It's not that Enjolras has a type (he has a type) it's just that he has a tendency to like people who are overwhelmingly bad for him. People who encourage his worser instincts tend to give him ideas. Ideas which see him sat in a police cell at three in the morning, waiting for Combeferre to post bail because he may or may not have tried to make a political statement by punching someone in the face.
The minute the guy stumbles into his coffee shop, when the sign clearly says closed and it’s close to eleven pm at night, Enjolras knows that he's a bad idea, and not just because he sees the words tattooed in scrawling script across the inside of his wrist when he lifts his hand to take off his sunglasses (who wears sunglasses at night? Enjolras asks himself. Definitely not the kind of guys he should date).
No, what convinces Enjolras that he is a terrible idea is the way he blinks a few times as he re-adjusts to the light, looking around like he's genuinely surprised to see the room he's in. Like he's never seen a cafe before or expected to be in one, then even more surprised that there's someone in there with him.
Enjolras straightens from where he's stacking mugs under the counter, and arches an eyebrow when the guy fixes bright blue eyes on him.
Enjolras goes back to stacking mugs. “We’re closed.”
“Perfect.” The guy has a smooth voice, rough around the edges, like whiskey and woodsmoke. The kind of voice that already sounds half-wrecked and makes Enjolras have very bad ideas. Instead of turning and leaving like any normal person, he wanders further into the shop and leans against the counter Enjolras is standing behind, folds his arms across the surface and just looks at him.
After a few seconds spent passive-aggressively stacking mugs, Enjolras finally stands and looks stonily back at him, at the dishevelled black hair that really shouldn’t be attractive but sort of is, the carefully casual hoodie and the faint hint of stubble that accentuates the sharp line of his jaw. The way the guy looks like he literally just rolled out of bed and has never heard of a shower.
Why the fuck is that attractive.
“I’m just looking for somewhere to hide, yeah?” he says, “Do me a favour.”
This is a terrible idea. Enjolras doesn’t even know him. Doesn’t even want to know him. Knows that if Combeferre were working the late instead, he would just kick this guy to the curb. Literally, if he had to. With that in mind, Enjolras gives him another once-over, at the lithe line of his body, curled like a question mark against the counter, and figures he could probably take him, if he had to. He’s been in enough fights and taken enough self-defence classes with Bahorel to know how to throw a punch.
“One drink,” he says, “Twenty minutes. Then I’m closing up and you better be gone.”
“You’re an angel,” he replies.
Enjolras gets one of the paper takeaway cups from the side, because he might not be passive-aggressively doing things anymore but he can still drop hints, and picks up a sharpie from the pot, “What’s your name?”
The guy’s eyes widen slightly, his lips quirk. “Grantaire,” he says, after a pause. Enjolras scribbles his name down the side of the cup and puts it on the side as he begins making the coffee. Grantaire’s eyes are on him the whole time, making him feel awkward as he follows a routine he normally does without thinking.
When the drink is ready, he turns and hands it to Grantaire, who looks down and then says, wry, “Got anything stronger?”
Enjolras sighs and pulls out a bottle of whiskey from under the counter. Courfeyrac’s idea, one of his better ones, born of a grumpy, grey Saturday last December when he’d been cold and moping and wanted something stronger than a hot chocolate. The alcohol license had been surprisingly easy to acquire but then, Enjolras did have a lot of money.
He hears an audible catch in Grantaire’s breathing when he twists the cap off and pours a generous amount in.
“Scratch angel,” he says, “You’re a god.”
“Cute,” Enjolras replies, because he’s really not. Drink done, he turns the machine off again and finishes tidying up behind the counter, stacking the plates for the little cakes and savoury treats they sell. Another of Courfeyrac’s grand ideas, because apparently you can’t just sell coffee and glare at people, Enjolras. They need something sweet to go with all that bitter judgement!
Also Courfeyrac really, really liked baking. And apparently people really, really liked eating what he baked. To the point where Enjolras had considered giving Courfeyrac an actual job, until Combeferre helpfully pointed out that he already had a job as a pretty decent lawyer, and working in a fairtrade coffee shop (un)ironically called LiberTea didn’t exactly compare.
Not that Enjolras saw the point of being a lawyer, and having to potentially defend people who had done really shitty things. But then, he didn’t understand the point of a lot of things that sensible, upstanding people did in society, much to his parents’ chagrin. So he’d opened a coffee shop. It wasn’t like people actually wanted to hire him, when they found out about his arrest record and his penchant for social justice and upheaval, and he’d always sort of had a thing against listening to authority figures.
The attached bookshop was Combeferre’s idea, though the shelves were Feuilly’s. The books on them were ones that Combeferre had brought in one day because he had run out of room at home, and then customers had started reading them, and some had even brought in their own, donations to a ‘good cause’ (Enjolras had no idea what cause that was) and like most things in his life, Enjolras had discovered that it was better to just roll with it. When he tried to voice his opinions, things usually went downhill fast.
Not that they really counted as a bookshop. They were just a place that sold coffee and treats and occasionally also books, when someone decided they wanted to buy a dog-eared, spine-cracked book that had been manhandled by a good number of the general public.
Most of the time Enjolras just ended up giving them away for free.
“You are never going to make any money,” Courfeyrac informed him one day, as he helped himself to one of the cupcakes from the display cabinet. “You’ve got the worst business sense ever.”
Enjolras considered that, and found that he really didn’t care.
Grantaire looks over the over-flowing shelves of books now, coffee in one hand, the sleeve of his hoodie just drooping down enough to show the edge of the tattoo Enjolras had caught sight of before. He takes a cautious sip of his coffee, smiles, and then takes a longer drink, after which he lets out a frankly indecent sound that should not be allowed in public.
The radio in the background turns over onto a new song a few minutes later, and Grantaire’s shoulders tense. “Want me to turn over?” Enjolras asks, before remembering that he can’t, because the whole thing is a playlist Jehan created for them and wired up to some sort of iPad docking station Enjolras isn’t allowed near. Computers and technology seem to inexplicably break whenever he’s close.
“Actually, just pretend we don’t have crap taste in music,” Enjolras says, and when he turns to look at him again, finds Grantaire watching him thoughtfully, brows furrowed. He looks bemused, fascinated, like Enjolras is a puzzle he can’t work out.
“You think it’s crap?” he asks.
Enjolras shrugs. He has no idea what the song even is. “Sure.” He tilts his head to the side to hear better, makes out a lot of drums and guitars and a strong voice over the top of it, raw and emotional, but finds it hard to actually concentrate on the words when Grantaire is staring at him.
“What?” he asks, defensive.
“I have never met a person like you before in my life,” Grantaire says, which could be a compliment or an insult, Enjolras isn’t sure. He takes another drink of his coffee and finally unfurls from his slouch. He's taller than he looks, probably has an inch or two on Enjolras, who finds that he has to tilt his head up slightly to look him in the eye. “What’s your name?”
Enjolras gives that response the flat stare it deserves. Grantaire just grins back at him and says, “No, really, I have no idea how to pronounce that. How about I just call you babe instead?”
“Sure thing, sweetcheeks,” Enjolras deadpans.
Grantaire’s laughter is like honey, warm and syrupy. It just stupid things to Enjolras’s chest. “So are you going to ask why I’m hiding out in a coffee shop in the middle of the night?” he asks. He taps his fingers on the side of his coffee shop to the beat of the music, the movement so natural it’s obvious he doesn’t even realise he’s doing it.
“Do you want me to?”
“Well, for all you know, I could be a mass murder,” Grantaire points out, “I could be about to murder you horrifically.”
“I’m pretty sure mass murderers don’t tell you they’re mass murderers.”
“And how many have you met?”
Enjolras considers the question. “Two.”
Grantaire chokes on his next drink of coffee, hits himself in the chest with his closed fist and then croaks, “I’m sorry, what?” When Enjolras just looks blandly back at him and doesn’t respond, he narrows his eyes in suspicion. “You’re messing with me.”
He steps back out of the way as Enjolras finally steps around the counter, but not far enough that he can’t smell the cologne he’s wearing, or the way it clings to his skin, heady. He may shut and lock the partition behind him with a little more force than necessary.
“I figure you’ve got your reasons,” he says, as he takes his apron off to put it on the wall hook. “Everyone’s got a story in a coffee shop.”
Here’s the thing. He likes people, likes listening to them, likes talking to them, likes hearing what they have to say. Working in a coffee shop means he gets to do that all the time. He knows his parents and his old teachers don’t get it, they think he’s throwing his supposed intelligence away working there. But working in a shop like this, it makes him happy.
He has enough money that he doesn’t really have to care about financial security, and he’s smart enough to know that social upheaval, it’s not going to work the way people want it to. His bi-monthly meetings right here, on mismatched and over-stuffed chairs surrounded by donated books and home-made shelves, they make a difference. They’re a place for people to gather and feel included and needed, a place where anyone is welcome, and there aren’t prejudices. He might not be able to change the world, but he can carve a little part out of it for himself, and those he cares about.
“What’s yours?” Grantaire asks, and when Enjolras glances over his shoulder at him, finds him not teasing, not provoking, but thoughtful.
“I just really, really like coffee,” he replies, because he might love his friends to death, but he doesn’t wax lyrical about this sort of stuff. He hears Grantaire’s snort as he opens the door into the back room and pulls his red jacket down from the hanger and his bag out from under the table. He checks the safe is locked and the contents are secure, then locks the door behind him.
When he returns to the main part of the shop, Grantaire is perusing the books on the shelves. There’s no sort of order or system to how they’re shelved, but that doesn’t seem to bother him as he trails fingertips along the edge of a shelf, head tilted to read some of the titles.
Enjolras flips the master switch to turn off the radio and the lights in the shop itself, but the darkness doesn’t seem to phase Grantaire. In fact, it seems to suit him, curls close around him, clings to his angles and puts him in sharp relief. When he turns to look back over his shoulder at Enjolras, he looks like the worst idea he’s ever had, like all those stories about devils in the dark.
“I’m locking up,” he states, which is both kind of obvious, and a stupid thing to say.
“Recommend me something,” Grantaire replies.
“I don’t really do recommendations.”
“Make an exception for a mass murderer.”
Enjolras rolls his eyes, and heads over to where he stands. The thing about darkness, is that it tends to make him so much more aware of everything, of little sounds and movements and hitches of breath that ordinarily he’d ignore all together. When Grantaire turns his head to read the spine of a book, he reveals a tattoo trailing the edge of his spine, what looks like feathers, disappearing under the collar of his shirt. “I spend a lot of time travelling,” he tells the books, skirting around the edge to the next shelf, “Sometimes I get bored. A good read is one way to pass the time.”
With a sigh, Enjolras shifts the strap of his bag higher up his shoulder and picks the nearest book up off the shelf. “Here.”
Grantaire looks down at the trashy romance cover, with the typically busty heroine and muscled man holding onto each other passionately atop a horse, and looks back up at him. “The Alarmingly Virile Stallion,” he reads.
“It’s a classic,” Enjolras states.
“You’re the worst bookseller ever, has anyone ever told you that?” Grantaire asks, but he doesn’t put the book back. “What I want to know is how one can be alarmingly virile. Are there gradients of virility? Mildly virile. Startingly virile. Astoundingly—”
Grantaire grins at him, and says, “How much?”
“People usually just pay what they think it’s worth.”
“How do you make any money?”
“One of life’s great mysteries,” Enjolras replies, because even he knows saying ‘we don’t’ isn’t really an acceptable answer. It pains Combeferre daily, he at least tries to make it all viable.
“Your number,” says Grantaire.
Enjolras blinks. “Pardon?”
“Well, I mean, it is a classic,” Grantaire echoes him, looking down at the book again for a second before flashing a grin at him, “And so are you, like a little black dress.” Which is a fucking ridiculous thing to say, because no one actually speaks like that, yet somehow he pulls it off and Enjolras thinks fuck.
“Aren’t you meant to give me something in payment?” he says instead.
“Well, I’d give you my number, but I don’t actually know what it is,” Grantaire replies, which isn’t weird at all. “Come on, what’s the worst that could happen?”
Which is how Enjolras somehow ends up writing his number in sharpie down the side of a stranger’s coffee cup, now empty. After a pause, he adds his name too, because he’d rather not be called by some stupid epithet, should Grantaire actually call.
Grantaire traces the number with his thumb when he hands it back, mouths the syllables of his name, then says, “I’ll text you my review.”
“I wait with bated breath.”
They just look at each other then, one of those natural pauses in conversation. Enjolras knows he should find something else to say, but words fail him. He likes listening to people, hearing their opinions, he’s not sure what to say to a stranger in the darkness in an empty coffee shop. A stranger who takes whiskey in their coffee and wears sunglasses at night and apparently likes reading trashy romance novels, who he gave his number to without second thought and looks at him like he’s a puzzle to be solved.
“Right, well,” Grantaire says finally, breaking the moment - or maybe there was never even a moment to break - “I’m gonna go. There are probably some people looking for me.” He pulls his hood back up, slips the sunglasses out from his pocket. The handshake he gives Enjolras is utterly perfunctory and followed by a salute as he heads over to the door. “Thanks for the coffee.”
“You’re welcome,” Enjolras replies, and then just like that, he’s gone.
Three months go by, and the coffee shop gets much busier than usual. There’s some sort of music festival going on just outside the city, and they’re close enough that the people who don’t want to properly slum it in tents and unwashed clothes drop in to visit them on their way to see their favourite band.
Most of the performances start in the early afternoon, run until late in the night when the summer air is cooling and the stars start to prick holes in the velvet blackness. Combeferre throws the fire doors at the back of the shop wide open (against regulations) to get air circulating and occasionally, in the lull between customers and deliveries, Enjolras can hear the sound of the crowds singing.
Grantaire never gets in contact after all, doesn’t send any messages or try to call, and Enjolras tries not to be disappointed. Maybe he was a mass murderer after all.
“You probably dodged a bullet,” Jehan, who met his last significant other in a graveyard, says sagely, “I mean, who wears sunglasses at night?”
Exactly, thinks Enjolras, and focuses instead on the poetry slam night Jehan’s trying to arrange. “Are you sure we won’t need security?”
“It’s a poetry slam night, Enjolras. People are going to be metaphorically slammed, not literally.”
“Though I guess it depends on your definition of slammed,” Courfeyrac says without looking up from his blackberry, “I mean some people aren’t exactly opposed to a good slamming.” He adds just enough innuendo to his words that even Enjolras gets what he means, and sighs.
“Why are we friends?”
