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Coffee Hooligans

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Candle Factory Coffeehouse is open from five in the morning to ten at night. Enjolras works from two to close, and every moment of it is boring and painful because Candle Factory is on a much-ignored street in a sleepy part of the city. He usually has a grand total of forty customers come in during his eight hour shift. Enjolras is pretty sure that at least half of them only come out of charity and gratitude to the owner, Mr. Valjean, because a suspicious number of those forty customers order coffee and then don’t drink it, and then order again when they think Enjolras hasn’t noticed them dump their cups in one of the quickly-wilting potted plants.

Enjolras notices.

He’s also sure that the only reason he still has a job is that Mr. Valjean has an unexplainable policy of never firing anyone. Enjolras is not made for retail. He tries very, very hard to be a good employee, because Mr. Valjean took a chance on him and Enjolras doesn’t want to betray that. There aren’t many people who would ever hire someone with an arrest record as long as Enjolras’ is, let alone one growing longer almost weekly.

He appreciates everything Mr. Valjean has done for him, he really does, but Jesus fucking Christ sometimes Enjolras just wants to leap over the counter and murder people.

Key example: it’s currently 9:25 and there’s a woman leaning on the counter, pouting at the menu and asking, “But I don’t understand! What’s the difference between soy milk and regular milk?”

Enjolras has no fucking clue what the difference between soy milk and regular milk is beyond that one comes from animals and the other comes from soy. “Regular milk contains lactose,” he says, because he does try, he tries so hard. It’s 9:25, he can make it. He can.

“But which one tastes better?” the woman asks.

“That’s a matter of preference,” Enjolras says, and grits his teeth. “Try ordering one and deciding for yourself.”

She makes a considering humming noise, and finally asks, “Which do you like better?”

And then the door opens and the one reason he never gives up on keeping his job stumbles through five minutes ahead of schedule. The four friends he’s brought along today manage to catch him before he hits the floor, laughing and mocking him good-naturedly before swarming behind the woman, giving her a loud and peer-pressure-inducing line to deal with, thank god.

“Soy milk, then,” she says awkwardly, and Enjolras tosses her coffee together and takes her money and ignores her in favor of the new group.

The friends are easy orders, of course. The group is more involved in conversing with each other than anything else. Two of them almost leave their coffee on the counter until Enjolras reminds them.

And then Enjolras braces himself, tries to calm his stupid heart down, and turns to face his final customer. “What.”

“Dry triple mocha with a hint of strawberry syrup, but it has to be the Galapagos beans, you know I don’t like the Peruvian ones,” Grantaire says. He’s leaning on the counter. Enjolras doesn’t mind. “And rice milk. And make a heart in the foam.”

The rice milk isn’t on the menu.

Grantaire gets it anyway.

The strawberry syrup goes everywhere, and Enjolras hates the Galapagos beans, he doesn’t even know what the fucking difference is between the beans other than that the Galapagos beans hate him right back, and it’s all a disaster, a complete disaster. There’s barely any foam on top of Grantaire’s coffee but Enjolras isn’t going to let that stop him, he’s not going to let himself fail to even try. He manages to make something that looks more like a snail than a heart, but it’s something. Three months ago, before Grantaire drunkenly stumbled in barely fifteen minutes before closing, he wouldn’t have even managed that.

Grantaire is the only person Enjolras has ever seen finish one of his cups of coffee. Hell, one of his cups of anything, excluding fruit juice and water.

When he puts the cup in front of Grantaire, the man eyes it critically for a moment before staring intently into Enjolras’ eyes and taking an experimental sip. He doesn’t gag, and only grimaces a little bit.

Improvement.

“It’s only a little bit disgusting tonight. Keep this up and pretty soon it’ll actually pass for coffee,” Grantaire says pleasantly, paying and dropping far too much money in the tip jar.

He doesn’t leave the counter. He just leans, and sips, and grins.

---

Enjolras has yet to determine whether or not he should be proud that he’s met most of his friends in jail.

He’s been best friends with Combeferre since middle school. Enjolras had been dubbed ‘disruptive’ since age seven and had an unwelcome reputation from then on, always that kid with his hand up while the teacher desperately looked through the rest of the class saying, Anyone else? Anyone at all? Please, anyone not Enjolras?

