Enjolras turned up the collar of his coat as the campus shuttle pulled up to the bus stop. Through the breath-fogged glass of the windows, he watched the trees sway and shiver, casting off leaves that tumbled and danced after the students hurrying to class. It was cloying inside the shuttle, standing room only and everyone packed elbow to elbow, but the weather outside looked dismal, and he still had a five minute walk across campus to his poli sci lecture.
If he'd left earlier, he could've swung by the cafe for a coffee to keep his fingers and his insides warm, but he was supposed to meet with Combeferre tonight to discuss the rally and he'd needed every minute he could get to work on their speech.
His fingers would just have to suffer, he thought grimly, and tucked his gloved hands under his arms as the shuttle doors swung open and admitted a blast of frigid wind.
The air carried with it the faint strains of music, but Enjolras paid it little mind as he joined the shuffle down the shuttle's aisle and out into the cold winter sun. It wasn't all that uncommon for some inconsiderate jerk to blast his own personal playlist on his way to or from class, blithe in the assumption that everyone else shared his own musical tastes, or at least ought to.
He was halfway across the plaza in front of the student center when he noticed the small crowd gathered around one corner of the square, a faint glimpse of movement visible in the spaces left between them.
Enjolras hesitated. He shouldn't have -- his professor's tardy policy was ruthless, and Enjolras was pressing his luck already -- but the liquid notes of a violin drew him in, to stand at the edge of the small cluster of people who braved the cold to listen, huddling deeper into their coats and glancing at watches or phones just as anxiously as Enjolras did.
A student in front of him shifted and parted from the group, hurrying off. Enjolras stepped into the opening she'd left and got his first good glimpse of the musician. He looked like he could have been a student as well, sitting cross-legged with his back against a planter and a violin tucked under his chin. Enjolras had impression of black curls and a quicksilver grin, a smile that flashed charm at those gathered around him as his bow glided over the strings and his fingers danced across the fingerboard.
He wore ragged knit gloves whose fingers had been cut or torn off, leaving his fingers bare up to his knuckles. It made Enjolras grimace in sympathy as another wind blew past. He shoved his own gloved hands deeper into his coat pockets and flexed his cold-stiff fingers. How the musician could manage the dexterity to play was a mystery.
But not one that he had the luxury of investigating. The crowd around the musician, small to begin with, was thinning, leaving only a few of them still lingering, tempting fate and their professors' good will as time slid inexorably toward the start of class. Enjolras pulled his phone out and glanced at the digital clock on its display. He swore beneath his breath and shoved it back into his pocket. He was going to have to run.
The music stopped, fading away on one last, trembling note. "Hey, Apollo."
Enjolras, already turning away and gathering himself to run, froze before he'd even taken a step. He turned back and stared at the busker in astonishment. He'd lowered his violin to his knee and his bow to his side, and he was staring straight at Enjolras. "Such foul language from such a pretty mouth! Can't have that." He clicked his tongue and nudged his open violin case toward Enjolras with the toe of his boot. "Put a quarter in the swear jar."
Enjolras scowled. "Bill me," he said, and turned on his heel and ran for the poli sci building.
The wind had died down some, but the air still held a chill. He tugged his gloves back on as he made his way down the worn brick pathway that meandered in a giant loop around campus. There were trails he could have taken to make the walk back to the bus stop quicker and more direct, but his fingers still hadn't fully thawed out even after an hour and a half squeezed into a packed lecture hall, and if he took the long way, it would lead him past the little coffee stand over by the arts buildings, and he could reward himself with a belated latte.
The wait at the stand wasn't too long -- the cold weather might have tempted students to its siren-song of heat and caffeine, but it also made them unwilling to linger in slow lines while the wind slid down the backs of their collars — and soon Enjolras was hurrying on his way with his hands wrapped around the deliciously warm sides of a large coffee.
The busker was still in the same place he'd been when Enjolras had left, but the violin was silent and the crowd dispersed. He'd laid the instrument across his lap and had his hands up in front of his mouth, fingers curled as he breathed on them and rubbed them together. Enjolras's own fingers ached in sympathy when the musician stretched his out and grimaced as he rubbed at his knuckles.
On impulse, Enjolras strode over to him. He glanced up as Enjolras neared, and that same brilliant smile broke across his face. "Have you come back to pay your debt to the swear jar?"
Enjolras huffed out a breath, but instead of answering, he crouched down and thrust the coffee out toward him. "Here."
The fiddler stared at the paper cup, and then at him. "What?"
"You look cold."
"I am," he said slowly, and accepted the gift. His eyes shuttered briefly when he wrapped his bare fingers around the sides of the cup, but when they opened again, he just stared at Enjolras and held it, unmoving.
Enjolras fought the urge to fidget beneath the weight of his regard. "I didn't drink from it or anything," he said, wrapping his arms around his ribs. "If that's what you worried about."
"No?" The musician's smile was slower this time, but warmer than the winter sun. He leaned back against the planter behind him and took a long sip. His gaze stayed steady on Enjolras all the while, and when he'd finished, he licked the foam from his lips and said, "Shame."
Enjolras turned his face aside and let out a sharp breath. His gaze caught on the man's instrument case. A few dollar bills and a handful of coins lay scattered in it, but what captured Enjolras's eye was the half-empty wine bottle propped up in its neck. A chill twisted through him, fighting back some of the warmth of the other man's smile had kindled. Had that been there before? He couldn't recall. Enjolras hadn't been able to get close enough that he might have seen it. Even if he had, the other man's playing had captured Enjolras's full attention. The bottle might have been there, but how would he have noticed it, when he hadn't been able to look away from the way the other man's fingers had danced across the strings?
He followed Enjolras's eye, and when he saw what it had lit on, his smile went brittle around the edges. "We all warm ourselves in our own way, Apollo." He kicked a leg out and took another sip of Enjolras's latte, slowly, deliberately. Then he grimaced and held the cup away from him to give it a wounded look. "And yours, apparently, is with a bucket of sugar and a gallon of cream. God. Is this your order, or did you plan to distract me from the cold by rotting the teeth out of my head?"
Enjolras scowled. "I could take it back, if you'd like." He continued without giving the other man a chance to reply. "Why do you keep calling me that?"
He'd been about to speak, probably to insult Enjolras's taste in coffee again, but the question made him hesitate. He shut his mouth and raked Enjolras with a considering look. "Calling you what?"
"You know what."
And then he grinned again, as bright as ever. He waved a hand that seemed to encompass Enjolras from head to foot. "Well, you've got that whole golden, godly thing going for you."
"I—" The low, familiar squeal of worn-out breaks made Enjolras look over his shoulder. The shuttle was pulling up. He hissed out a sharp breath. "That's my ride. Don't call me Apollo."
"It's Grantaire, by the way," the busker said.
Enjolras stopped two strides away and turned back to stare at him. "What?"
"My name." His eyes shone with good humor. He angled his head to the side and scratched a hand through his curls. "In case you were wondering."
Enjolras shook his head and started for the shuttle again. The seats filled up quickly on chilly days like these. If he didn't hurry, he'd be stuck standing in the aisle again.
"You still owe me a quarter!" Grantaire called after him, and his laughter seemed to follow Enjolras all the way back to the apartment.
He'd been up with Combeferre long into the night, going over the plan for the rally and revising his speech until even Enjolras had to grudgingly admit that they had it polished to a high shine, and the best thing he could do now was to take himself to bed and try to banish the lingering thoughts of the busker--Grantaire--and the way his grin had flashed so readily and his hands had coaxed music from wood and wire, at least long enough to sleep.
He'd arranged excused absences with his professors, and Combeferre had as well, so they could devote the day to the rally and its preparations. The others had promised to be by before and after and in between their own lectures and lab hours, but that left the bulk of the responsibility for getting everything ready in Enjolras's and Combeferre's hands. They met in the plaza at a ridiculously early hour, and huddled together over a thermos of coffee — black and unsweetened, which Enjolras could barely tolerate, but when it was this early and he was this cold, he'd have probably choked down rocket fuel if it had been handed to him in a warm cup.
The morning passed in a blur while he and Combeferre set up their makeshift stage at the top of the stairs into the student center, and tracked down the microphones and equipment they'd rented for the occasion, and hung up ribbons and banners to give the whole thing a bit of presence.
It was Combeferre who noticed him first, while Enjolras was struggling to get the mics and the amp to play nice together. Combeferre was tapping and blowing on the mic while Enjolras fiddled with the amp's settings, both of them listening for any hint of sound from the speakers, when Combeferre suddenly lifted his head, his gaze focused somewhere over Enjolras's left shoulder, and said, "Oh crap. We might have a problem."
Enjolras straightened and turned to look for what had caught his friend's attention, but before he'd even seen anything, he could already hear the sound of the violin rising up onto the still morning air.
He'd been playing something classical, as best as Enjolras could tell, the day before. It had been very pretty and technically impressive, but Enjolras didn't think that college students, as a general rule, had much appreciation for classical music when it wasn't attached to morning cartoons. Whatever he was playing today, it was peppier, had more of a beat to it.
"Hold on," Enjolras murmured to Combeferre, and rose. "I'll take care of it."
Grantaire glanced up at him when he was halfway across the courtyard. A slow grin stretched across his face, but he didn't stop playing. Enjolras had nearly reached his side when Grantaire opened his mouth and stopped him in his tracks with a voice so clear and pure and bright it seemed impossible.
"Don't walk away then turn and say I love you anyway," he sang along with the tune. "You come for a week to love me then you up and leave next day."
Enjolras rocked back on his feels and frowned. "Are you teasing me?" Grantaire's smile was too sharp, his eyes too bright, for it to have been anything but deliberate.
He lowered the violin to his crossed legs and laid his bow across it. "Maybe." His fingers slid idly up and down the violin strings like he was caressing a lover. Enjolras couldn't look away from it. "Have you come to pay your debt to the swear jar?"
The question drew Enjolras back to himself. He shook his head, casting off the reverie. "You can't play here. We're doing a rally. We've got permits."
"A rally?" Grantaire leaned to the side, looking past him toward the stage area they'd spent the morning setting up. His lips curved with wry humor. "Oh my, that seems a serious affair. What are you lot protesting today? The rising cost of textbooks? The removal of Pizza Friday from the commons menu?"
Enjolras jerked back, staring at him as the hot press of fury crushed down on his chest. "This isn't a joke. I'm sorry, but we need you to leave."
Grantaire raised a brow at him. He flicked his thumb idly against one of the violin's strings, creating a low, thrumming note that ran under his words. "What time do you permits start?"
"Then I can do whatever I like here for the next two hours," he said, and tucked the violin under his chin and began to play once more, giving Enjolras a hard stare that seemed to dare him to make a stand.
They didn't have the time. Only two hours left, and there was still so much to do. Enjolras stomped off, back to Combeferre and the amp, and ignored the questioning look his friend shot him. "Have you got this damned thing working yet?"
He wandered over as Grantaire was finishing up an Adele song -- he didn't sing the lyrics to this one, just let the melody and his fingerwork do the talking for him -- hoping that he'd put his violin away and go busk somewhere else after this one. There were only a few minutes left until noon, after all. Not long enough to play much more, and this was as good a stopping point for him as any.
Grantaire caught his eye as the last notes faded into the applause of those around him. He laced his fingers together, palms out, and stretched his arms out in front of him, then overhead. When he set bow and instrument down and pulled his messenger bag onto his lap, Enjolras thought, Ah, good, here he goes now, pleased that he wouldn't have to make a scene about it and they could part peacefully.
But instead of packing up, Grantaire pulled a smartphone out of his bag, then shoved it back where it had lain while he played. He did something on the screen for a few minutes, then set it flat on the pavement before him, screen up. A moment passed, just long enough for Enjolras to sigh and wonder what he was up to now, and then the unmistakable strains of a violin started to play through the device's speakers.
Grantaire lifted his violin, paused a beat, and then joined in. There was something familiar to the tune, something stirring. He sat alone, with only a small gathering of students around him, but with the recording playing through the phone, it suddenly sounded as though a quartet had gathered there on the stones of the plaza. Music swelled to fill the air and Grantaire's fingers moved effortlessly across the strings as though they weren't affected by the cold at all.
