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Grantaire’s been going to the meetings for several weeks now, and although he and their unelected leader Enjolras have exchanged looks, they haven’t exchanged words. Grantaire prefers it that way – Enjolras is an angel of the Old Testament variety. All fire and ice and sharp edges covering soft camaraderie. He’s only seen flashes of that so far, but it’s definitely there – no one who was really that cold would have so many loyal friends.

In private, he’s waxed poetic to Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta (what he wouldn’t give to be a part of their relationship, his soul bound to theirs, but such things aren’t to be). He’s lamented falling so fast for someone so far above him, viciously torn apart Enjolras’ speeches (he would never dare say such things to the man’s face), and wished to be part of his inner circle of friends, granted one of those rare, beautiful smiles Enjolras bestows on his favoured few. Combeferre and Courfeyrac are the ones most likely to be on the receiving end of such expressions, but Grantaire’s watched long enough to see Enjolras smile at his other close friends as well. Bossuet, Joly, and Musichetta are included in that group. Grantaire is still too new.

Too new and too shy to speak a word in the meetings. He gets Bossuet to explain some of the topics to him afterwards, or researches on his own. He hates to appear ignorant if called on. Though he doubts anyone would ever call on him.

Enjolras already scorns him, he can tell. He’s caught Enjolras narrowing his eyes at whatever he’s drinking, and because he is a contrary bastard who hates to feel small, he merely lifts the bottle in a toast whenever their eyes meet. Fuck Enjolras.

But oh, to receive one of those smiles.

He isn’t smart enough or kind enough or funny enough for Enjolras though, so although the others in Les Amis warm up to him, encouraged by the way he plays off Joly and Bossuet’s antics, Enjolras remains at a distance. Grantaire would do anything to get in his good graces – he’s not sure entirely why it matters so much, only knows that it does. But the longer Enjolras resists his subtle attempts to get his attention –

(When he reads through every word of the proposals for funding queer youth shelters in Paris and he knows Enjolras can hear him as he points out the holes to Feuilly and Bahorel, but all he gets is a look of disgust, which burns because he’s only trying to help.)

(When Jehan is clearly in a melancholy mood and Grantaire enlists the entire room to sing Dancing Queen, Enjolras cannot get the meeting back on track and leaves early, clearly furious. And yes, Grantaire accepts that he disrupted the meeting, but Jehan is laughing by the end, so surely it doesn’t matter?)

(When he gets drunk and interrupts someone to make some point or another and ends up rambling for minutes on end, his thoughts chasing themselves in circles while he tries to find what he means in the mess he’s made of his attempt to be eloquent and he raises his voice because he’s sure he’s making some sense in there and he wants to prove to Enjolras and the others that he can be clever too, that he knows things too, but ends up talking his throat to dryness and coughing himself into an embarrassed silence.)

– the more disheartened and bitter Grantaire becomes. To be so constantly rejected weighs on a person, particularly when Enjolras doesn’t need to give him more than a look to quell him. It’s ridiculous to be so drawn to a person, and the stupidity of it drives Grantaire to drink more. At this point, perhaps someone else might turn to their tattoo. For the as-yet unbonded, their tattoos are usually a source of comfort and hope.

Grantaire’s is on his hip, and he’d be lying if he denied that it’s one of the reasons he drinks as much as he does, and from a bottle rather than a glass as often as he can. It’s two sentences in dark grey, one line in small, simple script curving round from his lower back to the spot just above the juncture of his thigh.

For God’s sake, put the bottle down! We don’t have time for your antics.

He hopes that when he hears those words, they’ll be fond. Maybe if he’s lucky, they’ll be gentle, accompanied by a laugh. Maybe, maybe.

If he’s lucky, if life shows him a little kindness, maybe hearing those words (for him, directed only at him, for his ears alone) will open the door to something good, to sharing what few aspects of his life are worth sharing with another. Maybe his soulmate will find his jokes amusing instead of irritating. Maybe they’ll make him laugh in return, and they’ll fit together like puzzle pieces. Maybe his soulmate will be the one person (he’s not lucky enough to have more than one tattoo, and he knows he’s lucky to have one at all) things will be easy with.

