wing again, up by the joint where it bends, where the feathers are short and feel like fluff beneath Grantaire's touch. Enjolras lets out a long, shaking breath and flexes the wing to press it just a little into Grantaire's palm.

Grantaire strokes along the feathers lightly, smoothing the edges that have gone a little ragged. Enjolras shudders against his palm and drops his head forward. Grantaire takes his time with it, stroking one feather at a time, stroking all of them until Enjolras's wings hang loose and limp behind him, and every touch makes him shiver and rock back into Grantaire's touch.

Eventually, he takes a sharp breath and straightens, folds his wings up against his back so he can turn around and face Grantaire. His eyes are wide and wanting, his skin flushed, his cock gone fully hard and scarlet where it curves up against his stomach.

Grantaire lets out a careful breath and reaches out to spread his hands across Enjolras's stomach. "The first night, you wanted my mouth. I could do that for you now, if you wanted to watch?"

Grantaire receives his answer in the way Enjolras's lips part, the quick flutter of his lashes, how the black of his pupils expands to swallow up all but the thinnest ring of blue. "Yes," Enjolras says. "Please."

Grantaire smiles, leans in to kiss him lightly, then sinks down onto his knees.

Enjolras makes a sound on his next breath, soft and wondering. He lifts a hand and then hovers it in the air as though reluctant to touch, until Grantaire catches his hand by the wrist and presses a kiss to the center of his palm. When he leans forward, he leaves Enjolras's hand curved against the side of his face, and Enjolras doesn't pull it away.

He curls a hand around Enjolras's cock and strokes it twice. He's hard all the way now, straining in Grantaire's fist. The first time, there was no point in being showy, but now he's excruciatingly aware of the weight of Enjolras's gaze upon him, and he wants to give him something worth looking at.

He glances up, his gaze traveling the long line of Enjolras's body until he meets his gaze. And he holds it as he leans in and lays a gentle kiss on the head of Enjolras's cock, holds it as he laps his tongue across the head and down along the shaft.

Enjolras makes a low sound when Grantaire licks a stripe from root to tip. His hand tightens on the side of Grantaire's face and his eyes burn. Grantaire smiles against his skin, but he doesn't have the heart to tease and delay, not tonight. Not when they finally have a chance to make up for the distance that has been between them lately.

He parts his lips and takes the tip of Enjolras's cock into his mouth. Enjolras breathes hard, every breath audible, and locks his knees as Grantaire begins to suck at him. His wings shift, stirring the air.

Grantaire laps his tongue over Enjolras's skin until he's spit-slick and glides smoothly into Grantaire's mouth. He lets the suction pull Enjolras in a little deeper, every time he bobs forward. And all the while, he keeps his neck craned, his eyes on Enjolras's, watching the flickers of response there on his face and the way he catches his lip between his teeth and then frees it on a soft groan, the way his eyes go wide and his mouth goes slack and he stares at Grantaire like it's a miracle to have him there, like he's something he wanted forever but never thought he could have.

Grantaire knows that feeling. He feels it himself, burning hot inside his chest. It drives him on, makes him take a little more of Enjolras's length, until he can feel him in the back of his throat, and then urges him to take him a little deeper still.

Enjolras makes a strangled noise, like he knows Grantaire's pushing his limits, like he knows it's just for him. He presses a thumb to the corner of Grantaire's mouth, where it's stretched wide to take all of him, then strokes it along the line of his jaw. His expression has gone soft and open, yearning. And Grantaire remembers what he wanted the first time they did this, so he pulls off and strokes him with his hand as he asks, "Do you want to fuck me? Or my mouth?"

Enjolras runs his tongue over his lip. "Your mouth," he says after a moment's thought.

Grantaire smiles. "An excellent choice." He leans in again and swallows Enjolras down, and with one hand curled around the back of his thigh, this time he encourages him to move.