“Because Courfeyrac brings out the best in everyone,” Combeferre says diplomatically from behind the counter, where he’s serving about four people at once. Courfeyrac looks up at him in surprise, gives him a little smile Combeferre misses completely as he adds customer number five to the mix.
“It’ll be fine, I promise,” Jehan replies, “Not like the live poetry reading night.”
“Wasn’t that when we met Bahorel?” Courfeyrac asks. He’s returned back to his blackberry, frowns in concentration as he replies to work-emails with one hand and adds sugar to his coffee with the other.
“Yeah,” Enjolras answers, “He punched that absolute wanker in the face.”
He supposes they can probably get Bahorel in to do some security, if they need it. He works most nights as a bouncer at different clubs across town, seems to be known and respected by absolutely everyone. He’s the only one Enjolras has ever seen drink Combeferre under the table.
“Isn’t he working the festival in the park?” Jehan asks, “He said something about finding some guy with the best weed ever.”
“Tell him to bring some with him,” Courfeyrac says, “I’ll see you later.” He waves with his phone and grabs his coffee from the side, disappearing back outside. As he goes, another wave of festival-goers appear, and Enjolras returns to actually doing his job, making a run of ridiculously-specific coffee orders with soy milk, extra foam and dashes of flavours he hadn’t even realised they sold.
They end up opening for an extra hour when the big acts are on, and it’s on one of these nights that Grantaire reappears. Enjolras is on the closing shift again, stacking things in the back when he hears the chime over the door. He makes his way back through to the shop, ‘We’re Closed’ already on his lips when Grantaire stumbles in.
He’s wearing a similar outfit to when they last saw each other, only his movements are nowhere near as smooth. He startles when he sees Enjolras, a movement that ripples through his whole body. “Oh,” he says, genuinely surprised, “It’s you.”
He pulls off the ridiculous sunglasses and pushes his hoodie back, reveals bright blue eyes with pupils just a bit too dark and hair that’s tangled at the base of his neck with sweat. He attempts to lean casually against a bookcase and misses by about three feet.
“You’re drunk,” Enjolras observes.
“Technically, I’m high,” Grantaire replies, gives up on trying to look casual and makes his way over to the counter. “I’m hiding out again.”
“Right,” says Enjolras, and somehow manages not to say why didn’t you call. “We’re closed.”
“You were closed last time,” Grantaire points out, “You still let me in.” He reaches across the counter towards Enjolras, who experiences some sort of temporary insanity and doesn’t step away, just stays in place as Grantaire curls a lock of blond hair around his finger and says, “Soft.”
Enjolras stares at him. “How high are you?”
“You are very beautiful, did you know that?”
“Sit down,” he replies, and pulls away. He points at one of the lumpy sofas and glares at Grantaire until he does as he says, then gets one of the glasses they use for the homemade juice drinks, filling it with cold water from the tap. He grabs one of the last slices of walnut cake from the fridge - not Courfeyrac’s best creation, but he’s pretty sure Grantaire won’t care in this state - and heads over to where he currently lies sprawled against the cushions.
“An angel!” Grantaire announces when he approaches, making grabby hands for the cake rather than the water.
“Didn’t you say I was a god?” Enjolras replies, quirking an eyebrow, and gives him the water first.
Grantaire glares, but dutifully takes a long drink of the water first. “I don’t remember you being this mean.”
Enjolras ignores the part of him that jumps at the thought of Grantaire thinking about him (he never called), and replies, “Who are you hiding out from this time?” He takes the water from Grantaire when he’s finished and hands over the cake, amused when it’s practically snatched away and cuddled.
“Fucking screamers,” he says darkly. Enjolras blinks.
“Screamers,” Grantaire repeats, like it makes perfect sense, “Loud ones.”
“I see,” Enjolras replies. He really doesn’t. Part of him wonders if Grantaire is actually a mass murderer after all. “Are you going to be okay here whilst I finish cleaning?”
“I’m high, Enjolras, not dying.” He enunciates his name carefully, like he’s trying to get each syllable correct. It’s not too far from how it should be, but pronounced in such a way that it makes Enjolras think instead of rough fingertips and lips and stubble burn. He turns sharply and goes back to what he was doing.
When he looks up again Grantaire has helped himself to some of the books on the coffee table - purely for decoration, a selection of architecture and art books Feuilly puts out on regular rotation - holds one aloft above his head as he flicks through the pictures. The book is upside down. One of his legs is thrown back over the sofa, his foot dangles over the edge, laces undone. The position has caused his hoodie and shirt to ride up, reveals a splash of colour at his hipbone, another tattoo.
He seems utterly content in his own world, so Enjolras ignores him, gets on with the usual routine. He’s finished quicker than usual, has ten minutes or so before he needs to leave for his bus, and so he wanders over to where Grantaire lies on the sofa, sits on the arm near his head and says, “No one out looking for you tonight then?”
“Oh, there’s plenty of people looking for me,” he replies, face hidden by the huge book he’s currently flicking through, “I’m in high demand.”
“No really,” says Grantaire, earnest now as he closes the book and pulls it down to his chest. He tilts his head back to look up at him, Enjolras plays the strap on his bag so he doesn’t give in to the sudden urge to brush his hair out of his eyes. “I have fans.”
“Right,” says Enjolras, “What do you do again?”
“I’m a… musician,” Grantaire replies, glancing sideways.
Enjolras rolls his eyes. “Of course you are.” He’s worked in a fairtrade coffee shop for long enough that he holds no illusions as to the allure he poses for hipsters. He has met plenty of musicians and artists and playwrights, and imagines he’ll continue to meet many more.
“No really,” says Grantaire, “I’ll write you a song.”
Enjolras winces. “No, thanks.” Jehan had tried writing him a poem once, it hadn’t been very good. Something about fierce eyes and a mane of blond hair and terrible fury. He’d rather not relive that particular memory.
“I read your book,” Grantaire says suddenly, “Did you know there’s a sequel?”
“No, I did not know there was a sequel.”
“The Nymphomaniac Outlaw,” Grantaire tells him with obvious delight, “It has two stars on Amazon!”
“I told you it was a classic,” Enjolras replies, amused despite himself. There’s just something about the childlike eagerness which radiates from Grantaire when he’s high, he looks like a person who is usually far too serious, or far too busy giving people looks that make their toes curl.
“I’m sorry I didn’t text,” Grantaire says, suddenly serious, “I may have thrown your number away.”
Enjolras arches an eyebrow. “No see, I don’t think sometimes,” Grantaire rushes to reassure him, “So I headed back to the hotel and on my way one of the staff people goes oh, want me to throw that empty cup out for you sir, and I go sure, why not, saves me having to do it, and then I get in the lift and I think shit, not what I meant to do. So I hit the emergency stop and get stuck between floors and my drummer’s a useless shit, he’s the worst friend ever, I’m never calling him in an emergency again, and when I actually get out I can’t find the staff person and your number is gone forever.”
“You could have just looked up the shop on Google,” Enjolras points out, trying (and failing) to hide his smile. “Our number’s on there for customer enquiries.”
“Oh,” says Grantaire. Then: “How are you even real?”
Enjolras pats him on the head and gets to his feet. “Sheer force of will.”
Grantaire scrambles to his feet after him, stumbles only slightly this time as he rights himself. He drops the books he was reading back onto the coffee table as he says, “Wait, can I have your number again then?”
“I don’t know,” Enjolras replies, “I mean, you threw it away so thoughtlessly last time—”
“Aww come on,” Grantaire replies, close to pouting, “That’s not fair and you know it. I promise not to give it to random staff people at hotels this time. Cross my heart and all that.”
Enjolras pretends to think it over as he flicks the master switch for the lights and sets the alarm. “Ask me when you’re sober,” he says, as Grantaire ducks out of the doorway ahead of him. He steps to one side as Enjolras pulls the door shut, putting on his stupid sunglasses again.
“Is that your way of asking to see me again?” he asks. “Also, I’m not drunk.”
“I don’t know,” Enjolras replies, “Is it?”
Grantaire gives him a long look, but all Enjolras can see is himself, reflected back in the mirrored surface of the glasses. He looks amused, and a little tired, and he really needs a haircut, he notes absently. Nerves flutter in his stomach.
“Tomorrow,” he says.
Which is when Jehan’s poetry slam gets a little out of hand and the police are called. Enjolras ends up on bail duty and forgets all about Grantaire as he half-walks, half-carries Bahorel back to the apartment he shares with Combeferre.
“Man, you guys are wild,” Bahorel says, as he flops out on the sofa with a thud, one side of his face already turning an interesting shade of purple.
“We’re revolutionary,” Courfeyrac replies, as he dabs antiseptic cream on Combeferre’s knuckles carefully, looking like he’s playing the world’s most serious game of Operation. Feuilly goes searching through the kitchen for bags of ice, or suitable alternates. Whilst he’s there he throws open the windows, which brings in the sound of the festival in the distance.
“Is that thing still going?” Enjolras asks, frowning, “When is it over?”
“Tonight’s the last night, isn’t it?” Jehan asks, perching himself on the back of the sofa, using Bahorel’s chest as a foot rest. “Aren’t you getting extra trade from the festival-goers?”
“That’s exactly why Enjolras hates it,” Combeferre says, “God forbid we make any money.”
“Hey,” says Enjolras. It’s pretty perfunctory.
Feuilly returns with a bag of frozen peas, which he throws straight into Bahorel’s face. “Haven’t you heard? We’re the most hipster of all hipster coffee shops. We don’t buy into capitalism.”
“We?” Enjolras asks, because Feuilly doesn’t even work there, and Jehan snorts.
“So are your events always like that?” Bahorel asks, sitting up and pressing the peas to the side of his face. It looks far too late to be of any help, but he doesn’t seem too bothered.
Enjolras considers for a few moments. “Yeah, pretty much.”
“It’s not like we want bigoted idiots to turn up,” Feuilly says, “But it’s like they’ve got a magnet sometimes. They just appear suddenly, without warning.”
“What you need,” says Bahorel, “is a bouncer.”
Which is how Enjolras’s totally legitimate coffee shop which also sells alcohol and has a book store on the side gets its own security guard.
Two weeks later, Combeferre finally finishes the sleeves he’s been saving up for, for the past few years. He reveals them to Enjolras at the start of his shift, looks quietly pleased as he rolls his shirt sleeves off to display his forearms.
"What do you think?" he asks, letting Enjolras trace the patterns with his fingertips. He doesn't know much about tattoos - his sole interaction with them so far has been trying not to stare obviously at Grantaire's whenever they're on show - but he can tell they're good. Some sort of twisting pattern, repeating over. He thinks he can make out numbers and letters merging into what might actually be a periodic table of sorts, and what might actually be a moth when –
"ENJOLRAS, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHEN WERE YOU GOING TO TELL ME YOU WERE SEEING A FAMOUS ROCKST—" Courfeyrac's shouting veers off suddenly when he catches sight of the two of them, squeaks something like 'tattoos' and goes silent.
Enjolras frowns as Combeferre rolls his sleeves back down, fastens the buttons on his cuffs without saying anything. He had no idea Courfeyrac had such an aversion to tattoos.
It takes a moment for the rest of the words to catch up. "I'm not seeing anyone, what are you talking about?"
Courfeyrac seems to drag himself out of his stupor then, drags his eyes away from Combeferre and slams down the magazine he's holding on the counter between them. “Hello magazine begs to differ.”
“You read Hello?” Enjolras asks, because it seems like the only appropriate response to what he just heard.
Combeferre moves then, picks up the magazine and begins flipping through the glossy pages. Enjolras glances over his shoulder as Courfeyrac bounces on the heels of his feet, a bundle of nervous energy.
“Page twenty-one,” he says to Combeferre, then to Enjolras, "They do interviews occasionally, you know, with up-and-coming artists. Famous ones. Musicians." He leaves a significant pause, into which Enjolras just frowns back at him. Combeferre finally reaches the page. “So even you know who R is, right? Anyway, they did an interview with him recently whilst he was in the city for the park festival. And one of the questions—”
“Asks him what he does in his downtime,” Combeferre interrupts, begins reading directly from the magazine, “So how are you spending your downtime between shows? What does a famous rockstar do for fun at festivals? Answer: Leave them. [Laughter] Well, see, there's this amazing little cafe on the outskirts of the city. Part bookstore, part coffee shop, I'd say the best part is that it has an alcohol license but I'd be lying, there's this amazingly disdainful barista there—“
“Give me that,” Enjolras snaps, reaches out to grab the magazine straight from Combeferre's hands. He finds the article easy enough, but it's not the words he focuses on. Instead it's the glossy photograph that covers the opposite page. It’s an extreme close-up, from the side and just below at an angle, throwing cheekbones and a strong jaw into sharp relief. A hand curls around a microphone, a tattoo just visible on the wrist, and the mouth is open, the gaze bright, passionate, focused.
There’s obviously been some photoshopping, Enjolras notices, because Grantaire’s eyes are not that colour. He’s seen them in person.
“You know R,” Courfeyrac says, like its the most amazing thing he’s ever heard.
“Grantaire," Enjolras corrects him absently. "And sure. He came into the shop a few times. Well, twice.”
“You know his name. He doesn't tell anyone his name. Oh God. When is he next visiting? Can I be here? What's his number? Invite him right now. I need to see this.”
“I don't have his number.”
“You don't have his – what do you mean you don't have his number? Have I taught you nothing?” Courfeyrac's glare is impressive. Combeferre has given up on the conversation, wanders over to serve another teenage customer who stares up at him, scrutinising. A similar magazine pops out of the top of her bag.
“We're not exactly friends?” Enjolras replies, “Like I said, he just came in when we were closed."
“He called you amazingly disdainful,” Courfeyrac says, “He wants to fuck you.”
“He's also called me a god,” Enjolras replies, shrugging. “I wouldn't take anything he says seriously.”
The shop phone rings then, which is startling. No one ever calls them. Combeferre and Enjolras exchange looks, then Enjolras darts over to grab it as Courfeyrac makes an entirely undignified leap over the counter. He smacks his hip into the edge and swears as Enjolras picks up the phone.
“Yes, yes,” a dismissive female voice says on the other end, “Is that Egbert?”
“Great, listen, Ethel, this is R’s publicist. Have you read Hello recently?”
“You could say that.” Enjolras turns his back on Courfeyrac, who is making increasingly confusing hand gestures at him. “Is this about the article? Look, I don’t even know who R is—”
“Fabulous, perfect. I’m just calling to let you know that any attempts to use R’s name, music or fame for your own personal gain will see you soundly destroyed by my legal team. You may not use his songs, words or photographs for any attempts at publicity, or claim that you do, in any way, know him, or have had any sort of relationship with him in the past.”
