Éponine arrives home with a bang and a clatter, unlocking the door with one hand and then kicking it open. It swings round and hits the wall, the handle taking a chunk out of the plaster. Grantaire can hear her swearing from where he is in the kitchen. She doesn’t come through immediately. He hears her moving around in the hall, dropping bags and boxes that land heavily on the wooden floor.
‘Bad day?’ he asks, when she finally appears in the kitchen. The words are a mere courtesy; he can see from her face that it hasn’t been a good one. Her hair is in need of washing, piled up into a greasy bun at the back of her head and her supposedly waterproof eyeliner is sweating off into shadows beneath her eyes.
‘Just a little,’ she grunts, dropping her keys onto a chair and starting to peel off her uniform. The lurid lime green polo shirt is too small for her chest and sticking to her skin. She struggles for a moment, and then Grantaire obeys her silent summons to help her wriggle out of it.
‘Not working till Monday now,’ she mutters, stuffing the shirt into the overfull laundry bag. It’s too hot for vests, so she’s just wearing a bra underneath. Éponine in her underwear is such a familiar sight that Grantaire doesn’t bother looking away as she goes in search of something lighter. She returns moments later, pulling on a navy blue tank top. ‘Peter’s going to be in all Saturday giving a newbie a trial run, so he moved my shift to Wednesday.’
‘What about…?’ Grantaire opens the fridge and fishes around inside for a water bottle. Whenever it gets hot he nicks one off Joly, so that they don’t die in the stuffy flat. Most of the others on the block have got air-conditioning now, but that’s more than either Grantaire or Éponine can afford. It’s much cheaper to keep chilled water in the fridge and fan themselves with the odd free newspaper. At least the flies aren’t as bad here as they were at the last place.
The water’s lurking behind the margarine, he grabs it and passes it to her.
‘Cosette is going to have to live without me for a week,’ she says, accepting it gratefully and taking a swig. ‘It’s OK, I’m seeing her this weekend.’
‘Does she know you don’t work any other days?’
‘No, not that it matters. I’m still benefiting the community, who cares if I’m doing it selectively?’ Water bottle in hand, Éponine walks over to investigate the pan of water simmering on the stove. Grantaire’s occupied weighing out the right amount of pasta. Whenever it’s his night to cook he always does slightly too much, but all that means is that they’ll have something other than stale bread or old cornflakes for breakfast tomorrow.
‘Do we have anything to go with it?’ Éponine asks, and then spots an unfamiliar jar. Holding it up to the light, she reads off the label, ‘Jamie Oliver red onion and rosemary pasta sauce. Huh, we’re going up in the world.’
‘It’s from Joly,’ Grantaire takes it from her and empties it into another pot. ‘Musichetta went to stay with her parents for the weekend and came home with a suitcase full of fancy food. She says they don’t pay her for coming, so it’s the best she can do to make it worth her while.’
Éponine snorts. ‘Her parents are the conservative ones, aren’t they? Do they have any idea that she’s living with two men?’
‘Almost certainly not, but I don’t think they even know that she quit working for the bakery. And when are you seeing Cosette?’
‘You said you’re seeing her this weekend. Last time I checked, your Saturday night schedule was full of horror movies and cheap popcorn.’
‘About that.’ The pasta nearly done, she starts looking for clean plates. It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s a futile task. She grabs a couple of bowls instead, and finds two forks in a drawer. ‘I have good news and bad news.’
‘Don’t keep me hanging, Thenardier.’ Grantaire spears a piece of pasta to check if it’s properly cooked. It’s still just a little on the chewy side, so he gives the pan another few minutes. ‘If Montparnasse has any more animals for us to take in, you can tell him to forget it.’
‘It’s not that,’ she mutters. Both of them are well aware that if she showed up with another cat, Grantaire would be all over it. Mabeuf would probably be less thrilled at having an equally illegal neighbor to contend with in the tiny flat. ‘Cosette is twenty-one tomorrow.’
‘Good for her.’ He drains the pasta and divides it between the bowls, pouring the sauce in afterwards. It smells unusually good for his cooking; Musichetta’s generosity is probably to thank for that.
‘Yeah, and she’s having a party. I kept meaning to tell you.’
‘So you’re bailing on me to go make nice with the girl of your dreams.’ Grantaire sighs. ‘You owe me.’
‘There was something else.’ Éponine says, though a mouthful of pasta. ‘I need a date.’
‘What? Isn’t the point of your going that you get to spend time with Cosette?’
‘Yeah-eh, but she very pointedly told me I could bring someone, and I’m not going to know anyone else there. What am I supposed to do while she’s talking to other people? Pickpocket the other guests?’
‘It’s an option.’
‘Oh, shut up. Are you gonna come, or what?’
Grantaire’s eyebrows rise so high that they disappear into his hair. ‘You’re inviting me? Coulda made that a bit more clear.’
‘Oh yeah, because my other options are so great. Montparnasse actually would pickpocket everyone, Bahorel could start a fight in an empty room and I can’t take Bossuet and not Joly. Don’t you want to come? They’ll be free drinks.’
‘Suddenly sounding more appealing,’ he admits. ‘All right, but you owe me so much.’
‘I’ll do the all the dishes till Tuesday.’
‘Fine.’ She sets her bowl down. It’s already empty. One of the first things Grantaire discovered about Éponine is that she eats at the speed of light. She’s never offered any explanation, but it isn’t hard to piece two and two together given what he’s heard about her family. ‘What have you done all day?’
‘Not much. Couple of people came in with punctures, and I sold a ten-year-old a bell. Bossuet’s wheel arrived, and he nearly broke it in the first five minutes.’
‘I really wanna know what good deeds you did to get a job like that,’ she grumbles, only half-serious. He’s finished his pasta now, so she collects the dishes and turns on the tap. The sink fills with hot soapy water and she only remembers that they’ve run out of rubber gloves when she submerges her hands and shudders at the heat. ‘It’s got to be the worst bike shop in London, you don’t do shit and you’re still making a profit?’
‘Hipsters care about their bikes,’ he shrugs. ‘You know we’d employ you if it weren’t for Theodule.’
‘My knowing nothing about bicycles doesn’t affect it?’
‘Theo doesn’t either; he just thinks he does. The other day he was going on about the trail riding he does in his spare time. I’d be willing to bet the guy’s never ridden anything with suspension. Bossuet’s just waiting for a chance to fire him.’
‘Most of that means nothing to me, but he sounds like a dick.’
‘If he was deliberately annoying I wouldn’t mind so much,’ Grantaire muses. ‘Hell, I might even admire him.’
‘You could always introduce him to Bahorel.’
‘Nah, he’s not that irritating. Plus, if anyone gets to punch Theodule I want it to be me.’
‘By the way, this party – what sort of vibe are we talking? Wine glasses or shots?’
‘She’s going to be twenty-one.’
‘Yeah, and it’s Cosette. She comes into the shop now and again, got one of those vintage-style hybrids with a little basket. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without at least one floral item of clothing and her hair braided in some way. Not saying appearances aren’t deceptive, but she doesn’t strike me as the wild party type.’
‘Why do you care so much? I already said there’s free booze.’
‘Oh, you know.’ Mabeuf enters the kitchen, meowing insistently for dinner. Grantaire hops off his chair to get the cat food out of the cupboard. ‘Just planning what to wear.’
Like the last drabble, this is more of a writing exercise than anything else, though I am pandering to my current whim of bikeshop!R.
Tags will probably change as my thought process progresses.
The problem with invitations is that they're followed by actual events.
It’s a nice house, he’ll grant Cosette that. A red brick terrace with a sky blue front door and ivy growing around the windows, it’s decidedly pleasant even if it’s not quite his style. Yellow and pink flowers spill out of window boxes, and the miniscule front garden is impeccably tidy. It stinks of well-adjustedness and happy families.
He’s tempted to ask Éponine if she’s sure this is the right place, because the balloons tied to the door are the sort of thing that advertise a child’s seventh birthday. She’s been edgy the whole journey though, so he keeps his mouth shut, following her up the garden path and waiting for someone to answer the doorbell.
‘Be nice, OK?’ Éponine mutters.
Am I ever not? Grantaire bites back the retort, and settles for a nod. He’s not exactly thrilled to be here, but maybe in the grand scheme of things it’s good that he’s spending a Saturday night somewhere other than home, for once. Per Éponine’s instruction, he’s dressed ‘nice casual’, meaning that his clothes are as they usually are, if a little bit cleaner. It was a struggle finding jeans without any grease on, and the ones he did find are slightly too small. The waistband is so tight that the pockets are rendered unusable, so he’s had to put his keys and phone into Éponine’s handbag.
‘Welcome to the struggles of wearing women’s clothing,’ she’d said, eyeing his jeans with unconcealed mirth. ‘The pockets, when they exist, are never big enough.’
He didn’t bother pointing out that it’s not a problem she faces, as she only shoplifts from the men’s section.
The door of Cosette’s house opens eventually, to reveal a man in his sixties. He looks a bit like a museum curator, Grantaire thinks; it’s that mild-mannered combination of greying hair and cardigans.
He greets Éponine politely, recognizing her as Cosette’s volunteer friend, and shakes Grantaire’s hand without missing a beat. His grip is surprisingly strong for a man of his age; Grantaire makes a mental note never to challenge him to an arm-wrestling match.
‘She’ll be pleased that you’ve come,’ the man, who’s now identified himself as Cosette’s father, continues. He opens the door wider and beckons them into the hall, which is painted a pastel yellow colour. Grantaire nearly knocks over a tall spindly thing that Éponine says is a hatstand, and Cosette’s dad just laughs like his daughter’s friends aren’t accidentally destroying his home.
They manage to shed their coats without incident, and are waved through to the dining room, where the actual party is taking place. It’s more or less as Grantaire expected. Balloons and streamers hang from every surface, a long table is up against the wall covered in snacks and nibbles and outside on the patio people are mixing drinks. The lights have been turned down to mimic the dusky sky outside and Motown is playing on a stereo in the corner. People fill every conceivable space, standing around and chatting like conversation is a fascinating thing that’s only just been discovered.
Grantaire turns to Éponine to make some disparaging remark, only to find that she’s disappeared. He scans the room and spots her over by the patio doors, hugging a pretty blonde girl in a blue sundress. It’s aesthetically amusing to set them next to each other; Éponine all crimson lips and black eyeliner and Cosette with small flowers tucked into an elaborately braided bun.
He goes over to them, because he figures it’s proper to greet one’s host and he wants to get a closer look at the girl that’s making his flatmate act so crazily. From across the room, Cosette is pretty. Up close, she’s beautiful. He shakes her hand, and wishes her a happy birthday.
‘Thank you,’ she smiles. ‘You’re Grantaire, right? From the bike shop?’
‘That would be me,’ he concedes. Éponine is beginning to give him a pointed look of get lost, so he mutters an excuse and drifts over to the food table. None of it is the sort of food he likes, which could also be put down to it not being the sort of food he usually eats.
‘So how do you know the birthday girl?’
Grantaire looks up, right into the face of another party guest. The guy is smiling amiably, he’s either a little tipsy or in a very friendly mood. The flower wreath, jauntily sat atop his curly hair, makes the guy look a little like an Ancient Greek deity.
‘She’s my flatmate’s friend,’ Grantaire replies shortly, turning away. Casual socializing is not something he’s interested in, for a variety of reasons. Today, it’s the choice of partners that’s putting him off. The majority of people here are young, good-looking and oppressively middle class. It’s not difficult to imagine them describing their gap years hitchhiking across Europe or staying in Scandinavian hostels. Grantaire spends enough time fixing bikes he’d die to own to want to listen to the idyllic lifestyles he’s missing out on in his spare time.
Given the choice, he’d like to leave right about now, but it’s not something he could do to Éponine.
With that option out, the next best thing is to find a corner he can hide in where he won’t be disturbed. He wouldn’t mind a drink either, but the patio is full of people.
Not really registering where he’s going, Grantaire slips around the edge of the room to a door on the opposite wall to the French windows that connect the garden to the dining room. Glancing around to make sure no one’s going to register his stealthy escape, he slowly opens the door and darts through it.
It’s a kitchen, on the other side. Like the other rooms, the lights are on very low, and it’s much cooler than the rest of the house. He leans against the closed door, regulating his breathing and feeling his mind relax. Only he can feel claustrophobic in a large room and comfortable in a small one.
Hopefully Éponine won’t notice he’s missing until she’s ready to leave. It could be quite embarrassing otherwise; he can too vividly picture a frantic search resulting in the discovery of his retreat. Such a scenario’s not too likely though; Éponine knows him too well to freak out if she can’t find him. That’s more Joly’s style, he thinks, and feels bad for thinking it. Joly only panics because he cares.
He’s so caught up in this train of thought that at first when something moves he doesn’t notice it. It’s only when the main kitchen light flicks on and someone starts to speak that he jumps, and realises that another person has been in the room all along.
Like most of the other people at this godforsaken party, the young man standing by the fridge is close to Grantaire’s age. He’s quite pretty, though the harsh glare of the florescent lighting flatters nobody, and wearing a faded red button-down that seems brighter than it is.
‘Er,’ the guy says. ‘What are you doing in the kitchen?’
Grantaire blinks. Right. Explanations.
‘What are you?’ he blurts out instead, because for some reason he feels that if he can cease being the person interrogated he’ll somehow make the situation better.
Now the guy looks taken-aback. ‘I live here,’ he says. ‘Cosette is my sister.’
Well. That certainly explains the prettiness.
‘I was just...’ Grantaire searches for something to say that won’t make things worse. Somehow he ends up on the offensive again. ‘Wait, if it’s your sister’s party, why are you hiding in the kitchen?’
‘I wasn’t hiding,’ the guy objects, so quickly that Grantaire doesn’t believe him for a second.
‘What d’you call this, then?’
‘Lurking,’ the guy says, with an air of injured dignity. ‘And I don’t think I know you.’
‘My best friend is a friend of Cosette’s,’ Grantaire supplies. ‘Oh, and I’ve fixed her bike a couple of times. Cosette’s bike, not my friend’s. Éponine doesn’t have a bike.’ He pauses. ‘How do you – wait, no. You’re her brother.’
‘Doesn’t that make this your birthday, too?’
‘No offense, but spending your twenty-first in the kitchen hiding from your sister’s party is like, sad. And I’m like the king of all things sad and pathetic, so if I’m impressed you should be worried.’
