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Enjolras will always blame the whole thing on Marius, because it starts when Marius brings his new girlfriend to one of their campaign meetings.

Marius is many things—a law student, the scion of a wealthy family willing to give their son money to donate, a well-liked community member perfectly willing to lobby with others and an occasional legal consultant on the weeks when they can’t afford a lawyer—but he is not good at introductions. Thus, when he brings Cosette, a young reporter working her way up the ranks at the Daily Gazette, to a meeting of the Friends of the People in the empty apartment above Combeferre’s family’s restaurant, his introduction is nothing more than a breezy “Cosette, these are Les Amis. Everyone, this is Cosette.”

Enjolras waves a distracted hand at her from where he’s on the phone with someone from a non-profit asking him about his agricultural policies and elbows Grantaire, who is doodling what would be a perfectly good political cartoon about pesticide use if he weren’t decorating it liberally with his impressions of what Enjolras’s annoyed face looks like. Joly, from what he can hear, is the one who has been pulled into explaining to Cosette why they are Friends of the People to the public and Les Amis de l’ABC among themselves.

She is, surprisingly, as beautiful as Marius made her out to be, and when Enjolras finally manages to get off the phone to shake her hand, he likes her more than he was expecting. “I thought I would write a little about what your meetings are like, and what your aims are. I know you haven’t had as much attention nation-wide as you’d like,” she says. “One small paper can’t do much, but media attention is never a bad thing.”

“Don’t do it as a favor, do it because you want us to win,” Courfeyrac calls from across the room, picking up the conversation even though he’s staring at a laptop checking on voter numbers.

“Journalistic integrity,” she sends back without missing a beat, a grin on her face.

That makes Grantaire look up at her and grin, apparently satisfied with drawing all over the backs of his briefings instead of doing anything useful with them. “I like you. Come here and sit by me, Marius only shuts up about you when he’s talking politics, so you’ve lost him for an hour at least, or until someone says something that reminds him of the smell of your hair. I’m Grantaire, R if you feel like joining our little club of making puns in French.”

“Answer her questions, would you?” Enjolras asks, seeing the opportunity to give Grantaire something to do and Cosette someone to interrogate while he runs the meeting and gets the information he needs. On some level, he worries about what Grantaire will say to her, but even if he’s not a believer in their cause he at least knows how to charm people when he wants to, and Enjolras hasn’t seen him take a drink in the two hours since he arrived at headquarters. It’s probably safe enough. Marius wouldn’t have brought her if she were going to slander them on the basis of whatever Grantaire tells her about idealism and being here to keep them from patting themselves on the back for their high-mindedness.

“All the ones she asks and some of the ones she doesn’t know to,” Grantaire says, giving him a wink and blowing him a kiss that makes Enjolras roll his eyes and turn to call everyone to order.

The meeting goes well, all of them on their best behavior with Cosette around. Eponine is tight around the mouth and refusing to look at Marius, but she reels off figures with as much efficiency as ever. Combeferre talks about a man he’s been on the phone with in Wyoming who wants to run on their ticket, and a woman in South Carolina of all places who wrote about doing the same and wants information. They pass around talk of advertising, of the way the Tea Party finally seems to be acknowledging their existence at the state level, of a hundred other things they all have to be apprised of.

Every time Enjolras thinks to look at Cosette to see how she’s reacting, she and Grantaire are whispering to each other, her brows drawn together as she taps a pen against her notepad and he making little hand movements because he always talks with his hands and must be trying to restrain himself.

After the meeting, they all settle in to chat and eat—Feuilly was in charge of the food this week, so it’s bagels and cream cheese from a local place. Grantaire and Cosette keep talking, Enjolras notes, but he decides to leave it and sits down with Eponine to talk to her about numbers in more detail until she looks a little less tense.

Cosette finds him a while later—nearly as soon as he leaves Eponine to talk about some new movie with Bahorel, and he’s going to have to ask Jehan to figure out what’s going on, because if Marius’s girlfriend and one of Enjolras’s most vital helpers don’t get along they may all be in trouble. “I’m going to duck out, I’ve got to get back to the office and I’ve got an article to write, but I wanted to thank you again for letting me sit in.”

“My pleasure. I hope you got everything you needed?”

“Almost everything. I may call you for a few quotes—I got a lot from Grantaire, you’re lucky to have him around, but I should have some in there from the candidate.” She’s got dimples when she smiles, and she continues before he can ask what she means about Grantaire. “Thank you again. And good luck. I’ll give you a call when the article prints.”

“Please do, or have Marius do it if you’re too busy.”

“I will.” She shakes his hand again and leaves him to find Marius on her way out of the room, distracting him from a conversation with Courfeyrac, who says something to make her laugh and kisses her on the cheek.

Enjolras has to take a phone call soon after that, and everyone takes it as a sign to disperse, either sitting around to work on the mailing they’ve got to put out or going back to their own lives. The campaign can’t be full-time for any of them even though they’re trying to found a political party, and they all have other things to do.

Grantaire stays long enough to stuff a few envelopes, and Enjolras catches him on his way out. “Did Cosette seem interested in what we were saying?”

“Did I fuck it up, you mean?” Grantaire smiles the way he always does when he’s trying to bait someone.

“I’m just asking what kinds of things you told her,” Enjolras snaps. “She said she got a lot out of you, is all.”

“Don’t worry, Apollo. I didn’t tell her anything I don’t tell you all the time.”

With that, and before Enjolras can tell him how very not comforting that is, Grantaire is out the door, grabbing his phone out of his pocket to text someone and whistling something as he goes.

*

Four days later, Enjolras wakes up to a text from Grantaire reading i swear this is NOT MY FAULT.

He doesn’t answer when Enjolras texts back to ask what the fuck he’s done, so Enjolras gets out of bed and checks his e-mail, which has filled up over night. The top message is from Marius, and he opens it to find a line of text that reads Don’t freak out, am already on phone with Jehan to figure out what to do about it and a link to an article for the Daily Gazette.

The article starts as he expects. Cosette’s a good writer, he’s pleased to see, and more than that, a good journalist. She writes about a group of college friends wanting to start a political party that is to the liberals what the Tea Party is to the conservatives, one that is unapologetically radical. She writes about their policies, their hopes, Enjolras’s plans, hints of growing national interest in what they’re doing.

She writes about him, mostly, because he’s the only candidate they’re fielding in Maine this year (next year he’s hoping to get Courfeyrac on the ballot somewhere, and in a few years he might be able to talk Eponine into it, though by then he may want her for a national campaign). When she called him for quotes he gave her the abbreviated version of his life plan, and she talks about his dreams of a multiple-party system, of equality for all, of radical change in almost all arenas and how he devotes his life to all of it in whatever ways he can.

She even writes about the backlash they’re starting to receive from conservative factions, calling them socialists (“That isn’t radical enough,” Courfeyrac said thoughtfully to a red-faced man who came to one of their meetings just to berate them) or children or a threat to America. Enjolras doesn’t object to that—it’s true, and as far as he’s concerned all the quotes do is make them look stupid.

The end of the article, though, is what Marius and Grantaire must be talking about: While conservatives, and even liberal Democrats, say the Friends of the People are idealists and bound to be disappointed, someone else has a rebuttal for them—Grantaire, Enjolras’s partner. When asked why a self-professed cynic is so involved in the party even when he’s skeptical of what they can do, Grantaire looked around the room at his friends, all talking after a meeting. “I’d rather be proved wrong than right, when it comes to the state of the world, and I figure that if anyone can do it, Enjolras can. If he keeps trying with all he’s up against, the least I can do is give him a chance.”

Enjolras has to read the last paragraph three times before all of it sinks in. The first two times he is distracted completely by Grantaire’s words, something he’s certainly never said to Enjolras in between his mockery of everything Les Amis do, not even when Enjolras gets frustrated and asks him why he’s still there, if it’s only to watch them fail. The third time, he sees the word “partner” and realizes what Cosette means. She refers to the others as friends or colleagues throughout, but Grantaire is the only one who is called his partner, and the only conclusion to draw is that it’s her diplomatic way of saying “boyfriend.”

When Enjolras’s phone starts ringing, he knows beforehand that it must be Combeferre, who has always had the talent for calling at exactly the right moment. “Why does Cosette think Grantaire and I are dating?” he asks when he picks up the phone. “Have we talked to the paper about a correction yet? What’s the response been like?”

Combeferre sighs. “No word to the paper yet, I’ve only had twenty minutes to start dealing with all this, the paper edition is already out and the article hit the internet late last night. Even if the Gazette makes a correction, I don’t know how many people will see it. The article hit the blogosphere sometime around midnight. Your tag on Tumblr is active now, thousands of notes from some of those posts alone, and a few of them will see a correction, but not a lot of them.”

“Why the hell do people care that much? I’m running for a state senatorial seat, not for president. Should we issue a statement?”

He expects an unequivocal and immediate yes, because, of course, Enjolras isn’t with Grantaire, and hasn’t ever been. If his sexuality becomes a focus he’s more than willing to come out, but there’s no reason for Grantaire to be involved. Instead, there’s a pause, and then Combeferre clears his throat. “I also woke up this morning to no less than three e-mails from various LGBT-positive organizations and a few private citizens who not-so-coincidentally chose this morning to give large donations to the party. One of the private donors said outright in his e-mail that he’s been thinking about donating for a while but now that he knows you’ve got a boyfriend who cares about you that much he trusts you more and we can count on his support.” He waits, but Enjolras is, for perhaps the first time in years, speechless. “He’s in a position to give us considerable support,” he adds eventually, sounding sorry about it.

“What are you suggesting I do? Date Grantaire so I can get publicity, or money? It sounds like the kind of thing—”

“Some conservative candidate would do, I know, but listen.” Enjolras takes a deep breath and wonders if killing Cosette would lose him his campaign. “We can go back on this, we can put out a strong statement that you and R aren’t together, even though you are bisexual, because that has to become part of the issue at this point. But we would risk some people saying that you’re back-pedaling, and that theoretical bisexuality is much safer than being out with a boyfriend.”

“I can’t lie just to get votes, Combeferre, it’s a despicable thing to do.”

“So we don’t lie. We put out a statement confirming your bisexuality without confirming your relationship with Grantaire and we let people assume what they will.”

Enjolras keeps taking deep breaths in and out like he remembers from the yoga class Joly talked him into going to a few times. “And then do what? Go on as normal?”

“The problem with getting you elected has always been humanizing you for the voters. You’re intimidating, you don’t have any hobbies except politics, and you’re so radical that people feel they’ll fall short of your standards.” Combeferre isn’t usually so blunt, and Enjolras bites his tongue because none of it’s a lie, and he knows it’s something they all have to work on in this stretch leading up to November. “But if you’re dating Grantaire, that means you’re human. People like married politicians, it’s just true. And if you’re dating Grantaire in particular …”

Combeferre chooses that moment to trail off and be delicate, so Enjolras finishes for him. “It shows that I can spend time with and respect people who don’t share all my ideals, or who fall short of them.” The whole plan is starting to sound deceptively reasonable, when put like this, so he grasps for the next objection to it. “Has anyone actually asked Grantaire what he thinks of this?”