“I’m sorry, what?” says Enjolras.
“Look, Earnest, you seem like a nice guy,” she continues, “I don’t want to have to sue you for libel.”
“I don’t want that either?” Enjolras replies, “But look, seriously, I think you’ve got the wrong information here. We’ve never - nothing has ever - I didn’t even know he was famous?”
There is dead silence on the other end of the phone.
“Well,” the woman says after the silence starts to get awkward. “He just wanted to let you know that he wasn’t implying anything when he gave the interview. He just speaks without thinking, sometimes.” She sounds like this has given her an eternal amount of suffering. Enjolras can sympathise.
“That’s fine,” he replies, “I’m not going to imply anything either…?”
“Fabulous!” she announces, “Thank you for your co-operation, Estevan.”
She hangs up.
Enjolras stares at the phone for a while, then does the same. When he looks up, Courfeyrac is staring at him. “Well?” he asks impatiently.
“I think we just nearly got sued?” Enjolras asks, “I mean, I’m not entirely sure what just happened.”
“We better fucking not,” growls Combeferre, with a glare that makes Enjolras want to run and hide – until he realises, wait, this isn’t even his fault. Grantaire was the one who lied about what he did for a living and then talked about him to some big famous magazine – wait. Hadn’t he said he was a musician?
“Oh,” says Enjolras.
After what seems like the rest of the country reads the article, their shop suddenly gets a whole lot busier. Enjolras is glad they hired Bahorel, he becomes indispensable when huge groups of teenage girls turn up looking for R, then start crying when Enjolras tells them he’s not here.
The reporters don’t cry when Enjolras says he has nothing to tell them, but they are dicks. Bahorel does an absolutely awful job as a security job keeping them out, he ends up going on a date with one with a very loud laugh. Jehan gets super excited by the influx of new people and starts a book club. Feuilly organises a poker night with the local drag queens.
"You're busier than usual," Courfeyrac observes, when he stops by to drop off his latest batch of cupcakes. This time they're butterbeer flavoured, and come complete with foam and little beer mugs on top made out of icing.
Enjolras finishes the three coffees he's making for a blonde-haired teenager who can't seem to stop staring at him. "Yeah, there must be something happening in the city."
He brushes his hands down the apron he's wearing around his waist, moves to pick up the cake boxes. Courfeyrac's deadpan stare greets him when he looks up. "What?"
"Are you sure that's the reason," he replies, to which Enjolras just frowns.
"Why wouldn't it be?"
He takes a couple of the cupcakes out straight away, makes room on the top shelf of the display cabinet for them, then picks one of the spare display cards and a sharpie from a box underneath. He pulls the lid off with his teeth, speaking around it as he writes a price on the card, "Maybe they're here for your cupcakes," and grins.
"Well yes," Courfeyrac replies, ever modest, "They are fabulous, but I am pretty sure that's not the reason you have some really excitable teenagers in here."
"Oh, more cupcakes?" Combeferre asks, coming out of the back and rolling his sleeves up to the elbows, showing his tattoos. Courfeyrac makes some sort of sound in the back of his throat as Enjolras elbows the display cabinet closed.
"They bring all the teenagers to the yard," Enjolras deadpans.
Gradually, he gets used to the extra people coming through the shop and deflecting all the questions about his non-existent relationship with a celebrity. The reporters keep coming until they find out that Courfeyrac once dated a model, at which point they turn their relentless questioning on him and Combeferre puts his foot down, banning them all forever. Enjolras isn’t sure what he said to them to make them leave and never come back, but he knows better than to ask.
Jehan’s book club turns out to be way more successful than his poetry nights. He talks Enjolras into letting him have a display in the window about their current book and takes time off whatever it is he does as a real job (Enjolras isn’t really sure, but thinks it's probably better not to ask) to decorate it.
More than one of the books he chooses turns out to be a roaring success; they do a couple of author signings. Some awards are won. Enjolras wonders when this became his life.
Courfeyrac becomes a bit of a local celebrity when people find out he makes the cakes. Enjolras gets people in regularly asking for the latest creations, and apparently LiberTea gets some sort of Instagram account. Only he has no idea what it is until Jehan rocks up one day and announces, “You are trending on Twitter.”
To which Enjolras says, “What.” And Jehan starts showing him a bunch of photographs people have apparently taken of Courfeyrac’s cakes, then layered over with some weird, 1950s filters.
“People actually do this?” he asks, to which Combeferre gravely nods.
Courfeyrac’s sudden popularity on Instagram via Twitter brings in more people, to the point where Enjolras ends up having to hire an extra staff member. He has huge doe-eyes and a sweet smile and apparently speaks six languages fluently. Enjolras thinks this is a bonus - he’s always thought about starting a language cafe - but Courfeyrac, who happens to be in on the interviews, because this is all thanks to my greatness Enjolras, don’t forget! seems more concerned by the fact Marius apparently doesn’t have anywhere to live, having been kicked out by his grandfather.
So Marius moves in with Courfeyrac, and Enjolras gets a language night every Monday.
Sometime around February he gets a handwritten letter in the post, with a stamp from some country he’s never been to. He frowns and uses one of the cake knives to slice it open, flips it upside down to see two concert tickets go fluttering out, followed by a much-crumpled piece of paper.
Apollo, it reads.
Saw you were trending on Twitter.
Seems like you’re actually making money now? Who would have thought. Anyway, I happened to mention it to my publicist and she got all pissed, figured you’d been capitalising on my fame or something, which is fucking ridiculous if you ask me but whatever. (The next two lines are scratched out, and then:)
Anyway, sorry, she’s well-meaning but kind of headstrong. Scottish women, avoid them at all costs. What I actually told her to do when she called you was apologise for the interview, I didn’t know they’d actually publish what I said, but I mean, I guess I was kind of drunk at the time, so I don’t think I can be held accountable, but she seemed to take that as a request to threaten to sue you.
Why weren’t you
Okay I’m kind of drunk writing this too. Sorry again. I was going to Google you and call but I’m shit at working out time differences and didn’t want to wake you up. So I’m gonna stop writing. Sorry for the tongue-lashing you got, she’s been suitably punished (oh who am i kidding, she’s glaring at me right now) and sorry for any pestering you got from reporters and shit because of the interview.
There follows a few blank lines, then:
Turns out I’m back in your corner of the world next month. There should be two tickets inside, should you want to come.
PS. I’m on the third book of the trilogy now, ‘The Roguish Member’. I think it should be your next window display.
Enjolras finds that he’s smiling stupidly, for no reason whatsoever. Combeferre returns from where he’d gone to collect dirty mugs from a few empty tables, takes one look at Enjolras’s face and then quirks an eyebrow.
Enjolras immediately scowls at him, and tries surreptitiously to brush the tickets off the counter and into his hand. He gets as far as putting his hand on the counter when Courfeyrac appears out of quite literally nowhere and announces, “Fucking lawyers.”
He looks like he hasn’t slept in at least twenty-four hours. Rather than the usual roguish grin he always wears, he has a tired, unhappy smile for them that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. Combeferre looks concerned, makes a move as if he’s going to put a hand on his shoulder, then seems to think better of it.
“Never become a lawyer,” Courfeyrac tells Marius, who has just walked through the door for the start of his shift, “They’re all pricks.”
“Um,” says Marius. “Okay?”
“What happened?” asks Enjolras, moving instinctively to make Courfeyrac’s usual pick-me-up. He has a variety of drinks, tends to vary his order on a regular basis ‘to keep things interesting’ but when he’s genuinely upset, there’s only ever one thing he wants. He puts in an extra shot of whiskey from under the counter.
“Just the usual shit,” Courfeyrac says, “I’m paraphrasing, but the opposing party have managed to bargain for another fucking hearing rather than getting the process over the table quickly.”
“How’d they manage that?” asks Enjolras, frowning and layering foam over the top of the sweetened, alcoholic coffee. He taps the side of the cup to make a design as he does so, without even thinking, then adds chocolate powder.
“Asked for the translator’s credentials,” Courfeyrac explains, “And it’s some new kid who we haven’t used before, and one of the associates hadn’t thought to cover our bases by doing exactly that beforehand so fuck the world, basically.” He takes his drink eagerly when it’s handed over, closes his eyes as he takes a long drink, tension starting to ease out of his shoulders.
“You’ll figure it out,” Combeferre says, “Show them what happens when they piss you off. Fuck them over the table.”
Courfeyrac’s eyes fly open at that, he grins and opens his mouth as if he’s about to reply, when he catches sight of Enjolras casually trying to hide the letter and its contents. “Enjolras,” he says.
“What are those?” asks Combeferre, frowning as he balances the tray of empty mugs against his hip and leans around Courfeyrac to get a better view. “They look like—”
Courfeyrac’s yell is loud enough to get the attention of everyone currently in the shop, several people turn to look at them, annoyed. It’s been long enough that just about everyone has forgotten about Enjolras’s supposed illicit affair with Grantaire, but he doesn’t want to chance it, and so he hisses, “Shut up.”
“No, I refuse, you have cheered me right up, this is the best thing ever. Oh my God, did he write you a letter – is that his signature? An autograph!”
Combeferre rolls his eyes and drops the tray down onto the counter with a rattle of mugs, then begins shoving them indelicately into the washer as Enjolras says, “Yes, it’s a letter. He wanted to apologise for the stupid Hello magazine article, that’s all. The tickets are an apology.”
“An apology, right,” says Courfeyrac, eying the tickets suspiciously as he takes another drink, then says, “Why are there two?”
It’s a good question. Enjolras eyes the tickets suspiciously.
“Maybe he wants you to bring a date!” Marius says cheerfully, pulling on his apron as he emerges from the back room. “Who are you going to take, Enjolras?”
“I would, of course, be the obvious choice,” Courfeyrac says with a dismissive wave of his hand, “But, duh, I already have tickets.”
Of course he does. “So do I,” Marius says brightly. Then, when Enjolras can literally see the thought dawning on his face, “Why do you have two tickets to go and see R arriving in a handwritten envelope at your shop?”
“Um,” says Enjolras.
“Uh,” says Courfeyrac.
“He’s a big fan,” deadpans Combeferre. “Big, big fan.”
“Oh man are those tickets to go and see R?” demands Bahorel, appearing on Courfeyrac’s other side. “You lucky fucker.” Enjolras decides then and there to install some sort of motion detector to tell him when his friends are sneaking up on him out of literally nowhere. “I thought Feuilly and Jehan got the last available standing tickets,” he carries on, picking up the tickets and looking them over thoughtfully.
“How did they manage that?” Courfeyrac asks, genuinely interested.
“I know a guy,” says Jehan.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” announces Enjolras.
Jehan looks thoughtfully at him. “No. He’s called Montparnasse.”
“Hey, do you think he could hook me up?” Bahorel asks. “Sounds like it’s gonna be a pretty sweet gig.”
“Sure,” says Jehan, shrugging, “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Is Feuilly hiding behind the counter too?” Enjolras asks no one in particular.
“What?” asks Jehan. “No, he’s at work, obviously.”
Right. He runs his hand over his eyes, and then turns to look at Combeferre, who is in the process of shutting the washer door and turning the dial. “Combeferre, do you want to come see R in concert with me, as it appears all our friends are already going?”
“Sure,” says Combeferre, “But just to let you know, I don’t put out on the first date.”
Courfeyrac chokes on his drink.
Enjolras has never been, and probably will never be, a concert-goer. He just doesn’t see the appeal of standing in the dark listening to a bunch of people scream the lyrics to his favourite song whilst he gets elbowed in the back and maybe, if he's lucky, get to see one of the members of his favourite band for a brief second on stage before someone absurdly tall stands in front of him.
He supposes the one good thing about Grantaire’s gig is that he really doesn’t know any of the lyrics to his songs, so it’s not like he can get pissed off about that.
What really worries him is leaving the shop locked up for the night without any of them in it, because Enjolras pretty much lives in the shop these days. “It’ll be fine,” Feuilly assures him, slinging an arm around his shoulder whilst they wait for the bus, “And if it’s not, well, you’ve got insurance, haven’t you?”
“No,” Combeferre supplies helpfully, “Too expensive.”
“Well,” says Feuilly, “Good luck then.”
“Will there be a pit?” Bahorel asks the serious questions.
Combeferre looks suddenly interested in the conversation, at which point Enjolras starts to worry. Look, it’s not that his friends are thugs, exactly, it’s just that they have an alarming tendency to get into fights when people say dickish things. And people tend to say a lot of dickish things when they’re around, because they’re not exactly the most conformist people in the world.
He suddenly regrets every life decision he’s ever had which has led him up to this point, and wonders if maybe it’s too late to back out.
As is usual in larger group situations, he finds himself leaning back out of the group, letting the conversation ebb and flow around him as they get on the bus. He prefers to hear what they have to say and give his opinion when needed, letting others decide what to talk about. Courfeyrac is the most enthusiastic of them all, but Marius isn’t far behind.
Jehan gets distracted by the rain on the side of the window, contemplates it thoughtfully whilst Feuilly and Bahorel get into a heated debate about who is the greatest superhero of all time.
By the time they arrive at the arena everyone’s in good spirits, so of course as soon as he steps off the bus, Enjolras is recognised.
“Hey, isn’t that—”
“Yeah, I think it is—”
“Shit,” says Courfeyrac, and Enjolras finds himself suddenly made into a human sandwich, flanked on all sides by his friends as they shuffle towards the entrance. They make it past two reporters and a photographer unscathed, then reach the arena security at the door where they hand over their tickets.
“Oh, these are VIP,” the attendant says, flipping his torch over the tickets Grantaire sent to Enjolras. “You get backstage access with these, one second.”
He turns to yell something over his shoulder to one of the other ticket checkers. They yell something back, then someone else appears from a door at the end of the hall. He’s holding two lime green passes, which proclaim in bright pink letters: VIP. They are hideous.
Enjolras takes one look at Courfeyrac on one side, and Marius on the other, and sighs and hands them both over. Marius looks like he might cry.
“Really?” Courfeyrac asks.
Enjolras fights to hide his smile, fails. “Seriously.”
The idea of going backstage to see Grantaire made his chest feel tight. Now, he feels like he can breathe. “I love you,” Courfeyrac says, deadly serious.
