Chapter 1: The lie
Thanks as always to nyargles (defractum), my beta, who I managed to drag wholeheartedly into the fandom, whoops. Also to whoever it was on Tumblr who mentioned how fake boyfriends is one of their favourite tropes.
The title is based on a Fall Out Boy song (as all my fics seem to be, recently), specifically, this bit of Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner:
Nothing comes as easy as you.
Can I lay in your bed all day?
I'll be your best kept secret
And your biggest mistake.
He doesn't know why he says it.
He's busy, and he's trying to juggle replying to an email on his computer, sending a text to his boss and typing up notes for his client, whilst Cosette fills their chat window with inane chatter and links to dating profiles of guys she thinks are acceptable. He's had a shit day at work, he's stressed about the case he's currently working and he just burnt his fucking toast when it was the last piece of bread in the apartment, and so he can’t really be held accountable for his actions.
Or his words, apparently.
So when he accidentally deletes half his email as Cosette’s chat window pops up again, he snaps, scowls and types as passive-aggressively as he can I'm already seeing someone. It's the first thing he comes up with. Anything to get her to stop messaging him.
For once her chat window is mercifully quiet, no bright and glaring alert flashing in his peripheral vision to tell him someone has sent him a message, no obnoxious sound trilling, just pure, blissful silence. It lasts for approximately five seconds before his phone blares itself to life next to his hand on the desk. He picks it up without thinking, and that's his second mistake, because as soon as he does a voice yells in his ear, "You’re seeing someone?"
"...Yes?" he replies, and has to forcibly bite back a groan because what the hell, no he isn’t seeing anyone, why would his brain decide to say that? He only typed it to get her to stop sending him dating links, he didn’t intend to confirm it. The only meaningful relationship he has in his life right now is with the coffee machine, and even that’s become strained in recent months because he can’t carry it around with him at all times.
Is it too late to answer the question with an empathetic - and entirely truthful - no and try to play it all off as a sleep-deprived joke? Cosette’s breathless excitement on the other end of the line says yes. It’s not that he’s opposed to having a relationship, it’s just that there isn’t time in his life for one. Not between work and and meetings with his friends; he's mentally filed dating under the list of things he will do at some vague, indistinct point in future. Like getting a mortgage and dying.
Not that Cosette has ever seen it that way. For the past year and a half, ever since she started dating Marius, she's been trying to set him up. As if her own happiness with someone else could be so easily translated to others. For sixteen months Enjolras has fended off her questions, made excuses, been picky and obstinate and deliberately obtuse when she's tried to introduce him to someone.
And for sixteen months she hasn't taken no for an answer.
He was bound to crack. Only he never expected it to be in such a way.
"You are the worst brother ever," she informs him, as he sighs and digs the palms of his hands into his eyes, trying to rub away the tiredness that crawls behind them. "I've been sending you all these links and trying to set you up with people I know, and the whole time you've been seeing someone. Wait - has it been the whole time? When did you start dating?”
"I don't know," he admits, which is a truth in itself, because his boyfriend doesn’t exist, and gives up on staring at the unfinished email on the computer screen to get up and find himself some coffee, cradling the phone between his ear and shoulder as he moves through the apartment. He leaves his answer hanging in the hopes she'll fill in the gaps herself, and she doesn't disappoint.
"You don't know? Is this your way of telling me you both danced around each other for ages and you refused to make a move because you were friends and you didn’t want to mess it up, so it could have been resolved months ago but officially maybe it's more recent?"
He blinks, shrugs, and flicks on the coffee machine. "Sure - I mean, yeah. Yes."
There's silence on her end, and as he stares at the machine, waiting for it to warm up, it occurs to him that he should possibly, probably tell her that he's not seeing anyone at all, that he just said yes to get her to stop messaging him and that he's sorry for lying, he'll make it up to her next time he sees her - but then the coffee machine whirs and kicks into motion and his thoughts scatter.
“Regardless of your stupidity and the fact you’ve lied to me,” she continues on the other end of the line, “I’m glad you’re seeing someone. I know I’ve been pestering you and I’ll admit, setting you up with Francis was a huge mistake, but how was I to know he was a capitalist? — but I only did it because I care. You’re an exceptionally talented lawyer, Enjolras, but there are more things to life than just work, you know.”
“I know,” he replies, and the stab of guilt is so strong that he decides to tell her the truth and admit that he isn’t seeing someone, gets as far as saying, “Look, Cos—” when she interrupts him to say:
“I’m so happy for you.”
And that’s the moment he realises he's screwed.
- - -
Courfeyrac laughs himself stupid for five whole minutes when Enjolras tells him. And he knows it's for five whole minutes, because he stares at his watch pointedly after the first minute and clenches his jaw so hard that it starts to ache for the rest. On his other side Combeferre isn't much better, biting down on his bottom lip, trying desperately not to join in with Courfeyrac's laughter, but the corner of his lips twitch every few seconds or so, the traitor, and Enjolras decides he hates them both.
If they weren’t his best friends - quirks, idiosyncrasies and bad habits all - he would have stormed out of the Musain long ago, but the truth is, he couldn't ever tear himself away from them, no matter how unsympathetic to his plight they may be.
Courfeyrac eventually calms down enough to take a drink of his beer, though he keeps grinning the whole time. When he places the glass back down on the table he says, in a relatively serious voice, "Why didn't you just tell her the next day you're not actually seeing anyone?"
It's a legitimate question, and that had been his intention, only the next day when he’d turned on his computer, for the first time in over a year Cosette hadn't immediately messaged him.
And it had been — it had been nice.
He'd immediately felt guilty, but the silence had been so, so welcome. It was a reprieve from being constantly told that he needed to settle down and asked if he had met someone, as if a person couldn't possibly be complete by themselves. So he'd decided to just go along with the lie, figuring that he could just 'break up' with his non-existent boyfriend somewhere down the line without Cosette ever being any the wiser, and from that point on he just say he's too heart-broken to even think about dating someone else.
It had seemed like the perfect plan, and it had even worked that way for the first few weeks. At first she had asked frequently and eagerly for details, to which he’d just been as vague as possible, saying that he didn’t want to jinx it by talking about it too much, and eventually she’d let him turn their conversation onto other, non-romantic topics. It had all been going so well, and then she had announced that she was coming to visit for Christmas.
Which is how he ended up sat in a corner of the Musain with Combeferre and Courfeyrac, long after the latest meeting of their group has disbanded, gazing mournfully into the bottom of his beer glass as Courfeyrac asks why he didn’t just tell the truth.
“Because it was nice to have her shut up for once,” he replies, and then looks up sharply when he realises what he said, desperate to take the words back: “I didn’t mean that—” and Courfeyrac starts laughing again.
Combeferre rests a hand on his elbow and squeezes, and he, too, is grinning. “Yes, you did,” he disagrees, “You’re always your most truthful when you’re stressed and not thinking straight.”
He’s right of course, and Enjolras gives in, raising his hands in a helpless gesture. “It’s just - all she does is send me messages about guys she thinks I should date, and I get that she’s happy, that she’s found what she thinks is love, or whatever, but that’s not for me. I’m not interested in a relationship, I don’t want to settle down. I’m just fine how I am but she’s relentless. I didn’t even mean to say it, it just slipped out, and then I was too tired to argue and it was just so easy to go along with it and…” He trails off, and downs what’s left of his beer before continuing, “And now she’s coming to visit and it’s too late to tell her it’s all a lie.”
"So what you're saying is, you lied to your sister and told her that you were dating someone, kept this lie up for almost a month, and now she's coming to visit and expects you to be dating someone. Someone who doesn't exist, yet she’s super excited to meet them?" asks Courfeyrac, and Enjolras expects more mockery, prepares himself for the onslaught. What he doesn't expect is for Courfeyrac to say, “You know, there’s a perfectly simple solution to this, right?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, it’s pretty obvious to me. What you need is a fake boyfriend.”
“No wait, hear me out. We just need to find someone willing to fake date you and pretend that you've been together a while, someone who can convince Cosette that you actually have a real, functioning relationship, and then we break you both up. You were planning to do that anyway, right?"
"So all we need to do is find someone willing to go along with the charade for a while. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t get along that well seeing as you’re going to ‘break up’ soon anyway. It’ll probably be better if you don’t always see eye-to-eye, or there’s another issue between you — is there anyone at work who might do it? Someone who owes you a favour?”
He thinks about it, but no names spring to mind, not ones he would be willing to work with after, fake-relationship or not. He shakes his head.
“Alright, so it’ll have to be someone who we already know, who isn’t currently in a relationship and won't mind pretending to date you, who’s friendly enough with you to know everything about you. Or, well, enough to feasibly convince Cosette you're a couple."
As he continues to make suggestions, Enjolras finally looks up from the bottom of his empty glass. The more Courfeyrac presses this fake-boyfriend idea, the more he's starting to listen, and it’s even starting to make sense. The suggestion of someone close to him leads his thoughts immediately to Combeferre and Courfeyrac, undoubtedly his two closest friends, and he finds himself thinking that, objectively, Courfeyrac isn’t too bad to look at. In fact, he's rather charming, if you're into floppy, curly hair and big brown puppy-dog eyes, with a roguish grin to match and a wicked sense of humour. Courfeyrac rarely dates, but that's only ever because, as he says, he loves too many people. He's the type of person who falls quickly, suddenly and without abandon for people, and holds a flame forever - yet somehow he never gets sad when his love isn't reciprocated, or if it flickers out after the first night (or week, or month).
Enjolras has always admired the unquestioning, all-encompassing love Courfeyrac has for people and the way that love makes no demands. It must be exhausting, giving so much of yourself to so many people all the time, but being the centre of things only ever seems to make Courfeyrac shine even brighter.
He would be an excellent boyfriend to have, Enjolras knows, and some of what he's thinking must show on his face because Courfeyrac cuts himself off mid-speech, looking horrified. "No. No, no, no, no, no. I love you Enjolras, but there is no fucking way I am pretending to date you."
Enjolras feels affronted for a few seconds, then transfers his gaze across to Combeferre, who blinks in surprise and then shakes his head. “No, thanks.” But in a way Enjolras was already expecting that. Combeferre is the complete opposite of Courfeyrac, loving rarely but intensely, saving his passions for certain, specific individuals. He's closer to Enjolras in this, though Enjolras doesn't date mostly because he doesn't have time, whilst Combeferre seems to be waiting forever for a certain, specific person.
Enjolras has never asked for details on that certain person, though he sees it occasionally, in glances across the room, or casual touches that linger too long. So he doesn’t begrudge his no, just sighs and says, "Then who?" and gets up from the table to get the next round of drinks.
There's a line of people already at the bar, so it takes him a while to get served, and when he glances back over his shoulder, Combeferre and Courfeyrac are deep in discussion. Combeferre is shaking his head empathetically at something Courfeyrac suggested, but they're too far away for Enjolras to hear who they’re talking about.
"We've got an idea," Courfeyrac says when he returns, "Well, we have an idea of who you can ask who might be amenable."
He feels the flush rise almost immediately, tries to fight it down and fails miserably. It's the same way Courfeyrac knew what he was thinking instantly earlier; his face always shows exactly how he's feeling. He's a passionate person, and in the courts he’s always used it to his advantage; he has a way with words and can catch people up in his ideals, turning a jury entirely to his point of view with just a look, but in social situations, when he's not making a speech, his face betrays him.
"No," he says, "Feuilly is - I admire him. The work he's accomplished in the past few years is incredible, but—"
"But you don't want to mix work with pleasure?" Courfeyrac asks, and God help him, he's grinning across the table in the worst possible way.
"He's not work," Enjolras replies through gritted teeth, "He's a valued member of our group, a real-life look into the injustices and inequalities in—"
"You're preaching to the choir," Courfeyrac interjects, holding up his hands, "But don’t you see? You’d totally convince Cosette you’re dating him, just look at the — alright, fine, so your little crush on Feuilly - yes it is a crush stop looking at me like that, what are you, eight? - means he's not an option. And Bahorel's out of the question, because, well, lol.” People should not be able to say lol in real life, Enjolras thinks, but somehow Courfeyrac pulls it off. “Joly, Bossuet and Musichetta finally got their shit together, so there’s no way I’m letting you interfere with that.”
"There's always Jehan," Combeferre suggests, "He might be up for it. He'd probably see the romantic side, might even write you a few poems about it. Compare your love to a graveyard, use it as inspiration for his next anthology. His students will love it."
Enjolras mulls it over. It's impossible to dislike Jehan; there's an almost child-like innocence and wonder about him. When Enjolras first met him, he'd thought he was a dreamer, someone who was more interested in the idea of a better world than its creation, but then he'd seen Jehan throw a punch at a police officer who had used violence at a protest, fierce and unforgiving in the defence of his friends, and he'd realised being shy does not mean a person isn't brave.
Whilst he has always gravitated towards a spark, controversy, to someone who can challenge him, he thinks Jehan might work. After all, they say opposites attract, and Jehan's timidity would be a good counterpoint to his own fire.
He resolves to ask him the next day, at the follow-up from tonight’s meeting, and almost immediately feels better. Jehan’s still got to say yes, of course, but at least it’s a plan, and he always feels better when he has a goal and something to work towards.
- - -
When he returns to his apartment later that night, several hours have passed and it's very cold out.The sort of cold that leaves people feeling whimsical and chilled, waiting for the first flake of snow and wondering if it will be a white Christmas. He would take the time to appreciate it, but he has to be up at six and he forgot his gloves, so his fingers are numb as they fumble on the keypad to his building, stuttering over the keys as he tries to tap in the code.
Three failed attempts later a hand reaches over his shoulder, confident fingers punching in the code even with a lit cigarette held between the first two. Flecks of grey ash fall from the top, catching in the cool night air and floating away as Enjolras turns to see: "Grantaire.” He watches the cigarette as it is lifted to chapped lips, smoke inhaled and then blown out slowly, disappearing into the night sky.
Grantaire is another member of their extended friendship group, albeit one Enjolras knows less well.That they live in the same apartment block is a coincidence; Enjolras himself hadn’t realised, though he must have walked past Grantaire many times before he ever turned up in the Musain with Bahorel. It had been Grantaire who had brought it up, that first night, his skin rough and calloused where it clasped Enjolras’s in a shake, his eyes earnest and bright as he’d said, “Enjolras, right?”
And Enjolras had replied, “Yes, and you are?”
The bright light of his eyes had flickered then, uncertain, and that mocking grin that Enjolras had come to know so well in the months that followed had tugged at the corner of his lips and he’d drawled, “Unremarkable, clearly, but you can call me Grantaire.”
He’s wearing the same mocking grin now as he looks at him. "Are you going to go in?" he asks, and Enjolras blinks and shakes himself, taking a step back to make room in the doorway to allow Grantaire past. Grantaire takes one last drag of the cigarette, the tip flaring orange, and then drops it to the floor, stubbing it out with the boot of his heel.
Enjolras frowns as he watches the movement and says, "Are you just going to leave that there?"
"The cigarette," Enjolras elaborates, looking down at it, "Littering.” When he glances back up, Grantaire is looking at him with an amused expression, as if he can’t quite believe Enjolras is asking the question. “What?” he asks defensively.
“It’s just a cigarette stub, people drop them all the time.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”
“You’re going to relate this to some grand higher cause aren’t you?”
“Of course not,” Enjolras, who had been thinking about doing just that, lies, “Just pick it up. You can throw it away when you get into your apartment.”
Grantaire holds his gaze for a few more seconds and then, with a roll of his eyes, stoops to pick it up. He twists it between his fingers, smearing ash on his fingertips as he straightens and drawls, “Anything for you, Apollo.” Which just makes Enjolras narrow his eyes at him in a glare, because why does he always have to be so sarcastic?
Grantaire steps past him and into the apartment block finally, and it takes a moment for Enjolras’s thoughts to catch up with him and acknowledge that he actually did as he asked. It’s so surprising he almost stumbles as he steps after him into the hall, and then what’s even more surprising is the realisation that Grantaire often does as he asks, he just never does it at the time. It’s always an hour or a day or a week later that he sees past the sarcasm and the cynicism and focuses on the actual actions.
In fact, Grantaire is always there, at their meetings and rallies and events, for all his insistence that they’re stupid for trying to change the world and his speeches on the impossibility of achieving any of their goals. There must be something Enjolras thinks, that keeps him returning, some hope, deep down, a belief that they can change the world, and the thought of Grantaire with hope is enough for him to speak out.
“Wait,” he says, hearing himself as if from a distance.
Grantaire pauses with his foot on the next step up and half-turns his body, glancing back down to where Enjolras stands. The movement pulls his shirt away from his body as he twists, and the angle gives Enjolras a glimpse of the sharp jut of his hipbones and the twisting tattoo that disappears into the top of his boxers. He feels his cheeks start to burn and looks up to meet Grantaire’s eyes instead as he asks, “Are you seeing anyone?”
“Dating — are you? I mean, do you have a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, or… both, I suppose,” he says, thinking of Joly, Bossuet and Musichetta. He realises that he doesn’t know where Grantaire’s preferences lie; it takes him a moment to think back on it, on the times where comments have been made about significant others. He seems to recall Grantaire speaking often of various women, and less often of men — and frequently saying things about Enjolras himself, comments that never seem to be serious at all, teasing designed to irritate him.
Grantaire looks at him curiously, and he’s turned fully to lean against the banister, body slouched like a question. “Not right now, no.” He takes a breath, adds: “Why do you ask? Are you looking for advice? Because whilst I talk of various others in the Musain, you do realise most of what I say is the result of a great deal of alcohol, don’t you? Or — is this another one of those talks about how dating is an inconvenience?”
Enjolras winces at the reminder; he hadn’t been the nicest to Joly and Bossuet when they’d first started dating, distinctly remembers telling them that there were more important things than their love life to talk about. He shakes his head and says, “No. I just — I was just asking. No reason,” he lies, and takes the last few steps up to his floor. “Goodnight, Grantaire.”
His keys jangle as he takes them out to open his flat, and he only looks back when he hears a softly murmured, “Goodnight.” But when he turns to look, Grantaire has already disappeared up the stairs to the floor above.
- - -
The next night in the Musain he corners Combeferre and Courfeyrac after their meeting, when everyone is dispersing to chat and the drinks are flowing, and says, “I’ve solved it.”
Courfeyrac’s eyebrows rise as he asks, “Jehan said yes?” and Enjolras shakes his head.
“No, I didn’t ask him. I had a better idea. Sort of. Well, we would have a great break up anyway, because we could definitely find something to fight about, and I wouldn’t have to worry about upsetting him like I would with Jehan. Plus I checked and he’s currently single.”
Courfeyrac and Combeferre both look at him questioningly, and he explains, “Grantaire,” glancing past them and across the Musain to where the other man currently is, engaged in conversation with Bahorel. When he looks back Courfeyrac’s expression is odd and Combeferre’s biting his bottom lip, and they both exchange a look that he can’t read. “What is it?”
“Nothing,” Courfeyrac replies quickly, “Just — have you talked to him about it?”
“Not yet. I was going to do it tonight. I just wanted to let you know. Why, do you think he’ll say no?”
Again, they exchange a look, and Enjolras wants to know when they became so adept at non-verbal communication, because afterwards Combeferre says, “No, we don’t. Just —” and here he pauses, uncharacteristically lost for words, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Why wouldn’t it be? Grantaire’s our friend, he knows things about me a boyfriend would know, Cosette doesn’t already know him, and we argue frequently so breaking up won’t be a problem. Plus he could be considered attractive, you know, if you go for the scruffy artist look.”
Courfeyrac makes a sound in the back of his throat that sounds like ‘agh’. Enjolras frowns, but he just waves a hand at him and reaches for his drink with his other, as Combeferre says, “It’s your decision, but make sure you tell him the truth.”
“What, that I lied to my sister for weeks and now need someone to cover my tracks?” Enjolras asks, wry, “I’m sure he’ll get a kick out of it, don’t worry about that.”
Combeferre looks like he wants to say more, but when nothing is immediately forthcoming Enjolras decides that he’s made the right decision. The worst that could happen is that Grantaire will say no, and if he does he can always just ask Jehan, as per the original plan. Decision made, he takes a moment to prepare himself, and then excuses himself from Combeferre and Courfeyrac to talk to Grantaire.
There are almost double the amount of empty glasses at Bahorel and Grantaire's table compared with the rest of the Musain, most of which stacked in front of Grantaire. They're both well on their way to being drunk, even though the socialising part of the meeting has only just begun, but when he approaches the table Grantaire catches his eye, and seems to sober almost instantly, sitting up in his seat.
“A word?” he asks, watching as Grantaire’s hand falls away from the glass it was curled around, and remembers his fingertips, stained with ash, the night before. “Alone?” he adds, when it becomes clear Bahorel isn't going to make himself scarce.
"Well that sounds ominous," Bahorel announces cheerfully.
"If I'm not back in ten minutes, mourn my life with copious amounts of alcohol and try not to throw any punches at the wake," Grantaire dictates, and they share a grin as he pulls himself to his feet and grabs his jacket from the back of his chair. It's soft and worn leather, battered but clearly well-loved, and it fits him like a second skin as he tugs it over his shoulders.
Enjolras follows him out onto the street, watches as he pulls a packet of cigarettes from his inside pocket and takes one out between his lips. He offers the pack to Enjolras, who shakes his head, and shrugs. It takes two tries for his lighter to spark, and when it does he mutters around the cigarette, "Staring at people without speaking is kind of creepy, you know."
Enjolras blinks and startles, and it takes a conscious effort to look away as Grantaire takes a drag of the cigarette, his cheeks hollowing. But before he can get his thoughts in order and say anything, Grantaire speaks again:
"So, what have I done this time?"
"You — what?"
“Is this about me convincing Bossuet to spike your coffee with brandy at last week's meeting? Because let me tell you, that was all Joly's fault.”
“No, it's nothing to do with - wait, Bossuet did what?”
Grantaire's eyes widen, startled. "Nothing, nope, I didn't say anything. Bossuet who? What? You were saying something?"
Enjolras narrows his eyes at him in a glare, but the impending arrival of Cosette and the enormity of his lie loom over him, more important than anything else right now. He'll deal with drink spiking later. He takes a breath. “Cosette's coming to visit for Christmas.”
“And,” he coughs, shifts his weight. “She thinks I'm dating someone.”
The stunned silence doesn’t last long before Grantaire snorts. “Right, like anyone could ever win you away from your cause. Nice joke, Apollo. So what did you bring me out here for?” He asks, and takes another drag of his cigarette, looking amused.
Enjolras decides to just launch right in with it, like ripping a plaster off and plunging in the deep end when you're afraid of water. “I want you to date me.”