The music reached a crescendo of volume and intensity, paused for a breath, and then slid into a tune that Enjolras was certain he knew. In just the few moments that Grantaire had been playing this latest song, the crowd around him had grown noticeably, and the energy within it had risen to an electric buzz of excitement. Combeferre had come to stand at Enjolras's side, though he hadn't noticed him arrive, and stood squinting at Grantaire with the same sort of distant contemplation that Enjolras felt. "Is that--" he started to ask, at the same moment that someone else in the crowd squealed, "Oh my God, he is, he's doing the Avengers theme!"
A murmur of appreciation and excitement went through the crowd. Enjolras looked at Grantaire again and had to admit, at least to himself, that he was just as impressed as everyone else. The familiar song drew passing students in like a magnet put to iron filings and by the time the song reached its climax and the last notes from the violin and the phone faded away, the gathering that had formed around Grantaire was a crowd by anyone's definition. They burst into thunderous applause and cries of, "That was awesome!" and "Hey, do it again, I want to get this on video!"
Grantaire smiled at the praise, and shook his head at the pleas for more. "I'm cold!" he said, and made a show of rubbing his half-gloved hands.
"Yeah, but your music's hot," someone cried from the back of the crowd, and Grantaire laughed so brightly that it lit up his whole face.
"Thanks, man." He picked his phone up off the ground, glanced at the screen, and then up at Enjolras as he approached. "Right on time. You'd think I'd planned it or something," he said, and winked, and Enjolras felt like an idiot for worrying.
"That was great," Combeferre said, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Holy crap. All that--" He waved a hand at Grantaire's phone. "Was that all you?"
Grantaire nodded and propped the violin on his knee as he swept the tips out of his violin case. It looked like he'd made a tidy sum, to Enjolras's eye, and the majority of that in just the last few minutes. "I usually save that one for rush hour. It gets a pretty good response, especially here on campus. I've never known a college student who didn't like a good superhero movie."
When his case was empty, he laid the violin and bow inside, and shut it with a few quick clicks of the case's latches. He looked up at Enjolras as he stood and slung his bag over his shoulder. He tipped his head toward the crowd, meandering around and starting to break up now that Grantaire had stopped playing. "Go on, Apollo," he said softly. "Better take advantage of it while they're still here."
And he turned and walked off down the path, and Enjolras stared after him, gaping and stunned by the realization that Grantaire had done that for him. He couldn't even manage to find the sense -- or the will, if he were honest with himself -- to rebuke Grantaire for using that nickname again.
"Come on." Combeferre pulled at Enjolras's arm, bringing him back to his senses. "He's not wrong. You'd better get your speech ready, while there are still people around to hear it."
"My speech has been ready since last night." Enjolras turned back toward their stage, and felt the mantle of responsibility settle onto his shoulders once again. It was good. He knew exactly what to do with himself when he was standing before a crowd with a microphone in his hand and passion in his heart.
It was a far cry more comfortable than standing around trying to have a conversation with Grantaire, whose biting humor and quick grin and even quicker fingers threw Enjolras off his game at every turn. He didn't know what to do about that at all.
Enjolras stood to the side, watching his friends speak and keeping an eye on the crowd to judge their reactions. He jotted down notes as they spoke, on what lines had the desired effect and what might need to be revised for greater impact. But as he glanced to the crowd once, the sight of a protest sign out in the crowd gave him pause. It was toward the back, and Enjolras couldn't see who held it, but it had been painted with bold red strokes on a broad sheet of poster board and loudly declared, "DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING".
"I'll be right back," Enjolras murmured to Combeferre, and stepped down into the crowd.
It took him a moment to work his way through to the back. When he found Grantaire there, holding the sign, he wasn't even surprised, he just sighed. "That isn't funny."
Grantaire turned. When his gaze lit on Enjolras, a smile broke across his face. Enjolras wondered if he was just like that all the time, or if there was something peculiar to himself that amused him so much. "Sure it is," he said, and waved the sign over his head. "It's hilarious."
"This is a serious issue! We deserve better than to have you come here and make fun of it."
His smile evaporated, leaving him somber and startled. He leaned the post of the sign over his shoulder and turned to face Enjolras fully. "I'm not. I swear I'm not." He held up his free hand as though Enjolras had asked him to swear an oath on a bible, but Enjolras's gaze was fixed on the other, the way his thumb braced along the wooden post and his fingers drummed out an idle rhythm against the grain. "I asked. You didn't tell me what your cause actually is. I did the best I could with the information at hand." He hefted the sign upright again and waggled his eyebrows. "I'm trying to help, Apollo."
That damned nickname again. Enjolras's lips pressed into a flat, furious line. "Stop calling me that, for God's sake."
Grantaire smiled again, but this time it was tight and didn't reach his eyes. Enjolras wondered abruptly if this was what anger looked like on him. "Once again, I'm doing my best with the information I've been given."
He stopped talking, but didn't sound like he was done. Enjolras waited, but Grantaire said nothing else. He just watched him, one brow raised and a look of expectation on his face.
A moment passed while Enjolras struggled to figure out what it was Grantaire wanted from him. Grantaire broke it with a sharp laugh. He shook his head, pushing his fingers through his mess of curls. "That was an invitation to tell me your name, by the way. In case that wasn't clear."
Behind him, the P.A. system crackled and someone spoke his name over it, calling for him to come back and speak once more. Enjolras startled, looking back over his shoulder at the stage. Jehan was standing at the microphone, squinting out into the crowd with one hand lifted to shield his eyes from the sun. "I have to go," Enjolras said, and was surprised, when he turned back around, to see Grantaire's lips twisted into a wry smile.
"Go on, then," he said, unexpectedly gentle. "Duty calls."
It was exactly the truth. There was no reason on earth for Enjolras to be so reluctant to step away and out distance between them. He turned, while he was still able to make himself do so, but he hadn't taken more than a step before a few low, hummed notes in a pure, clean voice reached him, half-buried under the ambient noise of the crowd.
Don't walk away then turn and say I love you anyway.
He turned back, frowning at Grantaire. But the musician just gave him a startled, curious look, one brow raised and a question in those blue eyes. Had Enjolras just imagined it?
"If you're really interested in learning about our cause, you could come to the Musain tomorrow night. It's a coffee shop, we meet there a few times a week. Do you know where it is?"
"Is it on Google?"
Enjolras raised a brow. "Is anything not, these days?"
"Then I can find it."
"Ask for Enjolras, so they'll know you're with me."
He smiled, one of the bright, true ones that seemed to swallow his face and light it up from within. "Enjolras." He spoke the name slowly, rolling it about on his tongue the way one might with a fine liquor, testing the weight and the shape of it. "All right. I shall."
And Enjolras had to force himself to turn and to make his way back to the stage, or he might have never been able to bring himself to leave Grantaire's side. But those few soft, catchy notes seemed to follow after him, and haunted him for the rest of the day.
There were other customers, of course, students and locals scattered across the tables in ones and twos, sipping coffee or cocoa or tea and shooting the occasional disgruntled look at Enjolras's friends, tucked into the back but still making twice as much noise as the rest of the shop combined.
The Musain's staff tolerated them because they came often and drank -- and spent -- a lot when they did. The shops other patrons endured them because the Musain served the best coffee in town. Enjolras sidled past the strangers, gave a wave and a smile to the barista behind the counter who lifted up one of their big ceramic mugs and mouthed "One minute" at him, then joined his friends in the back. They sent up a cheer when they saw him, and everyone shuffled around to make room at one of the tables.
Enjolras smiled and greeted them all, and bent to pull his notebook out of his bag. Before he could flip it open and find the feedback he'd written down about their speeches, Jehan dropped his chair down onto all four legs with a sharp report and leaned across the table. "Enjolras, who was that you were talking to at the rally?"
Enjolras stared at him blankly. "I talked to any number of people yesterday. Do you mean the sophomore from the graphic design program? I told Courf she offered to help us out with banners next time, but we don't even know what her work is like yet."
"Don't be an idiot," Combeferre said, in that easy way of his that kept even the direst of insults from causing offense. "He means the boy you ran off to chat up in the middle of our speeches. He was the musician, wasn't he?"
A sudden wash of guilt swept through him, as cold and brutal as a winter storm. Enjolras shook his head automatically, without thought. "No. That wasn't-- I wasn't chatting him up. We were just talking. He wanted to know more about us, and what we're doing. I told him he should come by--"
"You invited him here?" Jehan's face lit up with as much delight as if Enjolras had said, I bought you a lovely pony and a field of flowers to ride him through. "Oh my God, stop the presses."
Enjolras gave him a hard stare. "Don't be ridiculous. It doesn't mean anything. He wanted to learn."
Courfeyrac leaned back in his chair, one arm draped over the chair's back, and gave Enjolras a little smirk. "You've never invited anyone else to join us before."
"He was interrupting the rally." Enjolras hissed out a sharp breath. "I had to go speak. Can we please try to focus on what's important here?" he demanded, and laid his hand on the notebook, to make his point absolutely clear.
But Jehan just grinned and tucked his hands under his chin and said, "Oh, but I think we are."
"When's he coming around?" Marius demanded, looking eager. "I want to get a better look at this fellow."
"He's not," Enjolras snapped. "How should I know? I told him we meet here often. He didn't say he was coming by today. So could we please focus." He thumped his fist on the table, just enough to send the plates rattling and the coffee sloshing.
They were boys, rowdy and wild, and it wasn't uncommon for Enjolras to find them distracted by gossip or games. But they cared about the cause, too, and a thump like that was usually all that was needed to get them to swallow their teasing and their humor and settle down to the business at hand.
Today, though, it accomplished nothing but to make Feuilly glare at him for the coffee he'd spilled in a puddle around the base of his mug. Something else had caught their attention, and they had the bit between their teeth now. Jehan was staring past Enjolras's shoulder, digging his fingers into Combeferre's arm and looking wild-eyed, and Combeferre was grinning, saying, "Oh, yes, that's him. There he is." And he raised his hand and gave a sharp whistle. "Hey, music man!"
Enjolras turned, already braced for the the sight of Grantaire behind him. He'd just come through the door, taking in the Musain and its decor. His gaze lit on their group and he made his way over with a smile.
"Music man," he mused. "I like it." He spared Enjolras a glance, and his gaze seemed to warm several degrees while it lingered on him. But perhaps Enjolras was only imagining that, because in the next moment he'd turned away and was offering his hand to each of Enjolras's friends in turn, murmuring, "Hello. It's Grantaire, but you can keep calling me Music Man if you like. It's got a nice ring to it. It's nice to meet you all."
"How do you know Enjolras?" Jehan demanded, looking eager.
Grantaire answered without missing a beat. "He owes me money."
"I bought you coffee," Enjolras snapped.
"You bought yourself coffee," Grantaire countered easily. "And then you foisted it upon me out of pity. Or maybe because you've got a personal vendetta against my oral health, I'm not sure yet." He shrugged his messenger bag off his shoulder and dropped it onto the seat of the empty chair next to Enjolras's. He caught Enjolras's eye and winked. "Doesn't change the fact that you still owe me."
"Oh my God, he's delightful," Courfeyrac said, beaming. "You have to stay forever, Grantaire. Sit, sit. Enjolras will go get you something to drink and then we can talk about him behind his back."
"I'm not going to—"
"Yes, you are." Jehan pushed him toward the counter and dropped into Enjolras's seat. "Go on. The longer you drag your heels over it, the more time we'll have to interrogate him."
Grantaire caught his eye as the group closed in on him. Enjolras wasn't sure whether he should have been apologizing, or Grantaire.
The barista already had his coffee ready for him when he reached the counter. He ordered another, black, for Grantaire, and paid for both, then carefully carried the full cups through the maze of empty chairs and empty tables, back to where the group was gathered, everyone eyeing Grantaire and leaning in with interest as he waved his hands about in the process of telling some story.
Enjolras shied out of the way, just in time to avoid being hit by one of Grantaire's gesturing hands and spilling the scalding coffee all over them both. He quickly set them down at the table's edge, then grabbed hold of Grantaire's hand when he waved it again, before he could knock both cups onto the floor.
Grantaire stilled and turned to look up at him. He blinked twice, but his hand stayed loose in Enjolras's grasp, unresisting. His wrist was surprisingly strong, all lean muscle and corded tendons beneath Enjolras's touch. A callus on the heel of his hand was rough against Enjolras's palm, and had his pulse battering in his ears so hard the beat of it drowned out every other sound in the cafe.
Someone jostled against Grantaire, knocking into his shoulder. He turned to them, smiling and making some joke Enjolras didn't catch, and the stillness was broken.