“Yeah, yeah, you get to be the groupie you’ve always dreamed of,” Feuilly says, pushing him in the small of the back, “Let’s go! Where’s the bar?”
Two hours later, Enjolras is regretting not taking whatever it was Jehan took that so endeared him to raindrops, as he gets unsuccessfully chatted up at the bar by some guy he has never met before. He looks like some sort of cross between an Abercrombie and Fitch model and a professional footballer, and Enjolras can’t figure out which is worse.
Courfeyrac and Marius disappeared into the crowd around the stage a while ago, wearing their VIP passes with pride, and Feuilly and Bahorel went to create what was, no doubt, trouble. He has no idea where the hell Jehan went, but thank the world for Combeferre, who stands passively at his side.
Only, well, he’s just letting this guy chat Enjolras up, so strike that, he’s as bad as the rest of them.
Enjolras is almost relieved when the lights go down for the third time that night (the first two times had confused him: what do you mean, there are other bands? Who wants to see other bands, Combeferre? We didn’t pay to see them them. You didn’t pay for anything) and the crowd lets up a huge cheer.
The man who had been attempting to chat him up disappears instantly now his idol is on stage, which is kind of offensive Enjolras realises belatedly, and when he turns to say something to Combeferre to that effect, finds Combeferre just laughing at him. Enjolras glares, downs what’s left of his drink, and moves into the crowd.
The music starts before anything else, a rumbling guitar riff that seems to build in Enjolras’s very blood. The drums kick in next, heavy and insistent, like someone going to war. Lights flash ahead, illuminating the outlines of figures on the stage, then a voice starts singing.
Seconds later the stage is bathed in light, showing the person stood in the centre, wearing an old faded shirt and far-too-tight jeans, eyes closed as he clasps the microphone.
And, well, it’s definitely Grantaire.
And he’s also very, very good.
See, now, Enjolras has never believed in movie moments, probably never will, but right in the middle of Grantaire’s set, when he’s given up all hope of ever being noticed by him in the crowd, the universe conspires against him.
Because right as Grantaire’s looking out over the crowd in his direction there’s a sudden surge, and half the crowd moves forwards as the people in front of Enjolras move to the side, meaning he’s standing in one of those inexplicable gaps, visible to anyone stood on the stage, and at that very moment the lights on the ceiling directly above him twist and scan the crowd, and somehow land on him, illuminating him in red light.
And at that very moment Grantaire sees him and for a second Enjolras forgets how to think entirely.
Then Grantaire's lips curve and he pulls the mic out of the stand, moves across the stage so he’s stood directly in front of Enjolras, looking straight at him as he sings.
“Oh my God,” shrieks a girl next to Enjolras, “He’s singing to me!”
“R, I LOVE YOU!” bellows the man on her other side.
Grantaire doesn’t take his eyes away from Enjolras once, sings the entirety of the chorus to him. When it ends, he winks at him, then saunters across the stage to go sing to someone on the other side. His bassist says something as he passes, Grantaire grins.
Combeferre appears at Enjolras’s shoulder. “He seems nice.”
“He is a terrible idea,” Enjolras replies, unable to tear his eyes away from the casual way R drapes himself over the bassist as he sings, the same way he’d draped himself over the counter in his shop, what feels like a lifetime ago.
“They always are,” Combeferre replies. He glances across the room and frowns, taking a moment to readjust his glasses. “I think Feuilly just punched someone.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake.”
They get thrown out not long after that.
“Well that was fun,” Bahorel says, massaging his knuckles, which are cracked and bleeding. Enjolras’s are in a similar state of disarray; he tongues one of his teeth thoughtfully. When he’d hit someone's shoulder with his face in the pit, it had seemed to come loose, but it holds now.
Feuilly’s the worst of them, but also the happiest, sits on the curb by the side of the road with his legs stretched out in front of him, head tipped to look up to the sky. Jehan lies by his side, trading a cigarette with him, head in his lap. Combeferre’s further down the road, trying to get hold of Courfeyrac on his phone.
“Definitely,” says Feuilly, “Let’s do this again sometime.”
“Fucking hipsters,” Jehan announces.
Enjolras gives in and reaches over for the cigarette. He stands up as he takes a drag, starts searching his pocket for his phone. Combeferre seems to be having no luck reaching Courfeyrac or Marius, despite Feuilly’s assertion that they’re ‘probably fine’, but it’s always worth a try. He thinks about calling Grantaire, then remembers that he never got his number, that Grantaire was supposed to be the one to get his.
He frowns as he takes another drag of the cigarette. It seems like a bit of an anti-climax, to go home now, even if he expected this from the moment they left the shop (his friends are the worst). He's had enough alcohol to want to stay out longer, to do more, and the adrenaline sparking through his blood from the fight craves contact with something - someone.
“So what now?” asks Bahorel, and everyone turns to look at Enjolras.
His next drag of the cigarette finishes off what’s left of it, so he throws it onto the ground, digs his heel into the ash and pushes his hands into his jacket pockets. “We break in, of course.”
Breaking in is not as easy as he makes it sound. But they’re helped out somewhat by Combeferre, who finally gets through to Courfeyrac on the phone, and gets him in on it too. It doesn’t take too long then before Marius appears at one of the backstage fire doors, opens it like he’s going straight to hell, and lets them all in.
Enjolras takes the lead, if only because this was his idea, so he might as well bear the brunt of the repercussions, should they run into the security team. Marius gives them directions to what is apparently the green room, or something close to it - Enjolras has never been in a green room before, is mildly disappointed when it turns to not, actually, be green - and comes face-to-face with Grantaire.
Or rather, Grantaire’s back. He’s in the middle of talking to what looks like a security guard angrily about something, but he cuts off sharply when he hears the door open, spins around on the spot looking like he’s about to yell at them too. Only the words never comes out, because as soon as he sees Enjolras his eyes light up.
“You came,” he says, and his voice is rough and hoarse, like that first night, and Christ, why hadn’t Enjolras put it all together, before now?
Then his eyes slide past Enjolras to where the rest of his friends are trailing in, and he frowns.
Enjolras begins the introductions. “Bahorel, Feuilly, Jehan, Combeferre, Gr—R.”
They all give their own versions of waves, or close to it. There’s an awkward pause. “Oh, man, is that absinthe?” Bahorel asks, and then just like that conversation resumes. Feuilly makes his way to the bar with Bahorel, where they’re joined by Courfeyrac and Grantaire’s bassist. Marius is in a deep discussion with the drummer. Combeferre and the security guard eye each other up. Combeferre has what's looking like a rather spectacular black eye blooming.
Enjolras remains in the middle of the room, he still hasn’t looked away from Grantaire.
“Hi,” he says finally.
“Hey,” Grantaire replies, his lips quirk. “You took your time.” He looks down at where Enjolras’s VIP pass should be, currently displayed proudly around Courfeyrac’s neck. When he meets his eyes again, he looks amused.
“We had a detour,” Enjolras says, runs his thumbs over his knuckles, and the scrapes. “Took the scenic route.”
“I see,” replies Grantaire. There’s a slight lilt to his words, under the roughness, he’s had a bit to drink. “Do you—”
“Hey,” says the dummer, appearing at Grantaire’s side, “Joly reckons it’s time to go now, if we’re going to get in anywhere whilst the night’s still young.” When Grantaire frowns, he says, “Well, I mean, I guess we could stay, if you want.”
“Fuck that,” Bahorel says, joining the conversation, “I mean, the absinthe’s great, but this is no place to have a party. Where are you headed?”
“Whatever club will have us,” the drummer says cheerfully, “You in?”
Once again, everyone turns to look at Enjolras. He keeps his eyes on Grantaire’s as he answers, “Yes.”
Naturally, they are separated as soon as they get to the club.
Everyone goes their own ways, and from that point on, it’s mostly just a blur of alcohol. At one point Enjolras thinks he sees Grantaire and Courfeyrac dancing, but it’s hard to tell in the crowds of people, and Combeferre drags him off for shots soon after. They accidentally run into Marius and Jehan at the bar, who are wowing a small crowd with their ability to flip a beer mat with the tips of their fingers and catch it before it lands again. R’s drummer – Bossuet – and the bassist - Joly - are twined together under one of the strobe lights.
He doesn’t see Grantaire again until almost two hours later, when they literally run into each other in the middle of the dancefloor, as Enjolras and Combeferre try to make their way to the seating area. Grantaire’s hands come up to steady him automatically, rest on his shoulders and then linger, longer than they have to.
Combeferre goes deadly silent at his side, tense.
Grantaire looks across at him, his eyes widening slightly, then looks back at Enjolras. His lips form words, but the volume of the music is too loud for Enjolras to make them out.
Enjolras glances at Combeferre instead, finds him looking at Grantaire with narrowed eyes. Enjolras frowns, and puts a hand on his arm to get Combeferre’s attention. It takes a second, then Combeferre shakes himself and smiles at him. When Enjolras looks back, Grantaire has disappeared into the crowds again.
The eternal problem with clubs, is that they’re always far too hot. Somewhere around one in the morning Enjolras loses the will to live, and begins looking for a way to get out. He stumbles across the door to the balcony by accident, twists the handle and finds it unlocked. The night air is cold, it startles him into realising just how drunk he actually is. He wraps his hands around the edge of the railing of the balcony, takes a few deep breaths to try and clear his thoughts. He has no idea how long he’s standing out there for, but his fingers feel numb when the door behind him opens again, and Grantaire steps out.
He looks around and then spots Enjolras and says, “Oh.”
Enjolras’s lips quirk. It doesn’t escape him that it’s the first time they’ve been together in months, since Grantaire last stumbled into his shop, with his too-blue eyes and ridiculous charm. He moves up to make room, and when Grantaire steps up beside him at the railing, their arms press together. Neither of them move.
“Thanks for the tickets,” Enjolras says.
Grantaire glances across at him. “No problem. Your friends seem to be enjoying themselves.” He puts a strange emphasis on the words, like he’s not quite sure he should be saying them.
“You don’t like them?” Enjolras asks, frowning.
Grantaire sighs out a breath, rubs the side of his jaw with his knuckles. He looks on the verge of trying to play it off as a joke, then gives in to whatever he’s really thinking. “I think your friend Combeferre hates me.”
“No he doesn’t,” Enjolras replies, and laughs.
Grantaire frowns across at him. “Please tell me you’re not that oblivious,” he says, he sounds a little strained.
“Oblivious to what?”
“I’m pretty sure he’s in love with you.”
Enjolras chokes on his own laughter, bends over the railing as it startles out of him. Grantaire stares at him like he’s lost his mind, which just makes Enjolras grin more. “No he isn’t,” he says, nudging Grantaire with his shoulder, “He’s in love with Courfeyrac.”
“What?” says Grantaire, “The excitable one?”
“Yeah,” Enjolras replies, still grinning at the idea of Combeferre being in love with him. “Courfeyrac’s your biggest fan. He’s jealous.”
“Oh,” says Grantaire, and then, in genuine relief, “Oh.” His smile lights up his entire face.
Enjolras finds himself grinning back. Then a thought occurs to him, and he says, without really thinking, “Wait, were you jealous?”
“What? No, of course not. Don’t be stupid.”
“Right,” he says, turning to face Grantaire properly, “You were just genuinely interested in whether he was in love with me or not.” He pauses for a second and then says, “Why did you send me two tickets?”
He’d almost forgotten what it was like to see Grantaire in the darkness, he’s reminded of the shadows of the bookshop now, the sharp angles that make him up, the way he can grin and look at Enjolras and make him just want to say yes. He turns to look at him now, eyes dark and lips curved into a smile as he says, “I wanted to see if you’d bring anyone; if you had anyone to bring.”
The distance between them seems to have vanished completely, Enjolras notices. He tilts his head up to better meet Grantaire’s eyes, says, “You idiot. You could have just asked if I had a boyfriend or not.”
“Do you?” Grantaire’s eyes, for the briefest second, flicker down to his lips.
“No,” Enjolras replies.
This is probably the point where they kiss, Enjolras thinks. Grantaire’s body sways a little towards him, there’s no space between them now at all. Only instead of kissing him, Grantaire says, “I’m leaving.”
Enjolras frowns. “What?”
“The tour,” he elaborates, “Tomorrow we’re on the road, a new city. Forty venues.”
“Oh,” says Enjolras. “You’ll be back though, right?”
“Sober,” Grantaire promises, which makes no sense at all until he adds, “And then I can finally get your number.”
Enjolras can’t help it, he grins. “Yeah, I suppose I am still waiting for your review of The Alarmingly Virile Stallion.”
“Oh it’s terrible,” Grantaire promises him, “The worst thing I’ve ever read.”
“I wait with bated breath,” Enjolras replies.
He’s still staring at Grantaire, who looks like he’s having a hard time not looking at his lips again. Resolve flips over in his chest. “Oh, fuck it—”
He closes the distance between them at the same time Grantaire moves, finds himself pinned back against the railing as Grantaire kisses him, only they get about as far as a brush of lips when someone throws the balcony door open and declares, “Marius has passed out!”
Enjolras tears his hands away from Grantaire’s shirt, frowns to find Jehan and Grantaire’s bassist staring back at them (Joly, his mind supplies belatedly). He extracts himself from Grantaire’s grip, steps around him to where Jehan fidgets, nervous.
“Do we need an ambulance?” Enjolras asks, already reaching for his phone.
“Probably not,” says Joly, “He just got into a drinking contest with Combeferre and Bahorel.” Which just makes Enjolras sigh, loudly. “Courfeyrac may have encouraged him.”
“Of course he did.”
“There was a girl,” Jehan pipes up, “She was very pretty. I think Marius was trying to impress her.”
There’s movement at his side as Grantaire finally unfurls to stand at Enjolras’s shoulder. Not close enough to touch, but close enough that he’s suddenly very aware of him. It’s distracting. He tries to fight through his thoughts and the alcohol to say, “I’ll get him home. Where’s Courfeyrac?”
“He’s trying to get water at the bar, I think,” Jehan answers, “That’s where we left him anyway.”
“Bossuet’s getting your car,” Joly tells Grantaire, with a grin that makes Grantaire narrow his eyes, “Figured you’d want to help out.”
“You have a car?” asks Enjolras.
“How else do you think I get around?” Grantaire replies, amused.
“Shotgun!” declares Jehan.
“Wait, no, the fuck, no one’s sober enough to drive,” Enjolras says, as his sensibilities catch up to his thoughts. When Grantaire just looks at him, he frowns, “What?”
“I have a driver.”