Grantaire chokes on the smoke as he exhales suddenly, gasping and pounding his chest with his fist as he croaks, “I'm sorry, what?”
“I want you to date me," Enjolras repeats, “I mean - if you want to. I just thought - well, Courfeyrac and Combeferre said no and Jehan's too nice and - I'll pay you, if you want?”
He doesn't know why he says it. Doesn't know how to take it back after he has. Isn't prepared for the stunned look on Grantaire's face, the bitter twist to his lips as he coughs one last time, expelling the last of the smoke. Enjolras folds his arms across his chest in the awkward silence that follows, holding them close for warmth as he realises just how cold it is outside. He's suddenly envious of Grantaire's leather jacket.
The wind whips around them, catching Grantaire's curls and blowing Enjolras's hair across his face. When he moves his hand to brush it back, Grantaire finally speaks.
Enjolras lets out a breath he didn't even know he was holding. “Whatever you want? Within reason," he adds quickly, “A grand?”
“A—” Grantaire sounds like he’s on the verge of choking again. “You’d pay me a grand to pretend to date you?”
“Yeah. I mean, you don't have to. It's my own fault for getting into this situation, I just thought... Well, you've said stuff in the Musain before, and I wouldn’t ask unless I thought it would work and we're friends, aren't we?”
“Yeah,” Grantaire replies, glancing away as he brushes the side of his jaw with the back of his hand, “We're friends.”
“So you'll do it?”
The words are stolen from his mouth almost before he finishes saying them, whipped away by the wind, but even so they sound like a deafening roar in his ears. His heart constricts in his chest.
“Sure,” says Grantaire after a pause, and the all-too familiar mocking grin is back as he adds, “If only because Cosette will kill you if she finds out you’re lying, and you’re far too pretty to be a corpse.” Enjolras scowls at him, which just makes him grin wider. “Aw, baby, don’t be so grumpy. It only makes me want to tease you more.”
Enjolras wonders if maybe it’s too late to back out now, but then his thoughts sort of disappear when Grantaire steps into his personal space, closer than they’ve ever been before, as he says, “So, honey, how long have we been together? How intimate are we?” and Enjolras flushes red.
This was the worst idea he’s ever had. He should have listened to Combeferre and Courfeyrac. He should back out of this arrangement right now.
“Oh wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so lost for words,” Grantaire says, “This is going to be the best.” Then he tacks on thoughtfully, “Darling.”
“Darling?” Enjolras echoes, still sounding faint but somehow managing to conjure up his best withering glare.
“Just seeing what fits best, babe.” He ducks when Enjolras makes a lunge for him, and laughs, low, in the back of his throat. “Nah, I’m just fucking with you. I hate pet names. Apollo’s a good enough fit for me.”
Enjolras glares at him some more and says through gritted teeth, “My name is Enjolras, R.”
“Oh wow, is this our first fight?”
He's going to hurt himself with all this glaring.
Grantaire laughs again, delighted, and finishes his cigarette with one last drag. He stubs it out on the wall and flicks it into the bin at the side of the road, then sinks his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “So when’s she coming?”
“A week tomorrow,” Enjolras replies, relieved at the change of topic, but wincing at how soon it sounds.
Grantaire whistles. “Well, I’ve already got plans tonight with Joly and Bossuet, but I’m free tomorrow if you want to meet and work this out. I can come over to yours?”
“Yes. Yeah, okay,” Enjolras says, nodding. It makes sense to meet as soon as possible to work out how this will go, and he usually just spends his Saturdays getting caught up with current events and reading the paper anyway. “I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
“Yep,” Grantaire replies, nodding. He looks uncharacteristically serious, but when he doesn’t say anything more Enjolras turns to head back into the Musain. He’s almost at the door when a hand curls around his elbow, warm against his cold skin, and tugs him back around to face Grantaire.
“Now, Apollo, that’s no way to say goodnight to your boyfriend,” he drawls, and there’s a strange little twist in his chest at the sound of the word boyfriend, unusual and unexpected but not — not entirely unwelcome, he realises with surprise.
Grantaire’s eyes meet his, his hand still curled around his elbow, and Enjolras finds himself unable to look away as he stares up at him. There’s barely an inch between them in height, but he feels like someone else, somewhere else, as he looks up, and he’s almost relieved when Grantaire’s other arm slides easily around his waist, almost as if it was supposed to be there, like he doesn’t know how to stand without Grantaire propping him up.
He doesn’t know what’s coming until it happens, and then he just lets out a soft sigh and closes his eyes when Grantaire’s lips meet his.
It’s chaste and it’s simple and sweet, but Enjolras’s heart is thudding in his chest - which is bizarre, because this is Grantaire, and it’s just a kiss - but he finds himself leaning forwards almost imperceptibly when Grantaire pulls away, and it takes him a moment to realise and stop himself, opening his eyes.
Grantaire has released him to move awat, hands pushed back into his jacket pockets as he steps back to the entrance to the Musain. “Always leave them wanting more,” he drawls, and he actually winks as he pushes the door open with his back and disappears inside, leaving Enjolras staring after him.
Chapter 2: The Plan
“Ohhh,” replies Grantaire, and he muffles another yawn with his fist, “Right. You lying to Cosette and then paying me to date you, how could I forget?” He pushes away from the door frame and steps back into his apartment, gesturing for Enjolras to follow. “Come on in.”
After returning to the Musain, he and Grantaire don't say two words to each other, though he suddenly becomes hyper-aware of his presence at all times, like something as simple as a a kiss could connect two people.
To distract himself, he lets Courfeyrac talk him into buying another round of drinks, and finds himself drawn into a heated discussion with Feuilly about the work he's doing at the firm to get good legal representation for those who can’t afford any. When he finally looks up again, nearly an hour has passed, and it's to see Grantaire, Joly and Bossuet’s table empty and feel the cold air from outisde as the door shuts behind them.
The rest of the night passes in the usual fashion and he goes home alone, falling straight into a deep sleep, waking only when his alarm blares to life, the sun already shining through the open windows and the rest of the city alive and bustling outside his window.
He drags himself into the bathroom to shower as the hourly news begins, and it’s only when he’s brushing his teeth that he remembers the conversation with Grantaire from the night before, and their agreement to meet up today. The voice of the newsreader tells him it’s the 1 o’clock news, and he nearly stumbles as he turns sharply and heads out of the bathroom to get his phone. He hits the number for his voicemail, expecting a message from Grantaire, and frowns when the mechanical voice tells him he has no messages.
A memory surfaces of Grantaire telling him he was going out the night before with Joly and Bossuet - the self-styled unholy trinity - and he realises he should have connected the dots earlier; despite it being past midday already, Grantaire won’t be surfacing for a few hours (or even a few days, if this is anything like that time in Amsterdam).
He’s feeling magnanimous, so he gives Grantaire another hour or so to wake up whilst he catches up on the news and replies to a few work emails on his phone. He even finds time to reply to a text from Cosette, is daring enough to mention how he’s seeing his ‘boyfriend’ today, and is rewarded with a line of smiley faces in response. He rolls his eyes, but his smile is fond as he scrolls down to R in his contacts, to see whether he’s awake yet.
His last text from Grantaire was over a month ago, a series of unintelligible letters and symbols that had followed a pretty serious debate they’d had going, started when Grantaire was bored at a bar somewhere one night and Enjolras had been too wired on coffee to sleep. They’d made it through several hours, Grantaire’s spelling getting worse and worse as the night went on and he imbibed more alcohol, until morning was dawning and they no longer made any sense. The last one had even ended with a string of pointless x’s.
He presses call and lifts the phone to his ear, thinking about how he’s going to have to come up with some suitably romantic texts to send Grantaire before Cosette arrives, as she’s the type to steal his phone and read them when he’s not paying attention, and listens as the phone rings out for a long, long time, then defaults to the standard answer phone message.
Enjolras frowns down at it and then hits redial. He does this three times and is just about to give up when the call is cancelled early. Which could only mean one of two things. One: his battery just ran out (it didn’t) or two: Grantaire cancelled it. Which means he’s awake and conscious enough to work a phone, ergo he should be in Enjolras’s apartment working out how they’re going to fake a relationship. Scowling, he grabs his keys from the hook by the door and heads up to Grantaire’s floor without thinking twice, hitting redial on his phone as he takes the steps two at a time.
Once more it rings out, but this time he’s concentrating more on curling his hand into a fist and hammering on Grantaire’s door. A thrill of satisfaction comes when he hears someone mutter, stumble and curse on the other side. The muttering get closer and then there’s the rattle of a chain being unlatched. The phone finally stops ringing out and a rough voice demands “What?” on the other end as the door opens to reveal Grantaire, sleep-ruffled and hungover and wearing nothing but an old pair of tracksuit bottoms.
Enjolras stares at him, thoughts scattering as he tries to remember why it was he was here. A distant part of his brain catalogues the tattoos scrawled across Grantaire’s chest, impossible designs that seem to turn in on themselves and stylistic splatters of colour that twist, suddenly, into words he can’t read, disappearing under the waistband of his sweatpants.
“Apollo?” Grantaire asks, frowning, and his voice sounds gravelly and rough, like he spent the entire night screaming lyrics to his favourite songs or – Enjolras leaves the thought there as he shakes himself and replies with a “Yes?” wincing when he hears himself echoing back through the phones they’re still both holding.
Abruptly, he cancels the call and puts his phone in his pocket, taking a second to look Grantaire over again. He’s clearly hungover, he’s only half-dressed and he looks like he’s about to fall asleep at any moment as he slouches against the doorframe, and it’s 3pm in the afternoon. He’s starting to wonder if he made the right decision after all.
“Where’sfire?” Grantaire asks, words slurring together as he bites back a yawn and lifts a hand to rub the shadow of stubble on his jaw.
“No fire,” Enjolras replies, because apparently incomplete sentences are the name of the game this afternoon. Part of him feels bad for waking Grantaire up, now he’s seen how wrecked he looks, though a greater part is terrified of Cosette’s reaction if they don’t pull this off. “You weren’t answering your phone so I wanted to see where you were?”
“Phone?” Grantaire echoes, and he looks at the one he’s holding as if he’s never seen it before in his life.
“Yes. I called you to see about the... thing.”
“The fake, uh, dating thing. You and I, that is. Pretending to date.” He winces.
“Ohhh,” replies Grantaire, and he muffles another yawn with his fist, “Right. You lying to Cosette and then paying me to date you, how could I forget?” He pushes away from the door frame and steps back into his apartment, gesturing for Enjolras to follow. “Come on in.”
Well that was - surprisingly easy. He blinks and then follows, curious as to what Grantaire’s apartment will look like. It’s the same layout as his own, being only one floor above, but there’s far less in it. Enjolras is a notorious hoarder: of books, of souvenirs, of CDs, mementos of the places he’s been and the people he knows. Grantaire, it seems, is the opposite. The floor is a sleekly polished wood that stretches all the way across to the open-plan kitchen, lit by the huge open windows that are absent of any curtains or blinds. Across one wall is a selection of canvasses of varying shapes and sizes, all of them blank, and in the middle of the room is a huge corner sofa. Grantaire’s apartment is spacious and uncluttered and yet there’s still character, in the leather jacket thrown across the breakfast bar, the collection of graphic novels next to the sofa, the gym bag slung near the door and the half-finished pyramid of shot glasses balancing precariously on the coffee table.
It’s to these Enjolras wanders, his attention catching on the different patterns and colours on each one, as Grantaire disappears into one of the adjoining rooms - the bedroom in Enjolras’s. Whilst he’s gone, Enjolras tilts his head, trying to read the different fonts, and realises that they’re from a myriad of different locations across the world. He’s about to twist one around to get a better to look when Grantaire reappears suddenly, throwing a cardboard box down onto the sofa next to him.
He pulls his hand back sharply, like a kid caught reaching for the chocolates on the tree, and Grantaire almost grins. “So, what sort of shit do you want?” he asks.
The question makes no sense. Does he mean the shot glasses? “What?”
“For your apartment.”
“Wow, you’re really not good at this, are you?” Grantaire asks. “Stuff for your apartment; my stuff, the sort of things it’s reasonable I’ve left behind during our dalliance. You know, the signs of there being someone else in your life?”
“Oh,” says Enjolras, because he honestly hadn’t thought about it. Or expected Grantaire to be this productive when he’s clearly so hungover. He had just figured that they would need to hold hands a few times, maybe share a kiss, get everyone to agree that they are a couple and then lie convincingly to Cosette about it. “Well, what do people usually leave at your place when you’re dating?”
“Fucked if I know,” Grantaire replies cheerfully, “They don’t tend to stick around. So, I’m just going to throw in a bunch of random crap. In the mean time, you tell me exactly what you told Cosette so we can work out how to do this.”
It’s a good plan, and Enjolras is ashamed to recognise his own surprise at this, when Grantaire has done nothing but prove himself amenable to the arrangement. Though his reaction is largely due to the fact Grantaire loves to do the exact opposite of what he asks, and rarely, if ever, rallies himself to do something more substantial, more worthy of his time.
This whole problem - the lie and his attempt to cover it up - is turning out to be an exercise in discovering that perhaps Grantaire is willing to do what he says, despite all appearances to the contrary.
Most likely, it is because of the monetary reward.
He’s jolted out of his thoughts by the clatter of metal as Grantaire throws a spatula into the rapidly-filling cardboard box. It’s so unexpected that he can’t help but pull it back out because it can’t possibly be… but it is. He holds it up with a raised eyebrow, but Grantaire just looks back at him with a blank expression. “A spatula?” he prompts.
Grantaire shrugs and rolls his eyes. “I’ve seen the ‘food’ you bring back from the shops, Apollo, and there is no way I would have let you seduce me with microwave meals and instant noodles. This spatula,” and here he plucks it from Enjolras’s grasp to hold it close to his chest, “is the heart and soul of my kitchen. I could not live without this spatula. It defines me, it completes me, it ensures my omelettes are the greatest omelettes in the world.”
Enjolras stares at him, and echoes, “Let me seduce you?”
He has no idea why that’s the thing he latches onto, but he does.
“Yep,” says Grantaire. He’s given up on finding things to put in the box now, is just leaning against the sofa where Enjolras sits. “How did you tell Cosette that happened, anyway? I mean, we’ve known each other for a while now, surely my name has come up at some point.” Enjolras doesn’t think it has, but he knows better than to say so - he may be cruel sometimes and often thoughtlessly so, but occasionally he knows better. “So how did our grand romance start?” Grantaire asks, “How did you seduce me?”
“I don’t know?” he admits, frowning, “I just sort of said that we were together, and mentioned some dates. I was vague, I didn’t think she would ever actually come to see you and that I would have to pretend it was real.”
“We went on dates?” Grantaire laughs, and his grin is crooked when Enjolras tilts his head in question. “I figured all the tension between us just got too much one day - you know, all the arguing - and we fell into bed together. Then kept falling in bed because I’m the best lay you ever had and—” he cuts off with another laugh when Enjolras hits him with the nearest cushion.
“Oh come on,” he says, batting the cushion away, “We’re going to have to talk about this stuff if we’re going to convince Cosette we’re together. She’ll never believe us if you start blushing and going all silent whenever someone asks about our relationship.” He places one hand on the back of the sofa and jumps over it in a swift, practised move that stretches and tightens the tattoos over the muscles in his abdomen, and Enjolras has to tear his eyes away because what the hell, this is Grantaire, but there’s just something so intriguing about a part of him he’s never seen before.
“I figure you’ll come up with something,” he hears himself saying, as if from a distance. “I don’t know what you – the sort of people you go for. I don’t know what would have made you like me. Don’t you have any ideas?”
Grantaire is quiet for a few seconds, and when Enjolras glances at him from the corner of his eye, it’s to see him staring over at the empty canvases stacked against the wall. There’s a strange, absent feeling in his chest, something akin to panic that twists around his lungs and constricts, makes him wonder what if. What if Grantaire can’t think of a feasible reason to have fallen for him? What if anything they come up with sounds stupid? It’s no secret he’s never been Grantaire’s biggest fan, but—
“Èponine,” Grantaire says, “March, three years ago. She called me at three o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday because she’d gone home to get something and found Gavroche all alone, and he hadn’t eaten for three days and her parents were nowhere in sight. She wanted custody but no one would listen to her, because she was jobless and under twenty and didn’t even have her own place, because someone had called environmental health on her landlord and there was asbestos and it was all a mess and everything was fucked up and she just wanted to help Gavroche. She had no rights and no legal standing and no one would even look at her twice and then there you were – you. The shining star of your firm and the darling of the legal world and she didn’t even have to ask.” And here his eyes meet Enjolras’s for a brief, startling instant before he looks away again, rubbing the side of his jaw as he says, “You just did it for her, you helped her out, pro bono, even though there was nothing in it for you and you didn’t even really know her. And I know that case wasn’t easy, I know the Thernadiers, I know they threw everything above- and below-board they possibly could at you, and you didn’t care, you did it anyway.”
Enjolras remembers it well, remembers the absolute hell of the case and the amount of people who had told him not to get involved, the people who had warned him that his life would be easier if he just left well enough alone. But Èponine was a friend - not his personally, but a friend all the same - and the whole reason he’d gotten into law had been to help people.
And if he couldn’t help the people who were most in need, then what kind of person was he?
“I mean, we knew each other before then,” Grantaire continues, “By which I mean, I got drunk at your meetings and you glared at me, and we had lots of arguments that were clearly just thinly-veiled sexual tension. Also, I already thought you were hot because hello, I have eyes, but the way you helped Èponine, what you did for her and Gavroche…” He trails off, and shrugs. “That’s when I realised you had a heart.”
Enjolras doesn’t know what to do with that; it takes a moment for him to realise that it’s all made up, that Grantaire doesn’t actually mean it, and then he grabs the cushion from before and hits him in the chest with it.
“I’ve always had a heart,” he replies, trying for irritance but missing by about a mile because something warm has settled in his stomach at what Grantaire said, “But it’s good to know you think I’m hot.”
“Of course I think you’re hot,” Grantaire replies, and he rolls his eyes, “Have you seen yourself recently?”
Enjolras glares at him. He knows full-well what Grantaire thinks of his looks; he brings it up enough times in the Musain, waxing lyrical about the colour of his hair and the line of his jaw when he’s had one too many drinks. It just reminds Enjolras of the times when he was at school and he was teased for being a boy with long hair and feminine features, then at University when people thought he was only getting so far on account of his looks.
A thought niggles at the back of his mind, prompting him to say, “But wait - if you started liking me then, three years ago, why did it take us so long to get together?”
“Because you’re really fucking oblivious,” Grantaire replies cheerfully, and bounds to his feet again. “Now I’m going for a shower. So you can either stay here and grab some more stuff, or I’ll meet you in your apartment in ten minutes.”
He’s gone before Enjolras can reply, leaving him blinking after him in the silence.
- - -
They relocate to Enjolras’s apartment, unpacking the things Grantaire brought down in his cardboard box, arguing over the natural place to put them and how to make it look obvious that Enjolras has a boyfriend without being too obvious. Grantaire’s tattoos are now covered up by an emerald-green zip-up hoodie, but he’d left his hair to dry naturally, which means it curls around his head in a mess that makes Enjolras’s fingers itch, wanting to tug out the knots and smooth it down.
He busies his hands instead putting some books away on the bookshelf in the living room (not that it matters where he puts them; at all times, you can guarantee there are books, magazines and newspapers stacked up on the coffee table and next to his bed and on the counters in the kitchen, things he’s in the middle of reading or friends have lent to him or he’s borrowed from the library). For a while they work in silence, but eventually Grantaire breaks it with a question.
“So when did you fall for me? When did you realise I make you weak at the knees?”
“Well it certainly wasn’t when you gave me—” Enjolras looks at the book in his hands, “The Da Vinci Code? What the hell? No, take that back. Or – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?”
“What?” Grantaire asks, defensive, “It’s a good book! You know, about a kid who is down on his luck who gets his one chance, this golden opportunity to get everything he ever wanted, not that it would ever happen in real life because seriously. But anyway, then you get to follow his story from relative obscurity to top of the world via a drugged-up social recluse, and no one thinks anything of him at first, they think he hasn’t got a chance, because they’re all too full of themselves and focused on their own problems to realise. And yeah, sure, so he drinks those bubbles he’s not supposed to, but what’s the harm in a little anarchy?”
Enjolras feels his lips curving, amused despite himself. “Careful, you’re starting to sound like an optimist there.”
“I’m always an optimist when it comes to you.”
“Nothing,” Grantaire plucks the book out of his hands, “Anyway if you don’t want this classic then I will keep it all to myself. Nope, back off, you had your chance,” he continues, fending Enjolras off when he makes a move to grab the book again, “Nope, mine. Anyway, come on, you’re supposed to be working out when you fell for me, not stealing my property. Hey! You could almost say when you stole my heart.”
Enjolras groans, and Grantaire laughs, delighted. “Maybe you even stole something of mine - okay fine, borrowed, whatever - and you realised you didn’t want to give it back and that’s when you realised you had feelings.”
Enjolras frowns at him, trying to think of something Grantaire has that he could possibly want, and draws a blank. He has lots of things from his friends strewn about his apartment - Jehan’s curved umbrella, Courfeyrac’s favourite cereal in the cupboard, a spare pair of Combeferre’s glasses - but nothing that screams ‘I fell for Grantaire!’.
Movement in his peripheral vision catches his attention, and he turns right as Grantaire drags something down over his head. He flails, caught off-guard, and his elbow connects with what he thinks is Grantaire’s sternum, causing him to choke out a curse, then there’s another rough tug and sunlight returns. He blinks about stupidly, pulling his hair away from his eyes, and looks down to see –
“My hoodie,” Grantaire confirms, his lips curved up at the corner. “You were cold, I let you borrow it, you never gave it back. You started wearing it all the time without realising what you were doing, Combeferre and Courfeyrac probably commented on it, you denied your feelings but got worked up about them anyway, and then we had a blazing row in the Musain over something - I don’t know - the abolition of the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist hetropatriarchy - and you kissed me. Or I kissed you. Neither of us know. And everything just went from there.”
Enjolras opens his mouth to reply, but doesn’t find any words. Instead he just finds himself imagining what Grantaire had said, getting caught and pulled into his world by something as simple as his hoodie - this hoodie - and then finds himself utterly distracted by the feel of it, trying to imagine what it would be like to wear it all the time, as Grantaire had said.
It’s definitely soft, and comfy, and it’s bigger at the shoulders, owing for Grantaire’s larger frame, meaning the arms fall lower on his hands than usual, the cuffs just brushing his knuckles. His thumb traces the fabric absently, running against it, and it takes him a moment to realise what he’s doing and remember how to speak. Then when he does, only one word comes out.
