Grantaire didn’t plan to work at the bakery forever. For one thing, the skin on his hands wouldn’t survive that long, since he had to scrub off the paint – and in the process half his skin – on his hands in order to not contaminate the food he was serving. And thank goodness he wasn’t one of the bakers. But did have free reign over the coffee machine, which meant that he got good quality coffee without having to pay a fortune for it. The job also paid enough for him to get through his art degree without having to rely on his parents, which was always a plus. The best thing about working in the bakery, though, wasn’t even part of the job, but the guys who lived in the apartment above.
They would come down at exactly seven in the morning, when the bakery had just opened and the scent of baking bread was hanging heavy in the air. The two of them would always have exactly the same coffee orders, in their keep cups of course: soy latte for the fiery, model-like blonde, who would promptly pour in two teaspoons of sugar, and a long black for the other man – a tall, lanky guy with dark skin and an undercut. Both had ridiculous cheekbones and were completely gorgeous. They were both clearly university students, although rich ones who could afford coffee each morning and tip well. Surprisingly, they were both tattooed – blonde guy had some quote scrawled on his forearm, while undercut had a space themed sleeve on one arm, and a flora- and fauna-centric one on the other, usually disguised by a sensible button-up shirt. Every now and then he would roll up his sleeves, and Grantaire’s mouth would go dry. The two of them were also clearly dating, often leaving hand in hand, or stealing each other’s glasses while they grumbled at the newspapers. It was sickeningly cute.
Sometimes they would drop by in the afternoon and share a pastry or a piece of cake. Often a third joined them, an almost hyperactive pixie-like boy, with his dark curls and golden-brown skin, equally as attractive as the others. He would always smile widely at Grantaire, and rounded out the other two, bringing out a more considerate side from the blonde, grounding the other’s abstract intellectual streams of thought. Every now and then they would discuss politics, and Grantaire would snort derisively at their unrestrained optimism.
Grantaire wasn’t even aware they even noticed him until one day the blonde looked up and arched an eyebrow at him, scathing.
“Do you have something to say?”
Grantaire flushed and looked down at the table he was wiping. “Nope, not me.”
“If you have a problem with what we’re talking about, then please speak.” The blonde man said, his gaze challenging.
“Enjolras, you need to stop verbally attacking strangers.” Undercut guy said fondly, rolling his eyes. He looked over at Grantaire. “Sorry about him.”
“Grantaire’s not a stranger, ‘Ferre.” Enjolras said, a touch petulantly. “I know his name, I’ve talked to him most days for the past couple of months.”
“You only know my name because of my name tag, and I don’t think you can count me taking your order as proper conversation.” Grantaire said. “Hell, I only your name because he just said it.”
“Has that never come up?” Enjolras frowned. “How rude of me, sorry. I’m Enjolras, as you have apparently learnt, and this is my boyfriend Combeferre, and our friend Courfeyrac.”
Courfeyrac was grinning slyly at Grantaire, which he ignored.
“Nice to meet you all. I’m Grantaire, call me R, and I have some tables to wipe. Excuse me.” He turned away, picking up his cloth again.
He ignored them until they got up to leave, and their chairs scraped against the floor, making them all wince. Courfeyrac waved enthusiastically as they walked out the door, Combeferre offering a kind smile as he raised his hand awkwardly, and Enjolras even managed to quirk his lips up at the corners and not look entirely exasperated.
The next time he saw the couple, Grantaire was closing up the shop. It was late on a Saturday night, and he was exhausted after scrubbing the entire bakery after an eight hour shift. He had just turned the lights off and was in the process of locking the doors when he heard, rather than saw, Enjolras and Combeferre emerging from a taxi. Enjolras was quite clearly drunk, and was babbling loudly and excitedly at Combeferre, who was propping him up while he searched for his keys.
“Been having fun?” Grantaire asked, as Enjolras threw his arms around Combeferre and started waxing romantic about freedom and liberty.
“It’s his birthday in a couple of hours.” Combeferre explained, extricating himself from Enjolras’ grip.
“Oh, happy birthday.” Grantaire said.
“Thank you!” Enjolras said, smiling widely and attaching himself to Grantaire. “Your hair is really soft.”
“Sorry about him.” Combeferre muttered, tugging Enjolras away. “He’s a very clingy drunk.”
“No kidding. Enjoy the rest of your night.”
“You, too.” Combeferre said. “Come on, E.”
“He’s so pretty, though, Ferre.” Grantaire could have sworn he heard Enjolras said as he turned away and started heading home. It couldn’t have been right, though. Grantaire was not pretty in the slightest, and Enjolras would definitely not think he was. He must have been talking about Combeferre. Although Combeferre was just plain hot – Enjolras was the pretty one and this was not the right train of thought. They were in a relationship, and while he couldn’t help but notice they were attractive, it couldn’t go any further than that. He would be the only one who would get hurt in that situation.
Grantaire was half-dead on his feet the next morning, and was on his second cup of coffee when Combeferre arrived alone, later than usual.
“Enjolras hung over?” Grantaire smirked as he started making their coffees.
“Yes, unfortunately.” Combeferre sighed. “He’s a big baby when he feels unwell, and hangovers are no exception.”
Grantaire found it difficult to reconcile the fiery, opinionated man with such an image. “Really?”
