Chapter 1: One.
Enjolras stood, golden and proud in the morning sun streaming through the window, the red flag in his hand, the red blood on his face. He stood alone in front of the soldier’s guns, and he did not flinch. He would die, and Grantaire could see that he had accepted that fact. There was determination in his eyes. He thought that his death meant something. Grantaire didn’t know if that was true, but he did know one thing:
He would not let Enjolras die alone.
He moved through the crowd of soldiers, and they parted for him. He went to Enjolras’s side. He took his hand.
You don’t believe in anything.
I believe in you.
Enjolras rose the red flag in defiance. The guns fired. Grantaire fell. Enjolras’s hand slipped out of his as he was thrown through the window.
Grantaire died. There was absolute blackness. There was absolute silence. He was free of suffering, he could finally sleep.
Chapter 2: Two.
Then he woke up.
Chapter 3: Nine.
The internet had changed how he went about this. It was an incredible invention, really. Before, the search had involved endless readings of newspapers from all around the world, extensive travel, and sometimes just blind faith that this felt like the right country, the right city, the right building. Now, he was able to search for the criteria he had built up over the years while sitting in his boxers and eating sugary cereal in his apartment in Paris, and he only had to travel when he was about 75% sure that he was headed to the right place.
Three days ago he’d found the Facebook page for a small group in Chicago. It fit the bill. It was populated by young people, radically leftist, occasionally violent, and overambitious in its scope. Unfortunately, there hadn’t been any pictures on the page, but that wouldn’t have really helped. Grantaire never truly knew if he’d found what he was looking for unless he was there in person.
Now, he entered a small, dingy coffee shop in Chicago’s South Side, looking around with a little smile. It smelled like burnt coffee and cigarette smoke. The tabletops were sticky. The prices were dirt cheap. The staff glared at him. One of the lights was flickering, about to go out.
It felt like home.
He ordered an espresso and got a latte (he had a feeling that he would’ve gotten a latte no matter what he’d ordered) and went to sit in the corner of the shop. The meeting time listed on the Facebook page was not for another two hours, but if this was the right place, the person he would be looking for would be here at the very least an hour early.
He sipped his revolting latte, lit a cigarette, and waited. He prayed this was the right place. He was twenty two. He’d never lived longer than twenty nine. His time was running out.
As people entered the coffee shop, Grantaire found himself first looking for long blond hair and clear blue eyes, even though it had been almost two centuries since he’d seen that particular face. He had to remind himself that that was not how this worked. He had to look for the other, deeper signs. The way that the person moved, always with purpose, with intent. Like every step could change the world if he meant it enough. The hunger he carried with him, even when he wasn’t malnourished. The almost-mania of someone constantly running on two little sleep and too much caffeine. The careless manner of his dress and hair. His eyes. The fire in them. Grantaire always knew once he looked into the right person’s eyes that he’d found him again.
Every time he woke up in a new place, a new body, he began the search again for the body that held Enjolras’s soul. The body’s name was always different. The face was always different. But the soul was always exactly the same. Once Grantaire found the right soul he would stand by that person’s side until their inevitable deaths. Enjolras would die for a great cause, and Grantaire?
Grantaire would die for Enjolras. He died over and over and over again so that Enjolras would never have to die alone.
Perhaps it was noble. Perhaps it was suicidal. Perhaps when he had awoken in a new body that first time he should have gone and enjoyed his new lease on life, fallen in love, had a family, died of old age in his sleep, and maybe that time death would’ve made him forget as it was meant to.
Grantaire didn’t care. As far as he was concerned, a life without Enjolras at his side to give him something to believe in wasn’t a life at all.
Grantaire looked down at his hands wrapped around the paper coffee cup. They were big, with long, broad fingers. The pink palms were callused and the dark knuckles were scabbed. They were working hands. Fighting hands. This body was tall and strong, it would be helpful in whatever revolution it was needed for this time. He took a hair tie from his wrist and pulled the dreadlocks that hung down his back into a careless bun. This face was actually more handsome than he normally was. He wanted Enjolras to see it. Maybe this would be the lifetime that Enjolras fell in love with him.
He laughed to himself, shaking his head. He took a drag from his cigarette, blowing out a long trail of smoke. Now that was a ridiculous thought.
The bell over the door jangled in a distinctly unpleasant manner and Grantaire looked up hopefully. A man walked (or maybe stalked was the better word) into the coffee shop, bundled up against the Chicago winter cold. He wore a red jacket. Grantaire sat up. Enjolras always loved red, no matter what body he was in. The man’s face was covered by a thick scarf and knitted cap. All Grantaire could really see was an elegant nose, pink from the cold. The man gave the barista a travel mug, obviously speaking his order, though Grantaire couldn’t tell what it was. Enjolras liked strong black tea, not coffee. Grantaire watched with bated breath as the barista filled the mug with hot water and three black tea bags.
Please, he thought. Please, let it be you.
The man paid for his tea and took it to a table near the center of the room. He was facing away from Grantaire as he took off his scarf, showing a pale neck. His jacket was next, revealing a thin, birdlike frame. Then he took off his hat, and Grantaire’s world tilted on its axis as a cascade of blond hair fell down just passed his shoulders.
In the light shining through the dirty front windows of the cafe the golden curls looked like a halo around his head. Apollo , Grantaire thought.
He shook himself. This may not even be the right person, he told himself sternly, and if it was he certainly was not going to earn his trust by acting weird. He had to be a stranger interested in the cause, nothing more. That was always the hard part. Acting like he didn’t know Enjolras.
He ground his cigarette out on the ashtray in front of him, threw away the remains of the disgusting latte, and went over to the table with a charming, non threatening smile. Once he was behind the man he spoke in a deep voice that still clung onto the remains of his original French accent. “Sorry to bother you, but do you know if this is where Chicago’s Legion for Change meets? I’m not sure if I mixed up the time or the place…”
The man turned to look at him, and Grantaire felt like the air had been punched out of his lungs as his dark eyes met a pair of fiery blue ones. He was the same. He was exactly the same. He was…
No. Grantaire forced himself to look closer. While this man was blond and blue eyed, he did not look the same as the first Enjolras. While Enjolras had had strong, masculine features, this man was delicate, pretty in a way Enjolras had not been. He had a smattering of freckles where Enjolras had had none. His hair was like cornsilk rather than burnished gold, and his eyes were bright like a summer sky instead of dark like a stormy sea. He was not by any means the same as Enjolras.
But… God, he was so close. Close the way no other body that had held Enjolras’s soul had ever been. And Grantaire could see now that this was Enjolras, could see it in his eyes and could hear it in the annoyance in his voice as he tried to get Grantaire’s attention--
Grantaire forced his focus back to the present, where the man’s clipped voice was asking, “Hello? Are you there? Are you going to say something or are you just going to keep staring at me like a creep?”
Grantaire coughed awkwardly, shaking his head. “Sorry,” he said. “I… sorry you just look so much like an old friend of mine. You startled me. What was it you were saying?”
The man looked suspicious, but finally he said, “You mixed up the time, not the place. The meeting isn’t for another hour and a half.”
Grantaire smiled, trying to return his status to nonthreatening. “Oh, thanks. That’s good. Better to wait here for a little while than to run around trying to find the right place, right? Are you in the group?”
The man slowly nodded. “I am. I’m the president. My name is Jules,” he stuck out his hand, and Grantaire shook it. It was so small and fragile. He felt like it could break in his own. Another difference between this man and the first Enjolras: he had had a handshake like steel.
“I’m R,” Grantaire said. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Jules did not return the pleasantry, not that Grantaire thought he would, but he did gesture to the seat across from him. “Do you want to sit?” he asked. “We might as well sit together since you’re here early.”
“Thanks,” Grantaire said, sitting down across from him.
Jules turned to grab a battered satchel that Grantaire hadn’t noticed before, pulling out books, papers, and a pen that had had obviously had the end gnawed on. It was going to burst ink all over his face or hand soon, Grantaire knew. He’d seen it enough times. Every time he acted like this was the first time a pen had ever exploded on him. It always made Grantaire laugh. It was little things like that that he missed the most when he was trying to find Enjolras. The parts that weren’t about revolution or death, but just about being friends with this wonderful, ridiculous man.
