The takedown of the latest corrupt politician’s career goes smoothly. They arrange for his account to Tweet a picture of his backroom dealings five minutes before all the digital evidence is emailed to the friendliest reporters at The New York Times and The Washington Post and a dozen select bloggers.
By 8pm the bastard issuing denials, by 10pm backpedaling, by 11pm sour-faced and wiping at fake tears with his wife on cable television, and by midnight he has resigned.
A good night’s work, and they’d worked together with less squabbling amongst themselves than usual. The fake page Joly had substituted on the Senator’s website was a thing of sarcastic genius. Combeferre had outdone himself with the social media push. Bahorel kept re-hacking Twitter to broadcast ridiculous Tweets from the Senatorial account; they couldn’t keep it shut down. He was mostly behaving himself and had only slipped in a few pornographic images.
Are we boring you, Courfeyrac? Enjolras writes on their public IRC. Did you have somewhere else to be?
After completing the data dump on the now-ex-Senator’s email accounts, Courfeyrac had seemed distracted. Now he went into immediate action, sending out the message through all their channels and updating the main website:
les amis are always watching. you have been warned.
you could’ve sent me that in private, Courfeyrac sends thirty seconds later. you bitch. what has been up your ass lately
I’m not the one who dropped the ball. Dick. Enjolras doesn’t have to think to type these days; there is a direct line from his brain to his fingers on the keyboard, and his responses are instantaneous. He can’t drop the ball. He’s the one leading this thing. Without his coordination, the collective will fall apart. It is already like herding stoned cats.
Courfeyrac can’t just decide not to pull his weight tonight and not expect to get called out. He can’t expect preferential treatment just because they’re friends in real life as well as online.
sorry, o fearless leader. won’t happen again. but seriously you need to chill. something has totally been up your ass even more than usual
Enjolras sends a rude series of .gifs in response, then switches screens to lay the plans for the next campaign and say good night to the group.
When he goes back to Courfeyrac there is a stream of messages:
maybe that’s the problem actually
when the fuck were you last even laid anyway
that dude on fire island didn’t count
fire island never counts
jesus christ you are like a mormon or something
no wait mormons have a lot of sex
Enjolras resists the urge to hack Courfeyrac’s Facebook page and do something obscene. He’s too happy that Senator Big Oil is finally off the takedown list to let Courfeyrac ruin the victory.
Instead he just blocks access to all the files in Courfeyrac’s favorite porn server with his nastiest bit of encryption. Then he closes his laptop with a satisfying click and goes to sleep.
So he’s pretty fucking sure Courfeyrac is the one responsible for the online dating profile that he wakes up to.
* * *
He’s so pissed off at first it takes a while to appreciate the subtle beauty of the thing. Whoever made it (Courfeyrac) knows him well, and has access to his friends-level social media libraries.
Even some of his lieutenants in the collective don’t know who he is IRL – it’s safer for all of them that way – so the pool of potential candidates is slim. He’ll kill Courfeyrac for it later. Slowly.
First he has to deal with scrubbing the mess of it from the internet. It’ll take a while to chase down the last traces of cache and ensure nothing with his image or information remains attached to “Gay In The City.”
He is going to utterly destroy Courfeyrac. He’ll be doing server maintenance duty for the next six months for this.
The password to get into the profile, which he cracks in 2.7 seconds, is ‘relax’.
By the time he’s had three shots of Nespresso and calmed down a little from the initial urge to ensure that Courfeyrac can never get a job or an apartment or a credit card again, Enjolras has to look at the thing and give him some credit. It’s begrudging.
Anyone who knew Enjolras would know he didn’t write it, mostly because Enjolras makes it a point to never volunteer personal information and the profile is full of it. The Collective, and the world, are well aware of his fierce political preferences – he’s an established champion of the freedom of information, a motivating force behind the drive to stop censorship and expose international corruption via the internet. Online, he fights many fronts, but he is anonymous; he is a faceless revolutionary and must remain it to do the work.
On the profile, it mentions that he is passionately interested in social justice, but also says that he likes to bike and travel, has a thing for classical music, works with computers and likes Italian food and coffee. He is okay with pets, says the profile, doesn’t smoke, only drinks socially, prefers things neat and tidy.
It makes him sound like a mild-mannered computer programmer with a hard-on for Marx and a Che bicycle helmet. Not like the organizer of an anarcho-hacking collective that had made Time’s 100 Most Influential People list. Not like a man wanted for questioning and arrest in too many countries to name.
He will miss Courfeyrac when he is gone.
There are pictures of him, all flattering enough, all stolen from his friends-locked Facebook and Instagram accounts. Whoever did it (Courfeyrac) wanted to live a little longer, so luckily he’s wearing sunglasses or has hair over his eyes in the photos, but some of them, like the one on the beach in Fire Island from the summer, showcase his body. Damn Joly and the misguided shopping trip that made him buy that goddamned red swimsuit.
Courfeyrac is going to live to regret the day he ever learned his first HTML tag. If he survives.
Enjolras is fit and well-cut from all the hours of biking and running to cool his head before a mission or when the news seems too overwhelming, too bad to battle that day. Most of the programmers and hackers he knows are triathletes on the side, defying stereotype. Even the stoners got up to kickball. All of them need the distraction. He looks just fine, he thinks.
But he doesn’t need the picture of him sprawled with his friends in the sand up there for the world to see. Before he takes it all down, though, even he has to give in to the urge to click on the inbox. Look, he’s not a saint. He’s a dude.
And the alert number it professes can’t be true. He suspects Courfeyrac of further meddling, and braces himself for a wave of inanity.
Almost all of it is inane, but incredibly, it seems genuine enough. There are dozens of responses from guys who appear to be half-literate in generous estimation. Other dozens have sent long, ungainly rants specifying the perfect partner. Far more are straight-up soliciting for sex:
What are you into
OMG you are so hot
I can be over in an hour and stay hard for hours
I have a ten-inch dick
We could have fun together
Do you want to fuck
I like your hair.
It’s the last last one makes him pause, coming so soon after “Do you want to fuck” and a gathering wave of poorly-shot dick pics.
A minute later the sender wrote, I don’t ever do this, but maybe everyone says that. My roommate says I have to give it a try but he didn’t say how I had to do it. Thing is, I don’t trust some algorithm to tell me who I should hook up with.
So I’ll tell you what I did. I said, fuck this noise. And I looked to see who the algorithm said I’d be least-compatible with. Apparently, that’s you. Then I sat here looking at you, and it started to feel like a challenge. Like your face was challenging me. So I sent you a message. (I’m kinda drunk, sorry) I will definitely regret this in the morning.
But fuck that algorithm
And then, five minutes after that: That was probably a pretty stupid thing to say, since it says right here that you work with computers and that means that you probably really love algorithms. You probably think about algorithms while falling asleep at night. So yeah, that was a dick move on my part.