Oh. He has a driver. Right. Because he’s a famous musician. Enjolras is suddenly starting to remember all the reasons Grantaire is a very, very bad idea. He moves a step away from him to try and clear his thoughts, takes a deep breath. “Thank you,” he says, deliberately neutral. Grantaire frowns at him as he turns to Joly to say, “We’ll get Marius and be at the entrance.”
Joly nods. “Bossuet should meet you there. I’ll round up your other friends.”
Enjolras gives him a grateful smile, then turns to Grantaire. “Thanks. For the – tickets.” Grantaire gives him a brief flash of a smile, pushes his hands into the pockets of his jeans. Doesn’t quite meet his eyes when he replies, “No problem.”
Enjolras nods and turns away, ignores the part of him that wants to say more in favour of following Jehan back into the club. They find Marius easily enough, lying sprawled on a leather sofa whilst Courfeyrac tries to coax him into drinking water and Combeferre looks worried. He looks up when he sees Enjolras, relieved, and stops death-glaring anyone who comes within three feet.
They get Marius into the car easily enough, everyone else piles in after. Enjolras is the last one, he stops to glance back over his shoulder at the club as he does, up to where the corner of the balcony can just be seen. No one’s there.
He gets in the car.
The photos hit the magazine two days later.
“Oh God,” says Enjolras, when Courfeyrac gleefully shows him the headline: Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou? then, underneath: do the star-crossed lovers shine again?
The photographs are of the night before. There are a couple of Grantaire’s band with various captions about their drunken antics, but the two main ones are of Enjolras and Grantaire on the balcony, and Enjolras getting into Grantaire’s car. Taken completely out of context, it looks like Enjolras and Grantaire made out at a club and then went home together.
He doesn’t know what to be more annoyed about, the photographs, the stupid quote, or the fact they’ve got it all wrong.
“So are you dating for real now?” Courfeyrac asks.
To which Enjolras replies, “We didn’t even kiss.”
“Marius passed out?” Enjolras reminds him, “We had to take him home?”
“How could you?” Courfeyrac demands, rounding on Marius, who is in the process of putting his new cakes on display. He startles and then deflates, looking like a kicked puppy.
“You made me drink the shots!” he squeaks.
“This is true,” Courfeyrac acknowledges, “But it’s also no excuse!”
“It’s completely out-of-context,” Jehan says, leaning over to get a better look at the two-page spread.
“Thank you,” Enjolras replies, relieved that at least one of his friends gets it.
“When she says this line, she isn’t asking where he is, like the reporter clearly implies,” Jehan continues, “She’s asking why. Why is he Romeo? Why is he someone she can’t possibly be with? Which, actually, is kind of a nice parallel to what you’ve got going here, but I'm pretty sure it's not what the reporter meant.”
Enjolras sighs, and goes to serve the line of customers at the end of the counter.
Ten minutes later he is staring down two teenage girls with extremely terrifying glares.
“Can I... help you?”
“What are your intentions?” one demands. “Are they pure?”
“Are you going to treat him well?”
“You will never love him like I do.”
“Well? What do you have to say for yourself?”
“Are you just in it for his fame?”
“Um,” Enjolras says, “Combeferre, help.”
Combeferre appears from the back room, takes one look at the two girls, and then arches an eyebrow. “Will you be buying anything today?” he asks, painfully polite. The two girls exchange looks. “Because it would be very rude,” he continues, “To go into a coffee shop and not buy anything. I don’t know how potentially famous rockstar boyfriends may take that—”
“Two frappuccinos!” one of the girls blurts. “Please don’t tell R!”
“We don’t sell frappuccinos,” Enjolras replies, “This isn’t Starbucks.”
“Oh,” says one. “I don’t really actually like coffee.”
Combeferre gives her a look.
“But I’m willing to try!”
“Excellent,” says Combeferre, and charges them both an extortionate amount for what is, essentially, two black coffees.
“Never leave me,” Enjolras says, when they’re both gone.
The reporters know better than to try and come inside the shop; they remember what happened last time they encountered Combefere’s wrath. But that still doesn’t stop them from being around, lurking. They seem to want to know everything about Enjolras, expect R to turn up at any moment of the day or the night, even though he is quite clearly performing gigs at the other end of the country. (Not that Enjolras has checked or anything, he’s not a stalker.)
He gets an extra number of customers coming through the doors. People who clearly just want to know about his illicit tryst but end up leaving with a coffee and a cake and a book they definitely didn’t want. A couple even come back a second time, then a third.
Courfeyrac wants to frame the magazine article, but Enjolras is still kind of terrified by the prospect of another phone call from R’s publicity manager, and talks him out of it.
No one really takes the article seriously; the magazine is known for blowing stories out of proportion for a bit of tabloid gossip. A couple of teenagers are still convinced that Enjolras is having a secret affair with R regardless, set up camp in one corner of the store and spend all day waiting for him to make a wrong move.
Enjolras leaves them to it, seeing as they’re not actually harming anyone. Jehan somehow talks them into forming a gardening club, so they end up with jazzy wellington boots and teeny-tiny watering cans filled with freshly grown flowers on the windowsills.
Despite Courfeyrac casually dropping names into conversation as he walks by their table, just to fuck with them, Enjolras doesn’t hear from anyone in the band at all, not even the publicity manager. So he supposes he is a little surprised when Joly turns up one day when he’s in the middle of fighting with the new coffee machine. The bassist coughs politely to get his attention, and Enjolras promptly scalds himself on the new steamer.
He’s wearing a pair of sunglasses also, more discreet than Grantaire’s oversized pair, but it is still three in the afternoon. Enjolras wonders if it’s a rockstar thing. “Hello,” he says.
“Hello,” Enjolras returns, wrapping his hand in a wet towel.
“How is Marius?” Joly asks politely.
“He’s fine?” Enjolras says, at the same time Marius spots him and walks straight into one of the tables, dropping books everywhere. Enjolras looks back at Joly and shrugs.
“Good to see,” Joly replies, smiling, “We were rather worried about him.”
“Okay,” says Enjolras. “Do you want a coffee…?”
“Oh, no. I don’t like caffeine. I’ll have a pot of Earl Grey, please.”
“Okay,” says Enjolras, and starts brewing. Joly ponders the cakes in the display cabinet, looking completely at home and not at all like a famous bassist who should currently be on the other side of the country. Maybe he has an identical twin, Enjolras thinks, it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that’s happened to him recently.
When he puts the pot of tea and cup on a tray, Joly smiles brightly at him. “I hear you have awful books to pass the time when people are travelling.”
“Sure?” says Enjolras, and when he realises Joly is waiting for him to recommend him one, moves around the counter. He picks up the worst thing he can find on the nearest shelf, an electric pink novel with a pair of black garters on the front, aptly named The Lusty Thighs. Joly’s eyes light up when he hands it over.
“Fabulous,” says Joly, and finds himself a table.
He quickly becomes a regular customer, appearing when Enjolras least expects it, at odd times of the day. Not soon after, other famous people start dropping in. A B-list actor, a girlfriend of an A-lister, a comedian that’s currently doing the circuit, a few more musicians. Most of them Enjolras doesn’t recognise, none of which are Grantaire.
Enjolras wonders if this means they have transcended hipster into being actually ‘cool’, or if it’s all sort of a bit ironic, as he waters the home-grown flowers by the window.
Sometime in May, Marius falls in love.
“She’s beautiful,” Enjolras overhears him telling Courfeyrac from where he’s thrown himself dramatically on one of the sofas, lying with one arm flung over his eyes. “I’ve never seen anyone like her before and I don’t even know her name.”
“That’s kind of creepy,” Feuilly says, from where he’s casually propping up a broken shelf with several copies of Twilight and The Da Vinci Code.
“Hey,” says Courfeyrac, “Enjolras didn’t even know who R was.”
“He knew his real name though,” Combeferre points out, at the same time Enjolras says, “I’m not in love.”
“Anyway it doesn’t matter,” says Marius dramatically, “Because I think she’s leaving.”
“Why do you think she’s leaving?” Joly asks, appearing on Feuilly’s left with his tea cup and saucer. Enjolras hadn’t even seen him come in.
“She looked like a tourist. She had one of those big cameras and a pair of sunglasses and a floppy hat.” Marius gestures in the air, apparently trying to draw a picture with his hands. Enjolras attempts to follow the movements, frowning. “And she didn’t look like anyone I’ve ever seen in the city before. And I know, I’d remember seeing her, I would. She was beautiful.”
“Oh my,” says Joly.
“I’m never going to see her again,” Marius says, and Courfeyrac pats him on the head.
A week later the love of Marius’s life waltzes into the coffee shop, complete with her sunglasses, floppy hat, and extremely large camera. It actually looks quite professional, the kind of contraption people only buy if they really know what they’re doing.
“Cosette,” she introduces herself, “I’m a travel blogger.”
“Hello,” says Enjolras, and shakes her hand. Marius, who up until that point had been doing his job rather proficiently, lets out a strangled noise and disappears from view behind the counter. Enjolras ignores him completely.
“I hear famous people come here regularly,” Cosette says, releasing Enjolras’s hand, “And you once trended on Twitter.”
“You could say that, I suppose,” Enjolras replies, and frowns.
“We also sell the best cakes this side of the Atlantic,” Combeferre says from the machine where he’s making someone’s drink. He has his shirt sleeves rolled up again, Cosette glances appreciatively at his tattoos. “You should try some.” He moves to get her a plate and a small silver fork.
What are you doing, Enjolras doesn’t ask.
Trying to get us some publicity and money, Combeferre doesn’t reply.
“Marius, you’re going to have to move if I’m going to get the love of your life a cake,” Combeferre says. Enjolras hears what sounds suspiciously close to a wail from below the counter. Seconds later Marius appears, wide-eyed and earnest and bushy-haired. He looks like Bambi on ice, one of those woodland creatures who has no hope whatsoever.
To Enjolras’s complete and utter surprise, Cosette blushes. “Hello,” she says.
“Hi,” Marius squeaks.
“For God’s sake,” says Enjolras.
Combeferre gives Cosette one of Courfeyrac’s latest batch of love heart cookies. She takes a little nibble, then smiles. She looks a little bit like a Disney Princess, which is kind of fitting, Enjolras supposes.
“These are wonderful,” she says, “I can see why all the famous people visit now.”
Combeferre smiles, like he was the one who did the baking, and doesn’t just make money from it. Cosette’s eyes catch on the leaflets on the counter next to the tip jar. “You host a book club too?”
“Yeah,” Marius says eagerly, finally finding his voice, “You should come! It’s really good. There are books.”
“It’s true,” says Joly, appearing with his ever-present teacup. Enjolras had actually seen him enter this time. He smiles cheerfully at Cosette, whose eyes widen when she realise who he is. “They do random live shows sometimes! You know, intimate little gigs.”
“Fascinating,” says Cosette.
“That was one time,” says Enjolras, “You were tuning your guitar and someone assumed and you ran with it.”
“Yeah, it was fucking awesome,” Bahorel calls over from the doorway, where he is still not doing anything remotely security-like.
“Hey, thanks,” says Joly.
“Do you have a Tumblr?” asks Cosette.
Enjolras gets a link to Cosette’s blog from Marius. It’s very pastel. She gives them a good write-up, all things considered, even if half the things she writes about are clearly not even true because his friends are liars and enablers.
After that, they start getting a lot more interest from people outside the city, travelling tourists who stop by to take a look. Celebrities, much to Enjolras’s chagrin, continue to turn up unexpectedly and appear rather charmed by it all. After Cosette’s post has been up for a week, he gets a call from Rough Guides, and Lonely Planet asking if they can be featured in the latest editions.
Combeferre triumphantly declares that they’re actually making money for once. He then informs Enjolras that they’re getting a webpage, and he’s going to look into their social profile. Which doesn’t really go anywhere until the teenagers in the corner get wind of it, and then they make it their personal mission to make sure their shop has an account on every social media outlet possible.
“What even is Google+?” he asks Combeferre one day. He doesn’t actually get an answer.
Not long after, they start getting calls from various people that always begin with: ‘Have you thought about taking on investors?’
His default greeting when he answers the phone is, “No.”
Which sort of backfires, when he picks up the phone late one night when he’s cleaning up and a voice on the other end says, “So I’ve been thinking—” and Enjolras replies, “No.”
Grantaire laughs on the other end of the phone, and it’s still attractive, even over their crappy reception. “Alright,” he says, “See you th—”
“No!” Enjolras blurts. “No, I mean. I didn’t realise it was you.” He pinches the bridge of his nose, and Grantaire laughs again. “People keep trying to make me invest.”
“How terrible,” Grantaire replies, “Are you actually making money now?”
“Kind of,” Enjolras admits, grudging. “Marius fell in love.”
“The two things are related?”
He turns away from the counter, heads over to one of the sofas. “Sort of. He met a travel blogger, and she wanted to write a piece about us, seeing as how we were becoming quite the popular little shop. She’s apparently got a lot of readers, and so people started to get really interested and— I’m sorry, you probably don’t want to hear any of this.”
He thinks of Grantaire, miles away in a green room, sprawled out on a sofa like he was one night on the one Enjolras is sat on, lips curved into that perpetually-amused smile and groupies no doubt begging to sleep with him.
“Nah, carry on,” says Grantaire, “If nothing else, it’ll make great song lyrics.”
Enjolras rolls his eyes, but carries on, “So, yeah. We’re in a few travel books now. People come to visit us. I guess you could say we’re making money? More people come in, anyway. We do live music. It’s all Joly’s fault.”
“So I heard.” Grantaire sounds amused, and a little breathless. But not like he did after Enjolras last saw him at the gig. He glances across at the clock on the wall, wonders if maybe Grantaire’s waiting to go on stage, needs to do something to waste his time. It’s not that late, where he is. “Don’t ask me how he gets there and back in time for shows, it’s one of the seven wonders of the world.”
“He likes the tea,” Enjolras says, which is dumb.
“He likes your friends,” Grantaire replies. “And you.”
Enjolras’s heart clenches. “Why did you call?” He asks, diverting the topic. “What were you thinking about?”
Oh for fuck’s sake.
Grantaire laughs again, low in his throat, it makes Enjolras think really bad things. “I was wondering why you never tried to call me,” he says, “Why I’ve got to get your number first.”
“When we first met you said you didn’t even know your number,” Enjolras points out, “Remember?”
“Oh, right, yeah. I change it pretty often. The number tends to get leaked every now and again, fans start calling, or the tabloids.”