Grantaire looks as startled as he does. After a few seconds of just staring at each other, Enjolras prompts, “What?”
“Just thinking about how the colour brings out your eyes.” He’s as flippant as ever, and drops him another one of those ridiculous winks, as he had on the night they had kissed, then turns back to the unpacking. The silence lasts until he lets out a dramatic gasp and a reverent, “Oh, my god.”
Enjolras turns to see him holding a photo frame and feels despair.
“When was this taken?”
He tilts the edge just enough to show Enjolras the photo inside, and he sees that it’s the picture of himself, Combeferre and Courfeyrac from Christmas the year before. Courfeyrac had somehow talked them both into absolutely horrific Christmas jumpers, which were three sizes too big and covered in sparkles, snow, and awful puns. Combeferre’s also wearing some reindeer antlers and Courfeyrac has his arms thrown around them both, despite Enjolras’s scowl and Combeferre’s fond exasperation, but it’s clear that all three were happy to be there.
“Last Christmas,” he answers.
“This is gold. Do you have any more?”
He gestures around the apartment. “Take your pick.”
Mixed in with all the other clutter that fills up his apartment are a variety of different photo frames, filled with pictures from different events in his life, and even a few newspaper clippings that Jehan collected for his birthday one year, making a collage. Grantaire appears in quite a few, though he’s usually on the periphery, laughing in the background with Joly and Bossuet, or stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Bahorel.
More than one of the pictures is embarrassing, but Enjolras doesn’t mind. What’s the point of photographs if they don’t show people’s true selves? He doesn’t think he’ll ever understand people who pout and pose and act a certain way in front of a camera, like they want to show the world they’re something they’re not.
“We have a problem,” says Grantaire, suddenly sober, picking up another frame balanced on a stack of Vonnegut novels by the sofa. This time it’s one of Enjolras and Cosette, taken at a fair they visited once as kids.
“There’s none of me.”
“Yeah there is,” says Enjolras, pointing to one taken a few months ago in the Musain, “You’re on that one, and there’s one in the kitchen where—”
“No,” Grantaire interrupts, “I mean, there’s none of us. In an apartment filled with photographs of just about everyone you care about, do you think Cosette will buy there being none of you with your boyfriend?”
“Can’t we just take some now?”
“I swear, sometimes you’re the dumbest ridiculously smart person I know. Of course we can’t just take some now,” Grantaire says, rolling his eyes. “Because then you will have a series of photos of us in your apartment, where we are wearing the same clothes, as if we don’t own anything else or go anywhere else. See the problem?”
Enjolras frowns, thinks over the problem, considers what to do. They could always just not take any photos and hope Cosette doesn’t notice, but he knows there’s no chance in hell that will slip past her, not when she’s been so interested in his well-being for so long. So what’s the easiest way to get pictures of him and Grantaire being a couple?
“We’ll just have to go on dates,” he says, “Different clothes for each one, do a couple a day. We should get enough pictures then in different locations. Then we can print them off and put them in frames around here. We should get enough to convince her. What do you think?”
“What do I think to going on dates with you?” Grantaire replies, and tilts his head as he mulls it over. His gaze has been focused on the photo he’s holding throughout their conversation, but as he sets it down, he looks up finally and his lips curve in a smile. “Are you paying?”
“I’m already giving you a grand!”
Grantaire startles, as if he hadn’t been talking about that. “A guy’s gotta eat,” he drawls, but the usual mockery is missing from his tone, replaced with something Enjolras can’t name. He checks his watch and adds, “Well, we’ve got enough time tonight for two dates, if we’re smart about it. We can go for something to eat then do something afterwards, take pictures at both. What do you say, Apollo? Shall we paint the town... red?”
Enjolras looks around for another cushion to throw at him.
- - -
“Would it kill you to smile?”
“I am smiling.”
“How is this not smiling?”
“You’re showing your teeth but there’s no feeling.”
“What does that even mean?”
“Okay, think of something you like,” Grantaire orders, pointing a spoon laced with chocolate at him, “Anarchy, overthrowing the monarchy, your huge boner for Robespierre. No, I know. Remember Christmas last year, when Feuilly was working at the soup kitchen and they were running low on supplies, and Courfeyrac got everyone together and we rustled up supplies and went down.”
Enjolras smiles without even really thinking about it – right until Grantaire whips out his phone again and takes a photo. “Aha!” he declares, triumphant. He sticks the spoon in his mouth and turns the phone around to show Enjolras. “See. This is you ‘smiling’ and this is you smiling.”
He grudgingly accepts that there’s a difference, but it’s only a slight one. “Fine,” he says, and Grantaire beams around the spoon. “But wasn’t the idea to get photos of us together?”
“Mm,” Grantaire replies, fiddling with his phone. Enjolras narrows his eyes at him, then hisses in a sharp breath when Grantaire shows it to him again.
“Did you set me as your wallpaper?”
“Of course I did! Look how cute you look!”
“Will you be wanting the bill?” The voice comes from the girl who has been serving them, hovering politely next to their table. Enjolras schools his expression into something far less blood-thirsty as Grantaire happily puts his phone back in his pocket. They skipped starters and went straight to on to mains, then Enjolras had relented to let Grantaire have a dessert (“With two spoons!” he’d ordered the girl cheerfully), and between them they’d only had one bottle of wine. Grantaire was more than capable of getting through an entire bottle himself, but he seemed to be on his best behaviour, and Enjolras had been glad for it.
“Yes please,” he says, pulling his gaze from Grantaire’s. “I’m paying.”
“We’re on a date,” Grantaire tells her conspiratorially, “I am being wooed.”
Enjolras hits him in the arm as soon as they’re outside. “Was that necessary?”
“What?” asks Grantaire, fumbling in the pocket of his hoodie as he searches for his cigarettes and lighter. “Do you mean telling the girl we were on a date? I was just having a bit of fun, Apollo. Who cares if she thinks we’re on a date? That’s what we’re trying to convince Cosette of, remember?”
“Yes, but…” it had felt strange, to hear him say it out loud, and even stranger for Grantaire to be so comfortable with it all, when Enjolras was busy second-guessing his every move, wondering if it was convincing, if anyone would believe them, if people were currently thinking they were dating. Cosette was coming in a matter of days and when she got here she was going to expect them to be madly in love.
“You are hopeless,” Grantaire says, and when his cigarette is lit, he slides his arm through Enjolras’s, linking him. Enjolras glances sideways at him and, without thinking, reaches out to take the cigarette from between his lips. He puts it to his own and takes a quick drag, closing his eyes against the rush of nicotine. It’s nothing strong, but it’s enough to settle his nerves, and he takes another before handing it back. When he does, Grantaire is staring at him, his mouth slightly open, and he shakes himself before taking it back.
“So for our first date, we went out for dinner,” says Enjolras, getting back on track, “And I paid—”
“We split the bill.”
“But I did pay.”
“Only because you’re paying me for all of this,” Grantaire says, waving his hand as if to encompass the fake date, the night, their relationship, “If this were a real date, there’s no way in hell I would have let you pay. I am all for equality and against fucking ridiculous stereotypes about there being a ‘man’ in a relationship.”
Enjolras feels himself smile, and takes the cigarette back from his gesturing hands. “So we probably ended up arguing, because you thought I wanted to go somewhere expensive and I just wanted to do what you wanted to do. So neither of us liked the pretentious place we ended up at, and we ended up leaving after ordering the drinks - I downed mine and you took the bottle with us - and we ended up in some shitty little diner but it didn’t matter because all we really wanted was to spend time together. We shared a main and you made an awful joke about Lady and the Tramp then we kissed over dessert.”
Grantaire is looking at him, and in the darkness his eyes are the colour of the night-sky itself, so blue they’re almost black, as he says, softly, “Now you’re getting it.”
They walk in companionable silence for a while, passing the cigarette back and forth, until Grantaire comes to an abrupt halt. As their arms are still linked Enjolras stops too, jerked back abruptly, and he turns to level a glare at him, only it never materialises because he has never seen so much awe and wonder on Grantaire’s face before.
He follows his gaze and spots two girls, chatting enthusiastically about something as they disappear around the corner of a building. They weren’t anyone he knew, and in any other situation they would have likely been unremarkable, one of the hundreds of people they passed on the street every day without noticing, if not for the ice skates they’d had hanging over their shoulders, moonlight glinting off the blades.
“Yes!” declares Grantaire, shifting so he’s holding Enjolras’s arm instead of linked with it and using the grip to pull him down the street, “It’s perfect!”
His protests go unnoticed - or rather, ignored - as he is dragged down the street and to the town square, where the makeshift ice rink had appeared at the start of the Christmas season. The whole place is lit by fairylights strung between trees and the various restaurants with outdoor seating and heaters. The place is already filled with people skating, and Enjolras spots the two girls from earlier sat on a bench, still chatting animatedly as they pull on their skates.
There’s a hut at one side of the rink to rent skates from and its to here that Grantaire drags him, tossing the cigarette into an ashtray on one of the restaurant tables as they pass.
“Two pairs ple-err, Chetta?”
Enjolras, who had been attempting to wrestle his arm free from Grantaire’s death grip and thus, hadn’t been looking at the booth, looks up sharply to see Musichetta looking down at them, one perfectly-shaped eyebrow raised. “Hello.”
“Hello,” she replies, her gaze flickering to where Grantaire is still holding his wrist, then back up. “Two pairs?”
“Yes?” He sounds less sure now, but he doesn’t let go of Enjolras’s wrist. It would be stupid to, now that they’ve already been caught in the act. But Musichetta, to her credit, doesn’t comment, just takes note of their shoe size and looks for the appropriate skates whilst Enjolras privately panics.
“Here you go,” she says, turning back to them as she hands them over. Afterwards, she looks at them both deliberately, sizing them up, and grins. She’s the kind of girl who wears blood-red lipstick at all times, no matter the occasion, and Enjolras feels mildly terrified. “Looks like a perfect fit.”
“I thought so too,” Grantaire replies, with another one of those stupid winks, and it snaps the thread of tension freezing Enjolras in place, giving him enough breath to groan. “Aww, come on, honey. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Says you,” replies Enjolras, but there’s no real heat in it. He glances up into the booth at Musichetta, and considers his words carefully. Whilst he’s talked to her before, she’s not a part of their inner circle of friends; it just so happens that she’s dating two of them. “We haven’t been together long.”
“You’re kidding,” she drawls, and Enjolras feels himself flushing. It’s not often that someone makes him feel wrong-footed, but there’s just something about Musichetta, with her loud laugh and ability to flay someone alive with just words.
“Cosette doesn’t know,” says Grantaire, “Or well, she does, but not that it’s me. I’m his dirty little secret.”
“I see.” The look she sends Enjolras makes him want to run and hide. He’s never been so ashamed of himself before - and it takes him a moment to realise that he’s ashamed of a fake relationship.
“She’s going to,” he says, reaching out to take Grantaire’s hand, and it’s with a strange jolt as their fingers slot together that he acknowledges this is the first time they’ve held hands, “I want her to know. She’s coming in a few days, and Grantaire and I are going to tell her then.”
“He thinks it’s like announcing a marriage,” Grantaire drawls, squeezing his hand, “Like people don’t just change their facebook statuses. Anyway, how much do we owe you?”
“Do you think we convinced her?” Enjolras asks, when they’re out of hearing-distance on a bench at the edge of the rink, lacing up their skates.
“Who, Musichetta?” Grantaire glances back over to the booth, and grins as he tugs on his laces. “Who can say? Joly and Bossuet don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into with her, but I wouldn’t have them with anyone else.” He claps his hands together and gets to his feet, turning easily on the spot despite the fact he is balancing on fucking blades and holds his hand out to Enjolras.
Who just stares at it.
Then down at his feet, and the ridiculously thin blades on the bottom of his boots, then back up at Grantaire’s hand again.
Grantaire doesn’t wait, just grabs hold of his hand and jerks him up to his feet, which has the expected result, as Enjolras lets out a shocked cry and stumbles forwards into him. Grantaire wraps an arm around his waist, steadying, and it’s almost an exact mimicry of how they’d stood the previous night - God, had it only been yesterday? - when Grantaire had kissed him.
He looks up at him now, at the amused glint to his eyes, and there’s a strange feeling of disappointment when Grantaire pulls away and doesn’t kiss him. Instead he moves to stand next to him, his arm around his waist as he leads him towards the rink. Dread bubbles in Enjolras's stomach, making him feel sick, and there is no way this can go well.
Grantaire makes stepping onto the ice look easy, twirling around on the spot to face Enjolras. He drops his arm to take hold of his hands instead, coaxing him forward, and Enjolras goes reluctantly. Over his shoulder he sees a boy who can be no more than five go skating past, making it look literally like child’s play.
Determination sets his jaw, and he steps forwards onto the ice. Almost immediately his feet go from under him and he wrenches his hands away from Grantaire to grab onto the side inside, swearing.
It takes a moment for him to realise that Grantaire is laughing at him, doubled over at the waist, and when he turns to glare at him he’s whipped out his phone and is taking pictures.
“Don’t you dare,” he hisses, making a half-hearted grab for the phone then yelping and grabbing back onto the wall when his feet skid.
“Make me,” sings Grantaire, infuriatingly out of reach as he snaps another picture.
Of course his annoyance doesn’t stop Grantaire; he does everything he can to irritate him, he lives to do the opposite of what Enjolras says. The realisation doesn’t make him angry, just causes resolve to burn, low in his chest, until he’s pulling his hand away from the side then turning to face Grantaire. He’s always been stubborn (like a dog with a bone, Cosette is fond of saying), and this is no different. He refuses to just stand at the side, helpless.
So he takes a breath and then, inch by humiliating inch, he begins to edge forwards, towards Grantaire.
Being out on the ice with nothing to hold onto is terrifying, and his mind is flashing with images of blades and ice and broken bones, but his determination is burning stronger than that. Grantaire still has the phone out, but he’s no longer taking any pictures, just watching as Enjolras edges towards him.
“Push your feet,” he says after a few seconds, “Don’t take steps. You’re not walking, you’re skating. Glide.”
Enjolras glares at him, but the easy stance with which Grantaire is standing, occasionally twisting around in a perfect circle on the spot just because he can, shows that he knows what he’s talking about. So he takes a breath and then does as he’s told, pushing one foot forwards, and then the other, and incredibly, amazingly, he feels like he’s getting it.
He follows Grantaire across the ice, getting used to the strange movement and how to spread his weight, until finally he’s got it, is skating across the ice. He starts to smile, and then he’s laughing, and there’s something undeniably amazing about moving across ice in such a way. He looks up to see Grantaire, reaches his hands out for him and realises suddenly he doesn’t know how to stop.
“Shit,” he swears, and slams, bodily, into Grantaire.
They both crash back against the wall at the edge of the rink, Grantaire’s breath expelled in a painful woosh, and his arms are once again around his waist, holding him close. Enjolras tries to remember how to breath over the pounding in his ears and the racing of his heart and he doesn’t even hear the sound of the camera going off, just looks up to see the phone as Grantaire turns it around.
The photograph is taken at arm’s length, and part of Grantaire’s face is cut off. All that’s visible is the curve of his lips as he smiles, looking down at Enjolras, who has his face curled into his chest, eyes closed and cheeks flushed.
“What the fuck?” demands a voice, and the phone is grabbed suddenly from Grantaire’s hand.
“Language,” snaps Grantaire, and Enjolras looks up to see Gavroche, perched impertinently on the edge of the wall.
“You two together now or something?” he asks, thumbing through the photos, and Enjolras knows he should say something, but he’s winded from the crash and all that’s holding him up is Grantaire and right now he’s distracted by the sound of his heartbeat through his jacket.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” Grantaire returns, to which Gavroche just scoffs.
“So you’re out causing havoc?”
“Who said I was causing anything?” Gavroche asks, right as someone lets up a shout from behind them. He glances back over his shoulder and then grins, throwing the phone back to Grantaire, “Gotta dash. Have fun on your lame daet.” He jumps out onto the rink suddenly, shooting across it with the practised ease of a kid who has spent far too much time jumping buildings and scaling rooftops, darting between couples and kids until he hops the wall at the other end and disappears into the night.
“Well,” Enjolras says, to break the silence, and abruptly realises he’s still standing pressed against Grantaire’s chest, wrapped protectively in the circle of his arms. He leans back away to look him in the eyes and says, “Musichetta was bad enough, but Gavroche? Looks like this is no longer a secret.”
“Assuming Gavroche cares enough to tell anyone,” Grantaire replies, “Don’t forget he’s a kid. He could care less.”
“True,” Enjolras admits, “But still. Looks like there’s no backing out now, not without having to explain to them.”
“You thought I would back out?”
“No, just, if you wanted to.”
“I don’t want to.”
He doesn't know what to say next, can't think of anything. Grantaire’s body is warm where they’re pressed together, and it’s an effort to pull back away from him, but he manages it somehow. Standing apart, he’s suddenly aware of how cold the night is, and he berates himself for leaving Grantaire’s green hoodie back at the apartment instead of bringing it with him.
He moves his legs a little, reminding himself of the movement, and then holds his hand out to Grantaire, “Come on.”
They stay on the rink until it closes, and when they hand the skates back to Musichetta she’s smiling fondly at them - and Enjolras can’t work out whether he’s more or less terrified by that. They walk back to their apartment block in companionable silence, sharing another cigarette, and Enjolras makes a mental note to buy a packet tomorrow to make up for the ones he’s had tonight.
When they get back to the apartment, the ease of the night fades away, leaving him feeling awkward, though he doesn’t know why. They started out walking close enough that their shoulders brushed, but when he reaches his door they’ve moved far enough apart that Grantaire leans back against the banister to watch him.
He gets the key to turn in the lock and pushes the door open. He turns the light on then turns to face Grantaire, who’s still hovering by the stairs.
“Usually,” he says, “This is the point where, at the end of a date, you’d kiss the other person. You know, assuming you still want to.”
“Usually,” Enjolras echoes, crossing his arms as he leans against the doorframe.
“Or invite them in for coffee.”
Enjolras quirks an eyebrow at that.
“Worth a shot,” says Grantaire, and blows him a kiss across the hall. “Goodnight, Apollo.”
Enjolras stands in the doorway, watching him until he disappears at the top of the stairs into his own apartment.
“He’s being surprisingly... accommodating about the whole thing.” Enjolras frowns and pauses with the key in the lock to his door, wondering if accommodating is the right word. It feels odd, but there's no other way to explain Grantaire letting him into his life so readily, moving everything around to suit what Enjolras needs from him.
“What do you mean?” Courfeyrac's voice, on the other end of the phone, is curious. Enjolras cradles the phone between his shoulder and ear as he finally gets the door to his apartment open and steps inside, takes his coat off before replying, “Well, he isn’t arguing with me at every opportunity. You know, beyond the usual. And he’s actually coming up with some ideas of how we can make this more believable.”
“Are you really all that surprised?”
“I wouldn’t have said it otherwise. I just… I thought he would have treated it like a joke, like he does everything else.” He frowns as he gets his shoes off, stands in the middle of his apartment, not sure what to do. Since this whole thing began with Grantaire he's been nothing but confused, feeling just slightly off-centre. Everything he thought he knew about the cynic keeps changing. It's not necessarily that he was wrong about him, just... not looking at things the right way.
“Enjolras you must have noticed he is nothing if not serious, when it comes to you.”
“Serious about doing everything in his power to irritate me, sure.”
Courfeyrac sighs on the other end of the phone, and Enjolras frowns in response. “You really are oblivious, sometimes,” he says, which makes Enjolras's mind snap back to the conversation with Grantaire, the cheerful tone to his voice when he’d said almost the exact same thing.
“So I misjudged him,” he says, “I can make up for that; I am making up for it. I’m trying to - to assume less, to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
“And how’s that going?”
“He keeps asking me if I’m feeling okay.”
Courfeyrac laughs. Enjolras’s pacing takes him past the door to the study, and he catches sight of the blinking light of a chat window in the bottom of his computer screen. Detouring, he balances the phone between his ear and shoulder as he reaches out for the mouse to click the chat window open, saying, “I think we might actually be able to pull this off.”
Cosette’s screen name appears at the top of the window, along with a teeth-rottingly-sweet picture of her cuddled up to Marius. Underneath, in stark black text, is: yOURe dating GRANtairE?????
“I’ll call you back,” he tells Courfeyrac, and hangs up.
Fuck. This is not what he wanted. Cosette had to know eventually, he knows that, but he had hoped to tell her in his own way, at his own time, just in case this arrangement he had with Grantaire didn’t work out. Now it seems he doesn’t have a choice. Grantaire is his fake boyfriend for better - or, more likely, worse.
He sits down heavily in his chair, pulls the keyboard closer and takes a deep breath before typing out carefully Who told you that?
Her reply pings back almost immediately. So it’s true?
Who told you? He hits each key with far more force than necessary, trying to convey his annoyance. He hates instant messaging; it’s absent of all the verbal or emotional cues that tell you what a person really feels.
Instead of typing a reply, Cosette hits video call. With a muttered curse, he takes his hands away from the keyboard, pressing his knuckles against his eyes as he tries to think. Is it too late to back out? Will she take denial as confirmation? God, he’s not prepared for this. He takes a deep breath, pulls his hand away from his face and accepts the call. A webcam window pops up, filling most of his screen, but he only gets a brief glimpse of Cosette before he’s treated to a bright flare of white light that slowly reforms itself into an image on a phone. It takes a few moments for him to work out what it is, because it’s just so absurd.
The picture on Cosette’s phone is from the ice rink ‘date’, but it’s not one he or Grantaire took.
“Musichetta,” he practically growls. The photo was taken from the other side of the rink, and the distance and fairy lights strung between trees have given it a warm, fuzzy quality. Most of the figures on the ice are just blurs, but in the midst of them all stands Grantaire, his arms wrapped around Enjolras, who leans against him for support, his head tilted up. They’re both flushed from the cold and out of breath from what was no doubt Enjolras almost falling over on the ice - again - but without any context it looks like they’re breathless because of each other.
“You’re so cute!” Cosette says, pulling the phone away from the webcam so she can swipe to another then shoves it back in front of the screen. “I didn’t know you knew how to hold hands!”
“It’s not rocket science,” he snaps, annoyed, and winces.
Cosette pulls the phone away from the screen, and the glee fades from her expression; she looks dubious, worried. “Did you not want me to know?” she asks gently, and he clenches his hands around the edge of the desk, reminding himself that however misguided she may be, she only has his best interests at heart. Or rather, what she thinks are his best interests.
