That seemed simple enough. What he was supposed to do with the bloody thing once he'd filled in those little blue boxes, he had no idea, but Jehan had seemed convinced that he would enjoy it. And Grantaire was enamored of nothing more than those things he might enjoy. Though he wore a cynic's clothing, at heart he was a hedonist. He couldn't resist at least looking into it. Jean Prouvaire knew him that well, for certain.
Filling in an e-mail (a dummy account he'd set up for just such tentative pursuits) and a password had proven easy enough. What was currently giving him pause was this conundrum of choosing a username. His first thought was to name himself after what he would use the site for -- but as he knew not what that was to be, that proved futile rather quickly. He thought of simply using his name, but dismissed that idea even more quickly than the first. This medium seemed to demand a sort of anonymity and until he was more familiar with it, he didn't want his name attached in any way. So, that left him with the prospect of coming up with a clever nickname... and that was proving elusive.
Frustrated with his inability to command a burst of wit at an opportune time when such cleverness had no trouble overtaking him at the most inopportune of times, Grantaire pushed his laptop away and stood up from the couch. Perhaps a little something to lubricate the thinking process... Grantaire made his way into the kitchen and over to the wine rack, pulled out a Cotes-du-Rhône, then a glass. As he took his first sip, he toyed with the idea of naming the thing after one of his favorite wines, but discarded that idea, as well. It was too obvious, lacked a certain amount of finesse. It simply wasn't good enough.
Grantaire made his way back to the couch and deposited the bottle on the end table, keeping the glass closer to hand. He glanced around the room, hoping for inspiration somewhere among his bookshelves, his racks of music or DVDs, that one poor, neglected fern that Jehan had given him as an apartment-warming present once upon a time. No inspiration there. But, maybe... That might work.
Jehan was a student of language -- of all languages, really... or at least as many languages as he could master. He'd studied most of the classics -- the better to read the classics of literature, he'd said -- and many that Grantaire had never even heard of nor knew existed as languages. That was what had initially drawn Jehan to this site that he was attempting to drag Grantaire into using. It was a new social media platform and it seemed to have spawned its own form of language. Jehan was fascinated, wanted to know more, and had immersed himself in the culture of the website to better study it. Grantaire had poked fun at him at the time -- who'd ever heard of a website having its own culture or language, for goodness' sake? -- but he'd somehow turned the damned pet project into a burgeoning doctoral dissertation. He was happy as a clam about it, but Grantaire just had to shake his head when his friend got started on discussing it.
The point, however, was that Jehan was gifted with languages. They'd been drunk one night -- this was not unusual, as they often were -- and Jehan had been tossing Grantaire's name around on his tongue like a street con artist tossing a coin about on his fingers.
"Huh. Grand Air. Grand 'R'? Grantaire, has anyone ever told you that your name sounds like 'Big R' in French?"
"No, Jehan. I can't say anyone ever has. Then again, most people who have had occasion to comment on my name haven't had their heads immersed in medieval French poetry for the last month when they did so, either."
Jehan had conceded that that was probably true and that he was very drunk and that had been the end of the matter -- except that the nickname had stuck. From that point on, Jehan persisted in calling him 'R' and taking great delight in how it confused their other friends. And if none but he ever laughed when he explained the joke... well, what was the harm?
So. 'R'. That was certainly cryptic enough to throw off any who knew him other than Jehan... but when Grantaire attempted to enter it, it turned out that he was not the first to consider its use. So 'R' was out. 'GrandR' was a bit too close to his own name for comfort and 'bigR' sounded as though it were more suited to being a truck driver's handle than his own. So, something that began with 'R,' perhaps...
And there it was -- the moment of wit Grantaire had been looking for. Rebus -- a word beginning with 'R' and meaning a symbol used to represent a name. It was simple. It was not cunning except in the way that naming a cat 'neko' was cunning, but its very ubiquitousness and unremarkability would camouflage who it belonged to better than any other disguise Grantaire could have devised. And the irony of using a word to represent that concept as a symbol for himself in social media was Grantaire all over.