I still like your hair.
Okay, the guy is definitely intoxicated, but seems well-intentioned at least. There’s something almost sweet about the worried follow-ups. Enjolras finds himself grinning at the screen, and can’t keep from clicking on the profile link.
The stream-of-consciousness would be enough, but the smile he gives in his avatar picture, from beneath big sunglasses that hide his eyes, is shy and beguiling at once. He clicks.
Okay. Dude’s eyes are blue. His eyes are very, very blue. There’s likely been some Photoshopping involved to get that color blue.
In the main shot, he’s looking out the window of a train at tall mountains, with a green knit cap over his unruly black hair. His face is mostly turned from the photographer, one hand raised to protest the picture-taking, and he is laughing.
Okay, the guy is definitely hot. Definitely, definitely hot. But there is no telling with this sort of thing. The pictures could be a million years old, or not of him at all. Enjolras is a very old hand at the internet.
Okay, the guy is underwear model-hot. They could be stock pictures from a shoot.
Only they’re a bunch of them, and not all of them the most model-flattering: in one he is asleep at a foreign train station, curled up on a bench with a big backpack for his pillow. In another he is red-faced at a party, toasting friends with a pint glass in both hands. In another he is shirtless and sweaty in a writhing drum-circle of people, a hand drum slung across his chest. His head is thrown back, ecstatic to the beat of the music, showing the long line of his throat.
It doesn’t take a genius with algorithms to figure why the website wouldn’t have ever paired him with the g—R, the guy calls himself. Nearly all of R’s responses are in complete opposition to Enjolras’. He only has a year or two on Enjolras’ twenty-two, but that is the closest they come.
Political views: Apathetic. Drinking: Constantly. Smoker: Often enough. Drugs: When the universe provided. Messy: “My roommate says I should be on Hoarders.” It says he is an artist, which means he is primarily a barista to pay the bills, thinks Enjolras. For religious views, he has listed “Calvin & Hobbes.”
The only similarities the profiles seem to suggest is a mutual affinity for travel, and for classical music. In all else they seem at odds.
But he can’t stop staring.
And Enjolras understands the challenge of the thing. What was a website, what was code, to suggest two flesh-and-blood people couldn’t be compatible? R had been affronted. Enjolras is intrigued.
It’s true, he loves to code and construct and decompile, lives in computer languages, trusts what they can do because he has made them do it. But he isn’t about to let some third-rate dating website with ads for hot local sex chat tell him someone is the single most unsuitable person for him there is.
Is it right or wrong? Is this a thing he’s actually even considering trying to test out?
He wants to write a probability program and crunch the stats on it. He wants to take “Gay In The City” apart and run it through his most complex processors. But every minute that goes by is another that his “profile” still exists on the internet. He glances again at the picture of R laughing by the train window.
(And once more at the shirtless drum-circle picture.)
I like your hat, Enjolras writes back, and attaches one of his throwaway text numbers. He sends the message before he can talk himself out of it, and then talks himself out of hacking into the system to retrieve it.
Then he destroys all the other evidence.
* * *
Courfeyrac will neither confirm nor deny that he was responsible. But Enjolras still isn’t talking to him that night, when his phone lights up, and he reaches for it too quickly. The previous dozen times it hasn’t been R, but this time it is, and he shakes his head at the uptick in his pulse.
He’ll never, ever tell he-who-shall-not-be-named, but maybe he does need to get laid. It’s been a long, long time. Way too long. He’s been acting like the others with their go-to porn databases, when he has a minute to remember about porn.
He’s not seriously considering having sex with the guy from the website, floppy hat or no. Like, not seriously. Like, he’s allowed to let a few of the potential scenarios of that play out in his head. And the shower.
But it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. People meet and hook up from dating sites all the time in the city. Most of his friends do. Bahorel has at least a dozen profiles and brags often of his conquests.
And a one-night stand with some mostly-anonymous dude is hardly a bad thing if that is what they are both looking for. He has to admit that other than the whole scruff and the hipster starving artist thing that R seems to have going for him, he appreciates that R indicated he wasn’t looking for anything long-term.
Enjolras can hardly plan past the day, and breaking news broke on a dime; he doesn’t have time for the distraction of a relationship and doesn’t see that changing soon or ever. But someone who wouldn’t mind getting into his bed and getting out again –
Someone who looks like they know how to have fun –
I’m really sorry, again, says the first text from R. I often write questionable things, but generally not to random attractive strangers at 3am.
Humble he can work with. Enjolras is very, very far from humble. Everyone always says. It’s better not to have two people with ballooning egos put together.
In bed, whispers his brain, finishing the sentence like a goddamned fortune cookie.
I’m glad you wrote back, though. I’ve been working up the nerve to text you all day.
Honest and earnest and potentially adorable he can work with, though. He’ll never have to see the guy’s apartment if he doesn’t want to, see if his room qualifies at Hoarder-level. All he has to see is whether the program was right or not. Could they get along, or would they hate each other on sight? Enjolras isn’t sure which side – human or computer – he wants to be on.
I bet you tell that to all the strangers you contact at 3am, he texts back, fingers flying.
It takes a moment, then, No I promise I never do this. You’re my first
And, Oh my god I actually just sent that didn’t I
Enjolras is smiling at the screen, already out of his depth. This isn’t how he usually texts. Smiling.
The messages ping in with increasing frequency:
I’m actually sort of bad at technology ?
Like, Luddite-level terrible
This is my first cell phone
You’re going to hate me more than you’re already inclined to but I don’t even own a computer I borrow my roommate’s when he’s not around or go to an Apple store
I’ll give you a moment to come to grips with that
A river divides us
He’s shaking his head – life without a computer has been an incomprehensible thing since age six, and life with a computer now comprises most of his world – but he has to say, it makes R all the more interesting. He has to see this guy to believe him.
Someone their age in the city without a computer, on his first cell phone? Where had this guy come from? The ’40s? No, he definitely seemed more ’60s or ’70s, more hippy-dippy, groovy, man. The drum circle flashes before his eyes. The arc of R’s neck.
(He has to remind himself the pictures could all be stolen or borrowed, and he has no idea what the person least-compatible to him in all of Brooklyn, greater New York City and the tri-state area really looks like.)
He’s clever, at least, and funny like his pithy answers to the saccharine and baiting “Gay In The City” survey questions suggested. Enjolras can definitely work with this.
The Luddites lost, he tells R. Time to join us in the modern world.
He decides to be bold. Won’t Courfeyrac be surprised if his little prank resulted in a promising night? What does he have to lose, anyway? He doesn’t let himself live much of a social life outside of the collective; that Enjolras is a boring cypher, but he hasn’t gotten any action, either.
It’s been way too long. The summer and the features of the man on Fire Island seem far away.