It wasn’t until he was twelve that someone else raised their hand. Their grateful teacher had called on Combeferre with a relieved breath and smile and Combeferre had simply said, “I think Enjolras had something to say.” And then Combeferre had fact-checked him after class and yes, Enjolras loved him, he had met his soul mate, they would be best friends for all eternity and he would cut anyone who said otherwise.

Combeferre isn’t the slightest bit interested in trying to prove a point with fists when words aren’t working anymore, but he’s still usually arrested right along with Enjolras, as an accessory. He is also somehow always ready and waiting with bail money. Enjolras would feel guilty about that if he thought Combeferre was not in a good financial situation or wasn’t perfectly fine with paying.

Combeferre’s also usually released moments after they get Enjolras into his usual holding cell, if they even bother to arrest him. By now the police have learned he doesn’t even put up token resistance to arrest if they have Combeferre tag along in the police car.

Bossuet was the second, although he didn’t join their band of misfits for a very long time. He used to be a police officer, and was by far the one most enjoyable to be arrested by. On slow nights, he would join them in the holding cells (on the other side of the bars, of course) and they’d talk about justice and keeping the peace and the concept of might equals right. They met him when he was barely out of the academy. Barely ten months after entering the police force, he turned in his badge because of ethical reasons and became the well-meaning office worker he is now.

Enjolras has no fucking clue what Bossuet actually does for a living, particularly since he seems to break computers just by touching them, but it makes him happy. He and Combeferre are happy to call him a friend and partner in only-semi-technically-crime.

Enjolras was acquired by his other best friend, Courfeyrac, in a holding cell. He was looking incredibly pleased with himself and wearing nothing but black MC Hammer pants and a lime green bra. He doesn’t know what Courfeyrac did, and isn’t sure he wants to know, but it was a definite conversation starter. It took Courfeyrac less than thirty seconds to look Enjolras up and down and declare, “I like you. We’re friends now.”

And then they were.

Possibly the most remarkable part of the story is that Courfeyrac was completely sober.

Feuilly, on the other hand, was very drunk. Combeferre had been in the holding cells right along with Enjolras that time, and it had been a dangerously busy night, the cells so full that they were packed like sardines. When they walked Feuilly in, he’d already been crying and staggering and close to falling down. Enjolras had been there to take a hold of him when the officer opened the door, and Feuilly had been sobbing against his chest about dead children and how he was all alone, and that had been it. It only took one look at Combeferre, and he paid Feuilly’s bail too. They took him home, and Feuilly had curled up on their couch and quietly cried himself to sleep.

Now, Enjolras knows that Feuilly doesn’t do that, not ever. Enjolras managed to catch him on the single worst night of his life, when even what semblance of a family he’d had at his old orphanage was dead and gone. Since that day, Enjolras has thought of him as a brother.

Jehan’s story is probably the most intimidating.

At a glance, Jehan is the most harmless person on the planet. He’s thin, has long hair usually tied in a braid and often with flowers in it and absolutely no fashion sense but a dangerous passion for floral patterns and has zero interest in conforming to gender stereotypes. He likes skinny jeans and maxi skirts and poorly-knitted sweaters and is usually carrying a bedazzled purse around. He has a pink bicycle and twenty different kinds of sunhats and is a professional landscape designer and poet and blushes constantly.

Enjolras isn’t sure if looking like that is the reason why he managed to beat two drunken men bloody when they tried to fuck with him, but surprise was probably a contributing factor. Jehan is soft and sweet and thin and every single inch of him is wiry muscle and talent that makes even Bahorel think twice. According to Jehan, he started with dance when he was young, and that turned into Capoeira and that somehow turned into Silat, which is the most ruthless martial art that Enjolras has ever seen.

Courfeyrac had been with them when they met Jehan. Everything’s easier with Courfeyrac around. He took one look at Jehan and his slightly bruised knuckles and then looked at the two men warily watching Jehan in the other cell and promptly sat next to Jehan and said, “You know those friends you’ve been looking for all of your life? We’re them.”

