It was an unbearably hot day. The usual stench from the street was overpowering. Enjolras had come to the Musain in a futile effort to find a cool place to work. His apartment had been like an oven. The cafe was only slightly cooler.
The cafe was almost empty. Joly and Combeferre were seated at one table pooring over medical books, and discussing communicable diseases. Enjolras was seated at another working on his latest pamphlet. Joly's mistress, Musichetta, was seated at a third table, alternating between reading a novel and telling Joly how board she was.
Aside from the heat, Enjolras found the atmosphere conducive to work. For once Grantaire wasn't there interrupting his thoughts with cynical comments. No one was inciting raucous laughter with bawdy tales. It was much easier to work without someone drunkenly praising the beauty of his words, and then mocking them.
Enjolras was enjoying the relative silence. His current essay was a scathing indictment of the monarchy's treatment of the working classes. It had run a bit long, so he was trying to edit his work while actively not missing Grantaire.
"Joly, you do not have smallpox," Combeferre said.
"Yes I do," Joly said. "I have all the symptoms. I should be quarantined. You might catch it."
"You don't have the pox," Musichetta said absently.
"First off," Combeferre said, "I had it as a child see?" He pointed to a pockmark on his cheek.
Combeferre had been lucky, Enjolras supposed. Not only had he survived, but it had left him relatively unscarred. Grantaire by contrast was completely covered in pockmarks.
Enjolras sighed. He was supposed to be working. Not wondering what Grantaire would look like if he'd never had the pox. Curse this heat. He wiped a sleeve across his forehead. It came away soaked.
Combeferre was explaining something about Joly not having smallpox. because of the absence of an eruption of raised pox.
Enjolras stuck out a paragraph on Loius XVI. It contained nothing but background information. Anyone reading his pamphlet would already know it.
Joly was now convinced he had another type of smallpox.
"Joly, if the pox stay flat, you die," Comberre said.
Enjolras looked at his papers, and groaned mentally. Without the Louis XVI paragraph his witty remarks about Marie Antoinette made no sense. Now he was faced with the unpleasant choice of recopying the paragraph, or striking his favorite part.
". . . always fatal," Combeferre said.
"That's what Grantaire had," Joly said.
The pen scratched across Enjolras's paper, and he upended his ink bottle. Grantaire had died? There had to a mistake. He rose from his chair. The room started to spin.
He tried to speak but all that came out was "Gran. . ." The air was too thick to breath.
There was a shuffle behind him. Oh God, he was never going to see those pockmarks or that smushed nose again.
"Enjolras?" Joly and Combeferre sounded very far away. The wine from the cafe smelled like Grantaire. It was overwhelming.
He'd made Grantaire leave their last meeting. He'd told him not to come back.
"Do something," he heard Musichetta snap. Everything went dark.
Bossuet and Bahorel had managed to find Grantaire in another cafe. The doors caught a slight crosswind so it was cooler there than at the Musian.
Grantaire was regaling them with a tale he'd heard from Courfeyrac. When a small boy dashed into the room.
"So the man kept insisting that he hadn't stolen any elephant. The officer didn't buy it because the elephant was standing right there, and . . ."
"You Grantaire?" the boy asked.
"Yes, I. . ." he started to say.
"Musichetta says you've got to get the Musian right away," the boy said.
"Musichetta?!" Bosseut asked.
"I should stay away from there until things cool down," Grantaire said.
"You've got to come," the boy cried, "it's an emergency."
Grantaire couldn't imagine who would call on him in an urgent situation. He had the sinking feeling that something horrible had happened.
"Let's go," Bossuet said. He took Grantaire's arm and with a slight tug they headed towards the Musian. Bahorel remained to pay their bill, but managed to catch up with them before they reached their destination.
When they entered the cafe, an odd sight meet their eyes. Musichetta was kneeling on the floor. Joly was trying to give her a bottle of something. Combeferre was looking down at the ground.
