Something’s wrong. Enjolras slips into consciousness from the edges of a dream that fades as soon as he tries to hold onto it, and something is wrong. The bed he’s in isn’t his – the duvet is different, softer than he’s used to, and when he moves, his body is wrong wrong wrong.
The panic floods through his system like liquid lightning, and he bolts upright with a gasp, sensations sparking messages in his brain that aren’t anything like what he’s used to.
This body isn’t his. These hands he’s staring at aren’t his. He’s broader, his skin darker, his stomach softer and his chest and legs hairier when he kicks back the duvet to look. He’s wearing striped boxers he doesn’t recognise, and the panic is overwhelming, like nothing he’s ever felt before in his life.
He doesn’t realise for a couple of seconds that the whining sound he can hear is coming from his own throat (which isn’t his own, this body isn’t his, what the hell is going on). His unfamiliar hands claw at his face but can’t feel the difference, though he does manage to pull the edge of a black curl into view, and he can see tattoos on his right shoulder. It’s those that really kick the panic up a gear, because even though the skin isn’t his, the sight of ink permanently tattooed there horrifies him.
His throat tightens and he can’t breathe and he’s crying and he can’t stop. The terror screaming through his mind is hysterical, blocking out everything else. Time seems to slip out of focus, and he can barely comprehend the fact that he’s curled up on the bed with his face mashed into the duvet, some half-realised instinct pushing him to muffle the sounds of his terrified crying, and it won’t stop. Like a siren in his head, blaring FEAR FEAR FEAR over and over, making his body (not his body) shake, muscles spasming and head spinning spinning spinning like it’s trying to float away from the locked-in gut-wrenching panic freezing him in place. He’s being pulled in two directions at once and it’s making him sick, making him cry harder and harder as he pulls too-dark limbs against a too-thick torso, making himself as small as he can.
This is the worst thing he’s ever experienced, and it isn’t ending. Enjolras sobs into the duvet, throat swollen and raw, wave after wave of cold terror smashing through him. He’s never been so scared in his life, and it’s awful, it’s horrific, it’s going to keep going until he dies of it. His heart is hammering against his lungs, and his whole chest hurts – breathing is so difficult, it’s so hard to suck enough air in and the duvet against his face isn’t helping but he can’t move he’s frozen in place he’s stuck he’s going to die, he’s howling into the duvet, damp against the face that isn’t his, it isn’t his, this body isn’t his and he’s so scared he’s so scared he’s so scared he’s scared he’s scared he’s scared scared scared –
There’s a sound, an unfamiliar door bursting open and someone saying his name. “Enjolras? Enjolras, it’s okay…Jesus fuck…oh god, okay…Enjolras –” The voice moves round, approaches his head, and the mattress sinks as someone sits down nearby. “Enjolras, breathe, listen to me and breathe, okay?”
Enjolras just whines, and it doesn’t come out as high-pitched as it should because these vocal chords aren’t his, he’s stuck in someone else’s body, stuck in their brain while he shivers and cries because he can’t stop being so frightened.
“Breathe like I do, Enjolras, you can do this, I know you can, listen to me –” An exaggerated intake of breathe, and a loud exhale. Whoever it is repeats himself, and Enjolras tries to match the rhythm but can’t quite manage it. His chest shudders on every attempted inhale, this body refusing to cooperate with what he wants and it’s so frustrating, infuriating, he should be able to do this so why can’t he?
“In through your nose, out through your mouth,” the person tells him, firm and calm. Something in him responds to that command, and the panic stops increasing, seems to plateau. He’s still trembling, still frozen in place, still scared that his heart is going to beat too fast and too hard and lose its vital rhythm and send him cascading into a freefall leading to inevitable death, but he can manage this. He can. He will. “Loud and hard,” the voice is insistent, and Enjolras follows the orders given.
It’s slow progress. Long minutes pass before Enjolras can properly match the other man’s measured breathing, and it takes even longer for his muscles to loosen enough for him to stop curling up like a hedgehog.
“Don’t look at me just yet.” There’s something familiar about the voice, and usually Enjolras would immediately lift his head in contradiction, but for some reason he keeps his face pressed against the duvet, eyes still closed. “Can you speak yet? It’s okay if you can’t.”
Enjolras nods, but has to swallow a couple of times to get past the lump in his throat, and his voice still cracks when he says, “I can speak,” and shudders when it comes out much deeper than he’s used to.
“Fuck me. Um, okay, that’s good, you’re doing great, you’re doing really well. Don’t look at me – just keep calm and try to think clearly. You’re not in your own body.”
Enjolras huffs, hands clenching. “I realised that,” he mutters.
“Yeah, you did.” The person sighs. “I guess that’s that set me…you…off. Do you know whose body you’re in?”
“No.” Saying it makes his chin tremble, and he fights back more sobs.
“You’re in Grantaire’s body,” the person says, quiet and a little sad. “Sorry, Enjolras.”
The voice is his own. The realisation is like a flash of lightning and Enjolras looks up to confirm it. He stares up at his own face for a full second before he’s scrambling backwards, back against the headboard, breathing coming fast again.
“It’s okay!” He’s never seen concern on his own face before, not really. It’s not exactly an expression he’s ever practised in the mirror. Seeing himself reach out makes his head spin, every fibre of the body he’s trapped in screeching with denial. “Enjolras!” He never says his own name, not really – no one says their own name unless asked for it by a stranger or something, but here he is, watching himself say his own name and his head is reeling from how unnatural it is.
His body – his real body – leans back and holds up its hands in surrender. “It’s okay! Enjolras, try to calm down, keep breathing. Look away if it helps.”
“What’s happening?” His new voice hoarse from crying. “Who are you? What are you?”
His body’s face falls, shrinks into itself. The movement looks awkward, limbs not pulling in properly, shoulders not hunched enough. By comparison, the body Enjolras is in – Grantaire’s body – curls up with ease, compressing itself into a smaller shape (a smaller target). It’s such an instinctive movement that Enjolras barely realises he’s doing it.
“I’m Grantaire,” Enjolras’ body says, voice low, eyes downcast. “I don’t know what happened, Enjolras, I swear, I didn’t do anything. I don’t know what’s going on either – I just woke up like this.”
To his humiliation, Enjolras starts to cry again. He can’t stop – the body he’s in just takes over, and he’s carried along with it. It’s awful.
“Oh god…” Something touches his shoulder, light fingers brushing the bare skin, and Enjolras topples forward into it. His own body catches him, and Enjolras allows his head to be guided to a soft thigh and sobs as a warm hand strokes his back. “I’m so sorry, Enjolras, I’m sorry, I don’t know how this happened, but I promise I’ll fix it, I will. I’ll figure it out and you’ll be back to normal in no time, I swear. Please don’t cry, I’m sorry…”
Hearing his own voice speak in such a soft, pained tone makes Enjolras feel slightly sick, but it also slows his tears. Or is it the soothing hand on his back that helps more? Either way, his hysterical crying turns to ugly gulping. His body – Grantaire, god, Grantaire is in his body – doesn’t push for him to speak or get up, but falls into silence and keeps stroking his back.
