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soothe my soul

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Enjolras can’t stop thinking about what he and Grantaire did last week. He’s actually avoiding his own bedroom because he can’t look at his bed without remembering Grantaire tying him to it, and it sends a rush of heat through him every single time. Grantaire took the rope when he left the next morning, and Enjolras can’t help wishing he’d left it behind.

What for, he can’t quite bring himself to think about. Only that the rope had been soft, and that had been unexpected. Soft and gentle against his skin, but unyielding when he pulled and twisted in its grip.

He takes a deep breath and shakes his head, trying to focus on work again. He’s researching for an article due on Friday, and he keeps getting distracted. He’s actually been working over at Courfeyrac and Combeferre’s, telling them he needs a change of scenery. They know he’s sleeping with Grantaire, but other than a short conversation checking that they both know what they’re doing, they don’t bring it up.

The idea of confiding in them appeals – he knows from experience that talking his problems through with his best friends helps to clarify what he really thinks and wants, which is something he desperately needs right now. But in order to do that, he’d have to explain what he and Grantaire have been doing.

It’s not like they’d judge him, he’s sure. It’s just…embarrassing. And every time he tries to run through the scenario in his head it just stalls. How would he even start? He’s usually able to at least write down an outline of his speech plans (and this would undoubtedly be a speech), but for this, his brain fails him. When this happens, he usually resorts to bluntness, but in this case even imagining it makes him squirm.

It has come to my attention that I greatly enjoy it when Grantaire restrains, hurts, and humiliates me, and I can’t stop freaking out about it. Help?

He closes his laptop and gets up to make himself hot chocolate, needing the comfort. In his kitchen, the vase of flowers Grantaire bought him are wilted and dying, and struck by sudden irritation, Enjolras bundles them up and throws them in the bin, washing out the vase with single-minded viciousness.

Why is he like this? So confident in everything else, he cowers away from confronting this part of himself. Is it because it’s new? He’d never even entertained fantasies in this vein before sleeping with Grantaire. And before Grantaire had made that offhand comment about gagging him, their sex life had been totally normal. Still exciting and hot, still excellent – if it hadn’t been, Enjolras wouldn’t have continued – but not this. And now they’ve started exploring this, it keeps going round and round in his head.

Grantaire’s words after they’d finished keep haunting him too. Whether Grantaire truly believes those things is up for debate, but at the time, hearing him say it had been such a relief. Being told he was still respected even after Grantaire had made him cry and beg, being told he was brave…it had mattered. And Grantaire, master of study when it came to Enjolras’ behaviour, would surely have known that. So how could he believe it? Even Grantaire telling him he loved him – it probably wasn’t true. Just words used to calm him down and ease him to sleep.

He submits the article with enough time to spare to allow himself to go to the Corinthe on Friday. Grantaire is there, of course, playing cards with Joly, Bossuet, and Bahorel in a corner. Enjolras looks away and goes to sit next to Courfeyrac. He does an excellent job of ignoring Grantaire all evening, and when he leaves, he leaves alone.

He’d assumed Grantaire would follow him when he left, he realises once he’s back at his flat, and scowls. It shouldn’t feel cold without Grantaire’s body filling up the empty spaces, quiet without Grantaire’s chatter and laughter, dim without Grantaire to add colour and motion to the still apartment. He hadn’t noticed the buzz of anticipation under his skin until now, when there’s nowhere for it to go and nothing to channel it into, and he stays up far later than planned, unable to get to sleep for hours.

Of course Grantaire texts the next day, asking if he can come over. Enjolras doesn’t have it in him to refuse, and lounges in bed all morning while he waits, only getting up half an hour before Grantaire arrives. It’s different, meeting in the day instead of hiding under cover of night, and Enjolras can’t help remembering last Friday when he lets Grantaire in.

“Afternoon.” Grantaire drops a kiss to his cheek as he moves past, easy smirk on his lips. “How’re you feeling?”

“Feeling?” Enjolras parrots, turning to follow him in. Already he’s being thrown off-centre, Grantaire waltzing in like he owns the place, asking strange questions. “What do you mean?”

“No rope burn? Tension?” Grantaire grins over his shoulder before going into the kitchen, and Enjolras stays out in the hall for a second, not sure if it’s embarrassment or arousal making something flip over in his stomach. When he manages to go into the kitchen, Grantaire’s leaning against the counter with a glass of water in his hand, cocky and smirking.

Enjolras wants Grantaire to fuck him so suddenly it actually leaves him speechless for a second. This is getting out of hand.

“You okay?” Grantaire raises an eyebrow. “Did I short-circuit you?”