Bahorel’s story is similar, but he was on the losing end of the fight that got him arrested, and he approached Enjolras (and Combeferre). He’d grinned and pointed at Enjolras’ bruised cheekbone and said, “Right cross, huh?” And, after hearing the guard address Enjolras and Combeferre by name with a resigned familiarity, Bahorel decided to tag along.

He is probably the only person Enjolras has ever met who likes getting arrested. Or at least likes doing things that will get him arrested, just for the sake of doing them.

Joly, he did not meet in jail. Enjolras met Joly when he (and Combeferre and Courfeyrac and Bahorel and Feuilly) were on the way out of jail and Joly was on the way in, more than a little drunk and first fighting to get out of his handcuffs, and then fighting to get over to Enjolras and, to the amazement of probably the entire police station, managed to get his handcuffs off. Nobody, even Joly, knows how he did it. But he did, and then he started looking at Enjolras and said that he had four broken ribs and needed to go to the hospital before he died.

It had scared the entire station (by now Enjolras is more or less their mascot of a stray cat that wanders in and out) and Joly had escorted them to the nearest hospital, where they all found out there was absolutely nothing wrong with Enjolras beyond the usual scrapes and bruises.

Courfeyrac had laughed so hard the nurses were worried and said, “Oh my god, this is ridiculous, I am absolutely keeping you!” Joly cheerily let himself be kept by their group, and that was that.

And then, there’s Grantaire.

Enjolras did not meet Grantaire in jail.

Enjolras did not meet Grantaire anywhere near police officers, or anything displaying disruptive behavior, or doing anything Enjolras-like in general. He met Grantaire when Grantaire drunkenly tripped his way into the coffee shop on a rainy night, looking like a drowned poodle stunned to be out of the rain. He’d blinked blurrily, looked around the bright, warm shop, and then stared at Enjolras for a long time.

“Am I dead?” he asked. He hadn’t sounded particularly worried about it.

“No, just drunk,” Enjolras had said. It was 9:45 by then, and he’d already started to close up since nobody in their right minds would ever fight their way through this weather just to get to Candle Factory. Still, he had a job to do. “Are you going to order something?”

Grantaire had slumped against the curved glass that held where there used to be pastries or scones or some shit like that. Enjolras doesn’t do the morning baked goods. Water was streaking down the curve of his throat and his hair was sticking to his forehead and he was staring at Enjolras with a drunken fervor that was making his eyes very blue. “It’s okay if I’m dead, I can take it, just tell me,” he said.

“You’re regrettably alive,” Enjolras said, and then frowned. “Do you even have a wallet?”

“Money, too,” he’d agreed, and that had shaken him out of his morbid obsession, rocking back onto his feet. “Right. You’re a coffee god.”

Enjolras really, really isn’t.

“I’m really picky,” he said, and Enjolras should have kicked him out then and there and saved himself so much trouble. But Grantaire had smiled at him, and it had been slow and somehow managed to be bashful but lascivious all at the same time, like saying excuse me sir I know this may be unwelcome but I just had to respectfully ask if you’d be interested in fucking me in the back seat of my car. It’s disconcerting and Enjolras shouldn’t like it.

But he really, really does.

“Order or get out,” Enjolras said.

Grantaire nodded, slumping to the side while looking at the artistically-written chalkboards listing what they had available. Enjolras had expected something blunt and simple, something that would make sense for a man so drunk he literally fell through a door and thought he was dead. But Grantaire is nothing if he is not as much of a pain in the ass as he can possibly be at any given moment.

“Dry double mocha with some, oh, blueberry, I love blueberry, put that in there,” Grantaire had said. “But, wait, what kind of milk-milk are you using? Shit, what am I doing, it’s like midnight, that doesn’t matter, just go soy. But no more than like a millimeter of foam on there, if that, I am way too drunk to deal with foam, it freaks me out when I’m high.”

Enjolras stared at him. “Foam freaks you out?”

When I’m high. You have to admit it’s freaky shit when you think hands are mystical,” the man said, and pulled out his wallet. It was only marginally drier than the rest of him, but the cash inside would work just fine.

Unlike Enjolras.