He closes his eyes for a second and relaxes his grip on the wood. He has to make this look convincing; he has to react how someone in a secret relationship would act. He forms what he hopes is an embarrassed expression, like a person who had wanted to keep a precious secret to themselves, and opens his eyes again.
“I didn’t want to jinx it,” he says, rueful, “And I wanted to be the one to tell you myself.”
His initial idea had been to paint the picture of a relationship that wasn’t going to last, one that had burnt bright and first but then started to fade out, so that he could break up with Grantaire as soon as possible and she wouldn’t bother him about it any longer. Only the picture Musichetta sent to Cosette makes them look the complete opposite; it makes them look like they’re perfectly happy.
“How do you even know Musichetta?” he asks, stalling for time. Maybe he can engineer some sort of huge argument with Grantaire when she visits; it’s not like they’re hard to come by.
“Oh, we’re old friends,” Cosette replies, waving her hand dismissively, “Eponine introduced us last time I came to visit.”
“Right. And now you make a habit of gossiping about the lov— romantic lives of others?”
“Are you kidding? Of course we do!” She’s actually grinning, looks genuinely delighted at the mention. “Men are universally stupid; it’s comedy gold watching you all stumble around in the dark trying to work out your feelings. I thought you two were never going to work it out, you’re almost as bad as Combeferre and Courfeyrac—”
He blinks, opens his mouth to interject because what, but she just carries on, “—with the amount of subtext in your conversations and the unresolved sexual tension. Honestly, if I didn’t have photographic evidence I probably wouldn’t believe you’d finally managed to sort your shit out. Part of me still doesn’t because really, after all this time?”
Enjolras just sits there, wordless. He hadn’t even realised Cosette had known Grantaire, never mind observed the interactions between them and came to the conclusion that there was something more, something deeper. She’s not usually wrong when it comes to judging people’s characters - sometimes when they’re talking it feels like she knows him better than he knows himself - but she’s so far off the mark with this one he can only sit there in stunned silence.
He can’t remember ever explicitly talking to Cosette about Grantaire, not beyond the occasional text sent at odd hours of the day, mostly from the Musain and always without any explanation, usually along the lines of why doesn’t he listen to me.
The sound of someone knocking on the front door snaps him out of his stupor. He shakes his head and calls over his shoulder for the person to let themselves in, eyes still on the screen where Cosette is looking at him curiously, with an expression that is far too shrewd for her twenty-one years.
She’s probably already starting to analyse the things he’s said, his reaction to the news that she knows he’s with Grantaire. Unwilling to give her the chance to figure out it’s all a lie, he says quickly, “How are things with Marius?” to distract her, and relaxes when she does that little sigh thing she always does before talking about him.
He really, really doesn’t want to hear about Marius, who’s too earnest for his own good and has the most ridiculous political views, but right now he’s happy to do anything to get the topic of conversation away from his fake relationship with Grantaire. At least until he has time to reconvene with him and work out what
She starts telling him some story about something they did the previous day when a familiar voice declares, “I brought food! Prepare to be wooed— oh, er, hello, Cosette.”
Enjolras looks up to see Grantaire frozen in the doorway, holding a plastic carrier bag in one hand and a collection of DVDs in the other. It’s raining outside, so his hair is stuffed under a maroon beanie, but there are droplets of water caught on a few escaping curls. His shirt, damp, clings to his skin under the leather jacket.
Cosette squeaks. Enjolras panics and hits the keyboard with his hand to cancel the call. It doesn’t work, leaving Cosette staring at Grantaire staring at him, all of it reflected back in the video being shown on the screen. Oh God. They must look a picture, because suddenly Cosette laughs, and can’t seem to stop herself, covering her mouth with both her hands.
The sound seems to finally unfreeze Grantaire, the corner of his lips curving up slightly into an almost-smile. He puts the DVDs down on one of the bookshelves and pulls off the beanie with his other hand, shaking out his curls. A drop of water trails down his forehead and catches on his eyelashes, blinked away when he turns to look at Enjolras. There’s a question in his eyes, and Enjolras knows it’s up to him to decide what happens next.
But somehow just seeing him makes him realise there isn’t a question at all.
“Hello,” he says, and spins around in the chair so he can get to his feet, crossing the room to where Grantaire stands. How do couples usually greet each other? His mind flicks through memories of others, catching on Courfeyrac and then discarding him as someone who is sometimes too enthusiastic, then Jehan, who is shy and timid and blushes, before he realises that he shouldn’t copy anyone.
He has to make this authentic; he has to act how he would, and so he puts all thoughts of the others to the back of his mind as he finally reaches Grantaire, who tilts his head slightly to one side, curious. He knows he should panic, it’s not like he’s well-versed when it comes to relationships, but instead instinct takes over.
The distance between them is small, but it seems much larger, feels like he’s jumping into a chasm without seeing the bottom when he leans forward just slightly and presses their lips together.
Grantaire’s eyes widen - a little, not enough for Cosette to notice, on the other side of the room - and his breath wavers for a beat, two, then Enjolras pulls away. It couldn’t have taken more than a few seconds but it feels like forever, waiting for Grantaire to respond, waiting for him to do something, and he’s not sure what he expects but the rush of relief nearly floors him when Grantaire grins and drawls, “Hello,” right back, and lifts a hand to brush his hair away from from his face.
“Didn’t realise you had company,” he adds in a murmur, his gaze flickering over Enjolras’s shoulder to the laptop. His fingertips linger on the side of his face for a second before falling away. “I can leave if you want.”
“No,” he replies instantly, a fraction too loud, so he lowers his voice to add, “It’d look suspicious, if you just went. I can end the call.”
“No, it’s fine, honestly—”
“You just went out in the rain to get food—”
“I can eat it myself, it’s fine—”
“No it’s not, I want you to stay—”
A loud cough from the laptop interrupts their conversation, and Enjolras turns to see Cosette looking pointedly at them from the screen, recovered from her fit of the giggles. He had almost forgotten she was there.
“Well, it appears you two are busy and don’t need me watching,” she says, “So I’m going to go. Enjolras, we can finish our conversation another time. I’ll see you - both! - the day after tomorrow anyway.”
“Yeah,” Enjolras replies, almost absently. “See you.”
“Bye Grantaire!” she adds, and Enjolras sees him wave back on screen before the call ends as Cosette signs out. He heads over to switch his computer off, and when he turns back around, Grantaire is still hovering by the doorway, looking unsure of himself, clutching his beanie like a life line.
“You can take your jacket off, you know,” Enjolras says, “It’s not raining in here.”
“I can still go,” Grantaire replies, fidgeting, “If you want to call her back.”
In response, Enjolras grabs hold of the stupid beanie, pulling it out of his grip and throwing it onto the computer desk. Grantaire blinks at him, and then a grin tugs at the corners of his lips. “Well that was rude.”
“Shut up and take off your damn jacket.”
“Yes sir,” he drawls, shrugging it off finally and slinging it onto the back of the computer chair. “So are you this demanding in all aspects of our relationship?” Enjolras just gives him a look, to which Grantaire grins. “Well if I’m staying, I’m going to go cook some food like I promised. I wasn’t kidding when I said prepare to be wooed.”
He grabs his bag of supplies again and disappears back through the doorway into the rest of the apartment. Intrigued despite himself, Enjolras follows him into the kitchen, where Grantaire makes himself quite at home almost instantly, opening and closing cupboards and drawers at random, throwing various utensils and pans across the counter. Enjolras leans against the breakfast bar with his arms crossed and just watches him.
They'd both been too busy to do anything on Sunday, then Enjolras was back at work on Monday, so they hadn’t been able to do anything throughout the day. Grantaire had met him after he'd finished, and they’d gone on several quick dates, getting changed into different outfits between each one to make it look like they’d happened on different dates. Tonight’s plan had been to meet up and work out what they did in their free time, how they spent their time together when they weren’t out, but he’d completely forgotten all about it between the conversation with Courfeyrac and Cosette’s ambush.
“So how was work, honey?” Grantaire asks, surveying the assembled food stuffs and utensils on the counter top.
Enjolras rolls his eyes at the epithet, but answers, “The same as usual.” He taps the fingers of one hand against his arm, awkward. How much detail would be realistic to tell the person you’re supposedly dating? Probably more than that, so he elaborates, “I’ve got a difficult case at the moment. I don’t know if we’ll be able to win it, the odds aren’t exactly stacked in our favour and there’s a lot of red tape.”
He pauses there, and when Grantaire doesn't immediately say anything in response, continues, “I mean, there is a way to win, it’s just going to take a lot of work. There’s a reason no one else wanted to take this case on. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t doubted our chances myself.”
“You’ll win,” Grantaire says, apparently deciding on what he's going to do and picking up some eggs, which he cracks into a pan, “You don’t know how to fail.”
“I’ve lost cases before.”
“Faults in the system.”
“I am fallible, you know.”
“Nope. Salt and pepper?”
“In the cupboard — and yes, I could very well lose this case.”
“Thanks — and no, you won’t.”
“You’re welcome — are you going to keep doing that?”
“What?” Grantaire frowns as he glances up, “Putting salt and pepper in the omelette?”
“Saying things like that, flippant comments about how I’m the best when I’m not, really, and I get that you’re just acting how you think a good boyfriend would, by having faith in me, but...” He searches for the words, makes a frustrated sound when they don’t appear, says, “You don’t have to lie when it’s just the two of us.” He hates the idea that Grantaire's putting on a performance about something like this, that he's pretending when it's just the two of them. He doesn't need to act like a boyfriend when they're alone together.
“Who says I’m lying? You always finish on top.”
“Is that an innuendo?” he asks, partly to watch Grantaire jump and nearly drop the frying pan, but mostly to divert the topic of conversation away from himself. He’s never sure what to say when Grantaire focuses his attention so fully on him, finds it easier to just ignore his words and pretend they hadn’t been said. This isn't the first time he's said something like this - probably won't be the last, either, but it always makes him uncomfortable. Praise often does, because he never does things to be recognised. He does them because he wants to help others, because he wants to make a difference. He shouldn't be praised for that.
Grantaire, however, recovers quickly. “Why, do you want it to be?” His grin, when he glances back over his shoulder, is suggestive. “Like being on top, do you?”
Enjolras feels suddenly wrong-footed, manages to say, “Guess you’ll have to find out.”
“Is that a promise?”
“Surely if you’re my boyfriend, you’d know all about what I… like.” With each word he feels slightly bolder, even if he still doesn't understand the mechanics of flirting - or whatever this is. Can you flirt with someone you're pretending to date? This whole thing with Grantaire is unchartered territory, he has no idea where the boundaries lie. It’s like constantly walking into the unknown. Blindfolded.
Somehow he’s crossed the distance between them, and Grantaire’s turned around, his back against the counter and eyes dark and unreadable as he says, “I’m sure we’ve spent several long, long hours finding out just what each other likes.”
“All through the night,” Enjolras agrees, bringing his hands up to rest on the edge of the counter, on either side of Grantaire's body. The movement brings them even closer together, gets rid of anything close to personal space. It makes Enjolras's heart beat faster in his chest, the feeling he usually gets before tackling a new case, or walking into a court. The rush of adrenaline that comes with the unknown, a challenge, a chance to prove himself.
“Exactly,” Grantaire breathes, and his gaze shifts across Enjolras’s face, catching on his mouth for a second before he meets his eyes properly. Grantaire lifts one of his hands and hesitates for a second, then rests it on Enjolras's hip, thumb slipping through a belt loop on his trousers. The gesture feels familiar already, a casual touch that speaks volumes.
The conversation and the movement make him think of Grantaire touching him at other times, of what it would feel like to have his hand on him without any clothes in between. Since they started this whole fake dating thing, he's realised just how much of a hands-on person Grantaire is, constantly moving his hands, touching, feeling. If he doesn't have a cigarette he's playing with the edge of a sleeve, or curling his hands around a beer glass. He opens his mouth to say something and then realises he’s lost the thread of conversation, can’t remember what they were talking about or who spoke last.
He’s not sure who moves first, but right as they’re about to kiss Grantaire’s elbow hits the pan handle and he swears, then pulls back away from him and swears again. The omelette has started burning and he only just gets the hob switched off in time to save it from being completely inedible. He looks so crestfallen and pissed off at the same time that Enjolras can’t help but laugh, a release of the tension.
“It’s just an omelette,” he points out, “You can make others.”
“It’s not just an omelette,” Grantaire mutters, glaring at him as he folds it in half, cuts it down the middle with the spatula and flips each portion onto a plate, “It’s the greatest omelette to have ever lived. Or rather, was.” He looks mournfully down at his plate.
“Looks like you’ll just have to make it for me again,” Enjolras replies, taking his plate and heading into the living room. Grantaire follows him after a beat, muttering under his breath, and Enjolras just smiles back at him.
They share the sofa, making room between the variety of mismatched cushions and piles of oddities Enjolras has accumulated and not had the heart to throw out (including two ticket stubs from a film they went to see, the night before) and finish the omelette in companionable silence. It really is good - not the best in the world, but close - and Enjolras decides that he really will make Grantaire cook for him again, even when this whole thing is over. It will probably be safer when they're not fake-dating anyway, because then Enjolras won't try his hand at flirting and Grantaire won't burn the food again.
When they're done eating they end up watching the TV together as they discuss their likes and dislikes, casual things they think the other should know. Enjolras cedes control of the remote to Grantaire, and gets treated to ten minutes of a variety of different shows before Grantaire gets bored and flicks to another. Ordinarily it would irritate him, but throughout it all Grantaire keeps up a steady stream of analysis, cutting people and plots apart and making up his own for adverts they catch seconds of. It’s amusing and witty, and Enjolras is content to just curl up in the corner of the sofa and listen as the hours pass.
There’s something to be said, he thinks, of coming home to someone else.
His defences are down, and the thought doesn’t scare him like it ordinarily would, instead it just piques his curiosity. He turns it over and looks at it carefully, this idea of someone else in his life being a good thing, and it takes him a while to notice that Grantaire’s running commentary has trailed off. Dragging himself out of his thoughts feels like wading through syrup, and when he glances over, it’s to see Grantaire curled up on the other side of the sofa, his head pillowed on a cushion and his eyes closed.
He’s fast asleep.
Enjolras can’t help but smile. Careful not to make too much noise, he gets to his feet and takes the dishes into the kitchen to wash. When he returns Grantaire is still there, looking uncharacteristically young and innocent, and he gets an idea. He finds his phone on the computer desk in the study, behind a photograph of Joly the day he got his first real set of surgeon scrubs, and swipes his finger over the screen to open it.
He returns to the living room and snaps a quick picture of Grantaire asleep, then slides the phone into his pocket and heads into the spare room to get a blanket. When he returns to tuck it around him, Grantaire snuffles and shifts, but his eyes stay closed as he murmurs something, still asleep.
Enjolras straightens and looks back through the photos on his phone from his dates with Grantaire, scrolling through the different dates and poses. The ones he likes best are the ones where they weren’t faking it, when they weren’t deliberately trying to look like a couple. The ones where Grantaire’s smile is genuine and his laughter is real. His thumb hovers over one from the ice skating rink, a profile shot of Grantaire looking out at the crowds, but then his eye catches on the last one taken, only a few minutes before.
He opens it up again, his thumb tracing the screen, the softness of Grantaire’s features when he’s fast asleep. He sets it as his wallpaper and turns the phone off, putting it on his bedside table as he gets ready for bed.
- - -
“Who the fuck else have you fucking told?”
Grantaire announces his arrival so loudly the whole cafe turns to look at him in the doorway. Enjolras winces, slouching down slightly in his seat to try and avoid all the stares that are starting to turn his way, feeling guilty even though he doesn't know what Grantaire's talking about. Nothing deters Grantaire, not even the whispered murmuring as he strides across the shop to drop down into a seat opposite Enjolras and glower at him. Enjolras gives up on trying to look inconspicuous and straightens in his seat, sighing. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, can you be more specific?”
“I just got a phone call from my sister, squealing down the line loud enough that dogs could probably hear it, and I think I’m partially deaf now in one ear and it’s all your fault, you wanker.” He passive-aggressively grabs the cup of coffee Enjolras ordered for him - black with a dash of milk, flavoured with cinnamon - and glares at him over the top of it as he takes a drink.
Enjolras sifts through his words carefully and comes up with, “Your sister rang?”
“Unfortunately.” Grantaire puts his mug down and reaches over to grab one of the sachets of sugar Enjolras got for him, rips it open with his teeth and pours it into his drink. “Exclaiming about how excited she was, then yelling about how angry she was with me for not telling her, before whining about how she had to find out from Joly of all people - I mean really, did you have to tell him? Joly? Can’t keep a secret to save his life, gossip queen of the Musain Joly?”
Enjolras watches him stir the sugar into the coffee and replies, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Us!” Grantaire declares, throwing his arms in the air for good measure, once again drawing the attention of everyone in the coffee shop. Enjolras scowls at them until they go back to their own business, then turns his attention back to Grantaire. Was this really worth giving up his lunch hour for? He'd thought Grantaire just wanted to meet for a chat, not to rant at him. “The fact we are dating," Grantaire continues, "And are together, or so she thinks.”
“Oh,” says Enjolras, as his words finally start to make sense, and he can’t help it, he laughs. He has no sympathy whatsoever, not after Cosette found out about them and he was subjected to his own interrogation. He's not the only one that suffers from over-involved siblings, then. The realisation shouldn't comfort him this much, but it does.
Grantaire is apparently not dealing well, judging from the sullen glare he continues to throw his way. “She wants to know details. She grilled me for hours. This isn’t fucking funny.”
“Yes it is.”
“I didn’t even know you wanted this to be common knowledge!” Grantaire declares, “I thought it was just to convince Cosette and then we were going to stop and that’s all. I didn’t think you were going to go around telling everyone!”
“Wait, what?” Enjolras asks, frowning. “I didn’t tell anyone. Well, I mean, Combeferre and Courfeyrac know because they tried to talk me out of asking you and Musichetta worked it out because she told Cosette — Musichetta,” he growls, because of course. She must have told Joly and Bossuet what she’d seen, not just Cosette, which means just about everyone now thinks he’s dating Grantaire for real.
Grantaire, who says quietly, “Combeferre and Courfeyrac tried to talk you out of it?”
“Yeah, I guess they didn’t think you’d say yes? I was going to ask Jehan.”
“Oh, right. Okay.”
Grantaire gnaws at his bottom lip with his teeth, catch and release, catch and release. Enjolras suddenly feels like he made a misstep somewhere, but can’t figure out what he’s said wrong. He searches his memory of the conversation they just had, but draws a blank. Trying to shake off the feeling, he says, “Are you mad that Joly thinks we’re together?”
“I don’t know, I guess so? I mean, this isn’t what I imagined…” Grantaire trails off, then shrugs and flashes a forced smile, “Guess we’ve just got to go through with it, haven’t we? If Joly knows that means Bossuet knows, and possibly Bahorel, if they’ve all been out drinking recently. Eponine must know, if Musichetta and Cosette do.”
“So do we tell them the truth?”
He has no idea how he feels about this, apart from that it makes his breath feel tight. Suddenly it all seems so much more real. Before, when it had just been Cosette who thought they were dating, it was contained, but now their extended friendship is starting to find out it means more acting, more pretending. More people who could figure out that it's all a lie and they aren't really together at all.
“Are you kidding? Joly couldn’t keep the fact we're dating a secret, there’s no way he could keep the secret that it’s all a lie from Cosette,” Grantaire says. “She’s coming tomorrow, there isn’t time to tell everyone the truth and get them on board.”
Enjolras nods, and curls his hands around his own mug, thoughtful. “We need to break up.”
“What?” Grantaire’s voice is hoarse.
Enjolras looks up sharply, “No, not now. I mean, when she’s here. So she’ll stop bugging me in future, when she's gone back home. I can say I’m heart-broken then and she won’t try and set me up with anyone else, and then everyone else won't ask us about it either.”
“Oh,” says Grantaire, “Right.” There’s a brief pause and then, “Joly will be crushed.”
He nods in agreement, his thoughts already moving on to what kind of break-up they could have, what they might be able to pull off. It has to be realistic, or no one's going to believe them. He doubts Cosette would be happy if he just told her they had ended things; she'll want to know all the details. “It’s got to be believable,” he says, “Something that we would both actually do. I mean, we’ve argued before, haven’t we? We don’t always see eye-to-eye, surely there’s got to be something we disagree on enough to break up.”
Grantaire hums, tapping his fingers against the side of his mug. “You cheated on me.”
“What the — no. I would never, I can’t believe you’d even suggest that I would—”
“Woah, calm down there Apollo. We’re not actually together, remember? And here I thought I would get to play the jilted lover. Oh, man, I could have thrown stuff at you and smashed things and yelled Taylor Swift lyrics. It would have been amazing.” Grantaire looks far too happy at the prospect, his features animated as he speaks. Enjolras loves it when he's like this, when he's passionate about something - even if it is their impending fake break up - and wishes he was like it more often. Wishes he could make him like this more often.
Despite himself, Enjolras’s lips curve into what is almost a smile. “No, I'm not cheating on you.”
“Fine, you don’t cheat on me then. We are happily together and then you start doing really well at work and I feel like I’m holding you back so I break up with you, allowing you to focus on your career.”
Enjolras blinks, lost. That idea doesn't make any sense at all. “Why would you hold me back?”
“Because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life? I work three jobs and I’m mediocre at all of them, and the last time I sold a piece of art was close to four months ago?”
“So?” Enjolras asks, still lost. “What does that matter? I don’t care about your career.”
Grantaire gives him a strange look as he curls his hands further around his mug. The easy happiness has gone from his expression, faded into something bitter as he looks down at his coffee, saying, “But you can’t exactly take me to posh functions and introduce me to clients and partners at the firm, can you? Here’s my boyfriend, he has no ambitions and spends most of his money on alcohol, he doesn’t have a suit to wear, please excuse the day-old t-shirt and ratty jeans. He uses sarcasm as a defence mechanism and—” He cuts himself off sharply when Enjolras reaches across the table and places a hand over his.
“Grantaire, I don’t care,” he says gently, “I might spend most of my life working, but that’s because I enjoy my job and really think that I’m making a difference. I don’t judge you for not having a dedicated profession, that’s ridiculous. Your life is your own, Grantaire, I like you no matter what you choose to do.”
“Oh,” says Grantaire, and his hand under Enjolras’s relaxes slightly, uncurling from the tension. His fingers flex slightly, fitting between his. They’re almost holding hands. His blue eyes glance down at where they touch for a second before looking up. “You’re making it awfully hard to come up with reasons to break up with you, Apollo.”
Something flutters in Enjolras’s chest at that; he ignores it. “That’s because you’re focusing on me suddenly deciding I prefer something else to you, which is ridiculous.”