“I’m fine.” Enjolras takes the water from him and sips twice before handing it back. “You wanted to come over?”

“I have the afternoon and evening off.” Grantaire shrugs. “Figured I’d ask if you were up for a marathon, see if you had any ideas of your own.” He grins at Enjolras’ frown. “Concerning last week,” he clarifies. “I wondered if you might’ve done any shopping of your own. No pressure, obviously, but the buttplug was enjoyably unexpected.”

The flush seems to roll up from Enjolras’ chest to his forehead like a cartoon character’s, and he beats down the instinct to avert his eyes. He opens his mouth, but after a long second of silence he closes it again with a sound he hopes isn’t too embarrassing. Grantaire laughs, of course, and Enjolras scowls.

“I haven’t,” he says in clipped tones. “Done any shopping,” he clarifies, because he apparently hates himself enough to say things he knows will make Grantaire smirk.

“Pity. Maybe we could do that together? The site I got the rope from had plenty of other things on offer.”

“I’m not –” Enjolras’ throat clicks as he swallows, and he looks away and back again too fast, not sure what to say. “I…I don’t…”

“It’s okay to like things, you know.” Grantaire’s tone softens. He said something similar last week, and Enjolras frowns down at his feet, wanting to agree and disagree at the same time. “Question.” Grantaire finishes his water and puts the glass down on the counter. Enjolras hates it when he comes in and messes things up, leaving things out like that. “Have you even thought about what you like?”

“I’m busy,” Enjolras snaps, falling back on familiar prickliness. Grantaire won’t be baited though. He just shrugs.

“Busy people still have sex lives.”

“But this isn’t…” Enjolras frowns and pushes his hands into his pockets so he won’t fidget. “It’s different.”

“How so?”

“It just is!” He’s flushing again, and part of him wishes he’d never let Grantaire in. “It’s…”

“Embarrassing?” Grantaire says lightly. Enjolras had been about to say degrading, but that’s close enough. Silence is as good as agreement right now, and Grantaire understands. He comes over to Enjolras and pauses in front of him, waiting for Enjolras to meet his eyes before leaning in to kiss him. It’s gentle, and sweet, and Enjolras is lost in it for a long few seconds before he gathers enough presence of mind to pull back, even more flustered than before.

“What’re you doing?”

“I thought you were familiar with kissing,” Grantaire says dryly. At Enjolras’ frown, he snorts and pokes his chest. “Would you rather I skip foreplay and just tie you up again? Doesn’t have to be to the bed.” He steps back and makes a show of looking around. “I could tie you to a chair,” he says wickedly, and Enjolras is glad he’s got a wall to lean against because one of his knees actually wobbles at that idea.

“Don’t,” he manages to say, and Grantaire’s smile drops immediately, replaced by a concerned frown.

“Okay, it’s fine. Are you –”

“I’m fine,” Enjolras bites out, suddenly furious with himself for stopping what might have been the beginning of something. Of whatever they do. Tied to a chair in his own kitchen – he tries to tell himself that the idea is repulsive, unhygienic for a start, full of risks because Grantaire could waltz out at any time, could take photos, could tell people –

“If you go any redder, you might explode,” Grantaire tells him. “Have a drink or something, stop thinking so much.”

He’s clearly not freaking out, and for some reason that helps Enjolras to calm down a bit. “Thinking’s what I do,” he mutters.

“Overthinking too?” Grantaire refills the glass from the tap and hands it to him. Enjolras takes a couple of sips just to please him. “Relax, I’m not going to jump you. Unless you ask me to,” he adds, grinning, and Enjolras looks down at his water. Grantaire sighs. “Okay, if shopping’s out of the question, can we maybe sort a few things out?”

“Like what?”

“Not sort out,” Grantaire amends, looking awkward for the first time since he arrived. “More like, um. Clarify? Maybe?”

Enjolras relaxes a little, Grantaire’s hesitance evening them out somewhat. There’s guilt too – every time Grantaire tries to talk about whatever they’re doing, Enjolras changes the subject or shuts him down. It’s complicated, he wants to say. He still doesn’t know. And now even the sex has become a source of confusion.

“Maybe,” he agrees, meeting Grantaire’s eyes. Grantaire holds his gaze for a moment before looking away, a strange reversal of their earlier positions. His courage seems to have failed him, and Enjolras hates how relieved he is.

Grantaire’s quiet for a moment before he looks up at him again, voice even when he speaks. “Maybe we could start with a checklist?”

Enjolras raises his eyebrows. “A checklist for what?”

