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cold hands, warm art

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Enjolras has been tucked away in a neglected corner of the university library for almost three hours, alternating between glaring at his laptop and typing furiously, when something lands on his head, covering his face and knocking one of his earbuds out of his ear.

When he finally manages to emerge from the fabric – whatever it is, it's soft and smells strongly of paint, which can only mean that one person is responsible – Enjolras finds Grantaire standing beside him, looking like he's trying very hard not to laugh.

"You looked cold," is all that he says, and when Enjolras tries to fold the oversized hoodie (because that's what it is, a dark green faded thing with old paint stains and ragged cuffs that he's seen Grantaire wear dozens of times, only today there are some fresh paint splatters all along the sleeves which must account for the smell) and somehow manages to knock out his other earbud, Grantaire's eyes crinkle at the corners in obvious amusement.

"I'm not," Enjolras says, sparing Grantaire the briefest of frowns as he untangles the earphone wires. Or at least, he tries to untangle them; they were fine a minute ago but for some inexplicable reason now they're knotted as if they've been rolling around in his bag for a month. It also doesn't help that his fingers are numb and clumsy with cold and, okay, maybe Grantaire wasn't exaggerating as much as Enjolras first suspected.

The thought makes him yank roughly on the wires, tangling them even more, and that's when Grantaire takes pity on him.

"Here, let me try," he says, plucking the mess of knots out of Enjolras' hands before he even has a chance to agree. Enjolras huffs a little in protest, and that's when Grantaire finally allows himself a smile.

"Your hands are surprisingly icy for someone who isn't cold," he says, and Enjolras can't even think of an appropriate response because he's too busy watching Grantaire untangle the wires. He's much better at it; his fingers are deft and gentle as they work the knots free, and Enjolras really needs to stop staring at Grantaire's hands and imagining what else they would be good at.

He can feel a flush creeping up his neck and onto his face, which at least has the benefit of making him feel a little warmer, and Enjolras quickly turns back to his laptop with the excuse of pausing the music that's still playing. He dawdles a moment, skimming the last paragraph of his essay and saving it again as he waits for his face to stop feeling like it's on fire, and by the time he thinks it's safe to turn back Grantaire is finished.

"Did you really not wear a coat today?" he asks, pushing aside some of the books and papers that are strewn all over the desk in order to hop onto it. His grin only grows as he perches there, swinging his legs and ignoring Enjolras' complaints as he puts his notes back in order. "I know we've had a few weirdly warm days lately and you're, like, allergic to buttoning your shirts but it is January-"

"Allergic to – wait, what?" Enjolras demands.

For some reason Grantaire won't meet his eyes. "Well, it's true," he mutters, gesturing vaguely at Enjolras' chest.

Enjolras peers down at his clothes in confusion. A black t-shirt underneath one of Combeferre's plaid shirts – grabbed on his way out the door because it was there and he was in a rush and it was warm enough in their apartment for him to assume that it would be okay to forego his coat – and, yeah, Grantaire's right. It is unbuttoned. "Oh."

"'Oh,' he says," Grantaire grumbles to himself, but he sounds almost fond and that can't be right at all, can it? Enjolras has clearly been working too hard and is imagining things, because the tone of voice that Grantaire usually reserves for him could best be described as mocking, not fond. "Your self-preservation skills are sadly lacking. Let me guess, you probably didn't even notice you were cold, did you?"

Enjolras opens his mouth to argue, reflects on the fact that he didn't realize he was cold until Grantaire showed up, and frowns instead. Beside him, Grantaire looks irritatingly smug.

"I was in a hurry this morning," Enjolras replies stiffly. "And I suppose it was a little chilly out-"

Grantaire snorts. "Only you would call a forecast of almost-freezing temperatures with a chance of snow tomorrow 'a little chilly.'"

"-but since it's such a short walk to campus I figured I'd be fine," Enjolras continues with a glare. "And then I got here and was wrapped up in my work and I guess I just – wasn't bothered by it? Until you mentioned it, of course." Now that Grantaire has brought it to his attention, he can feel the cold seeping through his clothes alarmingly. It makes him shiver, but he still tries to give the hoodie back to Grantaire.