“You shouldn’t chew on your pens,” he said as Jules scribbled a note in unintelligible handwriting. “You’ll end up covered in ink.”
Jules look startled at Grantaire’s words. He looked from the pen to Grantaire, then slowly set it aside, going back to his satchel to pull out a less damaged pen. It wouldn’t stop the inevitable, but it would delay it. “So, where are you from, R?” he asked. “That doesn’t sound like a Chicago accent.”
Grantaire smiled. “No, it’s French. I’m from Paris.” Technically, this body was born in Kenya, but Grantaire would always consider himself French. Whenever a new body was old enough to fend for itself, he’d return to Paris.
Jules smiled politely. Grantaire was impressed that he was trying to make conversation at all. “What brings you here?” he asked. “Job? School? Family?”
Grantaire considered. “School,” he decided. He could get into one easy enough. Being born with all of the memories of his previous lifetimes meant that he tended to be mislabeled as a prodigy. This body had two bachelors and a masters already, because he had to do something to keep himself busy and entertained in the years it always took him to find Enjolras, and having education made him more valuable to Enjolras’s cause when he did find him anyway. “I’m working on my PhD.”
Jules looked a little surprised, which Grantaire tried not to find insulting. “Oh. Wow. What field?”
Grantaire had degrees in art, political science, history, mathematics, language, literature, chemistry, medicine, and military tactics. Of course, he had no proof that any of those degrees were actually his. “Psychology,” he said. That was the focus he’d had in this body. “My thesis is on mob behavior.”
Jules was obviously impressed, and it made warmth flood Grantaire all the way down to his toes. “Next semester is my last for my undergrad,” he said. “Poli-sci.”
Grantaire grinned. “That’s exciting. What are you planning on doing with it?”
Jules shrugged, gesturing around the cafe. “This, I guess. Raise awareness. Change the world.”
Grantaire shook his head. Enjolras always had too big, too vague goals. That was what Grantaire was for. Whenever he met Enjolras it was like all of his ideas and passion was just a bar of dull metal that he was wildly brandishing around. No finesse. Grantaire was there to help him smith that bar of metal into a gleaming sword. Or… that was the plan, at least.
“Not a very sustainable career path,” he pointed out.
Jules scowled. “Money doesn’t matter to me. Change does.”
“Can’t change anything if you’re starving,” he countered.
“Tell that to Gandhi,” Jules snapped.
Grantaire laughed, holding up his hands in surrender. He would never be able to convince Enjolras to change his nature, but sometimes he had to try. “Alright, alright, Apollo. Don’t bite my head off.”
Jules frowned. “Apollo?” he asked.
Grantaire gestured to his hair. “You’re all… sunny.”
Jules frown morphed into a scowl. “I am not.”
Grantaire grinned. “Whatever you say, Apollo.”
Jules huffed, turning his attention away from Grantaire and to his notes. It seemed that his limited supply of polite conversation had run out. That was okay with Grantaire. He pulled out his phone and started looking at apartments for rent in the area and Northwestern’s application process.
He was just looking at studio with plenty of room for his art (which he’d have to move from Paris, damn), when people started filing in, laughing and talking, filling the dim coffee shop with light. Grantaire could only assume that these were Chicago’s Legion for Change’s members. The newest iteration of Les Amis. Occasionally in these groups there were people he thought might be original members, though he couldn’t spot Combeferre or Bahoral the way he could Enjolras. He was pretty sure that last time Feuilly had spent some time with them, though as far as Grantaire knew he was still alive.
The newcomers grabbed their coffees then came to Jules’ table, pulling up extra chairs and tables as needed. A few of them noticed Grantaire and introduced themselves. Grantaire didn’t recognize any of them. Once everyone was seated Jules cleared his throat, and all conversation ended abruptly, their faces turning to their leader.
“Hello everyone,” Jules said. “Thank you for coming. As you can see we have a new person here today. This is R. You can get to know each other in your own time, right now we need to talk about--”
“Sorry I’m late!!” trilled a musical voice from the doorway, cutting off Jules. Grantaire turned to see a person in a huge neon green sun hat, pink fuzzy earmuffs, paisley rain boots, and a quilted poncho made of of various brightly colored animal pattern fabrics. His whole face lit up. There was only one person who dressed like that.
“Je--” he started to say, but thankfully was cut off by Jules.
“Jehan, we’ve talked about this,” Jules said, and Grantaire’s head whipped around to look at him. Jehan. They were still Jehan? “If you’re late just slip in quietly, don’t interrupt the meeting.”
“Oh, right, sorry,” apparently-still-Jehan said, not looking very sorry. They came over to the table and pulled up a chair next to Grantaire. “Hi,” they whispered as Jules went back to rhapsodizing on homelessness or whatever it was he was currently angry about. “It’s good to see you again, Grantaire. I’ve missed you.”
Chapter 4: Jehan: ?
So, here's where we stand right now, folks.
I told you that I would be updating weekly, but since this thing is practically writing itself and I'm several chapters ahead of where I thought I'd be, it might be more like bi-weekly. I'm going to try to make my schedule that you'll get new chapters on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, but, you know, life might happen.
Just so you know, I don't have a beta reader, so any issues in grammar/spelling are my own.
Enjoy this Jehan filled chapter, see you back here on Tuesday.
“What--” Grantaire started to say, but he was cut off by Jehan putting a finger to his lips. They were wearing orange fingerless gloves.
“Shh, Enjolras is talking. He’ll get mad if he sees us having a side conversation.” They winked, then turned to look at Jules, the picture of innocent attentiveness.
Grantaire was reeling. Jehan remembered him. Jehan remembered Enjolras . He hadn’t heard that name spoken aloud in almost two hundred years, and there Jehan was using it like it was the most normal thing in the world. Jules was speaking, but Grantaire had no idea what he was saying. He stared at Jehan, probably looking like an idiot with his mouth slightly agape.
This Jehan’s body was much younger than anyone else at the meeting, he realized. Perhaps fourteen or fifteen. When they took off the sunhat and earmuffs Grantaire saw that they had shoulder-length, razor-straight black hair with rainbow highlights. They wore purple colored contacts and green eyeshadow all the way up to their drawn on eyebrows, which were at least an inch higher than where their real eyebrows had obviously been shaved off.
He shook his head fondly. If Jehan had been a little eccentric in the 1830s, they were a hot mess now.
Sooner than he had expected, the meeting ended, though some of the members stuck around to socialize afterwards. Jules was not one of those members. He was out the door as soon as the last debate was resolved, obviously off to his next world saving activity. Grantaire watched him go a little regretfully, but he had more important things to do than stalk Jules around Chicago.
He turned to Jehan. “Let’s go somewhere else,” he said, his tone brokering no argument.
“Okay!” Jehan said, standing and waving to the remaining members of the Legion with a couple little bounces. “Bye guys!” they called cheerfully.
The members all grinned and chorused their goodbyes, one girl reaching over to give them a one armed hug. “Bye, squirt,” she said fondly.
“I am immeasurably older than you,” Jehan replied in the same tone.
She laughed. “I know, squirt. Be safe and don’t forget to do your homework.”
Jehan turned to Grantaire with a big smile. “Okay, I’m ready to go. My mom’s making spaghetti for dinner, do you want to come over?”
“Your… what?” Grantaire asked, confused.
“My mom, she’s making spaghetti,” Jehan repeated, leading Grantaire out of the coffee shop and down the street as they put their hat and earmuffs back on. “I mean, it’s not the best spaghetti in the word, she always overcooks the noodles and the sauce is from a jar, but I still like it.”
Grantaire followed them, trying to understand. “So… you remember me? You’re Jehan, like Jean Prouvaire who I knew in 1832 and who died on the barricade?”
Jehan nodded, wincing a little. “That sucked, didn’t it? I hate painful deaths. I usually try to live to old age, but Enjolras really convinced me that we could make it.” They sighed sadly. “He’s good at that, isn’t he?”
“Yeah… he is. So, what, you started living new lives after that one too?”
Jehan laughed, shaking their head. “Oh, no. I’m waaaaaaaay older than that. At least seven thousand years, maybe more. My memory starts to get a little foggy at a certain point, and before written language I had no way to document what I was doing.” They turned to walk backwards, a skip in their step. “I’m the oldest Rememberer I’ve ever met.”
Grantaire frowned. “What’s a rememberer?” he asked.