Enjolras does so tentatively at first, rocking his hips just the littlest bit every time Grantaire sinks forward to take him deep, his wings flaring out to keep his balance. When Grantaire only hums his appreciation and rewards him with a stronger suck and the flat of his tongue against the places that are guaranteed to drive Enjolras wild, Enjolras grows more daring, until he's got his hand curved around the back of Grantaire's neck and his thumb braced along his jaw, holding him steady as Enjolras fucks his mouth. And all the while, Grantaire holds his gaze and doesn't ever look away. There's too much to see, and he's already missed so much of it.

Between Grantaire's mouth and the hand he strokes over the base of Enjolras's cock, covering what his mouth cannot, it's not long before Enjolras's hips are stuttering, his hand going tight in Grantaire's hair as he groans loudly and comes down Grantaire's throat.

Grantaire swallows down what he can and wipes the rest from his lips. Enjolras is staring at him, slack-jawed and stunned. Grantaire grins, more than a little smug, and lays a final, gentle kiss on the head of Enjolras's softening cock. "I told you I'm better when I can see what I'm doing."

Enjolras makes a strangled noise and grabs for him, pulling him up to his feet too quick for Grantaire to catch his balance. He ends up stumbling and falling in against Enjolras's chest, his hands on his shoulders to brace himself, Enjolras's wings going around them both to help keep him upright. Enjolras doesn't look the least bit displeased by this development. His eyes go bright just before he leans in and catches Grantaire's mouth, the kiss instantly deep and filthy.

Grantaire groans against his mouth and wraps his arms around his shoulders, his fingers pressed into soft, fluffy feathers. He lets Enjolras guide him back, to the bed and then up onto it, and he grins into the kiss when Enjolras bears him down onto his back and pins him there with his weight, kissing and kissing and kissing him.

They stay like that for long, glorious moments, Enjolras's warmth and weight above him, his wings like a blanket draped across them both and their breath shuddering between them as they explore one another's mouths. Grantaire shifts beneath him and presses his hips up against Enjolras's, a little bit of friction to make everything sharper and better. He'd happily stay like this forever, kissing and rutting against Enjolras, but Enjolras is the one who breaks away, holding himself up on outstretched arms and looking down at Grantaire.

"Do you want to fuck me?" he asks, and Grantaire's breath explodes out of him.

He grabs onto Enjolras, one hand tight on his waist. "Is that what you want?" Enjolras has already come, after all, and Grantaire wouldn't blame him if he wanted only to bring Grantaire off with his mouth or his hand.

Fire leaps in Enjolras's gaze. "Yes. If you do."

Grantaire lets his breath out slowly, overwhelmed just by the idea of it, and nods. He grasps Enjolras by the back of the neck and draws him down into another kiss, lets it build the heat between them until he can't bear it any longer, then he hooks a leg around Enjolras's, grasps him about the waist, and rolls him over beneath him.

When he draws back from the kiss, Enjolras is blinking up at him like he's surprised to find himself there, and Grantaire can't help but laugh, bright and so, so happy. "Stay there?" He kisses his way down Enjolras's chest. "Let me get you ready."

Enjolras stays. As Grantaire works his way down his body, kissing all the skin that passes beneath him, Enjolras shifts beneath him and folds his wings against his back until they've gone and when Grantaire wraps his arms around him, there's nothing but smooth skin beneath his hands, all the way from nape to hips.

Enjolras's hands trail from his waist to his back and shoulders, then up into his hair, where he twists them and finds purchase. Grantaire kisses his stomach, lays a gentle kiss on his still-soft cock, then moves on when Enjolras hisses out a breath and twitches beneath him.

His feet are planted wide on the bed, his knees spread and waiting for Grantaire. Grantaire settles himself between them and kisses down to Enjolras's entrance. The muscle is tightly closed, and flinches at the first touch of Grantaire's tongue to it. Above him, Enjolras lets out a long, slow breath and lets his tension out with it. The sharply-defined contours of his thighs eases, and when Grantaire laps at him again, his entrance is softer, more yielding.