"Nope," he says, hopping off the desk and out of Enjolras' reach. "You're going to put that on right now or else I'm going to stay here and bother you all day, and I know you wouldn't appreciate that. Besides, Joly would have my head if he thought I left you here to freeze. He'll probably make me watch a documentary about frostbite or something."

"But then you'll be cold," Enjolras protests, still holding out the hoodie.

Grantaire waves him off. "Unlike you, I wore a coat," he says, jerking his thumb over his shoulder, and sure enough when Enjolras looks he sees Grantaire's familiar coat and hat thrown over a nearby chair.

He's still reluctant but he's also cold, and Grantaire's hoodie feels awfully warm and inviting in his hands. "Are you sure?"

"Yup," Grantaire says, and Enjolras doesn't wait another second before slipping it on.

The hoodie is large on Grantaire and even more so on Enjolras; he may be taller than Grantaire but he's narrower across the shoulders and in the torso, and the extra room makes it feel extra warm and cozy. The cuffs flop over his hands, warming his chilled fingers, and the whole thing is lined in thick gray fleece so that it's almost as warm as Enjolras' actual winter coat. Once he's zipped inside Enjolras can't stop the tiny, contented sigh from escaping his lips, and when he catches Grantaire's eye he offers him a tentative smile. "Thank you."

"Don't worry about it," Grantaire says, shrugging carelessly, but that fond note is back in his voice and Enjolras really has no idea what to do with that, especially if he can't even be certain that he's not imagining it.

He settles instead for ducking his head and studying the paint that's splattered on the sleeves. Most of the newer stains are in varying shades of orange and gold, and Enjolras lets his finger trace the shape of the largest one. "What are you working on?"

"Nothing much," Grantaire says. "Just throwing some paint at the canvas and seeing if anything sticks. Wait, that thing probably reeks of paint, doesn't it? Shit, I'm sorry, you can take my coat instead-"

"No, it's fine," Enjolras says, and he's surprised to discover that he's telling the truth. The smell of paint isn't as noticeable now, or maybe he's just getting used to it, but either way he's much too comfortable to give up this hoodie just yet. "It doesn't bother me at all."

Grantaire looks doubtful but he doesn't argue with him, which is a first. "What are you working on?" he asks, nodding at Enjolras' laptop, which has been idle for so long that the screen's gone dark.

"Just editing my politics paper."

"Didn't you finish that already?"

"How did you know?"

Grantaire shrugs a shoulder. "Pretty sure I heard you mention it to Courfeyrac at the last meeting."

"Oh," Enjolras says, trying not to wonder if the fact that Grantaire paid attention to (and remembered) an offhand comment means anything. (It probably doesn't). "I can't stop working on something until I turn it in. Every time I reread it I find something else to change, something else that needs more work and so I just… keep at it until it's due and I have no choice but to consider it finished."

"That's adorable," Grantaire says, looking positively delighted. "And a bit terrifying. I guess that explains why you were mumbling to yourself and glaring at the laptop when I found you?"

"…Maybe," Enjolras says after a long pause, wishing he could deny it but settling for changing the subject instead. "What are you doing here anyway?"

"Research," Grantaire says, and when Enjolras quirks an eyebrow (because this is the medieval theology section, a spot very specifically chosen because it has nothing to do with Enjolras' degree nor with any of his friends', and so the chances of running into any of them seemed very unlikely) he makes an unhappy face. "That art history class I kept putting off? Well, let's just say this is why I wanted to avoid it." From the depths of his bag he unearths a massive book on cathedrals in the Middle Ages, and Enjolras can't help but wince in sympathy.

"But you have your own shit to do," Grantaire says, putting the book away and hitching his bag higher on his shoulder. "I'd better go. Wouldn't want to keep you from whispering more sweet nothings to your essay."

"I was not-" Enjolras begins indignantly, and Grantaire's answering bark of laughter would have gotten them kicked out of the library if this section weren't so deserted.

"See you around," Grantaire says, still smirking as he turns to go. Enjolras' heart clenches in a way that surprises him, and he nearly asks Grantaire if he wants to stay.

He doesn't, but for some reason that doesn't make his heart unclench either. "Thanks again," he says, so quietly that he isn't sure if Grantaire will hear him as he's putting on his coat and hat.

Grantaire does hear him, though, and it makes him pause. "Any time," he says, just as quietly, before disappearing into the shelves.