Jehan shook their head. “It’s a Rememberer . You have to pronounce the capital letter.” They laughed, turning to face forward again. “But it’s pretty self explanatory. A Rememberer is someone who remembers past lives.”
“So… what, we’re not the only people who remember?” Grantaire asked. “Or, um, Remember?”
Jehan laughed again. “Of course not! It’s not a majority, but lots of people Remember. Sometimes they Remember just bits and pieces, flashes of emotion and images, recognizing people that they’ve never met in this lifetime. Sometimes they Remember everything. And some people are born Remembering while others Remember slowly and have to really work to Remember.” They frowned, sticking their tongue out. “Remember, Remembering, Rememberer, Remember, Remembering, Rememberer... You know when you say a word so much it doesn’t sound like a word anymore?”
Grantaire sighed. “Focus, Jehan.”
Jehan shook their head like a very colorful dog dislodging water from its ears. “Right. Sorry. As far as I can tell partial Rememberers who need to work to Remember are the most common, and full Remembers who just pop out of the womb Remembering are the least common.”
“And you are?”
“A born full Rememberer. I die and then bam! I wake up a baby.” They groaned dramatically. “Baby brains are the worst . You can Remember, but like, your physical brain really is not able to deal with you knowing that much information, so you just always feel like you forgot something and you can’t figure out what it is. But, you know, everyone thinks you’re cute and you get a lot of attention, so that’s nice.”
Grantaire nodded slowly. He knew exactly what Jehan meant. Well, except for the part where it was nice to be cooed at and snuggled. He was pretty sure he was always a very angry looking baby. “So, you Remember, but you still live with that body’s mother?”
Jehan frowned. “‘That body’?”
“Yeah,” Grantaire said. “It’s not your original.”
Jehan looked down, brow furrowed. “...I can’t even remember what my original body looked like. I’ve had so many of them. If I decided that one was the right one, and all the others were wrong, I think I’d be very unhappy. This is just my body to me.” They looked up at Grantaire thoughtfully. “Do you not think of that as your body?” they asked.
Slowly, Grantaire shook his head. “No. This is… I still think of the first one I Remember having as my real body, and these are like… ones I’ve stolen or something.”
Jehan shook their head firmly. “You didn’t steal it from anyone. It’s your body and it’s real, and it’s just as much yours as the first body you had.” They sighed softly. “You can’t get… you have to be willing to let things go. If you get too focused on having what you had the first time, then you’ll just be miserable. You have to be willing to change and grow, to take each new life for what it is.”
Grantaire looked at his feet. He was… definitely not doing that. He was holding on to the first life as hard as he could. Holding on to Enjolras.
“You recognized me,” he said, wanting to change the subject. “You just walked right in and knew it was me.”
Jehan nodded. “I can’t explain it, but I just… I see more than just physical appearance. I always recognize people I’ve met before. It’s like… their mannerisms and personality and just… their soul. I can see all of it and put it all together and recognize it the same way I can recognize a face.”
Grantaire slowly nodded. “I… understand. I need to pay more attention, look really closely, but sometimes I think I can recognize people. I’m never sure with anyone but…” he trailed off.
Jehan smiled softly. “Enjolras?” they asked, voice gentle and kind.
Grantaire looked away. If Jehan knew, he didn’t have to confirm it for them.
Jehan sighed. “I’ve seen that before. Rememberers looking for friends or lovers or parents or children. Sometimes it turns out well, but usually…” They shook their head. “That way leads to heartbreak, Grantaire.”
“I’m used to heartbreak,” said Grantaire.
Jehan looked so sad that even their sunhat seemed to droop. “I know.”
They stopped in front of a little house with bikes and toys scattered over the front yard. It seemed homey. Lived in. “This is me,” Jehan said, opening the gate and gesturing for Grantaire to come in.
Grantaire entered slowly. “Do kids live here?” he asked.
Jehan nodded. “Yeah, I have two little brothers. Also an older sister, but she’s in college.”
“And you… you just live here. With this family?”
Jehan nodded, taking the front steps two at a time. “Yup. I like having a family, being a kid. People cook for me, I don’t have to think about bills, I don’t need to have a job… Kid school is boring, but I just get myself labeled gifted and go to a college nearby. I’m studying string theory at Northwestern right now. It’s so cool.” They reached into a pocket in their poncho, pulling out a key to unlock the door with. “Sometimes I don’t get a great family, and I have to go live by myself, but I prefer just… you know. Having a normal life. My family signed up for a kid, they want someone to love, so that’s what they’re going to get.”
Grantaire let that sink in. He stood in the doorway, looking inside of the house without really seeing it. He thought of the families he’d been born to over his lifetimes. How had it felt to them, to have a surly, angry child who was too smart for them to explain and who ran away as soon as he was old enough to. Did it make them sad? Did they miss him? He’d never considered how the body’s-- he’d never considered how his parents felt before.
He came back to the present as a small, pretty woman with gray-streaked hair up in a bun walked into the living room, drying her hands on a dish towel. “Oh, Jehan, you’re home, lovely. Can you set the table and tell your brothers--” She stopped, noticing Grantaire in the doorway. “Oh, hello, dear. I didn’t know Jehan was bringing a guest. I’m Dr. Yao.” She crossed to the doorway and Grantaire was forced to step into the house properly to shake her hand. “How do you know Jehan?”
“This is Grantaire. We met in France in the early nineteenth century,” said Jehan, sniffing the air. “Did you get garlic bread?”
Dr. Yao laughed, hitting Jehan with her dish towel. “I did, and you’re not getting any unless you tell your brothers to stop playing video games and come down to eat.”
“The television is a marvelous invention that changed life for the better,” Jehan said as they headed upstairs. “When I saw a talkie for the first time--”
“Yeah, yeah, it was magical and you couldn’t believe you’d lived to see the day, I know. Tell them to wash their hands.”
Jehan laughed and disappeared up the stairs.
Dr. Yao turned to Grantaire with a little smile. “So how did you two actually meet?” she asked.
Grantaire shrugged. “Save The World Club.” It was technically true, and he didn’t think telling this woman that all the “nonsense” her child was constantly spouting was actually true would be good for her sanity.
Dr. Yao smiled. “Oh, that group is such a positive influence on them. I’m so glad they have friends there. I worried when I sent them off to college so young that it would be hard for them to make friends, but that’s never been the case. My little social butterfly.”
Grantaire smiled. “They’ve always been easy to like.”
Jehan came down the stairs (poncho, hat, and rainboots abandoned for what Jehan apparently thought was more appropriate dinner wear: a tie dyed muumuu about four sizes too large cinched at the waist with a sequined belly dance sash and what looked like just a whole taxidermied robin glued onto a barrette in their hair), followed by two twin boys around eight.
Jehan walked up to Grantaire and took his hand, tugging him into the kitchen. “Help me set the table,” they said.
Once again, Grantaire was a little overwhelmed by Jehan’s home. There were pictures of Jehan’s family covering the fridge, Jehan identifiable at any age by their fashion sense.
Jehan grinned a little at Grantaire as he studied a picture of Jehan as a baby wearing a huge pair of bug-eyed sunglasses, a bright magenta onesie, and a little baby tutu in electric blue. “I cried whenever they tried to put me in something boring,” they explained. “When you can’t dress yourself or speak, you make do with the tools at your disposal.”
Grantaire smiled, taking a stack of dishes when Jehan offered them to him. “You still go by Jehan. Your parents didn’t name you that, did they?”
Jehan shook their head. “No, but luckily they let me change it. Legally and everything. It’s hard for me to think of myself using different names from life to life, and anyway the ones my parents give me are usually too gendered for my tastes.”
“Are you always nonbinary?”
“Always,” Jehan agreed. “How could I not be?”
That was a good point. Grantaire had been in a female body once and it had sucked. He was male, that was an essential fact that remained with him, no matter what body he was in. He imagined it was the same for Jehan. You couldn’t ask Jehan to be comfortable being male or female any more than you could ask them to be comfortable dressed like a normal person.
Once the table was set, the overcooked noodles, spaghetti sauce from a jar, and store bought garlic bread all sitting in mismatched serving dishes that looked like they were handmade, Jehan called in their family. Apparently their father had just gotten home from work, and he smiled at Jehan as he passed on his way to the table, deftly unclipping the taxidermied bird from their hair and setting on the counter.
