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salt-rose or topaz

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Grantaire wakes up one morning expecting a pounding headache and an insistent urge to vomit, and he does feel all those things, he does, but his hangover is largely eclipsed by the fact that he is fucking seeing colours. He closes his eyes, squeezes them shut tightly, and tries to get his breathing under control, because it can’t be, it can’t fucking be, because you don’t see colours unless you see your soulmate, and Grantaire was pissed drunk last night and he couldn’t have, he mustn’t have

He opens his eyes.

The colours remain.

Grantaire remembers Joly and Bossuet bursting into his room the night they meet Musichetta, crying happily over brilliant colours are and how Grantaire would absolutely love it when it’s his turn to see colours, but Grantaire has never felt more desolate in his life.

He’s heard about it, about soulmates accidentally meeting each other’s eyes in unfortunate situations. Maybe one of them was on a train that is just taking off, and the other is on the platform, just having got off the train. Maybe they’re strangers who catch each other’s eyes and then lose each other in the crowd.

It happens, is all he’s saying.

Sometimes they find each other, sometimes they don’t, it’s not unusual, happens all the time, and Grantaire shouldn’t be so upset about it, except he’s been looking forwards to this, to finally being able to see colours, to having a soulmate, someone who is, for all intents and purposes, just his and his alone, and the thought that he lost this just because he was drunk makes his stomach churn with shame and guilt.

Just as well that he doesn’t find his soulmate. Whoever they are, they’re probably better off without him.

He spends the next three days cooped up in his apartment, dressed in his baggiest pyjamas and eating ice cream out of tubs, and wonders if it’s possible to feel heartbreak without having been in love. He stares at the bottles of cheap whiskey on his kitchen table, but doesn’t drink them, because getting drunk was what got him into this situation. He lies on his couch and wonders what his soulmate is like, if they are an artist just like him, if their eyes crinkle when they smile, if they like warm hugs.

He’s aware that he’s wallowing in self-pity, and that Joly and Bossuet are probably very worried about him, but he can’t bring himself to call them back or answer their texts.

They come knocking on his door on the fourth day.

Four days of seeing colours. After Joly and Bossuet started seeing the world in colours, they’d told Grantaire that his paintings of the sea and the sky weren’t accurate, colour-wise, and Grantaire’d always thought that he would try to paint them after he could see them in their natural colours, that it would be hard to tear him away from his canvas and his paintbrush because there’d be so much to paint, but he hasn’t been near a paintbrush in days, hasn’t felt any urge to paint, spends most of his days with his eyes closed, in fact, because at least when his eyes are closed and he’s surrounded by darkness, it feels familiar, less haunting.

He staggers to his feet and trudges to the door, a heavy weight in his stomach, and opens the door. Joly and Bossuet are both wearing twin expressions of worry on their faces, and Grantaire’d meant to wave them off, tell them that he’s sick and make them leave, but the concern in their eyes is too much for him to bear, and he just lists forward into their arms, clutches at them and cries.

They don’t say anything, just moves them back to Grantaire’s couch, sit him down between them, and hold him while he cries, rubbing their hands down his back, trying to soothe him, and fuck, fuck, Grantaire doesn’t deserve them at all.

When his sobs subside, and he feels like he can talk without choking, he presses the tip of his index finger to Joly’s shirt, and says, “What’s colour is that?”

They both draw in sharp breaths.

“Red,” Bossuet replies, after a beat, and then points to Joly’s jeans. “Blue.” His own t-shirt. “Orange.” Grantaire’s hoodie. “Green.”

Grantaire tears up.

“You can see,” Joly breathes out.

Grantaire nods, swipes the tears off his cheeks, and starts to explain, because they deserve to know.

He’s heard of pills you can take and drugs you can inject into yourself that’ll intensify the bond between soulmates and make it easier for soulmates to find each other.

He knows that’s how Montparnasse found Eponine, and he knows that Montparnasse would be able to get his hands on some. He’s got Montparnasse’s number keyed into his phone, finger hovering over the call button, and the urge to do it, to do whatever is necessary to help him find his soulmate again, is so strong, but Grantaire doesn’t do it, because he knows he’ll hate himself if he does, and calls Joly instead.

