He looked every bit the marble statue people liken him to until they are alone. Something about their solitude brought out the skilled fluidity and craftmanship of the man who carved him, as though moulded by hands which could turn stone into flesh; he could almost look as young as he really was, and just as overwhelmed.
Combeferre remembered a story he read as a child about a man who kissed the hand of a statue, the love and tenderness of it melted away the callous shell; the statue fell into his arm, living, breathing… He wondered if the man needed to kiss the statue at all, if it was a fanciful indulgence or even desperation; he had never needed to kiss Enjolras’ hand for the stone to melt. Their isolation from the outside world was intimate enough for him to become soft, malleable and expressive.
Once the threshold of their door was passed, Enjolras kicked off his boots and rid himself of his jacket and waistcoat messily. He shook his hair out of its bonds and allowed it to fall over his shoulders, around his face. Like a woman unlacing her corset and a working man washing the grime off his hands, Enjolras breathed in the liberation that their solitude bought him, and felt.
He allowed himself to feel and express without restriction; to fall apart and build himself back up, to sit in muted chaos as Combeferre nursed him back around, to bask and to grieve in equal measure, to be silly.
In the seclusion of their flat, quiet against the bustling noise of the buildings occupants and the streets below, marble and passion and ferocity melted into sorrow, anxiety, glee. Once, only once, it even melted into doubt, then guilt, then reason, and contentment. Combeferre had watched it play out on his face from his space on their single straw mattress and smiled in contentment himself as, between Enjolras’ fragile resolve and the frugality of their living, the leader sought comfort against his chest.
They would read, and write letters, talk; they would voice ideas and allow themselves to be torn down by the other; they would get angry and shout with undignified voices which those who had seen them speak wouldn’t believe them capable. Then they would laugh, and embrace, and drink with almost as little dignity as their fights.
And they would fall into quiet, and calm, and serenity.
Combeferre might take to reading, as he usually did, and Enjolras would sit alongside him, place his head on his lap and allow the fingers that absentmindedly carded through his hair to lull him into rest. Sometimes Combeferre would wake to the sounds of persistent pacing and the anxious shuffle the papers, and merely lay there, present without invasion, until the space beside him dipped, and shuffled, and stilled without intervention.
He had no doubt the men in their company loved Enjolras with the same fierceness he did. Where they knew he was passionate and driven, focused and ferocious, he had no doubt they knew that he was capable of feeling, so completely and in every way that it burned him alive. Even if it remained unseen. Even if it remained unheard.
That he was capable of tenderness, contentment, and childish glee. That he was capable of grief beyond anger and sorrow beyond action. That he yearned, pined, and craved, if only sometimes, to be treated gently for no reason except to know that another being wanted to treat him gently.
Maybe if he allowed himself to think on it, Combeferre would ask which part of him had seemed so emotionally available it had caused the other to bare himself to him. Which part of him, which actions, which set of ideals, principles or qualities had triggered the others trust and vulnerability.
If he allowed himself to think on it, it might just break his heart. Combeferre leaned his head back into the faded wallpaper, hand ghosting over the pistol in his jacket. The bittersweet reality of their mortality was starting to settle heavily on his heart as he watched the other tie his hair back.
Enjolras stood fully, straightened his waistcoat, and smiled shallowly as though he had seen the reflection of his own feelings in the other’s face. On the other side of the door existed a world where Enjolras returned to marble carved with an expression of passionate anger. Fear struck him in the heart with the thought that the last pliable movement he may ever see on the other would be fear, their little shared flat where so much was felt and expressed left to grow still and lifeless.
In two long strides, he was stood in front of the other, his hand no longer feeling for the gun in his jacket. He took Enjolras’ own; weaving their fingers together, he raised them to his lips and pressed, kissing with equal tenderness and hostility. He squeezed his eyes shut and their hands together, as though he could muster a prayer between the two of them.
Enjolras watched, eyes big with confusion until it softened into warmth.
Combeferre opened his eyes to the warmth in his friend's gaze. The stone had melted long ago. If he allowed himself to think about it, that was so much more beautiful and terrible than fear. But only if.