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Christmas Wrapping

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Grantaire flopped down on his sofa, exhausted. It had been one hell of a year and he was looking forward to settling his brain for a long winter’s nap.

His mind wandered back to January and the rally he had accidentally found himself involved in. Normally those things weren’t his scene; as usual a bunch of kids with too much time on their hands were blowing their trumpets loud about changing the world.

He had been on his way across campus to meet with his tutor to discuss the end of semester exam coming up in February when he found himself engulfed in a crowd of Angry Young Men. Ordinarily that would have been something he would just shoulder his way through and ignore but not that day. That day his shoulder connected with someone else and they both tumbled to the ground.

Then there had been a flash of blue, a flash of blond, and he had found himself nose to nose with the most incredibly captivating human being imaginable. A slim, firm hand had taken his, hauling him back onto his feet.

What should have ended there with the two men parting ways had actually continued. A careless comment, a hasty reproof, a smirk, a countered argument and before he knew it he had missed the appointment with his tutor, the rally was ending, and the crowd was dispersing.

The guy – Enjolras, as he introduced himself – looked at his watch in frustration. He expressed the wish to discuss this further, and so numbers had been exchanged with the promise of meeting up.

As Grantaire had watched that golden god walk away from him his stomach had vaulted violently in his abdominal cavity. It was just a phone number. It wasn’t a promise, just a suggestion, a way to meet up so they could argue some more.

+

He looked over to the poor excuse for a Christmas tree in the corner. Usually he went all out, especially at Christmas. It was, after all, his favourite holiday. And no, not just so he could blend in with all the other drunken revellers for once, as Éponine had so cruelly suggested.

It was the sense of potential that hung in the air. If you stumble into someone in a pub on Christmas Eve and accidentally spill their pint, it’s the one day of the year they actually pat you on the back and shout “cheers!” rather than punch you and make you pay for a new one. No one is in a bad mood on Christmas Eve and that amount of positivity is hard to ignore, even for him.

Well, usually.

He wasn’t in a bad mood right now, he was just tired. Christmas was still exciting, still positive. He just wasn’t in the mood for being in the pub, being around people right now. Not that Éponine hadn’t tried because she had. She had begged and pleaded and sulked and had even punched him, but he remained firm.

“Bah humbug!” he had chuckled down the phone to her.

“You’re no fun anymore, R. You hardly ever come to our parties these days.”

That wasn’t true. He had been to plenty of parties this year. The one in March at Bahorel and Feuilly’s flat stuck out in particular.

It had turned out that Enjolras knew Bahorel through a remarkable set of coincidences that had been explained to him but that he wasn’t really sure he cared about enough to remember. Either way, he had been just leaving Bahorel’s party as he needed to be at the airport to pick up Jehan, when Enjolras had stalked in. There had been a flash of recognition, a quick greeting.

Of course, Grantaire had never texted Enjolras after their brief meeting in January, but then Enjolras hadn’t texted him either. He fully expected the man to have forgotten all about him. Their meeting had just been an argument, a disagreement of viewpoints. It was hardly surprising really that he hadn’t heard from the man since.

But then, there he was, standing somewhat open mouthed as Grantaire headed towards the door, half tempted to text Jehan to tell him to catch the train like every other human being. But no, Grantaire would never be that kind of friend. He would be there to pick up his mate come hell, high water, or intensely attractive blonds with ridiculously idealistic beliefs. So they renewed their intentions to get in touch, to make that arrangement for coffee sometime, and then he dashed out of the door, hoping that Jehan bloody well appreciated what Grantaire was giving up for him right now.

By the time he got back to the party, Enjolras had already left.

+

There were three messages on his phone from some Christmas Eve Extravaganza somewhere that Bahorel and Feuilly were attending. Judging by the severe deterioration in legibility, both men were thoroughly far gone. Grantaire smiled to himself, pleased that his friends were enjoying themselves. His eye was caught by the flurries of snow scurrying past his window and he folded himself up protectively inside the blanket on the sofa, chucking another handful of M&Ms into his mouth as the TV continued to chatter merrily away on the periphery of his awareness.

Snow was all very well and good as long as you had nowhere to be, but Grantaire hated the cold. He preferred the heat and light of the sun, the way it warmed his skin and cast a glow on everything around him. He adored the way everything looked in bright sunshine, the way he could barely resist the itch in his fingers to draw and paint everything around him; the brightly coloured plants, traffic stationery in heat, kids playing out in the street at dusk. He’d take long summer nights over winter and snow and ice and cold any day of the damned week.