Enjolras pulled away, light-headed and as short of breath as if he'd run all the way from campus, instead of walked from one side of the cafe to the other. He scrubbed his hand against his jeans, chasing away the memory of Grantaire's hand in his and his pulse fluttering beneath Enjolras's thumb. He caught Jehan watching him too closely, one eyebrow lifted and a sardonic smile on his lips that suggested that he'd noticed more than Enjolras had hoped.
Enjolras cleared his throat and dropped down into his seat. "Careful," he said to Grantaire, to cover up for the awkward moment when they'd both been frozen, staring at each other, and the whole world had fallen away. "You knock my coffee over, I'm declaring my debt paid in full."
Grantaire took up the cup of black coffee and sniffed it, eyeing Enjolras suspiciously. When he took a sip, a startled, pleased smile transformed his face, softening all the sharp edges and leaving him looking more open and sincere than Enjolras thought he'd ever seen him, except when he was performing.
He looked away because he had to. Jehan was still grinning like he knew a secret and couldn't wait to share. Enjolras kicked him beneath the table, glowered, then asked with a false levity, "What have you guys been talking about while I was gone, then?"
"Oh, everything," Jehan said. He drew the last word out with a flourish, as smug as the cat who'd got the cream. Enjolras kicked him again, but his smile didn't slip at all.
"Well, let's get back on task, then, shall we?" He flipped the notebook open to the latest page before they could all find something else to distract themselves with. "Based on Feuilly's sampling of the attendees twenty percent said they'd know idea what the bill is about, and another ten percent on top of that had heard of it but weren't certain they understood the issues behind it. We had a much higher rate of drop-in attendance than we expected--"
Enjolras hesitated there, and glanced up at Grantaire. "Thank you for that, by the way," he said softly. "I didn't have the chance to say it before, but it meant a lot to me. To us."
Grantaire smiled a little and inclined his head.
It took a greater effort than Enjolras expected to turn his attention back to the figures and sums and notes written on the book's lined pages. "Right. A higher rate of drop-ins than we'd anticipated, which was great. We're never going to change anything if we don't get people educated. But we also had a large number of people who said they were there because they'd seen our flyers or pamphlets or heard about it from a friend of a roommate of a classmate, and that's just as important. It means we're succeeding at getting the word out."
"What about Courf's survey?" Jehan asked. "You were going to ask about people's willingness to get involved, weren't you, Courf?"
Courfeyrac nodded. "Ten percent said they'd be willing to write in to Senator Lamarque to voice their support, which is a little less than we'd hoped for," he said. "But more than half said they planned on voting for the bill, if it made it onto the ballot, so that's encouraging, at least."
"So, for the new kid on the block," Grantaire said, clearing his throat. "Can someone give the Cliff's Notes? Senators and bills and ballots, huh?" He glanced at Enjolras and his gaze lingered. The corner of his mouth hooked up. "That's a shame. It would've been more interesting if it was Pizza Friday."
Enjolras snapped his head around and stared at him. "I thought you said you weren't going to treat this like a joke."
Grantaire sighed and leaned back in his chair. He scrubbed the heels of his hands over his brow. "I don't think it's a joke." He sounded, abruptly, weary beyond imagining. "I'm just not sure what the point is."
"The point? The point is to effect change, to make the world better, to eliminate suffering and oppression."
"No, I get that." Grantaire was as soft-spoken and withdrawn as Enjolras had ever seen him. More so than Enjolras would have imagined him capable of, five minutes earlier. He'd dropped his gaze down to the tabletop and stared at it, where he flicked the edge of his thumbnail against the table's corner. "I guess it just all seems like a big waste of time to me."
Silence fell around the table. Grantaire glanced up, and reared back a little when he noticed that they were all staring at him, shocked speechless.
"Nothing ever changes," he said. "Not in the end. Government exists to keep itself busy. If you're a little guy and you want to actually get something done, you're just going to get chewed up and spit out."
Enjolras and the others glanced at each other. "Sure," Combeferre said after a moment, slow and uncertain. "Brown versus the Board of Education. Roe v. Wade. I guess none of that has made a difference in anyone's life, has it?" He frowned and turned his cup around and around on the table before him. "Anti-miscegenation. Women's rights. Gay rights."
"Matthew Shepard," Grantaire snapped. "James Byrd, Jr. Brandon Teena."
Combeferre closed his mouth without speaking again, his face pale.
"So, what, no one should ever ever try to accomplish anything?" Enjolras demanded, bristling. "We should all just sit around and accept things they way they are because they're never going to change anyway?" He shook his head, sharp and angry, the familiar passion rising in him again. "Nothing's going to change unless we change it. The people have a voice, they've just forgotten how to use it. But I guess you'd rather spend your time sitting around playing music on your fiddle for people who can scarcely even be bothered to stop and listen? Because that's a useful way to spend your time."
"At least I know I brought a little happiness to people, when I pack up my violin at night. How many do you make smile in a day?"
"How many lives have you improved?" Enjolras countered. "How many lives have you changed? What good is a fleeting smile to someone who lives under the yoke of oppression?"
Grantaire smiled down at the tabletop, his lips twisted and rueful. When he lifted his gaze to Enjolras's, there was a bitterness there that struck to the quick. "We can't all be gods, Apollo," he said, and rose from his chair. "Some of us are just men, limited and fallible, and must content ourselves with that." He picked up his coffee and nodded to the others around the table. "Thank you for having me, but I think I'd better go."
Jehan stared after him with big doe eyes. "Don't let him chase you off. He doesn't know any other way to be but evangelical."
Grantaire smiled, but still shook his head. "My alarm will be going off too early tomorrow morning as it is. I'd better be off, if I'm going to have any chance of getting a decent night's sleep. Thank you, though." He brushed his fingers over Jehan's shoulder in a brief show of sincerity, then moved toward the door. "Good luck with your thing."
Combeferre stared after him, frowning, as he wended through the abandoned tables and scattered remaining customers. When the Musain's door swung shut behind him, Combeferre gave a sharp sigh. "Do you always have to be like that?"
Enjolras met his frown with a hard look of his own. "Yes," he said, and hoped that would be the end of it. He rapped his knuckles against the pages of his notebook. "Now. Let's finish, shall we?"
Occasionally, as he hurried from one campus obligation to the next, he caught the familiar sounds of Grantaire's violin rising up in the distance, and if his steps paused or a slight tug pulled at his heart -- well. He scarcely had time to eat and shower, these days. He certainly didn't have any to spare on a quick-fingered busker who couldn't even see the point in fighting for a cause.
The end of the week brought the day of the Senate vote. Enjolras sat through his lectures in a haze of distraction, and as soon as his last for the day had let out, he joined the others at the Musain, where they huddled around laptops and smartphones, waiting for news.
But the news, when it came, was crushing. They hadn't passed the Senate. The bill would never make it onto the ballot. They'd garnered more in-favor votes than many people had said it would be possible for them to get, but in the end, all their work was for nothing.
After that, there was little to do but sit, their heads on the tables or in their hands, and try to keep breathing past the ache of disappointment. The evening wore on to night, and the Musain emptied out, and the barista conspicuously wiped down tables nearby to hint that they should all think about moving on and letting the coffeeshop close for the night.
Enjolras was slumped down in his chair, the edge of the chair's back biting into the soft spot at his nape where neck and skull joined together, his eyes shut and his thumbs digging hard into the place on his brow where a headache had been gathering, ignored, for the past few days. Now, with no campaign left to focus on, it raged. He tried to beat it back, to focus through the pain and try to think of where they could go from here and what their next steps should be. But his head throbbed, and all he really wanted was to bury himself under a mountain of blankets and sleep for a year.
Something changed -- some sudden increase or absence of tension, a stirring in the air that had the hair at Enjolras's nape standing on end, though no one spoke. He straightened and opened his eyes, followed everyone else's gazes and saw what they'd already noticed: Grantaire, standing a few strides away from their table, his hand closed around the strap of his messenger bag and lines bracketing the corners of his mouth. "I heard," he said quietly. "On the news. They said the bill didn't pass and I thought--" He looked down and grimaced, his mouth pulling to the side. "Well, I thought I might find you all here."
Enjolras sighed and pressed his thumbs harder against his aching head. "Come to gloat, have you?"
Grantaire's gaze snapped to his. He drew a sharp breath, then let it out on a rush. "Of course not! God." His knuckles turned white where he gripped the bag's strap. "I didn't want you to fail. I wanted you to prove me wrong. I came because I wanted to give you all my condolences. You all worked really hard, and I'm sorry it didn't turn out the way you'd hoped. You deserved better."
"Thank you," Combeferre said when Enjolras had spent too long frowning at Grantaire, trying to figure out why he would denigrate their efforts one day and then come to them to offer sympathy the next. "You helped, and we appreciate it. We'd have been even worse off, if you hadn't."
Grantaire shrugged a shoulder and looked away. Enjolras waited for him to give an excuse and make his exit, now that his condolences had been expressed and his job was done. But Grantaire didn't leave, he just let his bag slide off of his shoulder, dropped into an empty chair, and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"You could get us drunk," Jehan said without lifting his head from where he had it buried in his arms on the table. "That might help."
Grantaire hesitated, just long enough to be conspicuous. He cleared his throat. "I could, actually," he said. "If you're serious about that. There's booze back at my place."
Jehan looked up and turned to stare at Grantaire, squinting as though he wasn't sure whether it was safe to trust his sincerity. "Really?" he said. And then, "Grantaire, you may be my new favorite person."
Combeferre seemed a little less enamored of the idea of drinking their woes away. Enjolras agreed -- getting inebriated would only serve as a temporary distraction at best, and it would take their focus off the task at hand, of regrouping and renewing their efforts. But he held his tongue on his own feelings and let the others debate it. They all seemed so glum, so defeated. Who was he to deny them a little liquid cheer?
They all went in the end, following Grantaire back across town to his apartment, because ultimately, anything was better than going their separate ways to their separate homes, and trying to find comfort in their empty beds. At least together, they had company in their misery.
"Welcome, welcome," Grantaire said as he unlocked the apartment door and let them all come tumbling in after him. "Pull up a chair, or a couch, or a pillow, or what have you. I'll get the alcohol flowing." He caught Enjolras by the elbow and pulled him around the breakfast bar into the kitchen. "Come help me?"
Enjolras let him be guided, too distracted by the sight of Grantaire's home to pay attention. He wasn't sure what exactly he'd been expecting, but it hadn't been this. The apartment was cluttered, but not messy. Every inch of space had been put to use, whether it was the music stand in the corner beside the lamp or the tower of books on the coffee table that gave way to DVD cases and then paperbacks, only to be capped off by a bowl of violin strings still in their packages, and bow rosin, and violin polish.
Grantaire gathered up the scattered pages of sheet music that covered the counter, sweeping them into a disorganized pile at one end, then crouched down, pulled open the doors to the cabinet beneath the bar, and starting handing Enjolras bottle after bottle. Many were wine, and most were open and had been at least partially consumed, but there was enough hard liquor to be sure that there would be more than enough to get every one of them plastered, should they desire it.
"Limoncello?" Enjolras held up one half-empty bottle whose contents were shockingly yellow. He looked down at Grantaire and raised an eyebrow. The next bottle made it climb even further. "Calvados? All right, music man, tell the truth. Is this an apartment, or a liquor store?"
Grantaire grinned up at him. "How are you supposed to know if you like something until you've tried it?" He grabbed the edge of the cabinet door and reached his other hand toward Enjolras. "That's the last of it. Help me up?"
Enjolras clasped his hand and pulled against Grantaire's weight to help him onto his feet. But Grantaire must have underestimated his strength, or he had, because he stumbled, pulled off balance, and ended up very close, blinking up at Enjolras from eyes gone wide and startled.
Their hands were still linked, clasped together between Grantaire's chest and Enjolras's. Grantaire's fingers were calloused, coarse where they rested against the skin on the back of Enjolras's hand. Enjolras wanted to turn his hand over and study it, to find the marks that his music had left upon his fingertips and trace the anatomy that made his hands so quick and graceful that it seemed unnatural.
He pulled away slowly, reluctantly, his heart pounding hard in his throat and his lungs wrung dry of air. Grantaire dropped his gaze as he moved, and slid his hand out of Enjolras's grasp. "Right." His voice was a little thin, a little tight. He turned to the others and gave them all his most brilliant smile. "All right, gentlemen. Pick your poison."