Enjolras is reminded, rather suddenly, of the huge gap between them, the differences in their lives. Grantaire is a famous musician, he makes his living touring the world and singing songs. He has loyal fans who follow him everywhere, and reporters who are just waiting for him to do something wrong so they can write about it.
“I don’t know how to do a relationship,” Grantaire says, quietly honest. “It doesn’t fit my life.”
“Yeah,” Enjolras replies. “But then, who does?”
He hears Grantaire’s smile in his response, “Not musicians, or we’d never have anything to sing about.”
“Most of them sing songs about couples like Cosette and Marius. They’re the worst,” Enjolras replies, grimacing at the thought. Since Cosette whirled into their lives almost a month ago, Marius has been pretty useless at absolutely everything.
“You’ve never seen Joly and Bossuet together,” Grantaire counters, “They’re the worst.”
“Prove it,” says Enjolras. He’s pretty sure he can never be beaten when it comes to ridiculous stories about his friends. Grantaire sets out to prove him wrong.
“I think we need to have open mic nights,” Courfeyrac announces the following Saturday afternoon, coffee in one hand, blackberry in the other. He’s squinting thoughtfully at the second.
“No,” says Enjolras.
“Why would we do that?” Combeferre asks, curious.
“See I’ve been looking around Youtube,” says Courfeyrac, holding out his phone to show them, “And there are some pretty decent people on there, right. Only they don’t get to show their talent all that often. And I figured, well, we have a lot of random celebrities wandering through here. Maybe one of them hears something they like, gets in touch.”
“That sounds great, actually,” says Jehan, “I know a guy.”
“Is this the same guy you met grave robbing?” Feuilly asks. He seems genuinely interested.
“Does he happen to have access to a lot of electrical sound equipment, know how to work it, and is actually willing to give it to us all for free?” Enjolras asks. “Legally.”
“Oh,” says Jehan, “I don’t know about legal.”
“You can use my stuff, if you want,” a girl says nearby. Enjolras looks up, and then just sort of – freezes. She grins across at him.
He hadn’t thought his life could get much worse, he was apparently wrong.
“Éponine,” he greets.
“Oh,” says Courfeyrac, looking between them, “Oh.”
“Oh?” asks Feuilly.
Éponine continues to grin. She looks rather like a wolf.
“I didn’t know you were back in town,” Enjolras says weakly.
“That’s because you never stay in touch,” she replies, making her way over to the counter now, “Seeing as how you’re the worst friend ever.” She gives him a complete once-over, from the scuffs of his converse to the dark skinny jeans and the open collar of his red plaid shirt, and quirks an eyebrow. “Also apparently a hipster.”
“I am not,” Enjolras protests. He can actually feel everyone staring at him. “This is Éponine,” he says, and gestures to Feuilly, Courfeyrac and Jehan, “We’re old friends. This is Jehan and Feuilly, you’ve met Courfeyrac. Unfortunately.”
“You’re on the E-list,” Éponine replies.
Enjolras blinks. “I’m on the what?”
“It’s a list of the coolest people who aren’t actually famous,” Courfeyrac says reverently, he’s apparently given up on watching Youtube videos. “The people on it get invited to all the hot goings-on because they know famous people, or are in touch with them, or are always at the forefront of new trends.”
“I don’t get invited to anything,” Enjolras feels it necessary to point out, “So I think you’re mistaken.”
“Of course you don’t,” Courfeyrac replies, “You’re too cool to actually be invited to things. They all want to do whatever you’re doing.”
“That makes no sense,” says Enjolras.
Éponine coughs something that sounds suspiciously like sellout.
Two hours later she stands next to him, watching as half of the bookshop is converted into a stage, with low lighting that hangs from the ceiling, carefully positioned. A lone chair stands in the middle of the stage, facing a microphone, and at the wall are some speakers and technical equipment he’s already been banned from going near. He has sudden yearnings for the days of Jehan’s iPod playlists.
“So, R,” Éponine says casually at his side.
She grins across at him, nudges him with her elbow. Across the room Joly is giving advice to Bahorel about how to set the various controls. “How’d you end up so friendly with rockstars?”
“I don’t know,” Enjolras admits, looking around at what has become of LiberTea. “It just sort of happened?”
“You really need to stop doing anything your friends ask,” she replies, “Now tell me everything that’s happened in the past year. I want details.”
Having Éponine back in his life provides some sort of stability for Enjolras, if only because she gets it, and occasionally their eyes meet across the room when something truly ridiculous happens. They sometimes even sigh in tandem.
With Marius busy trailing Cosette around the country like a little lost duckling, Enjolras ends up getting Éponine to cover a few shifts. She brings a particular brand of cynicism that the customers aren’t quite sure what to do with, makes sure no one leaves without at least six things they never wanted, and creates a whole range of alcoholic coffees.
She keeps trying to casually get information about R out of him, but there’s really nothing Enjolras can say. After the last phone call, he hasn’t tried to get in touch again - well, as far as Enjolras is aware, anyway. He could quite easily be having all sort of chats with Combeferre when he’s on the late shift.
Bossuet turns up not long after their first open mic night, brings much better equipment and offers to set it up, then does precisely none of the work in favour of chatting to Joly instead. When he finally comes to the counter to get a drink, Enjolras eyes the both of them suspiciously.
“Really,” he says, “Both of you are teleporting across the country now?”
Bossuet gives him a weird look. “The tour finished two weeks ago?”
Oh, thinks Enjolras, and tries not to let it bother him.
Their second and third open mic nights are much more successful; they end up with a little waiting list of artists who want to perform. They tend to leave a few CDs behind afterwards, Enjolras puts a couple on the counter, sells them to some interested customers, feels like maybe it’s not so bad, this whole open mic night. He’s actually helping local talent, giving back to the community.
Then one night there’s a woman in the crowd who happens to be the beloved aunt of a guy married to a woman whose boss is some big music executive. She likes the sound of what she hears and Enjolras ends up giving her one of the CDs for free, subsequently launching the career of a guy with a guitar Courfeyrac found on Youtube, without even trying.
“See,” says Courfeyrac, “You invent the E-list.”
Enjolras’s glare is getting almost as impressive as Combeferre’s.
“What is your opinion on tattoos?” Courfeyrac asks.
It is June, and they’ve just arrived at Bossuet’s birthday party, at a house that is easily ten times the size of LiberTea.
Enjolras looks across to where Grantaire is helping Bahorel pour out a line of shots. He’s wearing a soft, faded band t-shirt that clings to him in all the right places. It also has the unfortunate side-effect of showing off all the tattoos that have always been hidden by hoodies or dark stage lighting before.
“Good,” he says, thinking about tracing the length of them across Grantaire’s body, then frowns, and remembers he’s annoyed, and amends, “But also probably a very bad idea.”
Courfeyrac hums. His gaze is elsewhere across the room. Enjolras doesn’t recognise most of the people there, a mixture of famous and infamous people alike, friends of Bossuet and other music industry connections, brought together for birthday celebrations.
Enjolras is alternating between enjoying himself, and wondering when his friends are going to start a fight, as he makes his way through what is probably one too many beers. Currently, he’s distracted by Grantaire, who hasn’t said two words to him since he arrived. “And, well, I suppose they are attractive, but that’s not everything, right?”
“He’s so hot,” Courfeyrac laments, and Enjolras — well, fine, he nods. Grantaire is hot, he can’t exactly deny that. Millions of posters and fan clubs and GQ Hottest Man of the Year Awards tell him so.
“Could do better,” he ends up replying, because seriously, Grantaire spends half his time looking like he literally just crawled out of a dumpster. It really, really shouldn’t be as hot as it is.
“Really?” Courfeyrac asks.
“Okay,” says Enjolras, tearing his eyes away from Grantaire, “He’s talented, but he’s also kind of arrogant. And he’s not very good at staying in touch. Also, he makes you think he’s not interested at all, and then he does this little thing to make you think, oh, maybe he is, and then he ignores you completely.”
Courfeyrac nods along with his words, “Yeah, like sometimes he says things, and you think they mean something else. But then he never says them again!”
“Exactly,” says Enjolras, “It’s probably not worth the effort.”
“Maybe you’re right,” says Courfeyrac.
“I mean,” Enjolras continues, glancing over at Courfeyrac finally, “If he was really interested, if he really wanted to try something, he’d give you a sign, right?”
“Yeah,” says Courfeyrac, “Yeah, maybe there’s not actually anything there.” He downs what’s left of his drink, and seems to come sort of resolution. He nods, once, and starts to walk in the opposite direction.
“Wait,” it occurs to Enjolras that they might possibly have been talking about two different things, but Courfeyrac’s gone. “Fuck,” he says.
“Language,” says Grantaire, taking Courfeyrac’s place beside him. He’s holding two beers, one of which he hands to Enjolras.
“I think I have just made a terrible mistake,” Enjolras replies, and is glad to find the top already off his beer. He takes a very, very long swig. Grantaire watches him the entire time, eyes wide. When he lowers the bottle again, taking a breath and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he says, “What?”
Grantaire just blinks, and shakes his head. “Pretty sure we’ve all made mistakes.”
Enjolras looks at him.
Really looks at him.
At the slight curve to his lips and the way he holds himself like he’s entirely sure of his place in the world, then slouches like it isn’t worth his full attention. The way his hair always looks like he’s just dragged his hands through it, and the way his eyes are always bright, like he’s laughing at the world.
He is, easily, the most attractive person Enjolras has ever met. He’s also the most frustrating.
All of this runs through his head the moment Grantaire says mistakes.
And then he thinks oh fuck it, takes Grantaire’s face in his hands, and kisses him. It’s sudden enough that Grantaire inhales into it, teeth graze his bottom lip. Enjolras thinks he can distantly hear cheering.
“Shit,” Grantaire swears against his lips, “Enjolras.”
He’s been practising, Enjolras notes, the intonation is nearly perfect. But it’s also rough around the edges and he wants to hear it again, wants Grantaire to say nothing but his name, for the foreseeable future.
So he sets about trying to make that happen, opens his mouth slightly, and the kiss turns hot suddenly, dirty and heady. Grantaire’s hands dig into his sides, his shirt rides up slightly. The table behind him digs into his back as Grantaire steps forward, presses a leg between his, the burn of friction.
Eventually he has to break away for air. One of his hands has made its way around Grantaire’s neck, the other has twisted in his shirt. “Did I hear a cheer?” Enjolras asks, his heart sounds like it’s beating in his ears.
“Our friends are dicks,” Grantaire replies, and leans in to kiss him again.
“Once again,” Grantaire says sometime later, “We are not sober.”
Enjolras considers this, and the sight of Grantaire spread out in front of him, topless and leaning back on his elbows on the bed, and shrugs. “Next time.”
Grantaire arches an eyebrow at that. “What makes you think there’s going to be an next time?” His question trails off at the end, breath catching as Enjolras shifts forwards on his knees straddling his lap, traces the tattoo that spreads over his collarbone with first his tongue, and then his teeth. Grantaire’s body arches up under him.
“I thought about this,” Grantaire says distantly, one hand curled in Enjolras’s hair. Enjolras makes an inquisitive noise against his skin. “After — after the club, on the balcony.”
Enjolras shifts his hips, which brings them even closer together, makes Grantaire’s head tilt back as he bites off a groan. “And?” he presses, breath ghosting across Grantaire’s skin.
“And what?” Grantaire asks, tugging at his hair.
“And how did it go?” The alcohol makes him bold, he looks up at Grantaire through his eyelashes as he brings one hand down to the button on his jeans, watches lust darken his eyes. He pushes the button open with his thumb as he leans up to graze his teeth along Grantaire’s neck, up to the stubble on his jaw.
“I don’t fucking know—Enjolras,” he sounds breathless, and a little bit lost, and there’s something to be said, Enjolras thinks, about reducing a famous rockstar to whining your name. He gives in and leans in to kiss Grantaire again, rocks their hips together. Grantaire’s free hand flies to his back, nails drag down his spine through his shirt.
Enjolras curves his body into the movement, feels a shiver through his body. The friction is good, but it’s not enough, and so he moves his hands to Grantaire’s jeans to pull them down completely, kisses him fiercely as he does so.
“You better both be decent!” a voice declares, and a woman Enjolras has never seen before in his life enters the bedroom. Rather than apologising, she stands and gives them both an appraising look.
Grantaire sighs and falls back against the bed, “Musichetta.”
Enjolras looks across at her curiously.
“Hey, Eton,” she greets. “They’re about to cut the cake,” she says to Grantaire. “I’m on duty to round everyone else up. Joly said he thought you’d disappeared this way. You’re going to need to be there when Bossuet blows out the candles or he’ll never forgive you.”
Grantaire sighs out a breath and unfurls his hand from Enjolras’s hair to wave it at her in a shooing motion, “Fine, we’ll be there, give us a sec to get decent.”
“You never look decent,” she replies, before looking at Enjolras again. “Nice to finally meet you, Eggplant.” She looks like she could quite easily be best friends with Éponine, and ruin his life completely. He resolves there and then to never introduce them.
“That’s not even a name,” Enjolras replies.
“Sure it’s not, Engelbert,” she replies, “Now get moving before I kick you down the stairs.”
Enjolras looks back at Grantaire, and sighs, standing up. He picks his half-empty bottle up from the nearby windowsill as Grantaire tugs his shirt on again. At the door, their hands brush, then Grantaire slides their fingers together.
Enjolras pretends he can still remember how to breathe.
Downstairs the rest of their friends are already assembled by the breakfast bar in the kitchen, where the huge monstrosity of a cake rests. Courfeyrac is chewing his bottom lip thoughtfully, he looks up when Enjolras and Grantaire walk in, gives them a vague smile. Enjolras feels suddenly guilty, remembering what he said.
He has to fix that tomorrow, he reminds himself, spotting Combeferre on the other side of the kitchen, with Bahorel and Feuilly. Jehan is taking pictures of the cake with several photo filters. Grantaire’s hand disappears from his, he steps forward to throw an arm around Bossuet’s shoulders, says something into his ear that makes him throw his head back with laughter.
When Bossuet blows out the candles he also manages to set Feuilly’s top on fire.
Which is how Enjolras ends up in A&E, instead of getting even more intimately acquainted with Grantaire’s mouth.
Grantaire had leaned casually against the door frame whilst Bahorel helped Feuilly into the car, arms folded over his chest, showing off the tattoos Enjolras had been, only a few hours earlier, tracing with his tongue.
“You’ll call?” Enjolras asked, as Bahorel finally successfully got into the taxi and Jehan leaned over the driver to hit the horn several times to get him to hurry up.