I think we should meet, he texts. What do you think?
Do we dare disturb the universe? is R’s answer. And if he can paraphrase T.S. Eliot without a computer to look it up on, then there’s something to him, no matter what he looks like.
Either that or give over to the rise of the machines, Enjolras taps out. Will a robot dictate your life?
Fuck that, from R. When are you free?
It’s Wednesday. They decide on Friday, like a proper date. Kind of. Maybe. Enjolras names a modestly-priced restaurant between their Brooklyn neighborhoods. R agrees.
Enjolras tosses the phone aside at last, and tries to get back to twenty different kinds of work. When a message pops up from Courfeyrac, he sighs, and types back half an hour later; he’s decided, belatedly, to let him live.
* * *
Thursday morning les amis expose enough information about a powerful mercenary company that also deals in torture and extortion to bring them down in a day. Thursday night, Joly and Combeferre come over to help Enjolras choose an outfit for his…meeting.
It’s not as though he can’t dress himself, but some of his friends concern themselves with fashion and its intricacies far more than he does. He mostly buys clothes in dark colors that fit, and can’t bring himself to devote the mental energy to over-coordination. He generally works from home, and they’re rarely on web cam; there’s no one to dress up for. Until Friday. In theory.
His friends think the situation perfectly hilarious, and perfectly normal, to Enjolras’ relief. They tease him, but they’ve been on the online dating market themselves. Joly dives for his closet, muttering something about, “About time,” but as expected, Combeferre is more cautious.
“So what do you know about this guy?” He slings himself backwards over a dining room chair. “You said you haven’t even seen his digital trail.”
Enjolras shrugs, trying to look a lot more casual than he feels. He perches on the edge of the bed, watching Joly throw shoes and discarded black shirts across the room.
“It’s not a big deal,” he says, for all of their benefits. “It’s an experiment. To test an algorithm.”
“Riiight,” from Joly, deep in the closet.
Combeferre points out, “You’ve texted him twice since we got here. I saw you.”
“He’s amusing.” Enjolras gets up. “Does anyone want coffee? I’m making coffee.”
“Jesus Christ, he’s blushing, isn’t he,” Joly says. “I’m not even looking and I know he is. I never thought I’d live long enough to see the day.”
“I’ll call fifteen minutes in,” promises Combeferre. “Then if he’s a crazed serial killer, or he’s really boring, and you have to escape, you can say you have an emergency.”
“Real subtle, Combeferre,” Enjolras says. “Hopefully he’s never seen a movie or a television show before.” He brews out three triple-sized shots of espresso, considering. “Actually, with this guy, that’s a possibility.”
He carries back the coffee and they get over-caffeinated, while he suffers Joly to make him try on different outfits to Combeferre’s hummed judgment. Honestly he has no one to blame but himself, but he wonders why he bothers.
Then a text buzzes in from R: In a moment there is time / For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. And he stares at it a while, in his hand.
Are you asking if I’ve changed my mind? Enjolras asks after a lapse of sixty seconds. If you are, I haven’t. I don’t do that easily.
Just checking, comes the reply. Giving you one last out. A pause, and then: I’m really no prize. I wanted you to know that before we met. But I’m a good person, I think. I try to be anyway.
I have enough prizes, Enjolras responds, while his friends watch his fingers zip about with raised eyebrows. It’s the truth. He, and the collective, have been awarded recognition both within their spheres and the global media. There was always a low buzz about nominating les amis for a Nobel Peace Prize. And I like good people. I’ll see you tomorrow.
I’ll be wearing green, R writes back, So you’ll know me.
* * *
Joly has dressed Enjolras in black skinny jeans that taper into black Converse. He wears a faded Pink Floyd tour shirt – “it’ll relax him to know you can jam to psychedelic rock” – with a red plaid shirt threaded through with yellow.
The colors contrast his hair; he hadn’t known he owned anything so colorful. He puts on too much cologne, and considers changing the jeans, which are quite tight. He looks at himself in the mirror, and keeps them on. His hair – his singular vanity (which R had liked) – is a shiny mass of curls, jaunty at the brow. He takes several deep breaths at the mirror before he goes out. He leaves the apartment spotless, trying not to think too much about that.
The Cafe de Lafayette is a little French bistro close to the G train, close enough to make a hasty escape if one should be needed, as Combeferre suggested, but Enjolras isn’t thinking about that. Really.
He’s more nervous than he’s been in a while, his fingers twitching without his computer, totally out of his element. He tries to remember the last date that he was on, and the last date that wasn’t a total disaster back when he’d tried dating, and fails.
He gets to the Cafe early on purpose. There’s one table by the window that has a long couch for its seating and it is by far the best spot in the place, reclining while the rest crowd into little round tables. It’s a cozy room paneled in wood and French prints, lit up with candles, more tavern-like than romantic. No white tablecloths.
Enjolras secures the table, then orders two beers so there won’t be the awkward pause of lacking drinks. From what he saw of R’s pictures, the beer will be welcome. He settles down on one end of the couch, and has a few small sips to try to drown out his heartbeat. R is late. Then he isn’t.
There’s a line to get into the little cafe, but he bustles through it, murmuring apologies as he comes in.
Enjolras is sitting closest to the door, and R walks right past him. All of the pictures are lies.
None of them have done him justice. The static freeze of his face that Enjolras has viewed does not account for the animated sight of it. Still unobserved, Enjolras watches him scan the room, and closes his mouth.
His hair is a mop of black tamed only by the promised hat, this time in sea-green. The lovely color contrasts against his pale skin and draws out his enormous blue eyes. His lips are very red, and very full, and look both stubborn and pliable. Dark stubble marks his jaw, his chin that is a triangle. He cannot be real.
Enjolras takes a breath, and sees that he is. There are shadow smudges under the bright eyes from lack of sleep and who knows what else. He moves slowly across the cafe after the initial momentum at the door, as though ready to recoil from a blow, or the sight of Enjolras as a crazed serial killer.
Than R sees him, and his wide eyes go much wider. But he turns and glances over his shoulder for half a second to make sure Enjolras is actually staring back at him before he makes his way over to the table.
God, how can he be uncertain? Does he not own a mirror? Is that a Luddite thing? A hippie thing? Can he not know what he looks like? Under his jacket he’s wearing a soft gray t-shirt with Captain America on it that looks old and should be ratty, but instead clings to him in just the right places, like the shirt loves him and wants to show him off. Jeans charmingly torn, short black boots, a battered leather jacket, and a thin scarf around his neck in sea-green, to match the hat.
Enjolras could eat him alive, he thinks, right here, and still want more of him for dessert.