“No dead things at the table,” he said in a soft voice.
“There’s meat in the spaghetti sauce,” Jehan pointed out, pouting a little.
“No dead things that have eyes at the table,” Jehan’s father rephrased without batting an eye.
Jehan sighed and sat, pulling out a chair next to them for Grantaire. Jehan’s father nodded to him in greeting, seemingly needing no explanation as to why Grantaire was at his table.
Dr. Yao went to the fridge, humming to herself. “What do you want to drink, Grantaire? We have wine, if you want a glass?”
“Water, please,” Grantaire said hurriedly, hands clenching in his lap. “I don’t drink.”
Jehan looked over at him, pleasantly surprised. They smiled softly, reaching over to squeeze Grantaire’s hand. “Good job,” they whispered.
Grantaire gave a tight smile back. It was still hard. This body had never had a drop of alcohol, but he still craved the release of it. Sometimes, at his lowest, when he was so overwhelmed by the memories of all the lives he had lived and all the deaths he had died that he couldn’t breathe, he thought that if he drank enough he would forget all of it, and would finally be free.
But he didn’t. It had been one hundred and seven years, four months, and eleven days since his last drink. They didn’t have a chip for that long at AA, but Grantaire held that time close to his heart.
Dr. Yao, seeming to sense the tension, got water for everyone, then sat down at the table.
Dinner was nice. Grantaire hadn’t eaten with a family in a long time. Jehan’s little brothers bickered about the video game they’d been playing. Dr. and Mr. Yao talked about work (Dr. Yao was a history professor, something Grantaire could tell Jehan found endlessly amusing, and Mr. Yao owned a pottery studio, which explained the handmade dishes). Jehan regaled them all with a hilarious story of a squirrel that had stolen their lunch, despite the fact that they were eating inside . They all seemed to know that Grantaire wanted to listen more than talk, and they let him.
After dinner was over and Dr. Yao had insisted that Grantaire did not have to help clean up, Jehan walked him out.
“How did you find Enjolras?” Grantaire asked as they stood on the front porch and waited for Grantaire’s cab back to the airport. He needed to return to Paris for a few days so that he could move his things.
Jehan shrugged. “I wasn’t looking for him. I just saw him one day. And I remembered how fun being part of Les Amis was, so I thought I’d see what he was doing this time.”
“Fun?” Grantaire asked. “Jehan, we died.”
Jehan nodded. “I know. That part wasn’t fun. But… the rest of it. We were such good friends, you know? And we were so excited and hopeful and… alive. That’s what I try to remember. We were all so alive.”
Grantaire’s cab pulled up in front of the house and Jehan gave Grantaire a tight hug in farewell.
Grantaire thought about their words all the way back to Paris.
Chapter 5: Chicago.
Grantaire dropped the last box as soon as he was through the door, kicking it closed behind him and sliding down to the floor. He groaned, squeezing his eyes shut and knuckling over them.
He hated moving. He always had to take a good long look at how much shit he had collected over the course of almost two hundred years. He’d had a thirty minute argument with himself about whether a take out menu from a restaurant in Dublin that had closed in 1970 was worth taking halfway around the world. (It, like most of the junk that he’d been unable to get rid off, now sat in a storage unit in Paris that he’d had since 1908.)
Those things that he had been able to justify moving to another continent were now sitting in the one bedroom apartment he had rented in the South Side, only a couple of blocks away from where Les A-- from where the Legion met. Grantaire shook his head. He’d have to talk to Jules about that name. It was horrible. At least Les Amis hadn’t sounded like a bad superhero team.
His stomach growled and he groaned again, slowly keeling over until he was laying down. He couldn’t see the kitchen box, and anyway he hadn’t been grocery shopping yet.
He pulled out his phone, looking for food near him, and found a diner that looked fairly decent nearby. He clambered to his feet and pulled on his coat.
Outside it had started snowing in big, fat flakes. Grantaire smiled softly. It was already beginning to stick, covering the grime of the neighborhood with pure white. Grantaire would never love anywhere like he loved Paris, but this wasn’t bad.
He walked to the diner, which smelled invitingly of salt and grease. When he walked in he was told to sit wherever, and he was about to take a seat at a table by the door when he noticed a flash of blond hair in a booth near the back.
Jules was writing something on an ancient laptop, frowning slightly as his thin fingers jabbed the keys, rapid fire. There was a burger and fries sitting at his elbow, a single bite taken out of the burger, the fries still piled high. Grantaire sighed, shaking his head.
He went over to the booth, sliding into the seat opposite Jules. “Hey, Apollo, right? From Save The World Club?”
Jules looked up, scowling when he recognized him. “It’s Jules from Chicago’s Legion for Change ,” he said.
“Yeah, about that name, Apollo--”
“ Jules .”
“--It’s really aggressive,” Grantaire continued as though Jules hadn’t interrupted. “And cheesy. Have you considered something like… I don’t know. Chicago’s Friends of The People?”
Jules glared. “I like the Legion of Change. It’s assertive. We’re not here to sing Kumbaya and have bake sales.”
“Of course you’re not. You look like you don’t even know how to turn an oven on.”
Jules looked insulted. “I know how to turn an oven on. You turn the little knob.”
Grantaire blinked at him for a moment, then laughed. Fuck, he’d missed him. “I guess you’re right. Do you know how to eat too?” He pointed to the plate of uneaten food. “That’s definitely gone cold by now, and fries aren’t good cold.”
“They’re fine cold,” Jules snapped, pulling the plate closer to himself, almost defensive. “I’m not hungry right now, so I’m saving them for later.”
Jules’ stomach growled loudly. Jules looked down like he’d never faced a betrayal like this before. He looked up at Grantaire, who raised an eyebrow, and he sighed. “Fine. I got distracted.” He picked up a fry and took a bite. Grantaire could see him force himself not to react to the grossness of a cold fry.
Grantaire grinned, looking down at the menu. The waitress came over and he ordered a burger and fries for himself, and another plate of fries for Jules. Jules looked like he wanted to protest, but it was clear that he didn’t want to eat cold fries more.
“This is so wasteful,” he said once the waitress had left with their order. “Do you know how much perfectly good food we throw away every day?”
“Shut up, Apollo,” Grantaire said cheerfully.
Jules sat back, crossing his arms. “I don’t like it when you call me that,” he said, petulant.
“I know,” Grantaire said. But if he couldn’t call Jules Enjolras, Apollo was the next best thing.
Jules huffed and went back to assaulting his computer keyboard. He ate his burger in between obviously impassioned sentences.
“What are you working on?” Grantaire asked, watching with a little smile.
“Homework,” Jules said. “I’m writing an essay about how saying something good can’t happen because human nature is intrinsically bad is a way for lazy people to get away with keeping a flawed system in place”
“Uh huh,” Grantaire said, smirking. “And what was the assignment?”
Jules looked up at him stonily before admitting, “We were supposed to write about trickle down economics.”
Grantaire chuckled. “Of course you were. Let me guess the thought process… ‘trickle down economics’ becomes ‘trickle down economics doesn’t actually work’ becomes ‘capitalism is awful’ becomes ‘communism is better than capitalism’ becomes ‘people say communism can’t work because of human nature’ becomes ‘saying that human nature is bad means that we can get away with bad things because we say that they can’t change.’”
Jules looked at Grantaire with wide eyes, speechless. Grantaire counted that as a win. “Um… yes. That was exactly the process.”
Grantaire nodded, taking a bite of his burger as he thought about that. “Well, it sounds like your argument states that communism can work.”
“It can work,” Jules said.
“No, it can’t,” Grantaire said, gesturing sharply with a fry. He’d seen first hand just how little it worked. “It’s true, communism can’t work because of human nature. It gives too much power to the people who decide what equal shares mean. In the same vein, capitalism and trickle down economics don’t really work because of human nature. Humans are greedy.”
Jules frowned. “But just saying that allows us to accept that we can’t change anything. It gives us permission to be apathetic.”
“And ignoring that means that we will continue building structures that are doomed to fail,” Grantaire countered. “The solution isn’t as black and white as you’re making it, Apollo. What we have to do is acknowledge the fallible nature of humans so that we can build a system that checks that.”