When Combeferre answers, he sounds disappointed. “Come on, Enjolras. Do you really think he’ll say no?” Before Enjolras can ask what the hell he means by that, he’s moving on. “Emergency meeting at headquarters in an hour, I’ll get in touch with Courfeyrac about putting a statement together and we can all decide together about whether to have the paper print a correction.”

With that, he hangs up, leaving Enjolras sitting at his laptop in his pajamas wondering how the hell his life got this out of control.

*

Grantaire laughs for a minute straight when Courfeyrac brings up the growing plan at the meeting. By the end, it’s a little hysterical, and his grip on the coffee mug he’s holding (which certainly isn’t filled with coffee alone) slips enough that he spills some of his drink on his hand. “You can’t be serious.”

Eponine looks sorry when she speaks. “It might make sense, actually.” Other nods go around the table, some more reluctant than others. Enjolras can’t bring himself to move. Or speak. Or do anything much, really, except stare at the table and wonder if this will end up being worth it. “It’s not the most honest tactic, but R, you have to admit it sounds like …”

The smile is fading from his face with every passing second, and he finally settles on looking at Enjolras. “You actually mean this. You want me to what, be Julia fucking Roberts or something?”

“We’re too broke to pay you,” says Bahorel. “But if you don’t want to, we can issue a correction and a statement.”

Combeferre breaks in, looking up from his laptop, where he’s been staring in between explaining the situation and the strategy he came up with. “All our numbers spiked this morning. Including some of the negative ones, but there’s an incredible amount of support. Enjolras even trended on Twitter for a little while earlier nation-wide. Either of you can say no, but it’s the best chance we have right now.”

“I think maybe we should let the two of them have a talk in private,” Jehan says, looking between them. “It’s their lives, after all.”

“Good to know I’m not just going to be married off like you’re trading me for cattle.” Grantaire takes another swig of his coffee, and Enjolras can see how tightly he’s clutching the cup. “Apollo? Want to talk about our arranged marriage?”

Enjolras forces himself to move. Much as this day isn’t going how he wants it to, he knows it must be just as annoying for Grantaire, who can’t be pleased about his words being misread. “Kitchen? The rest of you, figure out as many different plans as you can, we’ll talk about what we’re going to do.”

Grantaire brings his coffee cup with him even though he drains it on his way out of the room, and Enjolras realizes why when he rummages around in the cupboards and fills it up immediately with something that smells more like cleaning agent than alcohol. When he turns around, he rolls his eyes at Enjolras. “You really can’t blame me for needing to be drunk for this conversation.”

“I know you don’t really have a reason to agree to this,” says Enjolras, putting together the thoughts he’s been trying to marshal since he sat down in the meeting. “You won’t do it just for the sake of changing the system, no matter what you said in the article, and that’s all I can really offer. If this is what gets me elected, then I’ll do it.”

“Good to hear I’m the instrument of your martyrdom.” Grantaire gives him a toast and takes a swallow of whatever he has in his mug, grimacing as it goes down. “You don’t want to win on your own merits? This doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you would agree to.”

“You heard Combeferre explain it out there. We don’t have to confirm anything, just not deny it, and your quote has got us more media attention in twelve hours than our party has at all. I might not like it, but I have to do what I can. All we would have to do is be seen together in public sometimes, from my understanding. You could still have dates on the side, or whatever.”

Grantaire refills his cup before it’s even empty. “You have a very odd picture of what my social life must be like. What dates are these? I work, I drink, I watch you plot the overthrow of society. Might as well do it as your future First Gentleman.”

Enjolras knows he’s staring, but that doesn’t mean he can stop. “You’re serious? Why would you say yes? I barely said yes, and I at least have a reason even if this isn’t how I’d like to run my campaign or my life.”

“You sure know how to proposition a person. Look, I’m saying yes, fine, I’ll be your supportive boyfriend until Election Day or until you don’t need one anymore. Aren’t you always telling me I need to get more involved in the cause?” Grantaire rolls his eyes. “I have my reasons, and I don’t see why you should care about them. Not if it gets you elected.”

Somehow, that leaves Enjolras more wrong-footed than Combeferre’s idea did in the first place. “I’m not that insensitive, of course I care about your reasons.”

“Well, I don’t care to tell you my reasons.” He gives Enjolras a piercing look, more clear-eyed than Enjolras expects given he arrived at the meeting obviously hungover and has been drinking steadily since he arrived at it. “I think I should be asking if you want to do this. You’re not one to let yourself be steam-rolled.”

“It makes sense, and it isn’t as though we can’t call it off if it isn’t working. People break up all the time.”

“That’s a yes?”

Enjolras nods and holds out a hand to shake, feeling the need to seal the deal even if Grantaire’s incredulous look says it’s a ridiculous gesture. “It’s a yes.” Grantaire shakes his hand and takes a drink at the same time, tipping his head back and finishing the rest of his mug of whatever that was in three swallows. Enjolras tries to figure out how to finish the conversation. “Thank you,” he says at last, because it’s a start. “Both for doing this and for what you said to Cosette. I’ll try my hardest.”

“You always do. Now if you’ll excuse me, you all probably want to talk about the impact this has on the campaign, and apparently I have a few pastel skirt suits to buy.”

With that, he’s out the door of the kitchen, setting his mug on the counter as he goes and saying something to the people in the next room before continuing on, the door to headquarters slamming in his wake.

Enjolras takes a deep breath and goes out to plan out his statement.

*

They let a few days pass. Enjolras talks to more reporters and nation-wide organizations in those days than he has in the months since he first started trying to get noticed and running for election, and would be resentful at the reason if he weren’t so grateful for it. Combeferre and Eponine keep him updated on the media and public response and the numbers stay high and only get higher as the word spreads. Calls come in from around the country—offers of volunteering, potential candidates wanting to start a late campaign on their platform for local offices. Someone in Oregon even goes so far as to talk about running for the federal House as a member of the Friends of the People, no matter how late in campaign season it is to be announcing candidacy.

Grantaire sits in the meetings like he always does, sketching something or drinking something or sometimes just fidgeting, all normal for him. He avoids Enjolras, though, and Enjolras is surprised that he even notices it, but he does. There are spaces in conversations where Grantaire would normally jump in with an acid retort, and Enjolras finds himself a little at sea without Grantaire pushing back against everything he says. The others notice too, judging by the looks they throw around when there are gaps in conversations.

Enjolras lets it pass for two meetings, but for the third, when they have to talk about an upcoming public meeting and speech he’ll be giving, he comes in prepared to give Grantaire another chance to refuse. When he does enter, though, Cosette is sitting at the table next to Marius, her notebook out and a bright smile on her face for him when she turns away from Joly. They’ve all decided it’s best if she doesn’t know, for now, even if Enjolras worries about Marius’s ability to keep secrets from her.

Before Enjolras can do more than nod around the room, Grantaire is at his side, appearing from who knows where with a hand on his shoulder and a whisper in his ear. “Is this okay?”

Enjolras turns and finds himself a little surprised at how close Grantaire is, their noses almost touching. “Fine,” he says under his breath.

It occurs to him for half a second to worry that Grantaire will take that as blanket permission to hang all over him as revenge for pulling him into this in the first place, but all that happens is that Grantaire bumps their foreheads together for a second before pulling away. “Cosette says her first article got so much attention the editor at the Gazette asked her to check up on us periodically. I thought only national campaigns got attached journalists, but trust you to jump the gun.”

“I won’t be able to come to every meeting,” Cosette says, and Enjolras startles a little before he turns to face her. Grantaire squeezes Enjolras’s arm before he goes to his usual seat, where there’s already a piece of paper laid out with doodles in pen all over it. “But I’d like to come as often as you’ll let me.”

It makes for another place where he and Grantaire will have to pretend they’re together, or at least not make it obvious that they aren’t, but he can’t object, and Marius is looking sorry and hopeful over Cosette’s head, so Enjolras just sighs. “That’s fine, we’ll work out a way to keep what needs to be confidential off the record.”

“Of course.”

“Now, if we could get the meeting started?” For once, everyone else is earlier than he is, because he got a call on his way out the door from his mother, all polite offense at him for not telling her he has a boyfriend and ignoring everything about his politics, as usual. “Tomorrow’s event is our first one since Cosette’s article, and we should expect the crowd to be bigger than usual. Have we let the community center know?”

Eponine confirms it and starts talking about other logistics, and Enjolras takes the opportunity to find a seat. There are a few open, but he picks the one next to Grantaire as he’s meant to do. Grantaire gives him a quick sideways look before going back to the drawing he’s bent over—a picture of Cosette dressed up like some sort of fairy-tale princess, from what Enjolras can see, although there’s a detailed sketch of a piano in one corner and a cartoon of Enjolras scowling in another.

Eventually, they finish talking about the meeting and Enjolras raises his next point. “I’m worried parts of our message are getting lost in the attention—grateful as I am for it,” he adds with a glance at Cosette. “Coming out publicly has put much more focus on my feeling about gay marriage and other LGBT rights, and while those of course are important, I don’t want to go down as a one-issue candidate. There are plenty of issues I intend to get involved with if I can, and this is just one among many.”

“For now, I’d let it go,” says Courfeyrac. “It hasn’t gone that out of control yet, and it’s new information to assimilate. Keep talking about everything you always talk about, and they’ll ask questions about that too. You may be getting nation-wide attention for this one thing, but locally you’ve been on the radar for other things, and this is a local election.”

“Besides, if people think you’ve got a self-serving issue, they’re more likely to trust you.” Enjolras blinks and turns to Grantaire, who’s finally deigned to look up from his picture, which turned into Cosette surrounded by woodland animals, including a baby deer that somehow manages to look suspiciously like Marius. “If you’re perfect, they’re going to get suspicious, is all I’m saying.” He glances over at Cosette. “Not that he isn’t perfect,” he says with one of the charming smiles he never wastes on Enjolras. When he smiles at Enjolras, it’s because he thinks he’s won something.

“I’m not, and none of them are self-serving issues.” He may have personal investment in some of them, but he doesn’t intend to focus on anything more than anything else except when necessary, as he’s made clear from the beginning. They need to change the foundations of everything. “I’m willing to see this play out, but I refuse to be a one-issue candidate.”

“So you won’t be,” says Bahorel, and Enjolras drags his attention back to the larger group. “I think you’re worrying too far in advance. Give it a week or two to die down, we’ll go from there.”

“And we’ll arrange for you to do some volunteering at an organization that works on other issues,” Combeferre puts in. “Does that sound reasonable?”

“It’s—”

Grantaire interrupts before Enjolras can continue with that. “It absolutely does. Apollo, you worry too much. What, are you going to start complaining that I complimented you to Cosette because you’d rather be the hipster candidate than get votes?”

“I would rather get votes for my actual values than for one person none of them have ever heard of giving me a backhanded compliment,” Enjolras snaps. He’s said worse to Grantaire, many times, but he feels everyone around the table flinching anyway, and thinks of Cosette, who could be planning to print every word they say right now. He takes a deep breath and puts his hand over Grantaire’s on the page. “I’m sorry. That was uncalled-for.”