He had taken his violin out, at some point, and had it lain across his knees, his fingers gliding aimlessly across the strings and the bright, polished wood. The easy, gliding movement of his hands distracted Enjolras from his own thoughts and he found himself transfixed, trying to get his alcohol-slippery mind to formulate some sort of coherent comment about how he'd seen booze make people frisky before, but getting handsy with a musical instrument was a new one. Words wouldn't work, though, and his thoughts kept sliding away from him.
"Hey. Hey, music man." Feuilly split away from the whispered, laughing conversation he'd been having with Bahorel and approached them, trailing one hand along the counter. "Play something, yeah? What's a party without music?"
Grantaire smiled a secret sort of smile and swept his thumb over one of the violin's curves. "Like what?"
Jehan lifted his head from Courfeyrac's lap. "Something happy," he said plaintively. "Something cheery. That's why we're here, right? To forget our troubles?"
Grantaire's smile spread slowly. "All right." He slid off of the barstool, laid the violin down on the counter near Enjolras's elbow, and moved into the middle of the living room. "Come on. Help me move things out of the way."
Jehan looked puzzled, but complied. Bahorel demanded to know why until Grantaire shot him an exasperated look and said, "Just trust me, all right?", and soon they had the coffee table dragged out of the way and an open space cleared in the middle of the room, and they only sent one of Grantaire's stacks of papers sliding onto the floor once, and only nearly broke his laptop.
Enjolras stayed on his stool, his gaze drawn to the violin beside him like a moon caught in orbit. There were places on the instrument where the polish and varnish had been worn down to pale, bare wood, and Enjolras could imagine that those spots were Grantaire's favorite to smooth idle fingers over. He wanted to trace them and feel how the grain of the it changed beneath his touch, worn away by Grantaire's love. He wanted to spread his palm over the slight swell of the violin's body, where Grantaire had been thumbing it earlier, and see if the wood still carried any warmth from his touch.
It came as a shock to his system when Grantaire returned, grabbed the violin by the neck, and carried it with him over to the couch as though he hadn't even noticed how it had enraptured Enjolras. He climbed up onto the couch, sitting on its back with his bare feet making furrows in the seat cushions. When he gave the room a brief survey, smiled like a cat, and tucked the violin under his chin, Enjolras forgot to mind that he'd taken it away before he could touch it.
Grantaire's foot tapped a muffled beat against the couch cushions, one, two, three, and then he put bow to string and swept into a soaring jig that made Enjolras's breath catch in his throat and the rest of the group forget their conversations and turn to watch him. The song felt like Ireland, like rolling green hills and storm-swept oceans. The beat of it sank through skin and flesh and bone and soaked straight into blood until Enjolras's pulse kept time with it and his foot tapped the rhythm against the barstool's leg.
Jehan stared at Grantaire, then threw his head back and laughed in delight. He caught Courfeyrac's hands and drew him into the middle of the living room, pulled him close and swept him into a dance around and around the narrow space. They stumbled and tripped over each other's feet and kept terrible time, but Jehan's grin was brilliant and bright, his laughter added a counterpoint to the music, and the joy of it was infectious.
Marius grabbed Bahorel and dragged him onto the improvised dance floor, ignoring his half-hearted protests. Combeferre leaned against Grantaire's armchair and clapped in time with the music, Feuilly and Joly stomped along, and Enjolras sat there at the counter and stared at Grantaire, transfixed.
The notes came rapidly, relentlessly, and Grantaire flew through them as though it were as easy as breathing. His fingers moved across the fingerboard too fast to follow, his bow danced across the strings, and Enjolras couldn't breathe past the wonder that sat in the back of his throat and swelled with the music to fill him until there wasn't room for anything else left.
Grantaire was grinning, beaming like Enjolras had never seen before. A light burned in his eyes and kindled in Enjolras's chest, hot and painful and glorious. Grantaire looked happy and alive, and he laughed and shook his dark curls off his brow as the boys swept each other around the room in graceless, joyous circles.
Grantaire guided the jig seamlessly into a reel, with an even faster tempo. The music filled the room and the boys stomped and clapped and danced along with it as though they might never stop and Enjolras had to slide off the stool and stagger across the living room, skirting the wall so he wouldn't get in the others' way, and out the front door to stand on the balcony. The cold and the dark enveloped him. The air felt thin here, empty. Enjolras's skin prickled in the cool night breeze. It traced over his skin and eased the flush that burned across his cheeks.
Enjolras leaned against the rail, gasping for breath. His head was swimming, his pulse still thrumming. He was buzzed from the wine he'd drunk, but Grantaire and his music were even more intoxicating.
Behind him, the door creaked open, admitting a burst of laughter and light. Enjolras turned as Grantaire came stumbling out, his face bright and his eyes lively. "What are you doing out here? You're missing the—" He tripped over his own feet and staggered. Enjolras grabbed him before he fell, moving too fast for thought. His fingers closed on Grantaire's upper arm, and Grantaire held on to him in return, his hands closed on Enjolras's shoulders and his thumbs braced against Enjolras's neck, lying just over his pulse point.
"—the party," Grantaire finished breathlessly. His hands closed slowly, fingers pressing into the muscle beneath them. "You're missing the party."
Enjolras shook his head. Words were slippery things right now, and they eluded his grasp. He slid his hands into Grantaire's hair and leaned down to cover Grantaire's mouth with his own.
Grantaire went very still, trembling slightly within Enjolras's grasp. Before Enjolras could pull back and worry about whether this was unwelcome, Grantaire drew a sharp breath and surged forward, pressing their bodies together along their whole length. His hands slid up to curve around the back of Enjolras's neck and his lips shivered apart.
Enjolras angled his head to the side and swept into his mouth. Grantaire shivered hard against him and met him eagerly in the kiss. It was wet and slick and warm, and Enjolras didn't want him to ever let go.
The small, swallowed noises that Grantaire made against his mouth were doing his head in. When Grantaire broke away, the loss went through him like a bolt of lightning. He stayed close, though, his breath warming the space between them. He pulled a hand through Enjolras's hair, twisting his fingers in the strands and smiling when they got tangled and caught there.
Enjolras leaned his brow against Grantaire's and kept his hands fitted on his waist, holding the other man close. The night air that had been a relief moments ago now felt frigid and unwelcoming. He wanted to stay in this warm, close space that surrounded them until the sun came up.
"Well," Grantaire murmured. His lips curved. "I guess there's something to be said for missing the party after all."
"Do you always talk?" Enjolras demanded.
"Yes." Grantaire slid in, his arms curling around Enjolras's neck. The weight of him pressed Enjolras back, the balcony railing digging into his hips. "I could maybe be persuaded to shut up for a while, though, with the proper incentive."
He was close and warm and the press of his body against Enjolras was exactly what he needed, and his hands were in Enjolras's hair, tugging and twisting and stroking across his scalp, and Enjolras had no choice but to ball his shirt in his fists and kiss him again.
Grantaire laughed against his mouth, his lips curving. He kissed the same way he played, throwing everything he had into it and with a joyful abandon that stripped thoughts of anything else from Enjolras's mind. He hitched Grantaire up, arms wrapped around his waist, and pulled against Grantaire's grip on his hair just to feel it tug.
A burst of laughter and a sharp wolf whistle separated them. Enjolras curled his fingers on the soft fabric of Grantaire's shirt, keeping him close. Grantaire grinned and bit at the point of his chin, then twisted, looking over his shoulder at the interruption.
Jehan and Courfeyrac had joined them on the balcony, their arms slung around each other's shoulders, listing heavily. Jehan beamed at them. "I was just coming out to tell you we're going to take off," he said, laughter in his voice. "But I guess that probably could have waited."
"Definitely," Enjolras said.
Grantaire twisted in his arms, turning around to face the others. The fear of loss cut through Enjolras like a knife, but Grantaire didn't go far. He leaned back against Enjolras, and groped for his hands until he'd found them and pulled his arms around his waist. Enjolras leaned his chin on Grantaire's shoulder and stared down at where they overlapped. Grantaire had laid his arms along Enjolras's, and stroked his fingers up and down the tendons on the backs of his hands.
"You're not driving," Grantaire said. It wasn't a question.
Jehan shook his head. "My apartment's is a ten minute walk from here. We'll come back in the morning and get our cars." Courfeyrac whispered something against his neck that made him laugh breathlessly. "Thanks for the party, Grantaire. Don't be a stranger."
They bid Jehan and Courfeyrac good night, and watched them walk off with their shoulders pressed tight and their heads bowed together. Enjolras pressed his face to the back of Grantaire's neck as another breeze stole by, making him shiver. Before he could think too well on turning Grantaire around and pushing him back against the wall and kissing him to keep the night at bay, Grantaire slid the fingers of one hand through Enjolras's, twisted out of his embrace, and drew Enjolras with him back inside.
The mood in the apartment was lighter now than it had been before Grantaire had taken up his violin, but the energy seemed to be winding down. Everyone was idling around, making plans with each other for how to get home. Feuilly said that he was going to catch the bus home, and Joly called dibs on his pull-out before anyone else could speak up to do so. Combeferre took pity on Marius and offered to let him share a cab and crash on his couch for the night. He hesitated and glanced and Enjolras, and then at Grantaire beside him.
"Thanks," Enjolras said before Combeferre could extend the offer. "But no. If Marius is on your couch, that only leaves one place for me, and I think I'd honestly rather hitchhike home than sleep on your floor."
Combeferre shrugged as though to say, Very well, and everyone grouped up and made their way off. Enjolras sat on the arm of Grantaire's couch and pulled out his phone, trying to remember the number for the local taxi service.
"You can stay, if you'd like," Grantaire said. Enjolras looked up at him, startled at how close he'd gotten without Enjolras noticing. He inclined his head toward the couch. "The springs are going in a couple places, but it's a far cry more comfortable than someone's floor. If you'd rather not call a cab."
Enjolras startled and stared at him. It felt like too much, too intimate an invitation for two people who had been plastered all over each other half an hour before. The last thing he wanted was a cold, lonely cab ride back to a cold, lonely bed, but if he stayed, what was he agreeing to? Did it mean something beyond a kindness between friends?
Friends. Could they even call themselves that?
"It's just a couch, Apollo," Grantaire said softly. "And you can say no, if you like. You won't hurt my feelings."
Enjolras opened his mouth. He didn't know what he meant to say, what he wanted. But what came out was, "Thank you. Yes. All right. If you don't mind."
Grantaire's mouth curled, then, a glimpse of humor. "I wouldn't have offered if I did." He leaned in a brushed a kiss over the crown of Enjolras's hair, then slid away before he could figure out how to react. "I'll go grab some sheets and things. Don't pass out on me until I get your bed made."
It wasn't a danger, but Enjolras held his tongue and watched him go. He was back in a moment, laden down with an armful of crisp sheets and a rumpled quilt and a fluffy white pillow that looked heavenly and soft.
Enjolras took them out of Grantaire's arms when he moved toward the couch. "I can do that," he said. "It's all right."
Grantaire looked as though he wanted to refuse. His mouth opened and his brow furrowed, but then he just sighed. "Okay. Good night. The bathroom's the first door on the right, if you need it."
Enjolras nodded and busied himself removing the cushions from the back of the couch and spreading the sheet and blanket out. He turned the lamp off and groped his way back to his bed in darkness. And when he laid his head down on the pillow, the smell of Grantaire's laundry soap rose up to fill his lungs, and carry him off to sleep.
But though he lingered there for a half hour or more, drowsy and dozing, neither came. He felt only a slight ache in his spine, likely a result from sleeping on the couch with its failing springs, and a bone-deep weariness that only caffeine could chase away. Someone who was as picky about his brew as Grantaire seemed to be was bound to have a coffee maker at home, wasn't he?
The promise of coffee, at last, was enough to get him out of his makeshift bed and onto his feet. The machine was out on the counter and he found beans stored in the door of Grantaire's freezer. Enjolras could have kissed him for making it so easy. In moments he had the water reservoir filled, the filter heaped high with grounds, and the machine happily hissing and sputtering away. He waited at the breakfast bar, his arms folded and his head lying upon them, until there was enough in the pot to pour off into a mug.
There was a jug of skim milk in the fridge, but nothing heavier, and despite a frantic ransacking of Grantaire's pantry, Enjolras couldn't find a single bag or box of sugar. He found honey, though, buried on the back of one shelf behind a can of chili that had expired six months earlier.