‘I’m not hiding,’ the guy reminds him. ‘And accompanying your friend to the party of someone you don’t know says so much about your social life.’
‘I came as a favour.’ It doesn’t look like he can get away anytime soon, and there’s something about this conversation that doesn’t make him want to run screaming in the opposite direction. He’s doing it for Éponine, he tells himself. ‘I’m Grantaire.’
‘Now we have that out of the way, is there any alcohol that didn’t make it to the rest of the party?’
‘I doubt it. We don’t drink much normally.’
‘You might as well tell me that you murder puppies for fun,’ Grantaire mumbles. He’s aware that people with houses this nice are probably happy enough not to rely on low-key alcoholism to get them through the day, but it doesn’t mean he can’t be annoyed.
‘Sorry. You want to drink, you have to go outside.’ Enjolras crosses his arms.
They’ve reached a stalemate of sorts. Were he anywhere else, Grantaire would exit the vicinity in order to end the conversation. As the situation stands, however, the only place he can go is where everybody else is, and that doesn’t bear thinking about.
‘So,’ Enjolras says, when it becomes clear that neither of them are going to give up the space and quiet of the kitchen. ‘What are you up to? You at uni?’
Grantaire can’t hold a snort. ‘Nope,’ he answers, so casual it’s acidic. ‘Yourself?’
Grantaire tries to conceal his surprise, but from Enjolras’s expression it’s clear he doesn’t do it very well.
‘A guy like you, universities would lap you up,’ he says eventually. ‘Are you working, or something?’
‘Or something.’ Enjolras looks him up and down. ‘And what do you mean, ‘a guy like me?’’
‘Oh, you know. Smart, good-looking, probably charismatic when you feel like it.’ The words are out of his mouth before he can register what he’s saying. Thankfully, Enjolras doesn’t seem to notice that Grantaire just called him good-looking; he’s too busy taking offence at being stereotyped.
‘I shouldn’t have to explain why judging people on basis of appearance is detrimental to everyone involved,’ Enjolras begins, but he doesn’t have time to work up steam because it’s at that moment that the kitchen door bangs open.
The same guy that tried to make conversation with Grantaire earlier comes striding through it, a beaming smile on his open face.
‘There you are!’ he exclaims, addressing Enjolras directly without so much as a glance in Grantaire’s direction. ‘We were looking. Well, I was looking, ’Ferre insisted you be left alone.’
‘And yet you wonder why he’s the one I live with,’ Enjolras mutters. The guy hears him, but doesn’t seem to mind the dig.
‘Hey, I’m not going to give up living with Pontmercy. He has freckles on his ears, it’s incredible.’ He grins, and then for the first time notices Grantaire.
‘Shit, I didn’t realize you’d disappeared with someone. I’d never have interrupted.’
‘Courfeyrac,’ Enjolras huffs out. ‘I’m not with – never mind. Grantaire, this is my friend Courfeyrac. Courf, this is Grantaire. He’s here with Éponine.’
‘The scary girl with the black dress?’ Courfeyrac asks, and Grantaire nods. His throat is finally unsticking, and so he starts edging towards the now-open doorway. There must be other quiet spots in the house, he just hasn’t looked hard enough yet.
Courfeyrac and Enjolras are talking now, the latter relaxing in the presence of someone familiar. Grantaire toys with the idea of saying ‘nice to meet you’ or something similar, then it strikes him that drawing attention to his departure runs the risk of delaying it. He watches them for a minute instead, both annoyingly tall and lean and long-limbed. He probably looks like a hobbit standing next to them. A grumpy, unaccomplished hobbit.
Grantaire walks back into the middle of the party, ignoring people on either side of him. A simpler goal has materialized in his mind, to drink as many fruity cocktails with little umbrellas as will help him forget who he is and where he is.
These chapters being so short, updates would usually be every few days but I'm just about to embark on a holiday with no wifi (in France, funnily enough) and won't be back till the 23rd.
Grantaire glances up, and nearly has a heart attack.
Night buses are supposed to run frequently in this part of town, except of course when they are actually needed. And then, it feels as if they know instinctively which number you want and conspire to ensure it never appears. Other buses roll past, sometimes in little groups, like they’re gloating about the fact that they’re the wrong ones.
Unusually, Éponine doesn’t seem to mind. She’s remarked a couple of times on the rain, but apart from remaining directly under the bus shelter she doesn’t react. It’s unusual because Grantaire has seen her storm and rage about public transport, furiously berating bus drivers for being too late or not driving fast enough or braking so as not to run over pigeons. He does intervene if it goes too far, the main result of that being that she becomes furious with him as well. Still, he can understand it, in a way – even if it’s still a shitty way to treat people.
Tonight she is smiling at the slightest provocation. Her hair is wet, her makeup smudged and it’s clear she’s not quite warm enough and yet she positively beams at each wrong bus trundling past. There are days when it looks as if she’ll never smile again, but this is not one of them.
Grantaire is glad that she’s happy. He’d be a shitty friend if he wasn’t, and she deserves something good, finally. He just hopes this whole Cosette thing isn’t going to blow up in her face, not just when she’s starting to hope that the universe might not be screwing her over.
The only problem is if Éponine’s happy, he’s by himself.
It’s pathetic, really. Grantaire’s life has been a lot worse. He has a steady job now, and a flat that isn’t too dire. He even has friends. There’s no reason he should be lonely now, only he is, desperately so. Every time he sees a couple in public he gets a bitter taste in his mouth, because it’s not fair that they get all of that – holding hands and dinner dates and someone warm to fall asleep next to and a hundred other equally stupid things.
He wants to be in someone’s thoughts, to have inside jokes, to be ‘the boyfriend’ that their family finally get to meet. He wants someone who’ll show him their favourite movies, who he can show his favourite movies to and they can argue about who has better taste.
He wants to be the person someone calls first in the aftermath of an accident, because they’re desperate to know he’s OK.
Another pair of lights appear around the corner of the road, and he looks automatically up to see what it is. It’s a minute or two before the bus is close enough, then it passes by a streetlight and he can see it’s the number they want.
‘Hey,’ he nudges Éponine, who has drifted off on a tangent of her own. She blinks, and sees the bus.
‘About fucking time,’ she mumbles, and starts looking for her Oyster card. Grantaire’s is wedged in the back pocket of his too-tight jeans. He extricates it with care and glances at it, glad that adult cards don’t require a photo ID. Both his child Oyster and his student one looked like they belonged to a delinquent who’d murdered his entire family. Grantaire’s never been photogenic.
The bus creaks to a halt in front of them, its headlights illuminating a small stretch of dirty tarmac. Its doors slide open with a hiss and Éponine darts though them, hopping onto the bus with the practised agility of someone who can negotiate any terrain in heels.
The inside is achingly bright after the softly-lit street. Grantaire wonders if the driver even sees them. Her eyes are sunken and glassy, fixed on the road and her pose has a wooden quality to it that reminds him of a marionette. It’s a new level of exhaustion. He hopes she’s awake enough not to crash.
There aren’t many people on the bus at this time of night. Good thing too, as it’s a small one, just a single storey. Éponine chooses a seat near the back and he follows her, sitting in the adjacent seat. She waits until the bus has lurched off again to lean against him. His arm curls around her as if by its own accord, and his chin comes to rest on the top of her head. It’s probably the only time he’s ever been taller than her.
To someone else watching, they look like a couple. Grantaire knows their easy affection stinks of a relationship. They’re close, for friends, and yet sometimes it feels like there’s miles of empty space between them. Space filled by all the shit that occurs in Éponine’s life, the problems he drinks to forget, and the aimlessness with which both of them refuse to expand their horizons.
Éponine’s hair smells like apples. It’s that new conditioner, the one she was trying to convince him to use. Like him, she’s looking out of the window at the neon shop signs and odd cyclist. The bus stops at a traffic light, and from their seats they can see into a supermarket. The visible rooms are as brightly lit as they are during open hours. Grantaire knows it’s something about security – much harder to rob a shop when everyone and anyone can see you doing it – but he can’t help feeling it’s eerie. All those empty rows of food and toilet paper and children’s school shoes, just existing without a purpose. For some reason it makes him think of the afterlife. God, that’s a depressing thought. If the afterlife is just a Tesco after closing time then Grantaire’s going to have to figure out a way of never dying.
The shop is officially closed on Sundays, but the last pieces of Bossuet’s new bike have arrived and he’s determined to build it as soon as possible. Grantaire promised days ago that he would pitch in, but when he drags himself from bed at nine o’clock he can’t think of anything he wants to do less.
Éponine is up too, eating a bowl of cornflakes by the kitchen counter. Her hair has lost most of its fluff from the night before and is tied sedately back into a ponytail. She’s positively demure today, dressed in a short-sleeved olive green T-shirt and jeans. The combination of that outfit and hairstyle reminds Grantaire of someone.
‘Can’t say I was expecting you,’ she says, almost cheerfully, as he emerges, bleary-eyed, from the bathroom. ‘Adopting a healthy lifestyle?’
The question doesn’t even merit an answer. He roots through the fridge and finds a small tub of yoghurt, the last in a pack. It, too, he suspects, was a gift from Musichetta. It looks far too nice to be something he’d spend money on.
‘Gotta help Bossuet,’ he mutters, in answer to her question. ‘He’ll either break his bike or break himself, and either way Joly will have his hands full.’
Fishing a clean spoon out of the drawer, he pulls a stool up to the bench next to her and starts eating. The yoghurt is flavoured by some kind of jam; it’s cloyingly sweet and rather disgusting but he can’t bring himself to throw it away.
‘He’s building a mountain bike. None of us know why, he’s never shown an interest in off-road before.’
‘I can’t imagine Bossuet and mountains being a very safe combination.’
It’s Zoe Washburne, he realises, who she reminds him of.
‘Throw a concerned Joly in, and it’s a picnic.’ Grantaire swallows his second mouthful, and tries not to show how much he hates it. ‘Once the bloody thing’s built it will probably be OK. He isn’t going to go dirt jumping or anything; it’s just a regular XC bike. What are you doing today anyway? Not working?’
‘It’s August,’ she reminds him.
‘Oh right, your family. First Sunday of the month. They gonna come here or...?’
‘I thought I’d take them somewhere,’ Éponine’s done with her toast, but she’s not moving. ‘Science Museum, maybe. It’s got a lot of cool stuff and it’s free.’
‘Plus you got the Natural History Museum just across the road,’ Grantaire adds. ‘Dinosaurs and bugs and everything. Gavroche would like that.’
‘I’m sure he would,’ Éponine sighs. Worry has knit itself over her face, in the way that it does when she’s talking about her siblings.
Grantaire is well used to the ups and downs of the Thenardiers. ‘Is he still in school?’
‘Sometimes.’ She catches herself tapping the fingers of one hand on the counter, and stops. ‘Azelma’s in sixth form now, so she can’t keep an eye on him. Mind you, I don’t know how much time she spends in class.’
He hums noncommittally. Azelma’s not bad. He’s met her a couple of times, when he was on emergency childcare duty. She reminds him of Éponine when he first met her, all sharp edges and bright eyes, but unlike her elder sister Azelma hasn’t grown into herself yet. She hasn’t yet realised that the world is never going to repay what it owes her, and that she can survive it despite that.
‘How is she doing?’ he asks, carefully, because it’s a loaded question. Éponine shares more than she did, but even know she refrains from telling him everything.
‘She’s sixteen,’ Éponine answers. ‘Smokes with her friends, talks about boys and shoplifts bubblegum.’
Doesn’t sound too different from him at sixteen, minus the bubblegum part. That wasn’t terrible year for him, actually. It was seventeen and eighteen that really sucked.
‘Well, I gotta go.’ Éponine rises. She leaves her toast-crumb ridden plate exactly where it was, secure in the knowledge that Grantaire will probably wash it. ‘If you see Musichetta, tell her I need my yellow dress back.’
‘OK.’ He’s never seen her wear yellow. It seems too soft and cheerful for her. ‘When are you next seeing Cosette?’
She brightens momentarily. ‘Soon. Oh, and I’m bringing Gav and Azelma back here for the night. They’ll be in my room.’ And with a parting nod, she exits the kitchen and then the flat.
Grantaire’s phone pings and a text pops up. It’s from Joly. “already there. u coming?”
He thumbs a quick “yes” and gets up to follow Éponine.
‘It’s beautiful,’ Bossuet sighs reverently, and runs a hand along the gleaming top tube. He looks just a little like a father setting eyes on his firstborn.
That said; it is a gorgeous bike. Its shiny newness contributes to this just as much as the aesthetically pleasing design – a shallow thought, perhaps, but there is something inherently satisfying about how clean it is. Bossuet spins one of the wheels, lightly brushing the heel of his palm against the tyres. New tyres are one of Grantaire’s favourite things; he can’t get over how nice they look spotless, before they’ve ever touched dirt.
The Jurassic Park theme starts playing noisily behind him, and Joly fumbles for his phone. ‘It’s ’Chetta,’ he says, and walks off to a quieter spot to answer it.
‘Are you going to keep it here for now?’ Grantaire’s gaze returns to the bicycle.
‘Yeah. Safer.’ With a little sigh, Bossuet lifts it off the stand. ‘I brought a bike lock, it’s in my bag.’
Grantaire fetches it, and they wheel the bike through to the workshop. It would be just typical of Bossuet’s luck if it were stolen the day after he got it, so they make sure as to chain both wheels as well as the frame.
‘How’s Éponine doing?’ Bossuet asks, once the bike is secured. ‘Haven’t seen her for a while.’
‘She got promoted.’ They aren’t greasy, but Grantaire wipes his hands on his jeans anyway. ‘Longer hours, bigger paycheque. It’s going well, I think. Out with the kids today.’
Bossuet grins. He’s about to say something when Joly re-emerges, pocketing his phone.
‘Everything OK?’ Grantaire asks him.
‘Fine, thanks. She wants to know if I can do dinner tonight.’
‘Oh, yeah.’ Bossuet remembers. ‘I was meant to go shopping. All we have in the fridge is half a carton of grapefruit juice and some Camembert.’
Joly’s eyes widen. ‘It’s Sunday. Shops will close at five. What time is it now?’
‘Four fifteen.’ Grantaire is as surprised as they are. He didn’t get up very early, but even so the day has flown by. ‘You better get on. I can lock up here.’ It’s not like he had anything else planned for the remainder of the afternoon.