“It’s fine.” Grantaire turns his hand over and holds his for a few seconds before he pulls away to pick up his pen again. “Seriously. Let’s not air our dirty laundry at meetings.”

“Right.” Enjolras turns back to the group at large and ignores the looks he catches from a few of them and Cosette’s wide-eyed expression. “I’m thinking maybe I’ll help clean up some trails in the park as they get ready to close for the season, if anyone would like to join me.”

Somehow, they manage to move the meeting on from there, and get through all the endless business that’s cropped up as a result of Cosette’s article. Grantaire excuses himself half an hour before the end to go for a shift at the bar where he sometimes works, and Enjolras relaxes, finally able to stop worrying about how much or how little he should be touching him. When they finally wrap up, with promises to meet at the community center an hour before the meeting the next day, Enjolras heads for the door instead of indulging in conversation, but Cosette stops him on his way out and pulls him into a corner, looking worried. “Look, I just wanted to apologize in person for outing you and R, Marius told me afterwards that you two weren’t making this a public thing and I’m sorry I didn’t ask. It looks like it might be making things strained between you, and I hate the thought that I’ve made your relationship more difficult.”

“We fight all the time anyway,” Enjolras says, glad he can at least tell the truth about this. “It’s what comes of being as different as we are.”

“At least it’s worth it.” She smiles, and then bites her lip. “I’ll keep that conversation earlier out of the article. I’m not going to be writing one for every meeting anyway. The editor does want more about your relationship with Grantaire, for the human interest angle, but I’ll try to keep your fights out of the papers.”

“Thanks.” He makes a show out of checking the time. “Now I’m afraid I’ve got to go, it’s going to be a long day tomorrow and I want to get a few things done.”

“Of course.” She pats him on the shoulder and goes back to Marius, who has taken the drawing of her as a princess off the stack of pictures Grantaire left behind him and is talking with Feuilly about it while Feuilly looks equal parts indulgent and exasperated.

Enjolras takes the opportunity to leave, but he meets Eponine coming up the stairs with a tray of appetizers from the restaurant downstairs. He means to just nod and keep going, but she blocks his way and watches him for a few seconds until he sighs and says something. “I’ve got to go, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“If you are a dick to R about this, I am going to out you to Cosette, I don’t care what it does to your campaign,” Eponine says, and shoulders past him and the rest of the way up the stairs before he can come up with anything to say.

*

Thus far, the public meetings Enjolras has held for the Friends haven’t been well-attended. There have been family, friends, the occasional curious person, a few malcontents willing to listen to anyone speak out against the government (even if some of them only seem to have opinions on marijuana), those who are convinced, and some who come just to argue with everything says in a different way than Grantaire does. He talks about his practical plans for the district, he and Combeferre and Courfeyrac talk about their plans for the party as a whole, they answer questions, and afterwards they generally provide snacks and he and the rest of Les Amis answer more questions informally.

This time, the community center they’re in is packed ten minutes before Enjolras is slated to start speaking, and only more people seem to be coming. A lot of them seem to be students of the local college, which isn’t even technically in the district Enjolras is running for, and most of them seem to be wearing buttons pinned to their shirts, black text on a red background reading GIVE US A CHANCE TO CHANGE THE WORLD. Cosette, who’s sitting in the back row with Marius and with a camera on her lap, isn’t the only member of the press there, even if it’s all local.

Grantaire, who usually doesn’t bother coming to public meetings, turns up at the podium two minutes before the meeting starts, while Enjolras is going through his papers, and produces one of the buttons from his pocket. “Thought I’d do my boyfriendly duty and get you one of these,” he says, making a fuss about pinning it on Enjolras’s lapel. Enjolras is pretty sure he hears a shrill whisper of “Adorable” from somewhere in the crowd. “Nervous?”

“I’m never nervous about public speaking.”

“Nervous that they’re here due to your pretty face more than your policies?”

“No.” Grantaire finishes adjusting the pin but leaves his fingers where they are. “I didn’t know you were coming today,” Enjolras adds, because he seems to be expected to say something more.

Grantaire shrugs and gives one last adjustment to Enjolras’s lapel before he puts his hands down. “Why shouldn’t I?” He raises an eyebrow. “Is it okay?”

“Of course it’s okay. You’re my boyfriend, aren’t you?”

“Well, in that case.” Grantaire threads their fingers together for a second and grins. “I think it’s about time for you to convince them all that the world is worth saving and that you can do it.”

“I haven’t convinced you yet, no matter what you told Cosette,” he says before he can stop the words.

“You can aspire. I can’t make it too easy for you, can I?”

Combeferre clears his throat, and both of them jump and turn to where he’s standing. “Crowd’s getting restless, you two. Enjolras, do you want to get started?”

“I’ll be by the refreshments,” says Grantaire, and leaves while Enjolras finishes putting his papers in order, slipping over to the table of food, where Joly is making sure everything is labeled for allergies and has its own spoon to dish it out.

Enjolras calls the meeting to order and talks about what he usually does at these sorts of things, relieved when most of the audience seems to agree with him on quite a few of his points, if not all of them. Aside from being the largest crowd he’s spoken to yet, it’s also the most enthusiastic, and by the time he defers the floor partially to Combeferre and Courfeyrac he’s fired up and pleased. He doesn’t seem to have lost anyone, and when the questions come, they come in a torrent.

The questions also come more personal than the ones before have done—the audience asks him about Grantaire (where he demurs, saying it’s private), how he got started in politics (where he lets Combeferre and Courfeyrac speak as well), and what his future plans are (where he demurs again, because saying he wants to be elected president by the time he’s forty sounds arrogant and he knows it, even if he thinks it can be achieved if he tries).

Afterwards, it seems like half the audience wants to swarm him, and Enjolras answers their questions and explains things as well as he can, picking people almost at random out of the crowd to speak to and directing the others to his friends. Twenty minutes in, when he’s barely made it six feet from the podium, Grantaire turns up at his shoulder with a plate full of vegetarian finger foods from the refreshment table. “Thought you’d be hungry,” he says, having to lean in close to say it over the noise.

“Thanks.” Enjolras takes the plate and ignores the girl he was talking to in order to eat some sort of spinach ball that has no right to be as delicious as it is.

Grantaire, instead of disappearing back into the crowd, holds out his hand for the girl to shake. “I’m Grantaire, R if you like. Thank you for coming out.”

“Oh, from the article?” She beams at him. “I don’t know how you aren’t convinced, it looks like he’s really going to be able to do these things.”

That makes Grantaire’s smile dim, but he doesn’t roll his eyes and he kicks Enjolras’s shoe and points at his plate when he starts to try to talk. “Like I said to the paper, him I’m convinced by. It’s the world I’m not. People who try to change it have a bad habit of getting hurt by the people who want to keep their power.” Enjolras kicks him at that, because the girl is starting to look a little nervous, and is surprised at himself for noticing the way Grantaire makes his smile go wide again. “But then again, this is local government, I don’t think there’s too much danger unless a hunter takes exception to his gun control policies.”

They move on from there, and Grantaire doesn’t disappear again like Enjolras keeps expecting him to. Instead, he lets Enjolras answer a few questions from everyone they run across and then takes over while Enjolras has another bite of what Grantaire piled his plate with. After the first time, he doesn’t say anything that will scare their supporters off, but he avoids agreeing with anything Enjolras says as well.

It takes another hour for most of the crowd to disperse, which is at least half an hour longer than most of theirs do. Even then, there’s a woman flirting with Joly and Bossuet by the door and a few other people gathered in a knot around Courfeyrac while he waxes poetic about education reform, and Combeferre and Eponine are dealing with what looks like a group of senior citizens bussed over from a local home that Enjolras didn’t run across while he worked his way across the room. He thinks for a second about going over to them, but all he wants to do is drive home and collapse into bed and he probably wouldn’t make a very good impression.

“I need a drink,” says Grantaire under his breath. “I wonder if Michelle Obama wants to drain a bottle of vodka after things like this. Apollo, if we are still doing this when you start your inevitable run for president, I am breaking up with you preemptively.”

Enjolras isn’t sure what to do with any of that, and ends up blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. “Inevitable run? That sounds optimistic for you, I thought you thought I was going to lose this election.”

Grantaire smiles, but it isn’t anything like as wide as it was when he was talking to the people in the audience. “You’ll be one of those weird old men who’s running for president when he’s eighty on some eighth-party ticket, wearing a boot on your head and insisting on giving ponies to the masses. You’re incurable.”

Enjolras takes a second to parse that and decides, after a moment, that he’s too tired to be offended. “I’m not Vermin Supreme, and ponies aren’t the most important issue facing the world today,” he says, because it seems the easiest route to take.

That makes Grantaire laugh, loud enough to draw attention. “Of course that’s what you take exception to. See what I mean?”

“Maybe by then I’ll have changed your mind.”

It’s the wrong thing to say, judging by the way Grantaire looks away, but Enjolras doesn’t have time to format some sort of response, or thanks for acting as his boyfriend today, before Combeferre interrupts. “Sorry, you two, but we’ve got to clean up and get out of here to return the key before the store closes.”

That gets everyone moving, cleaning up and packing up the food that’s left to take back home, debriefing as they go so they won’t have to stop off at headquarters afterwards. Enjolras does his share, mostly shepherding the last few stragglers out the door, and by the time he’s ready to go Grantaire has already piled in a car with Bahorel and Eponine to, it seems, go and get drunk somewhere.

Enjolras ends up giving Marius and Cosette a ride home, and Cosette pats him on the shoulder when he says Grantaire won’t be riding with them before starting in on a thorough interrogation of how he thought the meeting went and why he thinks it’s different than the last ones and what he thinks about the fact that he’s suddenly acquired a slogan.

The next day, when the article about the meeting runs in the paper, there’s no mention of Grantaire, but in the picture that accompanies it he’s holding on to Enjolras’s lapel, smiling down at the button on his chest, while Enjolras doesn’t look at him at all.

*

It takes two more articles from Cosette and three weeks closer to Election Day before Enjolras realizes things are still odd between him and Grantaire.

Media attention is staying high, and that on top of Election Day growing ever closer has Enjolras working from morning to night without much break. He’s starting to get stopped on the street and asked about his thoughts on this or that, mostly by people with GIVE US A CHANCE TO CHANGE THE WORLD buttons attached to their bags or clothes somewhere. Grantaire designed a more professional-looking version than those first few and they can’t have them printed fast enough to get them to everyone who wants them. They have meetings whenever they can fit them in, and word keeps coming in from across the country that the Friends are starting write-in campaigns in lots of small districts. At this rate they’re going to have to start having conventions within a few years and nominating candidates at a national level.

Grantaire stops touching him when they aren’t in public.

Enjolras has no idea why he notices, much less how he notices, but once he does it sits in the back of his mind. He didn’t think Grantaire touched him much before, but now when they sit next to each other in meetings and Cosette isn’t there, Grantaire never nudges him with a shoulder when he’s about to say something just to get a rise out of him, never snatches papers out of his hands or kicks him under the table when Marius is being particularly ridiculous or even looks at him for more than a few seconds.

