It begins when he falls from a window. Grantaire tries to climb out, reaches out gingerly with his feet to find purchase on the grass, but his fingers slip from the sill, and down he goes. He manages not to cry out, which would defeat the purpose of this entire climbing-out-windows escapade in the first place. There are DEA agents on the other side of the house, so the back bedroom window seemed like his best shot. It’s not his house, no one needs to know he was here. A free high and a few hundred dollars to help his friends sell their shitty product on the street—it seemed worth it, but definitely not worth ending up on the DEA’s radar.
He falls into a graceful sort of crouch, rather impressive considering the embarrassing fall. Pauses, to regain his breath (smoker’s lungs, after all, black with tar and shriveled to nearly nothing, he expects), and a shadow falls over him. A distinctly person-shaped shadow. Grantaire assumes he is done for, swallows, and looks up, all the possible lies and excuses already forming themselves on the tip of his tongue.
And those disappear all at once when he catches sight of the Greek-god-come-to-earth right in front of him, looking down at him with a combination of amusement and disdain. Blond curls almost to his shoulders, pink pink lips that appear as though they might almost curve upward at Grantaire’s predicament. The sort of straight spine and tilt to his chin that tells Grantaire that this man definitely did not grow up in places like this, alongside people like him.
“Hello,” the gorgeous stranger drawls.
“Um, hi,” Grantaire replies, in a voice hoarse with fear and exhaustion.
“Did we go to high school together?”
Grantaire doesn’t remember much of high school—he skipped classes most days, drank through the ones he attended, and somehow stumbled out of the place after four years with a diploma he’d barely hung onto. But something about the man seems familiar (and soulmates in another life is more than unlikely) and despite all his hopes of art and travel, he hasn’t moved in these four years since high school, so this guy recognizing him from there seems at least plausible. “I think I’d remember you if we did,” he says. “Well, maybe.”
(He’s still crouching at the man’s feet and something about that feels surreal, but appropriate.)
He plucks at the grass around his shoes, studies the ground instead of the stranger.
They don’t shake hands, and Grantaire finally pulls himself upright and standing. From this angle, Enjolras is even prettier, and Grantaire feels conscious of the dark smudges around his own eyes, days of stubble on his cheeks, and the stink of smoke and chemicals sticking to his clothes.
Enjolras almost seems to be sizing him up, and Grantaire looks right back at him, now, regardless of how unsteady his gaze is. He pulls the sleeves of his hoodies down over his palms nervously, out of habit, not that is matters—the bruises like withered violets across the white undersides of his arms were already hidden from view.
“Is this the part where you arrest me?”
“I took a ride-along with Agent Javert,” Enjolras says, which pointedly does not answer Grantaire’s question. “I have a poli-sci degree, told him I’m interested in drug law and enforcement. My roommates and I built a meth lab in our dorm room closet, junior year of college, you know. Just to see if we could—right under the nose of our tyrannical R.A.”
Grantaire only blinks, wonders if he should’ve smoked a little less today, what sort of strange hallucination this could be.
“I have a good feeling about you, Grantaire.” The man’s voice is serious, too serious, and maybe this is all some practical joke from Feuilly, to make Grantaire think he’d get laid or something equally ridiculous.
If all of Enjolras’s good feelings had somehow led him here, to a fuck-up like Grantaire for whatever fucked-up reason, there must be something very wrong, right?
“Walk with me,” Enjolras continues. “Or let’s get away from here before any officers show up, shall we? I have a proposition of sorts for you.”
They buy an RV. Well, Grantaire buys an RV, because despite all of Enjolras’s name-brand clothes and regal bearing, he’s basically broke, apparently. Student loans and all that, Enjolras had said, and shrugged. But the venture would be more than worth it, he promised, and Grantaire would be more than paid back.
The RV is a piece of shit. There’s no poetic way to put it, but at least it runs, gets them where they need to go out in the middle of the goddamn desert to cook the best crystal meth in the tri-state area. Or that’s what Enjolras had assured him they’d be cooking.
And the product is good, better than good. Grantaire smokes a tiny bit once they’ve finished the first batch, just a quick hit. He feels fucking spectacular for a few glorious moments until Enjolras emerges from the RV, grabs his shoulder and starts to shake him. Grantaire can feel his fingernails dig into flesh, knows he’ll be left with little crescent shaped red marks in his skin. He’s almost ready to arch into that harsh grasp when—
“Don’t touch the fucking product,” Enjolras tells him, his voice like barbed wire and concrete. “We sell it; we don’t smoke it. And I won’t let you be high out of your mind when we work together.”
That wrenches a laugh from Grantaire. What the hell did you expect? Instead, he asks, “Are you sure you majored in poli-sci in college and not chemistry?”