Eventually he quietens down completely, but can’t bring himself to move just yet. He’s never cried like that before, and there’s a part of his brain that is practically frozen with disbelief that he’s reacted in such an irrational manner. He’s sure he would never normally do this.
But waking up in someone else’s body would cause anyone to panic, surely?
Except Grantaire seems perfectly calm. Worried, but calm.
Enjolras pushes himself up to sitting and pulls his knees up to his chest. He covers the tattoos on his shoulder – Grantaire’s shoulder – with one hand, shivering a little. “What’s happening?” he asks again.
Grantaire makes a helpless gesture that looks completely out of place in the body he’s in. “I told you, I just woke up like this. I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know anything more than you do.”
Enjolras takes a deep breath and tries to ignore the tightness in his chest and the shivery feeling in his limbs. There’s a grey hoodie on the floor next to the bed, and he leans down to get it. The inside is soft fleece, and it fits Grantaire’s body perfectly, warming it a little. He needs to start thinking clearly. He needs to figure this out. He tries to meet his body’s eyes, but has to look away for some reason.
Ridiculous. He never has problems looking in mirrors or anything. What the hell is wrong with him?
“What did you do last night?” he asks, zipping the hoodie up to have an excuse to look down. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“I was on my laptop,” Grantaire says, tripping over his words. “I was…I was just in here, on my laptop, watching YouTube videos. I went to bed around half four?”
“Why were you up so late?” The question flies out before Enjolras can think, and for some reason he feels his cheeks heat up. Why? It’s just a harmless question.
“I couldn’t sleep. What’s the last thing you remember?”
Enjolras shakes his head. “I finished reading the article Combeferre sent me, looked over the slides for the next meeting…went to bed at midnight, checked my mail on my phone, and went to sleep. That’s it.”
“Midnight?” Grantaire repeats. Enjolras can’t really tell whether he sounds wistful or disbelieving – he’s heard his own voice before a few times, but never like this. “Christ, no wonder I feel so good.”
“What do you mean?”
“I haven’t fallen asleep before two thirty for months.” Grantaire laughs. “Midnight’s a fucking dream.”
Enjolras rubs at his eyes and swallows before getting to his feet. “We need to change back,” he says, still looking down and taking the opportunity to study his hands. Grantaire’s hands. They’re darker than his, with shorter fingers and more creases in the palms. There are scars too – rough patches of healed tissue across the knuckles of both, and a few pale lines as well.
“Any ideas?” Grantaire asks, getting up as well. He’s dressed himself in Enjolras’ clothes. Which – of course he has, the only clothes he would have had access to are Enjolras’ – but it makes Enjolras realise that Grantaire has been in his room, and been through his things, and he wants to curl up and die, which is just wrong. Usually he wouldn’t care that much, would he? Why does he care so much now?
He doesn’t, he realises slowly. He just thinks he does. This body thinks he does.
It’s so confusing that he wants to scream. Or start crying again.
He absolutely refuses to do either of those things, so he takes a couple of deep breaths and shakes his head in response to Grantaire’s question. “Wait it out?” he croaks after a moment. “Maybe when we go back to sleep we’ll go back to normal?”
“Maybe. I hope so. No offense – your body’s great. Not that I’ve…fuck, never mind, just stop me talking.” Grantaire huffs and goes over to the window, pushing the curtains open. The view is of an identical window across a yawning gap. Enjolras goes over to look, and sees that this room is on the fifth floor of whatever building this is. He’s never been to Grantaire’s apartment, so it’s all new to him.
“How did you get in?” he asks suddenly. He looks at Grantaire (at himself), and finds that he can look him in the face now but not easily hold his gaze.
“Everyone should know how to break into their own apartment,” Grantaire snorts. He’s slouching, and Enjolras makes a mental note never to do so when he has his own body back, because it looks ridiculous. “Are you okay now?”
Enjolras nods and looks around, taking in the chair heaped with clothes, the open cupboards and the empty bottles on the floor by the bed. “You were drinking last night,” he realises.
“Yes? Sorry, should I have mentioned that? I kind of forgot.”
Enjolras narrows his eyes. “It’s normal for you,” he guesses.
“It helps me sleep.” Grantaire is curt, and Enjolras shifts away without meaning to, something in his chest cringing at the tone. “Sorry.” Grantaire reaches out, then stops and draws away. “Sorry,” he says again, quieter, and, “do you know what we should do?”
Enjolras sucks in a sharp breath. “Oh my god. What time is it?”
“Um.” Grantaire digs a phone (Enjolras’ phone) out of his pocket and squints at the screen. “Half nine?”
“I’m so late for work,” Enjolras breathes. He’s never been late before. He works as an editor and project organiser for a political magazine, and he’s never been late because he loves his job. They probably think he’s died on the way in or something.
“Well I can’t go in!” Grantaire says, voice tight with panic. Except it’s Enjolras’ voice which is tight with panic. The voice thing is really getting to him. “You’ll have to call in sick.”
“You’ll have to call in sick,” Enjolras tells him, grabbing his phone out of Grantaire’s hand and unlocking it. “Just say exactly what I tell you, okay? It’ll be fine.” He already feels guilty about skipping work when he’s technically the picture of health. Kind of. Well, he’s not at death’s door, which for him counts as fine. Though he shudders to think of the damage Grantaire could do to his reputation if he waltzed in in Enjolras’ body and acted like Grantaire. There’s no question about going in today.
If they’re still like this tomorrow…well, they can deal with that tomorrow.
“Okay, you tell them…tell them you have food poisoning. Sound ill,” he adds, thrusting the phone back at Grantaire, who lifts it obediently to his ear.
Enjolras can hear Nicole answer on the other end, her cheerful voice loud in Grantaire’s bedroom. Grantaire clears his throat, then closes his eyes and coughs. “Hello? Hi, it’s Enjolras –”
Enjolras’ eyebrows rise. He really does sound sick, and in pain. He manages to keep the call short as well, fielding Nicole’s concerned questions and hanging up in under two minutes.
“Well done.” Enjolras tries to smile. On this face, it feels crooked. Because it is – the left side of his mouth twitches higher, and he frowns as he tries to even it out.
“Was that okay?” Grantaire asks, staring at him. Enjolras drops the attempted smile and nods.
“It was great. What about you, do you have work?” God, this voice is so much deeper than he’s used to.
“Um…I don’t think so? Hang on.” He steps past Enjolras and peels back the duvet, looking for something. He finds it under the pillow – his own phone, much more battered than Enjolras’. He stands back to check it, and then smiles. “Nope, I’m free today. Lucky you.”
Enjolras’ body looks great when he smiles. Which he’d technically known, but smiles in mirrors and photographs don’t compare to this easy expression which lights him up. Enjolras is absurdly proud of himself for a moment for having such a nice smile, and wonders why smiles don’t come so easily to Grantaire’s body.
“What now then?” Grantaire asks, sobering. “We just hang around all day?”