Jules stared at him for a moment. “Yeah that’s… that’s true,” he said finally. “I… think I need to rethink my essay.” He closed his laptop, putting it back in his satchel.
The waitress brought their food and Jules set in on his fries. Grantaire was pleased. This Enjolras was far too skinny. Grantaire subtly ordered a milkshake too, pointing at the menu item and then at Jules before offering a thumbs up. The waitress grinned, returning his thumbs up, and went to the back.
Jules swallowed a mouthful of fries before returning his attention to Grantaire. “So,” he said. “How’s your thesis going?”
Grantaire shrugged. He’d been accepted into Northwestern even though the deadline had passed. He’d be starting in the spring. Fake prodigy perks. “It’s still in the planning phase. I want to talk about how the mob acts in times when they are called to violent rebellion.” He wanted to understand why they had they not come when Enjolras had called them that first time.
Jules nodded. “Makes sense. You’re French.”
Grantaire chuckled. “We are very good at violent rebellion.”
“It’s noble, I think,” Jules said. “Change can’t always be made peacefully. Sometimes change has to be bought with blood.”
Red, the blood of angry men.
The blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France.
A pool of red blood around him as he bled out. The edge of the red flag through the open window as his vision slowly went dark.
Grantaire swallowed hard. “Sometimes, yes.”
Sometimes all that blood means nothing at all.
Jules frowned. “Are you okay?” he asked. His voice sounded very young.
God, he’s so young. He’ll always be so young. He’ll never grow up. I’ll never be able to save him.
“Fine,” Grantaire said.
“You don’t look fine,” Jules said, sounding worried.
Grantaire almost laughed. Enjolras, worried about him. “I am, Apollo. Just… some bad memories.”
Jules looked a little conflicted, but dropped it. Enjolras felt so deeply for the whole world, but for individuals… his skill was lacking. Grantaire didn’t hold that against him. It was just who he was.
They waitress came back to the table, setting down a chocolate milkshake in front of Jules. “There you are, honey,” she said with a big smile.
Jules looked at it, confused, then up at the waitress. “I didn’t order this,” he said.
The waitress glanced over at Grantaire, and Jules looked at him, aghast. “You shouldn’t be wasting your money like that, R,” he said.
“Oh hush now,” the waitress said before Grantaire could reply. “Let your boyfriend buy you something sweet. Ungratefulness is so unattractive, and you definitely want to be attractive for a stud like him,” she winked at Grantaire.
Grantaire and Jules both stared at the waitress, dumbfounded.
“There is… a lot to unpack there,” Jules said.
“Yeah, I’ll say,” said Grantaire. Him, Jules’ boyfriend? Jules, unattractive? Him, a stud?
The waitress sighed and flapped her hand. “Drink your damn milkshake,” she said irritably, walking away.
Grantaire and Jules stared after her. Finally, they looked back at each other. There was a long, heavy moment of silence.
Then, sometimes amazing started to happen. Jules started laughing . It was horrible, honking and loud and with the occasional snort . It was the best thing Grantaire had ever heard.
“Oh my God,” Grantaire said, Jules’ laughter setting him off. “Why do you sound like that?”
“Shut up,” Jules said, trying to cover his mouth to stop the laughter. The effect was just more snorting.
“Oh darling, ” Grantaire said, imitating the woman’s accent. “I do declare your ungratefulness is just so ugly to me.”
Jules snorted some more, burying his head in his hands.
“If only you would thank me for this two dollar milkshake that definitely came out of a box I might be able to stand the sight of your face again, but now you look like blond Danny DeVito.”
Jules’ shoulders were shaking. He was barely making noise anymore, just this high pitched wheezing that was even better than the snorting.
“For I, a total fucking stud, ” he let the words drip with innuendo, “just need my manliness to be reaffirmed by you telling me how grateful you are to me.”
“ Stop, ” Jules gasped, holding out his hand. “Please, I’m going to suffocate.”
Grantaire was beaming as Jules managed to sit up, his face red and his eyes wet from laughing. Grantaire felt lighter than air.
“Thank you,” Jules said finally, wiping his eyes.
Grantaire rolled his eyes. “You don’t actually have to thank me for the milkshake, Apollo. I don’t care.”
“I know,” said Jules. “But I haven’t laughed that hard in… I don’t know how long.”
Neither did Grantaire. Enjolras had always been so serious. He’d never heard more than a quiet chuckle from him. The fact that he’d just made Jules laugh like that… Grantaire wouldn’t have even been able to describe how he felt.
“I like your laugh,” Grantaire said, grinning.
“Ew, why?” asked Jules, wrinkling his nose. “It’s so weird.”
“I know,” Grantaire said. “That’s why I like it so much. You laugh like no one’s watching.”
Enjolras looked surprised by that. Slowly, a blush rose in his cheeks. “Thank you,” he said again.
“You’re welcome,” Grantaire replied.
He meant it. He really, really meant it.
He pointed at Jules’ satchel. “Now, laptop back out. Let’s figure out how to get you an A on that paper.”
Jules grinned and nodded, pulling out his laptop as he took a long sip of his milkshake.
Chapter 6: Differences.
Warning: this chapter contains discussion of Grantaire's alcoholism.
Every Enjolras was different.
Not just in the various faces and bodies, but in their mannerisms. Many things were consistent from one Enjolras to another, but sometimes an Enjolras would act in a manner that was wholly unpredictable, and Grantaire would have to remember that both nature and nurture influenced how he behaved. His passion was sometimes burning and sometimes cold. He could be the type to scream his anger to the sky or contain in a soft, deadly murmur. Sometimes he was devoutly religious, and sometimes his only alliance was to logic. He could be careless or thoughtful, kind or cruel, forgiving or vengeful.
Jules was the softest Enjolras that Grantaire had ever met. He smiled easier. He laughed easier. Once, Grantaire even saw him hug Jehan, though it was short and awkward. Jehan hadn’t stopped smiling for a week. He still got angry easily and had a difficulty seeing anything but the big picture, but he came to meetings in big soft sweaters as winter started to melt into spring, sitting next to the other members of the Legion and telling them earnestly about how the leaves were on the trees now, like the mere fact that the seasons were changing made the whole world worth saving in his eyes.
Jules also befriended Grantaire faster than any other Enjolras had. The diner became a regular meeting place for them and they sat over greasy food until closing more often than not, talking about anything and everything.
Grantaire learned that Jules had been raised in a comfortably middle class home by a Jewish lesbian couple. His parents were his biggest supporters. They had encouraged his activism from a very young age. Jules smiled fondly as he told Grantaire the story of the first protest he could remember attending, sitting on his ima’s shoulders and waving a tiny sign calling for justice in Palestine. His parents had never thought him too young to understand injustice, and he remembered sitting on his mom’s lap when he was six as she explained why she and his ima weren’t married yet. He remembered crying angry tears, unable to comprehend how someone could hate the two people he loved most in the world just for loving each other.
As he told the story he held out his hands, lost in the memory. “She took my face in her hands and she looked me in the eyes. She said, ‘Jules, prejudice is just an emotion, and emotions change. You can change how people feel. You can take all that hate they have inside of them, and you can turn it into love.’” He let his hands drop, shaking his head. “It shaped my whole life.”
Grantaire thought that this moment was what made Jules different from every other Enjolras. Enjolras’s passion for change usually grew out of an anger inside of him so great that it consumed him. The source of Jules’ passion was a deep wellspring of love.
Grantaire wondered if he could always be like that, given the right environment. It made him hopeful, and every day Grantaire thanked whoever was out there for Jules’ parents.
One day Grantaire asked Jules if he wanted to meet at the diner, and Jules told him that he couldn’t because he had to go to synagogue. Grantaire, curious, had asked if it was okay if he tagged along.
The synagogue Jules attended was small but full of light and a general air of happiness. The rabbi was a tall woman who seemed to always be on the brink of laughter. Jules didn’t stop smiling from the moment they walked in, calling out a joyful “Shabbat shalom!” to everyone he passed.
Grantaire hadn’t been to a religious service since he was a child for the first time, and from what he remembered of Mass it was hot and boring and involved a lot of elbowing from his mother. This was different. It was full of singing and laughter, even dancing. Jules, he discovered, had a beautifully clear tenor that reminded him so strongly of the first Enjolras that it brought tears to his eyes. He closed them tightly, listening to Jules’s voice form the words in the unfamiliar language, carrying over the other members of the congregation, going all the way up to the rafters, all the way up to God.