Enjolras purses his lips—he’s still unhappy with Grantaire, and now further perturbed at the change of subject. “My roommate was the chemist. I just learned from him. His interest was more academic, so we never sold a thing.”
That makes no sense to Grantaire, but he nods and smiles and pretends to understand. He probably looks deranged as he does so, and maybe he is deranged, out here in the middle of desert following this guy he barely knows simply because he has the body of Apollo and the face of Aphrodite. It’s enough to make him sick to stomach, but the pressure of Enjolras’s fingers is still bruising his shoulder, and that, Grantaire considers, feels all right.
The money starts rolling in, and Grantaire has no trouble paying his share of rent for the first time in three years. He even buys himself proper groceries. The rest of his share of the cash he hides in board game boxes in the back of his closet, while the board games themselves get thrown in the trash. He buys good weed and a new bong, because Enjolras doesn’t want a drug-addled fool for a partner and that’s understandable—but then why come to Grantaire at all? But it’s the high that matter, not the means of acquiring it, and if Enjolras is going to get on his case for smoking something as harmless as marijuana, then fuck him, Grantaire thinks.
The smoke in his lungs is as hot and tight as the lie in his mind and he holds his breath.
They don’t talk about their real lives to one another, the people who they have to keep secrets from. Or at least Grantaire assumes that Enjolras has secrets. Maybe he lives with his parents, or maybe he lives with a few perfectly respectably employed individuals. Or maybe he has a girlfriend or a boyfriend. People he can’t discuss their little desert excursions with.
Grantaire does not have anyone like that.
But he has Feuilly and Jehan and so he isn’t entirely alone. They help him sell their product on the street, and most importantly, they’re smart, they don’t get caught.
“So is this mysterious meth partner hot?” Feuilly asks, and lights a cigarette on blue flame from the stove.
Grantaire chokes and starts to cough, and the smoke is expelled from his chest in an ugly cloud.
Jehan starts to write sonnets about them, Grantaire and the “mysterious meth partner,” and Grantaire doesn’t even bother to try and discourage him.
A new deal is struck, this one with Patron-Minette. They did not exactly appreciate a few upstarts selling better meth than theirs in their own established. But Grantaire and Enjolras havevalue, Enjolras tells their ringleader, Thenardier. Meanwhile, Grantaire sits by and watches with burning eyes. Another of the thugs has taken his Glock, and even though Grantaire has never had to fire it, he feels naked without it, especially now that Enjolras is in danger.
(His own safety hardly matters.)
But Enjolras has a tongue dipped in silver, and both of them find new employment in the bowels of Patron-Minette, cooking their high quality product for the gang in larger volumes than ever before, and making a larger profit, too.
They keep Grantaire on the streets, slinging it alongside Babet and Claquesous. The pair watches him for any sign of treachery or deceit, and Grantaire stops working high. He’s not a total idiot—he knows better than to fuck with his senses when he might be killed at any second.
Enjolras, for his part, makes loud protests about their placements.
“Grantaire is my partner. We cook together.”
Thenardier doesn’t listen, and Enjolras won’t shut up. Grantaire is not in the habit of telling Enjolras what to do, but now he tries to, hushes him, tells him he’s fine where he is and everything is fine. Enjolras glares at him, but at least he’s looking at Grantaire, and Grantaire has missed that.
One of Patron-Minette’s own becomes Enjolras’s new cooking aide. Montparnasse. He’s almost as pretty as Enjolras, with elegant limbs and shiny dark hair, a snide smile and a malicious wink reserved just for Grantaire.
Grantaire tries and fails to quell the jealousy that rises in his throat like bile. He aches to stick a needle in his arm, but he needs to be worth something, needs to keep Enjolras safe, so he smokes more cigarettes instead.
They rarely see each other, and phone calls become more dangerous. Grantaire should be afraid for his life, but all he’s haunted by are nightmares of Enjolras, writhing with pleasure underneath a smirking, bloody-lipped Montparnasse.
“They aren’t fucking.”
Grantaire crosses his arms, and turns around. All he wants to do is go home, rewatch Lord of the Rings and get high until he falls asleep. Not be followed there by this shadow of a girl. Her arms are covered in bruises like his used to be. Thenardier’s daughter. He wonders if she’s been sent to kill him, but if she has, she’s clearly an awful assassin.
“They aren’t fucking. ‘Parnasse and your beautiful blond cook. ‘Parnasse wishes they were, but they aren’t. I can tell you’re head over heels for him, you know.” She’s smiling dreamily and her eyes are glazed, and Grantaire cannot even fathom what sort of cocktail she’s injected into her veins today, cannot even fathom what she could have access to, as the daughter of the region’s most important drug lord. He can’t imagine the things she’s seen and heard that make her fuck herself up like this.
