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A Little Excitement

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The speakeasy behind the unassuming façade of the Corinth is full of smoke and laughter and the sultry notes of Éponine's voice from the stage. Normally, Grantaire makes a point to step out from behind the bar and listen when it's her turn on stage, but tonight there's a man working his way up to the bar in ostentatious red and Grantaire thinks she's going to have to forgive him, because there's no way he's leaving the bar so long as this golden specimen of a man is cozied up to it.

He grabs a glass and approaches the newcomer, grateful for the routine of asking "What'll it be?" to give him time to hide the way he rakes his gaze over the other man and smiles in appreciation.

But the stranger is either new or hopeless, because instead of following the script, he gives Grantaire a narrow-eyed look of consideration and says, "Whatever's good."

"It's all good," Grantaire tells him, then grabs a glass and pours whiskey into it. When he slides the glass to the other man, he takes it and sips from it, and his brows shoot up.

"It is good," he says in surprise.

Grantaire snorts. "Of course it is. What do you think this is, a blind pig? I don't sell anything I wouldn't drink, that's my rule." He puts his hand over the top of the glass and gives the stranger an appraising glance. "Look, you're not a copper, are you?"

He reacts so violently that it's almost comical, recoiling as his face screws up in an expression of extreme distaste. "God, no," he swears like the very notion is insulting.

Grantaire grins and uncovers the glass, then slides it over to him. "All right, then."

He seems surprised. "Joints like this don't tend to stay open very long if they're that quick to trust people. You're just going to take me at my word?"

"You're going to tell me how to run my own joint now, Apollo?" Grantaire raises a brow at him. "It's not about what your word is worth. Any copper worth his salt would know better than to give himself away so obviously."

The man frowns, and Grantaire wonders for a moment if he misjudged his response, but he just says, "My name is Enjolras." And Grantaire has to laugh, because no, he's definitely not a copper.

"Grantaire," he says, with a tip of his head. "Another? First one's on the house, but the next one's on you."

Enjolras gives him another look like he's sizing Grantaire up and can't make sense of what he sees before him. "Free drinks, too? You've an interesting business sense, Grantaire."

He lets his smile go brittle around the edges. "My business is doing just fine." He tips his head to indicate the crowds around them, the packed tables, the hubbub of laughter and conversation that makes it difficult even to hear each other.

"Yes. That's what I've heard." Enjolras props his chin on his fist and watches Grantaire across the bar. "Your reputation precedes you, Grantaire."

"Oh?" He keeps his voice cool and his smile fixed in place, but inwardly, he's building up a panic. In a business like his, garnering a reputation can be as much a hazard as a boon.

"There aren't a lot of juice joints these days who are able to hold their own against the mob. And you're doing a lot more than that."

"Is that what you think?"

"What I think is that you're very smart, and very savvy." His eyes are bright and he's suddenly alive, the most animated thing in a room that's already lively. "And you could do so much more with it."

"You're assuming that I want to." Grantaire pours another drink, but tosses this one back himself and ignores the disapproving look that Éponine shoots him from the stage. "I'm doing just fine as things are."

"If the height of your ambition is bootlegging and slinging hooch, then it's wasted on you."

Grantaire smacks the glass down on the bar with a sharp crack. He knows better than to let customers get his temper up, but he can't seem to help himself where Enjolras is concerned. "What's yours, then? What are you spending your life doing that's so much more worthy?"

"I could show you," Enjolras says abruptly, leaning across the bar. His hand lashes out and catches Grantaire by the wrist, holding him pinned. Grantaire's pulse pounds against his grip. "We meet at the Musain tomorrow night. You should come, and you'll see."

Grantaire pulls out of Enjolras's grip carefully. "Is it illegal?"

Enjolras's grin is brilliant, blinding. "Very." And really, Grantaire should have known he was lost the minute Enjolras walked up to his bar.

"Sure," he says, and grins back. "All right. The Musain. I'll be there, and you can tell me all about the ways in which I'm wasting my life."

He doesn't care about ambition, or causes, or whatever it is that Enjolras wants to share with him. But whatever it is he wants to show Grantaire, it promises to be interesting, and there's little else that'll catch Grantaire's attention as thoroughly as the promise of a little excitement. And Enjolras promises to be all of that and more.