He still rips apart half of what Enjolras says in meetings, and Enjolras knows that Eponine has Grantaire check over any speeches Enjolras is going to give to find anything that will be easily exploited by their opponents, but while he isn’t cruel about it, he doesn’t joke around with him, either. It feels like they’re sitting across the table from each other at a philosophy seminar again, the first semester they knew each other, arguing every point over the teacher and drowning out the rest of the class, not bothering with personal discussion because they barely knew each other. They’ve never been the best of friends, but in the years since they have relaxed a little around each other, and it’s odd going back to how things were.

In public, though, or when Cosette is around, Grantaire is always at his elbow, in a way that feels normal (and disconcertingly so). He keeps most of his commentary to himself, but he holds Enjolras’s hand for a few seconds at a time, doesn’t stray very far when Enjolras isn’t in the middle of giving a speech, puts his arm around his shoulders sometimes.

Enjolras, to his own surprise, is starting to respond in kind. It starts to feel natural to reach to his left and find Grantaire’s hand with his own, and to turn to the side ready to make an introduction when talking to someone new. When Grantaire rests his hand on the back of Enjolras’s neck at the end of a particularly hard meeting of statistics and strategies, it’s easy to lean into it. Enjolras hasn’t dated in years, too busy with founding a political party, and he’d forgotten how it feels to have someone standing at his side, even if Grantaire hasn’t even hugged, let alone kissed, him in public.

Once he notices that Grantaire is acting strangely, though, he can’t stop noticing, and since Enjolras has never been one to do things by halves, the next time he sees Eponine and Grantaire finish having a deep conversation after a meeting where Cosette isn’t there, he grabs Grantaire before he can go. “Can we talk for a minute?”

“Am I in trouble?” Grantaire takes a drink of whatever he has in his cup tonight. “What have I done now? Told one of your faithful followers this movement is going to end badly? I don’t remember doing it recently, but—”

“I just want to check in about things,” Enjolras interrupts, all too aware that Eponine is glaring at him. “Kitchen?”

“Last time he asked that, I ended up dating him. If he’s got a ring, I may run away,” Grantaire says to the room at large, but with another drink he heads into the back room and Enjolras follows, making a point of not meeting anyone’s eyes. By the time Enjolras gets to the kitchen, Grantaire is sitting on one of the counters, legs swinging, cup empty. “So, checking in? If you’re asking about the band for our reception, I’m afraid Bob Dylan wasn’t—”

Enjolras waves off the stream of nonsense, even if it’s the closest Grantaire has been to normal in private for weeks. “Are you okay?”

It’s a stupid question, and he knows before Grantaire even opens his mouth that his answer is an incredulous raise of the eyebrows and a quick “Fine. If that’s all?”

“I mean that you’re acting differently with me since we started acting for the press. If you’re uncomfortable, you can always end it.” He squares his shoulders. “I would hate to lose you as a friend because of this.”

If Grantaire’s eyebrows were high before, they’re practically in his hairline now. “The great future president deigns to call me his friend? You must be worried. Don’t worry, Apollo, nothing’s wrong. I’m just setting a few boundaries. Clear line of demarcation and all. I figured you’d appreciate it. Is that okay?”

He can’t really argue with that, or think of a reason why he should want to argue it even if it feels uncomfortable and settles wrong on his shoulders. It’s Grantaire’s choice, and Enjolras is indebted to him for doing this in the first place, so all he can do is say “Of course it’s okay, if you’re sure. I just wanted to make sure this isn’t making you unhappy.”

“Flattered as I am that you’re worried, it’s fine. It’s all fine. As long as I’m not doing it in ten years when you’re running for president, but I imagine you’ll have found yourself some human rights activist to marry you by then and I’ll be left in the background of all the press photos with everyone speculating about your bitter ex.”

It’s Enjolras’s turn to raise his eyebrows. “What, you expect you’ll still be with Les Amis in ten years? I would think you would have given us up as a bunch of hopeless idealists by then and moved on to talk nihilism in a city café somewhere.”

“Oh, Apollo,” says Grantaire, snorting and hopping off the counter, putting his cup in the sink without washing it. “As if I’d be anywhere else. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Eponine and Gavroche are painting their living room tonight and I promised to help.”

Before Enjolras can do more than nod and start to say goodbye, Grantaire is ducking out of the room, saying something cheery to everyone who’s left and then calling for Eponine to put her things away before her brother decides to drip paint all over their carpet, and is she still against the idea of a mural?

Enjolras sits in the kitchen for a minute, marshaling his thoughts, before he goes back out to talk to Feuilly about the lunch the Small Business Association has invited him to.

*

They make it until October before Enjolras finds himself explicitly confirming that he and Grantaire are together to a journalist. It isn’t Cosette, who continues to put out good articles every few weeks about their campaign and its spread and how, to the public’s shock, it looks like Enjolras and a few others may have chances in their districts, including a congressional candidate in Wisconsin. Someone calls up from the Boston Globe to ask about his feelings on the party in general as opposed to just his own race, and towards the end of the interview he asks about Grantaire. “How did you two meet?”

“A philosophy seminar, in college.”

“And you got together then?”

“No, it took a while.” He winces; it’s already more than he tries to say about Grantaire in interviews, and closer to lying than he likes to go as well. He trusts his friends not to out them, but if the worst happens he doesn’t want to lose all credibility.

“How did it happen, then?”

“I’m not sure this is—”

“Enjolras, people want to know. We don’t need more details than you’re comfortable giving, but we would love to have something.”

Enjolras chooses his words as carefully as he can. “It’s not an exciting story, not really. Grantaire was always just there while I was doing my work, even when he didn’t agree with me, and it means a lot. I’d always assumed I would find someone eventually, even though I was busy. I just didn’t realize he was there already until it happened completely by accident. I couldn’t be gladder, though. He’s not at all what I expected, but sometimes that’s a good thing.”

“And you really don’t mind that he’s on record as saying he doesn’t believe the world can be changed?”

He winces, because Grantaire is sometimes blunter than any of them would like and sometimes journalists take those quotes instead of his more supportive ones. It takes a second to muster up a response. “I wish he believed in the possibility more, yes, but arguing against him helps me clarify my own positions, and someday maybe I’ll be able to use that to change his mind, not to mention the minds of others. He’s something to aspire to.”

“And you’re happy together despite your differences?”

“He’s the best boyfriend I could ask for,” Enjolras says, a little harsher than he means to at the growing needling tone in the journalist’s voice, and then he flinches because that’s the first time he’s let that word cross his lips in more than the most general terms. “But in general we prefer our privacy,” he adds, before the questions can continue. “I’d rather not say anything else before checking in with him.”

“Of course. Now, if you don’t mind, a few more questions about the Tea Party response to your latest spike in numbers …”

Enjolras gets through the rest of the questions with less patience than he did the ones before Grantaire came into the conversation, and hangs up feeling out of sorts and annoyed.

It isn’t until the article prints the next day, most of their conversation about Grantaire intact aside from Enjolras’s protestations for privacy for the two of them, that he realizes that, other than the erroneous assumption overlaying it all that he and Grantaire really are together, nothing he said in the interview was a lie.

Grantaire has been there since the beginning, no matter what he says about all of them being on the road to an early martyrdom, and in his own way he’s every bit as helpful as Combeferre or Courfeyrac or Eponine. He’s not the foggy spouse Enjolras had always assumed he would find, sometime on his road to the White House. He fights Enjolras, he drinks more than he should, he spends half his nights on Eponine’s couch to keep her and Gavroche company, he draws stupid cartoons in the margins of their meeting notes, and Enjolras is pretty sure that saying Grantaire is the best boyfriend he could ask for is more true than he wants it to be.

Especially since none of it is real.

*

Enjolras isn’t good at romance, he’s known that since high school, and he doesn’t care about it most of the time. There have always been bigger things to worry about.

There are bigger things to worry about now as well, with a campaign in its last month and only getting larger as it goes. But once they’ve won—and Enjolras can feel the victory coming, even if he doesn’t want to count on it before the end—Grantaire will have no reason to keep up the act for the press, and Enjolras wants this sorted out before it comes to that.

Grantaire may not think, as Enjolras is starting to, that they’re better together than apart. Given his sudden desire for boundaries and obvious discomfort with Enjolras in private since this began, Enjolras doesn’t think he is bothered like Enjolras is starting to be by the fact that they don’t kiss even when they’re in public and pretending. Still, Grantaire is bi, and he could be convinced.

Or he could be, except the article in the Globe seems to make him disappear whenever Enjolras even enters a room unless they’re having a public event. Enjolras texts him and the messages go unanswered, and when he tries to talk to him Grantaire always finds an excuse to leave.

Finally, Enjolras takes Eponine aside after a meeting, since she and Bahorel are the closest to Grantaire and he really doesn’t want to have this conversation with Bahorel. “Did I do something to offend Grantaire?”

She stares at him for a second, brows drawn together. “Are you serious right now?”

“Of course I am. He’s been avoiding me since the Globe published that article. Did it make him uncomfortable? I didn’t say anything more than the kind of thing he’s always saying to Cosette.”

“That’s exactly what is making him uncomfortable, if you ask me. Look, you’re … you really just don’t get it, and I’m not going to tell you, because it’s R’s business and not yours. Why are you asking?”

Enjolras sighs. “Because he’s my friend, Eponine, and I don’t like it when my friends start avoiding me.”

“Bullshit,” she says instantly. “We’ve all avoided you at some point or other when we’ve had to concentrate on things besides politics and I can’t think of a single time you noticed. Other than getting pissed off at Marius when he missed meetings for dates.”

“This is more personal than that.” And that’s why he’s at sea, but he knows Eponine knows him well enough to know that. “I don’t want to—I didn’t say anything to hurt him, not on purpose, and I’d rather be able to avoid doing it again.”

“I knew this was a bad idea, the whole thing.” Eponine sighs. “You are both so stupid, and no, I’m not going to tell you why. Just talk to him when you can, okay? And I’ll try to get him to stop avoiding you, but I can’t promise anything.”

“That’s more than enough.”

“Just … look.” She scrubs a hand across her face. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, or that I have to, but if this is about what I think it’s about, you’ve got to show him, okay? Because both of you are terrible at talking about things that aren’t philosophy and politics. At least you of all people can do grand gestures.”

Bossuet interrupts them to ask Eponine a detail about national figures, and Enjolras gives the room and waves before anyone can hold him back. He’s not going to find Grantaire tonight, he needs time to regroup, but at least now he has a little advice, if not a real explanation for what he said to offend Grantaire. He doesn’t know what kind of grand gesture he should make, when he can’t even get near Grantaire, but he’s sure something will come to him.

*

The next day, Enjolras has an event in his hometown, even if it isn’t in his district, put together by his mother as some kind of peace offering. It’s at the country club, and he’s not sure he’ll be able to change anyone’s minds there, but the chance of it has him putting on his nicest suit and driving over. Not all of Les Amis are coming, but Courfeyrac is waiting when he gets there—with Grantaire propping up a wall next to him, much to Enjolras’s surprise, wearing a suit that fits him badly enough that it must be someone else’s (Enjolras dimly thinks he saw Combeferre wear it to a wedding a year or so ago) and a green tie that’s already loosened and askew.