“Sex.” Enjolras glances away, but not soon enough to avoid seeing the little satisfied smile on Grantaire’s face.

Well fuck him. Enjolras takes a gulp of water and nods, pretending he’s not even a little bit rattled. “Fine.” Talking is difficult, but lists he can do.

“Of course you’re fine with the written stuff,” Grantaire says dryly, and walks past Enjolras into the living room, then the bedroom to retrieve Enjolras’ laptop.

Enjolras rolls his eyes and sits next to him when he settles on the sofa. “Help yourself.”

“Thank you, I will.” Grantaire opens Google and starts typing. He gets up two different lists and starts copying and pasting different items into a word doc. Reading over his shoulder, Enjolras can feel himself blushing again. Some of the items are things they’ve already done, things he never would’ve dreamed he’d do. Lingerie they can tick off, it seems, along with bondage, and nipple play. But there are other things on there that make Enjolras want to cover his mouth – lap dances, sensory deprivation, various levels of semi-public sex. He has to get his phone out to surreptitiously find out what shrimping is.

Toe-sucking, apparently. He sags into the sofa and watches with wide eyes as Grantaire makes sure they have everything relevant from both lists in one document. “Why two lists?” he asks faintly.

“More comprehensive that way.” Grantaire gives him an amused smile over his shoulder. “Variation is sexy, Enjolras.” He laughs when Enjolras smacks his leg, and saves the document when he’s done, printing two copies. Enjolras googles golden and rainbow showers when Grantaire gets up to retrieve them.

No, he decides, staring at the definitions on his phone screen. Definitely not.

Grantaire plonks back next to him and hands him one of the lists. He’s drawn in three columns – the lines are almost perfectly straight – with yes, no, and maybe as the options at the top. He steals one of the books on Enjolras’ coffee table to rest his own list on and turns so Enjolras can’t see it. “No peeking,” he grins.

Enjolras sighs and scooches obediently to the other end of the sofa, getting a book and pen of his own. The list certainly is comprehensive, and his stomach sinks as he reads through it properly.

“Be honest.”

He looks up, startled by Grantaire’s serious tone. “What?”

“Be honest,” Grantaire repeats, holding his gaze steadily. “There’s no point unless you’re honest.”

Enjolras nods and looks down again, uncertain. It’s certainly easier than talking. He’s pathetically grateful to Grantaire for figuring out a way they can do this without having to stumble through any awkward conversations. But this is still…slightly terrifying, he can admit that to himself in the privacy of his own mind.

The things they’ve already done get ticks in the ‘yes’ column, but everything else requires consideration, imagining what it would actually feel like. Cock rings, for instance. Enjolras flushes at the idea of how much Grantaire would be able to tease him, how much control that would give him. He hovers over the ‘yes’ and ‘maybe’ columns, hesitating for a long time before allowing himself to tick ‘yes’.

And that’s just one item. There’s also dirty talk, sex parties, watching each other masturbate, fisting, role play, threesomes…Enjolras’ head spins, but he forces himself to imagine every single one, trying to be as honest as he can. Strangely, it’s some of the more innocent ones that he agonises over the most. Bathing together, massages, using sex toys in front of each other – they’re all so intimate. Too intimate.

But too intimate for what? For a just-sex relationship, maybe, but that’s not exactly what they have anymore. That changed when he agreed to go out on that date with Grantaire. Does he want more? It’s hard to tell. It’s clear he doesn’t know himself as well as he’d thought.

Some things are easily dumped in the ‘no’ column. Enjolras has to hold back a laugh when he gets to number 59: Write each other a love poem. Writing an erotic story together is equally impossible, but he hesitates over 66: Spend half an hour just making out, no genital contact. It sounds pointless, maybe even boring, but he checks ‘yes’ anyway, out of curiosity more than anything else.

Grantaire’s finished, he realises when he next looks up. Doodling or something, certainly no longer reading. But he had a head start, he reminds himself. He’d already looked at these lists. He takes a deep breath and returns to some of the trickier ones he’d left for the end. Some of them come in pairs. Whip your partner, and be whipped by your partner. Giving and receiving a strip tease. To spank or be spanked.

He’s never considered changing their positions before, being the one to control Grantaire. It’s a strange thought. Not one he’s particularly enthusiastic about. He hesitates, then starts to tick boxes. ‘Yes’ for being whipped, spanked, verbally humiliated, and pushed around. ‘No’ for Grantaire doing those things. Seeing the little ticks in those columns makes him bite his lip, the idea of showing Grantaire more intimidating than he’d like to admit.