With a small flourish, Grantaire typed it in, cracked his knuckles... and began to explore.
"But haven't you been on yet, this afternoon?"
"Jehan, be serious. Do you have any idea how many pictures of cats you've reblogged today? You can't honestly expect me to 'like' them all even if I was on."
Grantaire shook his head at the disappointed tone in his friend's voice and offered, "I must say I really do appreciate all the 'grumpy cat' you've been reblogging lately, though."
Jehan leaned over the back of the couch to watch as Grantaire finished decanting the wine, "I know, right! When I first saw him, all I could think was -- R's spirit animal! I just... seriously, I couldn't even!"
Grantaire turned back to face the living room and raised an eyebrow, "You couldn't even what, Jehan?"
They blinked at each other for a minute before Jehan sank back down into the couch and hid his face in the back cushions. Grantaire laughed as he brought the wine and glasses over, patted Jehan on the head once he'd put the decanter down, "Practicing that tumblr language, again, Jehan?"
Jehan scowled, but accepted his glass readily enough. "It's addicting, R. You have no idea how easily it creeps into your speech. I caught myself using it with my dissertation advisor the other day." Grantaire winced in sympathy. Jehan swallowed down a huge gulp of wine and said, "At least I was able to pass it off as a sample of my research." He lifted a finger and poked Grantaire in the shoulder as he settled down beside him, "Be careful of that when you start posting things of your own. It sneaks up on you."
"I'll take that under advisement."
Another grumpy sound, "See that you do."
After a month had gone by, Grantaire was starting to get a better idea of what Jehan had been talking about when referring to tumblr's unique language. It had clearly started in the tagging phenomenon, branching out from the restrictions of no commas and the stream of consciousness writing that seemed to encourage. It was strange at first, but he couldn't deny it... there was something in that freedom of language which appealed to Grantaire. He picked it up remarkably quickly, taking advantage of it to sneak clever and biting commentary into posts that were otherwise fairly inane. For some reason, however, other tumblr users seemed to have a certain appreciation for clever and biting commentary. As he started to pick up followers, he also noticed that posts he added his own version of wit to seemed to pick up in popularity. It was an interesting phenomenon.
The most interesting piece, though, was that in this strange conglomeration of humanity which made up the users of tumblr, Grantaire felt like he'd stumbled into a land peopled entirely by others who were just -- like -- him. He was so used to being the lone devil's advocate in a group of angels, the lone voice of reason in a group of idealists, the lone voice of dissent in a group of yes-men, that to have found an entire population of people who were just as eager to shoot down the mainstream as he was -- it was glorious to feel so... not alone. And it went to his head.
In the beginning, Grantaire kept himself strictly to liking Jehan's pictures of cats and occasionally reblogging one of his poems or commentaries on whatever he was reading. Jehan was a good writer and insightful when he wished to be and Grantaire enjoyed giving him that little bit of a boost in popularity. By the time he'd been on the site for a month, though, such activities no longer felt like enough. He started to crave that validation that he only got when people like himself reblogged his additions to posts. He stalked the tags of his each and every reblog, mentally ticked off a checkmark for every "bless this post" and "accurate post is accurate" and "THIS" he racked up. And the quicker he was with a burn, the faster he built up those counts.
He was in the midst of brutally dissecting someone's meta on the latest episode of some new show on the History Channel that he didn't even watch but had seen enough posts about to have enough of a gist for this, when a pair of bodies dropped onto the couch on either side of him and another pair of hands pulled his laptop out from under his fingers. He blinked, hands hovering over the empty space where his computer had once been and twitching over its sudden disappearance. He looked up, straight into Bossuet's earnest face, and asked, "What are you doing?" The question was calm enough, but having his well-meaning yet ill-favored friend in possession of his laptop was cause for no small amount of alarm.
The body on Grantaire's left patted his shoulder and Joly's voice accompanied it by saying, "This is an intervention, my friend. You've been sequestered away in your apartment for the entirety of this weekend. You need a break."