“I didn’t know you were coming,” he says once he gets close enough and finishes greeting Courfeyrac, who rolls his eyes at them and goes to talk to someone a few feet away.

“Couldn’t abandon you to the rich set, could I?” Grantaire straightens up. “Your mother is in the next room, by the way, and I definitely see where you get it from.”

“Get what from?” He’s not sure how close to stand to Grantaire, or how close he’ll be allowed. Grantaire seems to be making an effort at normalcy, but his jaw is tense and his fingers are shaky until he notices Enjolras looking and clenches a fist.

“The air of being a Greek god suddenly descended from Mt. Olympus, of course. It’s rather hard on we poor mortals. Anyway, I hid from her while Courf said hello, so you’re going to have to introduce me.”

“Of course.” He nods to a few of the people he recognizes, friends of his parents, men who golf with his father on the weekends. None of them look particularly happy to see him, but Enjolras stopped caring about their opinions years ago. “Thank you for coming, by the way.”

“It wasn’t entirely out of altruistic motives. I figured there would be good wine.”

Enjolras decides to ignore that, especially since Grantaire doesn’t have a glass in his hands even though many of the people around them do. “There probably will be. Come on, let’s go find my mother.” He raises his voice a little. “Courfeyrac, do you want to see my mother?”

“Already did, thanks. I’ll see you two in a while, text me if you lose me in the crowd.”

Grantaire grins at Courfeyrac. “If we’re not back in an hour, send out a search party. If you can’t find us, tell Eponine that I love her and Bahorel that he can have my car if he can get it to run.”

Courfeyrac looks between them with the same worried look Enjolras is starting to recognize from Eponine and Marius and Jehan, ever since the Globe article came out, or even before. “I’ll keep it in mind,” he says, though, and shoos them off while he goes back to chatting with a man Enjolras remembers as one of the town selectmen.

It takes longer than Enjolras likes to work his way through the crowd and into the next room to where his mother is holding court. Grantaire is at his shoulder the whole way, giving passing waiters with trays of glasses longing looks but mostly rolling his eyes in sympathy with Enjolras every time someone looks at either the two of them or talks about Enjolras’s politics with the polite horror his parents’ set are so good at.

His mother breaks away from her conversation when he comes within reach to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Glad to see you, dear.” She looks over his shoulder. “This is your … Grantaire?”

Grantaire’s hand lands on the small of Enjolras’s back even while he uses the other to shake Enjolras’s mother’s hand. “And also my own Grantaire, amazingly enough. It’s nice to meet you, I’ve heard so much about you.” Enjolras leans back into his hand as thanks and apology and Grantaire moves a finger, a miniature caress that makes Enjolras forget what he’s going to say, leaving his mother to fill in the gap in the conversation.

“And the whole country has heard about you, by now.” Her smile is brittle, but Enjolras thinks it’s more because he didn’t tell her he was dating someone than because Grantaire is a man. She has far more objections to his politics than to who he chooses to date. “What do you do, Grantaire? I don’t believe any of the articles have mentioned.”

“Oh, this and that. I have a degree in art and philosophy, which does me a lot of good, but I do sell the occasional painting, and I do graphic design for the campaign when they’re desperate for a new poster.” Grantaire’s fingers tighten in the fabric of Enjolras’s suit every few words.

“Sounds fascinating.” That duty done, she starts introducing the two of them to everyone she was standing with, letting them ask polite questions about politics and what else Enjolras has been up to since he saw them last.

He isn’t giving a speech at this party, just shaking as many hands as he can and trying not to wince whenever any of them makes it clear they support something Enjolras is trying to change. Grantaire stays next to him except for a period when he leaves him with Courfeyrac and shows up fifteen minutes later with a plate of food and the under-the-breath comment “The girl at the table actually asked if I wanted crudités, what the fuck? They’re vegetables!”

When the crowd finally starts to disperse, Enjolras lets himself relax for a few minutes, nods at Courfeyrac where he’s talking to the high school principal, who actually seems to be supportive of at least some of their causes, and walks out to one of the deserted decks. Grantaire follows, thankfully, although he tenses up when he notices no one else is there. “Well, that was an exercise in uselessness,” he says when Enjolras just takes a few lungfuls of the crisp fall air.

“For once, I agree with you. And I’ve still got dinner with my parents ahead of me.” He sighs and turns to face Grantaire. Grantaire has let his hand drop from Enjolras’s back now that there’s no one else around, but he’s still standing almost as close as he was all afternoon. Enjolras takes a chance and leans a little closer. “I would beg you to come along, but you’ve already gone beyond the call of duty today.”

“I think your mother would incinerate me with her mind. If she and Eponine ever agreed on anything, they could probably take over the world.”

“Probably.” He struggles to turn the conversation around to where he wants it before Grantaire can decide they should go inside or that he should leave Enjolras alone. “Thank you again, by the way. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

Grantaire snorts. “Seems like having a boyfriend in this crowd only made it harder. Especially when that boyfriend is me of all people.”

“I don’t care what they think, they aren’t my constituents yet. And it wouldn’t …” He searches for something to say that doesn’t sound stupid, but for once words are failing him. “It wouldn’t matter anyway,” he decides on eventually. “You matter more than they do. Especially when you’re doing so much for me.”

That makes Grantaire’s eyebrows go up, even though Enjolras doesn’t think he can make himself much clearer. When he speaks, it’s in the mocking tone he usually only uses when Enjolras is trying to convince him of something and he doesn’t want to be convinced. “And the great god Apollo deigns to thank the mortal who—”

“Will you shut up” says Enjolras, sick of trying to dance around the subject, and takes Grantaire’s face in his hands to kiss him, since that at least won’t be misinterpreted.

Grantaire allows it for about ten glorious seconds of warmth and shared breath, long enough for Enjolras to steady himself from the surprise and note the feeling in his chest that always means he’s made a decision that is the right one, the one that puts him where he should be. Almost as soon as he notices, though, Grantaire is planting his hands on his chest not to pull him closer but to push him away, rougher than he’s ever touched Enjolras before. “Fuck you,” he says, a blunt insult when usually he gives Enjolras a way to argue back with him instead of shutting down the conversation. “Fuck you, that is not fair, and you know it’s not fair.”

“I don’t know what you’re—”

“And I don’t know what you think of me, but if you think I’m going to let you kiss me because you’re—no, you know what? I’m going to find Courf, and you have fun at dinner with your parents, and maybe I’ll see you at the meeting tomorrow. But we’re off. This whole … all of this, it’s off. You said to end it if I feel uncomfortable, and that’s what I’m doing. Tell Cosette whatever the fuck you please about it.”

With that, he’s off and through the doors back into the club, and Enjolras follows him, or tries, but this isn’t a movie and he can’t shout for Grantaire to stop and listen to him with a room full of his parents’ friends there. Grantaire shoulders his way through the crowd, stops Courfeyrac with a hand on his arm and says something quickly before leaving the room. Courfeyrac gives Enjolras a wide-eyed look across the room, but Enjolras is stopped by his mother before he can go over and explain what happened, or ask.

Enjolras’s phone buzzes twice during the miserable dinner with his parents, and he checks both times to see if it’s Grantaire. Instead, both times it’s a text from Courfeyrac. don’t know what you did but you really fucked up, says the first one, sent when they first started out home, and it’s followed half an hour later by u r both idiots, give R some time okay. Enjolras resists the urge to throw his phone across the room and goes back to gritting his teeth while his father complains about taxes.

*

Grantaire, for all his talk about not believing in anything the Friends of the People do, only misses meetings when he’s working, so when he doesn’t show up at the next day’s meeting everyone knows it’s bad.

Everyone knows something happened, anyway, judging by the looks Enjolras got when he came in, but as the clock ticks to time and Enjolras puts off starting the meeting, hoping Grantaire is just running late, or even just hungover and going slow, the looks get more angry, and more worried, and more than one phone comes out to start texting Grantaire. Cosette, sitting next to Marius with her usual notebook and recorder out, looks just as worried as the rest of them, maybe even more so, playing with her pen instead of writing anything down.

For the first time since they’ve started the campaign, Enjolras calls the meeting to order ten minutes late, when he has to admit that Grantaire isn’t coming. There isn’t much to talk about for his own campaign—his numbers get better by the day, and with just a few weeks to the election and nothing more than extra signs stuck in the side of the road by way of challenge from his opponents, Enjolras doesn’t think it’s boasting to say he’ll probably win—but they talk about the party on a national level at length, about getting on the ballot and cohesive platforms and the supporters in other states who Combeferre is in constant contact with.

It should feel like a triumph, but mostly Enjolras is tired and out of sorts and trying to ignore the stack of scrap paper at his left elbow, because they’ve all started putting scrap at Grantaire’s place instead of in the recycle bin so he can draw during meetings. He’s half-finished with a page from the last one, which seems to be a continuation of his habit of drawing Cosette as a cartoon princess and the rest of them as her animal companions (and if it were any other day, Enjolras would be annoyed that there is a squirrel that looks unnervingly like him, but today all he can notice is that it’s sitting on the back of a wild boar, and he knows who that is too), and Enjolras spends to much time looking at it when he knows he should be paying attention.

Afterwards, he thinks about pulling Eponine aside, because figuring out what he did wrong is worth the reaming out she’ll probably give him, but she looks as worried as the rest of them, a little wild with it, and she was checking her phone and texting something every few minutes all through the meeting, so Enjolras thinks maybe Courfeyrac is the only one who knows what Grantaire is thinking, and Courfeyrac is tense and, for once, not talking about it, making a point of asking Jehan about advertising and whether they ought to keep on with Grantaire’s accidental slogan.

Instead, after some half-hearted attempts at conversation with Feuilly and Marius, he finds himself alone with Cosette in the kitchen, where he excused himself to supposedly get a glass of water. Enjolras sighs and tries to think of something to say. “I’m sorry if the meeting wasn’t interesting—”

“Would you shut up? I’m here because at this point I consider you guys friends and I want to make sure you’re okay. I get the impression you maybe fucked things up with R, but that you maybe don’t know what you fucked up.”

“I don’t have any interest in this being scooped in the Gazette,” he snaps, because he needs to be angry at someone, even if he’s increasingly convinced it should be at himself.

Cosette sets her jaw, but she doesn’t flinch, and she doesn’t let him bait her. “This isn’t going in the paper. Friends, remember? And I feel like this is my fault, a little, because I realized too late how new you and R are, and how maybe you wanted more time before it came out in the paper, and if that’s what’s putting a strain on your relationship, then I owe you one.”

“You don’t.” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “What made you assume we were together in the first place? I know we weren’t introduced that way.”

“Because he loves you, and it’s sort of painfully obvious. I still should have asked, though.” She smiles. “Even if it’s been good for your campaign, and we all know it.”

“It has. You’ve done us a lot of good.” He tries not to think about Grantaire loving him, because it doesn’t make sense, not if Grantaire pushed him away, not with how he’s been acting for weeks and weeks now.

“But I haven’t done you and R a lot of good,” she finishes.