Though it had been a long, long time since Grantaire had prayed, he prayed then that his Apollo would feel this again, that this joy would follow him into his next life.
After the service there was a big meal that Jules dragged him to. Grantaire had never seen him take this much time to relax, and he remarked on it as Jules looked for a table.
“It’s part of the observance,” Jules said distractedly. “I don’t rest for the entire Sabbath, I think that God understands that I have important work to do, but from sundown on Friday until I go to sleep, I don’t do any work.”
Grantaire was, frankly, amazed. An Enjolras who rested, who took a moment to breathe and enjoy life, even if it was only for a few hours a week? Grantaire had never seen that before. “I think that’s nice,” he said, voice a little strangled.
Jules made a pleased sound as he spotted a table with two chairs open, rushing over to snag them. Grantaire made to follow him, then noticed what was on the table. What was on every table in this room and that he hadn’t noticed at first.
There were two or three bottles of red wine on every table, and Enjolras was sitting down to pour two cups, and Grantaire wanted it. God, he wanted the familiarity of Enjolras’s singing and the haze of wine.
He turned around and practically sprinted out, away from the temptation, away from the need. Fuck, over a hundred years he still needed it like oxygen.
Grantaire ran for several blocks, stopping when he reached a small park. He leaned back against a tree, trying to take deep breaths, trying to name all of the things he saw, trying to notice every part of his body from his toes up, trying all of those stupid grounding exercises he’d learned to keep the temptation at bay.
He looked up when he heard footsteps, and was surprised to see Jules running up to him.
“R,” he panted, skidding to a haunt. “Are you okay? What happened?”
Grantaire shook his head. He couldn’t tell this Enjolras. Not Jules, who was so good and kind. Grantaire had worked so hard to be the best version of himself that he could be. He’d worked so hard to get Jules to trust him. He couldn’t let Jules know how fucked up he was.
Jules sighed, going to lean against the tree next to Grantaire, their shoulders touching. “I thought we were friends,” he said softly. “Can’t you trust me?”
Grantaire groaned, his head thunking back against the trunk of the tree. The manipulating bastard. “I don’t think you’d want to be friends with me if you knew.” Enjolras never liked Grantaire’s drinking. It was one of the great flaws in his being, and unlike the cynicism and skepticism he couldn’t reshape it into something better.
“Bullshit,” Jules said, and Grantaire looked over at him, a little shocked. “R, I’ve only known you for a little while, but I know that it would take a lot for me to stop being your friend.”
Grantaire stared at him. He was so different. So much softer. It was going to hurt so much to see this Enjolras die. Finally he said, “I’m an alcoholic.”
For a long moment Jules looked at him, like he was waiting. “And?” he finally asked.
Grantaire gaped at him. “ And? There’s no and , Apollo, I’m an alcoholic . I can’t even look at alcohol without wanting to drink until I can’t remember my own name. I used to drink wine like it was water. Those bottles on the tables? I could’ve put away five of them, no problem.” He was breathing heavily, fists closed into tight fists, waiting for a fight.
“But you didn’t,” Jules said gently.
Grantaire blinked. “What?”
“You wanted to, but you didn’t. I feel like you see that as a weakness, but it’s not. It’s a strength. You walked into a room full of alcohol, and you walked out stone cold sober. That’s an accomplishment to be proud of, not ashamed. I’m certainly proud of you.”
There was something wet on Grantaire’s face. He slowly brought his hand up to touch it. Tears. He was crying. “I… I…”
He’s proud of me.
“I don’t deserve your pride,” he said, looking down.
Jules rolled his eyes and suddenly he was pulling Grantaire into a hug so tight it was almost painful. Grantaire felt all of the shattered pieces of him pressed back into their places by it.
“You do,” Jules said fiercely. “You deserve it.”
Grantaire looked down at Jules, who looked back up at him fiercely, daring him to argue. He was so different, this Enjolras. Grantaire liked the differences.
He wrapped his arms around Jules’ delicate body, hugging him back. He had thought that Jules was the softest Enjolras he’d ever met. Now he saw the truth.
He was the strongest.
Chapter 7: Summer.
Hey guys. I'm giving you this chapter early because it's about Pride. For the people whose Prides are this weekend, I hope you have/had a great time. For the people who can't go to Pride yet or don't have a Pride in their city, you are still valid and part of the community.
I love you all, thank you for reading this story. Enjoy some sexy happy Jules/Enjolras.
(Also, notice that the rating of this story has now changed because this is a little bit on the NSFW side and I wanted to be safe)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Spring came and went. Grantaire’s thesis was starting to take shape. Jules graduated and all of the members of the Legion went to the ceremony, making an inappropriate amount of noise when he crossed the stage to take his diploma. Grantaire didn’t go to his graduation party, which he knew would have copious amounts of drinking. To make up for his absence, he bought Jules a huge slice of pie the next day at the diner. Jules made them split it. The waitress who thought they were dating rolled her eyes so hard that Grantaire was worried she was going to strain something.
Spring left and summer rolled in like a pack of hungry dogs. The city was oppressively hot. As the temperature climbed, Grantaire’s mood plummeted. Summer was the worst time of year for him, reminding him of those last months before the barricades rose. On the first day of June he went to the meeting at the cafe with his head bowed, his face like a stormcloud. In six days it would be the anniversary of the first death. He felt sick.
He was so lost in the past that he didn’t see the spray of rainbow confetti coming when he opened the door.
“What--” he said, jerking back. When he looked up he saw Jehan, practically vibrating with excitement and dressed in a lumpy hot pink knitted scarf, a bright yellow crop top reading Genderphopic, and turquoise bell bottoms. The look would almost be tasteful if they weren’t also wearing a purple and yellow plaid cowboy hat (How did they even get one of those? They had to have made it themselves) with about fifteen mini rainbow flags and the head of a lawn flamingo sticking out of of the top.
“Happy Pride Month!!!” Jehan exclaimed, throwing their arms around him in a tight hug. “Omigosh I’m so excited! Chicago Pride is so much fun, you’re going to love it!!!”
“Jehan, I don’t celebrate Pride,” Grantaire said, trying to escape the hug. He wasn’t in the mood for this much happiness.
Jehan looked horrified by the meer idea. “Like hell you don’t,” they said, taking his arm in a surprisingly strong grip and marching him back to where the members of the Legion were busily working.
Jules looked up from where he was putting together a packet of papers. When he saw Grantaire approaching he smiled, looking relieved. “R, thank God you’re here. We need designs for the t-shirts we’re wearing at the parade and selling at our booth after, but our usual graphic designer backed out. You mentioned you were good at art?”
Grantaire frowned. “Um, yeah, traditional art, not graphic design…”
“Can you make us something?” Jules asked, looking slightly desperate. “I don’t care what it looks like, as long as it’s Pride themed and not clip art.”
Grantaire couldn’t say no to him. “I guess... What’s the booth for?”
“Safety for queer people,” Jules said, handing him the project he’d been working on. “This is the mockup of the pamphlet we’re handing out. We also have a trivia game that people can play to win prizes. Pens and stress balls with our name on it, that sort of thing.” He pointed over to where the other members were working on making a jeopardy board with categories like “Dealing With Police” and “Self Defense” and “Escaping Unsafe Environments.”
It was… actually a pretty cool idea. And if Jules was going to be protesting anywhere, Grantaire had to be at his side. Just in case.
He sighed. “You have something I can draw with?” he asked, sitting down and grabbing a blank piece of paper. Enjolras handed him a box full of sharpies and Grantaire got to work.
Though Grantaire definitely wasn’t feeling the Pride spirit, at least preparing for it with the Legion kept his mind occupied. But even with the distraction, when the fifth of June came he locked the door of his apartment, sitting down in the dark to let the grief consume him until the days of the rebellion ended.
He was not expecting the knock on his door, or to find Jehan waiting on the other side with a carton of ice cream, dressed more sedately than Grantaire had ever seen them in a black t-shirt and jeans.
The two of them sat on Grantaire’s living room floor, talking for hour upon hour in soft French about the people they had lost that day.
Combeferre. Courfeyrac. Bahorel. Joly. Bossuet. Feuilly. Eponine. Gavroche.