‘Thanks,’ Joly says gratefully. ‘Bike secured?’
Bossuet nods. He thanks Grantaire again for his assistance, and then he and his boyfriend leave.
Grantaire moves more slowly without them, mechanically going through the process of resetting alarms and tidying away the mess they’ve made this afternoon. He’s in the middle of locking up when he hears someone calling his name.
Bossuet’s probably forgotten something, he does that a lot. ‘Just gimme a sec,’ Grantaire says. He’s one key away from freedom.
‘I’m sorry if this is a bad time.’ The voice is most definitely not Bossuet’s. Grantaire glances up, and nearly has a heart attack.
‘Sorry for intruding,’ Enjolras says, ‘but I was wondering if you could do me a favour.’
Sorry that this is so late. I was in France for a week with limited writing materials, and it's been quite hectic since I got back.
If you enjoyed reading please leave a comment, and if you have any questions you can find me at betweentheheavesofstorm.tumblr.com
With how his luck has been recently, Grantaire really should have seen this coming.
Grantaire just stares at him. He isn’t entirely sure that he isn’t hallucinating. Or perhaps the world has simply gone mad. There has to be something to explain why Enjolras is here, now, asking for help. Asking for his help.
‘Are you OK?’ Enjolras asks. ‘You look a bit… unfocused.’
‘Yeah, uh, sorry – what did you say?’ He sounds like a twelve-year-old. From the way he’s acting, he probably looks like one too.
‘A favour.’ Enjolras looks down. There is a slight pink flush on his neck. ‘I mean, I’d pay you, of course. It just has to be now.’
‘What sort of favour?’ Grantaire sounds incredibly mercenary, but he can’t for the life of him imagine what someone this good looking and intelligent would need him for.
‘My bike,’ Enjolras says, in a rush. ‘I need you to fix my bike.’
Grantaire’s eyes flick automatically to the window display they’re standing in front of. ‘We’re open tomorrow.’
‘Tomorrow’s too late, I need it fixed now,’ Enjolras pushes a hand through his hair, which is catching the light to form a golden haze around his head. ‘My friend’s just sprung a plan on me and I promised I’d come before I knew Cosette would be using her bike. It’s unfair to ask you on your day off, I know, I just – ’
‘Alright,’ Grantaire interrupts. ‘I can’t fix it here, though. We weren’t even supposed to be in the shop today.’
‘I don’t have it with me,’ Enjolras adds quickly. ‘It’s at my house. I was going to offer to drive you, if your afternoon’s not too busy…?’
‘That’s fine.’ There went his plans of sitting around and doing nothing. ‘Do you know what’s wrong with it?’
‘Not exactly. It just doesn’t work properly.’
That could mean a lot of things. In this case Grantaire’s going to bet neglect plays a key part. He turns to the door of the shop and begins the lengthy process of unlocking and disabling alarms. He’ll have to grab the blue bag Joly takes to races; it has a fairly decent range of tools that should cover most basic problems.
Enjolras hovers awkwardly, and then follows him into the shop. Grantaire mutters a curt ‘wait here’ before disappearing to a back room. The blue bag is where he last saw it, hanging over the back of one of the office chairs. To it he adds a puncture kit, some rag and a can of WD40. Best to be on the safe side.
When he returns, Enjolras is looking at a sale rack heaped with lycra. For an indulgent five seconds Grantaire pictures what Enjolras would look like in such apparel. It’s a very distracting thought.
He clears his throat awkwardly, and Enjolras looks up. ‘I, uh, got the tools.’
Grantaire hands Enjolras the bag and starts going through the lockup sequence for the third time. It would be just his luck to leave something vital inside, so he double-checks his pockets before he leaves.
‘I really do appreciate this,’ Enjolras says when he’s done at last. Grantaire just hums, and follows him.
The car isn’t as flashy as he expected. There’s a big difference between middle class and rich, Grantaire has to remind himself. Still, it’s in good condition, relatively shiny and the inside is spotless. Enjolras makes a move as though as to open the passenger side door open for him, then seems to think better of it and hurries round to his side.
It doesn’t take long to drive from the shop to the house. Enjolras is a relatively patient driver, though he swears under his breath when somebody cuts him up. Grantaire has to keep his eyes on the road because Enjolras swearing is both weirdly hilarious and rather attractive, and Grantaire doesn’t think he would appreciate the observation.
The balloons are still tied to the door when they arrive. The yellow one looks all right, but the pink is starting to deflate. The tables turn and it’s Enjolras now dealing with locks, first securing his car and then gaining entry to his house. The latter appears to be double-locked, which Grantaire takes as a sign of no one else being home. The idea is reassuring; he liked Cosette he’s not sure he could handle both twins at once.
‘It’s in the garden,’ Enjolras says, leading him into the hall and closing the door behind them. The house still bears the after-effects of the party; some streamers are still up and as they walk through the living room Grantaire sees dozens of birthday cards stacked on the mantelpiece. A bright red one catches his eye. It has a picture of a fire engine and bears the proud message ‘2 Today!’ Somebody has added a 1 in black marker. It’s the sort of thing Grantaire would do for Éponine’s birthday.
Outside, the patio has been cleared and the furniture restored. A few steps lead down from this raised platform to the rest of the garden; a lawn edged by trees and bushes. An egg-shaped pond sits on the left side, and down at the end there is a shed the colour of an aubergine. Enjolras heads towards this and, after a short battle with a stiff door, slips inside. He returns moments later wheeling a hybrid, which he leans up against the side of the shed for inspection.
It is more or less what Grantaire expected. The battered black frame has seen better days, the brake blocks sorely need replacing and everything is rusty. The closer he looks the more of a nightmare it is. The front wheel is badly buckled and part of the gear shifter hangs off. He holds up the back end and gives the cranks an experimental turn. It does nothing to improve the prognosis. Not only is the chain stiff with caked dirt and age, the derailleur is broken.
‘How bad is it?’ Enjolras asks, a little tentatively.
‘It’s like you found it in a skip and then left it for five years,’ Grantaire tells him. ‘It’s fucked.’
‘Is there anything you can do?’
‘Short of sell you a new bike, nothing at all. I mean, I could get it rideable, but I’d need to replace nearly everything and give it a full clean. All of which will make more time than I have.’
‘I see.’ Enjolras sighs. ‘Shit, what am I going to tell Courfeyrac?’
It takes Grantaire a minute to connect the name to the guy he met at the party. So that’s who’s insisting on an impromptu cycling expedition.
‘Distract him with something shiny,’ he suggests, and Enjolras gives a surprised laugh.
‘I’m sorry I dragged you out here for nothing,’ he says after a moment. ‘I’ll still pay you for your time.’
‘No need.’ If anyone told Grantaire a couple of years ago that he’d actively turn away money, he wouldn’t have believed it for a second. ‘Just like, make me a cup of tea or something.’
‘Deal.’ Heaving another sigh, Enjolras wheels the bicycle back into the shed. Grantaire wonders if it will ever see the light of day again.
Sorry this chapter is so short. This was originally only going to be the first half, but I unexpectedly got a lot busier in the last couple of days so this was all I could manage. (On the bright side, I have a new plaid shirt. Not that it matters in this context.)
Grantaire can’t remember why he went to all this trouble to fix a bike that Enjolras didn’t care about anyway
It’s surreal to be back in the kitchen, even if he has a good reason this time. Enjolras is pottering around putting the kettle on and gathering mugs, leaving Grantaire free to snoop. He doesn’t learn a great deal more than he already knew, though he notices some baby photos of Enjolras and Cosette with an unfamiliar brown-haired woman he guesses is their mother. She looks very young; in fact she can’t be much older than Cosette is now. The resemblance is quite striking; they have the same nose and forehead, and he can see something of her in Enjolras’s cheekbones. It occurs to him that neither twin looks like their father, but he can’t think of a way to ask that won’t sound nosy.
‘Milk, sugar?’ Enjolras asks, pouring the tea.
‘Milk, no sugar.’
‘I think we have some biscuits somewhere.’ The mugs full, Enjolras picks a rectangular tin off the shelf and shakes it. The resulting rattling noise confirms his suspicions, and when he opens the tin it contains a respectable number of custard creams. With little regard for delicacy, he grabs a handful and puts them on a small plate.
Tea and biscuits in hand, they move from the kitchen to the dining room. Grantaire is beginning to realise that for someone who doesn’t love social interaction with near strangers he’s managed to place himself in a purely conversational setting.
Enjolras is not much better. He fishes around for a topic for a few moments, before asking, ‘How did you get into working with bikes?’
Grantaire swallows a gulp of tea and says, ‘I was friends with Joly, and he let me know when his place was hiring.’
‘Is it his shop?’
‘Hell, no.’ He bites into a custard cream. It’s very slightly on the stale side, but not terrible by a long shot. He dips the remaining half in his tea before eating it. ‘We’re just the shop assistants and occasionally mechanics.’
‘Do you like it?’
‘It’s not the worst job I’ve had.’
He notes the spark of curiosity in Enjolras’s eyes, and feels oddly satisfied. ‘You never said what it was that you’re doing.’
‘It’s,’ Enjolras sips his tea. ‘A project. Nothing important.’
‘So unimportant that it’s preventing you from working or going to university?’ Grantaire shrugs, and doesn’t push the matter further. He doesn’t know what he expects to gain from the venture. Instead he eats another custard cream, and washes it down with more tea. ‘What does your sister do?’
‘Cosette’s studying theatre design.’
‘At a London uni?’
‘Yes. She didn’t like any of the outside places that she looked at.’
Or maybe she wanted to stay close to home. From the outside, it seems obvious. Enjolras’s family is about as close and cuddly as it gets. Grantaire is well aware of the danger around making assumptions, and yet in this case everything seems blindingly obvious.
‘Do you have any siblings?’
‘What? Oh, no.’
‘So what are your plans?’ Enjolras has finished his tea now, and is helping Grantaire with the last of the biscuits.
‘For the future. When you’ve moved on from bike shops. What do you want to do?’
Grantaire stares. ‘What I want to do doesn’t really come into it.’
‘Of course it does. I mean, it’s OK to have no idea what you want to do. I was just wondering if you have any specific aspirations.’
‘None spring to mind.’
It would be polite to return the question; only Grantaire can too easily imagine the list of sickeningly ambitious things Enjolras is going to do before he’s thirty. Climb Everest, become British Prime Minister, release a chart-topping single. Meanwhile, Grantaire will be lucky if he hasn’t been evicted by then.
A sudden wave of resentment washes over him. It’s misplaced and ill-directed, and he suspects it’s partly to do with his anger at being attracted to Enjolras. He’s not the sort of person Grantaire usually likes, or even knows how to like. Indeed, he’s everything Grantaire finds infuriating: good looking, well off and hopelessly naïve. A person who unconsciously looks down on those less intelligent and studious.
Or maybe, a niggling voice in Grantaire’s head suggests, you just don’t like him because he’s happy.
That’s ridiculous, the rest of Grantaire protests. He loves Éponine like a sister, and right now she’s over the moon about Cosette. Bossuet, Musichetta and Joly are his best friends and their relationship is the sweetest thing in the world.
And yet it’s true also that Grantaire was there when Bossuet broke the fridge door and they couldn’t afford to get it replaced. They had to keep their milk and cheese in Grantaire’s flat, back when they lived in the same building. He’s seen them all three unemployed, he knows that they know how shit life can be.
He shakes himself. He’s zoned out again. Enjolras is looking politely concerned, in a way that makes him less attractive. His fine-boned face is suddenly bland, and he resembles a man in a stock photo – good-looking in an ordinary way, seated in his comfy dining room with its framed family photos and flower vases.
Grantaire can’t remember why he went to all this trouble to fix a bike that Enjolras didn’t care about anyway.
He rises, his eyes downturned to the empty mugs and crumb-coated plate. ‘Thanks, but I should go now.’
Enjolras gets up too. ‘I’ll drive you.’
‘I can walk.’
‘No, it’s only fair.’
Is this what he’s like on dates, Grantaire wonders. He probably leaps ahead to open doors and insists on paying.
It hits him as he’s giving out his address that Enjolras is going to see where he lives. After the first moment of embarrassment, a belligerent stubbornness takes hold. Good. It’s not like he’s pretended to be from anywhere else.
‘Sorry again for dragging you out on a wild goose chase,’ Enjolras says, as he starts the car.
Grantaire is about to say it’s fine when he realises he can’t be bothered. He hates apologies like these; that imply forgiveness will be given freely. He has just sacrificed an afternoon for the sake of somebody who only cared about their possessions when they needed them.
‘That’s not what a wild goose chase is,’ he says instead. ‘If we’d gone to find your bike and it wasn’t there and we’d gone looking for it for hours and still not found it, then it would have been.’
Enjolras blinks. ‘You’re right. Sorry.’
‘No need to sound surprised. Shockingly, some mechanics do know things.’
‘I didn’t mean to. Again, sorry.’
‘You don’t have to apologise for everything either.’
‘I do if I’ve accidentally said something insulting.’
He sighs. ‘Forget I said anything.’
The journey takes forever. It seems like at every single junction there’s a red light and a long queue. After ten minutes on what ought to be a two-minute straight, Grantaire announces he’s going to get out and walk. Enjolras objects initially, until he runs out of arguments and pulls over.
‘Thanks for the ride,’ Grantaire says, because it’s what you say even when you didn’t ask to be driven, and Enjolras nods stiffly. ‘See you around.’
The flat is chaotic when he returns. Sometime throughout the day he forgot that Éponine was bringing her siblings home, and so he walks unprepared into Gavroche’s first booby-trap: a tripwire that activates a complicated system resulting in Lego blocks being hurled across the room to hit Grantaire in the face. The collision is surprisingly painful; Gavroche may not be in school most of the time but he does know how to get things to work as he wants to.
‘Hi,’ Éponine yells, over loud pop music and her brother’s laughter. ‘Do you know how much pasta is right for four people?’
Grantaire shuts the door behind him, orders Gavroche to pick up all the Lego and makes his way through to the kitchen. On the way he passes Azelma, who’s sat cross-legged on the sofa with a large black sketchbook on her lap. It’s been a while since he’s last seen her; she’s dip-dyed her hair pink and pierced her nose. It’s the sort of thing teenagers do to look older, except it makes her look painfully sixteen. She doesn’t look up as he passes.