“I think I should get dressed.” Enjolras looks down at his bare legs. Grantaire has thicker, shorter legs than him. There are scars on one knee as well – pale crisscrossing lines that must be quite old. A bad fall, perhaps? Onto broken glass?
“Oh, yeah. Um, hang on.” Grantaire goes through the pile of clothes on the chair and pulls out a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, which he dumps on the bed. Then he goes through a couple of drawers and produces a pair of odd socks (after discarding a couple which had holes in them) and a fresh pair of boxers, dark and plain. The type bought cheap in bulk.
Enjolras waits for Grantaire to leave, giving him a pointed look, and Grantaire raises an eyebrow. “You realise that’s my body, right? I’ve seen it before?”
“I don’t care.” Enjolras jerks his head at the door, flushing as the realisation sinks in that Grantaire is in his body and got dressed this morning, and has therefore definitely seen him naked. “Get out.”
“Fine.” Grantaire shrugs, and something in the careless way he does it coupled with his half-lidded eyes and measured stride as he leaves makes Enjolras’ blush worse. He sits on the edge of the bed and covers his face with his hands, the body he’s in only one step away from writhing with embarrassment. What the hell is this? It’s not even his body to be modest about. And why should it matter if Grantaire’s seen him naked now? He’s never been body-shy before.
“Urgh.” He makes himself stand and reaches for the socks before changing his mind and heading for the door.
Grantaire’s bedroom opens into a tiny living room-kitchenette. The sink is piled high with dirty dishes and pans, and the table in front of the little sofa is covered in pizza boxes. For a weird moment, Enjolras forgets that they’re in each other’s bodies, and sees himself trying to clean up from behind. It makes him blink and shake his head, the sensation of floating outside his own body uncomfortable to say the least.
“I want to shower,” he says. His own body jumps and straightens, pulling a face.
“Right, sorry. Sorry about the mess too, I mean…I wasn’t expecting visitors. Or whatever this is. Bathroom’s right next to you.”
Enjolras looks behind him. Along the wall is another door, half open, and one at the end of a short passage which must lead out of the apartment. The bathroom is tiny as well, and Enjolras only hesitates for a moment before shucking off the hoodie and stepping out of the boxers. It feels ridiculous to hesitate again before actually looking down, but it’s not like anyone will know. Apart from Grantaire.
His breath catches when he sees the scars on Grantaire’s thighs. Mostly on his left, but some on his right as well. There are dozens of them, none longer than an inch. Some are old and faded, others are more recent. None are fresh, or still healing, which sends a wave of relief crashing through him. What does he use, Enjolras wonders. A razor? A scalpel? Some sort of art knife? He runs his fingertips over them, feeling the raised edges, and steps into the shower. It’s none of his business – he won’t bring it up unless Grantaire does. They can still pretend to have some privacy, after all.
It’s wonderful to wash, and he spends longer in there than he perhaps should, but it’s such a good feeling to stand under hot water and step out feeling fresh and clean. He only realises then that there aren’t actually any towels in here. He stands frozen for a few seconds before there’s a knock on the door. It opens, and his own hand pokes through holding a towel. “Figured you’d want this?”
Enjolras takes it, pretending it’s the heat of the water that’s making his cheeks flush. “Thanks.”
The door closes again, and Enjolras dries himself and slips from bathroom to bedroom with his eyes down, seeing a blonde head above the back of the sofa out of the corner of his eye. The clothes Grantaire picked out for him fit fine, and Enjolras goes back into the bathroom to get the soft hoodie again afterwards. He’s never felt so fragile before, and he doesn’t like it at all.
“What now?” he asks. Grantaire turns around and gets up to shrug.
“I guess we’re sticking together? Until we get our bodies back? Any ideas on that front, by the way?”
“Maybe it’s just one day,” Enjolras suggests. “Maybe when we go to sleep tonight, we’ll wake up tomorrow in our own bodies.”
“Worth a shot.” Grantaire smiles. “I like this plan – it doesn’t require doing anything.”
Enjolras takes a deep breath and nods. “We just need to wait it out.”
“Want to wait at yours?” Grantaire asks, giving him a small, crooked smile that looks odd on Enjolras’ face. “My place is kind of a dump at the moment. And you have a bigger TV.”
Enjolras looks around, eyebrows drawn together. “Do you even have a TV?”
“My point exactly.” Grantaire grins at him, and something in Enjolras’ chest expands. “Besides, your place is much nicer.”
There’s a wistful note there that Enjolras ignores for the moment, pushing it down ruthlessly along with the oddly pleasant sensation in his chest. “Mine then. Let’s go.”
“Wait, two seconds.” Grantaire darts around and shoves a couple of books and a tin box of something – pencils? – into a bag, and goes to get his laptop as well. “Okay, ready.”
Being Enjolras is amazing. Grantaire hasn’t woken up feeling so refreshed and ready to go in…well, possibly ever. The whole waking-up-in-someone-else’s-body thing barely fazes him. The fact that it’s Enjolras’ body fazes him a little more, but mostly it’s just exciting. And great. Because Enjolras is beautiful. He’s tall and slim, with gorgeous hair and dark blue eyes, with a body to die for. Grantaire spends several long minutes in front of the full-length mirror on the inside of Enjolras’ wardrobe door just admiring himself.
Enjolras’ apartment is lovely as well, of course. Grantaire explores it when he wakes up (naturally! At seven in the morning!) and marvels at how clean it is, how unexpectedly charming. Grantaire’s own tiny apartment is a den, where his own filth and tangled thoughts expand outwards. If it’s the same for Enjolras, and his apartment is an extension of his brain, then Grantaire wants to cry for how serene it is.
The body he’s inhabiting certainly feels peaceful. He’s not tense, wound tight with irrational fears and worries. His thoughts don’t snag and stop and go round in circles – everything flows instead. He understands now how Enjolras can talk to strangers so easily, because with this body and this brain, of course it’s easy. He could go outside and start preaching on the métro and he wouldn’t want to throw himself in front of one of the trains if it went badly. He could march into someone’s office and ask for sponsorship or a contribution to a campaign and not even have to rehearse what he was going to say first.
He’s never felt so free. He wants to climb the Eiffel Tower and scream at the top of his lungs. He wants to run outside and hug the first person he sees. He could stand on a table and give a spontaneous speech and not turn into a blushing, quaking, incoherent mess under the eyes of an audience. No wonder Enjolras is always so steady and never needs to drink. Grantaire could probably wrestle a lion right now – what would he need liquid courage for?
Enjolras is also sentimental, it seems. There are photographs of their friends everywhere, and plenty of other little mementos besides. One of the paper fans Feuilly made last summer when the heat in the top room of the Corinthe grew too much to bear is framed next to a pinboard covered in flyers and post-its and little notes and other objects pinned up. There’s a bracelet of paperclips Grantaire thinks is Cosette’s handiwork, and a feather he’s sure came from Courfeyrac’s pirate hat. There are other things he can’t connect to anything or anyone in particular as well – a bottle cap, a picture of a dog, a few bright sweet wrappers, a pair of chopsticks tied together with red string, dangling against a postcard from London.