Grantaire gets himself comfortable on an elbow and settles in, working Enjolras open carefully. They've done this much before, but it's all new, being able to open his eyes and look up and see how Enjolras is spread across the bed, how his thighs tremble when Grantaire works him open on his tongue, how sweat breaks out across his skin and his chest heaves and he's curled the fingers of one hand into the blankets as though to keep himself tethered.

Grantaire rests the pad of a finger against Enjolras's entrance, pressing very lightly. The muscle at Enjolras's entrance flutters against it, then yields, taking him in. Enjolras gasps and tightens his hand in Grantaire's hair, and Grantaire kisses the insides of his thighs to soothe him as he works one finger carefully in.

When Enjolras has taken his finger up to the last knuckle and relaxed around him, Grantaire slides it out and back in a few times, then kisses his thighs again as he withdraws completely. "Wait for me," he says, and then he scrambles off the bed and over to the side table where Enjolras keeps his little glass vial of oil.

He's back in a moment, kneeling between Enjolras's knees. He drips the oil over his fingers, then between Enjolras's thighs, too. He works the oil in, massaging it into Enjolras's skin, then presses into him with two fingers and glances up to catch his eye as Enjolras slowly stretches to take them.

Enjolras's gaze is wild as Grantaire works him open. His mouth gapes open and shut and open again, twisting to form silent syllables. He keeps his hand in Grantaire's hair and sweeps his thumb in a caressing arc across the back of his neck.

"Another?" Grantaire asks when Enjolras has taken both fingers and some of the tension has gone out of him.

He nods quickly. "Please."

After he's taken three, Enjolras frees his hand from Grantaire's hair and catches him beneath the arm with it, pulling at him until Grantaire climbs up and over him. "Now," he says, staring into Grantaire's eyes, and he's so close and his eyes are so, so dark.

Grantaire nods and kisses him. He doesn't shut his eyes even then, even when Enjolras is so close that he's nothing but a blur, and Enjolras doesn't either. They kiss and hold on tight to one another, and Grantaire pours more oil into his palm and slicks himself with it before he rises up, just enough that he can find the right angle and position himself against Enjolras's entrance.

Enjolras's breathing comes quick and heavy. He flexes his hips up, pushing just the littlest bit onto Grantaire, and he doesn't look away. Neither of them do, even as Grantaire shifts his weight forward and sinks into him, pressing him open.

It seems like a miracle to be able to watch Enjolras's face as Grantaire moves in him. His eyes go wide, and even darker than they already are. Grantaire slides slowly into him and he blinks rapidly, runs his tongue over his gaping mouth and then catches the edge of a lip between his teeth.

When he's taken all of Grantaire and their hips are pressed tight together, Grantaire starts a short little rocking motion, staying deep but working himself in and out. Enjolras makes a strangled noise and bites down harder on his lip, his brow going creased as he hunches forward.

Grantaire glides a thumb over his lip, easing it from between his teeth, then bends down to kiss him gently. "All right?" he asks quietly, going still inside him.

Enjolras lets out an explosive breath against Grantaire's mouth. "I'm great."

Grantaire smiles. "Good." He moves his thumb up to brush against the corner of his eye where Enjolras has squeezed them shut. "Let me see you?"

He opens them and looks up at Grantaire, and Grantaire can see all the pleasure he's feeling written there in his gaze. It makes his breath catch in his throat, makes him move without thought, rocking into him again to keep his pleasure burning. "What do you want?" he asks and it comes out on a gasp, desperate and rushed.

Enjolras laughs a little, quietly. It makes Grantaire shift a little within him, and he breaks off into a low moan. "I've already-- Gods. I've already come. I don't -- oh, do that again -- I don't need to come again. What do you want?"

