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With The Band

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The guy at the show next to Enjolras is being That Guy. Every time Enjolras thinks the breach of concert etiquette can’t get worse, he learns he is sorely mistaken.

First the dude is on his phone from minute one: Instagramming, Snapchatting, Facebooking, Tweeting, Vining, Tumblring, taking song-length videos from several angles. One person should not have access nor inclination to so many channels of social media.

It’s rude -- it’s the height of rudeness -- and Enjolras has to bite down on a vocal reprimand. His heavy use of side-eye isn’t working. Why wait in the heat so long for front-row privileges if you’re going to watch the entire show behind a tiny screen? The Guy might as well have bought the live DVD and spared the rest of them his camerawork.

As if that weren’t enough, and that’s plenty, The Guy keeps sneaking sips from a flask jammed into the back pocket of his jeans. His jeans are maximum-hipster-tight, tight enough to threaten circulation, but his rude behavior prevents Enjolras from appreciating the fantastically showcased, fantastic ass. Asses like that are wasted on oblivious jerks.

Speaking of substances, The Guy isn’t only chain-smoking cigarettes (American Spirits in a battered yellow box) but there are joints mixed up as well. He shares them with a fiercely pretty punk rock girl with an undercut on his other side. She has loosed several banshee-pitched screams of sheer bliss as the band works through their hits, but Enjolras can tolerate her -- her phone has stayed tucked away.

Midway through the second joint, The Guy breaks on through the stranger wall and swings a soulfully stoned glance at Enjolras. “You want?”

He extends a hand -- long, graceful fingers with bitten-down nails -- the burning, acrid roll of herb held between them. The Guy’s eyes are a bright jolt of sea-blue behind the red tinge, and his lips are turned in what appears to be a permanent quirk of amusement.

His eyes are rather magnificent, as is his face out of profile, cheek marked by a few days’ dark stubble, with fine, high cheekbones and a pronounced nose that lends a roguish cast. His black hair reaches almost to his shoulders in a mess of effortless curls -- truly effortless, like he’d rolled out of bed and and run a hand through for grooming. He’s gorgeous, Enjolras is annoyed to observe.

Enjolras goes pink -- he’s been caught staring, or rather, glaring. He shakes his head an adamant no, then crosses his arms and looks pointedly ahead at the band, standing statue-still as though the demonstration of proper concert-watching etiquette might rub off on his neighbors.

Small chance of that. “All good, Apollo,” shrugs the guy, and, fuck, his teasing smile is a hundred times worse than the little smirk.

Enjolras grinds his teeth at the nickname, wishing the sound was audible so The Guy would know not to address him again. But no -- the band has begun the strains of one of his favorite songs, and the crowd surges forward in excitement, clearly sharing the same opinion. He gets knocked straight into The Guy, and that impossible grin grows by degrees.

Enjolras is about to give voice to a half-hour’s pent-up frustration when he sees the hated phone emerge once more. It’s too much. Everything about him is too much.

Only then Punk Rock makes a grab for the phone. “Lift me up!” she commands, swatting at The Guy’s arm to regain his attention. “Grantaire, come on! I gotta get a view of when the lighters come out. They’re gonna totally freak.”

The Guy -- Grantaire -- bends obligingly to his knees, and the girl scrambles onto his shoulders. He stands back up, lifting her so close that she is nearly level with the band. Only the metal barricades and the line of security, a few feet, divide them.

Enjolras shakes his head in disbelief and disdain. The sitting-on-shoulders move in the front is the ultimate concert faux pas, worse than all the other indiscretions combined.

He starts to edge away, disavowing even sharing the same space, when the band’s lead singer strides forward, leans over the pit with the help of security guards, and kisses the girl full on the mouth.

The crowd shouts riotous approval and Enjolras almost gets trampled to death as dozens of hands reach out to try and touch Combeferre’s faded blue t-shirt. He knows the band members’ names -- this is his fourth ABC concert, after all -- and he’s surprised to see the singer’s famed scholarly reserve split into a grin of pure, sweaty joy once the kiss is finished.

“Killing it, babe!” the girl enthuses, and ruffles his hair.

The crowd roars and security has to help haul Combeferre back into a standing position. Courfeyrac, on lead guitar, joins him at the edge of the stage, and passes over a mic so that they launch into the song just as Joly’s bass hits the right ringing note.

She was correct about the lighters. The song is a long, slow jam from the first record, not exclusively a favorite of Enjolras’, but broadly beloved. Those with lighters flick them on at once, while others haul out the modern equivalent, hefting their glowing screens up into the dark until the whole field is alight.

Despite his previous protestations, Enjolras can’t ignore the spirit of the moment, and soon his own phone is lit-up in his hand, held high above his head. He even starts to sway with the music, caught up in the electric rhythm coming from the stage and the wildly enthusiastic faces around him.

Midway through he side-eyes Grantaire once more, but with a deeper speculation. The idea that he knows the band personally and was documenting the spectacle for their benefit instead of only Instagram’s tempers a great deal of Enjolras’ annoyance.

He’d seen Combeferre wink directly at Grantaire, and the thumbs-up Grantaire returned. Now Grantaire’s eyes are closed, expression peaceful in profile, lips moving as he mouths the lyrics. Enjolras can stare all he likes, until he’s caught.

Grantaire’s eyes open and find him watching, and this time his smile isn’t amused or teasing -- it contains an inviting suggestion that makes Enjolras’s face heat for entirely different reasons. They stand at an impasse, sharing the intensifying glance until the song winds down.

Over Grantaire’s head the girl is happily snapping pictures in every direction, capturing the stage and the euphoric, singing mass of the crowd. Then her feet drum against Grantaire’s chest and he has to took away to lift her free.

“Have you ever heard him better?” she asks Grantaire, eyes only for Combeferre. “Credit my pre-show blowjob. God, I’m good.”

“Eponine!” Grantaire is laughing. “Shh. Anyone could hear you.”

She punches his arm playfully. “See if I care. Let everyone know. Groupies have nothing on me. They’ll have to settle for Courfeyrac.”

“Courfeyrac hasn’t been complaining,” Grantaire says. “And he’s happy as the rest of us you two crazy kids finally got together.”

“Yeah, well, I--” Eponine notices Enjolras poorly pretending not to listen and frowns, as though reconsidering her loose tongue. She raises a penciled eyebrow at him. “You a reporter?”

Enjolras startles at the address. “No.”

“Let’s see some proof.”

“Ep, leave him alone. The guy’s just trying to enjoy the show and we’ve been in his way all night.”

Enjolras gives Grantaire a gratified look, but he digs in his pocket for his wallet regardless. He fishes free his card and passes it over. Eponine reaches, but Grantaire is the one who takes the card. His warm fingers skim Enjolras’.

“Well hello, Enjolrah, deputy director to my favorite state senator,” says Grantaire, squinting at the paper square in the light from the stage. “Thank her for introducing that pro-weed legalization bill, won’t you?”

Enjolras blinks. Their state politics are small-scale enough that it isn’t often Senator Fantine’s name gets recognized. But he supposes the marijuana bill was big enough news that interested parties had paid attention. “I will.”

“Speaking of--” Eponine has lost interest in him once he’s confirmed not to be paparazzi. She slips her hand with comfortable familiarity into Grantaire’s shirt pocket to snag his cigarettes and shakes free another joint.