It takes Joly 20 minutes to come over, another 15 minutes to pack a bag for Grantaire, and then he marches Grantaire out of his apartment and tells Grantaire that he shouldn’t be alone too much, that he can stay on his couch until he feels better.

Grantaire doesn’t really think he’s ever going to feel better again.

He learns about colours, and they make him feel better, he’s always known that the world would be a lot prettier to look at when it’s not in varying shades of grey, but there’s still the underlying feeling of emptiness, an acute sense of loss that he can’t seem to shake, no matter how many paintings of the streets or the park he makes.

He wonders if he would feel better, if he had his soulmate around, and then sighs, because what would that matter?

He’s had his chance and he lost it.

He’s been staying in the apartment Joly shares with Bossuet and their girlfriend Musichetta for over a week, mostly still moping, when they all sit him down and tell him that he should go out more, maybe attend one of the Les Amis meeting with Joly and Bossuet that night.

Grantaire means to say no. The word is right on the tip of his tongue, and it’s what he means to say, but he takes a look at Joly, Bossuet and Musichetta, at the mirroring frowns they all have on their faces, and says instead, “Okay.”

“Do you believe that it’s possible to fall in love with two people at the same time?” Musichetta had once asked him, shortly after she met Joly and Bossuet, and they’d all gotten together.

At that time, Grantaire had laughed and told her that he would be lucky if he could fall in love even once, and that not everyone was as lucky as she was, but the moment Grantaire steps into the Musain, trailing a little behind Joly and Bossuet as they arrive for one of the meetings that Les Amis hold, he suddenly wishes that he’d thought to bring his sketchbook and some pencils because—

He grabs Joly’s arm. “Who’s that?” he asks, dipping his head towards the blond man sitting at the head of the table, head thrown back in laughter.

Joly smiles. “That’s Enjolras,” he tells Grantaire. “He leads the Amis. We seem to have caught him in a good mood. Would you like to go introduce yourself? Enjolras loves it when new people come to the meetings.”

Grantaire barely manages to shake his head. He sits down at a table close to the back together with Joly and Bossuet, whom Grantaire can tell has questions but are tactful enough to keep them to themselves until a better time. He sinks into the chair, feeling his fingers itch to draw Enjolras.

He has his eyes on Enjolras the whole meeting, memorising the curve of his smile, sly and satisfied when someone reports something favourable to him, the displeased arch of his eyebrows when someone shows up late to the meeting, declines when Joly offers to buy him a drink in hopes that sobriety would help him to remember Enjolras’ features properly enough to try to paint him tonight.

He doesn’t take his eyes off Enjolras, which is how he can pinpoint the exact moment Enjolras notices his presence.

Enjolras has just finished with his speech, and is about to pass the floor on to Combeferre, when he looks up and his gaze catches on Grantaire. Grantaire could swear for a moment that he hears the sharp intake of breath Enjolras draws, and the slight widening of his eyes, but he blinks and Enjolras is calm and composed again, and Grantaire has to smother his urge to groan, because it’s been a week since he last had something to drink, of course he’s starting to see things.

The meeting goes on smoothly, and ends earlier than Grantaire expected.

Joly smiles. “We normally stay back to chat,” he tells Grantaire, answering the question that Grantaire didn’t have to ask.

Grantaire thinks about excusing himself to go back to Joly and Bossuet’s apartment first. He doesn’t think they would mind. These are their friends, not his. They would understand.

Before he has the chance to say anything to Bossuet, someone taps him on the shoulder. He turns, and oh

“You’re new here,” Enjolras is saying. He extends his hand to Grantaire, and oh, Grantaire is going to have to draw his hands too. “I am Enjolras.”

Grantaire hope he isn’t gaping, because Enjolras is even more beautiful up close. “Grantaire,” he says, and reaches out to shake Enjolras’ hand.

“It is possible,” Grantaire whispers to Musichetta that night, when Joly and Bossuet are in bed, and she’s snuggled beside Grantaire, the both of the watching shitty sitcoms. “To fall in love twice,” he adds, when she arches her eyebrow at him.

Her eyes light up. She’s happy for him, and he doesn’t want to have to take that away from her, not when she’s been worried for him for so long now, but it needs to be said out loud. He needs to convince himself.