Grantaire bends down and sucks at the slope of Enjolras's shoulder, sucks hard enough that he can draw back and watch a bruise bloom beneath the skin. "I want to watch you come. I was a little preoccupied, last time, and I didn't have a good vantage from down there where I was." He withdraws almost all the way, then sinks back into Enjolras in a long, slow glide that makes him shudder beneath Grantaire. "I want to see you come again. So, what do you want?"

Enjolras moans. His eyes flutter shut as he arches up into Grantaire's next thrust, until Grantaire bends down to bite at his lip and he opens them again. "Just like this. This is great." He grabs for Grantaire's hand. It's planted firmly on the bed beside his shoulder, bearing Grantaire's weight as he moves in him, but Enjolras just curls his fingers around Grantaire's wrist and holds onto him like he needs an anchor. "Don't stop."

"Never," Grantaire promises, and he does as Enjolras wants, keeps up the slow, steady glide that moves them together. Sweat is gathering on his skin and dripping down his spine, and pleasure burns him up until he feels incandescent. Enjolras is glorious beneath him, flushed and eager, and Grantaire never, ever wants to look away.

It's as easy as breathing to fall into a rhythm together, Enjolras rising up as Grantaire sinks down, Enjolras's hand around Grantaire's wrist a tether keeping them both joined. They rock into one another and sigh and gasp, and as the pleasure grows and their rhythm goes a little unsteady, Enjolras fixes his gaze on Grantaire's and holds it, unbreaking even as they move against one another. He brings a hand up to grip the back of Grantaire's neck and gasps between broken groans, "I want to watch you, too. Don't come while I'm still too insensible to appreciate the view."

It makes Grantaire laugh a little, choked and desperate. "I'll try." It's the best he can promise, with Enjolras hot and eager beneath him. He can already feel his climax working its first claws into him, starting the inevitable pull that will ultimately send him tumbling off to oblivion. He shifts his weight above Enjolras and changes the angle, working to be sure that he drags Enjolras with him and sends him over the edge first.

Enjolras's face is expressive, but new. They've done this enough times that Grantaire is starting to be able to tell when he's getting close, but he knows it in the sound and frequency of Enjolras's gasps, in the clutch of his hands and the way his body shudders against Grantaire's. Now he takes a full catalogue and notes how Enjolras's mouth goes slack and stunned while he's gasping, how his eyes burn into Grantaire when he grabs him by the waist and pulls him down into his next stroke, how his brow scrunches up as though with intense concentration when he shudders beneath Grantaire like a pennant in the wind.

Grantaire tips forward, stretching out over Enjolras, and teases him with a kiss as he drives into him. "Come on," he breathes against his mouth, and laps at his lip. He gropes out to find Enjolras's hand and clasps it tight. "Come for me. Let me see it."

It takes another minute of them moving together and then Enjolras groans, his head thrown back and his hand going tight around Grantaire. He shudders and jolts beneath Grantaire as he comes and he goes tight around him, and Grantaire breathes unsteadily and presses his face to Enjolras's shoulder, struggling to keep still and keep his promise not to come when Enjolras wasn't watching him do it. He's on a razor's edge, it's not going to take much.

The tension goes out of Enjolras slowly, until he curves his hand over Grantaire's hip and pushes at him until Grantaire carefully withdraws, all the way. Enjolras hisses when Grantaire slides out of him, then reaches down to grasp him in his hand. His grip is firm and his strokes are sure and he opens his eyes and looks right at Grantaire. "Now," he says. "Whenever you're ready."

Grantaire laughs breathlessly. "I am so ready." He moves experimentally, pushing into Enjolras's grip.

Enjolras sets up a steady rhythm. It's demanding and relentless, and Grantaire comes within a dozen strokes, fighting to keep his eyes focused on Enjolras through it. Whatever Enjolras sees in him as he comes, it makes his face glow bright with pleasure and satisfaction.

When Grantaire's legs start trembling, Enjolras wraps an arm around his back and pulls him down. The lamps are still burning, throwing warm, unsteady light across them both.