Enjolras searches for something close to the truth. Kissing his boyfriend wouldn’t be a problem, if they really were dating, especially given that he did it in relative privacy. “Things are always tense with us. The public scrutiny didn’t help, but I can’t blame you.” For a second, he toys with the idea of telling the truth, wondering if that might make Grantaire more inclined to talk with him, but even if Cosette considers him a friend she would feel bound to report on it, and he’s not willing to throw his chances to the dogs without being sure that it will make Grantaire listen to him, and even then he owes too much to the party and his friends to make that decision alone.

“You still want to be with him?”

“Yes.” He wants to start to be with him properly, anyway, which might as well be the same thing. If the interview with the Globe made him start thinking about it, yesterday made him sure.

Cosette smiles. “Then give him a call and tell him that when he’s ready to talk, you want to talk. Apologize. Give him space if he needs it. Don’t be a dick if he really is done. And if you ever want to make a grand gesture, well. The Gazette is always willing to print a quote.”

“Unfortunately, grand gestures are part of what gave me trouble last time.” There can’t be anything more grand than kissing him, or even talking to the Boston Globe about him in the first place, so Eponine was wrong either about Grantaire appreciating a grand gesture or the need for one. “I’ll give him space.”

“Apologize, then give him space,” Cosette says firmly. “And I’ll give you a few days before I print anything about you two splitting up, just in case.”

“Thank you. I’m glad you ended up here.” He’s not glad that Marius brought her in the first place, or all the lying that’s had to result, but she’s given them a boost that they’ve desperately needed, and he thinks that with more time and trust she could become a good friend, and, judging by her interest, a member of their group.

She gives his hand a shake. “I’m glad to be here. And I’m looking forward to seeing where you go next. If I play my cards right, I can ride this story to the New York Times in a couple of years.”

Marius pokes his head into the kitchen, giving Enjolras an apologetic grimace. “Cosette, we’re going to be late for dinner with your dad.”

“It’s cute that you’re terrified of him, sweetie,” she says, then turns to Enjolras. “I should introduce the two of you at some point; he used to be in politics, mayor of a city in Pennsylvania before he came here. He likes what you’ve got to say, and when you start running for bigger seats he might be helpful.”

“Thanks,” Enjolras says, a little startled.

She kisses him on the cheek like it’s the most natural thing in the world. “Keep me posted, and remember what I said. And don’t go cheating on me with other reporters, I want any scoops you can give me.”

Enjolras waves her out of the room and stays in the kitchen as she and Marius say their goodbyes to everyone else who’s there. He knows it’s only a matter of time before someone comes in to ask if he’s okay, if he has anything that needs to be done before the next meeting, and what exactly he said to Grantaire, so he takes the moment of breathing space to get out his phone and send a text: I’m sorry. Please let me know when you’re ready to talk.

His phone stays silent for the whole night, but Enjolras wasn’t expecting anything different.

*

Despite the bad timing, Enjolras spends a week in Augusta talking to all the politicians he can, and with the offices for their national congressional representatives. It isn’t necessary for his current campaign, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still thinking about the future. He spends his days mostly in the Capitol, watching the House in session, where he hopes to be in a few months. He has an awkward meeting with the current representative from his district—luckily, he’s retiring, but their politics are different enough to make the meeting uncomfortable anyway. Combeferre is with him the whole time, dealing with learning more about running a political party that looks like it’s going to become a force on the national scale at its current rate of growth, someday if not right away.

Enjolras misses Grantaire.

The two of them have never been particularly close. They aren’t prone to calling each other when they just want to relax or watch a movie. They have different interests, and different beliefs, and have other people they’re more likely to give their confidences to. Grantaire has always been there, though, ever since he started crashing Les Amis’ dinner table after their shared seminar, always sending the occasional text and keeping Enjolras from trying to change everything about the world at once. Even if they aren’t close, it’s been a long time since they weren’t in contact at least every few days.

He gets a text two days into his trip that says it’s okay tell the papers whatever you want and then nothing more despite trying at least once a day. Combeferre asks once if they’ve talked, and Enjolras doesn’t know what his face looks like, but he doesn’t ask again, and the texts from the others asking if things are okay grow less and less frequent as well, although Eponine texts something along the lines of I can’t believe you two at every opportunity.

Five days into his stay, Enjolras sends Combeferre out for dinner with a few friends from the Department of Ag (God knows where they go, Enjolras doesn’t care much about entertainment but even he knows that Augusta is the most boring city he’s ever seen) and, once he knows he’s alone in his hotel, tries to give Grantaire a call. As he might have expected, it goes to voicemail after a few rings. He thinks about hanging up, but when the beep sounds, he leaves a message instead: “Hi, Grantaire—R. It’s me. I know you aren’t ready to talk to me yet, but I do want to talk to you. I’ll apologize as much as you want me to, but I still don’t know what I did wrong, and I wish you would tell me.” He takes a deep breath and hopes Eponine isn’t screening his voicemails. “I miss you. Send me a treatise on Rousseau vs. Locke, if you like, I just want to know you’re okay.”

Halfway through the morning the next day, he gets a text from Grantaire that reads trick question they’re both bullshit.

It’s not the answer he wants, or the explanation he wants more, but he isn’t in a position to get anything more out of him right now, so Enjolras just texts back Why so?

we went through this in class years ago, both assume need for state and that the state works for the people, take a fucking anthropology class or a history class, he gets, and doesn’t get a chance to respond until lunch, where Combeferre watches sharply while he types out a response that takes three texts about the ideal of the state and the use of applying the framework of their arguments to more modern schools of thought including cultural diversity.

Even though it’s nothing they didn’t argue endlessly when they were in school, they still text on and off for the rest of the day. It isn’t quite what Enjolras wants, since it’s still impersonal and Grantaire still hasn’t told him what he did—or, more accurately, what exactly about kissing him was so terrible. If it were a simple rejection, Grantaire not feeling the same way, Enjolras thinks he would have just said so. But, given some space to think, he doesn’t think that’s the problem. Cosette thought they were in love—thought Grantaire loved him, enough that she didn’t bother to confirm because she thought it was obvious that they’re together. And Grantaire has always been there, even when they argue, eyes always on Enjolras to see what he does next.

If Grantaire wants him, though, Enjolras must have done something else, and he has to figure out what.

By the time they go back home after a week of talking to everyone who will talk to them, Enjolras and Grantaire are texting almost normally, but every time Enjolras even begins to hint about talking about what happened at his mother’s party Grantaire changes the subject so obviously that Enjolras always backs down. Hopefully Grantaire will start coming to meetings again, and they can get things worked out before he has to tell the press they’ve ended it or find something to tell Cosette.

*

Getting back home doesn’t mean he can go find Grantaire immediately, unfortunately. There’s only a week until Election Day, and plenty of people to talk to about last-minute details. There’s been an argument with one of the more last-minute runners on their ticket about a point of policy, and Enjolras spends two hours on the phone with him almost as soon as he gets back and Courfeyrac briefs him on it. It ends in shouting and the candidate pulling out, and before he’s been able to calm down from that a journalist calls to get a quote from him on the split.

For a panicked second, he thinks the question is about Grantaire and someone’s let it slip, but then he realizes it’s about the other candidate, who must have gone to the press the second they hung up. That takes another twenty minutes of saying the right thing, and he gets two more calls on the subject before he can check in properly with everyone about what’s happened in his absence. It isn’t an official meeting, but the headquarters are humming, everyone running around busily.

He’s half-expecting Grantaire to turn up, given that almost everyone else seems to be there, but it’s still a shock when he walks through the door after a few hours as evening comes, Gavroche on his heels. “We were at the movies,” he tells Eponine before she even asks a question, not looking at Enjolras.

Enjolras tightens his grip on his phone enough that he’s afraid he’ll make the case crack, but he manages to keep his voice even. “What were you watching?”

“Nothing you’d be interested in, Apollo. Too many explosions, not enough people dying of consumption.” Grantaire finally looks over at him and gives him a tight smile. “Good to have you back.”

“It’s good to see you.” Everyone, Enjolras notices, is paying close attention to their greeting, even if they’re pretending to do what they were doing before. Considering that and considering Grantaire is using Gavroche as a human shield, it’s not the best time to say anything. He would rather not put it off, but Cosette told him to give Grantaire space, and that’s all he can think of to do right now.

“It must be very boring in Augusta,” says Grantaire, and that starts a rush of conversation back in again.

Enjolras is just far enough away from Grantaire that starting a conversation with him would be making too much of a point, so he leaves him to the Thenardier siblings and finds Marius instead. Marius, being the only one of Les Amis in a relationship that he will admit to (something is happening with Joly and Bossuet and someone they both keep texting, but Enjolras is too busy to think about what), is inclined to sigh and shake his head and look over at Grantaire significantly, but he’s also their legal expert and Enjolras needs to ask him questions he’s built up from his time in Augusta and now from his phone conversation with the candidate they’ve lost.

He promises himself he’ll give Grantaire space, but when he sees him going into the kitchen, presumably to find a drink, Enjolras excuses himself from his conversation and goes after him. The second Grantaire sees him, he goes for the bottle of wine he has next to him instead of the cup he’s just poured, and Enjolras holds his hands up. “I’m not here to make you talk about anything you don’t want to talk about. Yet. I just wanted to say hello.”

“I don’t get you.” Grantaire takes a long drink of his wine, and Enjolras tries to ignore the way his fingers wrap around the cup, the way his Adam’s apple bobs when he swallows.

“That makes two of us.”

“You haven’t talked to Cosette.”

“I haven’t talked to you.” Grantaire makes a point of turning towards the window, and Enjolras resists the urge to pull his own hair out. “I didn’t want to give her a story without your say-so.” He winces, but he needs to say the next word. “Again. What do you want me to tell her?”

Grantaire shrugs and doesn’t turn around. “Villainize me, I don’t care. Whatever will be best for the campaign, that’s been the point of the whole thing.”

“I don’t want to villainize you, and no, it hasn’t. I can tell her the media attention was too much, or that I decided given my ambitions it would be too hard on you to stay together when I’ll have to travel, or just that we argued. I’m not going to say anything was your fault. Especially when you’re half the reason I’ve got a chance.”

“Noble of you.”

Enjolras wants to snap that he isn’t being noble, and that he doesn’t want to have to tell Cosette anything, and maybe wouldn’t have to if Grantaire would talk to him, or even just listen for a minute, but Eponine comes in before he can even open his mouth. “Here you two are,” she says, putting her hand on Grantaire’s back and shifting the bottle away from him with the other. “R, can you drive Gav home? Combeferre and I are going somewhere less noisy, call if you need me.” She’s scowling when she turns to look at Enjolras. “And Feuilly wants to talk to you. Now.”

He doesn’t want to go, but Grantaire isn’t ready yet, and Enjolras is making Cosette’s words about space into a mantra. He goes and talks to Feuilly about something that isn’t very urgent at all and only waves when Grantaire leaves, grabbing Gavroche from where he’s hanging on every word Courfeyrac says (even odds whether it’s about sex or revolution, given the two of them).

An hour later, when Enjolras is finally getting ready for bed after what feels like the longest week and definitely the longest day of his life, Cosette calls.