“Yes. You’re an amazing person, Grantaire, even if you refuse to see it. You’re valuable and a good friend and anyone would be lucky to have you.”
Grantaire smiles, and it’s like the sun coming up, and Enjolras wishes he had his phone out to take a picture. It’s not often enough that Grantaire smiles like that, free and easy, genuinely happy at the world. It makes something warm settle in his chest, glad to have finally gotten through to him.
“Fine,” says Grantaire, still smiling, “How about we break up because you’re delusional?”
Enjolras pulls his hand away to ball up a paper napkin and throw it at him. “Stop arguing with me. Actually, wait — You know, we’re far more likely to break up because of a disagreement, a one-too-many arguments sort of thing, that’s not unusual for us. Somewhere down the line we discovered that whilst the fights and the make-up sex are spectacular, eventually they just get tiring and they hurt.”
“Does that mean we get to have a spectacular argument and I can throw things at you?” The eagerness is back, Grantaire's face is animated.
Enjolras fights back a smile, and frowns instead. “What is your obsession with throwing things at me?”
“Nothing, I’ve just always wanted to do it,” Grantaire replies - which is, well, Enjolras isn't sure how to take that. Is that a good or a bad thing? “Oh! Can I smash plates?”
“No, it’ll be amazing, I promise.” He gestures with his hands again, eyes bright and earnest. “Cosette will have never seen someone so angry. She’ll totally believe that we’ve just had the fight to end all fights. Then you can make a show of trying to get in touch with me and I'll refuse to answer your calls, I can go out and get absolutely wasted one night with Joly and Bossuet - the things I do for you, right? - and then eventually when we do talk, we realise that it’s just not working. We part on civil terms, you get to be heart-broken, Cosette leaves you alone, I got to smash plates, everybody wins!”
Enjolras finishes the last of his coffee and thinks it over. When you get past how dramatic it is and how they'll have to tone it down or no one will believe them, it actually doesn't sound like too bad an idea. He has to admit that it makes sense: there are plenty of things they can find to argue about, so there’s no doubt they can make that convincing. They just have to make sure to stage the argument in front of Cosette so her natural curiosity is satisfied, then Enjolras can be consoled whilst Grantaire gets on with his life.
“Deal,” he says, “Now finish your coffee, we’ve got some more dates to go on.”
Sorry for how long this has taken to update! I had some pretty bad writers block, and spent most of my time writing fic on Tumblr instead.
Come find me on and say hi!
Cosette’s bright smile greets him when he opens the door early on Saturday, half-awake and wearing nothing but sweat pants and Grantaire’s hoodie.
“Good morning!” she declares and whirls past him into the flat. She drops her suitcase down heavily and begins taking off her coat, completely at home within seconds of walking through the door. He shuts the door again behind him, turns to face her as she throws her coat onto the back of the sofa and sits down on her suitcase as she begins taking off her boots.
“Hel...lo?” he replies, blinking. “I mean - what are you doing here?”
“Wow, cold.” She looks up at him with a grin as she finally gets one boot unzipped, peels down the leather and, flings it next to the door so she can start work on the other.
“That’s not what I - you know that’s not what I meant. You weren’t supposed to be here for,” he checks his watch, “Another four hours?”
“I got an earlier train, surprise!”
She gets the second boot off it goes the way of the first, clattering to the floor with a thud that makes him wince. Cosette has never really been what you would call dainty or delicate, despite her fine features and short stature. Without the heels in her boots she’s tiny, the top of her head just coming up to his chin, and she looks far too young to be away in another part of the country, living her own life.
He gives in and steps forward to gather her up in a hug, pulling her close and burying his face in her hair. She smells of the coconut shampoo she’s used since she was a teenager, blonde hairs clogging up the drain in the shower and stubbornly refusing to spend anything less than three hours getting ready. He used to hate having to share a bathroom, would race to beat her there every morning and always, always lose.
Cosette wraps her arms around his waist and squeezes him back for a long moment, then shoves at him gently until he lets her go. “Now that’s a much better welcome. Sorry I didn’t send a text, the signal was awful at the station and then I thought it would be fun to surprise you.” She leaves the words hanging, a little hesitant.
“It’s fine,” he lies, moving her towards the living area and discretely getting his phone out to send an emergency text to Grantaire: Cosette’s here, commence cover up. “Make yourself at home,” he says, pretty needlessly, half his attention focused on his phone as he waits for Grantaire's reply, hit by a sudden worry that he might call the whole thing off at the last minute, decide that it really isn't worth it after all.
“Will do!” she replies cheerfully, wandering further into the flat. Her scarf goes on the sofa, her gloves on the coffee table, and he resigns himself to finding her belongings in the oddest of places for the next few months. A few seconds later his phone buzzes with Grantaire’s reply: commence cover up?
He doesn’t even need to see his face to know Grantaire thinks he’s being ridiculous, that if he had spoken the words instead of texting them, they would have been drenched in sarcasm. That he would have given him one of those looks, with the slightly arched eyebrow and the mocking grin.
You know what I mean, he types back.
Do I start sending you dirty texts now or wait till she’s been there a little while?
He feels his cheeks warm. Not necessary.
Fun, though. Sexy pictures?
No, he sends back, pressing each letter hard with his thumbs before turning the screen off and putting his phone back in his pocket. When he looks up Cosette is staring at him, her chin propped on her arms, folded along the back of the sofa. He feels himself flush even harder and mutters, “What?” Why does his face always have to betray him?
“Who are you texting?” she asks, grinning.
She arches an eyebrow at him, and he has the curious sense of vertigo. It’s like seeing his own expressions reflected back at him, just in a slightly more feminine face with a pixie cut; as kids they had loved to creep people out by doing the exact same facial expressions on cue. Her current look is one he likes to use often, to put an end to bullshit. His standard expression when he meets clients for the first time.
“Fine,” he says. “Grantaire.”
Cosette practically beams, the brightest smile he's ever seen, white teeth and dimples all. “You’re so cute.” She unfolds her arms and drops to sit properly on the sofa cushions, her legs curled under her body.
He follows her after a beat, has barely sat down before she throws her legs over his and makes herself comfortable. He reaches past her for the remote and turns the TV on - only to have it immediately stolen and turned onto a different channel. “So I took the liberty of booking us a place to have lunch,” she says as she looks for something to watch, “Because I know what you’re like. Dad made me promise that I would make sure you got three square meals a day whilst I’m here, so you better get used to it. Oh and, Musichetta and Eponine are coming over tonight.”
“Yeah, so you’re going to need to make yourself scarce.” She finds a channel she seems to like, throws the remote onto the cushions and sinks down, getting comfortable.
“This is my apartment,” he feels inclined to point out.
She just flashes him a smile. “And we’re family. What’s yours is mine, remember?”
Which is how he ends up relegated to his bedroom on a Saturday evening as three loud, gossiping women take over his home. Technically, he could still go into the rest of the apartment if he wanted, but when he had tried it earlier to get a drink, he’d been greeted by dead silence and three pairs of eyes watching his every move. He’d half-filled his glass in the kitchen sink and then fled back to his room.
Boredom comes quickly. Especially when he's spent the last week going out or doing something with Grantaire almost every night. How had he spent so much time alone here before they started fake-dating? The four walls feel claustrophobic. He reads through the notes on his latest case, sends off a few emails, tries to read some of the books from the stack next to his bed. Nothing keeps him occupied enough to distract him from the occasional bursts of laughter in the living room and muted conversation.
Eventually he reaches out to his phone on the bedside table. When the screen comes on he's greeted by Grantaire’s sleeping face, which makes him smile, despite himself. His thumb hovers over Combeferre's name in his contact list for a few seconds before he scrolls down to R, clicking on the first name that appears.
Grantaire picks up on the third ring, says, “Darling, isn’t it a little early for a booty call?”
Enjolras’s eyes glance at the clock, which reads 9pm. God, is that it? “Not a booty call.”
“Why must you always dash my hopes?” He hears movement on the other end of the line, imagines Grantaire curling up on the sofa, knees drawn up to his chest like he always does, probably wearing another hoodie like the one thrown across the end of Enjolras’s bed.
“Can you come over?” He asks abruptly. Blunt, perhaps, but it gets them straight to the point.
Grantaire takes in a breath. “Now?”
“Yeah. Cosette’s got Eponine and Musichetta over, I’m in my room.”
“So it is a booty call.”
“Is that a yes?”
“Sure, give me a few minutes to get myself all prettied up.”
Enjolras looks around his room when the call ends, considers trying to tidying up before realising that he's being stupid. It's just Grantaire coming over. He turns up three minutes later, rapping out a tune on the door with his knuckles. Enjolras is the first one there, but only because he was expecting him. Cosette flies out of the living room close after, wraps her arms around his waist and stands on tiptoes to try and peek over his shoulder at Grantaire. Enjolras can practically feel the excitement radiating from her as he opens the door.
Grantaire’s attempt at getting pretty seems to have been to put on a new pair of jeans and a band shirt Enjolras hasn’t seen before, soft and worn, hugging his body in all the right places. His hair looks like he dragged his fingers through it in an attempt to tidy it up, haphazard and curled, and Enjolras has the curious sensation of wanting to sink his fingers into it himself.
“Hey,” Grantaire greets, then, his eyes sliding to the face hovering over Enjolras's shoulder, “Hello, Cosette.”
“Grantaire!” she declares, like they're old friends passing on the street, “How unexpected. How are you?”
“Not bad, yourself?”
“Can’t complain.” She unwraps her arms from around Enjolras’s waist, shimmies around him to look Grantaire up and down properly. She stands with her chin tilted up slightly, her lips pursed. Grantaire looks down at her with an amused expression, not bothered at all by the scrutiny. It occurs to Enjolras that he rarely, if ever, sees him stood completely straight. “Have you come to join our girls’ night? We have chocolate.”
“Oh, well, if you have chocolate…”
“We’re busy,” Enjolras cuts in, curling his hand around Grantaire’s wrist to tug him towards his room. He goes easily, curving his body so he can wave to Cosette over his shoulder as he’s dragged back into Enjolras’s bedroom.
Enjolras lets go of his wrist as soon as they’re inside, gestures helplessly at the room and feels suddenly self-conscious. “It’s kind of messy.”
“Yeah, wow, you could have cleaned,” Grantaire says, but when Enjolras shoots a glare at him, he finds him grinning. Grantaire walks further into the room, trailing his hand over the wall, along the edge of a shelf, across the spines of some books stacked there. He pauses when he sees one of the photos Enjolras had gotten printed off at a shop near his work, his lips curving into a smile as he picks it up. It's from one of their fake dates, but one of the non-posed pictures, genuine smiles.
“You can have the bed,” Enjolras says, nodding over at it as he moves a pile of clothes from a chair in the corner. “I’m sorry my room’s not that interesting.”
“Word of advice?” asks Grantaire, putting the photo down again as he turns to look at him, “Don’t invite someone to bed and then say it’s not interesting.” He moves to sit down on the edge of the bed and leans back on his elbows, still looking around the room. His eyes can’t seem to fix on any one thing, like he isn’t sure what to take in first. It makes Enjolras feel incredibly self-conscious, like maybe he should have tided after all.
“You really do like keeping mementos, don’t you?” Grantaire asks finally, meeting his eyes.
“I’m a secret hoarder,” Enjolras drawls, pulling one of the case files off the shelf. He sits down on the chair and pulls it open, flicks to the most recent notes.
“I wouldn’t say it’s secret.” There's the rustle of movement as Grantaire sits up again, “Hey, are those festival wristbands?”
Enjolras doesn’t have to look up to know what he's talking about. A bizarre wooden statue Courfeyrac had bought once on holiday (“It's a God of Fertility!”) sits on one of the shelves, most of its body covered up by mismatched fraying pieces of material that once served as wristbands. The dates and names are faded into obscurity on some. “Yeah.”
“Well, aren’t you full of surprises.”
That makes him look up from the case file, frowning. “It’s surprising I like music?”
Grantaire shrugs, expression unreadable, “It’s surprising you would go camp out in a tent and get dirty to listen to a bunch of bands, yeah.”
“Maybe I like getting dirty,” Enjolras replies, and has the rare pleasure of seeing Grantaire speechless, his cheeks flushed.
“You’re getting too good at this flirting business,” he says finally, “Please stop.”
Enjolras laughs, genuinely amused. He wouldn’t say he can flirt by any stretch of the imagination, Courfeyrac had once proclaimed him a lost cause, but something with Grantaire just seems to click. With each day that goes by he finds it easier and easier to say things like this, to try and provoke a reaction from Grantaire. The nervous feeling is still in his chest whenever he does, but the words are starting to come naturally. Most likely because Grantaire says such outrageous things on a casual basis that he can’t help but reciprocate, sometimes.
“Anyway, I can see you’re busy,” Grantaire says, with a pointed look at the folder he's still holding. “Don’t mind me. I know how to keep myself amused. You get on with whatever you need to be doing. You won’t even know I’m here.” He kicks his boots off and shifts back on the bed, rolling over onto his side so he can grab the top paperback from the pile on the bedside table.
That wasn’t why Enjolras invited him over, but he can’t think a way to voice what he’s thinking. Especially when he’s not actually sure why he did invite him over, only that being relegated to his room doesn’t seem so bad, when he has Grantaire for company. It's as good an excuse as any to catch up on work, so he settles back in his chair and begins reading as Grantaire props himself up on one elbow and starts reading.
He intends to take notes for a meeting he has tomorrow, only his mind doesn’t seem to want to focus, and his gaze keeps drifting to where Grantaire is spread out across his bed. He seems completely at home, lies on the side of the bed Enjolras never sleeps on like it’s the most natural thing in the world. His shirt rucks up slightly when he twists to get a new book - his attention never seems to focus for longer than a few pages - showing a brief glimpse of the tattoos. He’s not deliberately distracting in the slightest, keeps entirely to himself, but even so Enjolras can’t stop being aware of him.
It gets later and later, but the girls don’t make any sounds like they’re about to go home. Grantaire gets up at one point to have a cigarette, leaning out of the window into the night, and Enjolras watches the smoke twist up into the night sky. His neck starts to ache from sitting for so long in a chair, his muscles cramping from the uncomfortable position.
When he shifts his weight for the third time in as many minutes, propping one leg up on the end of the bed to see if it makes it better, Grantaire says, “You can share the bed if you want.”
He blinks and freezes in place, as if caught. “What?”
“There’s plenty of room,” Grantaire expands, without looking up from the book he’s currently reading. He smells like smoke from his cigarette, and it should bother Enjolras more that he doesn't mind. The window, still open, lets a cool breeze in. He gets up to close it as Grantaire says, “I don’t bite.”
“Unless I want you to?” The window makes a soft click as it closes, and Grantaire's grin is lascivious when he turns around. He marks his page in the book with his finger and curves his body away slightly, to make more room. Enjolras knows he should think better of it - there was a reason he sat on the chair and not the bed, he’s sure of it - but it’s far too tempting, and his protesting muscles yearn for the comfort of his mattress.
He gives in, moving across the room to crawl up onto the bed next to Grantaire.
It takes some shifting, but he gets so he’s lay on his back, propped up by the cushions as Grantaire curls next to him, resting his book against his thigh so it’s at a better angle. Enjolras doesn’t know where to put his arms, feels strange with them just at his sides, and so he moves one to rest near Grantaire’s shoulder.
“You have the weirdest taste in books,” Grantaire says conversationally, and when Enjolras makes an enquiring noise, explains, “This stack alone has horror, romance, fantasy… Did you pick them all out yourself?”
Enjolras shakes his head. “They’re mostly Courfeyrac’s. He drops them off every time he gets chance, tells me I’m missing out.” He pulls a face at that. “He’s convinced that I’ll find one I like eventually, but I don’t know.” He likes reading, enjoys sitting down with a good book when he gets time, but the problem is that he just doesn't seem to have that time at the moment. There's always more he could be doing at work, more things he could be preparing, more emails he could be replying to. He doesn't have time to lose himself in a good book.
“Not enough time to read them all and figure out what you want?” Grantaire asks, breaking through his thoughts.
“Something like that.” His hand shifts closer to Grantaire, almost touching, restless. “I start flicking through them, but I get distracted by other things and, well, you know.”
Grantaire tilts his head back to look up at him. The movement spreads his hair out against the bedsheet, a few strands brushing against Enjolras’s knuckles. It doesn't feel as knotted and tangled as it looks. “But how do you know if you like something if you never give it chance?” he asks. His words are cautious, curious, his eyes asking more. Enjolras doesn't think he understands.
“What if you put in all the effort of reading it and letting it take up your free time, then find out it wasn’t worth it?” he counters, “What if it doesn't turn out how you wanted? If it's a waste of your time when you could be doing more important things.” He's had this argument so many times before with so many people over so many things. Grantaire himself, frustrated when he'd tried to derail them onto less serious things at meetings, wanting to organise nights out instead of protests.
“Not everything turns out the way we want it to, Apollo,” Grantaire says quietly, “But that doesn't mean that sometimes it isn't worth having a go, knowing that it might have a crap ending. You won’t know till you try.”
He gives in, curls Grantaire’s hair around his fingers, and tugs lightly on the strands as he replies, “That’s the second time you’ve been optimistic now.”
Grantaire’s breath had stuttered, wavers still when Enjolras continues to play with his hair. But he doesn’t pull away. Instead, he lets the book fall shut as he says, “Maybe you’re making me into one.”
“What? Oh - yeah. Books.”
Enjolras smiles, and continues to play with his hair. If he doesn’t think about it, if he just lets his hand do what it wants, it’s actually sort of soothing. Grantaire seems to think so too, from the way he tilts his head slightly to give him better access, lets his eyes fall half closed as he gives up on reading altogether. He's like a cat, content to just curl up sometimes and sleep. Enjolras lets his gaze drift to the world outside the window, thoughts shifting. It's just over a week until Christmas day now, and less than that until Cosette leaves. He hasn't thought much about what will happen after she returns, but it occurs to him now that things can't exactly go back to how they were.
He and Grantaire - they're different now, closer. Not as close as he is to Combeferre and Courfeyrac of course, but still. He wonders if maybe he should get him a Christmas present, a thank you for everything he's done - then remembers that he's paying him for all of this. His fingers halt their movements as he asks, “What are you going to do with the money?”
“What?” Grantaire muffles a yawn against his fist, eyes closed. “Money?”
“For pretending to date me.”
“Oh,” he says, and his body makes a movement like an aborted shrug, lazy, “Art supplies, I guess. Damn things are ridiculously expensive - the good ones anyway. Don't stop.” It takes Enjolras a moment to realise what he means, and then he starts twisting his hair around his fingers again, wondering. Is there an etiquette for this sort of thing? He'll have to ask Courfeyrac; this was his idea in the first place. He will know what happens, when you stop pretending to like someone.
He doesn’t know when they fall asleep, how it happens. Just wakes later in the night to a warm body pressed against his own and Grantaire’s arm around his waist. Sometime in the night Grantaire shifted closer until he could use Enjolras’s chest as a pillow. He wants to feel awkward, knows he probably should, but he’s the most relaxed he’s been in a long time, and he doesn’t want to disturb it. So instead he just curves his own arm tighter around Grantaire and closes his eyes, letting sleep reclaim him.
He wakes properly an hour later to a startled gasp and Cosette stood in the doorway to his room, her hands pressed to her mouth. He blinks his eyes open sleepily, looks down to find Grantaire still pressed against his side, then back up at Cosette.
“Sorry,” she mouths, looking anything but.
“It’s fine,” he replies, shifting his weight slightly. Now he’s awake, he’s suddenly aware of how numb certain parts of his body are, and how he wants to move to stretch his muscles. But moving means dislodging Grantaire, which doesn’t seem to be an option, so he settles for staying where he is.
Cosette’s eyes are fond where she looks at Grantaire, her voice quiet when she speaks, so as not to wake him, “Shopping later?”
He nods. He hates shopping, but there are certain things you just have to do when your sister comes to visit. Her answering smile is reward enough, makes his own lips tug up at the corners. She always could make him relax, remind him that life doesn't have to always be so serious and sharp.
“I’m about to make breakfast,” she says, “Do you want anything?”
“Toast and coffee,” Grantaire mumbles, startling them both. His voice is a deep rumble that vibrates through Enjolras’s chest, where his head rests. “Lots of coffee.”
“As you wish,” Cosette replies, gracefully ducking back out of the room.
When she's gone Grantaire twists his body to the side, rolling onto his back. Cold air rushes to fill the gap where he just was, making Enjolras shiver. Grantaire lifts his arms above his head and yawns, then drops them again to push himself up on his elbows to look down at him. His smile is still sleepy, soft around the edges, and his voice is rough when he says, “Morning, Apollo.”
“Good morning,” Enjolras replies. Is it still morning? A glance at the clock tells him only for another hour. It's the latest he's ever slept in. He presses his hands to his eyes as he mirrors Grantaire’s yawn, and when he drops them again Grantaire has rolled away to the edge of the bed, is sitting up and pulling his jacket back on.
“Sorry for falling asleep there,” he says, stomping his feet into his boots. “I don’t know what happened.”
Enjolras watches his movements, not used to seeing someone else get dressed. “It’s okay, I didn’t - don't - mind. The bed’s big enough for the both of us.”
“Which doesn’t explain why I felt it necessary to drape myself all over you,” Grantaire points out. He stretches his arms up in the air, yawning again, cracking the muscles in his neck and then pulls a face. “Also, ugh, sleeping in clothes, gross. Will Cosette mind if I run up to my place and take a shower?”
“Why don’t you just use mine?” Enjolras asks, as he hauls himself out of bed too, mirroring Grantaire's movements as he stretches. His body still aches, but there's no tiredness at all. He sees Grantaire's eyes catch on the bottom of his shirt when it rides up, before looking away when Enjolras arches an eyebrow at him. Dropping his arms back down, Enjolras heads for the door and says, “Same building, same water pressure. I’m using it first though.”
“What a missed opportunity,” Grantaire calls after him. “Ever heard of sharing?”
Enjolras laughs. “Nice try,” he calls back, and heads alone into the bathroom. It's only when he's towelling himself dry, causing his hair fluff up around his face, that he wonders how long Grantaire was awake for, before he spoke.
- - -
Grantaire comes shopping with them, rolls his eyes and then holds Enjolras’s hand like it’s the easiest thing in the world, after Enjolras spends twenty minutes wondering what’s allowed and what isn’t.
Holding someone else’s hand is odd. How hard does he squeeze? Is his grip too loose? What if he has sweaty palms? He spends so much time worrying about it that he doesn’t pay any attention at all to most of the shopping trip, can’t remember how they got from one place to another until suddenly they’re in their fourth dress shop and Cosette is showing him two identical yellow dresses and asking for his opinion.