Candle Factory is not a place for complicated coffee. Not at that time of the night, at least. Only God knows why Mr. Valjean kept it open this late, but Enjolras was not going to betray the man’s faith in him. He was going to make this cup of coffee. He would.

Except he didn’t.

It ended up a burnt mess with blueberry syrup floating on top of a cup almost half foam, and his cheeks had burned with shame and he’d prayed that the man would be too drunk to notice.

Grantaire had noticed.

Grantaire always notices.

“I’ll make you another,” Enjolras had said, already turning to fling the cup aside, but Grantaire had stopped him.

“Whoa, hey, no, I want that one,” Grantaire had objected, and actually reached across the counter to snatch it out from Enjolras’ fingers. They’d been bandaged and stubborn from a busy weekend but Grantaire hadn’t shied away, touching Enjolras’ hand like any normal person would in a similar situation, but Enjolras had still frozen even at that much of a touch as Grantaire pried the cup out of his creaky grip. He’d fucking beamed down at the cup. “Jesus, this is some shitty coffee.”

“I said I’ll make you another,” Enjolras snapped, firmly this time, but it was too late. Grantaire was already drinking it down like it was water and not freshly brewed coffee. Or something like it.

Grantaire drank the entire fucking cup, and then set it back down on the counter, and smiled at Enjolras. And smiled, and smiled, like the drunken moron he is, and something in Enjolras’ mind had snapped apart and left him breathless and staring.

“We’re closing,” Enjolras had practically blurted out because he needed to get Grantaire away before something unfortunate happened.

He’d blinked, like that never even occurred to him, but then nodded heavily. “Right. Right, good, good for you, coffee god. I’m going to just.” He frowned, and tried to run a hand through hair that was still plastered against his skull (but starting to curl up, just a little bit), and then he’d looked around Candle Factory. He snatched one of the paper menus out of the very full container next to the register, and tucked it into his pocket. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You’ll what?” Enjolras asked urgently, eyes wide.

Grantaire hadn’t answered, though. He’d sent another one of those slow smiles shyly suggesting absolutely filthy things over his shoulder, and slouched his way back out into the rain.

Enjolras supposes that technically, he really did meet all of his friends in or around getting arrested and put in jail. He tries very hard to be at least a little bit self aware, and he knows that Grantaire could be very many things, but not a single one of them is the least bit platonic.

---

Enjolras is certain that, in another life, or time, or maybe even just another country, he wouldn’t be That Guy Everyone Warns You About. He knows he’s a good friend, knows he’s intelligent and fair and always well-meaning, and Enjolras believes he really is a good person. His life has just evolved in a way that has left him as an unemployable twenty-two year old who couldn’t get into a university no matter how amazing his test scores were. He considered community college, but Enjolras admits he has too much pride to do it. School of hard knocks, Bahorel had joked. It is depressingly accurate.

It doesn’t stop him from studying, though. Enjolras spends almost as much time in the closest university’s academic library as Combeferre, who actually goes to school there and is the most wonderful best friend anyone could possibly ask for since he checks books out for Enjolras. Really, he has no idea why Combeferre sticks around, but Enjolras is endlessly grateful and will love him forever.

It’s one of these books that Enjolras is reading behind the counter during one of the very, very long lulls at Candle Factory when Grantaire walks in four hours ahead of schedule. Enjolras has never seen him in sunlight before. He needs to stop appreciating it so much. What he doesn’t appreciate is how exhausted he looks. Exhausted, and like someone tossed a can of beige paint over his clothing – his entire left side is coated with it.

“Save me, coffee god,” Grantaire whines.

Enjolras immediately jerks towards the door, about ready to lock and barricade it and try to fix whatever’s wrong before he calls the police, but he manages to turn it into an abrupt movement of setting his book on the opposite counter. He doesn’t know what to do, not if it isn’t some sort of physical threat, so he clears his throat and says, “Are you ordering something?”

“How much does sympathy cost?” Grantaire asks.

“I’ve seen your wallet, you can’t afford it,” Enjolras says, and Grantaire smiles but it’s his bitter unhappy smile and Enjolras hates that smile so he adds, “Then again, you do tip well. It’s complimentary this time. Sit down before you fall down.”

“You usually just let me fall down,” Grantaire says.