The band launches into one of their rowdier numbers, and the soaring chords make continuing the conversation difficult. Enjolras and Grantaire turn as one to refocus their attention. Enjolras notices his card tucked into Grantaire’s back pocket, by the flask -- right against that truly spectacular ass that he can now appreciate without reserve.

When Grantaire offers the joint again with an ironic flourish, Enjolras shakes his head, but he’s smiling about it.

“Here,” says Grantaire, and he ducks down to root through the backpack at his feet. “Take this instead.” He presses something into Enjolras’ hands -- a shiny piece of fabric with a peel-off back. It reads GUEST in bold red letters.

Enjolras opens his mouth.

“That’ll get you past the security gate,” says Grantaire. He has to lean close to be heard over the music, and the blend of smoke and whiskey and an earthier musk has ceased to annoy Enjolras whatsoever. Enjolras has a moment of vertigo where it seems a real possibility he could bury his nose in the curve of Grantaire’s neck and inhale. “Once ABC’s off, we’ll all be in the artists’ area to watch the rest of the bill. You should come. It’s chill.”

Enjolras closes his mouth.

“I mean, you have a great view here,” says Grantaire hurriedly, introducing an out, “and it’s harder to see from backstage -- kind of distorted. I totally understand if you don’t--”

“Thanks,” says Enjolras. What the hell do you do when the hottest guy you’ve seen in years hands you a backstage pass to hang out with him and your favorite band? Enjolras stands still, trying to parse whether it’s possible to have breathed so much smoke so as to be stoned secondhand -- but he knows it doesn’t work like that. He’s done a lot of research on the subject for Fantine. He makes his hands work instead, peeling the back off the cloth sticker and sealing it onto his shirt. “Thanks a lot. That sounds cool.”

“The pleasure’s mine,” says Grantaire. He gives the joint back to Eponine and proffers an empty hand to Enjolras. “Grantaire.”

“So I heard.” Enjolras takes the hand without hesitation. They’re both clammy from the close press of the crowd, but he can’t remember when he’s enjoyed a handshake more. He holds it a moment past the bounds of propriety to communicate that he saw the other invitation in Grantaire’s eyes. “Enjolras.”

Grantaire’s eyes widen, then his smile does. Then he gives an abashed laugh and scrubs a hand through his unruly curls. “Sorry for screwing up the pronunciation. It won’t happen again. Enjolras.” He rolls the syllables on his tongue with relish, like he’s tasting something delicious.

“Hey Grantaire, if you’re finished picking up Mr. Senator, remember how Bahorel wanted you to get a shot of his sick drum solo? They’re gonna encore after this, so get your ass in gear.”

“I’m not a--” Enjolras starts, but Eponine’s expression is friendly enough, her head tilted in their direction, and she’s teasing, so he stops short.

“Shit, sorry,” says Grantaire, not looking sorry. But he has to look away from Enjolras to get the phone ready. The band brings their last number to a crashing crescendo that elicits shrieks of delight and applause that rumbles like thunder across the field.

“Thank you, beautiful New York! It’s good to be home. We’ve taken a vote and you’re our favorite crowd ever,” Combeferre announces, and it’s total pandemonium after that. “Love each other. Good night!”

The lights go dark and the band troops off but the crowd knows better: they start to stomp and up the level of cheering immediately, until they are one raised voice of exuberant demand. In gracious fashion, the band only makes them wait three minutes -- long enough to chug a bottle of water and catch their breath, thinks Enjolras -- before re-appearing onstage.

Everyone loses it. Enjolras is right there shouting beside Grantaire and Eponine. As the band slings their instruments back on and start to pick out the notes of his favorite song, he yells until his voice breaks under joyous strain. He’s flooded with excitement and the strange-for-him feeling of completely untainted happiness.

In a moment like this little else matters but perfect artistry, soul-stirring chord progressions, and the companionship of a thousand other people sharing the same ecstatic vibe. The thought that he’ll get to “chill” with them soon, escorted by their devoted, hot-as-fuck videographer -- well. This time Enjolras joins in with the singing, lending his voice to the masses as they all chorus together. He knows every word.

The encore is one of the better experiences of Enjolras’ life. When the stage goes dark a second time and no amount of summoning can bring them back, he stands with Grantaire and Eponine, burning the concert into his mental pathways. Then he watches with a sudden nervous jolt as people head for drink refills or jockey for a closer spot to see the next act.

He finds Grantaire’s eyes on him. That’s reassuring. He swallows.

“Ready?” asks Grantaire.

“Yeah,” says Enjolras. “You sure it’s all right?”

“I’m sure,” says Grantaire. He hoists his green backpack over his shoulders. “The guys are just -- guys. Bunch of nerds I’ve known since college. Least likely group of rock stars you’ll ever meet. It’s totally fine, and there’ll be a bunch of people back there.”

Eponine chimes in: “You’re OK. Just don’t take any pictures for the tabloids or I will find you and gut you in your sleep. Come on, we’ve got to beat the fans to the gate.” She sets off with purpose, leaving them to trail behind.

“Is that?” Enjolras says softly, watching her carve a path through the stragglers.

“Always,” says Grantaire, his voice deeply fond. “Actually, I think she must like you or she would have tried to veto. Though she knows I--” Lost to a moment of musing, he recalls himself and stops speaking.

Enjolras walks at his side, and raises both eyebrows in silent prompt.

“She knows I don’t usually do this,” finishes Grantaire. He gestures, expansive, includes Enjolras. “Invite someone to join us.”

They keep walking with that between them. Then Enjolras says, “So why me?”

“I was impressed with how much you wanted to tell me off for the first half but didn’t. That’s a stellar show of self-restraint I don’t see often. Most people are assholes.” Grantaire has a sideways smile for him. “Also you have really good hair. And, like. Really good everything.”

Enjolras returns the smile, and is saved from replying by their arrival at the gate. Burly guards check their passes and poke through the bags, then they’re waved through. Eponine leads the way past the stage, which is a flurry of activity to prepare for the next band. Enjolras gazes around with open fascination. He’s never seen anything like this.

Beyond the stage, a pavilion of plastic tents has been raised. Dozens of people are milling about, with heavy concentration on one end where there is a bar. Lounge chairs in circles are set up underneath. There are no demarcating lines, but as they approach Enjolras spots the later bands on the bill in one corner, and the band that was on before ABC holding court in another. They have to show badges again to gain entrance, then Eponine is guiding them to the center.

There they are, in the flesh: Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Joly, and Bahorel; Marius, their frequent collaborator and guest keyboardist, with the lead singer of the Convent Girls in his arms and oblivious to all else. Enjolras also recognizes Feuilly, the experimental one-man band who had opened the show, sharing a lounger with Bahorel. They’re all talking over each other and passing around bottles to share, charged with post-show afterglow.

Enjolras pauses, fighting the instinct to be starstruck. He met the President of the United States when he interned on the Hill, for God’s sake. Shook the President's hand and talked legislative agendas. He can handle -- what had Grantaire called them? A bunch of nerds?

Grantaire’s hand appears on his lower back, a gentle touch. “I’ll introduce you,” he says. “C’mon.” So Enjolras is propelled forward.

Combeferre spies their approach and gets up to bound over -- he catches Eponine and spins her into a kiss while the rest of the gathering loudly hail them with welcomes. No one seems to mind that Enjolras is there; it occurs to him that they are used to strangers after long tours on the road.