"I told you the first time, didn't I?" Enjolras murmurs after long, lazy minutes, his fingers trailing a meandering path up Grantaire's spine. "You're lovely."

Grantaire presses his face to Enjolras's chest and sinks in deeper against him. "Not half so much as you," he says against his skin, and feels Enjolras's chest shake with quiet laughter. "Can we sleep now?"

"Yes. A fine plan." Enjolras shifts beneath him, freeing one arm to reach out, and a moment later the light from the lamp dims and dies. It throws the room into darkness, but this time it's comfortable, comforting, like the weight of a warm blanket. Grantaire settles in close, and smiles into the darkness when Enjolras wraps an arm around his back to keep him just where he is.

*

Grantaire wakes to the warmth and weight of Enjolras wrapped around him and a knocking at the door. He groans and snuggles in closer against Enjolras, hiding his face in the crook between his side and his arm, to block out the light of morning and the sound at the intrusion.

Enjolras's lips press warm and soft to the crown of his head an instant before he shifts beneath Grantaire and slides out from under him, then out of the bed. Grantaire grumbles and pulls the blankets over his head, listening to the quiet sound of Enjolras's footsteps across the room and the click of the latch at the door as he answers it.

"Yes?"

"Begging your pardon, sir." That's Mme. Houcheloup, and Grantaire sticks his head out from under the blankets to squint at her. "There's visitors waiting."

Enjolras thanks her, instructs her to see them to the sitting room, and closes the door. Grantaire works one hand out from beneath the covers to shove the riot of his hair out of his face so he can see him better. "Who on earth is calling on you at such an hour?" he demands.

"No one." Enjolras comes back to bed, smiling. "I don't think they're for me."

"Nonsense. My friends have much better manners than that." But he's also worried them more than they deserve lately, and he wouldn't put it past Musichetta to come storm the manner if she took it in her head that he needed their company, so he shoves the rest of the blankets down with a grimace and climbs out of bed. "I'm going to disown them," he announces. "And then we can go back to bed and laze about until it's a reasonable hour of the morning."

"If you like." Enjolras reels him in with a hand on his shoulder and kisses him. "But your friends don't strike me as the sort to be easily dissuaded."

"No. They're really not." There's nothing for it but to pull on clothes and go see what they want. Enjolras walks at his side, and when their fingers brush between one step and the next, he turns his hand and clasps Grantaire's in his like it's as natural as breathing.

Musichetta, Bossuet, and Joly are all in the sitting room, and Joly's already standing, leaning his weight against his cane as they talk quietly amongst themselves, but the other two jump to their feet the instant the door swings open. Musichetta looks concerned as she starts toward Grantaire and then, when she sees Enjolras there beside him, surprise flashes across her face, followed swiftly by a narrow-eyed look of consideration.

The room, for a moment, is frozen in a stalemate. Enjolras's hand squeezes around Grantaire's, and Grantaire doesn't know why he thinks Grantaire needs comforting.

Musichetta finishes her approach with a few slow, deliberate steps that bring her up right before Enjolras. "You're Eros." Even that carries an accusation with it.

Enjolras rubs his thumb across the back of Grantaire's hand. "I've been going by Enjolras these days. I find I quite like it."

Something minute eases in Musichetta's expression. She still looks fierce, and probably Enjolras doesn't know her well enough to recognize it anyway, but it makes Grantaire breathe a sigh of relief.

"You hurt him," she says.

Enjolras lets out a breath, like the air's been punched out of him by a physical blow. "He broke a promise. I was hurt myself, and lashed out because of it. I'm not proud of it."

Musichetta's jaw goes tight. "You hurt him," she says again.

Enjolras is slower to respond this time, more thoughtful. "I try not to repeat my mistakes."

She stretches it out a moment longer before she gives a single, sharp nod and steps back, allowing them both into the room. "Come in, then. Sit down. We've some questions."