Skim milk and honey would do just fine, he decided. He was too desperate to be picky. He returned to the couch with coffee in hand, savoring the aroma that wafted up from the mug and the heat of the ceramic against his palms and the sweet promise of caffeination.
With one cup in his system and a second half gone, Enjolras finally felt at least passingly functional, and his attention drifted to the room around him, the space that he and the others had left rather the worse for the wear, when the party had broken up last night. There were still bottles lined up along the breakfast bar, some of them now empty and toppled over. The stack of sheet music Grantaire had swept aside had gotten knocked into even greater disarray, and the bottom sheets were soaking up a puddle of something pungent-smelling.
Enjolras only meant to make headway on the task of straightening up, so it wouldn't fall on Grantaire's shoulders. But he ended up doing more prying than tidying. Rifling through the sheet music to identify which had gotten wet and needed to be laid out to dry turned into paging through it, enthralled by the number and variety of songs. There were jigs and reels, classical pieces and movie scores and Top 40 songs, and an equal number whose names Enjolras didn't recognize. There was one with a title about faeries, and the entire page was covered with a jumbled chaos of musical notation that Enjolras doubted anyone could read, accompanied by instructions like "release the penguins" and other nonsense.
"Do I smell coffee?" Grantaire came stumbling out of his bedroom, wearing only a worn t-shirt and boxers with Tweety Bird printed on them. His hair was a mess of curls, and Enjolras had to tighten his grip on the sheet music in his hands to fight off the urge to card his fingers through that wild tangle. He blinked owlishly at Enjolras, and the mug on the counter, and then the coffee pot, still half-full and steaming. "You made coffee? Marry me. I love you. Never ever leave." He pressed an enthusiastic kiss to Enjolras's cheek and snagged his coffee cup while he was distracted.
Enjolras didn't protest, just leaned his elbows back against the counter and waited.
Grantaire drank from his cup, then froze, his expression twisting with horror. He shoved the mug back into Enjolras's hands and swallowed with an exaggerated grimace. "Oh my God, you didn't poison all of it, did you?"
Enjolras laughed and drank as Grantaire hurried to the coffee pot, his eyes round with worry. There was a faint, unfamiliar taste clinging to the cup's lip when he sipped from it. Grantaire's toothpaste, Enjolras thought, and warmth curled through his stomach that had nothing at all to do with the coffee.
Grantaire sighed with relief when he'd poured himself a cup and found the coffee untainted, as black as he might have liked it. "Okay, you're forgiven. This is delicious." He kissed Enjolras's cheek again, and this time, he lingered.
Enjolras cleared his throat and ducked his head, unreasonably pleased by the praise. He nudged the pile of music to draw Grantaire's attention to it. "Some of your pieces were a casualty of last night. I laid them out to dry. They didn't seem to have bled, so they should be all right."
"Oh, that's all right," Grantaire said brightly. "They're replaceable. And you really didn't have to do that."
"Do you really play all those songs?"
He nodded, smiling and happy. Something heavy and good turned over in Enjolras's stomach and left him feeling slightly queasy. "At some point or another."
"Even the faerie one?" He was impressed. That song had looked like a mess. He'd seen how fast Grantaire's fingers could move, but it still seemed unlikely. "You should play it for me."
"Well, I would, but the penguins are on backorder," he said, deadpan. And then the seriousness broke and he laughed, shaking his head. "No. I'm not going to play that for you. You don't want me to, trust me. It's a joke. It'd sound like a herd of cattle dying a painful death, and you'd lose all respect for me as a musician. I'll play you something suitably impressive later, if you like."
Enjolras relented with a shrug. Grantaire carried his coffee over to the couch, moved the pillow aside, and dropped down to sit cross-legged. Enjolras wanted to go and sit with him, maybe lean against his shoulder and spend the morning watching Grantaire run his fingers over the painted pattern on the side of his mug. But he hadn't even moved the sheets and blankets aside when he'd sat down. They were piled and messy beside him, and it looked cozy and intimate in a way that Enjolras didn't think he could bear just then.
There was an armchair he could claim for his own, but the coffee table had been moved directly in front of it to allow for the dancing last night, so Enjolras left his mug on the counter and set about putting things back where they belonged.
"You don't have to do that," Grantaire said, watching him over the rim of his cup. "Come. Sit. I don't like putting my guests to work."
"I don't mind. It's the least I can do." He dragged the coffee table back into position and hefted up the tower of books and DVDs that had been there the night before. The glass in the table rattled when he put them back on it.
Grantaire unfolded, stretching his legs out to prop his heels on the table. He leaned over, his hand whipping out, and caught Enjolras by the wrist before he could move off to the next thing that needed to be put back in its proper spot. His hand was strong, his fingers pressing hard enough that Enjolras could feel his pulse battering against his skin. His gaze, when Enjolras met it, was direct and bored straight through him. "Sit," he said again, quiet, gentle. "Please."
Enjolras let his breath out with a shuddering sigh and sat. His heart beat too fast. His skin tingled where Grantaire's touched it. When Grantaire released him, it was a relief and a disappointment in one. He dropped his gaze to his knees and reached blindly for one of the books in Grantaire's pile, just for the sake of having something to do with his hands.
The book was a thick hardcover, heavier than Enjolras had expected, called Essentials of Music Theory. Enjolras looked at it in surprise. "Is this a textbook?"
"No, it's a romance novel." Grantaire kicked the blankets that separated them onto the floor and scooted over until their shoulders touched. "Of course it's a textbook."
"You're a student?"
Grantaire turned his head toward Enjolras. He was very close. Enjolras's heart thumped hard against his ribs. Grantaire's lips curved into a slow grin. "Yeah, I'm a student. You sound surprised." He laughed and rocked to the side, knocking his shoulder against Enjolras's. "I don't know whether to be insulted that you thought I was just some guy hanging around campus because I had nothing else to do, or flattered that you thought I might actually make enough from my busking to live off of."
"I didn't--" Enjolras frowned. There hadn't been any sharpness to Grantaire's words, but he felt stung all the same. "I didn't think... Why do you busk, then?"
"It's fun," he said, then hesitated and frowned. "Well." He flexed his hands in his lap and rubbed at his knuckles. "More fun when the weather plays nice, I must admit. I have to practice anyway, so why not sit out in the sunshine and the fresh air? The music department has practice studios, but you always have to fight tooth and nail just to get an hour in one. And then you're sitting there by yourself in a soundproof room playing for one, and what does that get you? Busking's better practice. You have an actual audience, and you can see firsthand what works and what doesn't. And maybe you end up with a little extra pocket change at the end of the day, if you're lucky. Definitely seems like the better end of the deal, to me."
Grantaire's gaze had dropped down to a point somewhere on Enjolras's shoulder as he spoke, and his words had gotten harder with every one he spoke, so that by the end he wasn't smiling at all, just frowning and looking irritated.
"I'm not judging you, you know," Enjolras said quietly. He wanted that light, happy expression back on Grantaire's face. He wanted him to stop twisting his fingers together into knots on his lap. "Even if you weren't a student. Even if you were on campus just because it was a good place to busk. I wouldn't think less of you for it."
Grantaire drew a long, slow breath, then let it out all at once. "Thanks, Apollo." He pulled his hands apart. His fingers were still curved where they lay across his thighs, but the tension had eased from them. He rolled his shoulders and rubbed at the back of his neck. "People see you sitting around asking for money, they tend to assume you're there because you have to be, not because it's a choice. They assume you're homeless or a bum or you're just going to go drink away whatever they give you--"
"Well," Enjolras said, laughed beneath his breath, and inclined his head toward the breakfast bar and the collection of bottles that still cluttered it.
"Hey, shut up." Grantaire was grinning again. It loosened something in Enjolras's chest that had been tight ever since he'd stopped smiling. "I don't need anyone's charity to pay for my booze, thank you very much." He curved his hands around the sides of his coffee mug and took another long sip from it.
Enjolras wanted to kiss him again. It was like a craving, twisting up his stomach and making the breath come short in his lungs. He wanted to take the cup from Grantaire's hands and turn his wrists up and kiss them until he knew the topography of his calluses by heart. He wanted more than that.
He didn't move. The distance between them was negligible at best, but he preserved it, and stared down into the dark depths of his own coffee because it hurt too much to look at Grantaire's smile.
He was ridiculous. Sitting around on someone's half-made couch, drinking his coffee and getting butterflies over his grin... This wasn't who he was. It was the sort of fancy Marius might allow himself to be preoccupied by, or Jehan, and need to be firmly brought to heel until they could keep their focus on the task at hand.
Enjolras had always been the one keeping the others in line. He'd never before been the one to stray.
"Do you have class this morning?" Grantaire asked. Enjolras pulled his gaze back to him and found the other man watching him over the lip of his cup, his brows raised and his smile warm.
"Not today," Enjolras said. "But I should go check on the others and make sure they're not nursing hangovers. And we'll need to meet up at the Musain tonight and start planning for what's next."
Grantaire rocked back a little and gave him a strange look. The added space between them gave Enjolras enough room to fill his lungs. "No rest for the weary, I guess," Grantaire said, droll. He rose from the couch, unfolding slowly. "You'd better get on with that, then." He reached a hand down in offering. "You can use my shower, if you'd like to freshen up before you leave."
Enjolras stared at his hand, the lines and wrinkles and small, pale scars that wrote the story of his life across his palm. Don't, he thought to himself quite clearly. He wasn't an invalid, he could stand up without Grantaire's help. He didn't need his assistance, shouldn't want it, shouldn't take it.
He reached up and grasped Grantaire's hand all the same, and let him pull him up to his feet. If he was a little slow to release his hold once he was upright, a little reluctant, Grantaire made no mention of it.
"Do you want breakfast before you go?" Grantaire gestured with his mug. "You made coffee. Least I can do is make you some toast in return."
Enjolras shook his head. He had the strange, disarming feeling that if he didn't leave now, right now, he'd never be able to drag himself away. "After what you did for everyone last night, I'd say that makes us more than square."
"Fair enough." Grantaire boosted himself up onto a stool by the breakfast bar and watched as Enjolras moved around the living room, gathering up the few possessions he'd brought with him. When he tried to fold up the blanket and sheets that were still on the couch, Grantaire rolled his eyes, hopped off the stool, and came over to shove at him.
"Oh God. No, don't do that. Get out of here. You're going to embarrass me if you start acting like my maid."
Even when Enjolras had dropped the linens and thrown his hands up in submission, Grantaire still pushed and prodded him across the living room to the front door and out onto the balcony. Then he stood in the doorway, gripping the door's edge and smiling at him like he wanted him to stay. "Go on," he said, and Enjolras was thrown back in time, to the rally, to the day they'd met, to every time Grantaire had gently pushed him away with those same two words.
"The Musain," he said. His voice cracked on the words. "Tonight. You can join us, if you like. I'm sure everyone will like to thank you properly for their throbbing heads."
Grantaire's smile pulled lopsided and wry. "Well, with that sort of incentive, how could I keep away?" But then the sharp edges faded and he was left just smiling, nothing behind it but pleasure. "All right," he said. "Perhaps I will." He gave Enjolras one final push toward the stairs. His touch trailed down Enjolras's arm as he moved away, from his sleeve onto bare skin, fingers brushing down to his wrist before his hand dropped away. The touch was brief, barely filling the space between one breath and the next, but it left Enjolras's skin tingling and tight for the rest of the day.
He was there the next night, though, only the third to arrive, his messenger bag laden down with textbooks and pulling at his shoulder. He'd claimed one end of the table and spread his books out across it, and spent most of the night studying, relentlessly distracting Enjolras with the way he trailed a finger down the page as he read, and the way the pads of his fingers became increasingly smudged with fluorescent highlighter and black ink as the night wore on. When he licked a finger to turn an uncooperative page, Enjolras stopped and stared, and completely lost track of the argument he had been in the midst of making.
"I'm sorry," he stammered. "I lost my train of thought. Give me a minute."
Jehan had glanced between him and Grantaire, laughed once, and hadn't stopped grinning for the rest of the night.
He became a regular addition to their group, after that. He didn't come to all the meetings, but he came to more than he missed, and sometimes he spent the whole time with his head bent over his textbooks, and sometimes he lounged back with one foot kicked up on an empty chair and argued with Enjolras all night long.
Enjolras had hated it, the first time he'd done that. He'd stopped mid-sentence and given him a hard stare, something liquid and painful swirling in his chest, and he'd only managed not to say something regrettable because Courfeyrac had kicked his shin beneath the table and given him a warning glare.