The force of his reaction surprises him. But he’s been telling himself again and again not to get hung up on the visuals, and then R arrives putting all the photographs to shame with the way his charcoal eyebrows go up as he says, “Hi! Hey. Hey. I’m so sorry. I swear I got on the subway an hour ago, but there was a sick passenger, they announced. We waited and waited in the station. I was afraid you’d leave—”
“Don’t worry about in,” says Enjolras. “Really.”
R drops down on the couch, shrugging out of his jacket and unwinding his scarf. He’s really, finally there next to him, smelling of cinnamon and cigarette smoke; but not R, Enjolras thinks. He wasn’t going to ask his name at the start. He’d told R his own, wanting to avoid the usual conversation over pronouncing it, but didn’t know his, not yet. He wasn’t going to ask. Maybe R wanted to stay anonymous over the whole thing.
But Enjolras already knows he has to know it. He’s impertinent. Sue him. “What should I call you? Or did your parents lose their other letters?”
Eyes like that shouldn’t be able to go wider. “Holy shit, I didn’t even say hello properly – I’m doing this all wrong. Sorry, wow. You’re just – wow. You’re not what I was expecting.”
Enjolras blinks back at him. “The pictures were so far off?”
“No, I just. Jesus. Let me start over. Sorry, again.” He takes a breath, notices the waiting beer on the table and looks positively thrilled to see it. He takes a formidable sip, sets it back down, turning to Enjolras with one hand extended. His fingers are long, with fingernails shaped by biting, and callouses from holding a pencil. Enjolras can feel the ridges.
“Hi,” he tries again. “I’m Grantaire.”
He likes the ring of it. Rolls it on his tongue. “Grantaire.” He lets go of the hand when he feels like it. “Enjolras.”
“Oh, thank god you said it out loud, I was sure I was going to make a total mangle of it.” Grantaire tests out the pronunciation, comes away laughing. “I feel like I’m gargling.”
Enjolras is smiling at him because it’s hard not to with the face and the hat and the comic book t-shirt and the waitress is bringing them bread and butter, a distraction until their hands reach for the basket at the same time. It’s different than shaking hands. It ends up taking a while. Enjolras leaves his hand over Grantaire’s, in the basket, for much longer than needed to extract a roll.
“So, um,” says Grantaire promisingly, somehow making the act of slicing open his bread and applying butter quite obscene, “We should maybe—”
That’s when Combeferre calls, the bastard. For the first time in his life, Enjolras hates technology. He does not throw the phone across the restaurant, however. He turns it off.
Grantaire blinks at him. His eyelashes are a dark line on his cheek. “What if, like, your internet people need you?”
Grantaire has no idea. Grantaire assumes he has responsibilities online based on his “job”; he doesn’t know how taking a night away from his collective had required nearly as much planning and wrangling as a scorched-earth mission.
“I’m off,” Enjolras assures him. He crosses his arms. He doesn’t flex them. “I apologize for the interruption. What were you saying?”
“Oh.” Grantaire takes down another gulp of beer. It’s a practiced gulp, the swallow of an accomplished drinker, nearly graceful. “That maybe we should try to get to know each other a little, I guess. See if that robot knew what it was doing.” His long fingers tap reflexively against the glass, like some drummers Enjolras has known.
“Sure,” says Enjolras, who hates talking about himself. He loves talking about the collective, the cause – he’s their foremost advocate, but there’s no space for that here.
Instead he has to describe the man he’s made up as a cover, a guy with a steady, boring, code-crunching job, a surprisingly nice apartment considering New York City rent rates, a handful of close friends, a bunch of books and seemingly little else.
They order food, then struggle to find a rhythm. Enjolras can’t really talk about the real things in his life, giving guarded answers, and Grantaire is full of descriptives about every little thing, effusively open. Score one for the machine.
Once the topic turns to world affairs it’s even worse. They disagree about exactly everything. Enjolras is passionate about being a momentum for progress, while Grantaire snorts and says good luck; the world’s always been the same and it always will be. Score two.
“What makes you such a cynic?” Enjolras asks, signaling for more beer, wishing the food were here. It’s falling apart. They absolutely can’t seem to see eye to eye long enough to talk about anything for long. He’s watching Grantaire’s mouth move more after a while than listening to him. But he makes himself listen then.
Grantaire shrugs, draining the nonexistent dregs of his glass for the second time. “I’m a realist, is all.” He doesn’t raise his eyes. “I used to be an idealist, but that never lasts long, does it.” He pushes the glass around on the table. “I think ‘growing up’ is just the slow realization of how screwed up the world is. When you’re a kid you’re given all these myths and holidays to make it better, but then you grow up and realize lots of other kids are starving in the street while somewhere some billionaire sits on a billion-dollar yacht that could feed them all. And everyone wants to be the billionaire. No one wants to think about the starving kids. That’s the really fucked up part.”
This is more like it. Enjolras sits up straighter. “Then why not try and do some good, if you recognize how corrupt the system is?”
“Because it’s not worth it, in the end,” says Grantaire, sounding sad. “They always win. The authorities always do. Or the people with the most money, who own the authorities, or are them. It’s all a circle anyway. The serpent eating its tail. I’ve seen enough to know it’s true. Nothing ever really changes.”
Enjolras frowns. “That’s easy enough for us to say while we sit here eating French food.” (Thank God the food at least had arrived.) “But those same kids in starving countries, and lots of others in repressive ones, are plenty happy for any amount of a difference that can be made, no matter how slight. Who are we to say that if only a few lives are altered, not everything all at once, it’s not worth it?”
Grantaire is folding his napkin into smaller and smaller triangles, not looking up now. It’s clear they’re not going to agree, or even find common ground. The whole thing is crumbling around them, and they both know it. A promising beginning, but even eating is strained now.
Still, Enjolras feels strangely sorry. Maybe he’s come on too strong, too much on the offensive, used to a soapbox and people agreeing with his judgment, or at least willing to humor him and hear him out as a matter of course. Why can’t he just be a nice normal guy for one night? Why did he have to bring his other self?
But it would have come out soon enough. His personality is a strong one – it has to be. Grantaire, it seems, is as stubborn in his principles as Enjolras is in his own; but infuriatingly, those principles appear to be primarily based on a sort of resigned, pessimistic, fuck-the-world-bro detachment. It is the complete opposite of his own daily impassioned engagement. Score three for –
“Look,” says Grantaire, unable to fold the napkin further. “Maybe we should just—”
He’s going to say dinner’s over. He’s going to try to smile gently, and apologize, and go, and both of them will try and forget this.
“Come back to my place,” Enjolras hears himself say.
“—get out of here,” Grantaire is finishing.
Then they’re looking at each other on the couch, and both of them are grinning, and Grantaire’s cheeks are a little pink.
Even though Grantaire’s the last to speak, he’s the first to pick it back up again. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” Enjolras thinks about what to say and then he says it: “Let’s be honest. Neither of us came here tonight to make a new best friend.”