The trip to the beach had been Courfeyrac’s idea. Courfeyrac, who had been dating their darling little Jean Prouvaire since that party back in March. Courfeyrac, who was only Enjolras’s best friend! Well, one of them. So he said, anyway.

“Oh so you’re the misanthropic mystery man who has our fearless leader’s knickers in a knot!” Courfeyrac had crowed in a bizarre form of greeting and, honestly, what had he meant by that? Courfeyrac assured him nothing, especially after Jehan had kicked him in the shins.

However, an invitation to the beach for the bank holiday weekend had been extended and he was assured that Enjolras would be there. A group of them were camping for the weekend and there was always room for one more. He was assured that he was doubly invited when Jehan let slip that he could play the guitar.

“That settles it,” Courfeyrac had cried, linking his arm with Grantaire’s. “You’re coming to the beach and you’re bringing your guitar. And we’ll all sit round the fire singing camp fire songs!”

It was a lovely idea and Grantaire really wanted to go. Not just for the chance to see Enjolras, though that held some of the attraction, it couldn’t be denied. Unfortunately, he was scheduled to work that Friday and no amount of begging was going to get him out of that shift.

He resigned himself to the fact that the others would head down there without him and he would drive down later, after his shift. That would be fine. He wouldn’t miss out on too much, in fact, it might even work in his favour; all the tents would be up and the BBQ would be well under way by the time he arrived.

Sadly the trip to the beach was just not meant to be. His trusty old VW Beetle breathed its last at the side of the road that Friday evening, smoke pouring from under the engine cover as he waited patiently for rescue at the side of the road, thanking his lucky stars for the day Éponine had forced him to get breakdown cover.

Grantaire could have cried.

+

Grantaire glared at his phone which was vibrating steadily, the caller ID informing him that his parents were calling. He seriously considered rejecting the call but it was Christmas (well, nearly) and he supposed speaking to them now would be better than them waking him early on Christmas morning.

His mother gushed at him down the phone, wishing him a very merry Christmas indeed. He winced at her tone; she had obviously already been at the sherry.

“Are you sure you won’t come to us, sweetie? You know you’re always welcome!” she trilled, loudly. He could hear the polite cough of his father in the background.

“Thanks, mum, that’s really kind. But I already have plans.”

It wasn’t entirely a lie. He did have plans for Christmas Day. They involved sleeping, tucking into his turkey dinner for one and watching The Great Escape for the fiftieth time.

His father came on the line, then, wishing him a very formal happy Christmas before the awkward silence descended.

“I’m surprised you’re not out at some party with your friends,” he commented, not unkindly, just searching for some sort of common ground with the son he hardly knew. Grantaire winced again.

“Yeah, well, just a quiet one for me this year.”

He was very glad to finish that call.

Now that he thought about it, he hadn’t actually been out with his mates since the disaster at Halloween.

It had started out promisingly enough. Jehan and Courf had dressed up as Gomez and Morticia Addams, a joint outfit so abominably cute they had managed to score at least five free drinks. Grantaire had pulled out his old Beetlejuice suit, spraying his hair white and nicking Jehan’s makeup (something he had paid dearly for later when Jehan had poured a mixture of cold water and Grantaire’s entire stash of expensive whiskey over him at four o’clock in the morning. Seriously, never ever mess with Prouvaire or his stuff because he will make you pay).

They had wound up in a pub and lo-and-behold if it wasn’t Enjolras propping up the bar.

“We really must stop meeting like this,” Grantaire had quipped, joining him with the intention of ordering a drink. Enjolras had at first appeared startled before breaking into a reserved smile.

“How’s your car?” he enquired politely.

“In vehicular heaven.” Grantaire retorted somewhat ruefully. He was just about to open his mouth and ask him something when Enjolras screwed up his face. Grantaire wondered what on earth he could have done, when the man extracted a ringing phone from his pocket, held up a finger to excuse himself and darted out of the bar to take the call.

Grantaire had waited politely for Enjolras to return. He never did.

Courfeyrac told him two days later that Enjolras had left due a family emergency. Grantaire had muttered something almost unintelligible about never catching a break.

+

Standing in the kitchen, preparing to retire for the night, Grantaire ran down a mental checklist of everything he would need for tomorrow. The turkey was already out to thaw, his cat was already locked out away from temptation. The veggies were already peeled and ready for steaming (because it was Christmas and he was damned well going to steam his vegetables for once) and everything seemed set . He shut the fridge door with a sense of satisfaction at a job well done.