Grantaire found himself laughing just as much as he wept as they spoke, Jehan helping guide him back to memories of their lives instead of their deaths. With Jehan’s help he was able to remember the laughter and comradery and hope that had made the Musain such a beacon of light.
When the time that Grantaire and Enjolras had died came, Jehan held Grantaire as he sobbed uncontrollably for his Apollo.
“I know,” they said softly, rocking him like a child. “I know, Grantaire.”
On the day of Pride fest Grantaire wore one of the shirts that he had designed for the Legion, the design sleek and a little dangerous. The shirt was steel gray with black lettering that looked like it had been sliced horizontally, revealing a rainbow stripe. On the front it simply read Act Out , and on the back it had the group’s name written over the shoulders . When Jules had seen the design he’d given Grantaire a hug. It was more of the awkward brand that he normally managed than the deep, live reaffirming one that he’d given Grantaire after the incident at his synagogue, but it still left Grantaire grinning for hours afterward.
The parade started uptown, and the people who were marching were all bunched up in groups before the starting point, talking and laughing. It didn’t take long for Grantaire to find the Legion, feeling a little nervous as he greeted them. Most of the members were wearing some pride gear in addition to their shirts, and Jehan of course had so many rainbows on their body that Grantaire couldn’t even manage to look at them directly for long enough to determine what they were wearing (though he was pretty sure those ruffled petticoats didn’t usually go on your head…)
For once in his life, Jules was almost late, and Grantaire heard him rush over while he was being talked into putting on a rainbow bandana by Jehan. Once the bandana was on, he turned to say hi to Jules, and his mouth went dry.
Jules had cut his t-shirt into a crop top, showing off the pale expanse of his stomach. He wore a pair of very short shorts and white knee high socks with rainbow bands at the top. His hair was loose and soft, a section braided with rainbow ribbon. He was wearing eyeliner.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said, grinning hugely at Grantaire. “Ima wanted me to wear those rainbow fishnets. I love her and I support people wearing whatever they like, but I think those things are hideous.”
Jehan nodded gravely in agreement.
“Um…” was all Grantaire could manage. His head felt like it was full of cotton balls.
“R?” Jules asked, waving his hand in front of Grantaire’s face. “Are you alright?”
Here was the thing. Grantaire knew that Jules was going to Pride. He knew that Jules had two moms and was passionate about social justice. But Grantaire had never thought that he’d see Jules, see Enjolras , dressed like this.
“If you’re, um, doing the Pride gear for your moms, shouldn’t you wear what they want?” he managed to say.
Jules frowned. “For my moms?”
“Yeah. You know. For being an ally and stuff for them.”
Behind him, someone snickered.
Jules looked confused. “An… ally? You look at this?” he gestured to himself, to all the skin on display. “And think ‘yeah, that’s an ally.’”
Grantaire felt like he was missing something. “...Yes?”
Jules groaned. “R, have we seriously been friends for almost half a year and you didn’t realize I was gay?”
Grantaire just gaped at him. “You’re what?”
More people were laughing now.
“I’m gay, R,” Jules said. Slowly, like he was talking to a child. “Queer. Bent. Homosexual. I enjoy passionate lovemaking with those of the male persuasion.”
Grantaire was shocked. “I thought you were asexual or something,” he said. Sure, he’d always known that Enjolras didn’t enjoy the company of women, but he didn’t enjoy the company of men either. In all of the years Grantaire had known Enjolras, he had never shown evidence of having any sort of sexual or romantic relationship. Had he hid this from Grantaire? Or was it only the supportive environment that Jules had been raised in that made him realize this about himself?
Jules chuckled, shaking his head. He seemed… relieved, almost. Though Grantaire couldn’t imagine why. “No, I’m not. It’s just not as loud about my sexuality as some people are. But I thought you realized. I thought you--” he cut himself off.
Grantaire could imagine what he was going to say: I thought you were smarter than that . He should have been, but this was one of those things that he had never seen coming. He tried to remind himself that just because Jules liked men, that didn’t mean that he liked Grantaire. Hoping like that was dangerous.
“Well…” he said slowly. “Sorry. For just assuming.”
“It’s fine,” Jules said. “I’ve, um, been assuming you’re straight?”
“Ha!” Grantaire shook his head. “Bi. In theory.”
“In theory?” Jules asked.
“It’s been a very long time since I was with anyone,” Grantaire said. And it had been an even longer time since he’d wanted to be with anyone who wasn’t Enjolras.
“Right,” Jules said. He looked like he was about to say more, but then the people in front of them started walking. It was time for the parade.
The parade was fun. Everyone was laughing and smiling. Grantaire handed out candy to kids. Jehan was radiant with happiness, rainbows flying around them. Jules smiled and waved, beautiful and full of a shining assurance in himself. Grantaire wasn’t the only one watching him.
At the end of the parade they passed a group of protesters spewing bile. Grantaire felt a delicate hand grab his, and he looked down to see that it belonged to Jules. Jules looked over at him, obviously checking that this was okay. Grantaire’s heart was in his throat, but he nodded. It was a stunt. A performance. It meant nothing.
Jules raised their clasped hands in defiance. It felt so familiar: the two of them standing against those who hated them, hand in hand.
Grantaire had signed up to help man the booth for a couple of hours, but after he was done with that he let Jehan pull him around the rows of stalls. He let them buy him a little rainbow button, and bought himself a shirt with vive la resistance written in rainbow letters because… how could he not? He accumulated a lot of useless little items with rainbows and logos on them, and even more useless pieces of paper. A couple men flirted with him, then stopped when they realized how very uninterested he was.
He was surprised when, after a few hours, Jehan circled back around to the Legion’s booth, where Jules was telling two teenage girls holding hands what to do if they suspected that someone had drugged their drink. Jehan waited until they walked away (one having bought a t-shirt), then ran up to Jules, grabbing his hand. “I know your time is over, I looked at the schedule. You promised you’d dance with me!”
Jules laughed. “Alright, pipsqueak, I did promise.” He checked that the other person manning the booth was okay, then let himself be pulled towards the big white tent near the center of the festival. He looked over his shoulder, grinning. “You coming, R?” he called.
Grantaire nodded, following the two of them to the dance tent.
The music was loud, something he couldn’t really recognize. He had never really gotten into pop (once grunge was invented he had personally decided that music needed to go no further) but Jehan and Jules were both singing along loudly as they jumped around, Jehan a little off beat. Grantaire sort of bounced in place, content to watch.
That was, until Jehan noticed that Grantaire wasn’t really dancing and grabbed his hands, making him do a stunted little two step with them. Grantaire finally let himself go, swinging Jehan around the dance floor, trying to avoid having his toes stepped on. It was a losing battle.
“ You’d think that you’d be a better dancer at this point,” he said in French, which had become his standard for whenever he wanted to talk about Remembering when other people were around.
For all you know, I’m a great dancer by ancient Aztec’s standards,”
Jehan said haughtily.
Grantaire snorted. “No you’re not,” he said.
Jehan giggled, doing an awkward little shoulder shimmy. “ No, I’m really not.” They looked over Grantaire’s shoulder, whistling. “ Damn, look at Enjolras, ” they said.
Grantaire turned to look and nearly swallowed his tongue.
Jules was dancing with a tall, dark haired man, head thrown back, eyes shut. The man’s front was plastered to Jules’ back and Jules had one hand in the man’s hair, the other pressed to the hand resting on his bare waist. The two of them moved together in a filthy grind. The man turned his head to whisper something in Jules’ ear, and his eyes slid open lazily to meet Grantaire’s. He smirked, letting go of the man’s hair to crook his finger in Grantaire’s direction.
“Whelp!” said Jehan brightly, turning away from the scene in front of them. “That is my cue to leave. Have fun.”
“Wait, no, Jehan don’t--” Grantaire said, turning to try to stop them, but they were already gone.
Grantaire looked back and Jules raised an eyebrow at him, his hand still outstretched. Grantaire couldn’t say no to him. He let the crowd push him to Jules like flotsam carried to the shore by the surf.
“This is Marcus,” Jules said in a low voice as he put his arm around Grantaire’s shoulders, still grinding back against the man– Marcus. “He’s been keeping me company while you and Jehan conspired a language I don’t understand.”