Grantaire doesn’t deny it, doesn’t flinch at all. Enjolras likes the way he’s perked up to the new conversation. “The algorithm’s probably right, on the social level,” Enjolras goes on. “We don’t see eye to eye. We don’t click, where it’s like, ‘hey, I get exactly where you’re coming from, let’s hang.’ That’s how we pick our friends.”
He doesn’t mean to sound patronizing, so he hopes Grantaire won’t take it that way. He’s just attempting to explain himself, which he far prefers to do. Life is too short for small talk and equivocation.
Lots of people are put off by his blatant honesty, but Grantaire doesn’t look it. He’s still nodding, agreeably enough now (more than agreeably), like he gets it. Then he does.
“But we still don’t know about sexual compatibility,” he says, and his small smile manages to be both shy and suggestive. “The website gave us a really low projected score, you know.”
“I think its computation may be seriously flawed,” says Enjolras. This is so much better than talking about politics. Talking about politics is what he does all the time. This is different. This is Grantaire’s eyes on him as he talks about their potentials in bed. This is awesome.
“Me, too.” Grantaire spears a carrot with his fork and eats it with too much consideration not to be aware of the attention he draws to his mouth. “I mean. I—”
“Good.” Enjolras pushes them on before Grantaire can make amends. “Now tell me why.”
Oh, this is entirely too fucking good, and now that they’re finally on the same page, there’s a kind of slow electricity uncoiling between them on the couch. Their body language has changed; they’ve shifted to face each other, tilting in to hear, and to use lowered voices.
“I, uh.” Grantaire licks his lips, flicks a glance at the tables surrounding them, then back to Enjolras. “I.” Then, on a blurt: “You’re really hot. Like, really. Like I thought you were a movie star when I came in.” He scratches the back of his neck, trying not to look nonplussed about the statement. “I mean, I see Jake Gyllenhaal around sometimes near my apartment.”
He’s silent for so long after that Enjolras is about to speak again, and say, sarcastic, “Well, it’s a start,” to prod him on, when Grantaire says, “I’ve been thinking about crawling under the table and sucking your cock for the last twenty minutes. At least. Maybe longer. I’ve been trying to figure out if it would make you shut up or not.”
Enjolras shuts up, for the space of a calming Zen breath, and then another. It’s hard to breathe around the abrupt image conveyed, and because he is rock-hard in zero to sixty and his pants are tight as hell.
“Well,” smirks Grantaire, helping himself to another carrot, this time with his fingers, “so it might’ve worked.”
Experience leading a multinational team of elite renegade hackers lets Enjolras keep his cool, but only just. “It would depend on your technique.”
“Which one?” asks Grantaire, casual.
It’s getting difficult not to do something drastic in the restaurant. The food is entirely abandoned, and they’re very close to touching now. Grantaire has his green scarf in his hand, as though to prepare for departure, but all he does is wind it around his wrist. Around, and around.
Enjolras hates the feeling of losing control, so he tries to regain some ground. He’s started them down this path, on which they are apparently extremely amenable, then let Grantaire pull the rug out from under him. Grantaire, on a bearskin rug, on his knees –
“We need to go,” says Enjolras. “Unless you’re into public display.” He can’t risk an inconvenient arrest, but Grantaire doesn’t have to know that.
Grantaire is big eyes and a guileless smile. He raises his hand for the waitress and positively beams at her. “Check please!” He looks satisfied. “I’ve always wanted to say that.”
Then he turns back to Enjolras. “Nah,” he says. “I think I’m kinda vanilla. I’m pretty much just into fucking.”
They need to go. They need to go right now. The need to go cannot encompass the plodding of the waitress to write out the check, bring it here, take back their money, make the change – it’s a wretched, infuriating, horrific time-drain of a process. And they need to leave immediately.
Especially since Grantaire somehow isn’t even done speaking. “I’m good at that, though,” he is saying in his soft way.
Enjolras throws a series of bills worth twice the meal and drags Grantaire out of the Cafe de Lafayette.
Dinner rush is over and there’s no one in the outside vestibule any longer. He gets his hands into the leather of Grantaire’s jacket and hauls Grantaire against him. They go for tongue immediately, and Grantaire gives as good as he gets, not just letting himself be kissed but doing kissing too.
It’s completely inappropriate for the restaurant vestibule, but Enjolras has never given less of a fuck about his public behavior. He would have had Grantaire on the couch.
This is insane. He needs to get himself together. This is totally, totally unlike him. He never does shit like this. Holy fucking god.
Did Grantaire, like, study kissing? Is it his art?
Enjolras has helped topple foreign dictators, but he’s never made out against glass with half the restaurant and people on the street now watching. He can’t stop kissing Grantaire. Grantaire doesn’t stop him.
When they tear themselves away for propriety’s sake outside there’s a cold, slushy rain coming down. It’s an excuse to take a cab. The cabbie argues about taking them deeper into Brooklyn in the weather and Enjolras gives him a hundred dollar bill. After that he doesn’t say a word.
In the cab they’re all over each other. He has Grantaire down on the seat and is already climbing over him. With his hat and scarf and jacket on there’s not enough of him to taste, and sometimes Grantaire’s breathing too much through his nose to properly kiss, but Enjolras keeps tasting.
Grantaire’s hair is a mess of curls under his hat but Enjolras doesn’t care; he pushes his fingers in deep and runs fingernails over his scalp. Grantaire makes a helpless sound into his mouth and arcs against him. He’s on the slender side, but there’s some muscle there, surprisingly strong in the arms. His arms are wrapped around Enjolras, one slung low at the back, tugging him in, the other warm at the nape of his neck.
The cabbie only coughs once. By the time they’ve made it through the traffic slowed by the rain he has had every inch of Grantaire aligned with his body and he doesn’t know if he wants them to get there or not or if the rain is a blessing or not because they are completely abandoned, making out like they’re in the back seat at a drive-in in the ’50s.
He can’t get his hands out of Grantaire’s hair. Grantaire won’t stop sucking his lower lip into his mouth and holding it there. Sometimes he draws back, with teeth, and if he does it again Enjolras is going to—
“13.25,” coughs the cab driver.
Pulling away from Grantaire proves complicated; he’s forgotten how. It takes a moment for Enjolras to process that the car has stopped in front of his building. It’s a three-story redbrick brownstone on a quiet side street in an up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood named for a fort that once stood there.
He owns the whole thing, for security purposes, but rents out the top floors. His tenants have usually been students from the local college. He likes the normalcy of having people going about their daily lives in the house, unconcerned with saving the world, and it hasn’t been too much of a hassle.
Combeferre still thinks it’s a bad idea, calls his tenants possible collateral damage if anything goes down, points out that they could draw unnecessary attention, too; but aside from having to bust one overzealous party, feeling like an R.A., Enjolras enjoys being a landlord.