“Grantaire, did you get my best angle?” Bahorel demands.

“All of your angles are best,” answers Grantaire, passing behind Bahorel’s chair and stooping to kiss his cheek. He kisses Feuilly’s in turn. Bahorel looks satisfied at that.

“Hello, who’s this?” Courfeyrac has slid into their orbit and reached for Enjolras’ hand, which he puts to his lips. “I’m Courfeyrac. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

He has big, laughing eyes to match a smile equal parts friendly and suggestively sly, and is as handsome as the magazines are fond of expounding. Up close he exudes confident charisma like a perfume. Enjolras doesn’t know what to say; may have actually forgotten his own name, but now everyone is watching them.

“Down,” snaps Eponine, coming over with Combeferre on her arm. “Behave, you. He works for the government and should work next on getting you outlawed.” She slaps Enjolras’ back as though they’ve been friends for years. “This one’s responsible for legalizing weed for us. What did you with my vaporizer, Courfeyrac?”

“Jehan has it. Be kind, Eponine. I only wanted to greet our visitor.” Courfeyrac has gotten the message and changed his approach -- grin friendly as ever, but less lascivious, and he shakes Enjolras’ hand instead of kissing it.

“This is Enjolras,” announces Grantaire then, for everyone’s benefit. He pronounces the name perfectly. This time he makes it sound like a dessert.

“Welcome,” says Combeferre warmly. “Any friend of Grantaire’s is a friend of ours.” He has on a pair of clear round glasses Enjolras has never seen in any of the publicity shots. His expression is earnest and intensely focused. “Did you enjoy the show?”

“I--” Enjolras allows a half-second to be overwhelmed, then schools himself and gets his shit together. “I’ve never seen you better. You guys destroyed it.”

“Pour the man a restorative drink,” says Joly. He’s cuddled up against a heavily tattooed man with a shaved head and a salute for Enjolras.

Grantaire excuses himself to do just that, and returns from the bar with two beers. Grantaire tips his chin to suggest the sole lounge chair in the circle; all the rest are being shared. Enjolras nods, and they move to perch on it side by side. Their shoulders brush and neither leans away.

All the members of the band are hungry for his evaluation of the show, to Enjolras’ immense surprise. He’s no musical expert, but he’s been a fan for long enough that he can trace their evolution and make some cogent observations about changes made for the better, arrangements that worked well, and wax rhapsodic about how good they sound on the big stage compared to smaller venues.

While Enjolras talks and answers rapid-fire questions and comes to be included in their banter, Grantaire relaxes beside him. He tilts closer and closer by minute increments until the smell of him, like earth and smoke, is more intoxicating than the beer Enjolras drains.

Grantaire notices and offers to fetch another.

“I’ll come with you,” says Enjolras. So they go together, ignoring a wolf whistle from Bahorel. At the bar, the single bartender is handling a snaking line of thirsty band members and guests. They take their place at the back, but after standing like that with the press of people around them and the echoing feedback of music from the stage, Enjolras says, “Do you want to get some air?”

“Even more than I want a drink,” says Grantaire. "So: a lot."

They leave the line and duck out from the tent. The park’s treeline is illuminated by a tall black lamppost, nearly tree-height itself, and they pace over to stand under the pool of yellow light. It shades Grantaire golden and makes his cobalt eyes radiant.

“They’re great,” says Enjolras, with a lift of his shoulder towards the tent. “Really genuine. Just chill people like you said. Thank you for bringing me, Grantaire.”

“You’ve been adopted,” says Grantaire solemnly, but with those lit-up eyes: “Try and get away from them now. They’ll make you keep answering questions about how much they rocked until morning.”

“I was hoping I might have other plans,” says Enjolras.

Grantaire exhales an audible breath. “Just so you know, I’m about to start kissing you. I’m doing it. I’m gonna go right for it.”

“I’m waiting,” agrees Enjolras.

Grantaire kisses him hard -- hard enough so that there’s no mistake about it, no space for uncertainty. He winds his arms around Enjolras’ neck and reels him in, and Enjolras does what he’s wanted to do for hours, which is reach up and bury his hands in Grantaire’s hair. The abundant curls are exactly as soft as he’d hoped, and when he gets a solid handful Grantaire makes an extremely promising sound. Enjolras tugs again, more firmly this time, and finds himself flat against the lamppost with Grantaire licking into his mouth.

Grantaire is a skilled kisser, assured about it, but sexier even than the things his tongue can do is his enthusiasm -- like Enjolras is the only person on Earth right now he wants to kiss, like he can’t imagine anything better than kissing him. Grantaire’s eyes are open, so Enjolras keeps his open too; though the sensation is strange to him and strangely intimate.

The kiss, promising to begin with, quickly heats. Enjolras is flattened against the peeling metal paint of the post, starting to process the hard lines of Grantaire’s body against his own. Grantaire’s shoulders are broad, his arms strong, his hips made for gripping.

Within minutes, the kiss gets much too hot to be seen in public. They part reluctantly, panting.

“Goddamn,” breathes Grantaire, putting a word to it; and Enjolras wets his lips and nods. Then he can’t help himself: he hauls Grantaire, by the hair, back against him for another ravishing kiss, his teeth fixing on Grantaire’s lower lip.

Enjolras releases him at last, astonished by his own response. Grantaire is unlike any of the men he’s gone for before -- they tended to be upright congressional policy wonks -- but that may be part of why Grantaire is so irresistible.

Grantaire is wholly unknown, a blank page waiting to be filled in: unpredictable and wonderfully exciting for it. His manner is easy, yet engaging; witty and wry, but kind in the interactions Enjolras has witnessed. The depth of affection displayed for his friends is endearingly genuine, and the impassioned interest he is directing at Enjolras feels as real. This might be a casual hook-up, but it’s fast moving into unknown territory.

Enjolras finds himself contemplating one-night-stand scenarios he wouldn’t have imagined mere hours ago -- and he’s not sure he wants it to be just the one night.

For once, he doesn’t question, doesn’t look for a weightier analysis -- he follows his instinct, since it seems like a good one.

“How do we get rid of them?” he asks, with a flick of his eyes to the tent, then back again to Grantaire’s face. The scratch of Grantaire’s stubbled cheek against his has left behind an enticing burn; Enjolras swears then and there that he will feel it dragged all over his body. If you’d told him this morning that he’d be anxious to get away from an ultra-cool hang with the members of ABC, he’d have taken your temperature.

He can see the spark of response in Grantaire’s eyes and the wheels start to turn. “That’s a little tricky. We’ll never hear the end of it if we leave before the last band. That’s an unforgivable concert foul.”

Thinking of his first impression of Grantaire, Enjolras lets his eyebrows rise.

“I don’t make the rules,” Grantaire says, apologetic. His fingers are drawing circles into the skin of Enjolras’ neck -- just above his collar. The touch is light and yet so persuasively arousing that Enjolras shivers.

“Also,” says Grantaire, looking regretful, “I’m staying at Courfeyrac’s. I sublet my apartment whenever the guys bring me on the road, and it’s through next week.”

“Come home with me.” Enjolras hears himself offering the obvious solution. “I’m about a half-mile from the park. We could walk.”

“We could run,” says Grantaire, and just like that it’s decided.