"Musichetta," Grantaire sighs at her. And then, to Enjolras, "You don't have to do that. Come on, you three, leave him alone."

"I don't mind. They can ask." Enjolras lowers himself into one of the room's chairs. "You can, too, for that matter. I know you had questions before that I wasn't able to answer."

Grantaire sits on the arm of Enjolras's chair so he can sigh and lean forward and press his forehead to Enjolras's shoulder. "No. I'm fine. I don't need to do that, not now." Plaintively, he adds, "I was trying to enjoy a morning in bed with my husband."

It makes all three of them give him soggy, sappy looks. "Oh, you two are going to be disgusting, aren't you," Musichetta says, but she mostly just sounds delighted. "One question, then. Just one." She leans forward and locks eyes with Enjolras. "Do you love him?"

Grantaire groans and covers his face with his free hand. "Musichetta, no. Oh, the hell with all of you, I'm going back to bed. This could have been such a nice morning, too..."

He tries to rise, but Enjolras just keeps his grip on his hand and pulls him back down to sit on the arm of the chair. He's not looking at Grantaire, though, he's got his gaze still locked with Musichetta, and he takes a moment before he responds. "I would be doing him a disservice if I said I did. We only met a few weeks ago, after all. I can hardly claim to know him comprehensively. But I like him very much. I value his company." His voice deepens, warms. He's not looking at Grantaire, but Grantaire's listened to him in darkness for weeks now. He knows what it sounds like when Enjolras is smiling, when he's happy. "I want to know more. I look forward to the opportunity for it. For a long time to come, I hope."

Grantaire can't bear to look at him, too overcome by his words. Enjolras's thumb strokes gentle across the back of his hand, like he knows.

"Well," Musichetta says, and her voice sounds brighter. "Good answer. I'll call myself satisfied for now."

"I'm not," Bossuet says, leaning forward so he can see past Musichetta to Enjolras. "One more question. This one's important." He pauses, waits until he's got everyone in the room on tenterhooks. "Can we go see the horses? I think the black one took a shine to me."

All the tension in the room eases at once with a ripple of light, relieved laughter. Enjolras's hand eases around Grantaire's. "You can see the horses whenever you like. They'll enjoy the company. Be wary of Eurus, though, he's an ill-luck horse."

"Not with me," Bossuet says, serenely confident.

Musichetta says, "Bossuet is always the exception to the rule. You'll see."

They all rise together and head out toward the stables. Musichetta, Joly, and Bossuet taking the lead while Grantaire and Enjolras follow behind, hand in hand. They stop in the stable door, leaning in against each other as they watch the other three coo and fawn over the horses.

"I feel the same, you know," Grantaire says, ducking his head down. "About you. That's what I mean when I say I don't love you. It doesn't mean I feel nothing."

Enjolras wraps an arm around his back and pulls him in close against his side. "Do you think that's what I thought you meant?"

"I don't know. But it's important. I wanted to be clear."

Enjolras guides him around to stand before him, cups his face and draws him in for a kiss. "I am honored to be held in your regard, in whatever way that means."

Grantaire grins hard. "I don't love you," he breathes against Enjolras's mouth, soft and warm and fond.

Enjolras's lips curve on his. "I don't love you, too."

"Ew, gross!" someone calls good-naturedly from further inside the stable, and they break apart, laughing and grinning at each other. Grantaire takes Enjolras's hand again and draws him with him, as they go to join their friends in their effort to spoil the horses rotten.

All the while, Enjolras's hand never leaves his, and Grantaire never looks away.

"What are you thinking?" Enjolras asks him quietly later, when hunger has won out over the allure of the horses and they're all heading inside to sit down for Mme. Houcheloup's supper.

The laughter and conversation of his friends rises up before them. Enjolras's palm is warm against his. The evening is lovely, warm and a little breezy and carrying the smell of lilies on it. Grantaire tips his face up to Enjolras's and smiles. "That I'm blessed," he says, and leans into Enjolras for a kiss.