“I usually already have the chairs up,” Enjolras says, and when Grantaire just sort of stares at him, Enjolras sighs to himself and makes a very simple (for Grantaire) cup of coffee – Galapagos beans, mocha and a hint of blueberry. It’s probably still shit, but he knows it’s going to taste better than what Grantaire usually swallows down. Grantaire is still just standing there and staring at him, so Enjolras has to hold his hand out and say, “Wallet.”

Grantaire hands his whole fucking wallet over, and it just. How is he so stupid, someone is definitely going to mug him if he does this regularly, if he hasn’t been mugged already. Oh god, what if that’s what’s wrong, maybe – but no, Enjolras is holding his wallet. Which is ridiculous. Enjolras pulls out the appropriate payment and hands it back to Grantaire, change and all.

And Grantaire just keeps looking at him.

He lets out a deep breath and walks around the counter, carrying Grantaire’s coffee, and sets it between the two very comfortable arm chairs. Grantaire follows tamely, but disobeys when Enjolras points at the chair.

“I’ll turn it beige,” Grantaire says morosely. Enjolras can’t tell if he’s more upset about the staining or the fact it’s beige, and right, that objection actually makes sense. Mr. Valjean wouldn’t kill him or anything, probably wouldn’t even be angry, but he would be disappointed, so that is not something Enjolras is going to risk. Instead, he drags one of the table chairs over, and Grantaire sits without any fuss. He lets out a long, deep sigh, and gives Enjolras a wry, self-depreciating smile as he finally takes the coffee. “Hi.”

“What’s wrong?” Enjolras asks. He’s proud of himself for keeping off the and how do I fix it.

Grantaire hesitates, but he clears his throat and takes a sip of the coffee (and makes a pleasantly surprised noise, fuck yes ) before saying, “So, I’m a painter.”

Enjolras looks at the drying paint covering him and says, “I never would have guessed.”

“No, not like painting houses – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but fine art, artist painter. And I was hired to do a mural, and I don’t even know what happened, one minute I’m working on the beach and then me and my commission’s covered in horrible beige paint and I’m getting tossed out and fired and screamed at and-”

“Who did this?” Enjolras demands, baffled and furious. Even if it’s done as a private contract, that’s hostile work conditions like Enjolras has never even heard before, not to mention (probably) wrongful termination and he is going to verbally skin these assholes alive and take them to court for every cent.

“Whoa, hey, slow down,” Grantaire says, but he’s smiling for real now, and there’s a hint of a blush. “I should have known you’re a law student.”

“Um,” Enjolras says, because it’s better than saying oh shit for so many reasons.

“Anyway, that came after a fight with my roommate and that came after a flat tire and there were stubbed toes and papercuts sprinkled between there, it’s just been a shitty day,” Grantaire says, but he doesn’t sound too upset about it now for some reason. Maybe he’s one of those people who just has to talk. He drinks more coffee, and Enjolras expects a comment, maybe even a compliment, he is tense all over ready to hear something positive, finally, but Grantaire says, “So what were you reading?”

“Political philosophy. John Rawls,” Enjolras says, hoping that’ll drop the conversation.

But instead, Grantaire nods and says, “Ah. Theory of Justice?”

“The Law of Peoples,” Enjolras says, and has to swallow a lump in his throat for some reason – okay, fine, he knows why but come on, it’s just knowing a book title, Enjolras will get control of himself. “Tell me more about the painting incident.”

“Do I have to?” Grantaire asks. “Can’t we talk about the inherent stupidity found in the idea that people have a right to self defense but not to war instead?”

Enjolras has a death grip on the arms of the chair because he wants to rip Grantaire’s clothes off. Priorities, Enjolras reminds himself. Priorities and respect and rules. “You have problems. Talk.”

Grantaire sighs and slumps back into the chair and says, “Fine. I don’t even know what all the accusations were, they were just getting flung around like the paint, but it sounded like they thought I was sleeping with their daughter or something.” He glares at the ceiling. “Which I’m not, because first off I would never get involved with a client and second and most importantly she’s like sixteen or something and way too…” he trails off, waving a hand through the air. “And they wouldn’t even listen, they just destroyed it.”