Enjolras kisses him again. “Okay, then. It’s a plan.”

“This is crazy,” ventures Grantaire, but now he has his fingers hooked into Enjolras’ belt-loops. “You don’t know anything about me. I’m not exactly the easiest dude to get along with. I’m on my very best behavior right now.”

“Fill me in on the walk,” suggests Enjolras. “Considering I still wanted to fuck you even when I thought you were behaving abominably, I think we’ll do just fine.”

“Wow,” says Grantaire, “you really just said all of that out loud.”

“I’m not a fan of mincing words or intentions,” says Enjolras, unembarrassed.

“Maybe we will get along,” hums Grantaire, and the next kiss is so searing it takes actual effort and Grantaire’s gasped reminder that security guards are watching not to do filthy things to him right there in the lamplight.

With regret, Enjolras loosens his hold on Grantaire’s hair. “What’ve we got? Another hour?”

“Bahorel and Courfeyrac will push for an after-party, but there’ve been enough long-awaited reunions tonight that I think we can float going home through suggestion and win,” strategizes Grantaire, and Enjolras wonders if he’s ever considered a career in politics. “Eponine and Combeferre will agree, and their word is kind of law.”

“Good,” says Enjolras.

“Great,” says Grantaire.

They burst into a sudden jag of laughter -- lust and stress relief -- then return hand-in-hand to the reduced line within the tent.

When they rejoin the ABC camp, their posture has undergone a noticeable shift. Enjolras sits with his back against the chair cushion, and Grantaire lounges against him. No one comments on that, only --

“We were taking bets on whether you’d be back at all,” confides the guy with Joly, who introduces himself as Bossuet with a rueful smile. “I lost.”

Enjolras drapes an arm around Grantaire’s shoulders, and Grantaire puts his head back to use Enjolras’ chest for a pillow. It should be weird, the intimacy of the stance with a near-stranger, surrounded by a group of near-strangers. Instead it feels cozy and comfortable -- as though he has always held Grantaire like this, as though these people have always been his circle of friends.

The rest of the evening is given over to laughter and debate and praise for the remaining acts. Grantaire slips in several comments about how long the day has been and how good it is to be home, and Eponine immediately has his back. Enjolras watches her give an exaggerated yawn and lean to whisper in Combeferre’s ear.

So that when Courfeyrac starts to talk about what club should be graced with their presence after the show, Combeferre delicately intercepts.

“We have to do this again tomorrow, and I can feel my voice getting scratchy,” he says, punctuated by a drink of water for emphasis. “Why don’t we save the celebration for after the final show? I’ll host on my roof.”

Courfeyrac narrows his eyes. “You never host. This is a trick to get me to get a proper night’s sleep.”

“There’s a first time for everything, my dear.” Combeferre gives him a brilliant smile, as though wrangling Courfeyrac is second nature. “Doesn’t that sound better than a crowded club? We can invite all of our friends in the city, then sleep in on Sunday.”

Eventually Courfeyrac is persuaded; and Grantaire shifts against Enjolras’ chest, as though to say, There, I told you. Enjolras lets his lips graze the nape of Grantaire’s neck.

Now that it’s clear everyone will be heading home, it becomes equally clear that Enjolras is taking Grantaire with him. No one says a word to that, though Enjolras sees Grantaire receive a fair amount of winks and the wordless ribbing only good friends are capable of. For his part, Enjolras gets a flurry of heart-felt goodbyes, insistences that he take down their numbers, an explosion of Facebook friend requests, a surprise hug from Eponine, and a parting handshake from Combeferre.

“I hope we’ll meet again,” says Combeferre, his expressive features animated with intent. “I’d meant to ask you about getting involved with Senator Fantine’s upcoming campaign. We’d be down for a fundraiser and would be honored if she wants to use our music in any programming capacity. We’re big fans.”

The approaching election season will see Senator Fantine making a bid for the national stage: first, the House of Representatives; then the White House, as Enjolras likes to tell her; then the world.

Enjolras doesn’t even try to hide his amazed reaction, then checks it -- of course ABC, whose anarchic, damn-the-man protest songs had attracted him in the first place, would be apprised of the progressive politics of their home state.

Enjolras thanks him profusely, and copies Combeferre’s number into his phone. “I can’t speak for her officially, but unofficially, man, that would be incredible. We play you in the office all the time.”

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Combeferre tells him, and smiles, and follows Eponine out into the crowded dark. Enjolras is aware that he did not receive an invite to the next day’s party. They are all, of course, Grantaire’s friends first; and it is Grantaire’s prerogative never to see him again after tonight should he so choose.

The thought makes Enjolras’ stomach flip over, and he reaches to tangle his fingers with Grantaire’s. Grantaire had stood quietly beaming throughout the exchange with Combeferre. Now he squeezes Enjolras’ hand.

“Make sure you call him,” advises Grantaire. “Combeferre never says anything he doesn’t mean, and I have a feeling you two will get along really well.”

“I want to get along with you,” says Enjolras, low.

The look Grantaire gives him should not be permitted in polite company. “I’m all yours.”

“Let’s get the hell out of here.” It only takes a few more rounds of back-slapping and hugs and endearments for Grantaire from the others before they can make their escape. The main roads of the park are clogged with people leaving the field, but Grantaire says he knows a shortcut and takes them on a winding path through the trees.

Now entirely alone, Enjolras finds his heartbeat starting to speed with anticipation and a curious lack of nerves. All he’s aware of is wanting; his usual propensity to criticize and pick situations apart is absent. There’s something about Grantaire that thrills him to the bone and pushes reason aside.

The shortcut works: the emerge on a side-street, then double back to the avenue. Half a mile is a mere ten blocks -- hardly enough time to get to know someone before taking them to bed, but they give it a spirited go.

“Three things I’m fond of,” Grantaire is saying, “are cats, cognac and communism.”

“In that order?” Enjolras grins.

Grantaire explains his capacity within the band as they round corners: “A little bit of everything, I guess. Jehan -- that’s their stage manager and the reason Courfeyrac wasn’t really sad to go home tonight -- Jehan calls me a jack-of-all-trades. It’s my title on their taxes.” He shrugs, as though unused to having someone listen so intently to his pronouncements; Enjolras has one eye fixed on Grantaire and one on the street. “I can tune guitars with the best of the roadies after all this time. I studied art in school; I create the t-shirt designs and the posters. I thought they were crazy when they asked me to do the album covers, but--”

“Holy shit,” says Enjolras. “I have you framed on my wall.”

“Fanboy,” declares Grantaire, but he looks startled and pleased. “Last few years, when they started to blow up, I got into recording the shows and running social media. I like interacting with the rabble.” He waggles his eyebrows at Enjolras. “Anyway, I know I’m lucky to get to do what I do for them. You won’t find me complaining about that.”

“So what do you complain about?” Enjolras is curious. Grantaire had warned that he was difficult, but he’s found nothing unappealing after the poor initial impression. Apart from being beautiful, Grantaire is intelligent and refreshingly honest, a far cry from the staffers Enjolras usually has to work beside, who would just as soon stab a friend in the back to score a political point as not. His guard, so often kept tightly wrapped around him, is down, and he cannot remember ever having felt this level of attraction so soon.