The kitchen is hot and noisy. Éponine looks up as he enters, and jerks her head towards a pot of pasta on the stove. He hurries to it, while she darts around chopping vegetables and consulting a sheet of paper with a recipe printed in small text. She’s often like this when her siblings are round, wanting to cook something homemade and delicious, the way their own mother never does.
‘How were the museums?’ he asks, when he has breath to spare.
‘Great. Gavroche spent ages watching this video in the Science Museum. It may have given him the idea for the catapult.’
Grantaire rubs his temple where the Lego hit him. ‘I saw Azelma’s drawing again.’
‘Hardly. She hasn’t touched that sketchbook since June, it’s been sitting in the foot of my wardrobe. How was bike-building?’
‘OK.’ It seems like a long time ago. ‘My day got really weird, though.’
‘Your girlfriend’s brother showed up with a bike for me to fix.’
‘Cosette’s not my girlfriend.’ Éponine grins. ‘Not yet. But are you serious?’
He tells her all about it as they assemble the pasta bake and put it in the oven. It sounds funnier, hearing it back, now it sounds like a story that happened to somebody else. Éponine finds it hysterical.
‘How does he even know you?’ she asks, wiping an imaginary tear from her eye. ‘I didn’t see him at the party.’
‘There was an encounter.’
‘He stole my hiding place.’
She starts to laugh again, and Gavroche comes bounding into the kitchen demanding to know when dinner will be.
It’s a good meal that night. One end of the pasta bake is a little burned, but it’s only the cheese topping and Gavroche will eat anything. Azelma emerges from her shell long enough for an argument about Taylor Swift and to interrogate Éponine about her love life. Grantaire is usually very pleased that he only has one housemate, but listening to the easy chatter of a family unit he realises he’s willing to make exceptions.
The video Gavroche was obsessed with can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzSMecNWdlY
This is short and late again and for both those things I apologise. It probably makes sense to say that updates may be quite slow; as this was originally meant to be a writing exercise than a standalone fic. I'll try not to let it die completely, though.
As usual if you enjoyed it please leave a comment and if you have any questions I'm on Tumblr at betweentheheavesofstorm.tumblr.com
Grantaire was wrong. This day could get worse.
TW for some violence & mention of blood.
The next few days pass uneventfully as life resumes its usual course. The next time Éponine disappears to see Cosette she comes back hooting with laughter about Enjolras’s favour. It’s funny for a little while, and then it becomes annoying. Grantaire is slightly anxious that the story doesn’t get relayed to his other friends, because while Joly and Bossuet are sensitive enough to respect lost dignity, Bahorel will never shut up about it if he finds out. Eventually, Éponine promises, and the incident is put behind them.
Grantaire passes most of the next two weeks sunk back into his usual routine. Oversleep, get half-heartedly reprimanded by Joly, annoy Theodule, get home and bicker with Éponine about whose turn it is to do the dishes. Buy cheap wine and complain about the quality, stay up too late watching Game of Thrones. It’s what he’s used to, what he’s good at.
On Friday morning, a fortnight after Cosette’s party Grantaire betrays himself. He’d opened he window before going to bed to keep the room cool, and when he wakes it is from a dream light and airy that feels pleasant to think about.
He doesn’t get up immediately, not caring for the moment that he’s going to be late again. His dream is fading, but when he concentrates hard enough some details become apparent.
There were horses, and he was riding one – something he’s never done before, though thankfully his dream self could handle it – and a little while later they stopped by a haystack to feed the horses. It was all going well, their mission was ‘on track’ and then they (for there was definitely someone with him) were attacked by bandits?
He can’t figure out the identity of his companion. The harder he tries to extract the memory the more it seems to slip away from him. Closing his eyes, he runs through the events again. He has a hazy picture of a horse’s neck, and then the haystack and oh god. It was Enjolras, of course it was Enjolras with him, talking and smiling as though they were friends, or even equals.
Just the recollection of it plasters a sappy grin onto Grantaire’s face. He remains lying there, reluctant to rise and dispel the happy haze that’s settled over him.
‘You look cheerful,’ Bossuet remarks, when Grantaire finally gets to work. ‘Won’t last long, though. Theodule’s on a cleaning spree.’
‘What’s he going to do if I don’t help? Fire me?’ Much to his chagrin, Theodule doesn’t have that power.
‘Trust me, after ten minutes of bugging you’ll want to give in just to end the misery. He’s got Joly tidying the clearance section.’
Yeah but that’s Joly, Grantaire nearly says. He stops himself in time. It’s hardly kind to remark on how his friend is a pushover, so he keeps silent and wheels his bike to the back room. The best days are when Theodule is too wrapped up in his own life to notice anyone else. Unfortunately they’ve been few and far between recently.
The shop is unusually empty for a weekday. Grantaire sells some pedals and a brake cable to a young man, and spends half an hour picking out a basket with an elderly woman.
At two fifteen, he gets a text from Bahorel; “duuude havent seen u in ages”
He responds; “you want to sleep on my sofa again right?”
“u know my secrets R. im willing to bribe with dominos.”
“deal. ep’s gonna be out with musichetta”
“see u later then.”
‘You got a date?’ Theodule asks, glancing over his shoulder in time to see the last text arrive.
‘Yes,’ Grantaire says, just to fuck with him. Bossuet raises his eyebrows, and Grantaire mouths Bahorel at him.
‘Jokes aside, you have been surprisingly happy today,’ Bossuet says later, when Theodule has stalked off to the staff room.
Joly perks up.‘Anything good happened?’
He wants a negative answer Grantaire knows; it’s part of an argument with Musichetta. Weeks ago she claimed that nobody was ever happy without reason. Being so naturally agreeable, Joly found fault with her claim and has since been waiting for a chance to prove it false.
‘Oh no,’ Grantaire says. ‘I’m not getting involved here.’
‘It’s a yes-no question,’ Joly protests. ‘Do you have a reason?’
Grantaire’s smile fades. Dream-Enjolras flashes into his head again, wearing a new romantic style white shirt that exposes his collarbone. It is ridiculous that he is so attached to an apparition, an imagining of his mind.
‘No,’ he says. ‘No reason.’
Joly crows in celebration, and whips out his phone to text Musichetta. Grantaire rolls his eyes, spots a customer and goes over to help them.
He’s last to leave again that evening. Bossuet and Joly have swanned off on a date and Theodule disappeared the moment the clock struck six. Grantaire’s fine with locking up, so when he sets off cycling home his good mood hasn’t quite fizzled out.
It does very rapidly when, two thirds of the way home, his front wheel starts feeling strange. Sure enough, it’s a puncture, and though he sells puncture kits for a living he isn’t carrying one today.
Swearing, Grantaire stops and gets off. The tube’s deflated so rapidly that it must be one hell of a hole. With a resigned sigh, he starts wheeling it along. At least he got this far, though if he were stranded nearer to the shop he could have gone back for patches and glue.
Walking back isn’t as bad as he thought it would be. It’s still very light and warm, and this way he gets a closer look at the council estates he’d normally whizz past. The sight is not inspiring.
Bored, Grantaire allows himself to drift off on a train of thought that might or might not include how Enjolras looked in that billowy shirt. (Like he was off the cover of a trashy romance novel, the kind Éponine found while volunteering at the shop and brought home to read aloud.)
He’s so preoccupied that he doesn’t notice anyone approach, until there’s a hand on his shoulder and something crashes into his jaw where it meets his neck. The world goes out of focus and then he’s on the ground and gasping for breath. A guy is fumbling with his bike, and it takes Grantaire far too long to realise what is happening.
When he does, he lurches back up and hurls himself at the guy. It’s a remarkably stupid decision. His adversary looks to be twice as tall and strong and Grantaire might have boxed for years but that’s not helping him right now. The guy is taken by surprise – it’s evident he didn’t expect anyone to fight back over such a shitty bike – but recovers quickly. It’s more of a brawl than a fight and when the guy’s fist connects with the top of his head Grantaire realises he’s wearing metal rings.
Grantaire hasn’t been in a fight for a long time, and as soon as he stumbles it’s over quickly. The guy punches him hard in the stomach and he tumbles down onto the pavement, the force of the impact tearing the skin from his fingertips.
He looks up, and the guy is cycling away.
Grantaire gets to his feet gingerly, checking that he’s all in one piece. He’s still feeling the adrenaline, but is aware that the rush is going to end pretty soon and then everything is going to hurt. He touches the edge of his lip, and his hand comes away bloody.
What to do next? The appeal of home is strong, but this feels like the sort of thing he should report. There is a local police station about ten minutes’ walk, in the opposite direction of his flat. He thinks for a moment more, and then sets off in the direction of the police station. It’s not like this night can get any worse.
It’s not long before walking hurts. His shoulders and ribcage ache, and he’s starting to suspect that he fell on one ankle funny. He’s had much worse, injury-wise, though this is the first time he’s had to deal with them by himself.
After ten minutes, he texts Éponine. She probably won’t see the message until later – Musichetta’s place has terrible mobile coverage – but he feels a little bit better having done something. It occurs to him that sooner or later he will be able to talk to her in person, and his spirits lift further. Éponine hasn’t been mugged since she was fourteen. A combination of travelling armed and knowing all the local criminals has done wonders for her. She’ll offer anger, not empathy, and it will help more than she realises.
He’s halfway to the police station when he sees the car. It was about to pass him when it slowed right down, so that it’s next to him. There’s no one else in sight, and so his brain jumps to the logical conclusion that somebody else has come to get him. He can’t think why, unless they’re after his wallet.
His heart begins to thud again, as the realisation that he’s powerless sinks in. Even if this new assailant isn’t armed, he doesn’t stand a chance fighting back. Whoever it is, they can do whatever they want to him.
The car pulls to a stop beside him and he wonders how far he could get running. He’s preparing to find out when the window rolls down, and a blond head leans out. Enjolras.
Grantaire was wrong. This day could get worse.
‘Are you all right?’ Enjolras is craning his neck out of the window. It doesn’t look like a very comfortable position.
‘I’m fine.’ Out of all the people that could have driven by, did it have to be him? Not Bahorel or Joly or even Theodule, but Enjolras? Grantaire would almost rather it was an attacker. Almost.
‘You don’t look fine.’
‘It’s not the most flattering light.’ He shrugs as he speaks, and with an effort conceals the pain the movement causes.
‘You’re bleeding,’ Enjolras objects. ‘What’s happened?’
‘Nothing.’ Grantaire starts walking again, hoping to hear the engine restart. Instead comes the slamming of a door. Instinctively, he turns back toward the noise and comes face-to-face with Enjolras.
‘Were you mugged?’
‘What are you doing? Get back in the car.’
Enjolras holds his ground. ‘What are you doing?’
‘Going to the police station.’ Maybe that will shut him up.
‘Not like that.’ Enjolras’s gaze rakes over his face, and Grantaire meets his eyes squarely. ‘Come on, I’ll drive you home.’
‘Are you saying I shouldn’t report it? Doesn’t seem like you.’ It’s feeble, and they both know it.
Enjolras’s jaw is set. ‘I’m saying you should take care of yourself first.’
The light is fading from the evening sky, taking all the colour and warmth of the day with it. Around Grantaire, everything is growing greyer, and when he looks at Enjolras he’s the only thing that seems real
‘All right,’ he says. ‘You can drive me home.’
‘I can’t melt all your ice cream, that’s not the sort of guilt a man can live with.’
TW: blood, injuries
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
‘I remember where your place is,’ Enjolras says, as they get into the car. The air is warmer inside, and the passenger seat is softer than Grantaire remembers. He fastens his seatbelt slowly, trying not to stretch his sore side. Enjolras notices, and a frown cuts across his smooth forehead.
He’s very clearly anxious. Grantaire can see it in the way he’s chewing his lip, his gaze moving restlessly around different spots in the road. The idea that he is someone who can make Enjolras nervous is not new, though this jittery anxiety implies actual concern. That’s only natural, though. Who wouldn’t be concerned by coming across someone they know, walking slowly down the road with blood trickling down their face?
It’s comforting to be in the car. Something about the darkness, with the lights outside. He feels young and small again, being taken home after something upsetting.
It feels safe.
‘Do you want to tell me what happened?’ Enjolras asks quietly, when they’re stopped at a junction.
Grantaire hesitates. And then, ‘He stole my bike. He stole my fucking bike.’
‘I hit him.’
‘And he hit you, from the looks of it.’
‘Did he knock you off your bike?’
‘What? No.’ His scuffed palms do give that impression. ‘I was walking with it. Had a puncture.’
Neither of them can think of anything to say next, but somehow that’s OK. The silence is not a bad silence.
They pull up at last outside Grantaire’s building. Enjolras cuts the engine, and turns to look at him.
‘Is Éponine in?’
It’s only seven forty.
‘No,’ he admits.
‘Is anyone in?’
A shake of the head.
‘Then I’m coming with you.’
‘No, it’s OK. You’ve already done enough.’
‘I can’t let you off by yourself like that.’
‘Shockingly, you can. I’m an adult.’
‘Would you be uncomfortable with me being there? Because if that’s it, I understand.’
‘It’s not that. It’s… you don’t have to be like this.’
‘Nice. Like we’re friends or something. It’s cool.’ He’s about to shrug again, but catches himself in time.
‘Grantaire,’ Enjolras says, as though the name is familiar to his tongue. ‘I would like to come.’
‘Can’t think why,’ Grantaire says, but he stops protesting. He thought he knew something about pushy people, but Enjolras is in a class of his own.
Enjolras sighs, and restrains himself from responding. He parks around the corner, in front of a Polish supermarket. Grantaire glances into the back seat for the first time, and sees several Tesco bags.
Enjolras follows his gaze, and is suddenly thoughtful. ‘Would it be OK if I brought some of the cold stuff in? I don’t want to arrive home with everything melted and lukewarm.’
This evening is getting weirder by the second.
‘Sure,’ Grantaire says. He’s starting to wonder if he gives off a certain vibe that induces people to request the loan of his fridge.
Enjolras retrieves two of the plastic bags, and they walk back to the building. One of the lights in the foyer has sputtered out, leaving the illumination down to its fellow. The long shadows cast by Enjolras and Grantaire as the latter lets them in look like something off a street safety sign. (“Don’t get mugged. And if you do, report it immediately because the council wants to give the illusion that it cares about you.”)