Maybe they’re waiting for him too. Maybe when they come together they’ll both be relieved and happy to have found each other, and their relationship will be easy, be tender and loving. Maybe.

But knowing his luck, more likely not.

 

Maria bursts into the meeting late, her face flushed with excitement. “I have a soulmate! I found her!”

The room is immediately buzzing, and Grantaire is glad that for once Enjolras cannot blame him for the commotion. “Who?” Courfeyrac demands, almost as excited as Maria. “Who is she? Where is she? Why didn’t you bring her?”

“She’s on holiday in Italy, but she lives in Paris!” Maria’s started to cry, and Courfeyrac wraps her up in a hug. “It’s fate! She sent me an ask on tumblr and it said exactly what my tattoo says, that she liked my blog and wanted to be friends and I sent one back saying I thought she might be more than my friend and she has those words on her! She’s my soulmate! I have a soulmate!”

The meeting never has a chance to really get going – it turns into a celebration of Maria’s good fortune to have found her soulmate online yet live in the same place as her (those instances are rare indeed) and a discussion on soulmates in general. Naturally, because Les Amis are a queer activist group, the focus tends towards the longstanding prejudice against same-sex romantic soulmates, but Grantaire prefers to hear the stories of each person’s tattoos.

Bahorel has Feuilly’s first greeting to them wrapped around their wrist – oh my god, is your nose broken? – and Jehan’s on their collarbone – hey, I’m not a he either, wanna be friends? In return, Feuilly has shit fucking fuck what the fuck did you just say? on his left arm, and Jehan has thank fuck wait hold the fuck up on nir side. From Jehan, Feuilly has hi, aren’t you their soulmate? on his right arm, and Jehan has I think I might be yours as well at the base of nir spine.

As soulmate stories go, that’s a tough one to beat. Combeferre and Courfeyrac have fuck me you’re short and is that supposed to be funny? on thigh and shoulder respectively. A joke, because at 6’5, Combeferre is easily the tallest in the room. Both are bonded to Enjolras as well, who from Courfeyrac has the way you destroyed that asshole was incredible across one rib (Courfeyrac has he deserved it on his foot), and from Combeferre do you like it so far? on his back (they were reading the same book, and Combeferre has what do you mean? hidden on the back of his neck, covered by hair).

Éponine has I think I know you on her neck, but is still searching for the mouth from which those words will come. Apparently her sister has no fewer than four soulmates waiting for her somewhere, despite being aromantic, and her brother is still too young to have any yet.

Grantaire is lucky enough to have been allowed to trace the words on Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta. He’s made them tell him the stories of their meetings so many times he could recite it in his sleep. First, Joly and Bossuet, who first met when they were students in a bar. Bossuet had misplaced his wallet, and so found himself unable to pay for his drinks. Joly’s first words to him are stamped in a dark scribble across one of his ribs – I can get that for you. Bossuet’s reply dances up Joly’s shin – you’re a life saver. Second, Joly and Musichetta, introduced by a mutual friend. On her ankle, a shy I like your coat. On the inside of his upper arm thanks! want to get a drink? Third, Musichetta and Bossuet, brought together by Joly. Bossuet spoke first, and Musichetta loves to show off his wow you do have beautiful eyes, which bursts in bold cursive across her heart, and her reply to him is possibly Grantaire’s favourite soulmate tattoo of all time – I think I’m already in love with you, fitting perfectly between wrist and elbow.

He adores their love, their certainty, and lets them pull him into their corner for a while when he gets a little too emotional. He looks over in time for Enjolras to pull his sleeve down, and when he frowns Joly explains. “Enjolras has a third tattoo – it’s on the inside of his upper arm.”

He’s drunk, and when he wakes the next day he can’t remember whether Joly told him what Enjolras’ third tattoo actually said, but he remembers the place and resigns himself to never seeing it. The weather is warmer, but Enjolras prefers baggy t-shirts with sleeves long enough to hide whatever his words are. Grantaire pretends he doesn’t care, and keeps drinking from bottles instead of glasses. One day he’ll have his own soulmate. One day he won’t have to be alone anymore.

 

Maria brings Cosette to the Corinthe to meet everybody, and when they reach Éponine and Cosette stares at her with an expression of wonder for a long moment before saying, “I think I know you,” the silence spreads out from them like ripples in a pond.