“The state of society, mostly,” says Grantaire, and he palms his cigarettes and lights one, glancing away from Enjolras. “The certainty that the world is corrupt and indifferent, and all our hopes are so much dust. That evil and greed have always prevailed and always will; that our systems of democratic government are as much of a skewed joke benefitting the rich and powerful as any monarchy or oligarchy. Yeah, our social ideals update every so often, once there’s been enough riots and violence to force us forward, but you can’t tell me we’re much different, on a basic level, than we’ve always been. Most of the planet lives in miserable poverty, while a few fat cats light their cigars with burning subprime mortgages.” His smile is grim now, and he drags heavily on the cigarette. “I’m a cynic at heart, Enjolras, and I don’t think you’ll like that about me. But tell me that I’m wrong.”

Enjolras absorbs all of this while fighting a frown. In the end he doesn’t frown; he pauses them on the street, so that he can face Grantaire. He reaches out and touches him lightly, fingers skimming the stubble of Grantaire’s cheek. “You’re not wrong.” Grantaire blinks back. “You’re not. But that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to just give up. The system might be royally fucked, but it can be made better in increments, and that makes a difference. Some difference is still something. Lives can be improved -- thousands, millions of lives, made better because a law was revised or introduced. Programs can be created to feed the hungry, to assist the unemployed, to protect the helpless, to make a real alteration in the way someone else gets to exist. That's a whole lot. My first job was fielding constituent issues; I helped people who couldn’t pay their rent, and students find the best public schools available in their district, and small businesses threatened with eviction. I did that every day. Senator Fantine likes to say 'One voice is deafening to silence.' We may never achieve the ideal, but working towards it isn’t nothing. It matters.” He drops his hand. “I have to believe that. I do.”

Grantaire’s lip is bit. “You’re stunning,” he says after a pause. “Have you ever thought of running for office yourself? I’d do you up a poster free of charge.”

Enjolras feels the sides of his mouth quirk. He’s relieved to see Grantaire staring back with consideration instead of returning a sarcastic riposte. “Some day. After Fantine’s in Washington.” He feels a flush of embarrassment for having made the speech in the middle of the sidewalk, and he links his arm with Grantaire’s and starts them moving again. “Maybe let’s not talk about politics tonight.”

“Good idea,” says Grantaire. “What should we talk about?”

“You and me,” says Enjolras, seeking to set the mood. “I hope your skepticism ends with the human race, not individual humans.”

“Oh, absolutely,” says Grantaire, and his dry tone transforms into a purr. “The people, plural, may be hopeless, but individual people still inspire.” His eyes sweep Enjolras from crown to toe. “I’m extremely inspired right now.”

“Glad to hear it,” says Enjolras, as they pass his corner. “Because I plan to keep you up all night.”

“Is that a campaign pledge?”

“You can count on me.” Enjolras guides them up the steps to his building, then hesitates a fraction as he slips his key in the outer door. He knows he’s left the apartment neat enough; he knows Grantaire well enough already to guess he wouldn’t mind if it’s a pigsty. But it flashes through his brain that Grantaire’s come off of a glamorous, post-Grammy tour with ABC, and that his tiny apartment is nothing to write home about.

“Are we going in?” Grantaire tips his head. “You didn’t just remember that you’re married, did you?”

“No.” He pulls open the door and ushers Grantaire into the quiet, dimly lit hallway. “My place is just -- kinda cramped. Government salaries don’t go very far on the New York City housing market.”

Grantaire seems relieved, and gives a soft laugh. “God, I don’t care. For a second there I really thought you were about to change your mind.” He moves close and kisses Enjolras open-mouthed. “All I’ll inspect are the bed and the bookshelves, I swear. I’ve spent most of the last year on a tour bus with a dozen people. If you have a closet of your own, I’m impressed already.”

Relief suffuses Enjolras, and he smiles against Grantaire’s lips. “I have excellently curated bookshelves.”

“I’ll bet,” says Grantaire. “Lead on.”

The apartment is at the top of a fifth-floor walkup, but Grantaire doesn’t complain, follows him gamely. The rent’s cheaper up here and the view is better. Enjolras unlocks the door and lets them in, flicks on the light.

He wasn’t kidding about the size: the studio is true to its name, one room with nowhere else to go but a small bathroom and a smaller closet. There is a pocket-size kitchen and table by the door, a couch for a divider, and his bed pushed up by the far wall, by the windows. The hardwood floors are shiny and swept, however, and the promised bookshelves line three of the walls. Over the stove in the kitchen a collection of neatly framed posters are hanging -- the central piece purchased at his first ABC concert years ago.

Grantaire’s gaze takes in the room, and he stares at the poster. “You weren’t kidding. Holy shit. I haven’t seen that one in forever.”

“I’m thinking about having you sign it,” Enjolras says. With the door clicked shut behind Grantaire he is suddenly more eager than he can express, so he doesn’t try to speak, just turns into Grantaire and pushes him back against the wall, into the books. He kisses Grantaire, then kisses his neck, hands sliding under Grantaire’s t-shirt to feel the warmth of his skin.

His fingers span Grantaire’s belly, then up, up, over the soft dusting of hair across his chest, to find and tease his nipples. Grantaire arches against him, body bent back and yielding, granting Enjolras ready access. Enjolras recalls the lamppost, and he reaches for a handful of Grantaire’s hair and pulls, and oh, the sound Grantaire makes then is more moving than the concert.

“Here,” says Grantaire, starting to struggle out of his t-shirt, “Let me--”

“Let me,” says Enjolras. He releases Grantaire but only to grab the hem of his shirt, peels it up over Grantaire’s body in a slow reveal so that he can enjoy every new inch of skin. Grantaire raises his arms obligingly, and then he’s standing bare-chested with a background of books, those too-tight jeans riding low on his hips. The vee of his hipbones and the dark trail of hair at his navel seem to point down, down, down; so Enjolras heeds the direction. He kneels.

When he looks up from the floor, Grantaire’s eyes are wide, his wet red mouth parted. “Jesus,” says Grantaire, “Christ.”

Enjolras doesn’t say anything at all. He’s far too focused to speak; he’s consumed. He puts his hands on Grantaire’s belt, waits the half-second it takes Grantaire to nod -- the nod is a touch frantic -- then undoes belt buckle and zipper and snap, seizes onto denim, and tugs. He strips jeans and boxers down Grantaire’s thighs.

Jesus Christ indeed. Grantaire’s cock is hard and getting harder, and he’s long and thick, gorgeous as the rest of him, a feast for all of Enjolras’ senses. Enjolras leans in, revels in the scent of musk that hints at sex, and licks Grantaire’s cock from base to tip without preamble.

This is the preamble: licking, kissing, tonguing at sensitive skin, when all he wants to do is open his mouth and see how much he can swallow down before he chokes and then keep going.

“Enjolras -- fuck--”

Enjolras does it then, takes the head of Grantaire’s cock between his lips and starts to suck. He lifts a hand and curls it tight tight tight at the base, then lets his fingers glide up and down, up and down. He knows how this must feel; knows it feels good; it’s a handjob with extra credit, but it’s still a tease.

He looks at Grantaire again, feels Grantaire harden further on his tongue, because few things in life are as intimate as sharing eye contact when all the other barriers have fallen away. Grantaire’s jaw is clenched, and the sound that slips from him is like a bitten-off whine.