“R just told me to print in the paper that he broke up with you because he felt he was holding you back and that you needed to concentrate on your career,” she says without any preamble. “I thought that given everything I might want to call and confirm that with you. He didn’t sound very happy.”

Enjolras sighs and hates himself, and even Grantaire a little bit, not to mention Cosette for making assumptions and Marius for bringing her to their meetings in the first place. “Don’t print that, please. He thinks he’s helping me. If you have to print something, and I suppose you do, just say that it was an argument, unrelated to the campaign, and that I regret it deeply but am glad for his continued support.”

“Are you guys okay?”

“I’m still trying to give him space.”

“So you’re not.”

“I’m working on it.” And he is going to keep doing so, election week or not. “Grantaire, aside from anything else, is a good friend, and I don’t want to lose that. He’s half the reason I’m in this election at all, and I’ll never be able to thank him enough.”

“And this conversation counts as on the record?”

He sighs. “It might as well be. I don’t think it can make things any worse. I don’t want my love life to be the point of whatever article you’re writing, but we can’t really go without mentioning it at all. It’s still the most common thing I get asked about at meetings.”

“Human interest is a beautiful thing,” she says. “I’ll print something nice about the two of you at the end of the article, since it’s the last one before you win or lose.”

“Thanks. Now, I’m sorry to have to hang up, but I haven’t slept in my own bed in a week. I’m sure I’ll see you soon.”

“Good luck,” she says, and he has enough manners to grunt an acknowledgement before he hangs up.

Enjolras feels like he should toss and turn, spend the whole night trying to think of how to get Grantaire to listen, but he’s asleep as soon as he climbs into bed instead, and wakes not feeling rested at all.

*

The article prints on the Thursday before election Tuesday, when Enjolras has his phone almost surgically attached to his ear calling everyone he can think of and knocking on doors and encouraging voter turnout in whatever way he can. Cosette, as promised, didn’t make a production over his and Grantaire’s breakup, but his words still look obvious printed in black and white, the “I’ll never be able to thank him enough” sticking out.

He’s in headquarters, and Jehan and Bossuet are the only two with him, the rest of them out working or knocking on doors or having a well-deserved rest. Jehan spends the whole morning giving him pitying looks in between sending e-mails, and Bossuet brings him a cup of coffee and a bracing grip of his shoulder but otherwise leaves him alone. Enjolras restrains himself as well as he can from checking on media response to the article, and even though he knows it’s unwise, he ignores calls from every journalist who tries to get in touch with him, especially the one from the Boston Globe when he tries.

When Grantaire calls, sometime around noon, he almost ignores the call out of habit, only to scramble to pick up the phone and to go into the kitchen for privacy at the same time, since he seems to have all his important conversations with Grantaire in the kitchen at headquarters. “You really don’t know how to leave well enough alone,” says Grantaire when Enjolras gives him a hello that’s more tentative than he means it to be.

“I wasn’t going to let you throw yourself on some kind of sword—”

“It’s just a stupid PR thing—”

“And I think we’ve all done enough lying. This at least was the truth.”

Grantaire lets out an impatient noise. “Apollo, you are so fucking confusing sometimes.”

“You think I’m confusing?” He winces at the way his voice rises and brings his volume back down when he continues, hoping Jehan and Bossuet are polite enough not to listen. “You say you don’t believe in anything we stand for, but then you try to take the blame for something that isn’t your fault just so you can save me a little trouble, maybe a few points lost in the election.” And he has lost a few points, enough to make him nervous but not enough to make him fall behind his opponents. “I did something wrong, that’s very clear from the way you’ve been avoiding me, but you won’t tell me what it is and you won’t let me fix it and you don’t even tell the paper I’m an asshole when nobody would blame you.” He takes a deep breath in. “Not even me.”

“I get it, you’re sorry.”

“No, I’m not. Or not in the way you mean.” Grantaire doesn’t say anything. “I am sorry I upset you and made you break this off, but I don’t know what I did, so I can’t be sorry in that case.”

“Well, for starters, you kissed me.”

Enjolras winces. Worst-case scenario is that he and Cosette and, he thinks, plenty of others, are reading the situation wrong and Grantaire doesn’t feel for Enjolras what Enjolras feels for him, but having it confirmed is difficult. “Then I apologize for that. I should have asked you.”

“I may be pathetic, but I’m not quite that pathetic.”

“I never thought you were.” He thinks many things about Grantaire, and a lot of them are bad, but pathetic is never one of the words that has crossed his mind.

Grantaire snorts. “Sure, you just pity-kissed me for going beyond the call of duty, or because you were grateful and you knew I would want it. I get I’ve made myself obvious, but that was crossing—”

“What?” The conversation on the deck at the country club starts rearranging itself into a different configuration, going from Enjolras expressing his gratitude, assuring Grantaire of his importance, and taking a chance to Enjolras doing something he didn’t want to do as some sort of fucked up reward for Grantaire. He feels a little sick, but underneath it there’s the realization that this isn’t about Grantaire not wanting him, not if he’s saying what Enjolras thinks he’s saying. “That’s not—do you really think I would do that? Grantaire, what the fuck?”

“Well, from over here that’s exactly what it sounded like.”

Grantaire sounds like he’s getting angrier every time he speaks, but Enjolras is sifting through evidence as fast as he can find it, from Cosette’s first meeting with Les Amis to the party at the country club, and even before Cosette—even before the campaign started, really, unsettlingly serious comments that Enjolras always took as jokes. “And when you got upset at me after I talked to the reporter from the Globe,” he says, because he has to say something, and lets Grantaire fill in the rest.

“Then I just thought you were just embellishing the truth for the papers, I was more angry that I was getting my hopes up.” This time, his voice comes out a little quieter, like maybe something Enjolras has said is tipping him off that they’ve misunderstood each other.

“I was telling the truth. Not that we were really dating, but everything else.” He swallows. “And I meant the kiss. Not as a thank you, just for us. Is that clear enough?”

There’s a silence so long he thinks his phone dropped the call, or worse, that Grantaire hung up. When he gets an answer, it isn’t anything close to what he wants, just a weak “What?” that sounds like it got punched out of him.

“I should have told you instead of assuming you’d know what I was thinking.” That, he can apologize for. “I’m sorry. But I do mean it. When I kissed you at the party, I was hoping we could start dating for real, instead of just for the press.”

“Christ, Enjolras. I stare at you for years, and what, you don’t notice until I practically scream in Cosette’s ear that I love you and—”

Enjolras interrupts him, even if he wants to hear what he has to say next, because he doesn’t want to hear it on the phone. He didn’t want to hear that on the phone either, and even if he can’t say the words back yet, the sick feeling from their misunderstanding is starting to warm into something else, something better. “Can I come over?”

“What? Aren’t you campaigning?”

“It can wait.”

Grantaire pauses just long enough that Enjolras wonders if they haven’t talked it out enough yet, and if he’s going to have to wait again, but then there’s a shaky exhale. “Yeah, okay. Come over. I’m at my place.”

“I’ll see you in twenty minutes,” Enjolras promises, and hangs up the phone.

Jehan and Bossuet are both grinning when he comes out of the kitchen, but he’s too busy to tell them to keep their mouths shut and start canvassing in his place. They’ll do it, even if the price is them telling all the rest of Les Amis and possibly several newspapers what’s going on. He thinks he hears Jehan saying “You owe me fifty bucks” as he grabs his coat and slams at the door, but by that point he doesn’t really care.

*

Grantaire answers his door in a paint-stained t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants that could either be one of his more eccentric purchases or something he bought for Eponine that she forced back on him, considering they’re bright pink. He looks surprised, even though Enjolras is two minutes later than he said he would be, and they stand on either side of the threshold staring at each other for longer than Enjolras wants to admit.

“Can I come in?” he asks.

“Yeah, right, yes.”

When the door shuts behind him, Enjolras is at a loss for what to say. He feels like there should be more conversation, assurances that he does care for Grantaire as far more than a friend and talking about what they’re going to be for the press, which Enjolras is determined to leave completely up to Grantaire this time. In the end, he goes for the simplest thing he can, even if it doesn’t help them discuss any of the serious subjects. “Can I kiss you? Is that okay?”

In answer, Grantaire kisses him, just leans across the space between them and does it. He tastes a little like stale wine, but not like anything fresh, so Enjolras presses closer and, when Grantaire doesn’t move to touch him other than their mouths moving together, fists his fingers in his t-shirt to pull them together. He must have been painting while he waited for Enjolras, because Enjolras ends up with wet paint on his hands where he’s touching the shirt, but he can’t begin to care, especially not when Grantaire lets out a low noise and finally puts his hands in Enjolras’s hair.

“We should talk,” he says some time later, a little dazed, keeping his hands where they are more to keep himself upright than for any other reason when Grantaire pulls away.

“Should we?” Enjolras opens his mouth to remind him of the magnitude of the misunderstanding they had, but Grantaire moves one of his hands from Enjolras’s hair to cover his mouth. “You want me?” Enjolras tries to answer out loud, and finally just nods when Grantaire declines to move his hand. “And the kiss at the party wasn’t some weird god-doing-his-acolyte-a-favor thing?” All he can manage at that is an indignant noise. “Then, with utmost respect for your attempts to treat me like a delicate flower, fuck talking,” he finishes, and removes his hand only to kiss Enjolras again.

Enjolras pushes him in the direction of the bedroom, or at least towards the door that’s always been closed whenever he’s come over for whatever reason, and Grantaire goes, laughing a little into his mouth and letting go to fumble with the doorknob when they get there.

Inside, it’s a mess, and more of a studio than a bedroom, and part of Enjolras wants to look around at the paintings, because he’s only seen sketches from Grantaire for years and didn’t see much of his other work before then. All he catches, though, is a mess of color that’s on the floor almost as much as its on the canvases, and then he’s found the mattress on the floor piled up with blankets and pillows so it looks like a nest, a few empty cans of beer collecting dust at the head of it and a stack of sketchbooks acting as a miniature table for a half-full and almost definitely cold mug of coffee.

He doesn’t realize he’s frozen at the door until Grantaire gives a gentle tug on his hand. “Unless you’ve been completely thrown off by my messiness, which you really shouldn’t be because you know me, come on, Apollo. The bed calls.”

“Stop calling me that,” he snaps before he knows he’s going to do it, because every time Grantaire compares him to a god lately it doesn’t mean anything good, and he doesn’t want that here.

Even though he regrets his tone, it’s the right thing to say, because Grantaire grins, the smartass one he always uses when he thinks he’s won an argument or when he’s just particularly pleased to be annoying someone (usually Enjolras), and he has just enough time to realize that he’s been missing this particular smile ever since Cosette wrote that first article before Grantaire says “Enjolras,” dirty and low and just smug enough that Enjolras can’t help himself, has to kiss him and try to drag his shirt off at the same time.

Grantaire is having an easier time with his, since it can be unbuttoned, but Enjolras finally gives up and pulls away when they both reach an impasse. “Get your clothes off,” he says, shrugging out of his shirt and pulling off his undershirt and brushing a part of Grantaire’s skin every time he does anything because he doesn’t care to move far enough away for freedom of movement.