The next time it had been easier, and the time after that, easier still. Soon enough, Enjolras realized with a start that he'd come to welcome Grantaire's contributions, to look forward to them. They never, ever agreed -- Grantaire was too cynical for that, too determined to view any effort as pointless and ultimately doomed.
"That's what you're up against," he had snapped once, when Enjolras had lost his patience with Grantaire's relentless cynicism. "If people were motivated to get out there and speak their mind and effect change, you wouldn't be having this problem, would you? You want your cause to gain momentum, you need more weight behind it, and most people out there are just as fed up with this game as I am. How can you expect to convince any of them if you can't even convince me?"
And then he'd sat back, arms crossed, staring down the length of the table at Enjolras with a challenge written in the lines of his shoulders.
He was right, of course. He was exactly the sort of voice that they needed, that they'd been missing. He made their speeches stronger, their campaign smarter. When Enjolras tried out an argument on him and got a raised eyebrow and a grudgingly-impressed grunt, he knew the burning satisfaction of a job well done.
Outside the Musain, their paths continued to cross. Occasionally, when he had the time, he'd leave for class early so he could linger with Grantaire while he busked in front of the student center. Sometimes after lecture he came back, and sat on the steps beside him while he worked on his class assignments. They'd talk in between songs, or Enjolras would glance up, drawn out of his studies by the prolonged silence, and find Grantaire staring into the distance and chewing on the corner of his mouth. When that happened, he'd drawn Grantaire's attention back with a touch on his thigh or the inside of his wrist and say, "God, it's dreary today. Play that one you did at your place," and Grantaire might laugh and do so, or cut him a sidelong glance and answer, "Fine, but only if you play the rhythm section," and teach him a rhythmic stomp and clap that ran under the music like a pulse, steady and compelling, and afterward Grantaire's face would be glowing so bright that Enjolras wouldn't even notice the cold until he got home later and his fingers were stiff and painful.
It didn't take long before Enjolras knew Grantaire's schedule by memory, knew when he could expect to step off the shuttle to the sounds of his music filling the air and when the student center plaza would be empty, full of nothing but the sound of students' shoes scraping across the bricks.
When he found himself coming out of class during those times, sometimes he took the long way back to the bus stop, turning right onto the path that circled around campus instead of left, because that way would lead him past the music department and he harbored some strange, unspoken hope that maybe he'd run into Grantaire while he was there, just getting out of his own lecture, too.
He did find Grantaire there, surprisingly frequently. Often enough that it occurred to him to wonder if perhaps Grantaire wasn't doing the same thing, dragging his heels, hoping to see Enjolras. And when it did, Grantaire fell into step beside him as naturally as though they'd been doing it all their lives, and they'd talk all the way back to the bus stop.
The first time it happened, they were arguing politics, and Enjolras was so caught up in the debate that he didn't notice that Grantaire had joined him on the shuttle and followed him home until they were standing in front of his apartment door, his keys already in hand. Grantaire was gesturing animatedly, lost on some tangent, and so there hadn't seemed to be anything to do but to unlock the door and let him in.
He'd stepped across the threshold, paused his tirade long enough to draw a breath, glance around, and say, "Christ, you look like you live in a magazine spread, how can you stand it?" and then, while Enjolras was squinting at his living room trying to figure out what was wrong with it or what the problem was with not having so many possessions that they cluttered every horizontal surface available, Grantaire dropped down onto the couch, propped his foot on the edge of the ottoman, and picked up the conversational thread exactly where he'd dropped it.
It had ended in a stalemate, as their debates always did, and with Grantaire digging through the depths of Enjolras's freezer, pulling out a frost-covered frozen pizza box, and asking over his shoulder, "Hey, are you planning on eating this any time this century, or can I throw it in the oven?"
Enjolras had just nodded stunned assent, and half an hour later they were eating pizza on his couch while Grantaire poked at his laptop and clucked his tongue over Enjolras's Netflix queue.
"Oh my God, Doctor Who? You haven't seen Doctor Who? What kind of a philistine are you?"
"What are you doing?" Enjolras strained to see over his shoulder.
"Educating you." Grantaire shoved his pizza slice in his mouth, held Enjolras off with a hand planted in the middle of his chest, and added half a dozen titles before Enjolras could even find the voice to protest. "Stay back. This is for your own good."
Grantaire's finger pressed through Enjolras's t-shirt, and his palm was a solid pressure against his breastbone. Enjolras fought for breath and wondered that Grantaire couldn't feel his heart pounding straight through his skin. But all he said was, "Don't worry, you'll like it. He's all about justice and doing the right thing and the best of humanity. Give him half a season and you won't regret it."
Enjolras just blinked at him and didn't argue, because Grantaire hadn't left him with enough breath to speak.
The next time Grantaire followed him home, he'd played something quiet and soft in the corner and let Enjolras work on his latest speech for an hour until he abruptly said, "All right, that's the third time you've rubbed your neck in the past five minutes, that means it's time to give it a rest," and pulled the pages out of his hands and pushed him down onto the couch and said, "The cause will survive without you for forty-five minutes. Time to further your education in excellent British television."
Two weeks after that, Grantaire followed him to the bus stop as had become their habit, but then he'd slipped away, and an hour later shown up outside Enjolras's door laden down with grocery bags. "I'm cooking dinner," he declared as he pushed into the apartment and kicked the door closed behind himself. "I already texted everybody, they're on their way over. Well, everyone but Marius, because he's got a date with Cosette tonight. Where are your pots and pans?"
Enjolras showed him the right cabinets, and then he'd leaned against the counter and accomplished nothing else for the rest of the night, unable to tear his gaze away from the easy, natural way Grantaire wielded a whisk or chopped vegetables. "I make a mean vodka sauce," he'd said with a wink, and Enjolras hadn't been able to do anything but laugh.
Not long after, Enjolras left his poli sci lecture and stepped into a wind that whipped through campus and carried with it the wet promise of rain later that night. He shivered, buttoned up his coat, and dug his wallet out of his pocket to make sure he had enough cash on hand to buy two coffees at the stand. Grantaire seemed determined to perform no matter how long the temperature dropped or how ferocious the wind became, and Enjolras worried about those ratty gloves and the way Grantaire's fingers turned pale in the cold.
When Enjolras reached the coffee stand, though, Grantaire was there already, counting out money at the front of the line. Enjolras sidled up next to him and nudged his elbow. Grantaire turned, startled, but his smile lit up his face when he saw Enjolras. "You're fast. I was going to come up and meet you outside of the hall."
"Why would you--" The question died on Enjolras's tongue when Grantaire turned, a coffee cup in each hand, and shoved one out toward Enjolras. "What's that?"
Grantaire rolled his eyes dramatically. "It's called coffee. Full of caffeine, very invigorating, addicting and delicious. It's yours, Apollo, take it."
Enjolras took the cup dumbly. He moved over to the milk bar and popped the top off so he could add cream and sugar to make it palatable, but the sight of the coffee inside gave him pause. It wasn't black and untainted the way he'd expected, the way Grantaire always drank his coffee. It was milky and pale, and when Enjolras took a cautious sip from the cup's edge, it was perfect.
He replaced the top and turned back to Grantaire. "This is my order."
"My exact order."
Grantaire's lips pulled into a crooked, smug little smile. "I know."
"How on earth did you--"
"I paid attention." He caught Enjolras by the elbow and turned him around, back toward the bus stop. "Come on, let's go. It's cold as fuck and we meet Donna Noble in the next episode. I want to know what you think of her."
They continued on together to the bus stop. Grantaire kept close the whole way, his shoulder brushing against Enjolras's as they walked. Enjolras found his gaze continually drawn to Grantaire's hands, to the way he gripped his cup of coffee and occasionally curled one hand so he could press the backs of his fingers against the warm sides.
Enjolras drained the last of his latte and tossed the cup into a nearby trash can, then caught Grantaire by the wrists and pulled him to a stop. "You're going to get frostbite if you keep going on like this. Christ. All that money you make from your busking and you can't afford a decent pair of gloves?" He pulled his own off with his teeth, tucked them in a pocket, and folded Grantaire's hands within his own. They felt like ice. Enjolras held them tight and rubbed his hands over them briskly, trying to work the warmth into them. "What are you going to do if your fingers fall off and you can't play anymore?"
"I'll learn to play with my feet and become an international Youtube sensation." Grantaire stared down at where Enjolras's hands enveloped his. His chest jumped with a sharp, hitching breath and his lips trembled apart. "What are you doing?"
"Warming you up." He pulled his gloves out and started tugging them onto Grantaire's hands. "Here. Wear these. Stop fighting me and put them on."
"You need them," Grantaire protested.
"Not as much as you do. At least I've got pockets and the good sense to use them."
"I—" Grantaire stared down at his hands, wrapped now in the soft wool of the gloves. He flexed his hand slowly and ran his thumb over the ends of his other fingers. His gaze shot up to Enjolras's, then slid sideways to stare off into the distance. "Enjolras. Have you eaten yet? There's this pho place nearby that I've been wanting to check out."
Enjolras curled his fingers through Grantaire's, sharing the warmth of the wool. "What happened to Donna Noble?"
"She'll wait. I want soup."
"Do we have to walk?"
"Only a block. You can have your gloves back, if you'd rather." He looked mournfully at his hands as he said it, like he was already mourning their loss.
Enjolras shook his head. "Keep them." There was something thrilling about seeing Grantaire wearing something that belonged to him. He wouldn't have taken them back even if his fingers had been falling off. "Okay. Pho sounds good. I could use something to eat. I haven't had anything since dinner last night."
Grantaire frowned and shot him a look of profound disapproval. "That doesn't sound very healthy." He took hold of Enjolras's hand, twining their fingers together, and used it to pull him along. "Come on. If you're not going to make sure you eat regularly, I will."
It was as short a walk to the pho restaurant as Grantaire had promised, but the wind howled down the street and sent them both huddling in against each other for what meager protection they provided. They stumbled into the restaurant's foyer, shivering and laughing. A waitress led them to a small table for two, tucked into the back and so narrow that their knees bumped when they both sat down. Color burned high on Grantaire's cheeks as they shifted and adjusted until they had their legs slotted together so they both had room, but perhaps it was just windburn from the cold.
The pho smelled delicious. Grantaire inhaled deeply, then smiled in a way that was sharp and feral as he pronounced his approval. He squeezed a wedge of lime into the broth, then tore up basil with his hands and sprinkled it in. Enjolras examined the selection of additions uncertainly before deciding on chili and basil for his own soup.
It was just as good as Grantaire had proclaimed it to be, but Enjolras couldn't savor it properly because the whole of his attention was absorbed by the way Grantaire's knees bracketed his, the way beads of broth clung to his fingertips when he wiped it from the corner of his mouth, the casual way he'd reach over and touch the back of Enjolras's hand to get his attention or emphasize a point.
"Apollo?" Grantaire asked around a mouthful of noodles, and Enjolras came back to himself with a start and realized that he'd said something that required a response.
"Is this a date?" he asked without thinking.
Grantaire straightened and blinked at him, his chopsticks forgotten in his hand. Cold cut through Enjolras's gut the longer it took him to respond, working frosty fingers into his deepest recesses until he was sure he'd never be warm again.
"That's a good question," Grantaire said at last, each word slow and considered. "Do you want it to be?"
Enjolras's heart clenched so tight it hurt. His chest felt abruptly two sizes too small, his ribs collapsing, squeezing all the air from his lungs. He stared across the table at Grantaire, broth dripping onto the table from the spoon he held halfway between the bowl and his mouth.
Yes, his heart said with every painful clench. Yes, please, yes.
Don't be stupid, said a sterner, crueler voice within him. You haven't got time for this. He doesn't want you. He hasn't tried to kiss you since that night, has he?
Enjolras shut his eyes and tightened his jaw until his teeth hurt, fighting back the voice until a light touch on the edge of his jaw brought him back to himself. He snapped his eyes open, sucked air into lungs so empty of it that they felt hollow.
Grantaire had risen half out of his seat to lean across the table to him. His fingertips were warm on Enjolras's skin. He smelled like Thai basil and lime and the wool of Enjolras's gloves, and he watched Enjolras from clear blue eyes gone deep and solemn with worry. "Hey," he said softly. "That wasn't meant to be a trick question. Do you really not know what you want?"