“What?” he asks, blinking, and feels Grantaire’s laugh run through his body from where their hands are joined.
“She’s asking if you prefer Maize or Jasmine,” he supplies.
“There’s a difference?” he asks before he can stop himself. Grantaire laughs again and Cosette shoves him with her shoulder, glaring. He stumbles back, but keeps hold of Grantaire’s hand, uses him to stay steady.
“Of course there’s a difference, are you blind?” she asks, looking down at the two identical dresses. She holds them back up again for show to him, holding one slightly higher as she explains, “This one is more muted, I think it suits spring, whereas jasmine is more of an autumn colour.”
“Uh,” he replies, lost.
“What Enjolras means to say,” Grantaire steps in, squeezing his hand, “Is that Eponine would hate you forever for choosing yellow.”
Cosette nods thoughtfully as Enjolras wonders what the hell her dress has to do with Eponine; is this some sort of girl thing? You can't go out in a dress without getting your friend's approval? Abruptly she turns and puts both dresses back on the rack, starts looking for others in the purple section of the shop. At least, he thinks it’s purple, but for all he knows it’s some other colour entirely.
“So I knew you were art-blind,” Grantaire says at his side, “I didn’t realise you were also colourblind.” When Enjolras turns to glare at him, he finds Grantaire with that infuriating grin he sometimes wears, the one that's equal parts mocking and amused. In the past it used to rile him up to no end, but now it just makes him scowl, wanting Grantaire to shut up but not wanting to yell at him to make him do so.
“I’m not colourblind,” he mutters instead, and turns to look for Cosette amongst the dresses.
“You really are, though,” Grantaire says. They watch in silence for a few seconds as she picks and then discards dresses, then he lifts his free hand to scratch the side of his jaw and adds, “I’m dying for a cigarette, do you mind if I head outside?”
Enjolras looks down at their joined hands, is on the verge of saying no when he realises has no reason to stop him. “Sure,” he says, letting go of his hand, flexes his fingers in the absence. “I’ll try not to offend Cosette in the mean time. Any advice?”
Grantaire is already in the process of pulling out a packet of cigarettes, pulls one out between thumb and forefinger as he looks up and says, “Don’t tell her that her bum looks big in anything.” Enjolras rolls his eyes and watches him go, then turns to find Cosette hidden behind another rack of dresses, long ones this time, still purple.
“What is your opinion on plum?” she asks when he approaches, then laughs when he pulls a face. “Don’t worry, I know you’ve got no idea what the hell I’m talking about. I'll ask Grantaire when he's back. It’s the dark purple colour, like red wine.”
“Right,” says Enjolras. Somehow he resists saying 'isn't red wine red?'
“Also you and Grantaire are the cutest couple I’ve ever seen.”
“What?” he chokes, caught off-guard.
Cosette just flashes him a smile, completely serene as she moves on to look at another rack of dress. “I know, I was surprised too,” she admits, “I figured you’d have one of those volatile relationships, arguing all the time, high highs followed by low lows, but instead you’re just - normal. You cuddle and you tease and you hold hands! I can see why you didn’t mention it now, why you wanted to keep it a secret.”
He blinks, cautious as he asks, “You can?”
She nods. “I don’t think you’ve mentioned work once since I’ve been here, which has to be a new record.” She pulls a dress out finally, holds it up against her body and turns to look in a nearby mirror, turning from side to side. She purses her lips thoughtfully, then smiles when their eyes meet in the mirror. “He’s good for you.”
Enjolras doesn't know what to say to that, is distracted when he catches sight of Grantaire heading back into the store over her shoulder, windswept and grumpy from the weather. Just the sight of him alone is enough to make Enjolras smile - and the realisation that it does should worry him, but it doesn’t, because things have been good with Grantaire, extremely good. Far better than he had expected when he’d first asked him to pretend to date him.
He can’t remember the last time they had a full-blown argument, the last time they almost came to blows. They still disagree, but the arguments are sorted out faster now, reached without raised voices in the quiet of Enjolras’s apartment, or on the walk to or from the Musain. He no longer stews over arguments between conversations, because they’re spending so much time together that their disagreements are smoothed over earlier. Or in some cases, don't even get chance to come to blows.
It’s a strange realisation, but not unwelcome, and when Grantaire joins him again it’s easy, this time, to take his hand.
Grantaire glances down at it and then up again, raising his eyebrows, but Enjolras just turns back to where Cosette is babbling about love-heart necklines.
- - -
Sunday nights are meeting nights, have been for years. Cosette’s return to the city ensures that everyone will be there, and the Musain is lively and packed when Enjolras finally arrives. After the shopping trip, where Cosette became extremely fond of anything that was plum (dresses, shoes, flowers), Grantaire had gone off to one of his many jobs, and Enjolras had treated her to a meal at an expensive restaurant he knew she loved. They'd spent the time catching up properly, trading stories and anecdotes.
Grantaire isn’t at the Musain when he arrives, but that’s not uncommon. His various jobs mean he can’t always commit to a regular schedule, flits in and out of their meetings whenever he gets the chance, sometimes not even coming at all. Cosette is wrapped up in Feuilly’s strong arms the minute they enter the building, lifted off her feet and spun around on the spot, until she laughs and hits his chest. She’s released then to Joly and Jehan, who immediately buy her drinks and station her at the bar, where she regales them with tales of Marius and her job.
He finds Combeferre and Courfeyrac at the table near the front, setting up for the meeting, and loses himself in the planning and preparation. There's always more that goes into these things than people realise, more effort and preparation than he possibly has time for. But Combeferre is good at organising, and Courfeyrac is good at making sure neither of them get stressed. It never really matters anyway, because within minutes Enjolras is usually derailed, latching on to a better argument or a good counter from one of his friends, letting their cause evolve and develop at its own rate.
Grantaire walks in halfway through his speech, settles down at his customary table near the back with Joly and Bossuet. Enjolras smiles across at him but stays where he is, continues his rant. If anything, he gets more focused knowing Grantaire is there, knowing that his biggest opponent is in the room. It’s always been his greatest challenge, trying to convince Grantaire of something. For as long as they’ve been having these meetings, he’s been his biggest critic, the person he tries above all others to convince of something. If Grantaire is swayed - or at least, admits he has a point - then Enjolras knows he’s done a good job.
When the meeting comes to a close, when socialising begins and Courfeyrac takes charge, everyone breaks off into smaller groups and the drinks start flowing. Not that Joly, Bossuet and Grantaire let it stop them earlier. There’s a collection of empty glasses on their table already when Enjolras heads over.
He rests his hand on Grantaire’s shoulder in greeting, feels him tense and then relax when he tilts his head back and sees that it's him. “Not bad,” is his consensus.
Enjolras rolls his eyes, makes a move like he’s going to lean down to kiss him when Bahorel makes his late arrival to the Musain apparent with an empathetic, “What the fuck.”
Enjolras freezes and Grantaire shifts, shrugging his shoulder so Enjolras loses his grip. When he looks across Bahorel is staring at him, Feuilly at his side, and they both look - they look stunned.
“Did I just see that?” Bahorel asks the air, then turns to Feuilly, “Tell me you saw that too.”
“I don’t know,” Feuilly replies, “Cosette made me drink tequila. I don’t think I can be trusted right now.”
Cosette, Enjolras thinks, shit. But she’s on the other side of the Musain, laughing at something Jehan had said, oblivious to what’s going on in their corner. When he looks back Bahorel is still staring and Feuilly looks confused. Joly is searching for the meaning of life in the bottom of his beer. Bossuet looks like he’s trying to make himself invisible by sheer force of will.
Enjolras decides: to hell with it.
“I’m seeing Grantaire,” he says.
Bahorel stares at him for a while longer, then his eyes narrow as he asks, “Did anybody know?”
Joly and Bossuet tentatively raise their hands into the air. So does Grantaire.
“Fuckers,” Bahorel states.
To which Grantaire, of course, because he is physically incapable of ever keeping his mouth shut, says, “Not yet.”
And Enjolras is pretty sure he flushes a bright alarming red. Bahorel roars with laughter, Feuilly snorts, and the tension breaks. Bahorel claps him on the shoulder, a friendly gesture, but still it stuns him. “About time,” he says. “Hey, I think this calls for another round of drinks.” He turns to call something over to where Courfeyrac stands at the bar, about to get served.
Enjolras feels bewildered, wants nothing more than to grab Grantaire’s hand again for support, but feels like he can’t. Even if the others now all think they’re dating too, it seems presumptuous, so when he sits down next to Grantaire he just keeps his hands on the table, curled around his glass. Grantaire’s leg bumps against his under the table, presses close and doesn’t move away. When Enjolras glances over he quirks an eyebrow at him, and Enjolras shakes his head. He's fine.
Being fine doesn’t last too much longer, however, once Bahorel and Grantaire really get going on the drinks. Enjolras has never been much of a drinker; his height helps, makes him just slightly less than a lightweight, but anything more than a couple and he hits the floor. The fact he’s ‘dating’ Grantaire becomes old news quickly, the topic of conversation turning to much more interesting things.
(He knows he should be worried that they’d all accepted it so readily, but he’s really trying not to think about that.)
Eventually the night draws to a close and when it does, it seems the most natural thing in the world to walk home with both Grantaire and Cosette. Grantaire looks surprised when he gives in to what he’s wanted all night, takes hold of his hand the moment they’re out of sight of the Musain, but he lets Enjolras link their fingers together and doesn’t let go.
Cosette dances on up ahead, on the phone to Marius as she walks, a sickeningly sweet conversation that makes Enjolras both want to throw up and cuddle her close.
“So did you get The Talk?” Grantaire asks, as he lights a cigarette one-handed. “Because Joly and Bossuet have been looking forward to it for days.”
Enjolras watches him take a drag of the cigarette, exhaling slowly into the night air. The smoke curls up in the cold, white, making him think of snow. Some of the weather reporters have been claiming that it might be a white Christmas, that they're due a flurry any time soon. The thin sheen of ice on the pavement under their feet cracks as they walk. “No?” he replies belatedly to the question. “They didn't say anything to me.”
Grantaire hums, flicks ash onto the floor. “They’re probably waiting for a better time. There are diagrams.”
Enjolras blinks, and then laughs. He can definitely imagine Joly with diagrams - and power points - and spreadsheets. “Right.”
“They think you’re going to take advantage of me,” Grantaire continues, “That they need to step in on my behalf and tell you to be a gentleman.”
“What?” Enjolras demands because – seriously, what? He stops walking abruptly to stare at Grantaire. “How could I take advantage of you? Do they think I’m not serious about this?” He gestures with the hands they have joined, annoyed and affronted in equal measures.
“Well, to be honest you kind of aren’t,” Grantaire points out, “Seeing as how it’s all fake.”
Oh. Right. “Well, yes, but that’s not the point.”
Grantaire glances across at him under his eyelashes, his lips twitch into a grin as they start walking again. “Are you seriously getting offended that someone called into question your fake intentions towards me?”
“Well of course I am,” Enjolras replies, annoyed. “It’s ridiculous. I wouldn’t date you if I wasn’t serious about you - this - us.” He's quiet for a few seconds, mulling it over, remembers what happened when he was waiting to leave the Musain. Grantaire had gone to the toilet and as he was waiting by the door he'd been accosted by Prouvaire. “Did you know Jehan said he knew all along?”
That makes Grantaire laugh, though there’s something slightly off about it. “Yeah, he’s always had this… idea. It’s nothing,” he says, at Enjolras’s curious look, “Just his romantic side. He’s been reading too much poetry about doomed love.”
“Doomed love,” Enjolras echoes.
“Yeah, well, we’re going to break up, aren’t we?” Grantaire reminds him, stubbing his cigarette out on a lamppost as they pass, then pushing his hands deep in the pockets of his leather jacket. “Can’t get much more doomed than that. Well, unless we involve someone else and somebody cheats and there’s a murder and a revenge killing and – what? You’re staring.”
Enjolras just shakes his head. “You sound far too excited about our impending break up.”
“Why wouldn’t I be? I get to smash things and yell dramatically.”
And Enjolras – he wants – he’s not sure what he wants, but he finds he doesn’t like talking about their break up. He’s gotten so used to having Grantaire around that it doesn’t seem right to talk about splitting up with him, can’t imagine what it would be like to go back to being just friends. He knows that the original terms of the deal had them breaking up whilst Cosette was here, that it would be the only way to get her to stop setting him up with other guys after she’s gone back home, but still. It crosses his mind that dating someone permanently is a better way to get her to leave him alone, but that’s not an option.
So he just gives a vague sort of smile and nods, saying, “When we’ve broken up you get your money, too. Don’t forget about that.”
“Oh, right, yeah,” Grantaire replies, like he genuinely had forgotten for a moment. Then he shakes his head and looks at Enjolras, with this thoughtful expression he doesn’t get often. Their walking has slowed throughout the conversation, comes to a halt again when Grantaire looks at him, though their hands stay joined. Grantaire’s eyes search his face, look for something Enjolras can’t put a name to. Then he seems to come to some sort of decision, sets his shoulders and says, “Look, Enjolras, if you—”
“Hey! Love birds!” Cosette yells from up ahead. “Stop gazing into each other’s eyes and walk faster, or we’re never going to get home.”
Enjolras jumps, and the movement pulls his hand out of Grantaire’s. Cosette stands with her hands on her hips, glaring at them, and he steps away from Grantaire to catch up to her. The moment with Grantaire is lost; he makes a mental note to ask him about it when they’re next alone, and they spend the rest of the walk home as a three, talking about what Cosette had heard at the Musain, the things she hadn’t known and the lives of their friends.
When they get back to the apartment block Grantaire hesitates on the stairs up to his floor, looks unsure about leaving. Cosette unlocks the door with Enjolras’s key, disappears inside and starts flicking on lights as he looks up at Grantaire, and the nervous edge to his expression. “You want to come in?” Enjolras asks.
And Grantaire grins, the one that says he’s up to no good when he replies, “That depends. Are you inviting me in for coffee or for coffee?”
Enjolras feels himself blush, even as he rolls his eyes and replies, “I don’t even understand why that is a thing. No one wants coffee late at night.”
“That’s the point,” Grantaire says, still grinning, “People who say it aren’t interested in the coffee at all. They want something else to keep them up all night.”
He should be used to this, he’s been spending so much time with Grantaire now that he can’t imagine a time without him, has flirted with him and said things he probably shouldn’t have in the heat of the moment - but bloody hell. The images that run through his mind at those words, the ideas he comes up with.
Grantaire has the same thoughtful expression on his face from before as he drops back down the last two steps, closes the distance between them. Enjolras tilts his head to look him in the eye, doesn’t step back, even when Grantaire gets too close for it to just be casual.
“Do you think we convinced them?” Enjolras asks, saying the first thing that comes to his mind. “Cosette and the others.”
Grantaire shrugs, “Sure. No one called us out on it, did they?”
“Do you think,” Enjolras takes a breath, asks what’s been on his mind ever since Bahorel found out in the Musain, “Do you think that’s strange? That they accepted it so easily? That we’re together?”
“I think,” says Grantaire, taking the last step to close the distance between them, and Enjolras is distantly aware of his own back hitting the wall next to the door, “That is a question you need to ask yourself.”
Enjolras frowns. “What does that—” he cuts himself off when he hears movement back in the flat, the sound of Cosette’s footsteps approaching again. He doesn’t want to talk to her, doesn’t want her to intrude on this conversation as she had the other, and also doesn’t want to be caught out talking to Grantaire, not about this. So he does the only thing he can think of in the moment, he brings his hands up and sinks them into Grantaire’s hair like has wanted to ever since the night he slept over. Grantaire’s eyes fly wide open as he tugs him forwards and murmurs, “Cosette’s coming,” then kisses him.
For a second Grantaire freezes against him, hard and unyielding, then takes in a shallow breath and kisses him back, his body relaxing. His hands come up to Enjolras’s waist, curve around his sides as he pushes him back properly against the wall and kisses him so hard Enjolras starts to feel a little dizzy. He doesn’t remember their last kisses being like this, doesn’t remember the rush of blood running through his body or the way Grantaire knows exactly how to tilt his head to get even closer, what it feels like to have teeth tug on his bottom lip. The thrill that runs through him when their tongues meet.
He’s vaguely aware of Cosette appearing in the door again, squeaking and disappearing with an “Um, don’t, uh, mind me, good night!” but it suddenly doesn’t seem important at all, not when he works out how to push back against the wall to give himself better leverage, to curve his body to press against Grantaire in such a way that he has to tear his mouth away to mutter, “Fucking hell, Enjolras.”
And Enjolras grins, because Grantaire sounds wrecked, because he sounds as frustrated as he feels, it means this isn’t a one-way thing and he knows that is important, somehow. “What?” he replies, leaning forwards to trail a line of kisses over Grantaire’s jaw instead, to tilt his head and scrape teeth along his neck, and Grantaire makes a sound at the back of his throat, hands gripping his sides like he's trying to hold on.
“Fuck, you are not paying me enough for this,” he says, and Enjolras grins.
But then the words sink home, and Enjolras freezes, because of course, of course. This is a fake relationship, not a real one. He was kissing Grantaire to convince Cosette they were an item, not for any other reason. He pulls back slowly, releasing Grantaire, slipping out from his grip as he takes a step away, two, until he feels like he can breathe again.
He turns to see Grantaire looking at him, cheeks flushed and lips red and eyes confused, and he shakes his head, drawing back into himself. Like they hadn’t just made out against the wall and bitten oaths off against each other’s skin. “Thanks,” he says, hearing himself as if from a distance, “I think we convinced her.”
“Yeah,” says Grantaire, “Right. So I guess I’ll go then?”
“Okay,” Enjolras replies, not moving.
They stand like that for another few seconds, not moving, just watching each other, chests still heaving as they draw in breath. The space between them feels huge now, when only seconds ago they had been pressed so close together. Enjolras’s hands clench and unclench at his sides, his skin buzzes. Then Grantaire nods and turns away, leaves to head upstairs to his own apartment without another word.
Enjolras watches him go, waits until the door shuts behind him, then sinks back against his own door. It takes a good few minutes before he’s able to pull himself away and head inside, and even longer until he can no longer feel Grantaire against him.
Apologies again for the wait. If it helps, quite a bit of the next chapter is already written.
You can find me over on tumblr here if you want to say hi, and/or poke me to update faster.
Chapter 5: The Break Up
He’s back to work the next day, and Cosette spends the time he’s there doing even more shopping with Musichetta and Eponine. Enjolras meets them for lunch, where he’s completely blindsided as the three girls grill him on his relationship with Grantaire, wanting all the details no one had asked for at the Musain.
At first he answers honestly, admitting that things are going better than he ever expected, even talking a little about the ice rink date, seeing as Musichetta had seen part of it. But then he remembers that they’re supposed to be breaking up soon, that this relationship isn’t supposed to last. So he starts adding a bit of doubt to the conversation, mentioning things that aren’t exactly perfect, to prepare for what will be their inevitable breakup.
It feels weird, saying things aren't going well when they are, and he finds that he's more conscious that he's lying. Even though the whole thing is a lie.
Only of course Cosette, the eternal optimist, refuses to believe it and says, “But things are going well enough that yesterday, instead of a simple good night kiss they decide to make out against the wall for like fifteen minutes.”
Eponine’s razor sharp eyes find his then, look less-than-impressed by this bit of information. Enjolras picks at his salad and looks anywhere but at her, unwilling to talk about something even he doesn’t understand. He’s been thinking about the kiss all day, remembering the feel of Grantaire pressed against him and mouth hot on his. His thoughts kept drifting in the middle of meetings, finding himself wondering what Grantaire was up to, which of his seemingly endless jobs he was at, or if he was just at home painting instead - until he’d realised what he was doing and forced himself to stop and focus on work.
“Who would have thought,” Eponine drawls, and when Enjolras finally looks up her expression is back to normal, nothing sharp about it at all.
“Well you know what they say,” Musichetta agrees, “Opposites really do attract.” Which should make him feel better than it does, because all three girls seem to believe in their relationship, think that they actually do work together, when they can't, they won't. In a matter of days Grantaire will break up with him and Enjolras will have to adjust back to a life without him, will continue on as if this never happened.
“Until they collide and explode,” he replies, and makes a show of looking at his watch. “But for now, I have to get back to work. It’s been nice to see you, ladies.” He pulls some money out of his wallet to cover his part of the meal and puts it down on the table, bends to kiss Cosette on the cheek and heads out.
He's left feeling off-centre for the rest of the day and can’t work out why.
- - -
His restlessness morphs into a bad mood the next day, where he ends up working late because he walks into the office to find an inbox full of emails from the senior partner, a client who refuses to listen to his advice, then spends four hours sitting in on a call with the opposing counsel. He's exhausted by the time he finally leaves, and he almost falls asleep on his way home, nearly missing his stop. When he gets to his apartment block it takes three attempts to put in the key code and he seriously considers calling Combeferre to come help him; that’s what best friends are for, right?
He doesn’t pay attention to where his feet are takinghim, doesn’t notice he’s passed his own door until he’s knocked three times on Grantaire’s.
Grantaire opens it a few seconds later in a long-sleeved white shirt and trousers and Enjolras’s mind just sort of whites out. He’s never seen Grantaire in a shirt before, never mind one that is open at the collar, the sleeves rolled-up to his elbows, the briefest hint of tattoos. His hair is damp and curling slightly at the ends, like he just got out of the shower or stuck it under the tap and Enjolras wants to sink his fingers into it again.
“Apollo?” he asks, eyebrows raised, “What’s up? Did something happen? Are we meant to be doing something?”
Enjolras just shakes his head, fights through the fuzziness to say, “I just wanted to see you.” He doesn’t mean to say the words and then he does, and when they’re out it seems stupid to try and take them back. “I had a shit day and I just—” he shrugs, and runs a hand back through his hair, “Yeah.”
“Yeah,” Grantaire echoes, an amused smile tugging at the corner of his lips. He steps back, “Want to come in?”
Enjolras smiles gratefully and steps forward after him into the apartment. He hasn’t been here since that first time, when he’d borrowed some of Grantaire’s things for his own place to convince Cosette that they were dating. It looks exactly the same, but now the canvases are filled with art: huge cityscapes and bright lights, so real they seem to come off the page. It takes a moment for him to connect the images with places he’s been, and then another realisation dawns at the back of his mind because, wait—
“Do you want a drink?” Grantaire asks.
The dawning realisation snaps as Enjolras tears his eyes away from the paintings and shakes his head. “No, I’m fine.”