Grantaire spends longer examining Enjolras’ apartment than Enjolras’ body, which is something he will never admit to anyone for as long as he lives. He almost jerks himself off in the shower, just to see what Enjolras looks like when he’s hard and desperate, but he can’t convince himself that it would be an okay thing to do. Does it still count as a sort of sexual assault if the body isn’t his and he doesn’t have permission?
He can’t resolve it, so leaves it alone and goes to his own apartment to see if Enjolras is in his body, and finds him having a panic attack.
Grantaire knows panic attacks aren’t pretty, but he’s never had to see himself go through one before. He hadn’t realised how pitiful he is like that, helpless and crying. Knowing that it’s Enjolras in there throws him – is it Enjolras having an attack, or his body reacting to Enjolras’ confusion? He can’t believe that Enjolras’ body ever has panic attacks. But either way, he knows how to get himself to calm down, and applies the knowledge now.
It’s like he’s comforting a clone of himself as Enjolras cries into his leg, because Enjolras would never break down like this unless he was trapped in a shitty, broken body like Grantaire’s. A body that overreacts to things like nerves and new situations. A body that can’t properly handle life without falling back on alcohol. He wants to apologise until his throat bleeds, because Enjolras is the last person in the world who deserves to be stuck in Grantaire’s ugly carcass. But there’s nothing they can do except wait to see if it fixes itself.
Grantaire hopes it does, purely so that Enjolras won’t have to endure being in his skin for longer than he has been already.
The journey back to Enjolras’ apartment is completed in silence. Grantaire can’t think of anything comforting to say, and Enjolras doesn’t seem to want to talk. It’s a little depressing to see how pathetic his body looks, even with Enjolras inside it. Enjolras’ body, on the other hand, is incredible. Grantaire starts to feel a little like Narcissus. He can’t stop staring at his reflection in the dark windows of the train, and he can feel himself drawing second glances like a magnet. It’s because he looks beautiful. He’s never been beautiful before.
Enjolras sighs when they get back to his apartment, and touches his stomach. Grantaire looks away, though Enjolras has definitely realised that he has a belly by now. “I’m not hungry.” Enjolras frowns. “Why aren’t I hungry?”
“I don’t usually bother with breakfast,” Grantaire tells him. “I woke up starving though – are you always that hungry in the morning?”
Enjolras huffs. It might be a laugh. “Not starving, but I can’t function without breakfast.”
“Weird. So what now then?” Grantaire gestures to the apartment. “We just entertain ourselves till we fall asleep?”
“I suppose so. Also, you think me having breakfast is weird, but this isn’t?” He waves between their bodies, not looking at him. He hasn’t looked Grantaire in the eye at all yet. That’s probably another thing that’s Grantaire’s body’s fault – Grantaire always finds it difficult to meet people’s eyes unless he’s really comfortable with them, and even then it can be a trial.
He shrugs. “It’s weird, yeah, but…I guess it’s because I got the better deal, y’know?”
“What do you mean?” It’s so odd seeing that frown on his own face. He knows the way it would look on Enjolras’, but on his own it just looks strange.
“Well…I get to be you for a day. Or however long. It’s definitely better being you than me.”
“What’s wrong with being you?” Enjolras demands. His cheeks darken, and he makes an attempt to look at Grantaire properly but glances away after less than a second, frowning. Grantaire laughs, not sure why he’s so indignant.
“It’s my body, Enjolras, I know what it looks like. You don’t have to pretend to like it or take care of it or whatever.”
Enjolras squints down at himself. “Why wouldn’t I take care of it? If anything, I’m going to take more care of a body that isn’t mine.”
“You don’t have to though,” Grantaire protests. “It’s only mine.”
“My point stands.” Enjolras shrugs and looks around, shoulders hunched. “Besides, I think your body could use a little more care than you seem to give it.” He escapes to the kitchen while Grantaire is frozen to the spot, suddenly realising that Enjolras must have seen a lot more than just his dick in the shower. God, how could he have been so stupid?
When he finally manages to follow Enjolras through to the kitchen, he finds him sniffing at a packet of ham. “You don’t have any allergies, do you? Does this body, I mean?”
“What?” Grantaire has to blink a couple of times. “Oh, no. I don’t think so anyway.”
“Good.” Enjolras gets a plate out and starts making himself a sandwich.
“I don’t like mayonnaise,” Grantaire tells him when he gets a jar out of the fridge. Enjolras narrows his eyes at it thoughtfully.
“I do though.”
“Try it.” Grantaire’s interested, all of a sudden. “See if it’s a physical thing or a mental thing.”
Enjolras unscrews the lid and dips a finger in, sucking it clean with a small frown. “I…mm. It doesn’t taste as nice. Ugh, actually it tastes kind of sour.” He pulls a face and puts the jar back in the fridge. “That sucks.”
“I like olives. Do you like olives?”
“I like olives. I don’t like mushrooms?”
“What?” Grantaire stares at him. “What the hell is wrong with you? What’s wrong with mushrooms?”
“I don’t like the texture,” Enjolras protests. “They’re all slimy. They make me think of slugs.” He reaches for the pepper and startles when he knocks it over. Grantaire gets it – unused to Enjolras’ body’s enthusiasm, he’d squeezed half the bottle of shampoo into his hand by accident earlier.
“But you don’t mind the taste?” He grins when Enjolras shrugs. “If it’s just a texture thing, maybe you’ll like them when I’m in your body. Or, y’know, your body will like them. We can experiment.”
Experimentation turns out to be the activity that keeps them occupied. They try out their talents first – it turns out that in Grantaire’s body, Enjolras can draw more than just stick men, which delights him for reasons Grantaire doesn’t really understand. In Enjolras’ body, his words actually order themselves properly before he speaks – he’s more concise; he doesn’t need to ramble for minutes to figure out his own point. They wonder whether that’s because of the different brain chemistry and genetics, and Enjolras winds himself up thinking about which part of himself has been transferred into Grantaire, and how that even works.
They’re already adapting to their new bodies’ abilities and limitations, Enjolras points out, frowning. What if they are trapped and they end up just becoming each other? He’s far more pessimistic than he would usually be, Grantaire notices. By contrast, he’s full of hope. It’s dazzling in its intensity as well – he ends up reassuring Enjolras that they won’t be trapped, and everything will be fine.
Perhaps he feels that way because he can’t imagine many things better than being Enjolras. For the first time in his life, he feels competent. Remaining in Enjolras’ body would hardly be a burden. But he could never condemn Enjolras to live as him, with all his insecurities and fears. Enjolras is already compressing under the weight of it, Grantaire can see. He doesn’t know Grantaire’s tricks for dealing with it, and Grantaire isn’t yet comfortable enough with his body’s failings to explain.
But they’re his body’s failings, not his. If they were his, he would still feel small and inadequate and useless, but he doesn’t in Enjolras’ body. It was disappointing to see that he can’t draw anywhere near as well as he’s used to, but he doesn’t want to curl up in bed and punish himself because of it. His friends have told him countless times that he’s not a born failure; that it’s not his fault he gets sad and scared and upset over stupid things that shouldn’t matter but somehow do. But for the first time, he’s actually starting to believe it.