Éponine is rendered speechless, but stands anyway – she is taller than Cosette, who is tiny, and she gazes back in disbelief. “Cosette?” she breathes at last. “Did you say your name was Cosette?”

Maria and Éponine are not soulmates, but they were friends before Cosette and will doubtless be better friends after, now that they are all together. Maria in particular is overjoyed – she had been terrified that Cosette’s second soulmate would be a stranger. But instead, they have been blessed with Éponine, who buys drinks for everyone to celebrate, smiling wider than Grantaire has ever seen her smile.

He feels he has witnessed a miracle, and goes home drunk both on alcohol and high spirits.

 

By the next meeting, he is blue again. His happiness produced inspiration, which led to an attempt at art again. Over the past week, he has tried his hand with pencil, chalk, photography, acrylics, and even the tablet he saved for so long to buy – as if a stylus would magically improve his abilities. All his efforts have been fruitless, serving only to remind him of how talentless he is, and how painful the repeated sting of failure.

He seeks distraction in his friends, and while Bahorel and Courfeyrac are willing to indulge him, tonight they only remind him of how happy they are with their soulmates, while he is alone in his search for his. He gets louder, turning from sneering to sighing from one breath to the next, and he can see the exasperation in their faces grow, but he doesn’t know how to stop.

It is Enjolras who stops him at last, coming over to slam his hand onto the table in front of Grantaire. The bang makes him jump, and he looks up at Enjolras with baited breath, awaiting judgement. He’s never been so close to him before – he can see the blue-grey of his eyes, and he manages to hold Enjolras’ gaze as he leans back in his chair and lifts his bottle in a toast, familiar smirk curling the corners of his lips.

Enjolras practically snarls, the hand he brought down becoming a fist on the table top. “For God’s sake, put the bottle down!” he spits. “We don’t have time for your antics.”

The room was noisy just a moment before, but as Enjolras stalks away, everything in Grantaire’s head is silent.

His words. Those were his words, the words that have been on his skin since his sixteenth birthday. His words. From Enjolras’ lips.

It’s impossible. Enjolras is…Enjolras is Enjolras. And Grantaire is Grantaire. He cannot be Grantaire’s soulmate. Just thinking it is sacrilege. Even imagining it is ridiculous, it can’t be true; Enjolras would never be saddled with such a poor match as him.

He can’t be saddled with Grantaire.

Grantaire gets up and stumbles out, his ears ringing and the world around him muted. No one else heard them, so he’s the only one who knows. He hasn’t said anything to Enjolras, and perhaps if he never does, Enjolras won’t ever have to deal with him, won’t ever have to be dragged down by him.

He buys a bottle of whiskey on the way back to his apartment and drinks as he goes, drinking more when he gets there. So much is dangerous, even for him, but he keeps going because alcohol is supposed to be a painkiller, and his chest still hurts, hasn’t stopped hurting since he walked out of the Corinthe.

His last thought before he passes out is of the tone of Enjolras’ voice as he hurled those words. How he had hoped, once, that those words would be said in a kind voice, not in a tone hard with irritation and disdain. How foolish he had been to believe that he would deserve anything better.

  

He doesn’t go to the next meeting, or the next. He finds excuses to avoid the company of the others, and takes on extra shifts at his jobs to stay busy. It’s for the best, he tells himself. He can be selfless, for Enjolras.

His resolutions last two weeks before he accepts one of Musichetta’s calls without thinking on his way back from a brutal overnight shift at the supermarket. The sky is grey and the air is cold and damp, and he breaks down into tears at the bus stop when she speaks to him in a gentle voice.

She comes to find him and takes him back to the large apartment she shares with Joly and Bossuet. He sleeps through the entire day, exhausted, and when he wakes up they fold him comfortably into their cuddle pile. He doesn’t tell them why he left, but he allows them to persuade him to come back. The next meeting is in two days’ time, and they keep him with them until then.

It’s nice to feel loved and to be taken care of. He’d always hoped his soulmate would –

He’s learning to stop those thoughts in their tracks, but it’s still difficult.

At the meeting, the others crowd around him and welcome him back, ask where he’s been. He tells them he had to pick up the extra work or risk falling behind on rent, and gets sympathy from all corners, except, of course, from Enjolras.