“Can I see yours first?” he asks when he’s done. Grantaire doesn’t object, handing his over with a smile.

“No adjusting yours though,” he says, reaching over to grab Enjolras’ and putting it face-down on the sofa between them. “It’s only fair. I know you love fairness.”

Enjolras rolls his eyes and looks down at Grantaire’s list, raising his eyebrows when he realises that Grantaire has barely ticked anything as ‘no’. It makes the things he has stand out all the more – no being tied up or hit, no hiring a photographer to take photos of them while they’re having sex. He’s said no to scat and rainbow showers, but maybe to golden showers, which is a shock. Everything else is either ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’, and something in Enjolras’ stomach unwinds, tension he didn’t even know he’d been holding.

“Can I look at yours now?” Grantaire asks, and Enjolras nods, looking up to watch his face while he reads it. His smile twitches on a few items, and by the end he’s outright grinning. “You know,” he says slowly, “there were a couple of other checklists I saw that were a little more…adventurous. Do you want to do one of those?”

“Um.” Enjolras shakes his head, heart thudding against his ribs. “No, this was. Um. More than enough.”

“If you say so.” Grantaire crosses his legs. “You can change your mind any time. Or look at them yourself.”

“Yeah.” Enjolras looks down, and Grantaire sighs.

“Are you okay?”

Enjolras purses his lips, not sure how to answer for a moment. “It’s still embarrassing,” he says finally, pulling his knees up to his chest. “Even the stuff we’ve done. Especially some of the stuff we’ve done.”

Grantaire nods, glancing at the laptop. “I didn’t put aftercare on the list,” he says, “since it’s meant to be sort of…not optional but in a good way? For some of the heavier stuff, I mean.”

Enjolras blinks. “What are you talking about?”

Grantaire’s cheeks darken, and Enjolras takes a moment to feel a little victorious thrill that he’s made Grantaire blush for a change. “Last Friday,” Grantaire starts, and that thrill dies a swift death. “Afterwards, that was sort of aftercare. I think.”

“You think.”

“You realise I’m no more an expert than you, right?” Grantaire huffs and leans back against the arm of the sofa. “But y’know, it was…serving the purpose of aftercare, at least.”

“You still haven’t explained what it is.”

“Google it. I’ll only mess it up otherwise.” Grantaire waves to the laptop but Enjolras gets his phone out instead, not wanting Grantaire reading over his shoulder. The first result is a Wikipedia article, of course, and Enjolras reads it and rereads it before looking at the links at the bottom. One of them concerns something called ‘sub and top drop’, and he reads through that in a sort of daze.

“Oh.” It slips out unintentionally as he reads the paragraphs about guilt, and opposite him Grantaire leans forward.

“Everything okay?”

Enjolras nods, feeling strangely exposed. “Fine, I’m fine.” The contradiction between what he enjoys and what he feels he should hate is all there in this post. The author doesn’t mention shame, but it’s implied when they talk about the guilt people can experience. Like the guilt Enjolras has been experiencing. He blinks a couple of times and reads on in silence.

Emotional, physical, and psychological reassurance of worth, is what aftercare seems to boil down to, and Enjolras manages to smile weakly when he finishes reading. “It’s basically cuddling.”

Grantaire relaxes and grins. “Cuddling after particularly intense sex, I guess, yeah.” He clears his throat when Enjolras doesn’t say anything, and looks down at his lap. “You said last Friday that it was embarrassing. The, um. The sex, I mean. And, y’know, aftercare’s meant to help with that, or stop it happening.” He chews on the inside of his cheek, playing with his fingers.

“Like the stuff you said on Friday,” Enjolras says quietly, looking away when Grantaire raises his head so their eyes won’t meet. “I still…” He hesitates when Grantaire doesn’t say anything, but takes a breath and makes himself continue. “It’s still embarrassing. It’s not who I am, or…what I usually am.” The thought of anyone knowing what they’ve done is too awful to dwell on. “I keep expecting you to…well you do mock me for it, but it’s not…” His face burns, and he trails off.

“I can not do that?” Grantaire offers, sounding worried.

“It’s fine.” Enjolras mutters. “It’s…” He can say this, he ticked the ‘yes’ box for verbal humiliation not twenty minutes ago. “It’s more than fine. In the moment.”

“I wouldn’t do it any other time.” Grantaire sounds totally serious, and when Enjolras sneaks a glance at his face, he looks it too. “And I wouldn’t ever tell anyone. I know I act like a dick a lot of the time.” He hunches his shoulders, hair falling in his face as he ducks his head. “But I’d never do anything like that, not unless you wanted me to, I swear.”