Even so, Grantaire doesn’t push. Some would. Some would try to thrust deep as they could immediately; some would complain or cajole. It’s a personality test. Grantaire just stands arched back against the bookshelf and lets Enjolras explore him, his gaze never leaving Enjolras’ face, his expression full of enthusiastic lust and keen interest, like he can’t wait to see what will happen next.

This is not how Enjolras usually starts out, and his hunger and his overwhelming desire would startle him, maybe make him pause, if he stopped to pick apart the emotions. He doesn’t. Nothing about Grantaire is anything like the other partners he’s had, so it follows that sex is also going to be an undiscovered country.

If Grantaire’s free-spirited demeanor inspires something of the same in Enjolras, well, what of it? Everyone is always telling him to loosen up -- and here he is now, on his knees, focused only on driving Grantaire over the edge. All other thoughts and voices in his head are vanishing.

He’s never wanted someone so much. He’s never felt so desperate and empowered at once.

He takes Grantaire’s cock into his mouth, into his throat, by inches. Once started, he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t stop until he’s filled and stretched and his lips graze Grantaire’s stomach and Grantaire’s groan shivers across his skin.

He holds like that a moment, adjusting to the sensation, reveling in it, then pulls back to repeat, more surely this time. Grantaire’s cock seems huge now, rock-hard, wet from Enjolras’ mouth. Enjolras discovers a rhythm halfway between frenetic and leisurely, and his hand follows his lips to heighten the sensation.

Grantaire is salt-sweet on his tongue, a taste he chases, needing more. He breaks the shared gaze at last, because his eyelids flutter closed, and he gives himself over to the blowjob like diving underwater. Totally submerged.

From a distance he feels Grantaire’s hands ghost over his shoulders, up his neck and into his hair. Their pressure is tremulously light -- Grantaire does not seek to hold him in place, or hold him down -- no: they settle on Enjolras’ head as a silent reminder, a thread back to earth, an anchor. One hand gathers a handful of Enjolras’ hair but does not pull, only lifts and lets the strands slip loose again, like Grantaire is sifting water between his fingers.

“Too good, you’re -- Enjolras, if you don’t stop I’ll--”

He doesn’t stop, and he doesn’t stop, and he doesn’t stop. He goes faster, sucks harder, holds Grantaire deeper. His fist goes up and down and up; he has found the pressure Grantaire prefers and he is relentless, wielding it. His tongue licks and swirls and lavishes attention where skin is most responsive. He never wants to stop and so he doesn’t.

Grantaire’s body reacts to his silent speech, Grantaire’s hips yearn forward, Grantaire moans low, Grantaire’s ass was made to be palmed by Enjolras’ free hand. Enjolras opens his eyes when Grantaire tenses up everywhere, to watch Grantaire give himself over.

The taste of Grantaire is bittersweet and Enjolras swallows and swallows, wanting more, calculating how long it will be until they can do this again, thinking of the next time before Grantaire is even fully spent. Grantaire’s hips move in tiny, striving circles, and his hand has moved down to cup Enjolras’ chin, fingers splayed along Enjolras’ cheek.

Grantaire’s thumb traces Enjolras’ lips rounded around his cock. His thumb brushes feather-light. He meets Enjolras’ gaze and they watch each other with complete understanding. It is then that Enjolras is certain he has never known anyone like Grantaire and that he has always known Grantaire.

“Nice form,” manages Grantaire, his voice rough. “Out of ten, that was about a ninety-seven. Point five.”

Enjolras draws back, but he stays where he is and chases the last drops with his tongue. He licks Grantaire clean, then gets smoothly to his feet, glad that his body is steadier than his fast-beating heart. “Got a little carried away,” he admits.

Grantaire stares, completely debauched, jeans pooled around his ankles and only the bookshelf propping him up. His lips curve a mischievous smile. “How do we make sure that continues to happen?”

“Just keep looking at me like that.” Enjolras kisses him, runs his hands along the firm planes of Grantaire’s body. Grips Grantaire’s waist and pulls Grantaire flush against him, so that Grantaire can feel how hard he is -- how much it turned him on to have Grantaire’s cock in his mouth.

When Enjolras lets him go, Grantaire gives a rueful laugh. “God. I’m still wearing shoes.” This seems to strike him as ridiculous, and his laughter grows as he toes out of them and steps free of jeans. Gloriously naked, he folds his arms across his chest and raises an eyebrow at Enjolras. “I’d point out that you’re clothed and that’s an uneven playing field, but after that blowjob I can deny you nothing. You wanna fuck me in, like, a fur coat, if that’s your thing, we’ll do that. I am totally down.”

“Is that a thing?” Enjolras grins at him, and tugs his t-shirt over his head; he is dedicated to fairness, and it’s only fair. Grantaire’s gaze devours him and lingers appreciatively.

“I’m sure it’s someone’s thing. All I’m saying is, whatever you’re into, I’m in. I could not be more onboard if I was physically standing on the deck of a ship.”

“Good,” says Enjolras. He drops his head and kisses down the line of Grantaire’s neck. “I’m not into fur coats,” he tells Grantaire’s collarbone.

“Tell me more.”

“But I keep thinking,” says Enjolras, soft against his skin, “how my first impression of you was that you were rude and out of control, and how much you needed to be taken in hand.”

“I’m terribly rude,” Grantaire agrees, catching on at once, a hitch of excitement in his tone. “Everyone always says. I speak out of turn; I challenge and ridicule my idealistic friends; I’m impossible. Ask any of them. Also,” and he bends into the touch when Enjolras’ hands reach around to squeeze his ass, “I have no self-control, you’re entirely right about that. I never met a substance that I didn’t like. I’m incapable of moderation.”

“Is that so?”

“I don’t lie,” says Grantaire, sounding honest: “If I did I might be considered less of an asshole.”

“You admit that you are, in fact, in need of correction.”

Grantaire cants his head. “I’m pretty sure I didn’t even vote in the last primary election.”

“And you have no respect for the gift of our democratic process.” Enjolras whistles through his teeth. “This is serious.”

“What’re you gonna do about it?” Before he met Grantaire, Enjolras thought that eyes couldn’t possibly sparkle; it had to be a figure of speech. But Grantaire’s eyes are like aquamarine, and they give back light.

“Teach you a lesson,” says Enjolras, decisive, “in self-control.” He points to the couch that bisects the room -- old, comfortably worn-in leather -- and Grantaire follows the gesture. “Bend over the side.”

“God,” says Grantaire. “Okay.” He saunters forward, giving Enjolras a display of his magnificent ass above strong thighs. He leans against the couch-back, casts a coy look over his shoulder. “Okay, I’m bending.” He does, making the sight all the more stunning as he assumes a submissive posture, his hands spanned across the leather cushion to grip the farthest edge.

“Stay like that.” Enjolras crosses the room to the bathroom door and disappears inside. His own appearance in the mirror is almost unrecognizable. His color is high, face and chest flushed pink with arousal, lips kiss-stung, hair a mess from Grantaire’s fingers. His expression doesn’t surprise him, because he knows how he feels: fiercely turned on, starved for more contact. He stares at his reflection until he sets the lines of his face into a stonier resolve. Then he roots through the top drawer, grabs the lube and a handful of condoms, and goes back out. He sees with approval that Grantaire hasn’t moved an inch, stayed bent over the couch’s back in a graceful inverted L-shape.