“That’s what really bothers you, isn’t it,” Enjolras realizes, and Grantaire blinks at him, so Enjolras clarifies. “You don’t care that they accused you of statutory rape. The thing that bothers you isn’t the wrongful termination or getting paint tossed all over you. You care that they ruined your mural.”

And Grantaire just nods, like he’s confused that it could ever be anything else.

Mr. Valjean has exactly one rule, beyond the implied don’t steal and be polite requirements, and that is to not get involved with coworkers, or customers. It’s a policy that would be genuinely ridiculous in any other store, but since just about every person who comes into Candle Factory knows the owner personally, Enjolras can admit there might be a reason for it. He knows there was some sort of controversy about something happening years and years ago in a factory Mr. Valjean used to own. Whatever it was, Mr. Valjean still remembers it and applies whatever lessons the event gave him and expects his employees to do the same, even if Enjolras probably wasn’t even out of diapers when it happened.

Grantaire brings in half of the people Enjolras ever sells coffee to, and there is no way in hell Enjolras is willing to give up the light at the end of the pitch black eight hour tunnel that is his workday. Enjolras owes Mr. Valjean so much, and respects him, and desperately tries to not betray the faith he’s placed in Enjolras.

So, Enjolras doesn’t do what he wants. He says, “I have to get back to work.”

There is no work and they both know it, and Grantaire is observant. He knows Enjolras doesn’t actually want to go. But Grantaire nods, and finishes his coffee, and gives Enjolras a sincere, friendly smile. “Thank you, Enjolras,” he says, which is new. He’s called coffee god more often than anything else. When Grantaire actually involves friends in their conversations, Enjolras is introduced as coffee god.

He likes the way Grantaire says his name.

“You’re welcome back any time, Grantaire,” Enjolras says, because he’s allowed to say that, and he takes Grantaire’s empty cup into the back of the shop with him.

When he comes back out, Grantaire is gone, and there’s a $20 tip in the jar.

Enjolras groans, and lets his forehead thunk down against the curved glass display case. He was going to have to clean the glass anyway.

---

“I want to meet him,” Courfeyrac says.

“No,” Enjolras says with one final dab of antiseptic to Courfeyrac’s newly-bloody knuckles.

“He’s a safety concern at this point,” Courfeyrac says, and pulls the cotton balls and bottle away so he can start on Enjolras’ scraped up jaw. “We all know why you didn’t duck fast enough.”

“I didn’t duck fast enough because he was faster than I am,” Enjolras says. Which is really fucking unlikely since the man had been incredibly drunk, but he wasn’t exactly paying attention, so who knows? It could be the truth.

Enjolras hadn’t even been looking for trouble. He’d been about to walk home after a meeting at the Musain, and that was all. Combeferre was still inside saying goodbyes and Enjolras waited for him while talking to Courfeyrac as he waited for a cab. That was all he was doing. Enjolras was doing absolutely no rabble-rousing, patrolling, persuasion, message-spreading, or even talking to someone he wasn’t close friends with. He was just standing there.

Then, two drunken idiots had followed two women out of the Musain and their overtures had been blatantly unwelcome and Enjolras had to walk over and tell them that. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. But then the men had turned around and Enjolras could swear one of them was related to Grantaire, they had the same eyes, and he’d been so busy thinking about them that he barely managed to avoid getting punched in the nose.

He came out of it with a black eye and knuckles that are in far better shape than Courfeyrac’s, since Enjolras had been so stunned that he’d had to jump in and rescue Enjolras. They’d taken the men out and the slightly-less-drunk-than-the-idiots women had thanked them and Enjolras had said, if you want to thank me, teach people about individual liberty and common decency for fuck’s sake.

That didn’t go over well, but Enjolras just expects that by now.

Combeferre had come out of the Musain just in time to see Enjolras get slapped. And really, the slap was completely uncalled for, but he was really fucking tired and he just let it go without another word and he’d turned to see Combeferre looking mildly exasperated, saying, I can’t leave you alone for five minutes.

And now, cleaned up in Enjolras and Combeferre’s apartment, Combeferre is ganging up on him with Courfeyrac. “I’d like an introduction, too,” he says, his smile more than a little bit mischievous. “It’s been what, three months since you met Grantaire?”