Who approaches him before the meeting begins with a chastised expression. “I shouted at you last time you were here,” he says without preamble. “I’m sorry.”

Grantaire panics. What should he say? Can he refuse to answer? If only he knew what words Enjolras had so that he could avoid saying them and then save Enjolras from this mess. Enjolras frowns at him, and the pressure mounts – it must be something small, and something common enough that Enjolras couldn’t possibly distinguish his response from another’s.

“Grantaire?” Enjolras frowns harder, and Grantaire digs his nails into his palms.

“So am I,” he blurts.

Recognition lights Enjolras’ eyes, but it dies when Grantaire doesn’t continue. He looks almost disappointed when he asks, “What for?”

“Oh, you know, winding you up.” Grantaire rushes the words out, hoping to cover up his transgression. “I know it annoys you, but I just get carried away sometimes. The price of having such a big mouth, I suppose.”

Enjolras suspects nothing, and Grantaire breathes out and drains his bottle of beer before going over to Bossuet and asking quietly, “What’re Enjolras’ words?”

“The ones that aren’t from C-squared, you mean? I think they say so am I, on his arm. He’d probably show you if you asked.”

Grantaire just shakes his head and goes to order another drink, though he feels like he might be sick. He’s one step away from ruining Enjolras’ life. He can’t be selfish and drag Enjolras down with him – he has to keep his mouth shut and let Enjolras do everything he’s destined to do. Even if Enjolras wasn’t interested in forging a romantic or sexual relationship, platonic bonds are just as strong. More so in many cases. He orders his next drink in a glass, because there’s no point in hoping any more.

 

It’s only three weeks later that everything crashes down around his ears. The topic of discussion has turned to soulmates again, and the unethical experiments that have been performed on people in the past. The forced removal (usually via mutilation) of soulmate tattoos, the denial of humanity in illiterate cultures (whose tattoos manifest in symbols or pictures instead), and the tests on romantic and platonic soulmates.

Grantaire is launching a counter-argument to Cosette’s insistence that the approval of platonic soulmates can only be a good thing. He argues that the only reason society is so into platonic soulmates is because they can be claimed as a no-homo. “Platonic soulmates are usually between members of the same sex, right?” he says. “But if you’re platonic soulmates, oh it can’t be gay. Sure, just like Achilles and Patroclus weren’t gay, like Ruth and Naomi weren’t gay, everyone’s platonic until proven otherwise by a team of highly-trained scientists and even then only if they definitely state that they’re getting it on. Alluding to it is never enough – it has to be stated, and even then in a lot of historical figures it’s just swept under the rug.”

Cosette’s grinning, already thinking of a reply, but Grantaire turns when he hears someone say his name – Joly, at the other end of the room, showing his tattoos to Enjolras and saying – “…for example, his concerns him drinking from a bottle, so he drinks from bottles more often than glasses to maximise the chances.” Enjolras asks something, and Grantaire stands up, the blood draining from his face because he already knows what’s going to happen. Joly laughs. “It’s on his hip – it says, ‘for God’s sake, put that bottle down, we don’t have time for your antics.’ Great, huh?”

“Joly,” Grantaire breathes, but it’s too late – Enjolras’ eyes are already widening, and he’s looking over Joly’s shoulder at Grantaire. Their eyes meet. Enjolras’ jaw drops. Grantaire bursts into motion, grabbing his jacket and practically running from the room, tripping over his own feet as he runs down the stairs and slips out the Corinthe’s front door.

He doesn’t even make it to the end of the road before Enjolras is shouting after him. “Grantaire!” He falters, but doesn’t stop running. Stupid – Enjolras is slim and long-legged, and catches up easily. Grantaire finds himself halted by a hand on his arm, pulled around to meet wide blue eyes. “It’s you,” Enjolras gasps. “It’s you – I said those words to you, didn’t I? And you said mine to me! Why did you run?” Impossibly, his eyebrows draw together, hurt plain in the lines of his expression.

Grantaire slumps against the wall and pushes a hand through his hair, still getting his breath back. “I’m sorry.”

“For running?”

“For all of this.” Grantaire is shaking, perhaps from cold. He clenches his jaw to stop his teeth chattering.