*

Enjolras finishes his paper – or rather, he forces himself to ignore the voice inside his head that keeps insisting that there's something else to improve or change and manages to print it in time for class. It isn't until he has the paper safely stowed away in his backpack and is making his way across the campus, his hands shoved into the warm pockets of Grantaire's hoodie, that he finds the flyer.

It's folded into a square, tattered and worn around the edges as if it's been there for a while. When Enjolras unfolds it he sees that it's a notice about an upcoming exhibition at the gallery in the art building. There are a handful of students listed there, and Grantaire is one of them.

The exhibit is opening next Thursday, and this is the first that Enjolras has heard of it. He turns the flyer over, as if that would give him some more information, but of course there's nothing there. He studies the notice again, staring hard at Grantaire's name, before taking out his phone and sending a quick text to Combeferre and Courfeyrac.

Enjolras: Did you know about Grantaire's exhibition?

He doesn't expect either one of them to respond right away since they're both in class, but when his phone buzzes less than a minute later and he sees Courfeyrac's name, Enjolras wonders why he imagined anything different.

Courfeyrac: yup! opening is next thursday :)

Enjolras: How did you find out?

Courfeyrac: R emailed everyone last week

Courfeyrac: maybe it went to ur spam??

Enjolras: I always check my spam folder

Courfeyrac: of course u do :) hang on i'll fwd it

The email comes through a moment later. It's nothing more than a scan of the flyer that Enjolras still has crumpled in his hand, along with a note from Grantaire at the bottom:

Hey, here's the thing I told most of you about, if anyone's interested in going. No worries if you're not, it's really NOT a big deal!!!, but my prof told all of us to invite friends, so. Here's your invitation. Apparently there will be wine and cookies, because sometimes the art department tries to be classy and shit. R

Enjolras has about five minutes to get to class, but at this point he's right outside of the building so he figures he has enough time to skim through the list of people that Grantaire's invited. All of their mutual friends are there and he also sees a few names that he doesn't recognize, but Enjolras doesn't find his own name, not even when he reads through the block of email addresses a second, more careful time.

Maybe his name was left off accidentally, but Enjolras has been a recipient of enough of Grantaire's group emails to suspect that it was deliberate. Grantaire has never left his name off anything before, not even the time he emailed everyone a long and rambling rebuttal of one of Enjolras' speeches, complete with footnotes and a list of suggested reading. At three in the morning. While drunk.

So Enjolras is pretty certain that Grantaire hasn't forgotten to invite him to his exhibition, and that stings more than he would have expected. But he doesn't have time to dwell on that now, not when he has less than two minutes to get to class. With that in mind it's easy enough to throw his phone into his bag, along with Grantaire's flyer, and take the steps two at time, reaching the classroom about ten seconds before his professor does.

It's one of his more interesting classes but even Professor Lamarque's lecture can't distract him completely, and whenever Enjolras' thoughts wander back to Grantaire he feels colder than he's felt all day.

*

"Why didn't Grantaire tell me about his exhibition?"

Combeferre is sitting on the couch with two textbooks open in his lap and another on the coffee table, and appears to be attempting to read all three of them at the same time. The apartment is quiet, which means that Courfeyrac isn't home yet, and Enjolras waits for Combeferre to look up at him, his eyes blinking tiredly behind his glasses.

"He didn't?"

Enjolras flops onto the couch beside him and wordlessly holds out his phone, which is still open to the email Courfeyrac forwarded. Combeferre reads it, scrolling through the names more than once just as Enjolras did, before handing his phone back to him.

"I assumed he invited everyone."

"Well, he didn't." Enjolras wonders if his face is doing the pouty thing Courfeyrac always makes fun of him for, and decides that he doesn't care. "I never would have known if I didn't find this in his pocket." He waves the flyer, now even more crumpled than it was earlier, before dropping it and his phone onto the coffee table.

Combeferre coughs delicately. "Is there any reason why you were going through Grantaire's pockets?"

"His pockets weren't on him at the time!" Enjolras feels his face growing warm again, which is definitely becoming a problem. "He found me at the library, said I looked cold, and loaned me this." He peels off the hoodie in question and drapes it over the back of the couch, because their apartment is like a furnace and is the main reason why he didn't think to wear a coat that morning in the first place. That, and whenever he's preoccupied with his work Enjolras tends to forget about little things like meals, the need for sleep, or, it seems, the fact that he should probably wear a coat in January.