He knew. He turned his face into Grantaire's touch and nuzzled a kiss against his palm. Grantaire's fingers curled gently against his cheek. He didn't pull away. "Isn't it obvious?" Enjolras asked, muffled and agonized against his skin.
"Not really." He ran his thumb from the cleft at the point of Enjolras's chin up to where the bone curved just beneath his ear. "Is it really so hard to say?"
It shouldn't have been. He knew what he wanted, knew the words he wanted to say. But there was this impossible thing sitting in the middle of his chest, pinning him in place so he couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't act.
Grantaire studied his face a moment longer, and seemed to come to a decision. He settled back into his seat, but kept his hand resting lightly against Enjolras's on the table, preserving the connection between them. Enjolras hooked his fingers through Grantaire's and was grateful for it.
"Let's take the rest of this to go," Grantaire said, "and you can walk me home."
They climbed the stairs to Grantaire's apartment shoulder-to-shoulder. Enjolras moved to the kitchen to put the food in the refrigerator while Grantaire dumped his book bag. When Enjolras turned, speaking blindly over his shoulder, Grantaire was right there, in his space, close enough that Enjolras could almost feel the warmth of his breath.
He was close enough to kiss, close enough that Enjolras thought perhaps that's what he intended to do, with a rush of relief that he wouldn't have to be the one to figure out how to build a bridge across that awkward gap that separated them. But Grantaire held back, his gaze steady on Enjolras's, searching. His hand was on Enjolras's upper arm. He squeezed once and leaned in, so slowly. His gaze dropped down to Enjolras's mouth, then back up to look him in the eye.
"Is this all right?" he breathed. Enjolras drew air into his lungs and held it, just for the knowledge that that was something they'd shared.
He nodded twice, jerky and awkward, and tried to find his voice. He was still floundering for it when Grantaire's eyes dropped again, then closed. And then his lips were on Enjolras's, warm and tentative.
Enjolras slid his arms around Grantaire's back and pulled him in with a swallowed moan. He laughed quietly against Enjolras's mouth, his lips curving into a sharp grin, before he slid his hands up to frame his jaw and bit at Enjolras's lips.
Heat flared in Enjolras's stomach, filling the cold, empty places with fire and light. He pushed forward into the kiss, craving it with a suddenness that shocked him. Desire burned in him, and like a flame, it consumed the thing that gave it life and then demanded more.
Grantaire leaned his forehead against Enjolras's chest, just below the hollow of his throat. He was breathing hard, his shoulders rising and falling rapidly. His hands slid down off of Enjolras's jaw to curve against his throat. "All right," he said breathlessly. When he lifted his head, his eyes were dancing. "That seems to answers both our questions, don't you think?"
Enjolras wrapped one of Grantaire's curls around his finger and tugged at it, just to watch the way it made Grantaire blink and shiver. "Did you bring me back here just so you could kiss me? You could have done that at the restaurant." You could have done that three weeks ago.
Grantaire laughed softly and shook his head. "No." He slid his fingers beneath the collar of Enjolras's shirt and swept his thumb there, back and forth. "I brought you home because I was hoping it wouldn't end with just one kiss."
And finally, finally, Enjolras had the words that he needed. Just one word, the only one necessary, caught in his grasp and fighting for freedom. "Yes," he said, and pulled Grantaire to him for another, desperate kiss. "Yes."
Grantaire kissed him for a moment, long enough to build the heat to a firestorm, then sidled back. The sight of his hands working on the buttons of his coat was the only thing that kept Enjolras from dragging him back in. His fingers were more nimble on the big plastic buttons than Enjolras's would have been. He had the coat open in half a second, it seemed. He shrugged it off and tossed it aside without even looking, letting it land haphazardly on the breakfast bar. All the while, his gaze remained steady and eager on Enjolras's, and as soon as he was free of the coat, Grantaire moved in to work at his.
Enjolras helped him wrestle it off his shoulders and down his arms, shook it off and let it fall on the floor while he grabbed Grantaire and reeled him in again. Their shirts felt thin after the bulk of their coats. Enjolras pressed his palm against the flat of Grantaire's stomach and shivered at the heat of his skin through the flimsy cotton.
"Come on." Grantaire hooked his fingers through Enjolras's belt loops and pulled him away from the fridge. "Come with me."
The lead each other, stumbling and tripping over each other's feet and laughing dizzy kisses into each other's mouths, down the hall and around a corner. Grantaire pushed him back against a door and bit at Enjolras's shoulder with sharp, wicked teeth as he groped around behind Enjolras's back.
The door opened abruptly and they spilled inside, tangled up in each other. Enjolras's hip bumped against the sharp corner of a nightstand and sent a shower of knick-knacks raining onto the carpet. Grantaire just sucked harder at his throat and guided him around the mess.
The edge of Grantaire's bed frame hit Enjolras's calves. He dropped backwards to sit on the mattress.
His breath caught in his chest with a painful hitch when Grantaire climbed up onto his lap, knees planted in the mattress on either side of Enjolras's legs. He was taller like this, head bent forward as he leaned down to kiss the shell of Enjolras's ear, his throat, his jaw, working a slow, maddening trail towards his lips. His fingers stretched long and elegant along both sides of Enjolras's neck, pressing in like brands. Enjolras turned his head, chasing after Grantaire's mouth, seeking his kiss.
When he was groaning, Grantaire relented and tipped his face up with gentle fingers under his jaw. His lips parted easily, letting Enjolras sweep in to claim every deep, slick recess of his mouth.
Enjolras groaned again. This time, Grantaire did too. He dropped one hand down to claw at Enjolras's shirt, dragging the hem up and baring a stripe of skin across his back. It wasn't cold in Grantaire's apartment, but with the heat of him pressed up against Enjolras's chest, the room's air made gooseflesh prickle across his back. He wrapped his arms around the small of Grantaire's back and pulled him in close to make up for it, hips to hips, stomach against stomach, shuddering against each other with every groan.
Grantaire wrenched at his shirt again with a wild moan and broke away long enough to gasp, "Can I--"
"Yes, God, please--" Enjolras grabbed at the back of his collar and hauled his shirt over his head and off. There might have been the sound of popping seams, but it was lost beneath the way Grantaire reared back to stare at him, his gaze hot and full of wonder as he took Enjolras in.
"Christ," he muttered, spreading a hand wide over Enjolras's stomach. His thumb traced the lines of definition between his abs. "I've been wondering what you look like under all those layers for three weeks."
"Three?" Something sharp lodged in his ribs, making his breaths shallow and quick. "Three weeks—"
"Well." He laughed quietly and nuzzled against Enjolras's jaw. "Longer than that, if I'm being completely honest. When did you incur your debt to the swear jar? Since then."
Enjolras braced his hands in the bed behind himself so he could lean back and frown at Grantaire. "That was the day we met. That was five minutes after we met."
"What can I say?" He grinned as he slid his hand up Enjolras's chest and rubbed rough circles around his nipple. "You're eye-catching."
"You—" God, his hands were wicked. Enjolras shuddered and pressed up against Grantaire's touch. Grantaire rewarded him with firmer pressure and tighter circles. When he caught Enjolras's nipple between his thumb and finger and rolled it, it sent an answering tug deep into Enjolras's gut that had his hips rising off the mattress, rolling against Grantaire's. "Three weeks? Why on earth did you wait?"
Grantaire angled his head to the side and gave him a strange little look. "I wasn't sure what you wanted."
Enjolras dropped his head back on a tortured groan. "How could you not know? That night, when everyone was here..."
"We kissed," Grantaire said quietly, smiling at the memory. He trailed his thumb over Enjolras's lower lip and pressed it there. Enjolras flicked his tongue out across it, then took it into his mouth to scrape his teeth over the skin. Grantaire's smile slipped away by slow degrees and left him looking solemn. But he pressed his thumb against Enjolras's tongue and didn't try to draw away. "You were drunk."
Enjolras turned his face aside so he could speak. "So were you."
"I wasn't going to assume you wanted me sober just because you kissed me drunk."
"You could've," Enjolras said. "You should've. God, I want your hands on me. I always want your hands on me."
"Yeah?" His smile returned, sharp and full of promises. He pushed Enjolras down onto his back and slid his hands down rub at the line where the waistband of Enjolras's curved low across his hips. "What do you think I should be doing with them?"
Desire sat heavy on the back of Enjolras's tongue, stealing his ability to speak. But he didn't have to. Grantaire was already sliding his fingers under the waist of Enjolras's jeans, slipping down under the elastic of his boxers to tease the skin low on Enjolras's stomach. Enjolras pushed up onto an elbow and watched, mesmerized, as Grantaire slipped open the button on his fly and slowly, slowly worked the zipper down.
Enjolras was hard, had been hard since Grantaire had pushed him back against the fridge and stripped all thoughts from his head. His cock strained against his boxers. Grantaire stroked him through the fabric and let his smile pull lopsided like he knew exactly the way it made electricity shiver across Enjolras's skin. He arched, pushing up into Grantaire's touch and forcing it firmer, stronger, more. "Touch me," he said. "Grantaire."
Grantaire let out an unsteady breath, the first sign Enjolras had seen in him that he was as effected as Enjolras was. He slid along Enjolras's body and drew his boxers and jeans down together. Enjolras kicked the encumbering clothes away and reached for him, beckoning him back in.
Grantaire held back, just out of Enjolras's grasp, and shook his head. When he nudged Enjolras's knees apart and knelt between his thighs, Enjolras dropped his hand down to grab at the blankets beneath him.
Grantaire's fingers were warm and a little rough when he skimmed then down the length of Enjolras's cock. Enjolras jerked, his stomach tightening, and gaped up at the ceiling as Grantaire teased him. He was merciless — he kept his touch light, just the dry rasp of music-roughened skin, but he trailed it everywhere, up Enjolras's shaft and down again, circumscribing elegant circles around it and smearing a drop of precome across his wrist when it brushed over the head of Enjolras's cock. Grantaire's gaze was warm and playful and perfectly aware of what he was doing to Enjolras when he lifted his wrist to his mouth and sucked the skin clean.
The sight of it punched the air straight out of Enjolras's lungs. He reached for Grantaire, desperate, and when he caught Grantaire's hand he pulled it to him and pressed his lips to that same stretch of skin where Grantaire's mouth had just been, where Enjolras's precome had been. He kissed and sucked and laved his tongue over it, tracing the bones of his wrist, then worked his way up over the heel of his hand to the soft center of his palm.
Grantaire brushed his thumb over Enjolras's cheek, then down, sliding his hand away from Enjolras's kisses to push at the corner of his mouth. Enjolras turned his head and chased it. He bit lightly at Grantaire's thumb, then kissed up those long, graceful fingers. They curved and pushed at Enjolras's mouth when he reached their tips, sliding two past his lips to rest heavy against his tongue.
Enjolras moaned and lapped at them. He caught Grantaire by the wrist and held him still so he could suck them deep, lips wrapped around his knuckles as he worked his tongue over them. He tasted of salt and soap and still, faintly, of the basil and lime from the restaurant, but mostly he tasted like warm skin and Grantaire. Enjolras worked his tongue into the creases on the insides of his fingers, seeking out every hidden bit of skin until it was all slippery and slick and good.
"Christ," Grantaire breathed, and caught him by the back of the neck to hold him back when he let his fingers slide across Enjolras's lips and out of his mouth. "Your mouth, my God."
Enjolras growled a wordless protest and reached after him, grabbing for him, but Grantaire slipped away and lowered himself down onto his stomach and elbows between Enjolras's legs.
"I want," he said, and Enjolras lost the rest of it in a rush of white noise as he pressed his open mouth to Enjolras's cock.
Grantaire's mouth was so hot it was almost painful. Enjolras's hands flew down to his head, closing into fists in the wild mess of his curls. He held Grantaire's mouth against him as his body rose, back arching off the bed and twisting as Grantaire kissed up his shaft and wrapped those brilliant, smirking lips around the head of his cock.
The feather-light touch of Grantaire's fingers at the inside of his thigh made Enjolras twitch. They were warm, but the wetness they left behind them as they slid upwards turned cool beneath the gust of Grantaire's breath. When he rubbed them against the sensitive skin just behind Enjolras's balls and slid them down, Enjolras realized what he was doing, and spread his legs wider with a strangled groan. "Please," he gasped, wrenching at Grantaire's hair.
Grantaire's lips curved around his cock. He sucked Enjolras deeper into his mouth and slid his fingers down further, to press and dig into the ring of muscle at Enjolras's entrance.