Then his eye fell upon the large note tacked to the fridge door.

Oh shit.
Oh shit. What an idiot.

Cranberry Sauce. He didn’t have any fucking cranberry sauce. How could he have forgotten? It was right there in big letters on his fridge door. You couldn’t have Christmas dinner without cranberry sauce; that would make him a monster.

He looked back out at the snow which was still coming down thick and fast outside. Grantaire sighed. He had a choice. He could either suffer through his Christmas day by himself with his turkey-for-one and no cranberry sauce. Or he could get his bloody boots back on and head out to the all-night grocers on the corner and hope and pray they had a jar or two left.

He pulled his boots on, grabbed his coat, hat and scarf and headed out into the snow like Captain Lawrence Oates.

The shop’s lights glowed like a beacon in an otherwise deserted street. He gladly stepped through the door into the warmth and was just about to shut it behind him when he noticed a shadowy figure hurrying down the road behind him. He waited patiently, holding the door so the figure could get out of the snow as quickly as possible.

He gaped as the figure removed the hood of his red coat, shaking out gold curls.

“You!” he gasped. Enjolras’s eyes widened in response, before he broke into an amused grin.

“Fancy seeing you here,” he smiled pleasantly. “Come to get party supplies I expect?”

Eventually Grantaire found his voice.

“Supplies, yes, but not for a party. Just me. Need an important ingredient for Christmas dinner.” He shrugged his shoulders in a non-committal manner and Enjolras nodded in
understanding.

“What about you? I bet you’ve somewhere important to be…” He trailed off as Enjolras rolled his eyes, groaning in good humour.

“This year has been completely mad. I don’t feel like I’ve stopped, it has just been one thing after another.” He rubbed his forehead as if to emphasise the point. Grantaire nodded; he understood all right. Enjolras smiled weakly at him.

“So it’s just me this year. A bit of a rest and some peace and quiet, that’s what I need. That and some cranberry sauce.”

He frowned as Grantaire snorted with laughter, until Grantaire explained his own little mission, at which point he broke into an easy smile that lit up his face and Grantaire swore his heart skipped a little in that moment.

They wandered amicably together down the aisle towards the jams, jellies and sauces, but then Enjolras stopped dead in his tracks.

“Oh,” he said lightly.

It looked as though the locusts had been through. There was plenty of mint sauce and horseradish sauce and apple sauce. But there, alone, all by itself, was the very last, lonely jar of cranberry sauce.

“You have them. Seriously, I don’t need them.” Enjolras turned to him, his face severe as if will alone could force Grantaire to take the jar. Grantaire frowned, the hair on his neck rising at the order implicit in Enjolras’s tone.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he snapped. Enjolras glared at him in response.

“Don’t call me ridiculous! Just take the damn cranberries.” Enjolras reached out, plucked the jar from the shelf and held it out. Grantaire backed away as if it might bite him.

“Nope, I won’t buy them. I don’t even like them,” he lied, shaking his head violently. Enjolras snorted.

“Just take the cranberries, Grantaire, because I am certainly not going to buy them.”

It was deadlock. The pair stared at each other mutinously.

“Are you always this stubborn?” Grantaire asked in exasperation. Enjolras raised a challenging eyebrow.

“Are you always this argumentative?” he countered.

They observed each other for a moment and something sad flickered in Grantaire’s chest. They had been getting on so well. Damn the cranberries. He sighed, regretfully. There was really only one chance to salvage this situation.

“Ok. Look, I’ll buy the damn cranberries. If,” he hesitated for a moment, wondering if he was brave enough to finish the sentence. Enjolras jerked his head, listening for the rest of the ultimatum.

“If you come and have Christmas dinner with me?” He hadn’t intended it to come out as a question, but something in the way Enjolras looked at him made him falter. He closed his eyes, fully expecting a harsh reproof, a dashing of his hopes. When Enjolras didn’t say anything he risked a peek through his eyelashes. Enjolras was regarding him with a strange look on his face.

Then he took a purposeful step into Grantaire’s personal space and Grantaire couldn’t help but swallow nervously in response.

“Why don’t you buy the damn cranberries,” Grantaire could feel Enjolras’s breath, as well as the heat rising in his cheeks. “And then I’ll buy you a drink and we’ll go from there.”

Grantaire didn’t need to think twice before nodding in agreement.

As they wandered back out into the snow arm in arm, leaving a bemused cashier in their wake and searching for an open bar, it looked as though it was going to be a very merry Christmas indeed.