“Both times are just as hopeless,” he says, knowing that it’s true, because he’s already found and lost his soulmate, and Enjolras is so out of his league, and he must have someone out there for him too, if he hasn’t found that someone already.

Grantaire is a drunk who lost his soulmate, and a fool who fell in love with someone who he isn’t supposed to.

He’ll be so much better off alone.

He gets an invitation to the next Les Amis meeting, and it reminds him of how Enjolras had smiled at him and said, “I hope to see you at the next meeting.”

He doesn’t go.

He gets, well, better, in a sense, he supposes.

He moves out of his friends’ apartment and back into his own (but not before Joly, Bossuet and Musichetta all tackle him to the couch and cuddle him for twenty minutes, he doesn’t deserve them all, not one bit), wanders around parks and draws Enjolras, dreams about the soulmate he could have had.

It’s not a happy life, but it’s bearable.

(And if sometimes he lies in bed in the dark and clenches his fists and tries to fight the sense of loneliness inside of him, that’s less bearable, but bearable still.)

He’s working on a commission —the number of artists who can see colours is, shockingly, not a very large number at all— one night when he hears the knocks on his door. He isn’t expecting company; Joly and Bossuet would text before they come, and Eponine is still on her vacation with Gavroche and Azelma. He wipes the paint off his hand quickly on the rag lying by the side of the table and goes to get the door.

He isn’t expecting Enjolras on the other side of it.

“Enjolras,” he says. “How did you—”

“Joly gave me your address,” Enjolras replies even before he’s gotten the whole question out.

“Oh,” Grantaire says, and blinks, not quite sure if he isn’t hallucinating. Joly’s always told him how toxic fumes from paint is bad for him, and he’s never listened. Maybe he should have. “And… What brings you here?”

“I— You never came back,” Enjolras says, dropping his gaze from Grantaire’s eyes. “I’d hoped you would.”

“You—” He peers at Enjolras for a long moment, before his shoulders loosen and he lets out a huff of laughter, because Enjolras is here on business, of course he is. What other reason could he have to be here? “Is this a feedback survey? You didn’t do anything wrong. I enjoyed the meeting, I’ve just been, you know…” He waves his hand around vaguely, and is proud to notice that his hands aren’t shaking. “Busy.”

Enjolras frowns, and oh, he looks gorgeous even when he’s frowning. Grantaire wants to ask if he would sit in for a portrait.

“It’s not a feedback survey,” he tells Grantaire, and scrunches his nose, like the idea is ridiculous to him.

“Oh,” Grantaire says, and remembers what Joly said to him about Enjolras always wanting new members to join in his crusade for equality and liberty for all. “Is this a recruitment drive?”

“A recruitment drive?” Enjolras echoes, looking incredulous. “No, it’s not a recruitment drive. Why would this be a recruitment drive?”

“Then why are you—”

“I can see colours,” Enjolras blurts out.

Grantaire freezes. Of course Enjolras can see colours. Enjolras deserves to see colours, deserve to have a soulmate who loves him and he loves, and it’s good for him and all, but also none of Grantaire’s business, why is he telling Grantaire?

“That’s good,” Grantaire says, and hopes that his voice is even and calm, because he cannot hear himself over the rush of white noise in his head. “Congratulations.”

“It’s not— That’s not—” Enjolras sighs, and wrings his hands together nervously. “I’m doing this all wrong.”

Grantaire has never been more confused in his life, but Enjolras looks jumpy and unsettled, and Grantaire opens his door wider and steps back. “Would you like to come in for a cup of tea?”

Enjolras nods and goes into Grantaire’s apartment.

Grantaire tells Enjolras to make himself comfortable and goes into the kitchen to make them each a cup of tea. Enjolras is staring at the paintings he has hung up on his walls when he comes back with the tea.

“They’re beautiful,” he tells Grantaire.

Grantaire snorts. “They’re awful,” Grantaire corrects, but there’s no self-deprecation in his voice. “They’re all from before—” Before he could see colours, before he found his soulmate, before he lost his soulmate. “From before. The colours are all out of whack.”