“Bossy,” says Grantaire, but he sounds pleased about it, and he grapples his shirt over his head before going for the ties on the sweatpants. Enjolras tries to control his expression on seeing them, but Grantaire just keeps smiling, unrepentant. “I wear them when I’m painting, because no one cares if they get covered in it. I thought about changing, but—”

“Inefficient when I’m just going to take you out of them,” Enjolras agrees, and helps him push down the waistband, taking his boxers with them, and then Grantaire is stepping out of all of it and he’s naked, pale and hairy and with the lines of tattoos Enjolras has only seen hints of before and that he’ll trace every part of later, and if Enjolras doesn’t get his mouth on him right now he thinks he may die.

To that end, he goes to his knees, and Grantaire lets out a choked noise but rests his hand on Enjolras’s head when he moves in to nuzzle at his hip, mouth the edge of a tattoo that seems to be some quote in French he won’t translate just yet. “We didn’t even get to bed,” he says, sounding choked and far-away.

“Do you mind? This is okay?”

“Is this o—Jesus fuck, Ap—Enjolras, yes, it’s okay, did you think I was going to object to getting my dick sucked?”

Enjolras takes that as his opportunity to wrap his lips around the head of Grantaire’s cock, just to test, just to taste. Grantaire lets out a choked noise and Enjolras would smirk if it didn’t mean letting him go. Instead, he sinks just a little bit deeper, bracing one hand on Grantaire’s hip and wrapping the other around the base of his cock. It’s been a long time, and he has no illusions about his ability to deep-throat, but that doesn’t matter to him, and judging by the high little noises Grantaire is already starting to let out he doesn’t care either. It feels good enough to have the taste of Grantaire on his tongue, to have his mouth full with him and his hands clutching almost too tight in his hair, and if he had a hand free he’d be fumbling his own cock out of his pants but that can wait for later, because this is urgent.

Grantaire, he realizes at some point a few minutes in, as he’s getting to know every ridge and vein of his cock, is talking. It’s not a surprise, Grantaire is always talking, or at least always was before Enjolras asked him to fake something he wanted for real (another sign he should have missed, and they’ll talk about that later too, and how Grantaire should tell him if he does something like that again, because Enjolras may be thoughtless about anything but his cause sometimes but that doesn’t mean he wants to hurt anyone, especially Grantaire), and it’s … reassuring isn’t the right word, given the obscene gasps around the words “Oh, yes, right there, just like that,” but it’s good anyway. It’s a reminder of who he’s with.

After a while, Grantaire starts hitching his hips, not quite daring to try to fuck his face, and Enjolras responds by stilling him with a stern grip and taking him in as deep as he can, until the head of his cock grazes the back of his throat, and then he pulls back and does it again until Grantaire twitches in his mouth and then pulls him off completely with a grip in his hair so tight it hurts. Enjolras blinks and looks up at him, finding him wrecked, pupils blown and hair a mess even though he can’t have been touching it. “What?” he asks, impatient, straining forward to lick a drop of pre-cum off the tip of his cock.

“You’re worse than porn, you’re going to kill me,” says Grantaire in what sounds like all seriousness, and when Enjolras makes to keep going, done with the interruption, he keeps him still. “I’m going to come soon, and I am not wearing a condom.”

“Fuck,” says Enjolras, and when Grantaire relaxes his grip he goes forward but turns his head to the side so he’s mouthing at his hip again while he thinks of what to do. “I’ll just use my hand,” he decides, and looks up to find Grantaire closing his eyes and muttering something under his breath. “Good?”

“You can pretty safely assume that anything you want to do to me right now is good,” Grantaire says, sounding a little shaky, and Enjolras thinks about telling him what a bad idea that is to say for their first time, but Grantaire knows, and Enjolras is going to keep asking anyway, because not asking is why this didn’t happen two weeks ago, or even before that.

Enjolras wraps his hand around Grantaire’s cock but keeps his head where it is for the moment as he starts moving, pumping slowly and cupping the head so when Grantaire comes there won’t be a mess. Grantaire bites out curses over him, and Enjolras looks up to watch him and finds him watching back, making eye contact instead of watching where Enjolras’s hand is moving. In answer to the glazed-over look in his eyes, Enjolras uses his other hand and cups his balls, watches him bite his lip against saying something and then move his hand to Enjolras’s face like he can’t quite believe he’s there.

More to see what Grantaire will do than anything else, Enjolras catches two of his fingers in his mouth and sucks, even though they taste faintly the way paint smells, and he’s rewarded when Grantaire makes a noise like he’s dying and comes into Enjolras’s hand, spilling over to his arm, the floor, even a little on his chest. His free hand, the one Enjolras doesn’t have captured, flails out for something to hold on to and finds the door, since they’re still closer to that than to the bed.

After a minute, when Grantaire’s breathing seems to even out, Enjolras pulls slowly away, dropping his hand and wiping off on the sweatpants on the floor, since they’re the closest cloth he can find. “Bed?” he prompts when Grantaire doesn’t do anything but stare down at him, the roughness of his own voice surprising him.

“You’re still wearing pants,” Grantaire manages, still sounding dazed, but Enjolras takes it as a sign to struggle to his feet, since he refuses to crawl to Grantaire’s bed even if part of him thinks it would be the most efficient way to do things, and grab Grantaire by the elbow to pull him over to the mattress.

They barely escape knocking over the coffee and do knock over one of the empty cans, and Grantaire is still limp with his orgasm, though he’s beginning the transition from shocked by it to smug about it, so Enjolras lets him go and lets him stumble down to sit on the mattress while he strips his own pants and briefs off, kicking them away before he kneels again to climb into Grantaire’s lap, straddling his thigh, and kisses him.

Grantaire allows it for a few minutes, stroking his hands up and down Enjolras’s back, before he pulls away, the spark of an idea lighting his eyes up. “Turn around,” he says, and Enjolras thinks about arguing, telling him that he wants to keep kissing him, but he wants to see what’s going to happen, so he turns and perches at the edge of the mattress, and Grantaire parts his legs so Enjolras is sitting between them and leans them both back, arms around Enjolras so he’s wrapped around him all over.

It’s clear what’s going to happen from there, so Enjolras tips his head back against Grantaire’s shoulder to try to see his face and does his best to brace them since they didn’t quite manage to get Grantaire’s back against the wall. Grantaire, in response, trails his hand down Enjolras’s chest and then dips down to his cock, which is almost to the point where it hurts it’s so hard, and starts running his fingers over it. It’s an exploration, a tease, and Enjolras turns far enough to bite at Grantaire’s jaw and goad him on.

Grantaire goes at his own pace, though, and it’s slow, either because he’s tired from his own orgasm or because he wants to take Enjolras apart. It won’t take much, Enjolras knows, especially not when Grantaire starts murmuring filth into his ear: “I think about fucking you, I’m going to do it when you win the election—”

“Win?” Enjolras says, unable to keep the surprise or the smirk out of his voice.

“Or lose, I suppose I could pity-fuck you, turnabout is fair play after all.”

He has to object to that. “It wasn’t pity, I told you.”

“God, you’re mouthy, you were much less talkative when you had my dick in your mouth. If you’d quit it I would dirty talk you some more.” Enjolras pinches his thigh in revenge, but he shuts up. “I’m going to fuck you until all you can say is my name, and then I’m going to let you recover, and then you’re going to fuck me.” His grip gets a little more firm. “I’m going to give you hickeys under your clothes before every press conference you give, and I’m going to suck you off in the kitchen at headquarters to see if Joly cries about hygiene and then in your parents’ house just to piss your mother off.”

He goes on from there, but Enjolras loses some of the words in the way his hand never falters, never responds to the way Enjolras can’t help squirming and hoping for more. He’s saying something about philosophical arguments and something about someone being tied to a bed, and then something about painting him naked and then bending him over a table, and that’s when Enjolras comes, taking himself by surprise even though he’s been on the edge of it ever since he got Grantaire’s cock in his mouth.

Grantaire doesn’t bother with catching most of his come, just enough to lift his hand to his face and lick off—for show, mostly, Enjolras thinks, but it’s a good show so it isn’t as if he objects.

They both manage to arrange themselves on the mattress in some way that makes sense, even though they’re on top of most of the blankets and a few of the pillows. Enjolras dozes a little, his head on Grantaire’s shoulder since it’s nearer than any of the pillows, until Grantaire interrupts him. “I guess you have an election to deal with, now that we’re sorted out.”

“It can wait a few hours.” Not the whole day, not so close to the election, but long enough to stay for a while. The rest of Les Amis almost certainly know what’s happening by now, and they’ll come pound on the door if it’s an emergency.

“I’m honored.”

Enjolras lifts his head to meet Grantaire’s eyes, even if he feels like a chore when he’s so comfortable. “This isn’t an item on my checklist, R, and it’s important. I’m not going to assume we have everything worked out and leave.”

“Don’t we?” Grantaire sounds a little wary.

“I’m not sure.” He puts his head back down, because he isn’t sure his neck will hold him for much longer. “You believe that I wasn’t kissing you as some sort of favor?” He feels the nod instead of seeing it. “And that I want to be with you, in public and private?”

“God knows why, but yes.”

“Okay.” That isn’t all they’ll have to talk about, since at the very least they’ll need to come up with yet another story for Cosette, but it’s enough for now, so Enjolras moves until he can kiss Grantaire, and is pleased when Grantaire kisses back instead of trying to talk to him more.

By the time Enjolras finally rolls out of bed, almost two hours later, there are smudges of paint on his hands and in his hair, Grantaire has already sketched him nude and is threatening to tape it up on his refrigerator, and they’ve managed to get into no less than three arguments, all of which they were rapidly distracted from by kissing. Enjolras has cut it close enough that he doesn’t have time to go home and change before the daily meeting at headquarters, and when he gets his phone out of his pants pocket there are more texts and missed calls than he can hope to catch up on.

He’s happier than he’s been in months.

Judging by the looks on everyone’s faces when he and Grantaire show up to the daily meeting five minutes late and together, not holding hands but both looking wrecked, he’s not the only one, and Enjolras gives Cosette a nod in return for her wink before calling the meeting to order. They have an election to win, after all.

*

The picture in the Daily Gazette on Wednesday morning is of Enjolras and Grantaire standing under a huge banner, only the US A CHANCE part of the slogan showing, Enjolras with a grin on his face and his arm around Grantaire’s shoulder and Grantaire mid-gesture, punching the air with victory and caught up in the moment. The headline beneath it blares Enjolras wins his seat (and Grantaire), and by the time Enjolras wakes up to Grantaire laughing over it, there’s already a text from Cosette promising the headline isn’t her fault.

“Friends of the People sweep the nation,” Grantaire says in a dramatic tone when he realizes Enjolras is awake and squinting at his laptop screen. “Maine’s political sweethearts back together—why is that on the front page of two different newspapers, don’t these people have—”

“I don’t care,” Enjolras says firmly, shutting the laptop and putting it on the floor over Grantaire’s objection. “We’ll worry about it later. For now, we have celebrating to do.”

“You’re going to be smug about this forever,” Grantaire laments.

“For the rest of our lives, probably,” says Enjolras, and presses him down into the blankets to get started.