Jehan leaned into Grantaire's shoulder from the right and offered a mild complaint which he'd later insist hadn't been whining no matter how much it sounded like it, "And it's been almost a week since you've been out with us! We miss you." Unspoken but clear from the accusation in Jehan's eyes was that he was sorry he'd ever introduced his friend to tumblr.
Was that really true? Had he really not been out with his friends at all this week? Surely that was an exaggeration. Grantaire pulled his phone from his back pocket and checked the date, eyes widening as he mentally counted backwards. Turning to Jehan, he offered up a sheepish grin, "'I live in my own little world, but it's OK... they know me there?'"
Jehan rolled his eyes and poked Grantaire hard in the shoulder, "That's not even tumblr-speak. That's an old bumper sticker."
Grantaire smiled, leaned into Jehan's shoulder in reciprocation of the earlier gesture, "Tumblr users had to have some outlet before tumblr existed, didn't they?" When Jehan's only answer was to roll his eyes again, Grantaire said, "In all seriousness, though... I mean that. I've never in my life been among a group of such kindred spirits. It's... well, you were right, Jehan. It's addicting."
Bossuet chose that moment to add his two cents, "It's a complete time suck, Grantaire. And your friends miss you. Your favorite bartender misses you even more. And since the thought of an entire community full of Grantaires is enough to make me wish for a drink, how about you leave off with it for tonight and come out with us?"
Joly stood up from the couch and held out his hand, "What do you say, then, Grantaire? Drinks on me?"
'Drinks on me.' Those were three words that most of his friends were extremely careful to never utter around Grantaire... and with good reason. Lips stretching into a slow, predatory smile, Grantaire raised his hand to Joly's and let his friend pull him off the couch. "Well... who in their right mind would refuse an offer like that?"
Jehan laughed as he stood and said, "A man who realizes that no sane man would make an offer like that to you -- you're a bottomless pit!" He wrapped an arm around Grantaire's and began pulling him towards the door, "Still, let's get to the bar before he changes his mind. You've a lot of lost time to make up for and I don't get my next stipend payment until next week."
Grantaire just laughed and let himself be pulled along.
...and resolutely refused to admit, even to himself, that he was already mentally composing a post about the hilarity of this intervention to queue up upon his return.
Grantaire waved a hand in Eponine's face and said, "Nonsense. The night is still young and Joly's pockets are deep."
Eponine rolled her eyes and handed over the drink, "That may be so, but this is your fifth and that's more than enough, already. It's only because I like you that I'm granting you a possible sixth. Don't push me, though, or I'll rescind my good will faster than you can call for another round."
Grantaire took the offered drink and meekly returned to the table his friends had settled at in the corner. It didn't do to irritate one's bartender -- especially when one's bartender was also a friend. If Eponine thought he'd had enough -- and she'd seen Grantaire more thoroughly sloshed than any other friend he had -- then she was most likely right. He'd had enough.
After reclaiming his seat at the table, Grantaire took a slow sip of his drink. His spirit of choice when out was generally whisky, but as Joly was buying the rounds, the drinks had tended more towards rum and cokes. Rum drinks weren't Grantaire's favorites, but they'd get the job done just as quickly and he certainly wasn't one to argue when someone else was paying for his indulgence. As he sat and sipped, and snickered over Jehan's attempts to get Joly to dance with him, he idly wondered what he'd done to tip Eponine into cutting him off. They had made a deal between them, once, early on in their bartender-barfly relationship. Eponine would trust that Grantaire was a professional about these things and knew where his limits were and she would not insult him by cutting him off before he was ready to stop... and Grantaire would trust that Eponine was also a professional and that if she did choose to cut him off it was with good reason.
So, what was the reason? Before he had a chance to really ponder the question, however, a warm body draped itself across his lap and demanded his attention with a blast of alcohol-laced breath, "R, Jolllly's no fun. He won't dance with me. And Bossuet has three left feet. Dance with me, Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr."