“They’re still beautiful,” Enjolras insists, not looking away from a painting Grantaire made of some sunflowers Eponine had gotten him a year ago. At the time he was painting, he was seeing paints in different shades of grey, but now that he can actually tell the colours apart, he sees that he’s given the petals on the sunflower varying strokes of orange and blue and red, and god, they look nothing like sunflowers.

“You can have it if you like it,” Grantaire says before he can think better of his words. The idea of Enjolras owning a painting he made makes his chest tingle, and it’s a battle to force the feeling down.

“I’d love to have it,” Enjolras says, and when he turns over to face Grantaire, he’s smiling, lips stretched wide, eyes crinkled, and he looks happy, like Grantaire’s given him a great gift, and not just a shitty painting he did. “Thank you.”

He presses the mug of tea into Enjolras’ hand and they both sit down on the couch.

“Why’re you here, Enjolras?” Grantaire asks after a moment of silence.

Enjolras tenses up and he puts his mug gently on the table. “The night I met my soulmate,” he says slowly, “I was in a club. It was Courfeyrac’s birthday, and I stayed to make sure everyone got home safe.”

“Designated driver Enjolras,” Grantaire says, the corner of his lips quirking up. “That does not surprise me at all.”

Enjolras returns his smile for a short moment. “I bumped into my soulmate while he was on his way across the dance floor,” Enjolras tells him. “And then, just, everything seemed sharper, brighter, and nothing was black-and-white anymore. I went up to him, introduced myself.”

Grantaire swallows, and he’s suddenly unsure of why Enjolras is telling him any of these again. He’s not sure he wants to hear any of these, not sure if he wants to hear about Enjolras and his soulmate. “Why—”

“Let me finish, please,” Enjolras says, holding out a hand. “He was drunk,” he continues, “like most people in the club were, and I took him aside and went to get him some water. When I came back, he was gone.” Enjolras clenches his fist, like the memory is painful for him to revisit. “I tried looking for him in the club, outside the club, asked if anyone knew him, but he was gone. I didn’t even get his name, all I had was an initial.” He looks up at Grantaire, and then breathes out, “R.”

Grantaire stops breathing.

“When I saw you at the Musain,” Enjolras says, “I thought that I’d gotten a second chance, that you’d found me, but you never said anything about that night. I figured it was your way of telling me you didn’t want me.”

Grantaire bristles at that. “That’s not—”

“I know,” Enjolras says, and reaches out the the space between them, palm upturned. “Joly told me you didn’t remember.”

Grantaire takes Enjolras’ hand, slots their fingers together, grips him tight, and wants to laugh because his chest doesn’t feel too tight anymore, and his heart doesn’t feel like it’s going to cave and collapse anymore, and it’s wonderful. “I was drunk,” he chokes out. “I was so drunk, I’m so sorry.”

I’m the one who has to be sorry,” Enjolras says, squeezing Grantaire’s hand, and oh, God, Grantaire never wants to have to let go of Enjolras’ hand. “I shouldn’t have left you when we were in the club, I should’ve said something the time in the Musain, I shouldn’t have waited so long. I haven’t felt right since the night in the club. I’ve been restless, sad, angry at myself, and if what Joly has told me is true, you’ve been the same. I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Grantaire says. “It’s not—” He means to say that it’s not anyone’s fault, but he’s still pretty sure he’s got to shoulder most of the blame for this. “It’s okay now, though, right? You’re here now.”

Enjolras nods, and his eyes are hard and serious when he says, “I’m here now, and I’m here to stay.”

“Sit still, Apollo,” Grantaire admonishes, frowning at Enjolras a little before he turns to squint at the canvas propped on his easel. “Stop fidgeting.”

“You already have paintings of me,” Enjolras says with a sigh that Grantaire is pretty sure is supposed to sound impatient, but doesn’t hit the mark at all. He sounds fond, and when Grantaire looks up from his painting to look at Enjolras, he finds Enjolras smiling at him. “When are you going to get tired of painting me?”

“At the rate this is going?” Grantaire asks, setting his paintbrush down, wiping his hand on the rag by his easel, and rejoins Enjolras in bed. “Never,” he says, before pressing his lips to Enjolras’, and smiles into the kiss when he feels Enjolras do the same.