Grantaire shrugs, and picks up a beer can from the coffee table. He drops to sit down on the sofa and pats the cushions next to him, saying, “Come on, relax. That’s what you came to me for, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, sure,” Enjolras replies absently, because he’s looking around the apartment again. The gym bag is by the door again but the graphic novels have been replaced with books on architecture, thick and heavy. He trails his fingers over the cover of one as he walks over to the sofa, and his eyes are drawn again to the paintings.
Grantaire follows his look and says, “Yeah, seems doing things with you has got me all artistic again. Not that I have the paints to do what I really want.” He drains what’s left of the beer and throws the can across the room to the bin, pats the cushions again. “Come on, Apollo, sit down.”
Enjolras does, perching on the edge of the corner. His earlier drowsiness has fled, leaving him with a muted buzz instead, itching under his skin, a feeling he can’t put a name to. Looking around for something to talk about, he finds himself caught again by the sight of Grantaire in semi-formal wear and says, “Why are you all dressed up?”
“What – oh, this?” Grantaire looks down. “Standard outfit for a waiter. Well, usually there’s a tie too and shiny black shoes, but you know.” He shrugs. “Why? Do I look stupid?”
“No,” Enjolras says quickly, “Definitely not. Just – not used to it, I guess.”
Grantaire laughs. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
He should - he shouldn't - Enjolras doesn't know. He frowns down at his hands on his knees, flexing the fingers out and then bringing them together again, and blurts out, “I don’t know anything about you.”
It’s a name to the shapeless frustration that’s been under his skin ever since he got here, a way to get out what he's feeling. “I barely know anything about you.” He looks up, and forces himself to look Grantaire in the eye as he says, “All this – your apartment, there’s so much about it I don’t know, all these things, they’re part of you and – don’t you think I should know this? I mean, you’re - we’re... I’m - I don’t even know when you go to the gym.”
“This is stupid,” Enjolras says, and gets to his feet to make a move towards the door, “I’m sorry, I’m just – I’m annoyed, and work is - and there’s Cosette, and.” He stops himself short and just looks at Grantaire helplessly.
“Tuesdays and Thursdays,” says Grantaire.
“I go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And box on Saturdays, usually. I haven’t been able to recently because we’ve had other things to do. I fence, too. I also danced for a while.”
“I used to do ballroom,” Grantaire elaborates, “But my shifts clash with the competitions so I had to give it up.”
“No I mean, what,” Enjolras says, “You do all of those things? And your jobs? And you paint?”
“Sometimes?” Grantaire replies, “I mean, I wouldn’t exactly say I paint, I throw paint at a canvas and prefer sketching, but I guess that’s the way it looks at the moment.”
Enjolras stares at him for the longest time, unable to think up a single coherent thing to say. No matter what, no matter how long they spend together or whatever new thing he finds out about Grantaire, there’s always something else, something more. And every time he learns something new he just wants to find out even more. He wants to know everything, he wants to know it all. Not even just because they’re dating, but because they’re also supposed to be friends. He’s known Grantaire for a few years now but he would have never have been able to tell anyone about those things; he didn’t know about those things until now.
It all just comes together to make him even more frustrated, annoyed with himself for not knowing anything.
“That doesn’t make me feel any better,” he replies honestly, frowning, “You don’t make me feel any better at all.”
Grantaire blinks at him again. “I’m sorry?”
“No, don’t be. I’m the worst boyfriend ever. I should know all these things about you and I don’t, I haven’t even tried. I’ve been taking you for granted and that’s horrible of me. What kind of person am I?”
“Hey,” says Grantaire, reaching out, and now he's on his feet too and they’re both stood next to the sofa, staring at each other. Enjolras still feels stressed, tension coiled like a spring in his muscles. He wants to do something, but can’t figure out what, just knows that there’s a reason he came here and can’t sit still, and something about the canvases and Grantaire boxes and—
“Enjolras,” Grantaire says, placing a hand on his elbow. “What did you really come here for?”
“I don’t know,” Enjolras says, but he knows that’s not true. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“You do,” Grantaire replies, stepping closer, “You just don’t realise it. You’re better at this stuff than you know.”
Enjolras knows the conversation has shifted onto something else, some other topic, but he's not sure he can follow it. “Am I?” he asks, quiet.
“Yeah,” Grantaire replies, and he’s incredibly close now, far too close. The hand that was resting on Enjolras's elbow has slipped higher up his arm, curves around it instead, holding rather than touching. His pupils are huge and dark, the blue iris a shock of colour at the edges. His expression is unusually earnest, searching, looking for something Enjolras isn't quite sure he has. He glances down, then up again through dark eyelashes as he says, “So are you going to kiss me or what?”
And just like that, everything snaps into place.
He doesn’t even think about it, doesn’t try to question it or the way his body reacts, just closes the distance between them kisses him, hard. Grantaire moves at the same time, brings his other arm up so both his hands are gripping Enjolras's arms. The kiss feels like a continuation of the previous night, what they never got to finish outside Enjolras’s apartment.
The kiss leaves him breathless, leaves him light-headed and gasping. Grantaire grins at him when he pulls away to take a moment to remember how to breathe, wild hair already a mess from Enjolras's hands, then bites off a curse when Enjolras leans in to kiss him again fiercely. Then Grantaire's leaving kisses along his jaw and biting a bruise into his neck he’s somehow going to have to hide at work tomorrow. His own hands grip tightly at Grantaire’s shirt, pulling the fabric tight as he fights the urge to pull it off so he can explore the tattoos he knows are underneath.
It’s different to the kiss from last night, better. He’s not thinking about Cosette interrupting, or pretending, or what any of this looks like. All that matters is the feel of Grantaire pressed against him again and the sound he makes, somewhere at the back of his throat, when Enjolras gets a hand in his hair and tugs, dragging him back up to kiss. Playing with his hair the other night was nice, a distraction, but it's nothing compared to sinking his fingers into it as they kiss.
He knows this isn’t pretend, can’t hide from the knowledge that this is real; he can’t fake this. He wants this kiss - these kisses - as much as Grantaire does. He settles one hand on his hip and keeps the other in his hair as he pushes Grantaire back, guides him towards the sofa and then down, climbing up onto his lap when he sits abruptly. It's better like this, they're closer. He likes having the height advantage for once, curving down into Grantaire's body instead of up. Grantaire doesn't seem to mind either - he's not complaining.
He loses track of time; loses track of everything that isn’t Grantaire, that isn’t learning just how good kissing can actually be. The rest of the world disappears, focuses down to this one room, to the way his breathing hitches whenever he tugs on his hair, to the little sounds he’s able to coax from him, the way his hands grip hard enough to bruise. What started out as fierce fades into something else, calmer, taking time to explore each other, all the tension of the day seeping out of Enjolras's body. Everything narrows down to the senses, to what he can touch and feel and taste.
Eventually they end up on their sides facing each other, lying stretched out on the sofa, and he's no longer able to tell where one of them stops and the other begins. He’s lost his suit jacket and tie somewhere, the top few buttons of his shirt undone, and Grantaire’s the same, fully-clothed but dishevelled and wild-haired, and it's been a long time since either of them said anything.
It doesn’t feel like they have to, that words might actually ruin it, so Enjolras just shifts himself closer and closes his eyes, feeling Grantaire do the same. They fall asleep tangled together, and he's never felt any better.
- - -
At some point in the night his phone rings, waking him. He scowls and shifts, trying to remember where he is, and comes fully awake to the warmth of a body pressed against his own. Grantaire has curled close, lies with his head tucked under Enjolras’s chin, one arm curved around his body, fingers splayed across the base of his spine. As Enjolras moves, reaching for the phone ringing in his back pocket, Grantaire groans something and snuggles closer, practically nuzzling his neck. Enjolras runs a hand down his spine to sooth him as he pulls his phone out with his other and lifts it to his ear.
“Hello?” A glance at the clock on the wall over Grantaire’s shoulder tells him it’s close to one in the morning.
“Oh, Enjolras, you’re alright, thank God,” Cosette says, breathless on the other end, “I know you work late and so I thought you were just busy, but then it got later, and I didn’t want to call, not if you were busy, but then it got later and later and…” she trails off. “I’m sorry. I was worried.”
“It’s alright,” he replies sleepily, biting back a yawn, “I’m at Grantaire’s. Sorry for not letting you know.”
Grantaire murmurs something in his sleep. His hair tickles Enjolras’s neck.
“Oh, I'm glad,” she replies, “Have a good sleep. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.” He cancels the call and drops his phone over the edge of the sofa, turns his attention back to Grantaire. Curling up like this, falling asleep with him, it’s starting to become the norm.
“She alright?” Grantaire asks, murmured against his skin.
“Yeah, she’s fine,” Enjolras replies, shifting slightly into a comfier position, “Go back to sleep.” He closes his own eyes, falls asleep almost instantly.
- - -
When he wakes up again he’s cold.
He makes a sound at the back of his throat and rolls over into the warmth of Grantaire’s body, his eyes snapping open when he realises he’s not there. Something pulls in his neck and he swears, dragging himself upwards with a curse. There’s a reason people don’t sleep on sofas or fully clothed, he reminds himself, and scowls. He’s still in Grantaire’s apartment, but it’s bathed in daylight now, and filled with the smell of something cooking.
When he turns to look he finds Grantaire stood in the kitchen, changed into a pair of jeans and a hoodie, barefoot as he flips bacon in the pan. Seeing him makes something twist in Enjolras’s chest, some unfamiliar emotion, and he ignores it to brush the back of his hand over his eyes, yawning. When he drops it Grantaire notices the movement, looks back over his shoulder at him with a smile like the sun rising through the window.
“Good morning,” he greets, and turns back to the stove, to whatever it is he's cooking.
It smells amazing, almost good enough to stay for and try and steal some of, but Enjolras has an important meeting this morning - hopefully one that will be better than the one yesterday - so he can’t be late. He’s got just enough time to get a shower and a change of clothes if he leaves now, so he gets up from the sofa and stands, stretching his arms out above his head, trying to work out the kinks in his back.
When he’s done he drops them again, says, “Right, I’m going to get going, then,” and starts to look for his suit jacket and shoes.
“You’re going?” Grantaire’s voice is quiet, as if from a distance, but Enjolras doesn’t have time to look at him to see what’s wrong, as he spots his jacket on the coffee table.
“Yeah, I’ve got a meeting,” he replies, pulling it back on over his rumpled shirt. “Thanks for last night.”
“Thanks – you don’t have to thank me,” says Grantaire, frowning.
“Of course I do. You gave me a distraction when I was stressed.” The words don’t feel quite right, leave an awkward silence afterward, but he can’t think of a better way to put it. He needed a release and Grantaire had been there, had seen exactly what it was that would calm him and done it.
“A distraction, right.”
“Yeah,” Enjolras says again, looking around for his phone. He finds it on the floor near one of the canvases, stoops to pick it up and when he straightens again, sees Grantaire turning off the stove. “Thanks again. See you later?”
“Yeah,” Grantaire replies. He still hasn’t moved from the kitchen. Enjolras nods at him and heads for the door, lets himself out. The last thing he sees when he closes it behind him is Grantaire throwing away the contents of the frying pan.
- - -
He doesn’t get to see Grantaire that night, is caught up all day again at work, then busy afterwards at the Musain catching up with Combeferre and Courfeyrac, who he knows he’s been neglecting of late. The next day is the same, only he takes Cosette out to watch a film she’s been dying to see after work, then actually gives in and skypes his parents with her, just to make them all happy.
Everything finally feels like it’s settling into place, like it’s all making sense.
Then he gets in from work on Friday and walks into his living room to find Cosette sat on the floor, surrounded by what looks like hundreds of catalogues and magazines, with a scrapbook open in front of her and pictures strewn all around.
“This is new,” he says, because he’s pretty sure he would know if she had taken up scrap booking recently, as she would have no doubt shown him every little thing she had done, and attempted to get him involved too. He steps over the nearest pile of clippings and sits down on the sofa, glancing down at the magazine on the cushion next to him. 100 Wedding—
His blood runs cold.
“I’m getting married,” Cosette says, all on one breath, like she’s been holding it in and couldn’t find a better way or time to say it. Her eyes are huge and blue and she’s so young, she can't possibly - but she said - and he feels himself start to panic.
“I’m sorry,” he says hoarsely, “What was that?”
“Marius and I,” Cosette replies, “We’re getting married. He asked me a few months ago, and I said yes. I wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t ever find the time, you were always so busy and I knew you didn’t want to talk about us, so I thought maybe - I thought maybe if I visited I could tell you then, but I didn’t know how to and we've been busy and.” She stops talking and just shrugs helplessly, looking up at him.
“I was - I was hoping you would be involved,” she says, in a quieter voice now as she looks down at her hands, “That you might even be my like, chief bridesmaid – or whatever gender neutral term better suits.” She attempts a smile, hopeful and soft. It's so painfully obvious that she wants his approval, that she wants him to be happy for her - and he wants to be, he does, but his mind refuses to accept what he's hearing. This can’t be happening.
He can’t – she can’t – “But you’re not wearing a ring,” he manages finally, looking down at her hand. It's an absurd thing to say.
“Marius is getting it personalised, we're getting it engraved with the date on the inside, it’s taking longer than we thought.” She circles her ring finger with her thumb and index as she speaks, without even realising what she’s doing. “I don’t need to wear a ring to be engaged.”
It’s true, the ring doesn’t mean anything, a relic from an older time when it had been a symbol, a brand. But that’s not what the issue is, and they both know it. There’s a reason she kept from telling him and a reason why he’s sat here refusing to accept it now.
Marius is a nice enough kid, fine, he’s even a lawyer, but he’s also an idiot, and has questionable taste in politics, and this is Enjolras’s sister. He can’t have her married to just anyone, even if she thinks she loves him now, and oh God, a marriage means having to spend time with his parents, means their disapproving stares and The Talk from his father and suddenly he feels sick.
He stands up abruptly. “I have to - there’s some work I need to do.”
“I’m okay, it’s fine. I’m – We’ll talk later, okay?” He doesn’t wait for her reply, just gets up and heads straight for his room, shuts the door behind him and leans against it heavily. His mind buzzes with what he just heard, what he just saw, the fact that his little sister might be getting married to someone, some man, and before he even knows what he’s doing he’s unlocking his phone and sending a text to Grantaire: I need you.
It feels like an age, too long, forever, before Grantaire’s reply comes in: now?
Yes. And then, a second later: please.
On my way.
He pushes away from the door, paces across the room with thoughts that refuse to settle, running through his mind on a constant loop. He doesn’t notice the doorbell ringing, only realises Grantaire has arrived when he hears Cosette talking to him, then footsteps approaching his room. He needs a distraction, something to take his mind off things, he needs to get all his frustration out and just not think about anything for a while.
Grantaire has barely stepped through the door before Enjolras has curled his hands around his neck and pulled him in close. Grantaire stumbles against him, hisses in a sharp breath when their lips meet, grips his hips tightly as he tries to regain his balance and his ability to breathe at the same time.
“What—” he starts to say but Enjolras just kisses him again, swallowing any other words he tries to say.
He gets Grantaire backed up to the bed, keeps pushing until he sits down and he can climb up on top of him, knees bracketing his waist. He gets his hands under Grantaire’s leather jacket, pushes it back off his shoulders so he can fist his hands in his shirt instead as he kisses him. Grantaire’s hands rest on his waist, not moving, thumbs just pressing in against his hipbones.
The kisses start out fierce, hard and bruising, but as Enjolras familiarises himself with Grantaire’s body against him and his reassuring weight, he feels himself start to relax, take things slower.
“Hey,” Grantaire says after a few seconds, pushing him back by the shoulders slightly, just enough that he can look him in the eye, “What’s going on? I mean - not that I’m complaining, but what brought this on?”
Enjolras makes a frustrated noise at the back of his throat, makes a move instead to try and kiss him again, but Grantaire leans his head back out of the way. “Hey - no, not until you explain.”
Scowling, Enjolras releases his grip on Grantaire’s shirt, spreads his fingers out across the fabric instead. “Cosette’s getting married.”
“Okay?” He doesn’t sound surprised, which is bizarre, makes Enjolras frown down at him.
“Did you know?”
“Kind of. I mean,” he elaborates, when he sees the sharp look Enjolras sends him, “She did take us shopping for bridesmaid dresses and flowers, and asked my opinion on colour schemes.”
Enjolras blinks and then frowns, feels the corners of his lips pulling down. “I thought that was just— Never mind,” he cuts himself off, “The point is she’s getting married and I don’t think she should.”
“Ah,” says Grantaire. His thumbs run in distracting circles against Enjolras’s skin, a soothing motion. “Well, there’s not much you can do when Cosette’s made up her mind.”
“So what, I should just accept it? She wants me to go, our parents will be there, I’m supposed to be, I don’t know, a bridesmaid or something.”
“I see why she took us dress shopping now,” Grantaire attempts to joke, but his smile falters when Enjolras just glares at him unhappily. “Hey, Enjolras, come on. It’s not that bad. I can think of far worse things for her to have kept from you.”
“You say that,” Enjolras replies, “But you don’t know.”
Agitated, he gets to his feet, pulls himself away from Grantaire so he can pace the room instead, a bundle of energy he doesn’t know how to get rid of. Which was the whole reason he’d invited Grantaire over in the first place, he didn’t want to talk about it, he wanted to forget it.
He turns on his heel to face Grantaire again, crosses his arms over his chest. “Can’t we just - can we not just ignore this?”
“Enjolras, I’m not making out with you just so you can distract yourself from what’s really the problem,” Grantaire replies, in a tight voice. It’s the closest Enjolras has ever seen him come to a reprimand.
“Then what use are you?” he demands, and Grantaire inhales sharply, as if slapped. “You don’t understand, my parents—”
“I’m going to let that slide,” Grantaire says, still in that tightly-controlled voice, “But only because I can see how wound up you are about this.”
Enjolras frowns at him, and then turns away, paces his room again. “Look, my parents, they have all these ideas, okay. They have this thing about what I do, about the fact I take on so much work pro bono, about how I’m not what they want me to be. They’ve always been like that, they act so superior, and then there’s always the question of if I’m settled down yet and god, all these girls that they introduce me too…” He trails off, frustrated. “They won’t be nice to you, at all, but at least if it’s the two of us, at least then we could - I don’t know, we could avoid them for the most part and—”
“Enjolras,” Grantaire interjects, then again when he doesn’t stop, “Enjolras.”
He pulls himself up short, stops his pacing across the floor. “What?”
“I’m not going to Cosette and Marius’s wedding.”
That doesn’t make any sense. “What?”
“I’m not going to their wedding with you.” Grantaire stands with his arms crossed, his expression free of any humour whatsoever, but the words don’t match up. None of this does. Why wouldn’t he go?
Grantaire gives him a look. “Because we’re not dating?” he replies. “Also, I’m pretty sure you need to ask someone if you want them to go somewhere with you. Not just assume that they’ll do whatever you want.”
It takes a moment for Enjolras to catch up with him, to understand what he means. He’s gotten so used to Grantaire just being there to pretend that he was his boyfriend that he’d forgotten it was all an act, that he was paying him.
That realisation just annoys him more, though, because why wouldn’t Grantaire go to the wedding? It’s not like he can pick and choose what it is he wants to do in this fake relationship.
“I’m paying you to do this, shouldn’t you do what I want?” Enjolras demands, and the silence after his words seems to hang heavy.
“Oh, fuck you,” Grantaire says, “Yeah, you’re paying me, but not for this. You’re paying me to pretend to date you so Cosette will get off your back, not to make out with you whenever you’re pissed off or be a verbal punching bag when something upsets you. This whole thing between us? It was an agreement, not some - not some kind of right - and guess what? I’m calling it off. We’re done.”
He grabs his jacket from where it still lies on the bed from when Enjolras had pushed it off his shoulders, crosses the room in two quick strides and throws the door open. “You can keep your money, I’m not interested in it. But this - this thing, it’s over.”
“So, what? That’s it?” Enjolras demands, as he follows Grantaire’s steps through the apartment, “You’re just going to call it off and walk away?” A distant part of his mind registers Cosette still in the living room, watching with wide, horrified eyes, dismisses it as unimportant.
“Yeah,” replies Grantaire, words thrown over his shoulder carelessly, angrily. “I am. I should have fucking listened to Joly and Bossuet when they said this was a dumb idea, when they asked me if I knew what I was getting myself into, but no, I had to go and make another stupid choice.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means, Enjolras, that you’re the worst idea I’ve ever had,” Grantaire replies, “And we’re finished.”
The door slams shut behind him, leaving only silence.
Grantaire doesn’t text.
He doesn’t call.
Enjolras spends far too long staring at his phone wondering if he should be the one to reach out and make first contact, then remembers how angry Grantaire had looked when he’d slammed the door shut behind him. He knows that the last thing Grantaire wants right now is for him to try and get in touch, even though it's his first instinct and the only thing he wants to do. He's not prepared for the sudden onslaught of feelings, how awful he feels.
But what was worse, what he hadn’t accounted for, was the way Cosette had looked at him when he'd walked back into the living room. How sad she’d looked, with her wide eyes and her sympathy – and how completely and utterly like a shit it made him feel.
Because none of it was real, all of it was made up, and Grantaire breaking up with him was all for her benefit. He’d come up with this grand plan to introduce her to his boyfriend so he could break up with him and she’d leave him alone, and now she was sat on the floor in the middle of his living room looking like she wanted nothing more than to help him. Like she wanted to wrap him up in blankets and force-feed him ice cream.
She felt sorry for him; she felt bad.
And it was all his fault.
So he’d lied. “I’m fine.”
He’d forced a smile and gone to sit with her on the floor, refusing to talk about anything to do with Grantaire, even if it meant that he ended up talking about her wedding instead. It was the only way he could get her to smile, and talking about something that wasn’t Grantaire lessened the weight on his chest.
Then he’d gone back to work the next day and acted like everything was fine.
And Grantaire didn’t call.
And he didn’t text.
Instead, Grantaire follows the deal to the letter and plays the angry boyfriend, going so far as to not even turn up at the Musain that night. He keeps completely out of touch and the moment Enjolras sees the rest of his friends he realises that they know. But they know better, and they don't try to talk to him about it, though in some ways their lack of sympathy is worse. He spends the next day with Cosette, resolutely not mentioning Grantaire, and tries to apologise again for his shit behaviour when finding out she was engaged.
She leaves him on Sunday at the train station, wrapped up in thick gloves and a hat and scarf against the elements, her curls tucked under a fur-lined hood. She stands on her tiptoes to hug him, kisses his cheek. He wraps his arms around her tightly, closes his eyes and just breathes in her perfume. He misses her, he does, things just aren't the same when she's not around. “He’ll take you back, you know,” she says, quietly volunteered.