“You kept it a secret,” Enjolras whispers, finally catching on. “You knew, but you didn’t say anything. Do you really hate me that much?” He sounds so small and confused, and Grantaire hastens to explain.

“No, no it’s not like that – you’re incredible. That’s the problem. You don’t deserve to be saddled with someone like me.”

Saddled?” Enjolras repeats, and Grantaire slides down the wall, hands fisting in his hair. “What do you mean ‘someone like you’?”

“I’m useless.” Grantaire swallows around the lump in his throat. It’s sinking in now that everything is over; that he’s ruined Enjolras’ life without even having to say a word. (Well. Technically just by saying the three on Enjolras’ arm.) “I’m a useless piece of shit, I’m nothing like you. You don’t need someone like me dragging you down – you’re better than that. You’re certainly better than me.”

He doesn’t really register what’s happening when Enjolras crouches in front of him, but then he’s being pulled into a hug. Enjolras’ arms are tight around him, his face pressed into Grantaire’s shoulder. This close, he can smell Enjolras’ shampoo, can feel his hair against his cheek, and he’s weak and pathetic, so can’t help hugging back, stifling a sob and clinging on. If this is all he’s going to get, he’s going to take as much as he can.

Eventually, Enjolras draws back. But instead of walking away, he just stays there in front of Grantaire, one of his hands on Grantaire’s shoulder to keep himself steady. “I am not better than you,” he says firmly. “And you are not useless. I’m the one who needs to apologise – for making you feel like keeping this hidden was your only choice. I’m so sorry, Grantaire.”

“Don’t,” Grantaire whispers, looking down. “You don’t have to be nice to me now we’re…”

“I should have been nice to you before.” Enjolras squeezes his shoulder. “You confused me. I didn’t understand why you kept coming back to distract us and pick holes in our arguments. I shouldn’t have been cruel, Grantaire, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“You don’t have to –” Grantaire says again, but Enjolras interrupts him.

“I want to. I want to get to know you properly, I want to be your friend. I want…I want this. Please believe me.” Grantaire’s disbelief must show in his expression, because Enjolras hugs him again before helping him to his feet. “Do you want to go somewhere?” he asks Grantaire, uncharacteristically hesitant. “We should probably talk?”

Grantaire nods, and gestures for him to lead the way. When Enjolras asks to hold his hand, Grantaire is too bemused to do anything but nod. When Enjolras asks whether he’s eaten that evening and Grantaire answers in the negative, Enjolras tentatively suggests a bistro he knows. Grantaire vetoes it immediately in favour of a better one around the corner, and Enjolras agrees with a smile.

It’s the smile that snaps Grantaire out of his trance. Enjolras has never smiled at him before, and while it’s not the smile he gives to his friends (it’s shyer, maybe a little worried), it’s still far more than he’s ever given Grantaire before.

“I thought this was the sort of fairytale you didn’t believe in,” he says as they walk. Enjolras’ fingers are laced through his, their palms pressed together and warm. Grantaire cannot get over the solid weight of it – he doesn’t think he’s held anyone’s hand like this for years.

“What do you mean?”

“This.” Grantaire looks down at their hands, his grip purposefully loose. “This…fantasy ideal that soulmates get on instantly.”

“Usually they do.”

“No they don’t, or there wouldn’t be things like domestic abuse.” Grantaire gives him a sideways look. “You know this. I’ve heard you argue the points often enough.”

Enjolras glances away, lips contorting slightly as he chews on the inside of his cheek. His thumb strokes Grantaire’s where they overlap. “I can’t be happy anyway?” he says at last, the same smile from before twitching one corner of his lips up hopefully. “Fairytale or not, it’s still a big deal.”

Grantaire has to insist though, because this is all wrong. “You never gave me the time of day before,” he says. It comes out a lot sadder than he’d anticipated, so he hurries on. “I mean, what, a tattoo suddenly makes me less of an irritation? It’s bullshit, Enjolras. You don’t even like me.”

“Who said I don’t like you?” Enjolras frowns. Grantaire pulls his hand away with a quiet huff.