“I know.” And he does know, Enjolras realises. Grantaire gives him a smile that borders on shy, and Enjolras looks down again as something warm flutters in his stomach. He trusts Grantaire. Not with everything – trusting him with Amis business is still something to be handled delicately, if at all – but with this, Grantaire has never failed. He’s been discrete and careful and considerate, and he hasn’t pushed except when invited.

What they have is more than sex to Grantaire. And Enjolras has been ignoring that because it comes hand-in-hand with the more embarrassing aspects of their sex life. He should say or do something to make it up to him, but…is that what he wants? Does he want more than sex at all?

“I just don’t want to rely on you for anything,” he says finally. “I don’t like relying on anyone at all. And I don’t want this to be…I don’t want to…” He huffs, annoyed at his own lack of eloquence. “I don’t want to prostrate myself before anyone,” he manages to say at last, having to say it at all making him want to cringe. And there’s an increasingly large part of him that wants to scream, because it’s absurd that he should feel so ashamed about this. He’s usually so confident and controlled and non-judgemental. Admitting that he enjoys what Grantaire does to him shouldn’t make him freeze up the way it does.

“I’d be amazed if you did,” Grantaire says dryly. His tone eases the strain in Enjolras’ shoulders a bit, the humour very much needed. “Honoured too,” he adds. Enjolras raises his eyebrows, and Grantaire shrugs. “It’s a privilege, you know? That you let me see you like that. That you trust me with it.” His mouth twists. “That you trust me at all.”

“I didn’t even know this was something I would be trusting you with when we started,” Enjolras admits.

Grantaire’s smile is one of the rare ones – not a smirk or a sneer, but something kind and genuine. “I’m glad you have though. It’s okay not to be totally in control all the time. I don’t think any differently of you.”

That’s the hardest thing to accept, but Enjolras nods anyway, even though he’s not sure he believes it.

“Hey.” Grantaire stretches his leg out and nudges Enjolras’ shin with his foot. “Thanks. For everything.”

“For what?” Enjolras asks, bewildered.

Grantaire just shrugs a shoulder. “Everything you’ve given. I know it’s hard for you, but it’s okay, you know. It’s good to let go sometimes. And if it feels good to give someone else the reins, so to speak, where’s the harm?” He grins with an edge of his usual smirk; an invitation that Enjolras might have taken earlier.

But right now he’s too muddled, and there are too many new things on the table now that they’ve done those checklists. And really, he shouldn’t have let Grantaire come round in the first place when he still has so much work to do.

“None, I suppose,” he says, too late and sounding too subdued. Grantaire presses his foot against his ankle and waits for Enjolras to look at him before speaking.

“Do you want to watch a movie?”

The titles of about five different documentaries he’s been meaning to watch leap into Enjolras’ mind, and he only hesitates because this is something they’ve never done before. Going out for a date is one thing. Staying and watching TV together is something else.

“Simple question, Enjolras.” Grantaire’s smile is crooked, knowing. “Yes or no?”

Does he want to, yes or no?

“Yes,” he says, and uncurls from his position on the sofa. “But only if I get to pick.”


Grantaire doesn’t comment on his choice – a documentary about the realities of South Korean high schools – until it’s on. “Fuck,” he says as they’re shown fast clips of exam papers and clocks, bustling students and classrooms. “I’m going to need a drink to watch this. Tell me you have some alcohol in this temple.”

Enjolras can’t quite bite back a smile. “Cupboard next to the fridge, above the counter.”

“Thank fuck.” Grantaire returns with a bottle of wine and two glasses. Enjolras sips, Grantaire gulps, expression like he’s watching a horror movie rather than a documentary. “This brings back far too many memories,” he mutters when Enjolras gives him an inquiring look. “I hated school.”

“So did I.” It’s strange to confess it. He remembers the pressure most of all, the breathless, crushing panic of exam period. And this is something they know about each other now – something personal, completely unrelated to sex. The topics they discussed on their date at the restaurant were ideas, opinions, notes on their friends. Grantaire was more cautious, wary of more rejection after Enjolras had been so accidentally cruel. Here on Enjolras’ sofa with a glass of wine in his hand, after the relative frankness of their earlier talk, he’s open and relaxed.

This is a date, Enjolras realises. Even more revelatory – he doesn’t mind. He’s enjoying it.

He turns his attention back to the documentary as best he can, focusing on the subtitles and pushing all other thoughts out of his head. He just wants things to be easy for a bit. He’ll come back to these confusing feelings later, at a more convenient time. It can wait. For now, it can wait.