Grantaire, breathing hard and hard underneath him, needn’t be told any of this. He and Grantaire need to be out of the cab and in the building. Enjolras gives the driver another forty dollars and pulls Grantaire into the rain.
It’s sleeting wet and cold and Enjolras keeps Grantaire’s hand as he lets them into the garden apartment. Only a few yards but they’re soaked through by the time the gate works. They make it through the door and close it. He gropes for the light-switch on the wall.
Grantaire’s hands are on his shoulders, pushing him back against the wood. It is a shove done gently. There’s strength and purpose behind it, and Enjolras goes. He doesn’t make it to the light-switch. In the dark and cold, Grantaire kisses him once, making for a sudden warmth; then he holds his blue eyes open and on Enjolras as he drops to his knees.
Grantaire uses fingers to undo the snap of Enjolras’ jeans. He uses teeth to undo the zipper.
It’s such a piece of showmanship Enjolras has to laugh around his groan, and Grantaire’s lips smirk against his skin as his tongue drags above the waistline. Enjolras’ jeans are wet and clingy but Grantaire gets the denim balled up and tugs. Then his pants are halfway off and there’s a nakedly appreciative hum from Grantaire that crawls up Enjolras’ spine and rewires his brain.
Then Grantaire is swallowing him down, all the way down in one go which should actually be kind of impossible, not that he’s bragging, he’s just never, ever had that happen before or thought it probable.
He’s been hard since the restaurant and harder since the move with the zipper and Grantaire doesn’t pause, not once, just takes him deep until his nose bumps Enjolras’ belly and the hot wet heat of his mouth makes it impossible to feel the shivering damp.
Enjolras feels his body curve like a bow as his head hits the door and he tries to keep his hips still and only partially succeeds. Grantaire takes his time moving back, slick suction hollowing his cheeks and his tongue busy on the underside of Enjolras’ cock; repeats himself like that, up and down and up, wetter, faster, like he loves to do this, loves doing this, needs to do this.
Looking up at Enjolras so that all he can see in the dark are bright eyes and feel lips and tongue and pencil-calloused hands settling for purchase on his hipbones. He still has his hat on.
Grantaire finally pulls away with a noise that would be illegal in a dozen countries. “Made you shut up,” he murmurs against the inside of his thigh. Then, less cocky, “Sorry, I had to—”
Enjolras shivers straight to his toes but he’s not about to give up the ground in his own house. “You’ll be sorry if you keep doing that and make me come before I can fuck you.”
“Really?” asks Grantaire, through long lashes, his hand curling at the base of Enjolras’ cock, then stroking. “I think so too, but how can you be sure?”
“Because I’m going to make you beg,” says Enjolras. “And then, when you can’t even beg, I’m going to fuck you until you don’t remember any of the letters in your name.”
Grantaire opens his red mouth again, but doesn’t resume his previous activity. His eyes are round and electric at the challenge. His tongue darts out to wet lips swollen with kissing and sucking. He looks disheveled and brilliant and delicious. “Bed,” he says.
“Bed,” agrees Enjolras. He hauls Grantaire to his feet, gets his jeans hiked enough to walk and propels them down the darkened hallway. His heart his beating like a goddamned drum in a hippie drum circle and he doesn’t know the last time he’s wanted like this, or felt so wanted. It’s a pressure building up on his spine that makes him also want to throw Grantaire down right there on the hardwood floor, because the twenty feet to his room is interminable.
Somehow they make it and he has the doorknob in his hand and thank god, it’s the bedroom and not the broomcloset. He’d left it neat as always, maybe neater still with the vaguest of notions before he left for the cafe. He flips on the bedside lamp, letting faint light flood the space. It’s the biggest room in the apartment, with his desk set up by the windows; it has seen countless missions and exciting activities on a laptop screen, but not many activities like this.
The bed is enormous, an indulgence. Enjolras doesn’t sleep very often and when he gets to try, he spoils himself with high thread count sheets and too many pillows. His decorations are minimalist, the furniture a mix of old leather and older wood, light fixtures in chrome for futurism, and some framed classic movie posters and old maps on the redbrick walls.
Grantaire glances around, looking like pornography with his wet t-shirt plastered to his torso and his wet hair dripping like black paint. He whistles, taking it in. “Wow. This is really nice. What did you say you did again with the computers?”
“I freelance,” says Enjolras. “Take off your clothes.”
The half-second it takes Grantaire to comply takes too long. Enjolras has the hem of his t-shirt and if it were a button-down there would be tearing and lost buttons. Instead Grantaire puts his hands up and lets him peel it off. He laughs with his head muffled by fabric. “Easy, that’s my lucky Cap shirt—”
“I prefer Iron Man,” Enjolras tells him, but he drapes the t-shirt carefully over the back of a chair before attacking Grantaire’s belt.
“You would,” says Grantaire, grinning. “Steve Rogers is a gentler soul, man. He was an artist. All he wanted was the world to be at peace and to draw some pictures.”
“Sometimes you gotta blow stuff up first,” says Enjolras, but he’s not seriously getting into an argument about superheroes because Grantaire has kicked off his boots and and is shimmying out of his jeans with a complete lack of self-consciousness and Enjolras can’t keep his eyes off any part of him.
Courfeyrac is his favorite person. Courfeyrac deserves some kind of award, maybe a prize, for setting up the prank profile. Courfeyrac will be getting flowers. And a medal.
Because Grantaire is leaning forward to return the favor now and push red plaid from Enjolras’ shoulders. Because Grantaire looks more comfortable naked than he had with clothes on and he looks better naked than anyone has the right to.
Grantaire’s limbs are long and his body fit; no buffed-up gymrat but his abs are a washboard made for licking and his arms and chest are well-defined. Splashes of color show in scattered tattoos, some scribed boldly into pale skin and others that snake off into hidden corners, calling for further investigation and more licking. His cock is a proud straining curve that will fit just so in his hand and his mouth and—
“Jesus Christ,” says Enjolras.
“Blasphemy will get you everywhere,” Grantaire smirks, but he looks pleased. It’s Enjolras’ turn to have his shirt tugged off. He has to sit down on the edge of the bed to wrestle with his shoelaces, almost snapping them, and grumbling as he drags off the wet jeans. To make it better, Grantaire climbs right on up behind him and drapes across his back. He starts to bite and kiss along the corded muscle of Enjolras’ neck, one clever hand slipping around to thumb his nipples.
“Hurry up, please,” Grantaire implores, when the shoelaces fight back. “Hey, look at me, I’m begging already.”
“Laugh now,” says Enjolras. He snaps the laces. He gets fully naked. There is a lot of him. “Just get it all out while you can.”
