Grantaire wakes suddenly to a soft knocking at the innermost metal door of his cellar—the one he must have spent most of the night throwing himself against, given the state of his ribs. He tries to call out, but the pain of it in his throat brings the pricking sensation of tears to his eyes. He tries to stand, and that draws sound from him at last, a horrible, gut-wrenching whimper as he falls back to his knees.
On the other side of the door, Enjolras hears this sound.
“Grantaire?” he calls. “Grantaire? Are you hurt? I’m coming in.”
There is a second of sheer panic, in which Grantaire tries to in vain to cover himself, at least to retreat into the corner where Enjolras won’t be able to see so much of him. Then, he finds himself recoiling helplessly from the bright light streaming in at the door like the creature of darkness he supposes he is.
Enjolras has never been here before. He has never seen Grantaire the morning after the full moon, at least not until after he’s been through a barrage of healing spells and potions, tucked between highly-starched white sheets in the hospital wing, looking exhausted but more or less himself. Enjolras has also never seen Grantaire naked. Graintaire is relentlessly private when it comes to his body, bathing and changing his clothes at odd hours and only when completely alone. Even after seven years sharing a dormitory, none of his friends could say they’ve so much as seen him with his sleeves rolled up.
And now Enjolras can see why.
The sight forces most the air from his lungs at once, as though someone’s kicked him in the chest. It’s almost difficult to make out the shape of a boy at all under the cover of so much blood and so many bruises. As Enjolras’s eyes begin to adjust, he notices, beneath that, a network of twisted, interconnected scars covering almost every inch of Grantaire’s skin—some deep, jagged, and purple, some blade-thin and angry red. His dark hair is matted down. He huddles on the stone floor, curling in on himself save for one leg, which sticks out at an odd angle.
Enjolras wills himself calm, wills himself not to choke on the overwhelming smell of blood.
“Grantaire?” he murmurs soothingly, tentatively holding out a hand. “Shhh. It’s going to be alright.”
At length, a quiet, whispered response comes back to him: “D—Don’t.”
Enjolras feels the shame begin to well in the pit of his stomach. He had no right to come here, no right to expose this part of his friend’s experience to scrutiny. He’s caught himself in the patronising act of seeing only his affliction. If he believes Grantaire is an equal—and he does believe that Grantaire is an equal—then he must treat him like a human being now, not a wounded animal. He, of all people, as the unspoken leader of the Amis, is obligated to see beyond the wolf to the boy beneath.
So Enjolras forces himself to turn, crouch down, and retrieve the clothing he’d seen strewn on the ground outside the door. Wordlessly, he returns and holds Grantaire’s robes out to him.
Grantaire’s cheeks burn. It hurts—Grantaire is almost shocked by how much it hurts to have Enjolras see him like this, more than the breaks and bruises and gashes.
“I can’t—” he chokes out finally. The very idea of pressing the blue silk of his school uniform to his open wounds sends a shiver of dread down Grantaire’s spine—not that he would be able, any time in the next few hours, to flex the muscles necessary to pull robes over his own head.
But Enjolras simply nods and kneels down beside him, reaching out to cup his hand against Grantaire’s chin, turning Grantaire’s face until their eyes finally meet.
“What should I do?” Enjolras asks, his voice strong and unwavering.
Grantaire feels as though his heart has stopped beating. He closes his eyes, takes a shaky breath, and tries desperately not to lean into Enjolras’s touch.
He half succeeds.
“Pain,” breathes. His words are still clipped, limited by the rawness of his throat. “Potion.”
Enjolras glances back towards the door, uncertain.
“Robe,” Grantaire explains, and Enjolras finds the small bottle in the pocket of Grantaire’s uniform, still clutched in his hand.
For all the times Enjolras has wished that Grantaire would stop drugging himself to complete apathy, he hands the small phial to him freely now. He hopes that it will numb him.
But the results aren’t instantaneous, and Enjolras can hardly stand to watch him struggle against the pain. Before he can stop himself, Enjolras leans in and kisses Grantaire gently. Grantaire’s lips part as if by instinct, and Enjolras can taste blood. He doesn’t pull away.
“Not like this,” he practically whimpers, his hands scrabbling at Enjolras’s chest.
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t make me—” Grantaire manages. Enjolras, panicked, tries to move back, but Grantaire holds tight to him. “—say it,” he finishes.
Enjolras nods again, chastened, and hands Grantaire his wand.
When Grantaire’s pain potion has finally kicked in and he has murmured enough healing spells, set his leg and closed the gashes along his shoulder, Enjolras helps him struggle to his feet and drapes him in his cloak. They stagger about four steps before Grantaire says, “I can’t go back to school like this.”
Enjolras half-carries him up the back stairs of the Café Musain, the stairs he’d tried to chase him down the night before. In the back room, Enjolras deposits him gently in his usual meeting chair. The potion, while taking the edge off of his agony, is doing little to dull the humiliation. Grantaire buries his head in his hands and groans.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Enjolras announces. Just like that. As if he’d never kissed Grantaire, as if he’d never seen his deepest secrets.
“For you, maybe,” Grantaire croaks.
This shuts Enjolras up temporarily. They sit in silence for a moment, until Grantaire glances up to find the uneven rectangle of light from the half-curtained window falling directly on Enjolras, catching his golden hair like some parody of a baby angel. Illuminated like this, he seems an unearthly creature. Except, Grantaire reminds himself, Enjolras is human, a talented pureblood with everything to live for; he is the creature.
Grantaire closes his eyes again. “I don’t want you to pity me,” he says.
“I don’t pity you,” Enjolras replies indignantly, hoping that it’s true.
“Then why did you kiss me?”
Enjolras has no response for this. He looks down at his hands, folded neatly on the table in front of him.
“Am I a project?” Grantaire can’t quite manage to keep the fear and the pleading from his voice, though he means to sound bitter. “Are you here because you can’t stand the injustice of a werewolf being relegated to the ‘fringes of society’ or whatever, and you want to counteract all the prejudice? Is this all part of the cause to you?”
Enjolras literally bites his tongue around a response. He doesn’t want to say something cutting just because Grantaire has him on his guard, and he doesn’t want to lie.
“I’m here because I wanted apologise to you,” he asserts, his words measured, “for last night.”
Shaking his head, Grantaire asks tiredly: “Are you sorry for what was said or just sorry that I overheard it?”
Enjolras ignores his question.
“I know Eponine is wrong—not wrong to be cautious, when any one of us could be a spy—but wrong about you. I was going to tell her as much, but then you were there. And…” Enjolras hesitates. “And I’m sorry for what I said to you at the meeting. I was out of line. I have no idea what it’s like to live with your condition.”
“It’s not a condition,” Grantaire says, ashamed to hear his voice cracking. “It’s who I am.”
Enjolras gets to his feet and crosses the room to sit beside Grantaire.
“Maybe. But it’s not all you are.”
It really isn’t pity in his eyes, and Grantaire cannot bring himself to draw back when Enjolras reaches for his hands. He tries to concentrate on breathing in and out, tries to steady himself, hyper-aware of the warmth of Enjolras’s touch against his skin.
“I don’t really think we can change anything,” he mutters eventually. “For a million reasons, but mostly because it’s too engrained; I know how people hate. But I would die before I’d betray you.”
Grantaire doesn’t mean to place so much emphasis on the last word, but it’s already out of his mouth and too late to take back.
“I know,” Enjolras replies softly. “Grantaire, I know.”