"That was nice of him."

"It was," Enjolras says grudgingly. His face is definitely doing that pouty thing, he can feel it. "But why would he… why would he do something like that if he obviously doesn't consider me a friend? Or doesn't consider me enough of a friend to invite me to a rather important event?"

"Do you really need me to say that you should ask Grantaire yourself?" The words might have sounded harsh if anyone else said them, but Combeferre's voice is gentle and he's looking at Enjolras with nothing but encouragement in his eyes. It makes Enjolras deflate, and all the righteous anger he thought he'd felt is rapidly replaced by something that feels more like hurt.

"No," he says, letting himself sag against the back of the couch with a sigh. "Maybe I just don't want to hear Grantaire's answer."

For a long moment Combeferre is quiet, most likely weighing his words. "Talk to him," he finally says. "I know you, and not knowing will bother you more than anything Grantaire might say."

Combeferre is right, and Enjolras knows it. He heaves another sigh before getting to his feet, because he's never been the type to sit around when there's something important to do. "I guess I should return his hoodie, at least. He might need it."

"Of course," Combeferre says diplomatically, watching as he gathers his things. He waits until Enjolras not only has his coat on, but is bundled in his scarf and gloves and hat as well, before saying, "Do you know where Grantaire is?"

"Um," Enjolras says, because he may have neglected to consider that small detail.

Combeferre, the lovely person that he is, tries to hide his smile by reaching for the textbook on the coffee table. "You'll find him at the gallery, working on the exhibit."

"How do you know?"

"I texted Joly while you were sulking."

Enjolras frowns. "When do I ever sulk?"

Combeferre doesn't dignify that with an answer. "Go," he says, shooing Enjolras towards the door. "Courfeyrac should be home in about ten minutes, and unless you want him to know that you and Grantaire are sharing clothes now-"

Enjolras doesn't stick around long enough to hear the rest of the sentence.

*

Enjolras has never actually been inside the art building before but the gallery is easy enough to find, a large space on the ground floor with one glass wall overlooking the lobby. There are huge sheets of brown paper covering the panes of glass so that no one can see inside and there's also a sign helpfully pointing out that it's Closed for Installation, which Enjolras promptly ignores before knocking sharply on the door.

Grantaire takes so long to respond that Enjolras wonders if he didn't hear him, or if he isn't even in the gallery at all. He's about to knock again when the door suddenly swings open and Grantaire appears. There's a smear of orange paint on his stubbled jaw that Enjolras absolutely should not find attractive, and his expression strongly resembles one of the little distressed emoji that Bossuet always uses in his texts. "Enjolras. What are you – how did – what the fuck?"

The last bit sounds so bewildered that Enjolras rushes to explain. "I wanted to return this," he says, shoving the hoodie into Grantaire's hands.

"Oh." Grantaire doesn't sound any less confused as he glances from it to Enjolras. "Thanks?"

"And," Enjolras says, taking a deep breath because if he doesn't say it right now he knows he never will, "I wanted to know why you didn't invite me to this exhibit."

"Ah," Grantaire says. He looks down at the hoodie, picking at the zipper with the edge of his thumbnail, and shrugs like it doesn't matter. Enjolras would believe him, if not for the unhappy twist of his mouth. "I didn't think it would be your thing."

"It isn't," Enjolras says, because he's the first one to admit that he doesn't know anything about art. "But neither are Jehan's poetry readings and Bahorel's rugby matches, and I always go to them."

"Yes, well." Grantaire waves his hand dismissively, but he won't meet Enjolras' eyes. "I didn't want to bother you with my stuff."

"Why did you think it would bother me?" Enjolras asks. He feels something cold and unhappy settle in the pit of his stomach but he manages to press on. "You don't – I know you don't believe in half the things we discuss at our meetings but you always come to them, and you're always at the protests and fundraisers and – and everything, really. You made two cakes for our bake sale last month!"

"That's different," Grantaire says, and he still won't look at Enjolras.

"How is it different?" Enjolras demands. "You always support us. You always support me."