But Grantaire isn’t laughing. Grantaire is getting crowded back against the pillows with Enjolras on top of him. He holds Grantaire down with his weight and his mouth. Otherwise Grantaire would be writhing. Their bodies are slick with sweat and rainwater and their bodies slot together immediately, no hesitation, only friction as Enjolras pushes down and Grantaire presses up; and anyway he has his tongue in Grantaire’s mouth and it’s difficult to laugh like that.
Instead Grantaire is touching him everywhere: exploratory hands on his arms, his chest, appreciative fingertips tracing out the tapered vee of his hipbones, sliding over to palm his ass—
Condoms and lube in the bedside table. He’d flinch at the dusty box but Grantaire is up on his elbows and has a nipple between his teeth, tongue flicking with intent, so Enjolras groans instead, and doesn’t recognize the sound of his own voice.
Grantaire is starting to draw his knees in closer to his chest, and that’s the only time he hesitates. “It’s been a little while for me,” he admits. It’s quietly volunteered.
“For me, too,” says Enjolras. He says it the same way. Grantaire’s lips smile when he kisses them.
But his expressive eyebrows are up, and as Enjolras settles back on his knees and starts to make good on his promises Grantaire can’t seem to keep from a running commentary: “I don’t – fuck – really believe you. You’re…you’re screwing with me. Oh, my god. God. You are, like, a golden god. You expect me to believe you don’t have hot guys bothering you all the time —”
He supposes some members of the collective are physically attractive. None of them would look like Grantaire spread out underneath him, opening up to his fingers while he doesn’t stop talking.
“—bothering you all the time or Christ, fuck, following you around, no, do that again. I didn’t mean stop, don’t stop, – oh, I – what was I — Enjolras —”
He nearly loses it at the sound of his name sounding torn-out and Grantaire’s eyes are so, so wide. His Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows and his hips push against Enjolras’ agile hand; his hips are off the bed and his head is thrown back. “God, yes, that’s good. Can you just – yes – fuck, it’s – please —”
He’s never been with anyone so vocal and he decides that he likes it. A lot. Grantaire is close enough to pleading but not there yet so two fingers get a third and Grantaire is saying “— fucking hell man there are rules of common decency that you are not abiding and – if you don’t fuck me I am going to die—” and the speech veers such that Enjolras would laugh if he weren’t so occupied with the way Grantaire’s expression twists up in time with his twisting fingers.
“Like I said. Not until you can’t even beg.”
And when Grantaire is like that, panting and absolutely desperate and coming apart at the seams, when both of them are like that, that’s when Enjolras lets himself tear open the little foil packet with his teeth, roll on the condom and consider that they’re actually going to do this and how they’re going to do this and Grantaire’s nails are scratching none-too-gently down his back and Grantaire is saying, “The algorithm was right, I fucking hate you—”
Enjolras kisses him for a breath of quiet and they watch each other through the kiss. Since the cafe he’s been imagining Grantaire on his hands and knees: how he’d be elegantly shaped, body sloped like he was doing yoga, and Enjolras could gather up his black hair in one hand and hold Grantaire’s hip with the other and just take him apart.
Like he had teased and implied he would. Take him fast and hard and ride him the way they both want him to and he knows he wants to. He really, really wants to. But Grantaire’s thighs are a snug cradle that he has no desire to leave now that he’s there. He releases Grantaire’s lower lip to ask it. “Are you okay like this?”
Grantaire blinks vague surprise but shows no other reaction. “Yeah, sure,” he says, when he’s caught enough air. “Yes. Yeah. Like this is great.”
So Enjolras keeps them face-to-face.
God, what has he been doing with his life? Liberating people and information? All good. Worthy pursuits. But he should also be having a lot of sex like this. Because he didn’t know sex could be like this. Where has the sex like this been since he started having sex?
Grantaire is there with him every second. He never once looks away, not from his first press in until he’s buried in tight hot heat that takes all of him without protest. With welcome. He’s welcomed.
He’s so welcome: Grantaire’s arms slide up around his shoulders and one leg hooks over his ass to keep him there when he’s in place. Grantaire’s throat works and the noise he makes is half a sigh and half a moan, it’s a sighmoan, and he does it again as Enjolras fits flush against him.
Enjolras can’t believe how the muscles of his arms are twitching. How much they want to shake but stay steady. He’s never been happier for his work-out regiment and the push-up competition with Bahorel. He puts his lips close to Grantaire’s ear as they breathe through the first shock of it. “Okay?” he says. It’s more than okay. Okay has left the building.
“Better than ever,” whispers Grantaire. His hair has started to dry and has become a messy halo on the white pillowcase. “You?”
“I’ll show you how I am.” He pulls almost completely out, then thrusts back in as quick, a firm snap of his hips that he repeats once and then twice and then a third and fourth time when all of Grantaire rises to meet him. Then there’s no stopping him or them and Enjolras finds a rhythm so easily that lights up Grantaire’s face so he keeps them at it and God, fuck, it’s never been like this.
He keeps himself up on one arm so that he can run the freed hand down Grantaire’s body and touch his skin slick with their sweat and to find the best way to grip Grantaire’s cock because when he does that Grantaire is even tighter around him and Grantaire tosses on the bed like a storm at sea and he is a wave for Enjolras to crest.
He may have been the one to kiss Grantaire or maybe Grantaire kisses him but either way they start kissing through it and they keep kissing and Grantaire’s long fingers are in his hair tugging so hard but Enjolras is making good on his word, he always does, and is fucking him even harder, slamming into Grantaire who rocks up to take him, who wants all that he can give; and if the bedframe wasn’t made out of a century-old half-ton red oak they might be in danger of breaking it and who is he right now, where the fuck has this Enjolras been all his life, this side of himself?
(Where has Grantaire been?)
(At a foreign train station with a backpack for his pillow.)
Grantaire with his dark hair on the pillow tears his mouth away and manages, “I’m so close. I’m soso close. Please, just like that – you feel so fucking good I don’t want to stop I don’t but it’s so good fucking fuck Enjolras I’m so close—”
“Fuck. I know.” Enjolras grits his teeth, trying to stave off his own reaction. He wants to stay like this a good while longer and it’s impossible and his jaw hurts now from the pressure. “You have no idea—”
“God, tell me—”
“So tight. You’re still so tight, how can you be —”
I could fuck you for a year—” Enjolras’ grip on Grantaire is as relentless as his tone is ragged as his cock is hard in him as his eyes are fixed on him and Grantaire turns his head to show the line of his throat and comes between their bodies, hot and wet and
and he’s coming too, coming with Grantaire, giving Grantaire back his name, turning Grantaire’s name into a bloodbruise in red-purple that will show where his shoulder meets his neck and he’s coming and he’s held so deep that he doesn’t know where he ends and where Grantaire
who cradles him through it with his hands in his hair and his eyes open and staring and his wicked mouth saying nothing actually Grantaire keeps trying to speak and nothing happens but it doesn’t matter nothing and everything matters and
Enjolras allows for a moment of total collapse, only that.