They go shopping to get more foods they like and don’t like, and Enjolras pays because Grantaire’s wallet is still in his apartment. “Why didn’t you call me this morning?” Enjolras asks as they walk back from the supermarket. “I mean, call your own phone.”
“Well, firstly, I couldn’t unlock yours,” Grantaire says dryly. “And I don’t know my own number anyway.”
“What?” Enjolras glances at him (it’s still beyond weird to see his own face looking at him like that). “Why not? Is it a new number?”
“No, it’s just a long number.” Grantaire shrugs. “And I never call my own phone, so I don’t know how it patterns out on a keypad. That’s how I remember other people’s numbers. The ones I can actually remember, anyway. Hell, I couldn’t even tell you my pin.”
“Then how do you use your card?” Enjolras sounds baffled.
Grantaire shrugs again, awkward. “I remember the pattern on the pad. I get by fine – I just don’t remember the numbers off the top of my head. I’ve never been good with that.”
Enjolras is quiet for a moment, then says, “I remember numbers fine in your body.”
“Try memorising a new one? Oh! Try this – thirty-eight minus fifteen.” He says the numbers without thinking, and as he says them they seem to slot together in his head. The answer arrives just a second later – twenty-three – and something inside him bursts with happiness because he’s never been able to do that before. But Enjolras doesn’t speak, frowning to himself.
“Thirty-eight to thirty…fuck.” He scowls and counts quickly on his fingers. “Thirty-three, and then…twenty…three. Why was that difficult? It’s just a simple sum!”
“I’m crap at maths.” Grantaire wants to squeeze Enjolras’ shoulder in sympathy, but doesn’t want to push. Also, wouldn’t that be sympathising himself, to an extent?
“You’re that bad?”
Grantaire bristles. “Yes, I am.”
Enjolras looks down, shoulders slumping maybe a little more than before. “Sorry,” he says after a moment. “I didn’t mean to make it sound like that.”
A downside of his words coming easier is that he doesn’t really have time to think before speaking. “It’s fine. I know I’m shit at maths.” Grantaire switches the bag he’s carrying to his other hand. “I always have been.”
“At least you know it’s not really your fault?” Enjolras glances at him, then forward again. “You know, it’s just…brain chemistry, or whatever. You’re good at some things and bad at others, and you don’t really have much control over it.”
“But with art you’ve got to keep working at it, you know? Cultivate it.”
“So…this body has the raw talent, and that’s why I can actually draw things in it?”
“Yeah. But I guess inspiration comes from the…self, or whatever we’re calling the part of us that’s been transferred.”
“If this isn’t fixed by tomorrow, we need to see someone about this,” Enjolras says softly.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Grantaire takes Enjolras’ bags when Enjolras lets them back into his apartment and they have a huge tasting test. He feels like they should be writing the results down or something, but it’s more fun to just go for it, open pots and jars and packets spread across Enjolras’ table like some sort of bizarre picnic. In this body, raisins are disappointing, but Enjolras can’t get enough of them. Yogurt on the other hand is suddenly delicious.
He’s never enjoyed himself with Enjolras before like this, the two of them laughing and making disgusted sounds and teasing each other for their taste in food. Never just on their own. He almost wants the day never to end.
“You should stay,” Enjolras tells Grantaire around nine o’clock. “Overnight, I mean. It’ll be easier.”
Grantaire nods and sips at his coffee (Enjolras usually likes it with milk and sugar, but Grantaire’s body revels in the sharp bitterness of plain black). “Okay. You want me to sleep on the sofa or…?”
“The bed’s big enough for two. Besides, you woke up in it this morning.” In his own body, such a statement wouldn’t be an issue. In Grantaire’s, he hesitates and has to bite down on his tongue to stop himself babbling on to clarify what he meant. Grantaire’s body is so jumpy and anxious. It’s exhausting, keeping him constantly on edge. When they bought food earlier, Enjolras was consumed with nerves as they approached the cashier, and even though he knows that reaction makes no sense at all, he couldn’t help it. Though at least he’s able to meet Grantaire’s eyes now, even if it’s taken all day to get to that point.
“That I did.” Grantaire looks over at the TV. “Want to watch a movie or something?”
They end up watching School of Rock and A Knight’s Tale. “He looks like you,” Grantaire tells him after Heath Ledger gets a haircut. “Kind of.”
“Not right now, he doesn’t,” Enjolras snorts. “Anyway, you’re only saying that because of the hair.”
“You both have nice hair.”
Enjolras rolls his eyes, but stores the compliment away anyway. The movie ends at half one, and usually Enjolras would be sleepy by now, but he doesn’t feel it. They go to bed anyway, sitting opposite each other on the mattress, both dressed in Enjolras’ pyjamas. They don’t fit this body, but he can’t think of what else to wear.
“It’s weird seeing myself in your bed,” Grantaire says after a while.
“Good weird or bad weird?”
He sees his own face turn slightly pink. “Just weird,” Grantaire mutters, looking down at his feet. “You’ve got really long toes.”
Enjolras stretches one leg out in front of him and pulls up the pyjama leg to touch the dark hair underneath. “You’re much hairier than I am. It’s good,” he adds quickly when Grantaire pulls a face. “It suits you. I always…”
“Always what?” Grantaire asks when he doesn’t keep going.
Enjolras rolls the pyjama leg down and shrugs, toying with the material. “Wanted more hair. I used to, anyway. I was kind of a late developer.” He tries to smile. “I’ve only started needing to shave every day in the last couple of years.”
“Really?” Grantaire laughs. “Jesus. I think I’ve been shaving since I was about fifteen or sixteen.”
“Hardly.” Grantaire shakes his head and studies Enjolras closely. “There’s nothing fun about being an early developer, trust me.”
“Oh, to be normal,” Enjolras smirks, and when Grantaire laughs it makes a smile break across Enjolras’ face like sunshine. He wants Grantaire to laugh again, and says, “I used to have awful skin too.”
“I don’t believe you. I need photographic evidence.”
“I destroyed all the photos.” Enjolras crosses his legs and pulls the duvet over them. This body gets cold easier than his own, he thinks. “All the ones I could get my hands on anyway. I used to get eczema too, on my arms and hands.”
“Why?” Grantaire peers at them, fascinated, runs his fingers over the skin as if trying to find marks.
“On the back, above the elbow,” Enjolras tells him, and watches his own body find the slightly rougher skin there. “It was never that bad, but I still have to use cream sometimes. I don’t know why – just genetics, I guess. Bad luck.”
“I have stretch marks on my back,” Grantaire says. “You probably can’t see them – they look like horrible scars. One of my friends at school asked if I’d been whipped when I was little or something.”
Enjolras slides a hand up the back of his shirt and finds small semi-regular patches of smoother skin. He trails his fingers along one – it stretches from one side of his back to the other. “Like tiger stripes,” he says, and Grantaire laughs.
“That’s a nice way of putting it, yeah.”
“What do you like about this body?” Enjolras asks, curious. Grantaire’s smile fades and twists, and he looks down with a shrug.