‘I’m upstairs,’ Grantaire says, bypassing the lifts to head straight for the stairwell. Supposedly the lifts are fixed now, but he’s not going to put that to the test. It was two weeks ago that Mrs Carter down the hall spent three hours trapped inside the tiny elevator, waiting for assistance to arrive.
After the first flight of stairs, however, he’s rethinking his choice. Sat in a cosy car, he’d forgotten all about his ankle. It seemed OK on the short walk around the block, but the stress played on it by climbing stairs has caused the shooting pains to return.
‘Do you want a hand?’ Enjolras asks anxiously. Grantaire thought he was doing a good job of hiding the pain, but apparently his acting skills don’t extend that far.
‘Unless you have a chairlift handy, I’m good,’ he mutters.
By the time he’s reached the third floor, he’s feeling bad all around. He can hardly put weight on his right foot and his other injuries are flaring up from the physical exertion. The bruising on his head, around his eye and the shallow gashes above it are throbbing painfully.
Whatever concerns he has about what Enjolras will think of the dingy hallways are lost in his relief that Enjolras is here. It only takes a moment of imagining what it would feel like to be by himself to make him profusely glad he isn’t.
He lets them both into the flat, and without turning the hall light on hobbles straight to the kitchen. Behind him, he hears an ‘oof’ and a thump that suggests Enjolras has tripped over one of Éponine’s shoes.
‘You all right?’ he asks, when Enjolras joins him in the kitchen. ‘Sorry, Ep regards the hall as a general dumping ground.’
‘I’ll live,’ Enjolras says wryly. His eyes sweep round the kitchen, taking it all in – the stacks of dirty dishes, the paint peeling off the cupboards, all the little things Grantaire keeps meaning to fix and forgetting – and then says, ‘Shouldn’t you, er, sit down?’
‘That,’ says Grantaire, pulling the nearest chair towards him and flopping down on it, ‘is the best idea you’ve had so far.’
‘Right.’ Enjolras looks down, and remembers the shopping bags he’s holding. ‘Where can I put these?’
‘Fridge is there.’ Grantaire jerks his head. He suddenly wants to do the unloading himself, to spare his guest the interior of the fridge. At the moment though, heaven and earth could not persuade him to move from his seat. ‘Just stick it in wherever.’ Hopefully Éponine’s not conducting any kind of mould-related experiment.
It’s the strangest thing, seeing Enjolras in Grantaire’s kitchen, pottering around with armfuls of groceries. He looks too bright and energetic against the grimy backdrop.
‘You got a freezer?’ Enjolras has reached the bottom of a bag, and is pulling out a couple of tubs of Ben & Jerry’s.
Grantaire directs him to it. The freezer is mercifully devoid of experiments; in fact it’s completely empty. It hasn’t had ice cream since the last time Éponine or Grantaire needed comfort food. When the soap opera that was Éponine and Montparnasse was ongoing barely a day passed without there being something cold and sugary, but that is long past.
‘All right.’ Finished with unpacking, Enjolras wipes his hands on his jeans and returns his attention to his host. ‘Do you have a first aid kit?’
‘I think so? It’s the sort of thing Éponine would have around. It would be for emergencies, though.’
‘Anything more urgent than this would need A&E,’ Enjolras insists. ‘If it helps, I’ll replace whatever I use.’
‘That’s not necessary.’ Grantaire sighs. ‘Top shelf of the cupboard above the stove.’
It’s clear Enjolras isn’t thrilled by what he finds. The old biscuit tin contains paracetamol, gauze but no dressings, and right at the bottom a dusty pack of antiseptic wipes. He glances again at Grantaire. ‘Do you have any ice packs?’
‘You’ve seen the freezer.’ They did use to have an ice pack, but it disappeared the last time he moved.
Enjolras hums under his breath. His hand settles on the wipes. ‘We may as well start with these.’
He pulls one free and approaches Grantaire hesitantly. ‘Do you mind if I - ’
‘Be my guest,’ Grantaire says wearily. Resistance is not working for him, and if a hot guy wants to tend his wounds he’s not going to stop him.
With exaggerated care, Enjolras touches the wipe to Grantaire’s head, dabbing at the wounds. It feels soft and damp, and when the antiseptic sinks it stings. Grantaire jerks, but does not pull away.
‘Sorry,’ Enjolras murmurs. His hand is all Grantaire can see, the heel of his palm and the underside of his forearm. The veins stand out, purple against the fair skin. His gaze drifts back to the hand, and notes that the palm is weathered and roughened in a way he wouldn’t expect from someone like Enjolras.
‘Nearly done.’ Enjolras doesn’t bother to speak loudly, he doesn’t have to when they’re in such close proximity.
Grantaire swallows, and Enjolras moves away.
‘That’s as clean as I can get it,’ he says. ‘I’d like to put a dressing on, but you don’t have any. You got any other scrapes?’
In for a penny, in for a pound. Grantaire raises his hands. His own palms are torn and bleeding. They hurt almost as much as his ankle.
Enjolras is very gentle, cleaning out the dirt from each scrape. He’s better at it than Éponine; her methods are best described as scrubbing. When Enjolras is done, Grantaire’s hands are pink and tingling from the antiseptic.
‘Thanks,’ he mutters.
‘What about the ice cream?’ Enjolras blurts out suddenly. ‘It’s cold. We could use that for an ice pack.’
A few minutes later Grantaire is holding a tub of Ben & Jerry’s to his eye. Enjolras had the foresight to wrap it in a tea towel, so it’s not as weird as it could be. Still, if Éponine walks in now she’s either going to have a heart attack or die laughing.
‘Do you need anything else?’ Enjolras asks. Grantaire’s actually doing OK for the first time that evening, but Enjolras looks like he needs something to do, so he says, ‘Make yourself a cup of tea or something. I may be a terrible entertainer, but I’d like to think I’m an acceptable host.’
‘I’m fine,’ Enjolras insist. ‘Would you like a hot drink?’
He doesn’t especially, but it would give Enjolras something to do, so Grantaire nods. It hits him a few minutes later, when the kettle starts to boil, that it may not be the best idea to drink something hot while pressing something cold to his face. The ice cream is doing its job well; the bruised area has gone pleasantly numb.
‘How is it feeling now?’ asks Enjolras, as though he’d read his mind and only picked up half the transmission.
‘Better, thanks.’ Grantaire accepts the tea, wrapping both his hands around the mug to absorb its heat. ‘Sorry for hijacking your evening.’
‘It’s fine. I was only picking up groceries.’ He scans the kitchen, fishing for something to say next. His eyes alight on a photo of Azelma, Éponine and Gavroche, in a cheap picture frame on the windowsill.
‘Éponine’s siblings.’ Grantaire nods. ‘Did Cosette mention them?’
‘Only in passing.’
‘They’re good kids.’
‘If this is too personal, say so, but – are you and Éponine…?’
‘God, no. We’re friends who live together.’ And she’s in love with your sister, he would add, if it wouldn’t be such a betrayal.
Enjolras seems relieved. Or maybe Grantaire just wants him to be. ‘I did get the impression that she and Cosette… you know.’
Or maybe he just wants to check that is sister’s almost-girlfriend isn’t a cheat.
‘How long have you two lived here?’ he continues.
‘A year and a half?’ It seems like longer.
‘It’s not horrible.’
‘I don’t have much to compare it to. I’ve never lived outside of home.’
‘How come? Clingy family?’
‘Not quite. You know I said I was doing something else, instead of uni? It kind of requires me to be in London. I pay my dad rent, though.’
‘Yeah, about that. What is this mysterious business that keeps you so occupied?’ Grantaire shifts the ice cream tub slightly so that he can look Enjolras in the eye. ‘Is it a life of crime? Puppy farming? Are you an underwear model for Calvin Klein?’
Enjolras snorts. ‘I’m afraid I have to tick ‘none of the above.’’
‘Shame.’ Exhaustion has removed Grantaire’s filter. ‘You’d look good on a billboard in some tightey whities.’
‘It’s an organisation,’ Enjolras says hurriedly, as though he’s afraid if he doesn’t start talking now Grantaire is going to ramble on about underwear. ‘I run an organisation – well, a group.’
‘Let me guess: knitters anonymous?’
‘Do you treat everything with contempt?’
‘Only on certain days of the week.’ He sighs. ‘What does your group do?’
‘Campaigning, debating. Political things. At the moment we’re fundraising for the refugee crisis.’
‘Making the world a better place?’
‘Fine, laugh.’ Enjolras throws his hands up in despair. ‘Not all positivity is naïve, you know.’
‘I never said it was a bad thing. Someone’s gotta have hope in this godforsaken world.’
‘You could come,’ Enjolras says suddenly. ‘I mean, you’d be welcome to come. A different outlook would benefit everyone.’
Grantaire tries to imagine sitting down with Enjolras and his equally earnest friends and plotting to undermine David Cameron. A laugh bubbles up in his throat, and he struggles to suppress it.
‘I’m good, thanks.’
He moves to repositions the ice cream, and through the tea towel feels the sides of the tub squish under the contact. Despite both of them being fully-functioning adults, neither he nor Enjolras remembered the inevitable: ice cream melts.
‘We fucked up,’ he says, removing the makeshift cool pack from his head and unwrapping the tea towel from it. The cardboard pot is soggy and sticky to the touch. Enjolras takes it from him and prises open the lid.
It isn’t completely melted, but not is it a substance that can be described as a solid any more. Enjolras looks at it sadly for a moment, and then says, ‘We might as well eat it.’
‘I like the way you think. Spoons are in the top drawer, corner cupboard.’
Enjolras fetches them obediently. ‘Are you going to be all right without it? Or should I get the other tub?’
‘I can’t melt all your ice cream, that’s not the sort of guilt a man can live with.’ Grantaire digs his spoon into the soggy mess and scoops up a mouthful. It’s peanut butter flavour, a beautiful combination of sweet and salt. He should invest in Ben & Jerry’s more often.
‘This isn’t too bad,’ Enjolras observes. He’s dragged a chair over so that they can both reach, and the tub is so small that every so often their hands brush. It’s like something out of a corny teen movie, the two of them sitting there with the ice cream between them. ‘I’ll admit, my hopes weren’t high.’
‘What, don’t you make a habit of administering Ben & Jerry’s to injured friends?’ Grantaire says innocently. Enjolras flicks ice cream at him, and a glob of it lands on his nose. The whole situation is so absurd and Grantaire is so tired that he starts laughing, and once he’s started, he can’t stop. He snorts ungainly through his nose, and that makes Enjolras laugh too.
The tangled mess of emotions that have been vying for place inside Grantaire curdle together. Every ounce of fear, irritation and relief burn away to be replaced by laughter, the deep kind that resonates from his chest outwards.
Enjolras is beautiful when he laughs. It nearly ruins the moment. Grantaire glances up and catches his breath at the sight of the other guy tilting his head back, mouth hanging open, hair tumbling into his eyes. Enjolras is beautiful and kind and here, because he chose to be, because he wanted to make sure Grantaire was OK.
The sober moment disappears as rapidly as it came, and Grantaire is lost again. He leans over, his chest shaking with laughter and suddenly his laugh turns into an ow. His hand goes immediately to his side, and he knows it’s bruised without looking.
Enjolras’s mirth melts into concern with alarming speed. He’s still holding the ice cream, which he sets down on the counter top. ‘Are you all right?’
‘My brain says yes, my ribs say no,’ Grantaire says. ‘Actually wait, you technically feel pain in your brain because until it gets there it’s just nerve signals. So it’s a mixed message.’
‘Where did you get hit?’
‘Feels like everywhere. But here,’ Grantaire taps his side, ‘and my shoulders in general. I hit the ground pretty hard.’
‘Can I see?’
Grantaire hesitates. To show him properly, he’s going to have to take his shirt off. And while he’s possibly (definitely) had fantasies that involved him doing exactly that, he never quite stopped to think about what it would be like in the real world.
It could still be a good idea. Enjolras has helped him with everything else. His head feels much better, as does his ankle now there’s no weight on it.
‘It’s OK,’ he says. ‘I can do the rest myself. Thanks for offering, though.’
Enjolras’s smile is no more than a flicker. ‘You’re welcome.’
What is this? a chapter actually longer than 1k for once? Honestly, I have no idea what came over me.
also to make the slow-update saga even better I'm officially back at college now with barely any time for frivolous things like writing. I'm gonna do my best not to let this wither and die completely, but yeah. I spent a lot of time writing fic in creative writing class last year, so maybe I can persuade my new teacher to turn a blind eye to it.
‘Don’t mention it. Let me know when you’re feeling better.’
‘You expecting anyone?’ Enjolras asks, with more than a little curiosity. It’s perfectly reasonable, given that Grantaire looks more than a little like a deer caught in headlights.
‘Yeah, but I forgot about it.’ In a daze, Grantaire rises. He’s so preoccupied he barely notices his ankle protesting at having weight put on it. He turns to look at Enjolras, and realises with a jolt of horror how it’s going to look.
‘You should probably go,’ he says, and hopes he’s imagining the panic that edges his voice.
Enjolras doesn’t need telling twice. As Grantaire leaves the kitchen to open the door, he pulls out the Tesco bags and starts hurriedly repacking his groceries. He even has the decency to put the empty Ben & Jerry’s in the bin.
In the hall, Grantaire has come face to face with Bahorel, who’s wearing an enormous and rather ugly maroon puffer coat and holds two boxes of Dominos pizza.
‘There is a slight situation,’ Grantaire mutters, before Bahorel can get a word out. ‘But you are going to come in quietly and sit down, and not say anything until he leaves.’
Bahorel closes his mouth, and nods. He follows Grantaire obediently through the hall, where he stops to divest himself of the coat. Grantaire takes the pizzas from him and half-walks half-jobs back to the kitchen, where Enjolras is done packing.
‘It’s my friend Bahorel,’ Grantaire says quickly, pre-empting whatever questions his guest has. ‘I forgot that I’d made plans.’
As though he’d been waiting for the perfect moment to enter (which, knowing him, wasn’t unlikely) Bahorel appeared.
It’s difficult to tell who looked more surprised. Enjolras’s eyes are unnaturally wide, though whether it’s the size of Bahorel’s biceps, the tattoos covering them or just the fact that the guy looks like a human grizzly bear. In his turn, Bahorel is looking equally flummoxed by the sight of an ordinary, if good-looking young man clutching shopping bags in Grantaire’s kitchen.