“You didn’t need to say anything. I’m not blind, Enjolras – I can tell you don’t like me when you make some pointed comment about drinking too much, or when you roll your eyes when I talk and never call on me for my opinion –”

“As if you’d ever let that stop you,” Enjolras says dryly, and Grantaire gestures to him.

“You hate it when I interrupt and derail the conversation and get everyone distracted! You think I’m…I’m a useless, lazy drunk, and you’re right! You’ve always seen me for exactly what I am and I can’t believe you’re pulling on these stupid rose-tinted glasses just because we have matching tattoos. Or is that you’re following some sort of society-prescribed script because you don’t know what else to say? I wouldn’t know what to do with me either – I know what I’m like, I know I’m a disappointment, so you don’t have to bother lying for my sake.” He’s on the verge of tears again, and he bites down savagely on his lip to stop it trembling, forcing himself to shut up before his voice starts to crack. He can’t bear to look at Enjolras, so he looks down, shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his hoodie.

“Grantaire?” Enjolras’ voice is quiet, a contrast to Grantaire’s returning snap.

“What?”

“Look, here.” Grantaire turns obediently, pausing when Enjolras indicates a bench, the wide stone wall surrounding a bed of flowers and trees. “Sit? Please?” Enjolras moves towards the wall, and sits when Grantaire follows. He keeps a good foot and a half of space between them, which proves pointless when Enjolras pulls his legs up to cross them and fills the space anyway.

“What?” Grantaire asks again when Enjolras doesn’t say anything, and Enjolras waves a hand.

“I’m thinking, hang on.”

“Oh, the world waits on you, fair seraph,” Grantaire mutters. He means to sound bitter, but it comes out sad again and he curses himself.

“I don’t always think well on my feet,” Enjolras tells his hands, clasped in his lap. He takes two deep breaths, then speaks. “I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t like you when you first started coming. You were…are…loud, and yes, you distract, but it’s more that you argue our opposing points. I didn’t realise for a while that they weren’t your own opinions.”

Grantaire squawks indignantly. “I argued on behalf of things like less online privacy and stricter immigration policies! What the hell?”

“Well I figured it out eventually,” Enjolras sighs. “I mean, obviously Joly and Bossuet and Chetta wouldn’t like you if you were actually an asshole. And you’re…you’re great, you know. Everyone likes you. I like you. But by the time I…” He shrugs, chewing the inside of his cheek again. “I didn’t know how to approach you. I don’t know about any of the stuff you’re interested in, and the meetings cover a lot of my personal interests already, so I didn’t know how to start, and it just…you know, built up. I wanted to be your friend, I just didn’t know how.”

Grantaire stares at him, speechless for the first time since he can remember. “You liked me?” he manages to say after an embarrassingly long pause.

Enjolras rolls his eyes, and it’s a physical relief to see a familiar expression on his face. It actually makes Grantaire relax a little. “I like you now, present tense. I’m sorry you…I’m sorry that I gave the impression that I didn’t.” He looks up at last, meeting Grantaire’s eyes. “Believe it or not, I’m actually really glad you’re my soulmate. It’s a relief that you’re not a complete stranger.”

“You don’t really know anything about me,” Grantaire protests.

“I know you’re not really an asshole,” Enjolras counters. “I know you don’t misgender people, I know you’re tolerant and open-minded, and I know you like sci-fi and think that dystopian fiction has gotten way out of hand.”

Grantaire blinks, taken aback. “How do you know that?”

“You were talking about it the other day. I overheard.” Enjolras smiles, and it’s more confident than before. It suddenly hits Grantaire that this smile is for him – there’s no one around but strangers, and Enjolras’ gaze is strong and unwavering. This smile is only for him. It’s enough to take his breath away, and he has to look down at his knees, goosebumps breaking out over the backs of his arms.

“I’m still not good enough,” he says, hushed, and sees Enjolras make a move to reach out to him from the corner of his eye, halted at the last second.

“Not good enough for what?” Enjolras demands. “You’d better not say for me.”

“Of course for you.”

“And what makes you think I’m good enough for you?” Enjolras retorts. It takes a moment for those words to order themselves in Grantaire’s brain, because they’re so fundamentally ridiculous. He expresses his incredulity with a particularly withering look (he knows he’s good at those; he’s been told so before), but Enjolras just glares. “People don’t have a value like that anyway,” he goes on. “And I told you, I’m glad we’re soulmates. It’s better by far than any of the other excuses I was thinking of to get to know you. I was about to resort to watching Star Wars or something so I could quote stuff at you.”