Enjolras comes up behind him, tossing his finds onto the couch. Grantaire keeps his head down, but speaks softly, the timbre of his voice deep with curiosity at the sight of the condom pile. “Ambitious, aren’t you?”

“Extremely,” says Enjolras. He runs his hands down Grantaire’s back. “Now, what was that about not voting?”

“Didn’t really see the point,” says Grantaire, prompt and saucy. “It’s all a game, democracy. A rigged one.”

Enjolras gives Grantaire’s ass a firm, ringing slap, the sound shockingly loud in the apartment’s quiet. Grantaire bucks forward but stays down as instructed. When he takes it so well, Enjolras rewards him with another. Another. “Elections have been won and lost on a handful of votes. You were derelict in your duties as a citizen.”

Grantaire is more than game for this. His tone becomes a provocative taunt. “Say I vote, sure. Oh. So -- so I help elect some lazy bureaucrat looking to fatten their wallet at the expense of their constituents. Then what?”

“Then you choose to participate. You get involved. You become actively engaged in enacting the change you want to see.” The slaps come in quick succession, punctuating Enjolras’s statements; when one cheek reddens deliciously Enjolras moves to the other. He’s harder than he can stand, so he holds back a moment to shimmy out of his jeans until he’s naked as Grantaire and so, so ready. Grantaire, aware of the action behind him, keeps his body low but twists to look.

“Wow,” Grantaire exhales. “Wow.” Then he’s back in it: “So the answer is to become a part of the corrupt establishment?”

Enjolras’ strike is true and solid and connects to make Grantaire moan. “The answer is to believe that persistence and determination and true inspiration will win in the end,” he says. “Politics is at heart a battle of wills. You have to outlast your opponents. If you do,” and he squeezes a double handful of Grantaire’s ass, “they’ll eventually submit, and act like it was their idea all along.”

A fine sheen of sweat coats Grantaire’s body, and his forearms are corded with effort to keep their grip on the cushion as Enjolras’ striking hand keeps on. “If I beg you to fuck me,” Grantaire grits out, “is that my idea or yours?”

“Sometimes you reach a consensus.” Enjolras can’t keep from smiling. He drops down across Grantaire’s back, nips at his ear and whispers into it: “Now show me some newfound self-control and don’t make a sound until I tell you that you can.” He palms the lube, coats his fingers and slides one inside Grantaire while Grantaire shivers beneath him but stays silent.

“Good,” says Enjolras shortly. It feels better than good: Grantaire is tight and hot to the touch, and he follows Enjolras’ instructions so well that it’s not long before Enjolras is working him open on two fingers, then three.

He draws out the preparation, enjoying the sight of Grantaire, eyes now closed, jaw locked tight, straining against the noise he clearly wants to make. He wonders if anyone’s ever succeeded in telling Grantaire to be quiet and won out at it before. He twists his hand, deft, certain of igniting Grantaire, and is rewarded by Grantaire, hard again, pressing against the leather couch-back in a quest for friction. He does it again, and Grantaire turns his head and bites his own arm to keep from crying out.

“Very good,” says Enjolras. He sounds much calmer than he feels, which is reeling and desperate to possess. As in the bathroom mirror, he hardly recognizes himself. Sex has always been calculated, straightforward; but he feels upended, without rules or any kind of playbook, proceeding on instinct alone. “I’m going to fuck you here, first. Nod if you agree.”

The nod snaps Grantaire’s head back. Enjolras pulls his fingers free; they’re shaking a little as he rolls on a condom and guides his cock into place. He can’t wait a second longer -- he’s been thinking about it all night, he’s been counting down the minutes in the last hour, he’s always been waiting for this -- and as he makes handles of Grantaire’s hips and thrusts into him, he says, “Now you can make noise for me--”

“Fuck fuck fuck--” Sound rolls off of Grantaire like a crested wave. “Jesus--”

Enjolras buries himself inside Grantaire without pause, finds halfway in that he can’t go slow, even though he’d intended to tease. He’s incapable of stopping once he discovers that this feels better than he’d thought or known possible -- with so much anticipation and build-up between them it’s like an explosion takes out the rigid pathways of his brain that control caution.

He starts out fast and hard and maintains it while Grantaire pushes up from the couch to meet every thrust like it’s as good for him as it is for Enjolras. Thinking that sparks Enjolras to further action, and he drives into Grantaire without any doubt or hesitancy to make him hold back.

It’s like coming home after being away for a hundred years.

“Grantaire.” Enjolras pants the name, incapable of vocalizing the rest of it. He keeps their punishing, frenetic pace, the fronts of his thighs sealed with sweat to the backs of Grantaire’s, and with every thrust Enjolras is even hungrier, the fulfillment of lust doing nothing to abate his need, but feeding it like a fire given oxygen. “God,” says Enjolras.

“Don’t stop,” says Grantaire.

“I won’t,” Enjolras promises him. “Just like this?”

“Like that. Don’t stop. Go faster.”

“You’re sure?”

“Does my voice lack conviction?”

Despite himself, and a propulsive snap of his hips, Enjolras laughs. “No. I’m convinced. You feel incredible.”


“Yeah. If I slowed down I could fuck you for an hour.”

“Fuck me harder,” Grantaire manages, “and we’ll go again. In an hour.”

“Deal,” says Enjolras.

“Consensus is awesome,” says Grantaire.

Enjolras yanks him flush against his body, then reaches up to tangle his hand in Grantaire’s hair. He gets purchase and pulls. Gentleness is nowhere to be found, and Grantaire groans and arches back, following the momentum of his hand. On his feet, Enjolras has a full range of motion, and he forgets about rhythm or finesse and gives over to rough thrusts that make the couch creak underneath them. Tension builds at the base of his spine and he’s wholly unbridled. He’s never fucked like this. Never been taken like this.

“Come in me, I want to feel it--”


“I know you’re close--”

“Yes -- God, yes--”’

“Is that all you’ve got?”

“Fuck,” Enjolras says, gasps, as he rocks into Grantaire, finding a reserve of speed and ferocity unknown to him, feeling like he must be tearing Grantaire apart but heeding his provocation. Then it’s Enjolras who’s torn apart, who unravels at the seams, light and color behind his eyes as he spills into Grantaire on a deep, deep thrust, held within him and entirely surrounded.

Pleasure blossoms and pulses through his veins, warmth throughout his body and electricity in his brain. He cries out as he comes, every inch of him given over and received. In his chest his heart is beating fit to burst and he can hear his heartbeat in his ears like a drum. He doesn’t stop, like he swore he wouldn’t, keeps his hips rolling circles, still so far inside Grantaire that Enjolras isn’t sure where he ends.

After some moments awareness dawns that he’s stretched heavily across Grantaire’s back. With a sigh of regret, Enjolras slips out of him and deals with the condom. Grantaire gives a full-bodied stretch and straightens up, turns around. He’s hard again but shakes his head when Enjolras moves to do something about it.

“I want to wait,” says Grantaire. “An hour, right?”

“Maybe less.” Enjolras kisses him, with as much momentum as they’d fucked. He doesn’t know what to say: so, thanks for the best sex I’ve ever had is difficult to speak aloud, but he needs to say something. Words seem limited and limiting. He stumbles at the first try. “That was -- you are -- I --”

Grantaire raises dark eyebrows and takes pity on him. “We’re fantastic,” he says.

