Enjolras hates parties.
It’s not something that serves him well in this line of work. This tight, dark, alcoholic crush is where he’s supposed to forge friendships and make contacts, meant to wrangle appearances in mates’ gigs with an extra whiskey, agree on collaborations over a cigarette. When The Barricades had finally clawed their way up the final step to international stardom, they’d quickly had to learn to drop the practice of obsessively drawing up official documents and contracts with companies and fellow artists. When you are more personality than person, no underling refuses a request. The world really does seem to be the playground of celebrity up here among the stars, and if The Barricades have a friendly agreement with another colossally famous artist to pop into their concert to do a few songs or have shaken on a collaboration over a beer, no one is going to give them any legal or administrative reason why they shouldn’t. This is how it seems to work on the A-list.
Which is why it is turning out to be such a disadvantage that the face and frontman of The Barricades so detests mingling.
The others aren’t doing so badly. Bahorel, his second guitar, has drifted off to get high with a rambunctious crowd of punks; Feuilly the bassist is helping a bald man whose face Enjolras recognises from some album cover pick up the shards of his glass. They had both been later additions to the band-Bahorel was a successful solo metal guitarist and had sort of fallen into it one night early on when he’d thrown his lot in with them during a vicious bar fight and Feuilly had a sideline career in folk music which had become increasingly political, but when there was an obvious space for another musician in the most famous political band of the day, he’d leapt at the chance. Courfeyrac, his drummer since they were sixteen-year-olds with dreams as grand as the Statue of Liberty, is doing some sort of crazed tango on the dance floor with Eponine Thernadier, whose smoke-cracked, honey-thick vocals they are trying to feature in their next album. He spies Combeferre, who had completed the original trio all those years ago on bass but has since switched to keyboard, bent in discussion with the new-age Romantic icon Jehan Prouvaire.
The music drops into some dance tune with a bass that pounds in his bones. Enjolras sighs, letting his whole body wilt against the bar counter. The contrived nature of the whole thing drags a humourless chuckle from him as some woman who might have been a Vogue cover recently eyes him up along the bar. It’s meant to feel spontaneous and wild, and the press aren’t supposed to have any idea where they are, but everyone here knows that the moment they step out of this exclusive cave there’ll be dozens of bursts of lights from the cameras, trying to capture in flashing waves who was invited, who hooked up with who, who’s so drunk they can’t walk straight. Enjolras thinks of how ironic it is, that at the end of the day, they’re flocking to take photographs of what amounts to just another group of people dancing, sweating, drinking, stinking of sex and cigarette smoke. It’s so dark that it’s difficult to make out anyone more than ten feet from you, but that might be part of the idea, to give some feeling of false anonymity. There’s so much fame in here you could choke on it. Enjolras can’t remember the last time he was introduced to someone whose face he wasn’t meant to recognise.
He snags his drink off the bar and starts to wander towards the heaving crush of people in an effort to escape the woman’s predatory gaze, because if he gets hit on one more time he might do something drastic, and at this level of celebrity, he can’t afford to do anything else that would tarnish the band’s reputation. Not to mention, Combeferre would kill him. So he decides to brave the crowd with the aim of leaving with at least one new acquaintance, so that Courfeyrac can’t tease him later about having the social aptitude of a rock.
Enjolras isn’t sure how much time has passed-his drink is gone and things are starting to blur a little around the edges-but he’s managed to surface from the crowd relatively unscathed. He’s completely lost sight of Bahorel, but he can see Feuilly and the bald man chatting with a coffee-skinned Amazon of a woman and Combeferre patiently passing a water bottle between Courfeyrac, Jehan Prouvaire and Eponine Thernadier, who are lying in a giggling heap against the wall. He lets his gaze sweep the room, looking for faces he might know glimmering in the roving spotlights, before it catches on a lithe figure dancing on one of the tables with a crowd gathering at its feet. The silhouette is male, and as the lights flutter over him Enjolras watches scraps of shadow flit in the small dips of his back muscles. The man is shirtless, showing himself to be muscular but wiry, full of sharp lines and angles on his bone-white skin, with ragged black wings inked across his shoulders. He takes in the slender legs wrapped in leather pants, the matching boots with daringly high heels, the riotous head of ebony curls. The man is a vision in black and white, like an old photograph, starkly colourless.
When he turns, with a sensual twist of his hips, he reveals a face so famous not even Enjolras can fail to recognise him. He calls himself R, one of the new music phenomenons. Courfeyrac is addicted to his songs, which are full of promiscuity, drugs, heartbreak and empty one night stands. Bahorel’s a fan too, and Combeferre has some appreciation for him. Even Enjolras has to admit that he has a certain flair. And here he is, dancing on the table like he’s in a local dive to the lecherous whistles of his little audience, and he plays to it, smirking and winking and flicking his fine wrists so that his hoard of bracelets and bands spin exotically. He’s a fluid, seductive dancer, but this routine feels well-worn, like he’s done it many times, in many places. He looks out towards the bar, and his monochrome appearance is broken by a glint of stunning, electric blue from smoke-ringed eyes, then it’s gone, dropped demurely beneath black-shadowed eyelids. Enjolras does appreciate R’s slightly androgynous fashion choices-his signature look involves heels, eyeshadow and off-the-shoulder sweaters-along with the fact that the pronouns in his songs openly reflect his sexuality. Enjolras himself has never written a love song; that’s Courfeyrac’s area. Love songs keep the money rolling in to fund their less lucrative but highly politically active side, and Enjolras couldn’t be less interested in them. He just sings what he’s given and then pens their next anthem against the regime.
Even so, his eyes linger over the contours of R’s body. Lines of text in no language Enjolras can recognise encircle his bicep, balance on his collarbone, scrawl across his ribs, hang off one razor-like hipbone and then slide beneath the leather of his pants. Enjolras can’t tell what it says, but he could follow it, bite his own clear meaning over it, lower and lower, that milk-white torso would make such a gorgeous arc in his sheets-
He tears away from that train of thought. He has absolutely no desire to be a column in tomorrow’s gossip magazines. He is so discreet about his romantic and sexual life that they would be in a frenzy if he gave them even a hint of his interests, and there’s not a lot to hide anyway. R is the opposite-he sleeps around so much that the gossip columnists can’t be bothered to keep up with him anymore, unless it’s really scandalous-in which category Enjolras would definitely fall. R will certainly be warming someone’s bed tonight, and Enjolras is surprised to find that he has to push away a prickle of superficial jealousy that it can’t be his, not if he wants to retain any kind of privacy.
He shakes his head to dissipate the cloud of lust and resolutely turns his back on R, shouldering his way through the crowd to reach Combeferre and Courfeyrac, steering his mind firmly onto the social issues he wants to address in their next album and completely missing the pinch of disappointment to the bright blue eyes that watch him go over one white, winged shoulder.