“I don’t know. I’m strong, I guess. I used to be able to do backflips. Probably couldn’t now though. I like your body more, to be honest.” He smiles, but it’s not the happy smile of before, and Enjolras frowns.
“I like your body.”
The smile vanishes completely. “You don’t have to say that,” Grantaire mutters.
“I know I don’t have to – it’s the truth.” Enjolras sighs and pulls a few curls into view. “I like your hair, and your skin. You have a nice face too, you know. And a nice shape in general.”
Grantaire shakes his head. “Come off it, Enjolras. Look at me. At yourself.”
“I like it,” Enjolras insists. “It’s strong, like you said, and it feels nice.” He can feel himself blushing again, and has to look down. “I mean it. I think it looks good.”
Grantaire scoots forward and squints at him critically. Enjolras can’t help shrinking under the look, while normally he would meet it head on. “My nose is too big,” Grantaire declares. “My eyes are basically the colour of pondwater, my lips are a weird shape, I’ve got acne scars on my cheeks.” He pulls back a little and looks down at the rest of his body. “I have disgusting stretch marks, scars on my thighs – which are too big, by the way – I’m as hairy as a troll, and I don’t like saying it, but I am chubby. There’s no getting around it. Not quite fat, but hey, give me some time and more pizza, and I’m sure I’ll get there.”
Enjolras is sure his own voice has never sounded so bitter. At least not when talking about anything but the government and bigotry. And Christ, it hurts. There’s a physical sensation in his chest, in his throat. It’s not pain, but it’s not far off. It’s certainly not a nice feeling.
“I think you look nice,” he whispers.
“Really?” Grantaire snorts, and his withering tone almost makes tears spring to Enjolras’ eyes. It’s not even his body to be upset over, but he still wants to cry like a child. Is this the way Grantaire’s body always reacts to such cruel words? Or is it just because they’re coming from his body’s mouth?
“You do look nice.” He swallows and makes sure his voice doesn’t wobble. “I like your eyes, and your nose, and your lips. And I like the rest of you too, what I’ve seen of it. You’re not ugly, Grantaire.”
“Most people would disagree with you.”
“Have you asked most people?” Enjolras snaps, forcing his distress to harden and become sharp. “I think they would disagree with you. You’re not ugly.”
“My face –”
“Is asymmetrical, so what? You have a wonderful laugh, and a beautiful smile, and I like your eyes. They’re not just boring blue – they’re lots of different colours, and they’re the perfect size and shape. When you’re with our friends and you’re enjoying yourself, you’re the furthest thing from ugly it’s possible to be.” He’s struck by inspiration. “Maybe you think you look ugly right now because I’m in here, and I’m not you. Your body needs your…consciousness, or self, whatever, to be perfect.”
Grantaire is silent for a moment, mouth open. He has to close it and lick his lips before he speaks. “Enjolras, if it doesn’t look good with you in there, it’s never going to be better with me.”
Enjolras scowls. “Why not? You’re what makes this body beautiful. When you speak, and when you talk and laugh and…and draw those ridiculous cartoons. When someone else sees them and laughs at them, you look proud, and happy. I couldn’t make this body do that. You’re the only one who can, and that’s amazing, don’t you see?”
Grantaire looks down, cheeks pink, and doesn’t say anything. Eventually, Enjolras pokes his leg with his foot. “I think you look good,” he says plainly. “Let’s sleep.”
Grantaire curls up at first, then makes an annoyed sound and stretches his body out flat. Enjolras tries to sleep on his back the way he usually does, but ends up rolling onto his side and pulling his knees up, hunching over. The position feels more natural, and he starts to relax. He doesn’t sleep for a long time, long after Grantaire has drifted off in his body. The clock on his bedside table reads 03:27 when he last checks, about fifteen minutes before he finally falls asleep.
Grantaire can tell he’s in his own body when he wakes up. He stretched out overnight, limbs starfishing across Enjolras’ bed. Enjolras is absent. Probably checking himself over in a mirror and rejoicing that he’s back to normal. Grantaire sits up and sighs, looking down at his familiar hands. It was never going to last anyway, he figures. He’s like a frog given a day as a prince, and now it’s back to the pond for good.
That said, he doesn’t quite want to lock himself up in his apartment for a week and smash all his mirrors. Being Enjolras for a day was incredible, yes, but now that it’s over…it’s also sort of nice to be back in his own skin again. It’s familiar here, and he knows his own limitations. Plus, he’s got that certainty he’s never had before now, that concrete inner proof that it really isn’t his fault that he gets depressed and irrationally nervous. It’s bad brain chemistry, that’s all.
There’s the sound of approaching footsteps, and Enjolras pokes his head round the side of the door. When he sees Grantaire, his face lights up and he practically bounds in, jumping onto the bed and pulling Grantaire into a hug. “It’s fixed! We’re normal again!”
Enjolras is hugging him. Enjolras is hugging him. Enjolras is touching him, and he smells incredible, and he’s technically straddling Grantaire right now. When he begins to lean back, Grantaire’s brain kicks into action and he lurches up to hug Enjolras back, wrapping his arms tightly around him and pressing his face into damp hair which smells of Enjolras’ expensive shampoo.
“We’re okay!” Enjolras laughs, and Grantaire can’t help grinning and squeezing tighter, the elation infectious. He lets go when Enjolras’ grip loosens, and they fall apart and beam at each other. Grantaire’s just happy to see Enjolras like this – really Enjolras, not just him in Enjolras’ body. It’s completely new and a hundred thousand kinds of wonderful to be able to see Enjolras sprawled inelegantly across the duvet in only a t-shirt and thin pyjama bottoms, hair still damp from the shower. It’s so domestic that it breaks his heart to know that he will never see this again, and he tries to commit the moment to memory. Something to hold onto later when they really do go back to normal, and Enjolras treats him as an acquaintance again, nothing more.
“Morning,” he manages to say. Enjolras gives him a sunny smile in response.
“Do you want breakfast? Stay for breakfast.”
“I’ll stay for coffee,” Grantaire compromises. “I’m not hungry.”
“Weirdo.” Enjolras bounces off the bed. “Come out then. You can use the shower too, if you want.”
“I’m okay.” Grantaire pushes the duvet back and gets up to follow, realising with a warm jump in his stomach that he’s wearing Enjolras’ clothes. Too-long pyjama bottoms and a soft overlarge t-shirt with holes in the hems and a faded design of a giant flower. He rubs the material between thumbs and forefingers for a moment, wishing he could keep it.
Stupid. He lets it drop from his hands and follows Enjolras out into the kitchen for coffee.
He doesn’t get to keep the t-shirt, and his smile fades as he makes his way home after breakfast. When he gets there, he stares for about a minute at the mess, acclimatising to the smell of old food and older beer. It’s the only minute he stands still for the rest of the day as he cleans the place with a vicious single-mindedness. He doesn’t want to live like this anymore.