He sighs out a breath, but doesn’t unclasp his arms from around her waist. “I’m not so sure.”
Taking someone back seems impossible when you were never really together in the first place. But of course she doesn’t know that. She's supposed to think that he's completely broken up over it so she won't immediately start trying to set him up with other guys.
“Whatever you did, whatever you said, just apologise,” she says gently. “I know you’re stubborn and there was probably a very good reason for your argument, but you’re also miserable without him, and I swear, if I see you mope around your apartment in that hoodie one more time—”
Enjolras makes a noise of protest in the back of his throat. He hasn't been wearing it that much, has he? “You won’t be in my apartment any longer to see me.”
“I have eyes and ears.”
“Well that isn’t creepy at all.”
“Oh come oh, like you think Eponine and Musichetta won’t tell me everything about your sorry ass moping around because of Grantaire?”
“Please don’t.” There must be something in the tone of his voice, because Cosette gets that impossibly sad look in her eyes again.
“Isn’t that your train?” He releases her finally, steps back and away as the blast of air comes that signals an approaching train. Across the platform people begin moving, picking up bags and checking tickets. A conductor straightens his jacket, checks his watch and compares it to the sign on the screen.
Enjolras can feel Cosette looking at him again, so he picks her suitcase up for her. It’s enough to distract her, as she huffs out a breath and pulls it from his grasp with a muttered, “I can carry it myself.” It’s always been a point of principle for her that she doesn't need a man to do things for her, and it makes him smile.
“Look after yourself,” she says, as the train pulls in and people begin to get off. “Don’t start killing yourself at work again just because you don’t have someone to distract you. Keep eating regular meals. Relax. And go to the Perry|Aitken art gallery.”
Cosette smiles at him as she gets onto the train, disappears inside to store her luggage. Enjolras takes a step as if he’s going to get on then remembers he doesn’t have a ticket, swears and moves further down the train. He finds her three windows down, settling into a seat. “Cosette!”
He lifts his hand to bang on the glass, ignores the man in the next seat who jumps and glares at him. Cosette turns on the spot, one eyebrow raised, questioning.
“What do you mean about the art gallery?” he has to shout to be heard over the noise of the engine starting up again.
He can’t hear her response, but he can see her mouth, “Just go. Trust me.” And then he has to step back as the train starts to move.
He watches until it disappears into the distance, until the screen overhead rolls over to the next arrival and the platform fills up again with new people. Cosette is gone and, officially, so is his lie. Everything can go back to normal now, or as normal as it can be, considering.
- - -
“What’s happening at the Perry|Aitken art gallery?”
The weekly meeting at the Musain has just come to a close. Everyone has started to split off and move into their respective groups. Conversation is flowing. Enjolras intends the question for Combeferre and Courfeyrac, but finds it going further, in the sudden lull after his words.
Combeferre and Courfeyrac share a glance, Joly looks suddenly unhappy. Grantaire, who had turned up for the first time that evening as if nothing had happened, continues to doodle in his sketchpad, shoulders hunched. Enjolras tries not to look too hard at him, at the way his sleeves fold over his knuckles, how his hair curls around his neck.
“What?” he asks the room at large, “Did I say something wrong?”
Feuilly is the one who steps up to the mark, the one who clears his throat to say, “R’s having an art show there.”
Enjolras blinks. His attention is drawn back to Grantaire.
“You have an art show?” he asks, “I didn’t know that. Why didn’t I know that?”
“You never asked.” Grantaire doesn’t look up from his sketching, continues on as if he never spoke. Beside him, Enjolras feels Combeferre stir, a calming hand on his arm which he shrugs off, turning back to the others - but he can’t help it, like pushing a bruise he turns back on Grantaire seconds later. “Did you not want me to go?”
Grantaire's voice is deliberately bland. “What makes you think that?”
“Does everyone else know?” The silence that greets his words is answer enough. Enjolras feels a deep anger start to build, low in his chest, unimpressed at not being let in on this piece of information. “Did you think I wouldn’t go?” the question occurs to him as an afterthought, makes him frown.
“Why would you?” Grantaire asks, looking up from his sketchpad finally, “It’s not like we were ever serious.”
“And besides,” he continues over him, “It’s not like anyone will turn up anyway.”
He doesn’t know what to say to that, is left with the curious sensation he's been utterly dismissed as Grantaire turns back to his sketches. The anger in his chest burns, frustration, he wants to lash out but bites the instinct back. Lashing out won’t solve anything. It was up to Grantaire who he told about the show, who he wanted to go. They were never really dating; Enjolras has no right to demand to be part of his life.
Demanding without thinking was what got them in this mess anyway.
Slowly, conversation returns. The others find different things to focus their attention on. Enjolras is drawn into a conversation with Feuilly and Combeferre about worker’s rights. He tries to act like it doesn’t unsettle him when he sees Bahorel and Bossuet finally draw Grantaire out of his little slump, get him to shut the sketchbook and join in with their laughter. The rest of the night they make sure to stay away from each other. It must be obvious to the others, but no one comments on it.
“Should I go?” he asks later, when it’s just him, Combeferre and Courfeyrac at a table. “To Grantaire’s art show.”
“Honestly?” Courfeyrac asks, “I don’t know. It’s likely he didn’t tell you for a reason, but this is R. He isn’t the type to show off, or think he’s good at anything, even when he is. He probably didn’t intend for us to all find out, but there you go.”
“Plus,” Combeferre adds, “Joly told me he’s worried. The whole thing depends on how many people turn up, how much of an interest they show, how much money he makes if his work sells. It could be a huge failure, who knows? And you’re sort of a hard person to invite to failures.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you never fail at anything, you git,” Courfeyrac replies, “So you make everyone else feel inadequate.”
He remembers Grantaire saying something similar, only with different words. You don’t know how to fail. At the time he’d made him think it was a good thing, but now he wonders. Despite their conversation in the restaurant that time, had Grantaire continued to think that he wasn't good enough, that he wasn't worth Enjolras's time?
“So you think I shouldn’t go?”
“I think… I think you should make up your own mind,” Courfeyrac says carefully. “You’ve gotten this far without our input.”
“You mean succeeded in making Grantaire hate me?”
“He doesn’t hate you. He’s upset, there’s a difference. Look, Enjolras,” Courfeyrac pushes his drink out of the way on the table so he can lean forward, hands clasped and expression unusually earnest. He rarely gets serious like this; it's only when he wants to get a point across. “I’m not going to give you all the answers, because no matter what you might think, there aren’t any. This isn’t a test you can just study for and then get full marks.”
Enjolras looks to Combeferre for help, finds him nodding along. “But I have no idea what I’m doing,” he says to both of them helplessly - and again has that curious sensation of hearing Grantaire’s voice. You’re better at this than you know.
“You’ve done well so far,” Combeferre points out, “Well, apart from the whole, not realising you were dating for real, then taking him for granted and pissing him off.”
Enjolras opens his mouth to protest and then realises –
“Oh God, we were, weren’t we?” He stares at them both for a few seconds and then continues, “We really were. Shit. Fuck.”
The realisation hits him suddenly, like a brick to the face.
Combeferre and Courfeyrac both stare at him as he curses. Courfeyrac looks a little like Christmas just came early. “I owe you twenty,” he says to Combeferre, without tearing his eyes away, “I hate you. This is amazing.”
“Never bet against the house,” Combeferre replies, not looking away either.
Enjolras ignores them both, rattles through every memory he has of the past week and a half. Thinks of everything that was said and all the words that weren’t. The looks and the casual touches and the kisses. Falling asleep together. The books. Grantaire’s fucking hoodie. Now he's thinking about it in a different light, whole conversations re-arrange themselves. He thinks about how he's felt over the past few days, ever since Grantaire stormed out of his apartment and didn't look back. The way he'd felt guilty for lying to Cosette but even worse for hurting Grantaire.
“Fuck,” he says again, and catches sight of Grantaire leaving over Courfeyrac’s shoulder. He doesn’t even think twice, just gets to his feet and snatches his jacket up off the chair behind him. He leaves the Musain without so much as a goodbye, leaving Courfeyrac and Combeferre staring after him. The blast of cold air when he steps outside stuns him for a second, and then he regains his senses as he heads down the street. He catches up to Grantaire at the next corner.
Grantaire is in the process of lighting a cigarette, one hand curved around the end as the flame flickers. He looks up with a start when Enjolras steps up beside him, then frowns and carries on with what he was doing, dismissing him from his attention.
Enjolras watches him patiently, bites down on his tongue so he doesn’t say anything stupid. Now he’s finally acknowledged what they were, now he can actually admit to himself that he has feelings, it’s hard not to be distracted by them. By how much he just wants to pull that cigarette away from Grantaire and kiss him instead, how he wants to sink his hands into his hair and pull him close, how he wants him to smile and laugh, but most of all, just to spend time with him again.
“You’re staring.” Grantaire gets his cigarette lit finally, takes a deep drag and shoves his hands into his pockets with the lighter as he starts walking again. “What do you want?”
“Nothing - I just - wanted to talk.”
“Alright.” Grantaire sounds unconvinced. “What’s up?”
Enjolras flounders, suddenly unable to come up with a single thing to say. He can’t think of any topics that would across what he wants to say - he isn't even sure what it is he wants to say. This was all so much easier when he didn't think it was real. He has so many conflicting emotions now he can't decide which one to settle on. He wants to be mad, he wants to make him happy, he wants to apologise, he wants to demand to know why he left, he wants to -
“Are you just doing this for appearances?” Grantaire asks suddenly, “Because if so: don’t. Everyone knows we’re broken up. I’ve been avoiding people to play the pissed-off lover, I recounted our fight to Joly and Bossuet, I didn’t smash plates but I made a good go at slamming doors. I think they’re all convinced it's over. And Cosette’s gone, so what do you need me for?”
Enjolras frowns. “It’s nothing to do with - did you really think I just came to do some more acting?”
“Why else would you talk to me?”
He gives that answer the stare it deserves, but Grantaire's unaffected, just takes another drag of his cigarette and exhales slowly. He changes tact. “I thought we were friends. I want to talk. I miss spending time with you.”
Grantaire gives him a sidelong look, his expression is unreadable. “You don’t have to keep pretending, you know.”
“What if I don’t want to?” Enjolras finds himself suddenly earnest, stops and turns abruptly to search Grantaire’s face for answers. “What if I’m not pretending?”
Grantaire flicks ash from the tip of his cigarette, looks at him thoughtfully. It is the first time, Enjolras realises, that he's properly met his eyes since what happened. The first time he's looked at him squarely. Enjolras feels stripped bare, shifts anxiously from one foot to another as he waits for Grantaire’s reply. “Nice try,” he says finally, soft, “But we were never really friends.”
He leaves Enjolras staring after him as he walks away, unprepared for the sudden sinking feeling of not being good enough, of not being able to fix it.
- - -
He spends the next day at work staring at emails on his computer and the mounting pile of files on his desk, doing absolutely nothing to reduce either. Without Cosette to ensure that he's eating, he skips lunch and dinner, spends all his time doing half-hearted work he's going to hate himself for when he gets out of this rut. He can’t get Grantaire’s words out of his head, or what Cosette had said before she left on the train.
He doesn't want to let himself believe, but she’d been so convinced he’d take him back, that he wouldn’t blame him for what had happened. Had they played that good of an act for her? Had the lie been so convincing?
He'd done what she had wanted, he'd tried to apologise, but Grantaire hadn’t wanted to hear it, had refused to believe him.
He knows the easy thing would be to let it go, to accept that he’s really fucked things up and leave it there. It would be easy for him to make things worse, to push Grantaire far enough that he wouldn't come back. As Grantaire said, it wasn’t like they were really friends before. But Enjolras has never been the type of person to let something go, particularly when the odds aren’t stacked in his favour.
Even more so when he doesn't want to just leave things how they are and accept that it's all over.
He closes his emails and opens up a new internet window, puts in the name of the art gallery Cosette had told him, and clicks search. He finds the listing for Grantaire’s show, that very night, and looks at the bold words that say tickets available for a long while.
- - -
Nine o’clock sees him still sat in his office, dealing with a few last forms from a recent case. The rest of the offices are empty, his superiors left a few hours ago. He has no real reason to stay; he can get one of the interns to do the photocopying he needs, to file everything away correctly. He watches the minute hand tick by on the clock on the wall.
His phone buzzes.
He swipes it open on Grantaire’s sleeping face, ignores the little jump in his chest as he clicks on his inbox. The message is from Cosette, it says simply: tell him.
Enjolras looks at it for a long while, then locks his phone. He opens up a reply window to an email, but finds his eyes drawn again to the phone. He takes a breath, closing his eyes, then sends off a quick reply to a few emails and closes down his computer. He gets his jacket from the stand, pulls it on as he says goodbye to one of the associates, the only person working later than him, and heads out to get a taxi. He gives the address from memory, finds himself wishing he’d stopped at a bar on the way.
He doesn’t know what he expects as street lights streak by and the night darkens overhead, but he realises with a start it’s not to turn the corner onto the street where the art gallery is and find it already full of people. The relief that rushes through him is instant, and he knows, he knows he should keep on driving, but instead he stops and pays the fare with a gracious tip.
He checks his name off with the girl at the entrance, is let in to warmth and conversation.
More than one person recognises him when he walks in, he nods his head to them in greeting, clasps a few hands.
Bossuet corners him by the buffet table.
“You wanker,” he greets, “Every time I have R convinced you’re not worth it, you do something like this.”
Enjolras blinks. “Hello.”
“Can’t just leave well enough alone, can you?” he asks, “Can’t just let him be pissed off and broken up with you in silence. You have to come show yourself here, be his shining white knight, acting like you actually care. You know I told him dating you was a bad idea but you’re not supposed to actively prove me wrong. Sure, I’m wrong a lot, but for God’s sake.”
Enjolras tries to work his way through that, understands about half of what was said. “I’m sorry?”
“You think I don’t know all these people are lawyers and contacts and clients of yours? You think he doesn’t know?”
Enjolras winces; he had hoped no one would put two-and-two together. “It’s that obvious?”
“Oh, come on. Anyway, that’s not my point.”
“My point is stop fucking him around and acting like you're doing the right thing by leaving him be. Decide what you want and tell him. And save us all about a month’s worth of sexual frustration in the process. It’s nearly Christmas, man, it’s the season to be jolly. Speaking of.” He moves away suddenly, snagging two champagne flutes from a passing waiter and only spilling about half of the liquid down his shirt.
Enjolras watches him go, bemused, like he's just been caught up and whipped around in a tornado. When he acknowledges that he's never going to make sense of what just happened, he turns to look around the gallery. It’s only a small venue, but the placement of the furniture and decor makes it seem bigger. The people milling around make it seem full, he spots Musichetta and Feuilly amongst the visitors. He sees what he thinks is Eponine and heads quickly in the other direction, not wanting to be caught by her acerbic tongue.
He’s never been to an art gallery before, or any sort of show for that matter, isn’t really sure how to act. He figures he’s supposed to look at the art and so he moves to the nearest piece, a huge canvas on the wall. Next to each painting is a little plaque with the name of the piece and a price tag. Under some it says ‘sold’, which makes him smile. There’s something familiar about this piece, something he recognises at the back of his mind in an abstract way, though he can't quite place it. The colours are mostly smears, streaked across the page as if seen through frosted glass.
It takes him until the third painting to realise why they all seem so familiar.
They’re all places he went on dates with Grantaire. Different snapshots of places and events. It probably wouldn’t be familiar to anyone else, they’re not distinct enough for that, no faces are picked out in detail, but even so he knows.
He finds the one he’s looking for in one corner, overlooked by most people. It’s much smaller than the rest, painted mostly in golds and one flash of bright white. It’s called, quite simply, ‘smile’. His eyes are drawn to the price tag next to it, which says it costs exactly £1000. He thinks of the money he'd promised Grantaire, and how he hadn't wanted to accept it, how he still has that money to spend. Again, he looks at the painting.
He buys it.
- - -
Christmas rushes towards them. The weather gets colder, and the nights get even darker. Enjolras spends more than one evening wrapped up in Grantaire's hoodie, trying to keep warm as he sits and flips through files in his apartment at night. The canvas he bought from Grantaire's show arrives, sits propped up on the coffee table in his living room, against a pile of books he still hasn’t read. Occasionally, he looks across at it.
Grantaire still hasn’t texted or called.
As is tradition, they all meet on Christmas Eve at the Musain, share drinks and conversation and good cheer. Cosette skypes him and they all raise a glass to her, she shows off the engagement ring she's finally wearing. Somehow Courfeyrac acquires a sprig of mistletoe, makes great fun out of catching unsuspecting couples under it.
Close to midnight Enjolras realises he has an email from the senior partner - because apparently lawyers never sleep, even at Christmas - and heads outside to get a better signal to reply. It’s too cold; his fingers fumble and stutter on the keys of his phone as he attempts to type out a reply. It fails miserably and he scowls, grumbling something under his breath.
Behind him the door to the Musain opens with a blast of sound, muffled again when it closes and someone steps out. Enjolras doesn’t look up, too engrossed in his battle with the elements, until someone clears their throat next to him and says, “So.”
He startles and looks up, email forgotten as he stares at Grantaire.
All he can do is stare, caught out and lost for words. Grantaire looks - he looks good, ink black hair wild and curling, hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. A well-worn scarf wrapped around his neck to keep warm, a familiar beanie on his head. He looks at the phone in Enjolras's hand for a second, and then rocks back on his heels.
“My sister’s coming to visit,” he says, “In a few weeks.”
“Oh,” replies Enjolras, and frowns.
“And see, she’s under this strange impression,” Grantaire continues, lifting a hand to wave it through the air, a vague gesture as he half-shrugs, “That I have a boyfriend.”
“Oh?” Enjolras repeats, frown deepening when he sees Grantaire’s lips curving slightly, pulling up at the corners into what is almost a smile. He knows that look, saw it often, when they were pretending to be together. He forces himself to tear his gaze away and meet his eyes instead. “That’s odd.”
“Yeah,” Grantaire agrees, “How weird.”
Enjolras misses a beat, his pulse stutters as he starts to catch up. “How did she get that idea?”
“Well, it seems for the past few weeks I almost was dating someone. There was this guy, see. Bit of a git, really, but great cheekbones. And he told his sister that he was dating someone when he wasn’t - weird, right? - and then he asked me to pretend to date him, and offered me some money. Now I’m awful at making good decisions, so I said yes and we pretended to date. Only it sort of seemed sometimes like we were dating, but this guy, amazing as he is, is also kind of dense and oblivious.”
Enjolras’s breathing constricts, he realises what this is about, oh god.
“So he took me for granted and I dumped him and then, right, here’s the funny thing. He actually acted like he was upset by the whole thing, like he’d actually been dumped instead of fake-dumped.” Enjolras can’t meet his eyes, looks down at the floor. “And he moped for a while and asked his friends for advice, then he got all his fancy lawyer friends and associates to come to my art show and spend a stupid amount of money on art that isn’t even that good. Oh, and he bought this stupid painting of something I said to him on our first fake date, like it actually meant something. Also, his sister yelled at me for being, I quote, a heartless bastard, because I broke her brother’s heart.”
“Oh,” says Enjolras, when the silence stretches on after Grantaire finishes speaking and he realises he should say something. Grantaire looks at him like he wants him to say something more. “And did you?”
Grantaire looks confused. “Did I what?”
“Break her brother’s heart.”
“I don’t know - I don’t think so. It was all fake, wasn’t it?”
He looks up at Enjolras like he's not sure he wants to hear the answer, like it's taken him days to work up to this. Like he isn't even sure he should have asked the question and part of him wants to run away the moment he hears the answer.
“Yes,” Enjolras replies, “And no.”
He puts his phone away finally, turns to face Grantaire with a heart beating loudly in his chest, with adrenaline that makes him feel like he’s just run a marathon. “I thought we were pretending at first and I don’t know, maybe you were, but I don’t think I was. I don’t know how to pretend. I was just doing what felt natural and what felt natural was spending time with you and making you laugh and kissing you up against doorframes to convince Cosette we were together.” He takes a breath. “And I’m sorry I took you for granted, and that I acted like you didn’t matter when you did. You do. I’m sorry. I can’t say it enough. And if you don’t still like me, that’s fine, I can understand. I mean, I want you to change your mind but I get if you don’t, because I’ve been awful, but I just want a chance. I’m rambling. Sorry. Please say something.”
Grantaire stares at him, breathes out slowly, a shaky exhaled breath. “You are so fucking oblivious.”
“What—” Enjolras starts to protest, but the words die on his lips when Grantaire steps forward and kisses him.
He gives himself up immediately to the warmth, to the slide of Grantaire’s lips over his. Curves his body further into Grantaire’s and pushes his fingers into his hair, tangling in the curls. It's everything he's wanted and more, and he can feel Grantaire's breath stutter when he sucks his tongue into his mouth. It’s been a while since he’s had this, too long, he wants to lose himself in it entirely, but eventually he knows he has to pull back, has to ask what’s been on his mind since Grantaire spoke.
“When you said – when you explained how you fell for me,” he murmurs, as Grantaire’s lips press against his, insistent, refusing to be separated for too long, “When you made up that story—”
“It wasn’t made up; I wasn’t lying.”
“God, I’m so oblivious,” he replies, feels Grantaire’s laugh ripple through his body where they’re pressed together.
“Yes you are.” He kisses him again, harder, grazes teeth over his bottom lip. “Also do you know how arrogant it is to buy a painting of yourself?”
“Shut up,” Enjolras kisses him into silence, holds him close with hands fitted to his hips, thumbs sliding under the bottom of his shirt. He knows there are tattoos there, wants to trace them with more than his fingers, wants to see how far they go and taste his skin. He wants Grantaire back in his apartment, on his sofa, in his bed. Wants him filling up all the gaps in his life he hadn't even realised were there until now. He wants his laughter and his cynicism and his conversation, wants everything they pretended to have and more.
He kisses Grantaire until his fingers and toes are numb, until their breath is the warmest thing in the night air. Curls his body further into Grantaire’s, attempts to steal his body heat, laughs when Grantaire shivers and moves closer. He feels arms slide around his waist under his jacket, hands sliding into the back pockets of his jeans.
“We should probably go inside,” Grantaire says, leans forward to kiss him again, a brush of lips.
“Or we could just go back to mine.”
Grantaire stills against him, looks up with dark eyes. Enjolras feels his heart lodge itself somewhere near his sternum. Grantaire looks at him for a long while, considering. Then he grins. “I thought I told you to always leave them wanting more.”
“You did,” Enjolras replies, remembering their very first kiss, in the exact same place, under completely different circumstances. “But I think we’ve been waiting long enough.”