Grantaire couldn't help but smile at his friend's tendency to roll his nickname when drunk. And Jehan was drunk. He was very drunk. It never seemed to take much for him because he never drank as heavily as the others in their circle of friends. One Malibu Bay Breeze (for which R had teased him mercilessly) and one Piña Colada (for which R had not teased him, because it was just too easy and thus beneath his dignity) and Jehan had been three sheets to the wind and loving everyone. Then again... Jehan always loved everyone. He was just more demonstrative about it when drunk.
Leaving his drink in Joly's possession -- and hoping that Eponine would notice that Bossuet promptly drank it and thus it shouldn't truly count as Grantaire's fifth drink -- Grantaire nudged Jehan off his lap and followed him into the cleared area that sometimes acted as a dance floor. Grantaire wasn't really a very good dancer, but he had a certain grace of movement and when deep enough in his drink, he liked to indulge it. Jehan, on the other hand, normally was a good dancer... and became less and less so as drink stole off with his coordination and sense of balance.
It was a short dance.
It was a very short dance.
It ended with Jehan on the floor, laughing as though at the world's most amazing joke, and Grantaire sprawled across the laps of another party and getting thoroughly glared down upon. He handled the glares with aplomb, as he usually did. He was nothing if not a good-natured drunk, and the glares of those drunks who were far less good natured than he had long since ceased to have any relevance in his life. However, when Jehan finally made it to his feet and held out a hand to help Grantaire to his, an apology ready on his tongue for the men they'd tripped over, those glares transferred their target... and Jehan wilted.
With the grace that only a boneless drunk could command, Grantaire took Jehan's lowering hand and rolled to his feet, turning with the motion to both face the other men and to curl Jehan into the crook of his arm. Jehan clung to him for balance -- and emotional support, if the shining eyes darting relieved glances at him were any indication -- as Grantaire lifted an eyebrow at the glaring party.
The one whose lap Grantaire had just vacated opened his mouth, and if the look in his eyes was any indication, he was about to deliver a truly scathing commentary on their situation. Grantaire didn't give him the chance. He said, "I do beg your pardon, sir. My friend here gives the word 'tipsy' a new meaning every time he's had a drink or two and while my own sense of balance only improves with drink, it was just not up to the task of keeping us both upright. No hard feelings, though, I'm sure?"
Blue eyes narrowed in Grantaire's direction and their owner made a disgusted face before pointedly turning away. One of his companions pushed up his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose as though he were in pain. Considering that the Perrier he was indulging in was quite obviously non-alcoholic, Grantaire wondered what the cause of his headache could possibly be. It never crossed Grantaire's mind that it might be himself. The third of their party, on the other hand, rather than turn away in disgust or mime a headache, simply lifted his glass -- alcohol, Grantaire approved -- and offered up a lopsided smile. Grantaire liked him on sight.
At that gesture of goodwill, the irritated blonde with the blue eyes turned rather abruptly back around to glare at Grantaire, again. "Are you still here?"
Grantaire looked down at himself, then back up at the other man, "Well, now, that's a rather interesting question of philosophy. Are any of us truly here? Or are we mere shadows on the wall of the cave, simply pale imitations of what truly is?"
The companion with the drink buried his snorting laugh into said drink, which quickly turned it into an impressive spate of coughing. The companion with the seltzer lifted his hands and with one, patted his coughing friend on the back while the other clamped onto the wrist of the blonde with those impressive blue eyes. In his own bespectacled gaze was a warning, but whether it was to Grantaire or to his increasingly more irate friend, who was to say?
Both ignored the warning.
The blonde rose up out of his seat and Jehan whimpered at Grantaire's side, tugged uselessly at his sleeve to attempt to pull him away. Grantaire was having none of it. Not when those blue eyes were locked so firmly on his own and the heat and weight of that gaze was a more heady rush than even his four and an eighth drinks -- really, Eponine had better not count that one -- had given him. It made Grantaire want to fan that warming blaze into a bonfire and dance around it like a savage. He opened his mouth to do just that when a hand clamped down firmly over his mouth from the other side.
Joly. Of course.
Grantaire barely caught it as his friend apologized on his behalf to the three at the table. The one in the glasses waved the apology away with a genteel smile -- no harm done, but he couldn't help but note that Joly kept some interesting company.