He goes out to buy cleaning supplies (it takes two hours because he’s a bargain hunter, and that requires going to about eight different shops to be certain he’s getting the cheapest prices) and actually scrubs the apartment properly, which he’s never done before. He’s tidied up plenty of times, but this is cleaning. This is rubber gloves and bleach and disinfectant spray and using up about ten shitty dishcloths. He even dusts, standing on chairs to reach the corners of each room and pulling furniture about to make sure he doesn’t miss anything.
It takes him literally the whole day, but by the time he’s done, his skin is tingling and he can’t stop smiling, so satisfied he could burst. He actually invites Éponine round for the first time in a good few months and she gasps when she comes in. “Holy shit, did you pay someone to clean for you?”
“Do I look like I could afford a cleaning lady?” he grins. Her eyes are like saucers as she comes in to take a proper look.
“Do cleaning fairies exist?” she breathes. “Because I refuse to believe you did this on your own.”
“I did, actually.”
“Do you want to do my place too?”
“Only if you pay me, and darling? You couldn’t afford me.” He pretends to toss his hair, and she punches his arm, laughing.
“It looks amazing, R. Better than the day you moved in!”
“Thanks.” He’s blushing now, but it’s a good kind of blush. The one he gets when people like his cartoons and laugh at his jokes.
At the next meeting, Enjolras doesn’t ignore him the way he usually does. He sits closer instead, forcing Grantaire to take part in the main conversation for once. Tonight’s topic of discussion is the evils of the current education system, and the potential a letter to the Minster for Education might have. Grantaire thinks it will do nothing, naturally, and gets involved in an argument with Courfeyrac on the matter.
At the point where Courfeyrac is about to either punch Grantaire or flip the table over in anger, Enjolras nudges Grantaire and asks, “Do you think there’s any chance at all then? Or are we doomed to let things happen on the whims of politicians forever?” It’s not quite snide, but it’s not quite neutral either. Grantaire sighs.
“I think it won’t make any difference, that’s all. Letters do bugger-all unless they’ve got a shittonne of publicity behind them, and there’s no way anyone’s going to give a shit about such vague ideas.”
“They’re not vague,” Courfeyrac snaps, incensed. “We’ve got definite strategies –”
“No one here apart from Combeferre is involved in education at all,” Grantaire shoots back. “And he shouldn’t attach his name to this, because it’s a stupid plan with no hope of succeeding. Why should Hamon pay attention to a bunch of people who don’t know what they’re talking about? It’ll just make you look stupid.”
“You say that as if he’s got any experience in education either,” Enjolras says, raising an eyebrow. Grantaire laughs and points at him.
“Now that’s a better angle. What business does this guy have making policies about a system he’s never been a part of? If you ask me, only ex-teachers should be allowed to be minsters of education. Better yet, destroy the system completely and reorganise it from the ground up. What’s the point of teaching children things like complicated maths if they don’t have the aptitude or the drive to learn it? What’s the point of making kids who hate sports run around a field and endure ritualised humiliation at the hands of their teachers and schoolmates? What’s the point of sitting a kid in a classroom with a paintbrush if they’d rather be doing something else? And for that matter – why prioritise success in exams? Focus on skills that they’ll actually be using, for god’s sake. Teach them how to think outside the box, teach them to do their taxes and have some empathy for their fellow human beings. Teach them to look at the pictures on their screens and feel the difference between what they have and what other people have – or don’t have.”
He takes a drink, heart pounding because Enjolras is completely focused on him now, and he feels like he could fly as he goes on. “Instead, teachers are underpaid and overworked because no one seems to realise that they’re basically some of the most important people in the country, and kids suffer because their teachers have frazzled tempers and can’t be bothered to put up with any childish bullshit. And they suffer more because they’re told that if they can’t memorise this equation or remember these dates or solve this problem, they’ll fail their all-important holier-than-Jesus exams and die alone and unloved with no qualifications, no job, and no money, probably upside down in a public toilet, choking on their own vomit.”
“Why don’t you run for Minister of Education?” Courfeyrac asks sarcastically. “You seem to have an excellent idea of what to do.”
Grantaire levels his bottle at him. “Ah, but I am one of those underqualified morons churned out by the system. Big ideas, small brain, even smaller chance of success. To overhaul the education system like that would be fundamentally impossible, and you know it. So why quibble over the tiny details? Why bother sending a pathetic little letter to a guy who knows even less about education than you do?”
“Because we have to do something!” Courfeyrac explodes.
“Why bother when it won’t have any effect? It’s a waste of your time.” Grantaire sighs and finishes his beer. He sees Courfeyrac narrow his eyes, but a look from Enjolras stops him from saying anything.
“It’s our time to waste.” Enjolras speaks instead. “Though I don’t believe any time put towards trying to help other people is a waste. If we do decide to do it, will you help?”
“Help how?” Grantaire asks, baffled. Usually, if Enjolras deigns to listen to his idiotic rants at all, he reacts only a little worse than Courfeyrac. Less shouting, but more derision. More of that scornful irritation that makes Grantaire want to curl into a ball and groan in shame.
“The same as everyone else. Read it over, suggest changes or additions – that sort of thing.”
“Oh. Well…yes, if you decide to do it, sure.” He shrugs, still confused. But Enjolras just gives him a small smile and turns to the table next to them to bring up the letter idea with them. When Grantaire looks, Courfeyrac’s eyebrows are raised.
“Huh.” He meets Grantaire’s eyes and breaks into a laugh, eyes crinkling at the corners. “Your face! You look like you’ve just been told the colour red is actually purple. Or that two and two makes five. Or something equally silly and disturbing.”
Grantaire shakes his head and gets up to get another beer.
The niceness doesn’t stop there. Most of the time, it isn’t that Enjolras is conspicuously reaching out to him or anything – it’s just the absence of the eye rolling and tutting. In their place are small smiles and concerned frowns. He doesn’t talk to Grantaire much more than usual, and he doesn’t do anything obvious. But he sits closer than he used to, and Grantaire finds their eyes meeting where he used to just stare at Enjolras unnoticed.
It makes him blush, which makes Enjolras smile, which makes Grantaire have to bite back his own shy grins. It’s utterly ridiculous. He didn’t think he could fall for Enjolras any harder, but it turns out that he really, really can. He has that day they were in each other’s bodies to remind him of Enjolras’ odd food tastes and inner confidence, and his bizarre frustration at not being artistically gifted. He remembers Enjolras in his body, confessing that he’d cried buckets while watching the movie Never Let Me Go, not only because of the tragedy of the main plot, but at the emphasis placed on imagination and creativity. He wouldn’t have been able to present anything, he’d said. He couldn’t even doodle.
All of the extra information gleaned in that one day only serves to push home how human Enjolras is. And Grantaire remembers him on the bed the morning after in his pyjamas, with shower-damp hair and a wide, happy smile, and longs for something he never actually had.
When he emails the group account to let them know he won’t be able to make it to that week’s meeting, he gets two emails in reply – one from the group account telling him it’s fine, and one from Enjolras asking if he’s okay.