“When I’m sober,” Grantaire had promised.
Enjolras really, really shouldn’t be surprised when he doesn’t. Or when he unlocks the front door to the shop one morning a week later to find a teenager sitting impertinently on the edge of the counter, flicking through the stack of CDs piled next to the tip jar. He has an iPod sliding out of the pocket of his jeans, a thin white wire leading up to his ear, where a headphone is plugged in. One of his feet taps a beat to the music.
“Some of these lyrics are hilarious,” he says in greeting, tossing one of the CD cases casually across the counter before picking up another. Enjolras notes absently that he has helped himself to a coffee, an empty mug sits next to him.
“Shouldn’t you be at school?” Enjolras replies.
“Summer,” Gavroche says with a shrug, “Figured I’d come pester you instead.”
Enjolras sighs. Gavroche swings his legs to the side to let him past, his attention flitting over to the business cards by the side instead. Enjolras leaves him as he heads into the back to stash his bag and jacket, grabbing his apron off the hook. When he returns, Gavroche still hasn’t moved.
“Does your sister know you’re here at least?” Enjolras asks.
“Maybe, maybe not.” He shrugs. “Hey, you got any summer jobs going?”
“Let me rephrase that, you got any summer jobs going for someone who will happily sell your secrets to the reporters hanging around inconspicuously outside?” When Enjolras gives him a look over his shoulder, Gavroche shrugs. “Hey, a kid’s gotta earn his living somehow, right?”
Enjolras gives him a spare apron. Gavroche beams, and salutes him with one of the business cards as he hops off the counter. “Pleasure doing business with you.”
Not even three hours later Enjolras is regretting his decision entirely as Gavroche skims his way around the shop, balancing a tray of empty cups on one hand and wearing his complete nonchalance like a cloak of armour. The teenagers in the corner are utterly in love with him.
“Yeah, I know R,” he says casually, leaning on one arm on a bookshelf. “He taught me how to play guitar.”
“No matter how long you stare, you’re not going to be able to make him burst into flames,” Combeferre says unhelpfully from his side. “He’s harmless, leave him to it.”
“He’s a little shit,” Éponine corrects, “One day someone is going to knock the teeth out of that wise mouth and I’m not going to do a thing to stop it.”
“You are terrifying,” a nearby woman says, “Let me have your number.”
Éponine looks at her thoughtfully for a few seconds, lips pursed, then curls her number down the side of the coffee cup the woman’s holding. Enjolras has a brief flash of memory of doing the same to Grantaire’s, then remembers his story about throwing it away. Had that even really happened, or had it just been an excuse?
“Guessing you’ve still not heard from him then,” Courfeyrac says gently, reading his mind. Enjolras frowns up at him, and then goes back to making his drink.
“You say this like it’s something new,” Enjolras says, “Do you want this extra hot?”
“Please don’t say yes, to match your stunning good looks,” Éponine interjects, before Courfeyrac has chance to speak. He glares at her. She turns to Enjolras, “I’m sure he had a good reason for disappearing without word.”
“Don’t worry,” says Joly, appearing from behind the display case, “He does this sometimes.”
Éponine blinks. She doesn't quite startle, but she comes close. “Do they always appear out of nowhere like that?”
Enjolras shrugs. “You get used to it.”
“No but he’s right,” says Bossuet, suddenly next to him. “It’s just R being R. When he gets inspired he tends to lock himself away and write until it’s out of his system. It happens every time. He’ll come back in due time with an award winning album and a new tattoo, maybe even a monkey.”
“He’s not going to bring back a monkey,” Joly says, “You need to give up this idea.”
“It’s fine,” says Enjolras, “He’s a musician, I get it.”
“Enjolras,” says Éponine, but at that very moment Marius and Cosette return from their latest journey. Cosette has a wonderful tan, Marius has several hundred more freckles. They both look fresh-faced and happy and sickeningly in love.
Éponine pulls out the whiskey from under the counter and pours him a shot.
“I want to start an art gallery,” Gavroche announces.
“What? Why not? You let Jehan have a book club,” Gavroche protests, trailing Enjolras as he moves around the shop, collecting empty cups, “And Feuilly got his poker night, and Marius has the language cafe and Cosette wrote about us on her blog, not to mention Courfeyrac’s open mic nights and Combeferre’s bookshop. This is entirely unfair, why can’t I have an art gallery?”
“We don’t have room for an art gallery,” Enjolras points out, “There is literally no space left.” Not since the gardening club took over the only available windowsill and Joly and Bossuet helped build the stage.
“So why don’t you expand?” Gavroche asks, “Move up onto the top floor too, build one of those rickety old metal staircases and install skylights and let me hang my damn art on the walls.”
Enjolras thinks it over.
“You know what,” he says, “That’s not actually a bad idea.”
This time, when the investors call, he answers the phone, not with a no, but a yes.
The only problem is that they have to close the shop for a couple of days whilst the builders clear out the second floor and make it respectable. There’s not much work to do - there’s always been a second floor, Enjolras has just never considered it as a place other than where the boxes are kept with the Christmas decorations - but still, it means they can’t be there for a few days for safety reasons.
“This is weird,” Courfeyrac announces, looking around the Starbucks the next street over, “I don’t like it.”
Joly looks rather offended when the first person who meets him asks him for his autograph.
Bahorel and Feuilly get into a glaring match with a group of University students who are currently taking up five tables and eleven chairs, despite there being only four of them. Bahorel looks like he’s considering hitting one of them over the head with the nearest Macbook Air.
“How does anyone even afford this?” Courfeyrac asks, pointing at the cakes in the display case, at the same time Combeferre says reverently, “I bet they make so much money.”
They get kicked out not long after Bahorel, Feuilly and the University students have words. Without LiberTea, Enjolras feels somewhat at a loss. He sees his friends less; without a central meeting point, they're not around as often. It's a reprieve in terms of run-ins with the police and headaches, but it's also kind of lonely. He even starts to miss their interruptions and when he’s having conversations, the way they constantly seem to be listening to every little part of his life and meddling. They stay in touch in their own way, sending messages or calling at odd hours of the morning, but it's not the same.
Grantaire never once gets in touch.
When the builders call to say they can go back into the shop, he’s pretty sure Courfeyrac organises a party. There’s a stack of new flyers on the counter, anyway, with a date and time.
Grantaire turns up again a month later, bright-eyed and dressed far smarter than Enjolras has ever seen him, in tight jeans and a green shirt, though his hair is longer and pulled back at the nape of his neck, tied with a thin piece of black ribbon. It’s a testament to just how normal it’s become when famous people visit the shop that not a single person looks up at him from where they’re sitting.
Grantaire blinks like he did that first night, looking around the place like he’s never seen it before in his life, though Enjolras supposes he hasn’t seen most of it, there have been a lot of changes. Then his gaze lands on Enjolras and he grins. He makes his way over with that svelte grace he’d had on stage, like a panther or some sort of large cat stalking.
“Hey,” he greets.
Enjolras finishes the coffee he’s currently making and hands it over to the customer, before turning to look at him. “What’s your order?”
“What?” Grantaire asks, “No, I didn’t come here for coffee. I wrote you—”
“Then you should probably move out of the way,” Enjolras replies, already looking past him to where the next customer is, “There’s a queue.”
“What?” Grantaire asks again, his smile falters. “Hey, look, no, come on. Listen to me, I wrote—”
“What will your order be?” Enjolras asks the little old lady behind him. She peers thoughtfully at the chalkboard menu over his shoulder, then asks, “Do you have any gin?”
“Enjolras,” Grantaire says. When Enjolras gives in and looks over at him, it’s to find him frowning, his lips pulling down at the corners unhappily. “What did I do?”
As Enjolras reaches for the gin he spots Éponine over Grantaire’s shoulder, shakes his head once as she makes a move like she’s going to approach. “Nothing,” he replies, and goes to find a clean glass. When he returns Grantaire’s still stood there, looking – deflated. “Do you want ice?” he asks the old lady.
“Is this because I disappeared without calling?” Grantaire asks, he’s still frowning, Enjolras hates that part of him still wants to make him smile, “Because look, I was kind of busy. I got hit by inspiration and I didn’t want to lose it, I—”
“It’s fine,” Enjolras replies, “Joly and Bossuet explained everything.”
He hands the glass to the little old lady, who picks it up and takes a sip, watching them both curiously over the frames of her wire-rimmed glasses.
“But it’s clearly not,” Grantaire replies, stubborn, “I was going to tell you and then—”
“And then what, R?” Enjolras demands, sees Grantaire flinch when he uses his stage name, “Something came up? Something always comes up, there’s always an excuse! Every single time you say you’ll call and then you don’t and I get it, I do, you have a band, you’re famous, whatever, but that doesn’t mean you can be an absolute dick.”
He takes a breath. “Sorry,” he apologises to the old lady, “Take the drink on the house.”
She waves her hand at him as if to say no offence taken, and then toddles off to find a seat in the bookshop. Enjolras turns back to Grantaire then, takes another breath. “Look, things happen all the time, people get busy, things crop up. But they usually tell people about them and don’t disappear for months at a time!”
“I have a band,” Grantaire replies, stubborn, “I go on tour—”
“—Joly came to visit—”
“—He has teleportation powers I told you—”
“—And so did Bossuet, after your tour was over, and you know what? I’m not arguing with you about this. Are you even trying, or are you just making up excuses? Do you just like the idea that I am always here waiting for you? Because I’m not,” he says, quieter now, “I’m not here for you. You might not be good at relationships but God, do you even know how to try?”
Someone else appears in the queue, Grantaire steps to one side to let them past as they look over the menu. It’s one of the regulars, and Enjolras starts making their drink without even waiting to hear what it is.
When he finally turns back, Grantaire’s gone.
Enjolras is definitely not waiting for the phone to ring three days later when Éponine and Gavroche whirl into the shop like a storm. He takes a step away from the phone to better see them, but not far enough that he can’t pick it up, should it start ringing.
“Hey, did you hear?” Gavroche asks, spotting him, “Someone wants me to design mugs for them.”
Enjolras blinks, and looks over at Éponine, who sighs. “He’s been hitting on people by drawing caricatures of them on their takeout cups. Now he thinks he’s a celebrity.”
“I’m going to drop out of school,” Gavroche says, “Become a famous artist.”
“No you fucking well aren’t,” Éponine growls.
“Enjolras dropped out!”
“Enjolras was put in detention and kicked out of class so often that he pretty much wasn’t there anyway,” Éponine replies, “Just about everyone wanted him gone, and other schools didn’t want the hassle of a student who started protests and argued with teachers and wore a skirt to make a point. That’s different.”
“You wore a skirt?” Gavroche asks, turning to look at him.
Enjolras shrugs. “It was one time.”
Gavroche turns back to Éponine, “So what you’re saying is, if I wear a skirt and get myself thrown into enough detentions and cause enough trouble, you’ll let me drop out?”
“You are the worst!” Gavroche declares, full of petulant teenage rage. “This isn’t fair!”
He’s still sulking (and Enjolras is still not waiting for the phone to ring) when ten days later the blogosphere goes wild, because R just released a song without any warning whatsoever. Enjolras finds this out when literally everyone in the shop goes suddenly silent, just before ten am, and one of the teenagers in the corner shrieks, “What?”
Gavroche saunters over to find out the news, returns to Enjolras with a casual, “Some song just hit the charts,” and goes back to pouting.
Enjolras puts it out of his mind completely until Jehan announces his arrival an hour later with a rather abrupt, “Did you know?” to which Enjolras just blinks a few times. “I mean,” Jehan continues, “It’s obviously about you. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me, Enjolras.”
“I’m sorry, what?” says Enjolras, looking to Éponine for help as she arrives to start her shift.
“Oh is this about R’s totally tragic love song for you?” she asks, “I guess it’s not bad. Bit too heavy on the drums, for me.”
“What?” he repeats.
“Did you not know?” she asks, checking her phone, “It just hit number one for downloads on iTunes.”
Did he not— “Of course I didn’t know,” Enjolras replies, “I have no idea what anyone is talking about.” It's becoming a depressingly familiar occurrence. He's quite sure the whole place could be burnt down one day and rebuilt, and he would have no idea. He's about to say something to that effect when Courfeyrac comes bursting into the shop, because apparently he's never actually at work.
“Enjolras how could you keep this from me I thought I was your best friend!” he declares, managing to glare rather impressively, for someone who also looks simultaneously delighted.
Bahorel follows him seconds later, “I heard something dramatic was happening?”
“Everyone thinks Gr-R wrote me a song,” Enjolras replies. “Which he didn’t,” he adds, with a pointed look in the general direction of everyone else.
“Oh,” says Bahorel, and goes back to manning the door.
“He didn’t write it for you?” Jehan asks dubiously. “But I could have sworn…”
“I have no idea what any of you are talking about,” Enjolras replies.
Courfeyrac frowns. “He really never mentioned it?”
“Are you going to listen to it?” Éponine asks, as she pulls on her apron. “I’m sure Courfeyrac’s already got it downloaded onto his phone.”
Enjolras thinks it over for long enough to remember just how angry he is with Grantaire, and the fact he just left, to write whatever song it is everyone’s going crazy for now. Listening to the song would just bring it all back, would remind him why he’s mad, and he really doesn't want to do that. Even if - even if it is for him, it doesn't change that Grantaire disappeared for an entire month with no warning to write it.
“No,” he says, expecting that to be the last of it.
Of course to his friends it just becomes a challenge.
“He wrote you a song,” Courfeyrac says, three days later, “It is on the radio, just let me—”
“No,” states Enjolras.
“Oh come on,” he persists, “He wrote you a number one hit, that never happens to anyone.”
“No,” Enjolras repeats.
He knows that if he listened to it, if he for one instant let himself get caught up in the lyrics, his resolve would break, and he refuses to forgive Grantaire when, after their argument, he went and did exactly what Enjolras was mad at him for and disappeared and never called.
“Hey, Enjolras, mind if I borrow your phone for a bit?” Feuilly asks the next day.
“Yeah, sure—” Enjolras starts to say, and then stops himself, frowning, “Are you planning to change my ringtone?”
“No, I was actually going to change your background to a screenshot of the lyrics but that’s a much better idea—” Enjolras grabs his phone back and puts it out of Feuilly’s reach.
“Would you all stop,” he says, the following Friday, when he finds out that Combeferre’s in on it too. “I get that you’re all trying to be helpful, but really, I’m not interested. I don’t want to listen to the song. And need I remind you, it’s not even about me. R never wrote me a song.”