Even as he says it Enjolras realizes that it's true; Grantaire has always supported him, in his own Grantaire-ish way. Even when it seems like he's just being difficult and argumentative, his critiques only serve to make Enjolras' own arguments stronger. Enjolras isn't sure why he's never noticed this before, but now he pushes those thoughts aside to deal with later in favor of focusing on the most important thing at this moment. "Why did you think I wouldn't want to support you, too?"

Grantaire's eyes finally snap up, and Enjolras tries to pretend that the stunned expression on his face hurts less than it actually does.

"I know this is an important event for you and I wouldn't want to overstep," he says, and now it's Enjolras who can't meet Grantaire's eyes. "I won't come here next Thursday if you don't want me to."

"I always want you around."

Grantaire says it so softly that Enjolras isn't sure he's heard him correctly at first, but when he finally looks up Grantaire is watching him steadily, and Enjolras knows that he means it.

(If Grantaire's ears are turning red, and Enjolras feels himself blushing too, neither one of them care to mention it).

"Now that you're here, what do you think?" Grantaire says, finally motioning him inside and closing the door to the gallery behind them.

Enjolras looks around; the walls are painted a stark white, and he's not actually sure what he's supposed to see aside from the stepstool, the toolbox, and the stack of canvases propped against the wall. He remembers the time he accompanied Feuilly to the modern art museum and there was an exhibit that consisted of a bucket and a coil of rope and nothing else; unfortunately Enjolras can't recall much of what was said about it aside from his own confused questions to Feuilly about whether it was actually art or not (it turned out that it was). "Very, uh, minimalistic."

Grantaire actually cackles. "Are you trying to be an art critic? This is my new favorite thing. Why didn't I invite you before?"

His laughter grows under Enjolras' glare, but he does retrieve the canvases from the corner and lean each one against the wall. There are six of them, each one a splash of colors vibrant enough to suggest sunsets or galaxies. Enjolras looks at them from afar before coming closer, sometimes crouching on the floor in front of one or the other and studying the individual brushstrokes. He doesn't know what he's looking for, he doesn't know what they're supposed to be, but he knows that they're good. Very good.

"These should be in a museum," he says, and when he looks over his shoulder he sees Grantaire blushing again.

"They're nothing special," he mutters, but a smile keeps creeping over his face no matter how Grantaire tries to restrain it, and Enjolras has a sudden wish to make Grantaire smile like that again, and often.

"They are," Enjolras insists. "Tell me about this one." He gestures to the canvas his eyes keep coming back to, the one that's a burst of red and orange and gold. Enjolras has no idea what any of it means but the colors call out to him; they remind him of the paint splatters on the sleeves of Grantaire's hoodie, and the memory makes him smile.

Grantaire, on the other hand, is cringing. "Why am I not surprised that you like that one best?" At Enjolras' questioning look he sighs and says, "I kind of… made it for you. Well, with you in mind."

Enjolras blinks in surprise. "For me?" He turns back to the canvas, wishing that this newfound knowledge would suddenly reveal some hidden truth in the painting and help him understand it better. It doesn't, of course, but Enjolras doesn't really mind, because he thinks it's helped him understand Grantaire better.

"Okay, this is really fucking awkward," Grantaire says after Enjolras has apparently stayed too quiet for too long. "I've changed my mind, you're uninvited, and now I'm just going to go and hide somewhere for a while."

He starts to turn away but Enjolras reaches out and grabs one of his hands. Beside him Grantaire freezes, wide-eyed, as Enjolras turns back to the painting.

"If you made it for me, does that mean I get to keep it?" he asks, still holding Grantaire's hand. It must be the right thing to say because out of the corner of his eye Enjolras sees Grantaire smile. And this time, the smile sticks.

*

On Thursday Enjolras sends flowers to Grantaire at the gallery, an arrangement featuring every color he can remember from the paintings. He's sure that he forgets a few but the photo of a beaming Grantaire standing in front of his wall of paintings with the vase tucked close to his side, that Grantaire texts him as Enjolras is on his way to the exhibit with all of their friends, makes him smile.

And if, when they arrive at the gallery, Grantaire barrels right past all of their friends in order to tug Enjolras into a kiss, no one seems to mind.

(Enjolras certainly doesn't).