Enjolras opened easily for him. The tight stretch of the tip of one finger breaching him quickly gave way to a desperate need for more. When Grantaire had worked the whole length of his finger in, the knuckles of his other fingers grazing his skin, he swallowed Enjolras's cock down to the root and tormented him with the slow, easy glide back up to the tip even as he worked a second finger in beside the first.
Heat washed across Enjolras's skin, spreading fingers down his throat and across his chest until every inch of it felt enveloped in flames. He twisted and writhed, pushing down onto Grantaire's hand in a desperate need for more. Grantaire let Enjolras slip out of his mouth and bent to scrape his teeth over the flat of Enjolras's stomach as he curved his fingers inside him and touched something that made white fire spark across his vision.
Grantaire laughed quietly, soft and delighted against his skin, and left a trail of biting kisses across his abdomen. He pushed both fingers into Enjolras with a slick thrust that grazed that same spot again, and then again once more, and smiled when Enjolras keened his pleasure.
He wanted more. The stretch and burn was glorious, but faded too quickly. Before he could even ask for it, though, Grantaire sucked a bruise onto the valley where his thigh and torso joined, and lifted his head to stare up the length of Enjolras's body at him with a gaze gone hot and wild. "What do you want?" The hoarse desperation in his voice was gratifying. "Do you want this? Do you want me to fuck you?" He ran his tongue over his lip. "Do you want to fuck me?"
Yes. All of the above. He wanted to do everything with Grantaire, wanted to try all of it. But there would be time enough for that, and now, with Grantaire's fingers buried in him, pushing and stroking and driving him out of his mind, there was only one thought left in his head.
"This," he gasped. He reached down and caught Grantaire's wrist to hold him in place. "Just like this. Don't stop."
He half expected Grantaire to smile and smirk and look eminently pleased with himself for having brought Enjolras to this place where he was greedy and desperate. He didn't expect him to let out a shaky breath and turn his face against Enjolras's thigh and breathe, "God damn," against the skin there as though he was the one being driven to the limits of his endurance.
He just breathed against Enjolras's skin for a moment, two warm, shuddering gasps, and then he recovered himself. He pulled his knees in, sitting up, and let the tight clench of Enjolras's muscles around his fingers drive them out of him completely. "Wait here," he said with a hand on Enjolras's thigh. "Don't move."
He sat up to watch Grantaire as he moved away, swearing beneath his breath as he half-tripped and stumbled over things on the floor. He groped the drawer of his nightstand open and grabbed something from inside, then turned back to Enjolras. His brows lowered when he saw Enjolras upright.
"Do you just not listen ever?" He threw the thing in his hand -- a bottle of lube, Enjolras saw, and a shiver of anticipation coursed through him -- onto the bed, then climbed up onto Enjolras's lap and kissed him.
Enjolras fit his hands to Grantaire's waist, holding him close. His thumbs swept over Grantaire's hip bones, exploring the slopes and contours of muscle and bone. He was still half-dressed, covered from the waist down, and that was unbearable. Enjolras slipped his hands around to Grantaire's stomach and unbuttoned his pants.
Grantaire gave a low, humming sort of moan as Enjolras worked his pants and his boxers -- tropical fish this time, Enjolras saw, and laughed until Grantaire pinched his nipple -- off his hips.
Grantaire had his knees spread too wide to easily work them off any further. He swung off of Enjolras's lap and stripped the clothing off with quick, efficient movements. As soon as he was naked, he turned and climbed over Enjolras, pushing him down onto his back again as Grantaire settled between his thighs.
Enjolras watched him intently as he picked up the bottle of lube from the nest of blankets and flipped the cap open with his thumb. He squirted some into his palm and coated the fingers of one hand with it, then slid back down onto his elbows.
"This might be a little cold," he warned, gazing up the length of Enjolras's body at him.
"I don't--" A wet touch at Enjolras's entrance made him jolt. He curled one hand into the blankets jumbled beneath them and closed the other on a fistful of Grantaire's hair. "I don't care. Please."
Grantaire slid two fingers into him. They were slicker than they'd been before. The lube made everything slippery and easy, and the way Grantaire drove them into him now made Enjolras wonder if he'd been holding back before.
His fingers jabbed at Enjolras's prostate repeatedly, relentlessly. He didn't let up until Enjolras was painting and squirming beneath the restraining hand Grantaire pressed low on his stomach, and then only to slide his fingers out to the first knuckle and start working a third in beside them.
There was a pressure building low in Enjolras's gut, a coiling tension that pulled his whole body tight. Grantaire left a trail of bitten bruises up his thigh and bent his head so all Enjolras could see was his riot of curls. He could feel Grantaire's breath though, gusting hot against his thighs and the skin behind his balls, and knew that he was leaning in, that he was watching.
Enjolras squeezed his eyes shut as Grantaire twisted his fingers inside him. He wished he could see what Grantaire saw, wanted to watch those mad, clever fingers disappear inside him, coaxing pleasure from his body with the same easy mastery that he coaxed music from his violin.
That thought, at last, was too much to bear. The pressure peaked, the tension snapped, and Enjolras came in thick, heavy spurts across his stomach, clenching tight around Grantaire's fingers as he stroked him through the very last tremor.
When his climax released him from his grip, Grantaire slid out of him and crawled up to plaster himself against Enjolras's side, heedless of the mess across his stomach. He pressed his lips to Enjolras's throat and just lay there, breathing quietly against his skin while Enjolras gulped air like a drowning man and waited for his head to stop buzzing.
Grantaire laughed quietly against his neck. "Need a minute?"
"Or two," Enjolras said, his voice broken and wrecked. Grantaire's erection hadn't flagged at all, and the heat and weight of it pressing against Enjolras's thigh was cutting that amount of time down rapidly.
When he could lift his hand without it trembling uncontrollably, he used it to tip Grantaire's head up off his shoulder and guide him into a kiss. He felt easy, languid, like he could spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Grantaire's mouth with careful thoroughness. But there was still a nervy edge to Grantaire's kiss that belied his need.
He took Grantaire by the shoulders and laid him out on his back, spread across the sheets, then drew back to look at him. Grantaire curled a hand around his cock and stroked himself lazily while Enjolras took him in. Enjolras's gaze caught on it, the contrast between the deep, flushed red of his cock and the pale fingers stroking it, the way the muscles of Grantaire's stomach tightened just before his his knuckles grazed over the head of his cock.
"Now what do you want?" Grantaire asked, watching him intently.
Enjolras curled around Grantaire's side and laid his head on his stomach, transfixed by the sight of his cock sliding through his fist. "Keep going," he said. "Just like this. I want to watch you."
Grantaire's laughter was tight and just this side of desperate. "You want a show?" He swept his thumb over the head of his cock and smeared the gathering fluid at its tip into his skin.
"No." Enjolras's fingers, curled loosely over Grantaire's thigh, suddenly pressed in hard. "I don't want a performance. I want it to be real."
Grantaire's voice, when he spoke, was so warm and full that Enjolras didn't have to look at him to know that he was smiling. "Lazy," he said, a gentle scold, and tugged at Enjolras's hair with the hand that wasn't wrapped around his dick. "Making me do all the work. For shame."
Enjolras slid down a little, and leaned in, and when the head of Grantaire's cock emerged from his fist, he wrapped his lips around it and sucked gently.
Grantaire's voice broke off onto a choked cry. The hand in Enjolras's hair suddenly gripped tight, fingers straining but letting Enjolras move as he liked. "Never mind," he gasped. "Ignore me. You're good. You're very very--" Enjolras dragged his tongue over him. "Christ Jesus." The hand on his cock hesitated, knuckles turning momentarily white, then started moving again, faster than before.
Enjolras kissed and sucked and lapped at Grantaire's cock as much as he was able. He slid his tongue between Grantaire's fingers and mouthed at any bit of bare skin he could get his lips on and, once, twisted around to lean down between Grantaire's legs and drag his tongue over the soft skin of his balls, until Grantaire choked on a rough sound and gasped, "Wait, stop, I'm gonna--"
And all the while, Enjolras watched his hands. His fingers were faintly shiny from the lube and they slid easily over his cock. His grip tightened, fingers turning pale, every time he dragged his hand up the length of his cock, and loosened when he slid it back down. Sometimes, when Enjolras wasn't sucking him into his mouth, he swept his thumb across the head of his cock and jerked, breath sawing through his throat.
"Oh God," Grantaire gasped, writhing as his hand flew faster over his cock. "I need-- Christ, Apollo, please."
Enjolras closed his hand over Grantaire's, fingers slotting together, and stroked him through it. His hips jerked off the bed as he climaxed and his come smeared across both their hands. Enjolras uncurled and stretched out against him, one arm draped loosely across his waist and head pillowed on his shoulder, giving Grantaire the same few minutes to come back to himself that Grantaire had given him.
Grantaire skimmed his fingers up and down Enjolras's arm, from shoulder to elbow and back again. Enjolras murmured quietly to show his enjoyment of the gentle caress. A few moments passed, and Grantaire curled his other arm up around Grantaire's side. His fingers tapped idly against Enjolras's bare skin in an aimless rhythm that nearly lulled Enjolras off to sleep, until a stray thought worked its way to the front of his mind. He turned his head, looking over his back to where Grantaire's fingers tapped against his shoulder blade. There was an elegant, familiar bend to his fingers that made Enjolras suck air through his teeth. "Are you playing music on me?"
Grantaire smiled lazily up at the ceiling. His fingers didn't stop moving across Enjolras's skin. "Maybe."
A sudden bolt of heat cut through him and made it difficult to breathe. If he hadn't just come, he'd have been hard in an instant. His throat clicked, dry, when he tried to speak, and he had to wet his lips before he could manage to form words. "What are you playing?"
Grantaire's smile deepened, so rich and warm and full of lazy satisfaction that Enjolras wanted to wrap himself up in it and never leave. "Do you remember the first song I played for you?"
"Something classical, wasn't it?"
Grantaire's lips twisted and his eyes danced, bright with amusement. "No, that's the first song you heard me play. That's not the first song I played for you."
Enjolras shook his head, at a loss until Grantaire hummed a few bars of familiar melody and sang, "Don't walk away then turn and say I love you anyway." The fingers on Enjolras's shoulder moved in time with the music. "You come for a week to love me then you up and leave next day."
Enjolras shot him a stern look that held no real heat behind it. "You were teasing me, then."
"No." Grantaire slid his hand up into Enjolras's hair and laid his head back down on Grantaire's shoulder. "I was flirting with you, you oblivious idiot."
Enjolras hummed quiet acknowledgment, content and drowsy. Before he could doze off, though, he pushed up onto his forearms, elbows braced on Grantaire's chest, and looked down on him quizzically. "In the interest of being absolutely clear about things," he said.
Grantaire raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"
"Are we dating now?"
"Now?" Surprise broke across his face. He dropped his head back and laughed wildly up at the ceiling. "Are we dating now? God in Heaven. We've been dating for weeks, Apollo, or hadn't you noticed?"
Chagrin burned hot across his cheeks as he looked down on Grantaire. He thought back over the past weeks, Grantaire's constant presence at his apartment, the easy familiarity that had developed between them, the way Grantaire always seemed to find an excuse to touch him in some casual way. "Someone should have told me," he groaned. "You should have told me."
Grantaire laughed and laughed. Then, faster than Enjolras could counter, he rolled him over onto his back and leaned down to kiss him thoroughly. When they parted, Enjolras's hands were buried in his hair and his breath came fast and shallow. "All right. Well." Grantaire kissed the words into his skin as he nuzzled up under Enjolras's jaw. "How's this for clarity. Tomorrow, you're going to come with me to this dreadful department-wide shindig they're making all us majors attend. It is definitely going to be a date, so dress nice. I want to see you in a proper suit and tie." He drew back and looked down on Enjolras with a feral grin. "And when you bring me home afterwards, I'm going to let you walk me to my door. I'll invite you in for a nightcap that we'll both know is just a flimsy excuse to get you inside so I can strip that suit off of you and see what you look like out of it. And then you're going to fuck me until neither of us can stand." He thumbed across Enjolras's mouth. "Sound good?"
Enjolras's breath curled thick in his throat. He closed his hands on Grantaire's hipbones. "I just have one problem with that plan."
He rolled, putting Grantaire beneath him and pinning him to the bed. His teeth scraped over Grantaire's skin as he spoke against his ear. "Tomorrow's an awfully long time to wait."