Oh he teased about it, sure, but Enjolras is under no illusions that he’s the type of person famous musicians write songs about. They made out once, it’s hardly the sort of thing number one hits are made of.
“I have proof,” Courfeyrac announces, two days later, brandishing another copy of Hello magazine. Enjolras has a strange feeling of deja vu. “Look,” he says, pushing it insistently across the counter.
It’s a full page spread again, with Grantaire’s face on one side, only Enjolras looks at the words this time, reads what he actually has to say.
Interviewer: And what about your love life? How’s that going?
R: [he laughs, he looks away from the camera, rubs awkwardly at the back of his neck, nervous] Not very well.
Interviewer: come now, you can’t expect us to believe that. We’ve all heard your latest song. What ever happened to that beautiful blond barista you were photographed with?
R: that wasn’t - he’s fine. He’s busy. We’re not together. He’s still running the coffee shop.
Interviewer: And is the song about him? You have to admit there are some similarities, there—
R: Look, I’d rather not talk about him. He’s not interested in fame, or popularity, or any of that. He never has been. He’s too good for me, yeah? I’m told he’s never even heard the song.
Interviewer: How is that possible? It’s a number one hit! You’re up for Best Artist of the Year and Best Single. And Best Live Performance, actually. How does that make you feel?
The conversation turns then to some sort of upcoming award ceremony. Enjolras finishes reading, glances up to find Courfeyrac looking expectantly at him. “It doesn’t say he wrote the song for me,” he says. His voice feels a little weak.
“My God,” says Courfeyrac.
“Ooh, is that Hello?” asks Cosette, leaning over to take the magazine from the counter. “They take some awful photographs. Let me see.” She begins flipping through the pages, humming appreciatively when she finds ones she likes - or rather, doesn’t like. It’s hard to tell.
“No one ever writes me songs,” Courfeyrac says sadly, he looks down into his coffee cup like it holds all the secrets to the universe. Out of the corner of his eye, Enjolras spots movement, turns his head to see Combeferre rather aggressively stacking plates by the coffee machine.
“Okay,” says Enjolras finally, “Maybe he did write the song for me. But what does that matter? Taylor Swift writes songs about people all the time, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.”
“Did you know he was trouble when he walked in?” Cosette asks, without looking up from the magazine.
“Shame on you,” Courfeyrac says, cheering right up, “Did he take you to places you’d never been?”
“I hate you all,” announces Enjolras.
That night, his phone rings.
Enjolras frowns down at the unfamiliar number, picks it up on the second ring. “Hello?”
Enjolras is pretty sure his heart stops for a moment. “Grantaire?”
He really, really wants to hang up the phone.
So he does.
Seconds later it rings again, and Grantaire’s first words are: “Don’t hang up.”
The third time, he says, “Seriously, Enjolras, just hear me—” He doesn’t make it to ‘out’.
On the fourth try, he says, “I’m sorry,” which makes Enjolras pause, his thumb already hovering over the cancel button. He hesitates, and into the pause, Grantaire says on a rush, “I just wanted to apologise for the article. I’m sure one of the others has shown it to you. I didn’t want to get into a discussion about you, Musichetta went off the wall at them afterwards, but it was already said. I seem to have this thing about taking about you when I shouldn’t. I’m sorry for dragging you into it again.”
Which isn’t what Enjolras wanted him to apologise for at all. “It’s fine,” he replies, “Really.”
“No doubt the reporters are going to flock to you again.”
“It’s fine, Combeferre can handle them. We’ve got a system. They’re pretty harmless, really.”
Grantaire laughs, soft. “I’m sure.”
“You must have known what was going to happen, if you released a song about me,” Enjolras points out. “They were obviously doing to ask you about it.”
“Yeah,” Grantaire replies, “Well, I’ve never done this before, so.”
Enjolras blinks. “You’ve never written a song before?”
“Not for someone, no,” Grantaire replies - which. There seems to be some sort of distinction there, something Enjolras isn’t quite grasping. His chest feels tight. “I’ve written plenty about people,” Grantaire continues, “The music industry is built on telling your exes you’re better off without them. Not so much the songs about hipster baristas whose first words to you are We’re Closed.”
“I’m not a hipster,” Enjolras replies, because it seems like the only thing he can say.
“Have you listened to it?” Grantaire asks.
“Good idea,” Grantaire replies, “It’s a shit apology.”
Enjolras blinks. “Wait, are you—”
“I’m sorry I let you go,” Grantaire says suddenly, without warning, “That I let you leave Bossuet’s party and didn’t get in contact. I’d also say I’m sorry Bossuet lit your friend on fire but, you know, not my fault. I’m sorry we didn’t get to finish what we started and I disappeared for a month, and I’m sorry it’s taken me until now to get your number from Joly.”
“Let me leave?” Enjolras asks, after a pause. His mouth is curving into a smile. He fights against it, he’s still supposed to be mad, he shouldn’t be finding this endearing, but it's starting to win out, like the warm feeling that's settled in his chest.
“Fine, watched you walk out the door,” Grantaire says, “Which is definitely not a lyric in the song but seriously, how could you just turn around and walk away—”
“I’m hanging up now,” Enjolras informs him.
“What? No, Enjolras, come on—”
“I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.”
“No,” Grantaire admits, “I really, really don’t. So are we - are we okay now?”
“Text me your extremely late review on The Alarmingly Virile Stallion first,” Enjolras replies, and hangs up.
He gets it the next day, when he’s in the middle of serving a customer. He reads it anyway. From that point on they start texting frequently, small messages, back and forth. He gets a review of The Nymphomaniac Outlaw a week later, then one for The Roguish Member at Courfeyrac’s long-awaited re-opening party. Which turns out to be less of a party, and more of an Open House, because people Enjolras has never even met before come and everyone just seems to want to stand around talking.
The second floor isn’t the Art Gallery Gavroche wanted, but it’s got some pieces of his work framed and up on the walls, along with a screenshot of Cosette’s blog post, their pages in various travel magazines, a write-up of Courfeyrac’s cakes and Grantaire’s original article from Hello.
“Are you sure we’re not going to get sued for that?” Combeferre asks dubiously, to which Joly and Bossuet give him matching strange looks.
“Why would you get sued for it?”
“R’s publicist had a go at Enjolras once,” Feuilly says.
“Oh, it was hardly that bad,” Grantaire’s publicist says, making her way up the stairs. She heads straight over to Bossuet and Joly, kisses one, and then the other. They’re not chaste.
“Um,” says Jehan.
“This is our girlfriend,” Joly introduces, “Musichetta.”
“Hey, Eden,” she says to Enjolras.
He waves his phone at her, distracted when it pings with a new message alert from Grantaire’s number. He opens the text as music begins to drift up from downstairs; someone has brought an acoustic guitar (because of course) and is strumming a few chords.
“Anyway, here’s Wonderwall,” a voice says a few moments later.
The Open House turns out to be a pretty good idea, even if Enjolras spends most of his time texting Grantaire then pretending he’s not doing that very thing whilst his friends pose for pictures for various magazines.
There’s a steady flow of people, from all sorts of different backgrounds. Some come for the music, others for the drinks, Enjolras is pretty sure no one comes for the books, but quite a few people seem to be standing near the bookshelves anyway. Gavroche attempts to sell pieces of his art, which goes about as well as expected, and some time close to midnight Combeferre says, “We’ve run out of business cards.”
To which Enjolras replies, “We have cards?”
“Everyone has cards,” Courfeyrac replies, “Even I have cards, see?” He hands one over. It is very slick, and professional, and lawyer-looking.
“Don’t you normally just give these to people when you’re chatting them up?” Feuilly asks, reaching over to take one.
“Well,” says Courfeyrac, “That was the original plan. But then someone,” he very pointedly doesn’t look at Enjolras, “Ruined my game plan by somehow accidentally dating the most eligible bachelor on the planet.”
“I’m not dating R,” Enjolras sighs, as his phone pings again with a message. He definitely doesn’t smile as he opens it.
“Why would anyone want to date me then?” Courfeyrac asks, “All anyone wants these days is Enjolras, and it’s all wasted on him, he’s so oblivious. I’m going to be alone forever.”
“Oh for God’s sake, I’M FUCKING IN LOVE WITH YOU,” Combeferre yells.
Courfeyrac blinks. “Um,” he says, “Can you say that again? I think I misheard.”
“You cannot have possibly—” Enjolras starts to say, but it doesn’t really matter, because Combeferre’s closed the distance between them, fisted his hand in Courfeyrac’s shirt, and kissed him.
“Does this sort of thing always happen around here?” Musichetta asks, looking around curiously, as if she expects everyone nearby to suddenly start making out. She has one hand entwined with Joly, who has his arm around Bossuet, who is taking a picture of Courfeyrac and Combeferre on his phone, like a proud parent.
“Yes,” Gavroche replies, eternally long-suffering and currently taking a break from trying to scam what Enjolras is sure is the gin-drinking old lady, “All these lot ever do is say dumb things then kiss each other. You’d think twenty-somethings would be way more fun to hang around with.”
“Huh,” Musichetta says. She looks over at Enjolras. “Interesting place you’ve got here, Andre.”
“Really,” says Enjolras, “That doesn’t even begin with an E.”
“Your name starts with an E?”
Courfeyrac and Combeferre break for air. They both look rather stunned, Feuilly gives a mocking little cheer. “Is now a good time to tell you that Courfeyrac actually really, really likes your tattoos?” Enjolras asks, because sometimes, he’s not above teasing.
Courfeyrac squeaks and goes red.
It’s pitch black outside when the last of the customers leaves. Though he's not sure they can really be called customers, no one paid for anything. Enjolras sighs out a breath as they disappear into the night and flips the card on the door over to closed, then begins collecting the various cups and empty bottles strewn about the place as he begins to tidy up.
Not ten minutes later the chime above the door goes and someone stumbles in.
Grantaire stands just inside the doorway, frowns as he looks around the empty shop. He’s wearing his sunglasses again, and his hood’s pulled up. As Enjolras watches he takes the first off and then pushes back the other, still looking around.
Enjolras straightens from where he was grabbing a cloth from under the counter. “We’re closed,” he says.
Grantaire almost smiles. He takes a step further into the shop, then another. “I’m hiding out.”
Enjolras almost-smiles back. “How was the awards ceremony?” he asks.
“Shit,” Grantaire replies, “I won everything.”
He looks around the room again, and Enjolras realises this is the first time he’s properly seen it, since those first two times. They were a bit distracted by arguing the third time. A lot has changed. Grantaire raises an eyebrow at the mismatched plant pots in the window made out of wellies and watering cans, smiles at the still-overflowing bookshelves, looks likes he's having ideas when he spots the stage.
He’s still ridiculously good-looking, Enjolras notes, taking the opportunity to properly look at him, take him in like he hasn't been able to since Bossuet's party. It’s kind of hard to ignore the way his body reacts, wants to push him up against the nearest available surface and kiss him until he forgets how to breathe. He still remembers what Grantaire tasted like, how he sounded when he arched up against him.
Grantaire finally finishes taking everything in, blue eyes meet his.
“When did you become so mainstream?” he asks.
Enjolras rolls his eyes. “When did you start writing songs about people without telling them?” he counters, crossing his arms over his chest.
“I don’t even know,” Grantaire replies, “What have you done to me. Do you still have whiskey?”
He heads over to the counter when Enjolras gestures in that direction, but finds nothing there but empty bottles and an IOU from Bahorel. “I wasn’t lying when I said I don’t know how to do this,” he says, giving up on finding a drink and just leaning on the counter instead. Enjolras comes to stand on the other side, a reversal of the time when Grantaire curled his hair around his finger, and Enjolras resolutely pretended he didn't want to climb over the counter onto him.
“Do what?” Enjolras asks, “Find something to drink?”
“Actually want to be with someone,” Grantaire replies, “I’m not very good at relationships. I really, really don’t have time for them. I wasn’t lying when I said I went on tour or when I said I was busy. I’m always busy, I have shows and albums and interviews all the time. But I’m not sure when that became an excuse, rather than a reason.”
“I’m not sure what you’re trying to say,” says Enjolras.
“Me either,” Grantaire admits, “I’ve never done this confession of feelings thing before. I guess I’m saying that - that I’m here. If you want me. And I’m sorry for running away.”
Enjolras thinks about it for a few seconds. “That has to be the shittest attempt at chatting someone up I’ve ever heard.”
“I could always tell you in a deep voice about my alarming virility.”
“Oh, ravish me, Hector,” Enjolras drawls.
Grantaire’s eyes widen. “You’ve read the fucking book!”
“Of course I have,” Enjolras replies, and rolls his eyes, “I recommended it, remember?”
Grantaire looks as excited as he probably should have when telling him that he had won an inordinate amount of awards. “Oh, man, can we re-enact the scene in the barn with the whips and the—”
He looks crestfallen; Enjolras relents: “But I suppose you could take me out for coffee sometime.”
Three months later the photographs show up in the latest edition of Hello.
They’re of Grantaire and Enjolras kissing over two mugs of coffee, thankfully without some 1950s polaroid filter. Enjolras knows Grantaire’s coffee was spiked with whiskey, and also that Gavroche was chatting up the photographer in the background. Feuilly and Bahorel were engaged in a very serious game of I Spy at the door, whilst Courfeyrac was skipping work to stare lovingly at Combeferre and give him the most ridiculous coffee order in an attempt to spend even more time with him.
Underneath there’s some quote about how they’re a love story for the ages, and how R might be for Romeo after all, (and Enjolras really hopes not because, you know, everyone died) and then just like that, they’re old news. They were more interesting when they weren’t together, when it was the scandal of a famous rockstar liking some completely unknown barista; now they’re happy, no one cares.
R still goes on tour a lot, spends months at a time out of the country. He has whole days and weeks and months spent locked away writing, but he always calls. He doesn’t write any more songs about Enjolras, but he does write one about Cosette and Marius ironically that becomes an instant hit and plays on the radio all the time, much to his delight and Enjolras’ eternal suffering.
LiberTea’s popularity continues; the expansion up to the top floor allows room for his friends to sprawl out. It becomes their official meeting space, where everyone spends their time when they're pretending they're not all ridiculously co-dependent on each other. They get a cat. Grantaire still only comes to the store at night, whenever they’re closed and no one else is around. He still wears his ridiculous sunglasses and never pays for anything, and Enjolras has finally discovered just how many tattoos he has. Somehow, Enjolras finds that he’s actually making money.
He’s surprisingly okay with that.