As they approached they saw that Enjolras was on ground next to Musichetta. His jacket had been removed and the collar of his shirt opened. His feet were resting on a chair. Before Grantaire could say anything Bossuet reacted.
"What's going on here?" He asked.
"Ask the star medical students," Musichetta said looking pointedly at Joly and Combeferre. They both blushed. Enjolras stirred slightly. He was whispering Grantaire name and the word dead over and over. "Stay down, sweetie," she said placing a cold cloth to his forehead.
"He fainted," Joly said.
Combeferre grabbed Grantaire's hand and pulled him closer to Enjolras.
"Look, see here," Combeferre said, "Grantaire's not dead. See he's perfectly fine."
Enjolras tried to move.
"Stay still," Musichetta said. Grantaire knelt beside Enjolras.
"You're alive?" Enjolras said. He reached up a touched Grantaire's face. "They said you died."
"We said nothing of the kind," Joly said.
"Are you ill?" Grantaire asked. He clasped Enjolras's hand.
"I thought you were dead," he said. "I really missed you. Stay with me." Grantaire shot a questioning look at Combeferre, Joly, and Musichetta.
"He fainted from the heat," Combeferre said.
"And the nasty shock you two gave him," Musichetta said.
"It's not our fault," Joly said.
"He misheard what we said," Combeferre said.
"You can't blame us for that," Joly said.
"I'm talking about what you said after I revived him the first time," she said. Joly handed Musichetta another bottle. She examined it pulled the cork, smelled the contents. She used it to fill a glass.
"You revived him?" asked Bahorel.
At the same time Grantaire said, "The first time?"
"He dropped so suddenly," Joly said.
"We sort of panicked," Combeferre said.
"Yes, because fainting people usually announce what their about to do," Bossuet said.
"Help him sit up," Musichetta said to Grantaire. He put an arm behind Enjolras, as Enjolras swung his legs off of the chair.
"I'm fine," Enjolras said.
"You're dehydrated," Musichetta said. She handed the glass to him and instructed him to drink. "Slowly. A few sips at a time."
"Why did he faint a second time?" Bossuet asked.
"Well you see. . ." Joly said.
"Musichetta managed to rouse him with her smelling salts," Combeferre said.
"And he started muttering some nonsense about you being dead," Joly said.
"Only we didn't know it was nonsense," Combeferre said.
"We were shocked," Joly said, "We'd seen you just this morning."
"What did you say?" Grantaire asked. There was something dangerous in his voice. Enjolras leaned into him. "And what's in that bottle?"
"I may have said it was shocking that you came back from virulent smallpox, only to die this morning," Joly said.
"I said something about the places you frequent when you're not with us," Combeferre said. "That it was the bad wine or the bad company."
"That's when he fainted again," Joly said.
"Fine pair of doctors you two make," Bahorel said.
"Don't ever leave me," Enjolras said, taking another sip from the glass.
"I think you've had enough," Grantaire said.
"I missed your dumb jokes," Enjolras said. "and your lopsided ears, and your teasing, and your nose, and your messy hair."
"You've definitely had enough," Grantaire said.
"There's no alcohol in that," Joly said.
"He should finish the entire glass," Combeferre said.
"I ruined my essay," Enjolras said, sounding a little more lucid.
"I'll say," said Bossuet. "It's covered in ink." Bahorel offered to clean the mess up.
"The ink's only covering up the mess that was already there," Enjolras said. He finished the contents of the glass. "I can't tell a good argument from a bad without you there to challenge me."
"I'll help you rewrite it," Grantaire said. Enjolras hugged him.
There was a lot more that Enjolras wanted to say: That he loved Grantaire. That Grantaire should stop drinking. That he was sorry he'd made him leave. That Grantaire had had the prettiest green eyes. That he was glad that Grantaire was covered in with pockmarks, because the alternative was a world without Grantaire. That was something he couldn't bear. There would be plenty of time to say all of that and more. Right now he'd settle for Grantiare walking him home.