(They’re almost the same, Grantaire and Eponine, they can’t hide the wounds of the things they’ve done and seen. Dragged by thorny leashes behind men they can’t abandon—one by blood and one by love.)
“Do you want to come to my place for a bit?” he asks her. “Going to have a movie marathon.”
“I’m not going to fuck you,” she growls.
He tries to smile at her, but the expression feels strange and foreign to his features—probably resembles more of a grimace, in the end.
“I wouldn’t want you to,” he says, and starts walking again.
Catlike, Eponine continues to follow him.
Eponine has never questioned her own loyalty to her father, but Eponine has never had a friend before, either. She likes sleeping on his couch, and sometimes even crawling into his bed with him until they curl around one another like kittens. He doesn’t try to touch her, not like the rest of her father’s employees do, and when they wake up in the morning or at two in the afternoon, he makes them French toast to share.
It’s a shame her father wants him dead in the end, him and his golden boy wonder both, and she tells him so.
Grantaire goes pale, chokes on his bite of syrup-drenched French toast.
Eponine presses her index finger to his lips, gives him a nod loaded with meaning.
He risks a phone call to Enjolras, who has been suspecting a similar thing for a while.
“But I didn’t want to worry you,” he murmurs.
(Grantaire realizes how much he missed the sound of his voice.)
The puzzle pieces fit together crookedly, but they fit nonetheless. Patron-Minette wants to corner the market on the high-grade meth, and they need Enjolras to cook it for them. But Enjolras is a leader, a free-thinker, and that simply will not do.
“And you’re too dedicated to me to try and make you into one of theirs,” Enjolras adds, matter-of-factly. Grantaire winces, but no one is around to see.
So, Montparnasse, who is smart but not overly so, was probably assigned to learn the recipe and the process from working with Enjolras. Then Enjolras could be eliminated, and as for Grantaire, well, he’d just be one more Person Who Knew Too Much, so he would be eliminated, too.
“He’s going to be able to cook on his own, soon. But we have to make Thenardier think that he needs us, regardless. Buy some more time.”
A few days later he gets the call, a few days ahead of schedule.
Enjolras screams the street address into the phone, and in the background, Grantaire hears a gruffer voice:
“You little fucking shit,” and it’s Thenardier. The line goes silent as they are disconnected.
Grantaire can’t breathe—it’s his heart in his throat, choking off his air supply—he can’t can’t breathe and he’s never felt so afraid as he does now, imagining his Enjolras with the muzzle of a gun pressed to his head, through soft yellow curls. He wants to retch onto his living room floor, but he knows that time is an important factor here.
He grabs his handgun off of the coffee table with trembling hands, shoves it into the waistband of his jeans. Feuilly’s car keys, too. Feuilly scrounged and saved for that used piece of shit, but he won’t mind if Grantaire drives it, not if it’s for something this important.
(He misses when things were easier, just he and Enjolras in their busted up RV, skirting around one another in its small, ugly interior, the savor of every accidental touch. It’s been twenty-two days since he’s seen Enjolras in person, except for one day they ran into each other at the grocery store, living their real, normal lives.
They’d pretended not to know each other, but Grantaire had probably stared.)
Grantaire tries to breathe, and all he can manage are little gasps of air.
He holds too tight on the steering wheel and hopes he isn’t too late when he reaches the apartment building on the other side of town. Red brick, old, but nice, definitely an improvement over the dump that Grantaire has continued to live in, despite the thousands of dollars secreted away in his bedroom closet.
“Number twelve!” Enjolras had screamed.
Grantaire shuts his car door carefully, quietly, feels for his Glock at his waist, to make sure it’s still there. The metal handle is a comforting weight, and he holds onto it for dear life. Clicks off the safety—he has to be fast.
(There’s a roaring in his ears that will not cease.)
Dingy brass numbers on the door. 12. Apartment building, neighbors too close. He’ll have to be quick about it, and he thinks of all the action movies he’s seen, how easy it is. (His hands aren’t shaking any more—they’ve never felt so steady in his life.)
He knocks. There’s a doorbell, but knocking won’t leave fingerprints. An exhalation of breath, his own.
Remember how to breathe.
Montparnasse has not been warned, and he swings open the door. When he sees it’s Grantaire—(he doesn’t see the hand with the gun at his side, not yet)—he smirks, opens his mouth to be an asshole, most likely, to say something crude.
Grantaire does not know what happens next, can’t remember it in the few seconds after. He hears two gunshots—quiet ones, and when did he get a silencer for his gun, when did he get here, when—
Montparnasse is in the doorway, a hole in his skull and another in his torso. Must have hit an organ or two, and Grantaire can see blood from his mouth speckled across his lips.
A necessary execution that might spare him his Enjolras, who is still in the warehouse with a gun pressed to his head.
Grantaire isn’t sure when he started to cry, but his eyes are swollen and his face is wet.