“This your boyfriend, sweetheart?” Marcus asked. “He’s cute.”
Grantaire swallowed, trying to make himself laugh when all of his focus was on not getting hard while dancing with Enjolras. “Why do people always think that?” he asked, knowing his voice sounded a little strangled.
“No idea,” Jules said, rolling his eyes for some reason.
“I’m not his boyfriend,” Grantaire said.
Marcus chuckled, turning his head to murmur a soft, “Lucky me,” into Enjolras’s ear, lips brushing skin.
This was pretty much one of Grantaire’s worse nightmares, but it wasn’t like he could break away. As long as Jules’s hand was on him, he would stay.
The three of them danced for a while. Well… Marcus and Jules danced, Grantaire just stood there awkwardly, hands at his sides. Jules sighed, turning his head to kiss Marcus on the cheek, and Grantaire was sure he was about to see Enjolras leave to hook up with someone for the first time in his very long existence when Jules said, “I don’t think it’s going to happen tonight, Marcus.”
Marcus grinned, shrugging. “I figured. Thanks for the dance.”
He melted into the crowd and Jules turned his attention back on Grantaire, blue eyes laser focused. “Now will you dance with me?” he asked, voice slightly teasing.
Grantaire was so very confused. “He looked into it, why did you send him away?” he asked.
Jules shrugged. “I wasn’t into it.”
It sure hadn’t looked that way to Grantaire, but it wasn’t like he was sad to see the guy go. Slowly, he put his hands on Jules’ waist. The skin was smooth and soft and warm. Jules hummed, his eyes sliding shut again. He turned around gracefully and now his hands were in Grantaire’s hair, his back pressed to Grantaire’s front. Grantaire tried to subtly angle his hips so that Jules wouldn’t feel where he was definitely getting aroused.
Jules danced against him like he had something to prove. Grantaire looked around for a protester, someone to whom this was an act of rebellion, but there was no one, just the sea of bodies dancing just like they were, everyone lost in their own little worlds.
Jules was dancing for himself, he realized. For the selfish joy of it. That was the only answer, yet to Grantaire it was utterly absurd. Enjolras never did anything for himself, everything was about the greater good, about the Cause.
But Jules was different. Jules was unlike any other Enjolras. Jules loved life in a way no other Enjolras had.
Grantaire tightened his grip on Jules, pressed his face against his hair, and danced.
And while he danced, he hoped.
Fight the fuck out of me those rainbow fishnets are the ugliest things on the planet.
Chapter 8: Hope.
As the air cooled and leaves turned, Grantaire sat in his apartment and painted. He had painted thousands of pictures of Enjolras over the course of his existence. Enjolras in every form he had taken. Always glorious and untouchable. Always doing less living and more planning for his eventual martyrdom. Grantaire had watched eight version of Enjolras die, and each one had hurt more than his own deaths.
He had painted eight of Enjolras’s faces, but this time was different. This time, the ninth time, he painted Jules. Beautiful, real Jules. Jules with his ideals still so grand but now with a love of life that might just keep him alive, might just let Grantaire live to see his face start to form laugh lines.
He didn’t paint him as a god or a statue, as he so often painted Enjolras. He painted him as a man, flesh and blood and sweat and tears. He painted him in the cafe, putting his coat over Jehan when they had fallen asleep after studying all night for a final. He painted him in synagogue, singing out to the heavens. He painted him dancing at Pride like no one was watching, sensual and joyous.
He did not use gold leaf or mythological imagery. He did not write the titles in curling Latin. These images were not grand. They were tender. Intimate.
He loved Jules, he thought as he painted. But he loved him differently than he had loved any of the others, even the first Enjolras. Every other Enjolras he had idealized and placed on a pedestal. They were Apollos, just like the first. A devotee could love a god, of course, but not in a manner that was equal, not in a manner uncensored and open.
Grantaire had always worshipped Enjolras, but he liked Jules. He liked being around him, liked talking to him. He liked his horrible laugh and his delicate hands. While Grantaire had always loved Enjolras so desperately it filled his entire being, he didn’t know if he had ever liked him very much.
It was nice. It felt more honest, somehow, than anything he had had with Enjolras before.
At night, when Grantaire touched himself, his fantasies began to change. Instead of marble skin and a firm hand directing Grantaire on how to best please, he thought of smiling summer sky eyes and messy cornsilk hair and starry freckles. Of beautifully ugly laughter. Of slow, teasing sensuality. Of the way that Jules’s body had moved against him in the dance tent.
He had always felt somewhat dirty when he thought of Enjolras this way, shame mixing with arousal as he dirtied his Apollo by bringing him down from the purity of divinity to the earthly muds of carnal desire. But Jules was different.
Grantaire let himself picture it. Let himself think of how it would be with Jules. Jules would laugh into kisses. He would race Grantaire to see which of them could get their clothes off first. He would push Grantaire back onto the bed, eager and happy to find his pleasure in Grantaire’s arms. He would fuck like he laughed, like he danced, unselfconscious and unashamed.
The first time Grantaire came with Jules’ name on his lips instead of Enjolras’s, he felt something in his chest click like a door closing.
(Or maybe the door was already closed. Maybe it had been closed for two hundred years and Grantaire had never noticed. Maybe, just maybe, this was a new door opening.)
Jules’ birthday was in October, and Grantaire pulled the Legion together to throw him a surprise party at the diner.
Their waitress convinced the manager to to let them turn off the lights and pretend like the place was closed. Crouched under a table, Grantaire had to cover Jehan’s mouth to stop them from giggling in delight.
Jules tried the door and, finding it unlocked, walked inside, calling out a confused, “Hello? Is everything okay, you guys are usually open around no--”
“SURPRISE!!!” shrieked Jehan, popping up from behind a chair, still completely in the dark.
There was a collective groan.
“Jehan, we were going to count to twenty then jump out,” Grantaire complained, crawling out from under the table.
“Sorry, sorry,” Jehan said, blushing as someone turned on the lights. “I just got so excited.”
With the lights on, the red streamers, gold balloons, and red banner with HAPPY 23rd BIRTHDAY, JULES! written on it in gold paint were all visible. Grantaire sighed. He’d really wanted it to be a little more grand when they were revealed. He’d had to get the balloons online.
“Sorry, that was supposed to be more-- are you crying ?” Grantaire said, turning to Jules.
Jules shook his head, swiping his palms over his eyes. “No, just allergies.”
“You so are,” Grantaire said, grinning. “Oh, you softie.”
Jules glared at him. “I am not,” he groused.
“C’mon,” Grantaire said, holding out his arms. “Give me a hug.”
Jules breathed out a faux annoyed little breath, but let himself be folded into the hug.
“Group hug!” yelled Jehan, obviously trying to make up for their earlier mistake, and soon they were being crushed from all sides by the members of the Legion.
Jules laughed his horrible, honking laugh, then pressed his face to Grantaire’s chest. He said something, muffled by the fabric of Grantaire’s shirt.
(It almost sounded like I love you.)
(Of course, if that was what he said, he had to have meant the whole Legion.)
“Alright!” Grantaire hollered, pulling away. “Stop crushing the birthday boy, this is probably enough physical contact to last him a year.”
The members of the Legion laughed and backed off. For a moment, there was a shadow over Jules’s face, but then it was gone.
The cook at the diner had made Jules a cake, and the Legion sang “Happy Birthday” at the top of their lungs and completely out of tune. Jules thought long and hard before blowing out his candles.
As they ate the cake, everyone gave Jules presents. Most of them were either homemade (more than one person had knitted him a red scarf or hat) or something small like a candy bar or, in one hilarious case, a box of double XL condoms. Jehan gave Jules a little booklet of poems they had written about him, which earned them another hug.
Grantaire gave Jules his gift last. The canvas was wrapped in plain brown paper. Jules unwrapped it carefully, then looked up at Grantaire with wide eyes.
The painting was of Jules the first time Grantaire had made him laugh. His face was scrunched up, his head thrown back. He looked so very, very human. It had been hard for Grantaire to part with it, but it was important to him that Jules had this moment as it had been from Grantaire’s eyes. Perfect and magical and wonderful in its ordinariness.
Everyone crowded around the painting to ooh and ahh at it, impressed by Grantaire’s skill. Jules just looked at Grantaire, smiling softly.
Yeah. Grantaire really, really liked him.