Grantaire frowns. “Wait, did you say watching? As in, for the first time?” Enjolras opens and closes his mouth, then shrugs, looking away. Grantaire’s jaw drops. “You’ve never watched Star Wars? Did you grow up in a cultural vacuum?”

“See? I could’ve established some sort of friendship based on a mutual appreciation of a pop culture staple,” Enjolras says. “Now I don’t have to worry about not liking it.”

“We can’t be soulmates if you don’t like Star Wars.”

The words are out before Grantaire can engage any kind of filter, but Enjolras laughs. He laughs and now he’s grinning. “Good to know you have conditions too.”

“What’re yours?” Grantaire asks immediately, because here it is, this is where he’ll fail. “The not-joke ones.”

“You already pass them,” Enjolras smiles. “You’re all those things I said earlier – the not-an-asshole stuff – and you already know and like my friends. Those are really the only two things I ever worried about.”

“But we’re so different.” Grantaire can’t smile back, sure there has to be a hitch.

“Why is that bad?” Enjolras shrugs. “You’re different in a good way. It means you’ll never get boring to me. And hopefully vice versa.” He gives Grantaire a shy smile. “Shall we go to that bistro now?”

“Okay.” Grantaire is powerless to resist, and when Enjolras offers his hand again, he takes it.

They eat, and talk for hours. The bistro closes at one, and they walk to the métro station together, holding hands the whole time. Grantaire keeps seeking problems, trying to save himself later pain, but Enjolras matches every one of his feeble arguments, getting almost smug about it as the night wears on.

At the end though, when they’re standing in the empty station waiting for Enjolras’ train (Grantaire’s isn’t for another eight minutes), Enjolras quietens, shifting slightly on the bench they’re sitting on. “You don’t mind all this, do you?” he asks, voice a lot smaller than a moment before. “Having me as your soulmate? You wouldn’t rather have someone else?”

Grantaire squeezes his hand. “I’m only freaking out because I can’t believe this,” he confesses. “I never even considered you because you were so out of my league. This is…more than I ever expected. More than I ever dared hoping for.”

Enjolras smiles, and it grows until he’s beaming, cheeks a little pink. “Could I kiss you?” he asks, squeezing Grantaire’s hand back, and all Grantaire can do is nod.

Enjolras doesn’t hesitate. While Grantaire would have taken it slow, been gentle and reverent, Enjolras just leans forward and kisses him, their lips pressing together as their noses push into each other’s cheeks. It lasts maybe three seconds before Enjolras breaks away, shifts closer, and kisses him again. Their lips fit better this time, and Grantaire parts his as something warm uncurls in the pit of his stomach. Another adjustment, and they’re both moving now, actively kissing each other. Grantaire’s got one hand squeezing Enjolras’ and the other clutching his jacket, keeping him close. Enjolras’ free hand ghosts up Grantaire’s arm, his back, his shoulder, and settles on the side of his neck.

Their knees are in the way; they both sit facing forward so they can press their bodies closer, and at the first slide of Enjolras’ tongue against his when they open their mouths to kiss deeper, Grantaire’s heart goes into overdrive. His neck is tingling where Enjolras is touching it, and his torso is fizzing, sparks racing over his skin and making him shiver even though he feels hot enough to burst into flames.

The rails sing, and the familiar roar of an approaching train fills the station. They’re forced to break apart, and Grantaire can hardly believe it when Enjolras is the one who gasps and tilts his head to kiss him again, again, as the train slows to a stop. He only pulls away when the doors open, letting go of Grantaire with a sigh and standing up. “I’ll call you,” he promises. They smile at each other giddily through the window until the train leaves, and Grantaire lies down on the bench and licks his lips with a breathless laugh.

He’ll have doubts again come morning, he’s sure, but Enjolras said he’d call. So he’ll call, and they’ll keep talking, keep getting to know each other. Maybe…if this is life showing him a little kindness…maybe it’ll work out.

He laughs again, delirious, and the sound echoes in the empty station.