‘Turn the TV on?’ Grantaire suggests, and does his best to usher Enjolras from the room.
‘Thanks for coming,’ he adds, once they’re safely in the hall.
‘Don’t mention it. Let me know when you’re feeling better.’
Grantaire nods, and keeps nodding until he realises what he’s doing and stops. ‘I’ll tell Éponine to tell Cosette to tell you.’
Enjolras sighs. ‘We aren’t twelve.’ He digs a receipt out of his pocket, and catching up, Grantaire supplies a pen. He almost always has a biro on him; this one’s probably nicked from the shop. Enjolras scrawls his number on the back of the receipt, and hands it over.
‘Text me, or something. I want to know you’re all right.’
‘As you wish.’ Grantaire rolls his eyes while saying it, and realises too late that it makes him look even more like a twelve-year-old.
Enjolras ignores the reference. He casts one last look over Grantaire’s face, attractively swollen and discoloured as it is, and begins to walk. He looks back in time to toss a casual ‘See you’ over his shoulder.
‘Bye,’ Grantaire mutters, closing the door behind him.
No sooner has he done so than Bahorel gives up pretending to watch TV in favour of demanding an explanation.
‘You had me thinking there was somebody impressive on your sofa,’ he says, in what’s got to be the worst impression of being concerned ever. ‘Or at the very least, Montparnasse. But no. Unless the affable idiot is just a very convincing front, that has got to be the most boring person I’ve met this month.’
‘He’s not an idiot,’ Grantaire says automatically, taking the nearest pizza box and settling on the sofa. ‘And what do you care?’
‘I care because you’re my friend,’ Bahorel insists. ‘And I can’t have my friend falling for the human personification of mayonnaise.’
Grantaire nearly chokes on his first bite of pizza. ‘Falling for? He wasn’t here on a date, if that’s what you mean.’
‘Oh yeah? Because it didn’t look like he was fixing your boiler.’
‘My bike got stolen and I got beaten up and he drove me home,’ Grantaire says, exasperated. ‘I made him a cup of tea to say thanks.’
It might not be the most truthful account of the events, but it’s the only version Bahorel is going to get.
‘How do you even know him?’
‘That’s a more complicated story, which does not at any point involve dating.’ At this stage, it would almost be less excruciating if it did.
Bahorel still doesn’t look convinced, but a rerun of Top Gear is on and if there’s one thing he loves more than annoying Grantaire it’s yelling obscenities at Jeremy Clarkson. From there onwards, he’s easy to distract. Grantaire just ask what he’s been up to recently. It’s like turning on a tap. Bahorel recounts various dramatic stories, including one where he had to pose as a lawyer (‘it felt dirtier than anything I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a lot of kinky shit’) and an exploit in which he almost joined a crime ring.
‘Might have done it, if it wasn’t for Montparnasse,’ he muses, as they eat dinner in front of a movie. ‘He’s such a dick, though, it’s not worth it.’
‘You could never be a master criminal,’ Grantaire argues. ‘You don’t brood enough.’
‘Have you met Montparnasse’s friends? He’s by far the most dramatic.’ Bahorel shoots him a sideways glance. ‘Are you insinuating that you’d be a better villain?’
‘You take orders from your cat.’
The evening continues much in this manner, and soon Bahorel has forgotten all about Enjolras.
I'm so sorry that this chapter is both short and appalling, but for ages I didn't know if I was even going to continue this fic at all, and it appears I am.
I'm also hugely apologetic for the loooong time it took for this to be updated. College got in the way. (and another fic, because I'm a traitor like that).
As always, if you have any questions leave a comment or find me on Tumblr :)
‘Oh come on,’ he argues, in a last ditch attempt to salvage his honour. It’s a lost cause really, Éponine never made the mistake of thinking he had dignity to start with.
He waits until the next morning to text Enjolras, and even then he keeps it simple. “im alive” suffices, and he sends it after agonising for ten minutes too long about whether it sounds like it’s trying to be funny (and whether it actually is funny) and whether Enjolras actually meant it when he said he wanted to hear from him or maybe Grantaire’s just being clingy. Granted, he’s never been clingy before, but nor has he been around somebody like Enjolras before, so there’s a first time for everything.
Enjolras doesn’t seem annoyed, though, as after five minutes he gets a reply text: “I’m glad. Any news on the bike?”
“nope” Grantaire sends back, and Enjolras even has the godly ability to look past one-word answers because “That’s a real shame. I’d offer you mine if it weren’t so beaten up” arrives a moment later.
“the thought is appreciated” he writes, and to that Enjolras doesn’t reply. Grantaire tells himself he’s not bothered, which would be a lot more convincing if he didn’t check his phone every few seconds to make sure.
Éponine swears a gratifying amount when he tells her what happened with the bike, though when he gets to the point of Enjolras accompanying him home she starts wiggling her eyebrows.
‘Oh come on,’ he argues, in a last ditch attempt to salvage his honour. It’s a lost cause really, Éponine never made the mistake of thinking he had dignity to start with. ‘When you’re around Cosette, flowers and birds start singing and you get cartoon hearts in your eyes. It’s a miracle you can see at all.’
‘She’s never tended to my wounds though,’ she points out. ‘Probably because nobody’s beaten me up since I was twelve.’
‘It wasn’t tending,’ Grantaire protests.
‘Please.’ She’s worse than Bahorel. Unlike Bahorel though, he can get back at her, because a couple of days later in the week he stumbles into the kitchen to find Cosette sitting attentively at the table.
She smiles when she sees him, and bids a polite ‘Good morning.’ He mutters the greeting back and walks to open the fridge before stopping and realising what he’s seeing. Éponine’s bustling around scrambling eggs on the stove, and when he catches her eye and raises his eyebrows she just shrugs and hides her half-smile.
Aside from the one remaining egg and half a carton of milk, the only thing left in the fridge is some mouldy carrots and a jar of stuffed green olives. He fishes out the latter and unscrews the lid. If his memory proves correct he bought these only the other day, and so they should still be edible.
They are. Too lazy to search for anything that would make the meal more elaborate, he sits at the table opposite Cosette and systematically fishes olives out of the jar by stabbing them with a fork.
‘You’re having those for breakfast?’ Éponine asks, scraping the scrambled eggs onto two plates of toast - so that was where the last of the bread went – and bringing them to the table.
‘You haven’t exactly left me a lot of options,’ he points out, and she shrugs again.
Cosette accepts her plate of eggs with an earnest smile, and it occurs to Grantaire that Éponine’s got her shit sorted out when it comes to dating. Her crush is the sun and his a supernova and it looks like she already has her happy ending while his is miles away. Not even that, it’s on another planet.
‘There’s still some cereal, if you can stomach it after pimentos,’ she says. And to Cosette, ‘Are they OK? I don’t usually make them with milk so I hope they’re all right.’
‘They’re great,’ Cosette assures her. She’s wearing long sleeved light blue pajamas with a pattern of little clouds on them, which clashes quite beautifully with Éponine’s huge men’s shirt and boxers.
Grantaire can’t remember hearing them come in last night, but now he thinks back to it he fell asleep astonishingly early after spending the day chasing Bossuet on his bike.
(It’s a new game he and Joly have devised, involving an obstacle course in the small road round the corner from the shop, wherein a person on a bike has to ride round a series of barrels while a person running has to grab a rag from the other side of the street and tag the person riding before they cross the finish line. With the right people it really wouldn’t be dangerous, only Bossuet is highly skilled at falling off. He and Grantaire took turns running and cycling while Joly, cane in hand, served as commentator on the process.)
Cosette and Éponine chat companionably as they eat breakfast, Grantaire joining the conversation at odd intervals. A lot of what they’re talking about he can’t keep up with, but he notices Cosette making a conscious effort to include him. It’s almost irritating, how nice a person Éponine has chosen to date.
Though he’s not actually sure if they’re dating now. It would be fairly safe to assume, only Éponine’s slept with a lot of people without ever seeing them again. This is Cosette, though, the wonder-girl she’s half in love with. Unless he’s misjudged Éponine, he can’t imagine that this means nothing.
He waits until Cosette’s gone to the bathroom before sidling up to his housemate and muttering, ‘So what’s the deal? Are you a couple or just banging?’
‘What did you want me to say?’ he’s bordering on fourteen-year-old, now. ‘Frickle frack?’
She mock shoves him, only she’s so strong it does actually kind of hurt. ‘The term ‘dating’ will do fine.’
‘Nice. How’d it happen?’
She glances at the bathroom. ‘Night out, one too many cocktails and then we’re kissing. For such an advocate of for the powers of alcohol I’m surprised you haven’t got her brother drunk yet.’
‘Oh lord.’ The mental image of an inebriated Enjolras is not one he’s going to forget for a while.
‘Hey,’ Éponine calls, as Cosette re-enters the room. ‘What’s your brother like when he’s drunk?’
Éponine knows Enjolras a little, Grantaire keeps forgetting. He wonders if the two of them have ever spoken about him, and hastily dismisses the notion. It’s too self-centred, even it it’s still the morning.
‘Um,’ Cosette says. ‘It varies. Sometimes he gets really righteous and riled up but mostly he’s just really affectionate.’
‘Isn’t ‘righteous and riled up’ more like his default setting?’ Grantaire asks. After the words have left his mouth, it occurs to him that this maybe isn’t the best thing to say, but right now he can’t bring himself to care.
‘Not really,’ she says. ‘I mean yeah, he cares a lot about stuff, and sometimes it can get quite intense, but he’s a dork really.’
‘He once spent twenty minutes explaining in intricate detail to somebody at a bus stop why the Star Wars prequels, as well as being terrible movies, have no continuity with the original series.’
‘Really?’ Grantaire’s delighted.
‘No, that was Courfeyrac, but Enjolras helped.’ Cosette’s funnier than he realised.
‘Shame.’ Nerd Enjolras would be – well, interesting.
‘Oh, and did you find your bike?’ she asks, rising to help Éponine with the breakfast dishes. ‘Enjolras said it was stolen.’
‘Oh, no. I didn’t have high hopes.’
‘You should see the rust bucket he’s riding now,’ Éponine interjects. ‘I know little about bikes and care even less, but that thing has the temperament of an evil donkey.’
‘My friend Bossuet has leant me his old hybrid,’ Grantaire explains.
‘Oh, that’s kind of him.’
‘It would be kinder still if he gave you a bike that didn’t attack our flat at every opportunity.’ Yesterday, when coming in, Grantaire accidently took a chunk out of the front door with one of the pedals. The door is a piece of shit, but it’s also the piece of shit that’s between them and the rest of the world. The good news is that she isn’t blaming him.
Cosette laughs. She really is right for Éponine, he realises, able to take her abrasive edges without responding with pity. ‘How are your injuries?’
So she’s heard all about it. Because he hates himself, Grantaire tries to picture the scene: Enjolras braiding his sister’s hair and describing the flat in excruciating detail. (‘The mould, you can’t even imagine. I counted at least five varieties’.) It isn’t a very comforting image.
‘They weren’t really injuries,’ he says. ‘Mostly bruising.’
‘I’ll pass it on,’ Cosette says, picking up the one clean tea towel. Éponine has filled the sink with a mountain of bubbles – it looks like she’s used more detergent than Grantaire ever has in his life. The two of them set to work, only their every movement is interspersed with some sort of flirtatious gesture, and so he gets up and leaves them to it.
He’s got better things to worry about, like how he’s going to manage without a bike of his own and whether it’s OK to text somebody if they didn’t reply to your last message.
Note to self: in the future, try and avoid running off in the middle of one fic to write a 30k piece about Game of Thrones characters as secret agents. It's somewhat irresponsible.
That said, my other fic is done and I'm back to this! I'm also back at college after the holidays so I have no idea how regular updates will be, but I promise there will be updates and we will get to the end! (there are going to be *at least* two more chapters after this. Two being the absolute minimum).
If you enjoyed it or have any questions, please leave a comment or send me an ask at betweentheheavesofstorm.tumblr.com
Dampness has become the permanent state in which he lives, as no matter how much newspaper he stuffs inside his shoes he just can’t get them to dry.
Grantaire doesn’t really notice the seasons changing, but one day he looks up and realises that autumn has taken hold. Sometimes this is favourite time of year, the changing colours of the trees and the crispness to the air making him wake up a little more each morning. This year, though, it’s like somebody flipped a switch to deliberately prevent it from being picturesque in any way. With the decrease in temperature comes a constant rain, and the piles of flame coloured leaves stick to the pavement like soggy cornflakes. Now and again he’ll see a few brave souls trying to preserve the beauty of the moment, but the ceaseless drizzle puts an end to any bonfire plans and at the end of the day a pumpkin spice latte still has no pumpkin in it.
It’s even more inescapable when it comes to cycling. Though he resents the term ‘fair weather cyclist’ and all it entails, it does have some accuracy. The first day it rains, it’s all right, and maybe even the day after that. By the third day, though, it’s just annoying, and by the end of the week he’d be happy if it never rained again.
The weather’s not listening to him though, and if anything precipitation levels have increased. Dampness has become the permanent state in which he lives, as no matter how much newspaper he stuffs inside his shoes he just can’t get them to dry.
Even Éponine is cross about the weather, a true sign that something’s wrong. Normally she can get anything to work for her. She’s got halter necks and shorts for hot days, ratty jumpers and tights for the cool ones, and a Primark raincoat that looks more expensive than it was for whenever the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Like him, she’s given up now, dressing for warmth instead of style. It’s one of the rare times he’s seen her be genuinely unfashionable. He’d find it amusing if he weren’t too irked by the weather to have room for any other emotion.
However, it doesn’t go from annoying to actually catastrophic until he gets home one afternoon. He leans awkwardly over the borrowed bike to flick the hall light on and nothing happens. He assumes the bulb has blown and doesn’t think more of it until the kitchen light doesn’t turn on either, or in fact any of the electrical appliances.
‘Oh shit.’ Forgetting entirely for the moment that his clothes are literally dripping, Grantaire hastily leans the bike against the nearest wall, extracts his phone from the plastic bag he was keeping it in (It being the best method of waterproofing he’s got) and dials.
Éponine picks up on the fifth ring, just when he’s beginning to worry it will go to answerphone. She’s slightly breathless and sounds somewhat impatient.
‘Unless you’re actually dying, now is really not the time.’