“Yes,” agrees Enjolras.

“Rock star sex gods,” Grantaire continues, “and trust me, I know rock stars.”

Enjolras grins, kisses him again, and pads towards the kitchen. “I meant to offer you some tea when we got home,” he says, banging the kettle into place on the stove. “I forgot.”

“A sex god and a gentleman,” says Grantaire. His hair is wildly disheveled and wet with sweat, and he sweeps it out of his eyes. He heads to the bathroom and emerges a few minutes later with hair slicked down with cool water, droplets rained across his chest.

It’s only been a few minutes, but Enjolras already wants him again. He focuses on the tea instead, and when Grantaire makes an offhand comment about a cigarette that holds a hint of pleading, he pours the brewed cups into a thermos.

They tug on boxers and t-shirts and clamber out onto the fire escape. Grantaire lights a cigarette and takes a long drag, exhaling smoke with a look of profound satisfaction on his face. They share the thermos between them.

Brooklyn stretches out in infinite lit-up blocks far below. It’s quite late but the city never sleeps, and they watch a girl walking a giant dog pass by a couple wrangling a tiny one. It should be awkward after the performance they shared, thinks Enjolras, to sit quietly side-by-side, but it isn’t. It feels easy and relaxed, and Grantaire leans against his shoulder.

Enjolras breaks the repose. “I’d like to see you again.”

Grantaire gives him a wry once-over, checks an imaginary watch on his wrist. “I thought we had another date in half an hour.”

“You know what I mean,” says Enjolras.

“Yeah.” Grantaire stubs out the cigarette and casts it off, lighting another without pause between movements. “Listen, Enjolras, you seem like a great guy and tonight has been really mind-blowing.”

Grantaire sucks down smoke, his expression turning blank, collapsing inward. Enjolras waits, while his stomach drops; lead fills his belly and his guard snaps back into place with sudden force. Voices scream in his head that he doesn’t really know anything about Grantaire, that Grantaire could be in a relationship, that he could hate relationships, that he--

“But,” Enjolras hears himself prompt, before Grantaire can say it.

“I’ve had an amazing time with you and I’m inclined to keep it that way,” Grantaire continues, haltingly, his blustery mien stripped away; his voice is soft and hesitant. Enjolras has to tilt closer to hear him. “I think we should leave it like this.”

Enjolras’ spine straightens, and Grantaire falls back, leaning instead against the corner of the fire escape. He should let it go; Grantaire is probably right, and having had one of the better nights of his life should be enough.

Enjolras is not famed for letting things go. He finds that he doesn’t want to. Ridiculous after only a few hours, but the idea of never seeing Grantaire again unsettles him far more than the conversation does.

So: “Why?”

Grantaire exhales a cloud of smoke. For a moment Enjolras is sure that he won’t answer. Then he speaks in a rush: “Because I’m fucked up. I’m a fucked up fuck-up, and it would only be a matter of time before you saw that and I fucked you up too. We can joke tonight about how I’m an irresponsible dick, but give it a real go and you won’t be laughing. And I like you enough already to spare you the inevitable cycle.” The cigarette burns red as he takes a pull. “You want to be friends, you want tickets when ABC’s in town, cool, we’re chill, we’re pals. But don’t -- don’t look at me like that. Trust me when I say that I’m not worth it.”

Enjolras sits with this, the wheels in his brain turning. Then he reaches over and snags the cigarette from Grantaire’s hand. He puts it to his lips and draws on it expertly. Grantaire stares, surprised, and when Enjolras doesn’t give it back he lights a third.

“Everyone’s fucked up,” Enjolras says quietly. “I have yet to meet anyone who isn’t, in some way; and the people who act like they’re perfect tend to be the most dangerous, or the most broken. I could’ve said the same sort of thing to you -- don’t get involved with me, you’ll end up hating me for too many reasons. That’s always a possibility. Sometimes people screw each other up and sometimes they don’t. You don’t know me. We don’t know.” He breathes in and breathes out nicotine, fortifying and intoxicating. “Bet you wouldn’t have guessed I used to smoke. Well, I used to. More than a pack a day. Helped with the campaign stress, so that i didn’t snap at the staff or go off on the reporters and become a liability.”

Grantaire is watching him intently now, so Enjolras keeps talking: “What I mean is that there’s a lot people don’t know about each other. People have secrets and problems, even the best people. Especially them. But spend a season in D.C. and you learn that a great many so-called human beings are monsters. Selfish assholes willing to sell their own mother down the river for a vote or a lobbyist’s check. It took me a long time, but now I can smell them from a mile away.”


“People without character, without morality, people who act out of their own interests only -- that’s the sort that messes with me,” says Enjolras. “I don’t think that’s you at all.”

Grantaire drops his eyes and presses his lips together. He studies his toes.

“Look, if you’re not interested, I’m not going to debate you into going on another date with me,” says Enjolras. “But I want you to know that I’ve seen a lot, and I’ve been through enough that I don’t spook easily. If it’s me you’re worried about -- stop worrying.” He finishes the cigarette and flicks it loose. “And I like you enough already not to let some existential risk keep me from seeing you again. I don’t live my life like that.”

“You’re really something,” says Grantaire at last. “What, I’m not sure. I’ve never met anyone like you.”

“The feeling’s mutual.” Enjolras feels his lips curve despite the heaviness of their words. “Well?”

This time, Grantaire doesn’t hesitate. “I’m interested. God help us both.”

“Amen,” says Enjolras, and his smile feels wide. Relief and an emotion that’s harder to identify -- happiness? -- suffuses him, and he has a drink from the thermos so as to appear more nonchalant. “We can talk about this later. Or tomorrow. Pretty sure we have a different date to keep.”

“The one where you fuck my brains out again?”

“The very same.” Enjolras gestures to the open window. “After you.”

Grantaire gets up and ducks through, and Enjolras follows. They stand facing each other; then Grantaire moves in and kisses him, slow and sweet. “Thanks,” says Grantaire, when he breaks away.

“For what?”

“For getting me out of my head for a change.” Grantaire shrugs out of his t-shirt and makes quick work of his boxers.

Enjolras copies the motion until they’re both naked. It feels familiar now but no less thrilling. “Funny,” he tells Grantaire. “I was going to say the same to you.”

They tumble into bed, and Enjolras keeps two promises he made. The first is to Grantaire, that he would keep him up all night; they don’t sleep until sunlight replaces moonlight through the blinds. The second is to himself, that he would know what it feels like to have Grantaire’s stubbled cheek dragged all over his body. Enjolras prides himself in seeing promises fulfilled.

When they come together at last it’s different than before. It’s slow and careful and Enjolras is held between Grantaire’s thighs as he kisses his mouth. He still fucks Grantaire’s brains out, but with purposeful intent, over the course of many deliciously unspooling minutes. Midway through they turn over without speaking about it. Grantaire rises and falls and rides him, and it is Enjolras who gives over first, lacking restraint. Grantaire’s lips smooth the sound he makes. The sun is bright by the time they’re finished.

It’s intimate and unexpected and unnamable, and afterward they lie side by side. Grantaire’s head is pillowed on Enjolras’ arm, which spans across the bed.

“What the hell was that?” Grantaire wonders, trying to catch his breath.

“We’ll figure it out,” says Enjolras.