“Almost four – and how do you know his name?” Enjolras asks.

“You talk in your sleep sometimes,” Combeferre says and shit, Courfeyrac is suddenly laughing so hard he’s wheezing and has to put the antiseptic down. “But the point is that we’d like to at least say hello. Maybe we can help you.”

“Why haven’t you done anything about this, anyway?” Courfeyrac asks when he has himself more under control. He’s still red in the face and grinning, but he can speak now. Even if Enjolras doesn’t want him to. “It’s not like you haven’t dated before.”

Enjolras is bad at three things: coffee, talking to people, and relationships.

The last two might actually be two facets of one thing he’s really bad at, and he could just put them under the label of dealing with humanity, but he manages it fairly well when it’s his friends. Being told to just shut the fuck up and then being completely ignored if he disobeyed since he started school has stunted his communication abilities just a little bit. It’s only when there’s no filter between his brain and his mouth that anything even close to eloquence gets out, and he can only manage that around his friends or people he feels secure around – specific people he knows want to hear him.

He tries and tries and tries, but in the end, he has to leave speaking to the others.

Enjolras is somehow the leader of their group, but he’s never able to lead the charge when it comes to anything other than physical violence, and it’s maddening, it makes him want to rip his hair out and scream. Combeferre has to stand up for him verbally, Courfeyrac has to do the public speaking, they all have to do so many things that Enjolras wishes he could do in their place because it’s not fair to them that Enjolras just sits back and writes speeches and treatises and they’re the ones that have to do something with them. Enjolras’ mind is razor sharp and he manages talking and communicating with his friends, but that’s all. Anyone beyond his circle, Enjolras is completely lost at sea, and he hates it so fucking much.

But the point is, relationships take communication. And not just in the we need to talk about our relationship way. You have to talk about your day, and ask what they thought about the movie, or dinner, or the weather, or just be able to answer questions with more than five word answers. He either speaks too much or too little, either goes above someone’s head or tries to lower the level and ends up sounding extraordinarily patronizing.

Enjolras has tried to have an actual solid long-term kind of relationship exactly two times, and it was two times too many. Enjolras isn’t attracted to many people, and when he is, it’s overwhelming. He doesn’t know if it just feels that way because attraction is so rare, or if that’s just how his brain works, but the problem is that it makes him stupid. He gets nervous and tries too hard and makes a mess out of everything and destroys it all with nothing but the best of intentions.

The other problem with relationships is that no matter how attractive or good in bed someone is, Enjolras will never, ever change for them. He is a difficult person to deal with, has been labeled as such practically since birth, and god knows he desperately tried to change when he was a kid, but in the end, Enjolras can’t be anyone or anything other than himself.

So, when Courfeyrac asks him why he hasn’t done anything about Grantaire, Enjolras can’t really bring himself to answer. “He’s a customer,” Enjolras says instead, and tries to make it sound firm enough to end the conversation entirely.

He fails.

Courfeyrac rolls his eyes, cautiously flexing his fingers, testing their aches. “Whatever that means. But we’re going to meet him some time, wouldn’t you rather have control over where and when?”

It’s a valid point. A very, very valid point. But he suddenly has a mental image of Courfeyrac swooping in at 9:36, all swagger and charm, and Enjolras decides that yes, having control over how they meet is an exceptionally good idea. “Fine,” Enjolras says. “But you don’t get to meet him.”

Courfeyrac frowns. “That’s just not fair. Combeferre didn’t even ask first.”

“He doesn’t get to meet him either,” Enjolras says firmly. “You’ll get a report back, and we’ll proceed after that’s been appropriately analyzed.”

He can tell they want to object, but they know Enjolras too well to think they can change his mind. “At least give us an impartial party,” Combeferre says. He has a displeased expression that would be a pout on anyone else. “It can’t be Jehan, or Bahorel, or-”

“I have a plan,” Enjolras says, since he’d frantically formulated one in the past twelve seconds while Combeferre spoke. It’s a shitty plan, but it’ll do. And it’s better than anything his friends will offer, to be sure.

And that’s how Feuilly doesn’t rob Candle Factory at 9:50 the following night.