Bemused, but touched, Grantaire tells him that he’s covering someone else’s shift at the bistro that evening, and that it’s nothing to worry about. Enjolras asks whether he has any time off after the meeting he’ll be missing, and when Grantaire tells him he has Monday afternoons free, Enjolras offers to catch him up on what he’ll have missed.
It doesn’t really hit him until later that evening that he’s arranged to meet Enjolras in a café to talk about mutual interests. It’s essentially a date. His body can’t decide whether to react by feeling nauseated or excited, and Grantaire ends up in bed early, hugging his pillow. He alternates deep breaths and giddy, half-hysterical laughter.
Grantaire is on time for their meeting (he can’t call it a date, not even in his head, because that’s deluded and wrong), but Enjolras is early, and he sees him in the window of the café as he crosses the road. He’s looking down at his hands on the table, the fingers twisted together, and by now Grantaire knows that’s a thing Enjolras does when he’s nervous. When he passes the window, Enjolras’ head jerks up, and he smiles when their eyes meet. Something flutters in Grantaire’s stomach, and he smiles back crookedly as he comes in and sits down.
Enjolras takes his hands off the table and gives Grantaire such a blinding smile that he has to look down, hoping he doesn’t blush. “Hi. Want to get a drink first before I tell you what you’ve missed?”
“Sure, okay.” Grantaire glances over at the counter, but Enjolras is already on his feet.
Grantaire fiddles with his phone while Enjolras stands in the queue, and when he returns a few minutes later, he’s brought a couple of pastry things with him. “That one has raspberries,” Enjolras points to the fatter one. “I remembered you like them.”
“Thank you.” Grantaire can’t quite keep the surprise out of his voice, but Enjolras just smiles and curls his hands round his mug, piled high with cream. Grantaire narrows his eyes at it. “Is there even any real coffee in there?”
“No, actually. I got a hot chocolate, and you are forbidden from mocking me for it,” Enjolras tells him. Grantaire grins and sips from his own mug.
“Alright, no mocking. Catch me up then. What thrilling plans to dismantle the kyriarchy have you been dreaming up without me?”
They’ve decided to ditch the letter plan, Grantaire learns, but they still want to put pressure on Hamon to stick to his socialist guns. Bossuet wants to focus on sex education in particular, especially in regards to the lack of information concerning minority groups and women’s sexual pleasure. Grantaire’s in favour of narrowing the focus, and better sex ed would definitely be a step in the right direction.
The conversation dissolves into Enjolras telling him about an older boy at the boarding school he’d gone to who’d come out as gay and then been asked to leave, because the school couldn’t figure out where to put him – should they put him in the boys boarding house? Or with the girls?
“Well that’s fucked up.” Grantaire finishes his pastry (he can’t bring himself to look at the price on the board behind the counter – he knows it’ll just make him queasy). “Didn’t they have single rooms if they were so worried?”
“No. It was a small school. A very backwards school.” Enjolras looks down at his empty mug. “It wasn’t awful, but…I didn’t come out till after I left.”
“Partially. But I also didn’t want that to be the thing everyone knew me for. In such a small school, you know, everyone knows everyone, at least by reputation. One of the girls was bisexual and by the end of the day she came out, everyone knew about it. No one would’ve tried to hurt me or said anything to my face, I don’t think, but I didn’t want to face that kind of scrutiny.”
“You?” Grantaire gives him a small smile. “But the spotlight loves you.”
“I like stepping out of it when I want to.” Enjolras smiles back, then looks down and takes a deep breath before fixing him with a steady gaze. “Can I ask you something?”
Grantaire nods, startled by how serious Enjolras suddenly seems. “Sure.”
Despite being given permission, it still takes Enjolras a couple of seconds to work up to the question. “Would you like this to count as a date?”
Grantaire is distantly aware of his mouth opening very slowly. He can’t respond – all he does is gape like a complete tool as uncertainty flickers across Enjolras’ face.
“It’s fine if you don’t –” he starts, and Grantaire shakes his head, snapping himself out of his trance.
“No! No, I do, I want…” He bites his lip and tries to breathe evenly, but his chest is shuddering and it feels like his heart is palpitating. “Are you serious?” he manages to ask. “I mean…really?”
Enjolras smiles, just one corner of his lip turning up as he nods. “Very serious. Madly serious. I really like you, Grantaire.”
“Is this about the bodyswap thing?” Grantaire asks faintly.
“It helped,” Enjolras nods. “I liked you a little before that, but…that made me understand you so much more.”
“I don’t have panic attacks,” Enjolras tells him. “I don’t hesitate, and I don’t blush easily, and I don’t…react to things the way you do. Being in your body and experiencing those things means I…I look twice at you, when you’re around. I know now it’s not so easy being you, and I think…I know you’re much stronger than I thought before. You’re much more complicated and interesting than I’d ever expected.”
Something clenches in his throat, and Grantaire doesn’t want to ask, he doesn’t want to know, but he makes himself choke the words out anyway. “Is this pity?”
“No!” Enjolras’ eyes widen and he leans forward. “No, nothing like that, I promise. I swear, Grantaire, that’s not what I meant at all. I’m sorry, I said this all wrong.” He sits back in his chair, shoulders slumping. “I just meant that I liked knowing you better. And that it’s made me more considerate. I’ve been trying to be less of an asshole.”
“You were never an asshole,” Grantaire protests.
“I wasn’t exactly kind either. I should’ve been. I didn’t mean to be cruel – I just didn’t get you. I feel like I do now, at least a bit. I’d like to know you even more, if that’s…if you want that as well.”
Grantaire can’t meet Enjolras’ earnest eyes and looks down at the table instead. The plate covered in flakes of pastry and the empty coffee mug sit in front of him and stand in silent proof of this being a date. “Did you want this to be a date?” he asks, making himself look up just as Enjolras gives him a painfully hopeful look.
“Only if you did as well,” he says.
Grantaire’s chest might explode at any moment, so he has to check now. “You want more dates? With me?”
Enjolras smiles, lower lip bitten for a moment before he nods. “Very much.”
“With me?” Grantaire checks again, just for accuracy’s sake.
“Yes.” Enjolras doesn’t look like he’s quite letting himself break into a full grin, but it’s a close thing. “With you. I told you – I really like you, Grantaire. I…I might be kind of in love with you.”
Grantaire’s brain experiences half a second of every expletive he’s ever learned being internally shrieked at once before it completely whites out. “I think I might faint,” he breathes.
“Don’t faint!” Enjolras scoots forward, and one of his feet touches Grantaire’s. “We’re in a public place. Don’t you dare faint on me. Um, quick question, last question – hypothetically, would this be a good faint or a bad faint? A hooray-for-more-dates faint or an oh-god-he’s-got-completely-the-wrong-end-of-the-stick faint?”
He sounds nervous, and Grantaire starts to laugh. Maybe it’s the lack of oxygen getting to his brain, but he’s giddy. His body is weightless, and his head is full of fizzing bubbles. “Good faint,” he manages to say, his cheeks already aching from the strength of his grin. “A good faint, definitely a good faint.”
Enjolras starts to laugh too, almost giggling, and when he reaches for Grantaire’s hand, Grantaire holds on tight.