‘The power’s not working,’ Grantaire says. ‘None of the lights turn on. I just got home.’
There’s a short pause, and then muffled swearing. It sounds like she’s buried her head in a pillow. Then, ‘You’re sure?’
‘Fuck. All right. I’ll come home.’
‘Thanks. I’ll let you know if anything changes.’
She hangs up first, and he’s left to try and figure out what the sensible thing to do is. It’s at times like these that he questions his ability as an adult to figure stuff out. He’s got no idea how to proceed, and unless Éponine has had secret training as an electrician he’s not sure she will either. Still, she’s a good person to have around in a crisis and will hopefully be able to think of what he can’t.
While he waits, he goes around the flat turning off switches. He’s not sure why, it just seems good practice. Navigating the flat in the dark is more of a struggle than his brain made it out to be. He’s moderately clumsy at the best of times, and now he’s bumping into things and knocking them over like he’s in a kids’ cartoon. When moving the bike out of the hallway, one of its demon pedals clips the sofa. It’s a good thing it’s too dark to check whether it tore the fabric or not.
He leaves the bike dripping muddy rainwater over the kitchen and slowly makes his way to his room to get changed. Without heating, the flat is quite noticeably chillier and as the night draws in it’s only going to get more so. Add in the fact that he’s currently soaking wet, and he might diagnose himself with pneumonia now.
The air inside his room is so cold it takes an extreme effort of will to strip down. He rummages around for a clean shirt, and realises with dismay that the only one he has to hand is slightly too small. He’s been meaning to throw it out for ages; only he doesn’t like getting rid of things unless they’re full of holes.
Maybe he’s mistaken, he thinks hopefully, pulling the shirt on over his head. As soon as it’s on it becomes quite clear he wasn’t, though hopefully if he puts a couple of layers on top of it nobody will be able to tell.
By the time Éponine arrives with a concerned Cosette in tow, he’s in warmer and drier things and feeling more optimistic about the whole situation.
‘God, it’s cold,’ Éponine says, in lieu of a greeting.
‘What do we do?’ he asks, because if she doesn’t know then they’re officially screwed.
‘Phone the landlord, I guess. I’m pretty sure our contract says he’s the one who calls in electricians and stuff. Does no one have power, or is it just us?’
‘I think it’s just us.’ When walking up to the building, he’d seen other lights on.
‘I’ll call him, then. Best to let him know, even if he can’t do anything till tomorrow.’ She’s already scrolling through her contacts, and he feels reassured. Éponine has this under control. Nodding at them, she raises the phone to her ear and walks down to the other side of the flat for some quiet.
‘What are you going to do?’ Cosette asks. She looks slightly more dishevelled than usual, but then Grantaire did call them out at an unexpected time. ‘I mean, you can’t stay here. Nothing works and you’ll freeze.’
‘Don’t know,’ he says, as it genuinely hasn’t occurred to him. Nice job, Grantaire, clearly thinking ahead. ‘Éponine can stay with you, right? I can always crash with Joly and Bossuet, though if they don’t have the space I can always bite the bullet and politely ask Theodule.’
‘You know him?’
‘We went to the same secondary. London’s a small place when it comes to pretentious arseholes.’
‘You can say that again. God, I can picture the sort of sofa he’s going to have too: a minimalist grey couch with zero cushions. Not the type you like to sit on, let alone sleep on.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, you can’t stay with him.’
‘You’re right, I’ll make a blanket fort here instead.’
She just sighs. ‘I was going to say you should come with us. Enjolras has a spare sofa bed in his room. You’d be more than welcome.’
‘Oh,’ he says weakly. He possibly should have seen this coming, but in his defence it’s been a strange evening so far and he’s still trying to process certain parts of it. Of course now she’s made the offer, it has the potential to get a whole lot weirder. ‘Uh, I shouldn’t. I don’t know your family that well. Or Enjolras, really. It would be weird.’
‘More or less weird than obstinately remaining in a flat with no electricity?’ He’s taking back everything he’s ever thought about liking Cosette; the girl is too damn reasonable. ‘You’re not ten years old, I’m sure you can share a room without fighting.’
‘And he would be magically OK with this? He seems the type to value personal space.’
‘Of course. If it’s a big deal I’ll text and ask him. If it comes down to it, we do have a sofa as well.’
She’s going to win, they both know it. Better to salvage his dignity and accept defeat as graciously as possible.
‘All right,’ Grantaire says, unable not to sound grudging. ‘But if he murders me in the middle of the night because I snore, or something, my ghost will ensure you get the blame.’
‘Good,’ says Cosette, not in the least fazed by his bullshit. ‘And I wouldn’t worry, he’s the one that snores.’
You can probably tell that as far as which parts of the flat would actually be reliant on electricity I have no idea, but I'm going to insist creative licence as my excuse (or point out I'm a tired college student and so wouldn't know these things)
As always, if you liked it please leave a comment or come visit my Tumblr.
They aren't friends. Friends text each other. They don't swoop mysteriously into each other's lives and promptly swoop out again.
Éponine returns, confirming what they already suspect - nothing can be done until tomorrow, and possibly not till the day after.
'You and Grantaire will stay with me,' Cosette says, as though it's already settled. Éponine just nods, and so maybe it is.
'All right. Give me a minute to get my stuff.'
Grantaire can't find any other dry clothes - the constant rain of this week has been hard on his wardrobe - but he does collect a hoodie and his toothbrush. On impulse he remembers his phone charger as well, and throws it into a bag.
'Have you checked the fridge?' he asks, emerging from his room carrying the driest and most waterproof of his coats.
'We can feed you,' Cosette says quickly.
'Yeah but if the power's off, it won't be refrigerating and so stuff might go bad.'
'Refrigerating,' Éponine mutters, but goes to check. She can mock all she likes, he’s 90% sure it’s a word. There's only a handful of things in the fridge. She takes the milk and a half-full carton of eggs, leaving an aubergine and the few olives Grantaire didn't eat.
Clutching their things, they leave the flat and emerge from the building out into the rain. It's coming down worse than ever, and Grantaire's remaining dry clothes are soaked again almost instantly. He regrets changing, but it would hardly have been a good idea to show up on Enjolras's doorstep smelling of dirt and sweat as well as rain.
Speaking of Enjolras's doorstep, he's still not convinced that this idea is a good one. Yeah, he'd do nearly anything to avoid asking Theodule's help, but there have to be other options. Musichetta, Bossuet and Joly don't have the room, it would be mean to ask them. They're crammed enough as it is, and while he loves Bossuet he's not sure he could live with him. Bahorel would be the other option, if he didn't live in the world's smallest flat. It's a source of comedy most of the time, the tall and hulking guy squeezing around a flat that was probably designed for a tiny old lady. Grantaire needs friends with bigger homes.
'You look like you're going to throw up,' Éponine remarks quietly, as they board a bus and move towards the rear seats. Cosette is a heartbeat behind them, so Grantaire's able to hiss that he feels like that, too.
'Is this about Enjolras?' Éponine sighs. 'He's not going to throw you out into the rain or anything, chill.'
'How do you know?' he deadpans. She doesn't seem to find it funny.
'I've met him, remember? I'm aware of his principles. And I've also heard him talk about you.'
'You have?' He'd like to know a lot more, only Cosette has caught up with them. She takes the spot sitting next to Éponine, and Grantaire sits across from them. He feels a sudden flash of jealousy that Cosette's in his spot, half-leaning on his friend and her girlfriend, but quickly suppresses it. He's not that much of a douche.
The journey drags by. It's colder than it ought to be inside the bus, and Grantaire's filled with an entertaining sense of dread. All the things he disliked about Cosette's house are rushing back in glorious Technicolour and suddenly he's unsure if he can sleep in a place with wooden letters spelling out 'Live Laugh Love' on the windowsills.
(Though one could make a case for it coming down to whether he's able to sell out his integrity and personal values for a good night's sleep in a place with working lights. He's worried that the answer is yes.)
Enjolras isn't going to want to see him. Sure, he's gone out of his way to help Grantaire but that was repaying a favour, really. They aren't friends. Friends text each other. They don't swoop mysteriously into each other's lives and promptly swoop out again. Then again, Cosette seems confident that her brother isn't going to implicitly reject Grantaire. She's a glass half-full person if he ever saw one, but she's not stupid either. Nor, hopefully, has she invited him out of a desperate sense of politeness.
Then suddenly they're at the bus stop and they're getting off, back into the rain, and he's wondering if he made a break for it whether they'd come after him. Éponine might, depending on how sentimental she's feeling, and if she did she'd catch him for sure. Unfortunately cycling muscles are different from running muscles, and unlike him she doesn't get winded just walking up stairs.
He doesn't run, though. Whether it's resignation, self-preservation or even some masochistic sense of curiosity, he follows the two young women along the road and up to the row of houses that includes the Fauchevelent's. He hasn’t been here since the summer, but is irritated to note that the place still looks nice. The exterior has lost some of its prettiness in the dark and rain, but the windows glow with a warming ambience that makes him think of fires in fireplaces and hot chocolate with little marshmallows.
Cosette unlocks the front door, and the three of them tumble into the hall. In the scuffle as they all divest themselves of coats and shoes they manage to get wet footprints all over the carpet, but their host doesn't seem to mind. Unwinding a long purple scarf from around her neck and hanging it next to Éponine’s sodden coat she shouts 'We're back.'
The man Grantaire remembers as being her father appears in the hall, a kind if confused expression on his face.
'I texted you when we were on the bus,' Cosette says. 'The electricity's gone in Éponine’s flat, so I said she and Grantaire could stay here for the night.'
Further explanation follows, and ten minutes later they're sitting in the warm kitchen with mugs of tea. The chill has started to fade from Grantaire's bones, though his damp clothes still stick to him.
'We've got plenty of space, you can stay here for longer if need be,' Cosette's father says. He's introduced himself as Valjean, though Grantaire’s not sure if he heard it right and so is avoiding addressing him by name. 'I've had trouble with landlords over things like this in the past. Besides,' he smiles at Éponine, 'you're here most of the time anyway.'
'Hopefully that won't be necessary,' Grantaire babbles. Apparently some people think about what they're going to say before they say it. It must be nice to be one of them. 'I mean, it'll be good if we get it sorted out soon.'
'Of course,' Valjean agrees. Cosette has been flitting around preparing food, and now she sets a plate stacked with buttered toast on the table. Éponine takes a piece immediately - restraint around food is not her strong point - and Grantaire hesitates for a moment before following suit.
It was definitely the right decision. He's not sure he's ever eaten toast like this, with just butter and no jam. Combined with the tea it warms his insides and helps to reduce the sense of impending doom. Perhaps it won't be so bad. Enjolras may not even be in, he could be off gallivanting around with Courfeyrac. Grantaire starts to relax, and even contribute to the conversation. Éponine’s started a dangerous conversation about the middle class appropriation of working class stereotypes. Far from taking offence though, Cosette and Valjean are responding intelligently. For middle class hipsters, they seem to have morals.
Grantaire's let his guard down almost completely when Enjolras appears, wearing a faded Gryffindor sweatshirt and carrying an armful of empty mugs. He goes straight to dump them in the sink, and then joins them at the table.
'Hi,' he says, to the room at large, and then to his sister, 'I got your message and put clean sheets on the sofa bed.'
She nods, and Grantaire manages to unstick his throat long enough for a thank-you. Enjolras in his natural environment is something to behold; his hair is quite literally all over the place and it looks like he's wearing pajama bottoms instead of trousers. There are dark circles under his eyes and when he speaks his whole countenance doesn't radiate intensity. This is a softer Enjolras, a quieter Enjolras, as though somebody's turned the saturation dial down a couple of turns. He's sitting across the table from Grantaire, and he'd be lying if he claimed not to be watching him out of the corner of his eye.
'Is your cat going to be all right?' Cosette asks.
'Mabeuf? He's a Spartan. I left some food out for him, he'll be fine.'
'You've got a cat?' Enjolras asks. 'I didn't see him.'
'Well, you weren't here that long.' Out of all available topics of conversation, Grantaire would really rather prefer they stay away from this one.
‘When I was younger, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted a pet cat or a pet bird,’ Cosette tells him. ‘Unfortunately, the two are kind of mutually exclusive.’
‘Did you settle on one?’ he asks, grateful for the diversion.
‘Yes, I had a yellow parakeet.’
‘Until she felt sorry for it living in a cage and let it go,’ Enjolras interjects. Grantaire expects him to add something like, Thus contributing to the destruction of natural ecosystems, but he doesn’t. Cosette probably wouldn’t take it personally either; as his sister she must be used to his overwhelming need for everything to be politically correct.
‘Was it all right?’ Éponine frowns. ‘Domestic animals don’t usually survive the wild.’
‘We saw it a few times,’ Cosette answers. ‘There are quite a few in this area – they escape, or are released, and they seem to do quite well. Ten-year-old me was thrilled that Percy had found friends.’
‘Percy the parakeet?’ Éponine is managing to sound both mocking and affectionate simultaneously.
‘After Percy Weasley. I liked the alliteration and I hadn’t got to Order of the Phoenix yet so I still liked him.’
From across the table, Enjolras is looking at Grantaire. Grantaire avoids his gaze for a little while, pretending not to notice, but there’s only so long he can keep it up. Eventually he surrenders and turns his head to meet the other guy’s gaze.
‘You look cold,’ Enjolras says flatly. ‘You should change.’
'I, uh, didn’t bring anything. I'd already changed when I got home. This is my last set of dry clothes.' He stops talking before he sounds any more pathetic than he already does.
'I'll lend you something.'
'It's not going to fit.' That's the kindest way of saying that Enjolras is tall, while he's... well, not. It’s also the best way of distracting his mind from the very engaging thought of wearing Enjolras’s clothes.
What can he say, he’s trash.
'You can't stay like that, you'll catch a chill. Look, come up and I'll find you something.'
Grantaire looks appealingly to Éponine, who just shrugs. 'The guy's right,' she says, and he's not sure if he's imagining the upward slant to her mouth. 'You don't want to get a cold.'
Cosette is nodding along and he can’t exactly ask Valjean to defend his honour (or his sanity) so he slowly gets up from the table. Enjolras is ahead of him, waiting at the foot of the stairs. It wouldn’t have been that hard to stay in the flat and perhaps Bahorel’s place is bigger than he remembers. Hell, he’d fall asleep on a park bench before choosing this.