It’s soft and warm and Grantaire isn’t pulling his hair anymore, he’s stroking it absently. His fingers have lost all coordination but it feels nice. Things are nice. The world is nice.
He makes himself come back. Then he makes himself pull out and away from Grantaire, ignoring the flash of regret in the movement. He lies on his back next to Grantaire as they both lie breathing about it.
After a very long while, Grantaire says, “The algorithm was wrong.”
“Computers are overrated,” says Enjolras.
“I’ll quote you on that,” laughs Grantaire. “Don’t think I won’t.”
He excuses himself to the bathroom, and slips off toward the directed door. Enjolras cleans up and makes the bed and then unmakes it and then thrashes silently on the mattress for twenty-five seconds exactly and then makes himself think about what to do now.
What do you do now, after that happened? What in the name of fuck? Are you supposed to cuddle with someone after the best sex of your life? Kick them out of bed and wave good-bye forever? Get their email address? Maybe their full name? Jesus Christ, he doesn’t even know what kind of art the guy creates but he knows what he looks like coming like a goddamned freight train and the way he shows his throat like he’s yielding, and if Enjolras thought his life was fucked-up before what the hell is he supposed to—
“I should, uh, probably go.” Grantaire is back and standing by the chair where his clothes are piled up. He’s resplendently nude and fucked-out and looks like he’s tried to drag a comb through his curls and it didn’t work. “Thank you for—”
“You don’t have to.” Enjolras doesn’t mean to say it until he says it and then he says it. “It’s raining and pouring and the subway’s five blocks away, and I have a really big bed.”
Grantaire’s gaze flicks over to assess him on it. “Yeah,” he says, allowing for a small quirk of his lips. “I’d say you’re overcompensating, but, not so much, turns out.”
“Come on, get in,” says Enjolras. The more Grantaire stays hovering by the chair the more he wants him back. “I don’t snore, I don’t kick, I don’t steal the covers, and I only talk a little, I’m told.”
“All of the above and more of the last,” says Grantaire, but he starts across the room and considers the comforter Enjolras turns down. “I really don’t sleep very well.”
“Me neither,” says Enjolras. “But I don’t think I said anything about sleeping yet.”
Grantaire gets in.
* * *
The phone blares and the neon clock says 3:44 a.m. There’s fumbling and then a frantic voice pouring through, loud on a crappy second-rate mobile and then a much closer voice, a tenor trying to soothe, that’s saying, “Calm down I’m fine I’m alive—”
“—thought you were dead and seriously almost called the police twice I had 911 dialed I swear I did and you didn’t respond to any texts or pick up twenty-three calls for God’s sake are you okay are you drunk in the park or in Atlantic City again just tell me so I can—”
“—go off to meet a total random and I thought he killed you and it was all my fault for making you go on that website and I never would have been able to live with myself if he’d killed you—”
“Take a deep breath, dude. In and out, like we practice. I’m fine, Jehan. He’s – he’s cool, and he’s listening to you hyperventilating right now, so if you could just—”
“—ohmyGodIamsosorryIamhangingupnowholyshitI’msorry—” and the apologia builds to a high cliff and leaps off before Grantaire can extract himself and toss the phone away with a long-suffering sigh and shake of his head that is also fond.
He scrubs a hand over his face and turns to meet Enjolras’ sleepy blink. “Sorry,” he says. “My roommate. He’s kinda…excitable. Lets his imagination go and then there’s no stopping him.”
“All good,” returns Enjolras. “It’s sweet.” He lets an eyebrow slant. “So I’m cool, huh?”
“I mean, you do all right. Passably cool for a nerd who talks to computers all day.”
“I think you should watch what you say, R. You need to be more careful with your mouth.”
“Who’s going to make me, though? Many have tried.”
It’s Enjolras. Enjolras makes him.
* * *
In the morning Enjolras wakes up to the spectacular conclusion of several cliffhanger blow-jobs from the night before and then they share a shower and Grantaire says he’ll make some breakfast if that’s chill since Enjolras paid for dinner.
And all of it’s done easily and it isn’t that strange – it’s chill – to have Grantaire standing in his kitchen in nothing but navy boxer-briefs, scrambling eggs and pouring a commendable cup of coffee. They chat idly to avoid the disagreeable conversation traps world politics made them fall into over dinner while Grantaire raids the sad contents of his fridge.
There’s eggs at least, and a squashy tomato and some doubtful mushrooms, but Grantaire exclaims over the herbs the college kids have planted in the backyard garden and pulls a handful. He makes eggs mixed with sour cream and chives, grills up the vegetables, and heaps it together onto toast Enjolras didn’t know he had.
He’s really more of a take-out, order-in kind of guy, there’s never time enough for anything, let alone dawdling over a stove; at least he’s thought so up until now, watching Grantaire shake out the salt.
“This looks amazing.” It’s a fucking gourmet feast from scraps. “Holy shit. Where’d you learn to cook like this?”
Grantaire is watching his first bite closely, so he beams at the look on Enjolras’ face. “Here and there. I travel when I can, and it’s something to share wherever you go, you know? And you pick up new tricks.” He lifts a shoulder, shrugs. “I’ve worked in a bunch of restaurants, too. You’d never believe the things you learn.” The next twenty minutes is breakfast with Grantaire pantomiming the most hilarious and horrific stories taken from culinary scenes.
“I promise you, man, only that had nothing on the time the kitchen staff’s pot brownie stash got served as the daily dessert special—”
There are twelve texts from Combeferre, two from Joly, and several from Courfeyrac better read when he’s alone because Courfeyrac’s will be impolite, and there are 2,596 emails waiting for Enjolras’ perusal. He wishes he were kidding, but he isn’t. He has scrambled eggs instead.
Then the plates are clean and there’s nothing else they can do so it’s Grantaire who says, “Look, I – I’ve had a really good time—”
And this is what Enjolras has been afraid of, the moment he’s been dreading, because he doesn’t know what they’re going to do. What he’s supposed to do, what he wants to do, what Grantaire wants and wants him to want and. And.
“There’s, uh. I might be playing with my friend’s band later this week if they get the gig? I don’t – I mean, I sort of suck at bass, but the band’s pretty good, and they let me sub sometimes and I – anyway – if you were interested, the other music that night is chill, too – you could bring friends, it’s just going to be, like, a lot of people hanging out. In a bar. With bands.”
“Sounds fun,” says Enjolras, cutting through. “Sure, I’d like that. Let me know if it happens, okay?”
“Right. Okay. Cool. I will.”
“Here, at present.”
“I had a really good time, too.” Enjolras kisses him before he lets him go, and Grantaire tastes like coffee and chives and the cigarette he snuck out in the garden. He kisses back. Then he goes.