“The first time he was sick after we started dating, I made Courfeyrac come over and check up on him, I was so surprised. They’ve known each other forever.” Combeferre’s expression was unbelievably fond, and Grantaire ached to have someone think of him that way. He rushed to finish their coffees, and threw a couple of muffins in a bag.
“On the house, for the birthday boy.”
Combeferre smiled warmly at Grantaire, who stubbornly ignored the way his stomach jolted. “Thank you, these are his favourite.”
“I know.” Grantaire said, ignoring the blush rising up his cheeks. “He buys one whenever we make them.”
Combeferre glanced at him, expression indiscernible, and then was back to his gentle smile. “Tomorrow’s your day off, yeah?”
Grantaire nodded, surprised that Combefere would remember.
“We’ll see you on Tuesday, then. Thanks again for the muffins.”
Grantaire waved, trying not to grin dopily.
A voice came from the kitchen. “Did you give some of my famous muffins away for free?”
Grantaire turned around guiltily. “I might have.”
Musichetta appeared, scowling. “He’d better be worth it.”
“Have you forgotten who you’re talking to?” Musichetta asked, wiping her floury hands on her apron. “Have you forgotten that I’m currently dating two guys who were in a relationship together?”
“They’re not going to want me.” Grantaire said in a small voice. “Why would two guys like that want to date me?”
“R, honey.” Musichetta pulled him into a hug. “You’re an amazing guy, and anyone would be lucky to have you.”
Grantaire shook his head and pulled away. “You’re sweet, no wonder you have two guys in love with you. Go home and be sickening with your cute boyfriends. All the other bakers left ages ago.”
Musichetta took Grantaire’s face in her hands. “Try not to be too hard on yourself.”
“I’ll try.” Grantaire shrugged out of her grip. “Say hi to Joly and Bossuet for me.”
She pecked him on the cheek. “We have to all hang out sometime soon. Something will probably end up on fire, though. I love Bossuet, but he can be a bit of a human disaster.”
Grantaire hummed to himself for the rest of the morning, tidying up the bakery, sketching out some new pictures on the blackboard wall.
“You’re very good at that.”
He jumped and turned around, fingers covered in chalk dust. “Enjolras, hi. I didn’t see you there. But, ah- thanks.”
Enjolras shrugged. He looked like shit, dressed in tracksuit pants and an old jumper, but was still managing to pull it off effortlessly. “’Ferre told me about you giving us muffins, and I wanted to come and say thanks. So. Thank you.”
“No worries.” Grantaire said. “Happy birthday.”
Enjolras winced. “I can’t remember much of last night, but I can remember you telling me that already. I’m sorry if the way I acted made you uncomfortable.”
“It’s fine, really. I’ve been drunk enough in the past to know what that’s like.”
“Not planning on it anytime soon? So I can get you back for it?” Enjolras joked awkwardly. He almost seemed like he was nervous, but that couldn’t be right. He must have just been feeling hungover still.
Grantaire tugged at the cuffs of his jumper, leaving pastel smudges. “No, not planning on it. I don’t drink anymore.”
“Shit, I’m sorry.” Enjolras really did look sorry, and Grantaire wondered if he was always this sincere. Were people like that even real?
“Don’t worry about it.” Grantaire waved him off. “It’s not that big of a deal.”
A small wrinkle appeared between Enjolras’ brows, and Grantaire wanted to reach over and smooth it out. He wasn’t meant to make Enjolras stressed.
“Anyway.” Grantaire said, after a sufficiently awkward pause. “When’s Combeferre’s birthday? So I know when to give him free food too.”
“…I’m a terrible boyfriend.” Enjolras said.
Grantaire laughed. “You don’t know, do you?”
Enjolras shook his head. “Nope. I have it in my calendar, but I left my phone upstairs. I’ll make sure to warn you in advance. It’s in September, I think. Maybe.”
“You’re really bad at this.” Grantaire said. “Can you at least remember your anniversary?”
“July 14th.” Enjolras seemed relieved, and Grantaire didn’t really blame him.
“Ooh, that’s soon. Of course you started dating on Bastille Day, you revolutionary dorks. Well, I’ll get ‘Chetta to make you something special. How many years is this year?”
Enjolras flushed. “It’s our second. First since we’ve been living together.”
“I thought you guys must have been dating for ages, you’re such a good couple.”
Enjolras shook his head, a small smile tugging at his lips. “I have to think of something special to do, I’m not very good at romance.”
“Hey, I’m sure he knew that when he started dating you. So don’t try and do something that’s not like you, because that kind of defeats the point.”
“Thank you.” Enjolras said, tipping his head to the side. “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”
Grantaire shrugged. “You don’t know when your boyfriend’s birthday is. I don’t think anyone would tip you as the romantic type. I can’t say I know Combeferre well, but he doesn’t strike me as that much of a romantic either. So, like. Don’t stress.”
“You’re good at this.” Enjolras said, his head still tipped to the side thoughtfully. “I’ll have to come to you if I ever need relationship advice.”
“If you think I’m giving good advice, you should see my dating history. Seriously, listening to me is a terrible idea.”
“Ask Combeferre, I seem to have a lot of terrible ideas.” Enjolras said, shooting Grantaire a smile. “Anyway, I’d better get back to him. Again, thanks.”
“Really not that much of an issue.” Grantaire rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. “See you.”
Enjolras gave him a little wave, obviously one of Combeferre’s mannerisms he’d picked up on. Grantaire hit his head on the counter. “Fuck.”