Joly rolled his eyes and admitted that he did, then doled out some quick introductions. Grantaire ignored them, gaze still locked with the blonde's over Joly's restraining hands. It wasn't until Joly and Jehan, with Bossuet's help, forcibly dragged him back to their table that he was able to move his eyes away. Grantaire was familiar enough with lust at first sight to recognize it when he felt it and familiar enough with reading people to know that the current object of his lust was a lost cause... at least, for now.
When they reached their corner table, Eponine was there already, thumping a glass of bourbon on its surface. Before Grantaire could even open his mouth, Eponine held up a finger and shushed him, "That's twice you tangled with Enjolras tonight and it's clear you already don't remember the first. So, this is all you're getting and no amount of whining or begging on your part is going to change my mind. That man and his friends are nothing but trouble and you're drawn to trouble like a bear to honey and with just as much grace as one." Grantaire then attempted to speak, but Eponine planted a hand firmly over his mouth, her gaze even harder than her hold, "Not in my bar, R." She then pinned the other three at the table with her sharp gaze, "When he's finished that, you take him home. I'm in no mood for this nonsense tonight. Bring him back when he's a sensible drunk, again."
There was nothing for it, then. Grantaire held up his hands in surrender. Satisfied, Eponine made her way back to the bar. Joly rolled his eyes, "Christ, Grantaire, even drunk, I thought you had more sense than this. I should have known better."
Turning a confused gaze on Joly, Grantaire asked, "What's the big deal, anyway? So, the man has a chip on his shoulder the size of the old USSR. The other two seem harmless enough and if I stayed away from everyone on this Earth irritated by the sight of me, I really wouldn't ever leave my apartment."
Jehan dropped his head onto Grantaire's shoulder and sighed, "Yeah, but these guys are hardcore. I've seen them around campus -- real social justice warriors. They don't stop with words and protests. They have a reputation for violence and law-breaking when they can't accomplish their goals any other way."
Grantaire leaned over to lean his head on Jehan's, "They wouldn't be the ones who broke into the medical lab and liberated all the animals last month, would they? A little junior high of them, don't you think?"
Joly shook his head and said, "No, that was the university PETA branch. Idiots. As if it's somehow less cruel to release defenseless, captive animals into the 'wilds' of downtown Philadelphia. Poor things probably got run over by cars long before they ever made it to rat paradise. And they probably transmitted plague to half the city on the way."
Jehan moaned and buried his face in Grantaire's shoulder at the thought. Grantaire lifted an arm to wrap it gently around him. After a moment, Jehan lifted his head again and said, "They do plenty else, though. They invade half my club meetings with their ridiculous rhetoric in the guise of poetry. It's always something with them. They've been getting more organized lately, restricting their activities to peaceful actions like rallies and blogging and the like."
Joly added that he thought that was Combeferre's influence. He knew the man from undergraduate school and where the SJW's leader was hot-headed and passionate, he was coolly logical. Jehan rolled his eyes and replied that Joly saw what he wanted to see because he'd had an academic crush on Combeferre ever since first year of undergrad when the other student had so thoroughly trounced his scores into the ground. Joly blushed, but didn't deny it. He did keep his peace after that, however.
Jehan said, "Regardless, at the core, I think they're just as out of control as ever. No one says 'No' to Enjolras for long." He leaned over to prod teasingly at Joly's shoulder, "Even the brilliant Combeferre."
No one says 'No' to Enjolras, hm? Grantaire's lips stretched up into a wide smile. Perhaps it was time someone did. He gave Jehan a gentle squeeze as he lifted his bourbon to take a drink. The memory of those scorching blue eyes on his caused a pleasant shiver to run down the back of his neck and Grantaire knew, just knew, that though it was counter to all of his friends' advice, he wouldn't be leaving this one alone. He smirked across the room and lifted his glass to his kindred spirit of that other party, who smiled and lifted his in return. Once he'd knocked back the last of his drink, Grantaire turned back to Jehan and his smile widened. "Blogging, you said? Do they have a tumblr?"