There’s nothing he can do though, apart from walk the stairs and hope he’ll trip and knock himself out. The loss of consciousness would be worth the ensuing fuss, and if he really committed he might get to stay in hospital overnight, thus solving the accommodation problem.
The self-preservation he has will be his damnation, he thinks sadly as he follows in Enjolras’s wake. By now, you’d think that the universe would be taking pity on him.
What's this? Two chapters at once? The same day as I upload a 2k oneshot? I know, I'm amazed at my own productivity.
If you've enjoyed it or have any questions please leave a comment below or send me an ask at betweentheheavesofstorm.tumblr.com!
It's strange to think of Enjolras as a person who likes things.
Enjolras's bedroom is painted light green. He has blue curtains, white bookshelves and a paper model of the solar system hanging from the ceiling over his desk. Against the wall opposite the bed is what Grantaire assumes is the sofa bed, complete with duvet, pillow and sheet. There's a green rag rug on the floor and a confusing number of waste paper baskets.
In a way, it looks like the room's inhabited by two people, one excessively tidy and the other a mess. The bed is perfectly made, and on the desk biros and highlighters are laid out in neat rows. Yet books are stacked on every conceivable surface, shoes are littered across the floor and his Lord of the Rings poster is slightly crooked.
It's strange to think of Enjolras as a person who likes things. In Grantaire's mind he's always existed in a critical void, above such common things as popular culture. It doesn't make sense for him to be as petty and ordinary as other people.
Of course, this is being processed by the only part of Grantaire’s mind that still works. The rest is alternating between screaming and hyperventilating because he’s in Enjolras’s room and he may not be a twelve-year-old anymore but at times like these it’s hard to tell.
The only consolation he can see is that Enjolras seems just as awkward with the situation.
'Sorry, I would have tidied properly if I'd known you were coming,' he says, heading straight for a chest of drawers and starting to rummage through it. Either he’s anxious to get this over with as quickly as possible or he’s not able to look Grantaire in the eye. Grantaire wouldn’t usually assume the latter, but he would find it difficult to meet anyone’s gaze if they were standing in his bedroom for the first time. 'Cosette didn't give me much warning.'
'You and me both,' Grantaire mutters. There’s a short silence as Enjolras searches through for spare clothes. Grantaire’s eyes drift around the room, and come to rest on the desk. The papers bear the marks of three different handwritings, each glaring in red ink. One of them must be Enjolras’s, though it occurs to Grantaire that he’s never actually seen him write.
He edges closer to the desk, made confident by the fact that the other guy still has his back turned. At the top of the page is written Possible Courses Of Action and below that are paragraphs describing what looks like a code of conduct.
‘How’s your campaign thing going?’ he asks, and Enjolras drops the shirt he was holding.
‘You don’t have to ask just to be polite,’ Enjolras says stiffly, bending to retrieve it. Grantaire finds himself staring at his butt, because it looks amazing even in pajamas and how is that fair?
‘I’m not,’ he says, though to a certain extent he is. Anything is better than an awkward silence. He nods to the desk. ‘I uh, saw your papers.’
‘Oh. Yeah.’ Enjolras glances to his desk, and then remembers he’s holding a T-shirt. ‘Here.’
‘Thanks. So why is a code of conduct important?’
‘There’s a possibility Feuilly could be fired for being gay.’
Disregarding the fact that he has no idea who Feuilly is, Grantaire frowns. ‘Isn’t that illegal? I’m sure we have, like, laws.’
‘If that was the reason they gave for his dismissal, yes.’ Talking about it seems to make Enjolras more comfortable. This is familiar territory to him.
(Which implies that having boys in his room isn’t. He could be straight, perpetually single or just completely uninterested in dating. Being the masochistic shit that he is, Grantaire’s going to assume it’s #3.)
‘Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Though they can’t fire him for that, they’re biased against him meaning that they’ll hold even the most minor impeachment against him.’
‘Where does he work?’
‘He’s a college librarian. It’s not fantastic, and there was some discussion of trying to find him a different job anyway. It’s irritating.’ Enjolras sighs. ‘I don’t want to give up, and at the same time I’d rather he wasn’t miserable.’
‘If he quits before they fire him, would that still count as winning?’
A shrug. ‘Depends how you see it.’
‘Does he know anything about bikes?’ He’s getting an idea, and right now he can’t tell whether it’s a good one or a bad one. Perhaps it’s neither, and he’s just caving to a pathetic desire to make things better for Enjolras.
‘Why? Do you have a vacancy at the shop?’ If nothing else, it’s got his attention.
‘Not per se, but we’re just waiting for a chance to get rid of Theodule.’ Grantaire realizes the irony moments after the words leave his mouth.
‘So you’re offering to pointlessly sack somebody so my friend doesn’t have to be pointlessly sacked?’
‘Theodule’s a dick, though, it would be doing us all a favour.’
‘And you assume Feuilly isn’t?’
‘Well, you like him.’
‘Still. I appreciate your offer, but I don’t think it will be necessary.’ Returning to the issue of clothes, Enjolras picks out a pair of baggy jeans and holds them up. 'Do you think these will fit if you roll the legs up?'
'Yeah, they should.' He's wider the hips, but these look roomy enough to manage. 'Thanks.'
'No problem. I’ll leave you to change.’ Enjolras heads towards the door, and Grantaire starts to peel his damp jumper off. It’s only when he’s succeeded that he remembers how small and embarrassingly tight his shirt is.
‘If you need anything, just say,’ Enjolras adds, pausing and looking back at the worst possible moment.
‘Uh, thanks.’ Would it be better to hold his jumper to his chest as if he were a maiden protecting her modesty or should he not draw attention to it? With no time to choose Grantaire does nothing, and regrets it when Enjolras’s eyes linger for a moment too long on his torso before leaving. Great. Now he’s the guy who dresses inappropriately and doesn’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge it.
The upside is at least he’s alone now, fully able to contemplate the sequence of his life’s disasters that have led up to this moment. He waits until he's sure he's not going to be interrupted - that would be a funny story he'd rather not have to tell at parties - and then pulls off his wet things. The black T-shirt fits better than the one he owned, though he does have to roll up the legs of the jeans. Both the items have the pleasant smell of a strange washing powder.
Dressed and much warmer than he was before, he doesn't go downstairs immediately. Possibly it’s the knowledge that after tonight he may never get to enter Enjolras’s room again, or merely a nagging curiosity to want to know how Enjolras expresses himself with material objects. The books are an eclectic mixture; law textbooks interspersed with literature and the occasional sci-fi thrown in. Grantaire’s delighted to find a whole row of Doctor Who NSA novels at the back of one shelf.
Continuing the investigation, he discovers that the little Pluto in the solar system aerial is handmade; all the others are made from a shiny paper and it looks like it's been painted in watercolours. So Enjolras is on Team Pluto. Rights for dwarf planets. It's not really a surprise.
‘How long does it take to get changed?’ With more noise than is probably necessary, Éponine barges into the room. He’s not surprised or offended by her lack of consideration for his modesty; it’s hardly anything new. ‘Enjolras wants you,’ she adds, without preamble.
‘I’m kidding, chill.’
He glares at her and she smiles. ‘He and Cosette are cooking. An actual meal. Unlike some people, they don’t just fry up whatever they have in the cupboard and run with it.’
‘Sugarcoat it, please.’ Dragging himself from the enchanting mess, he joins her in the doorway. ‘Are you hiding?’
Éponine sighs. ‘I’m here a lot, remember. I’ve had plenty of time to digest the wholesomeness. You, on the other hand, are hiding. You had the same panicked look in your eyes when Bahorel was drunk and trying to get you to agree to a tattoo of his face on your butt.’
‘I’d forgotten about that.’
‘More importantly, Bahorel has too.’ She tilts her head, and he can tell she’s about to say something that he’s not going to want to hear. ‘You have to come down now and prove you’re still alive.’
He hesitates. There’s a fleeting flicker of sympathy in her expression. Éponine’s always been able to read him without difficulty, and if she’s being obstinate now it’s not without reason.
‘Look,’ she says. ‘They wouldn’t have invited you here if they didn’t like you. So come eat something that’s properly nutritious and tomorrow you’ll be home again.’
‘That’s really comforting,’ he says drily, but allows her to lead him back towards the stairs.
At this stage, I'm going to give up trying to predict how many chapters this is going to be. But not many more. That I do know.
Though she seems continually exasperated by his inability to do anything, Éponine's more than happy to come to his rescue.
Dinner isn’t the agonizing experience Grantaire expected. Enjolras’s family are too familiar with each other and Éponine to let it get awkward, and the food is truly astonishing. It’s not even a complicated meal, but Grantaire’s had so many reheated pizzas and bowls of instant soup that something that’s actually good for him tastes miraculous. Perhaps Éponine’s dating Cosette purely for her culinary skill. If it means she gets to eat like this on a regular basis, he wouldn’t be surprised.
Valjean, the family member he was most concerned about, (besides the human fire and brimstone he’s sharing a room with, of course) is quiet and polite. He claims to remember Grantaire from the party. Either he’s lying for courtesy’s sake or just avoiding the part where Grantaire didn’t make a good first impression.
By the end of the meal, Éponine has stopped looking like she wants to kick him but can’t reach, and his desire to flee has died down. He even accepts dessert, and then has to stifle a laugh when he sees what it is. Valjean raises his eyebrows in surprise, but doesn’t question what’s so funny about a tub of ice cream.
Enjolras’s eyes meet Grantaire’s across the kitchen, and there’s a fleeting moment of something familiar that’s gone as soon as he blinks.
It’s OK though, because Éponine is telling a story about something that happened at work. Grantaire’s heard it – or a variation of it – half a dozen times now, and it strikes him that this is the Funny version. He’s had the angry one firsthand, when she was bristling with bottled fury and looked as if it would only take the smallest thing for her to burn the whole shop down. Then there was the Cool version she gave Bahorel, where reality bent so that jokes could make sense. After that there was the Tired and Sad version, when she recognised that life doesn’t get better. It just changes and sometimes those changes are improvements, but not always.
And now this is the Funny version, the cheerful one that’s suitable to tell her girlfriend’s family. When it all comes down to it it’s not even that interesting a story, Grantaire thinks. Merely the woes of working in customer services and the outrageous demands of humanity.
Cosette thinks it’s the funniest thing ever, Valjean is kindly amused and Enjolras laughs, though he’s probably inwardly bristling at the injustice. All three together they make a satisfying audience.
Once dessert is over, the unity of the group starts to break up as people move around and the ease that Grantaire has managed to cultivate in the presence of other people begins to slide away again. Though she seems continually exasperated by his inability to do anything, Éponine's more than happy to come to his rescue. She slips him the WiFi password just after the meal, sighing at his awkwardness about asking for it.
'It's like I'm chaperoning you,' she mutters, tapping it in and handing his phone back. 'Gavroche is less hassle, I swear.'
Grantaire thinks about responding about Gavroche being able to have a better grasp of his priorities, but manages to stop himself in time. He's got distractions now, and is able to send off a couple of messages summarising the fucked-ness of his situation. Neither Bossuet nor Bahorel will be able to do anything about it, but they may get some entertainment from laughing at it. If nothing else, he’s providing a public service by amusing them.
There's still a limit to what he can send them, though. His friends might have some sympathy, but it's unlikely they'll be able to muster that much pity if between lamentations he also takes the time to remark on how extraordinary Enjolras's cheekbones look when they catch the light.
He sends those messages to Éponine instead, knowing that she always keeps her phone locked and isn't going to care. It's not so much that he has a desire to tell anybody that despite his nerdiness Enjolras actually has biceps, and more some idea that these things should be acknowledged. Appreciated, noted down so that when Grantaire is old and surrounded by imaginary children (he'll be the crazy dude down the street talking to thin air) he'll able to exactly recall the way Enjolras's brows furrow when he's thinking and the easy familiar smile he directs at Cosette whenever she says anything funny.
"I didn’t realise u were this pathetic" Éponine texts back, as soon as she's had a chance to read the messages. She looks at him across the room, amusement softening the hard lines of her face, and he's even more of a mess than he though because he doesn't mind that she’s mocking him.
'Are you all right?'
Valjean takes him by surprise. Grantaire hastily stuffs his phone into his pocket, and wishes that the guy’s manners weren’t so good that he couldn’t leave a guest standing by himself.
'Me? Yeah, fine. And not trying to eat all the dairy products in my house at once, so thanks for letting me stay here.'
'You're very welcome. Both my children have mentioned you, and so in some ways it satisfies my curiosity to meet you properly.' He says it in an amiable way that sounds quite horribly sincere.
'Enjolras says you work at a bike shop? How do you find that?'
'Oh, it's cool. Can get annoying to be surrounded by bikes you want to own, but as we cater mostly to hipster commuters I don’t get too jealous.’ Remembering that it's what most people say in conversations, Grantaire coughs and asks, 'What do you do?'
'I took an early retirement, though I'm still involved in community work,' Valjean says. 'Before that I worked on local councils.'
'What was that like?'
‘In a word, exhausting. Only halfway through my time there did it occur to me that my priority should be not my career but the people I had jurisdiction over. Not all see it that way, however.'
Grantaire doesn't have a great impression of London councils, but then he's never had direct contact with them. He wonders if Valjean has the same virtuous ambitions as his son. If so, no wonder he finds it frustrating.
Valjean doesn't seem to want to spend long talking about himself, though, because he soon moves on to ask Grantaire about the strange noise his bike is making. He's not very good at describing it, and Grantaire has to force himself from slipping into Customer Service mode. In the context of the shop, it's not a bad way to be, but he suspects that everyone would start looking at him strangely if he plastered a plastic smile to his face and acted as if Valjean absolutely knew what he was talking about.
The discussion is drawing to a close when Cosette swoops in and takes her father to try and convince Éponine that soya milk really isn't that bad.
'You look tired,' Enjolras observes, as Grantaire leans against a bookcase. 'You don't have to stay up just because everyone is.'
'I'm not five,' Grantaire mutters, though a moment later he yawns and betrays himself.
Enjolras just huffs. 'I'll go too, if you're worried about being disturbed.'
Grantaire’s going to protest further, but when he opens his mouth it’s just for another yawn. Enjolras raises his eyebrows, as if to say point proven and for the hundredth time that day Grantaire gives in. Bidding goodnight to the assembled crowd, he once again is ushered upstairs.
Thinking it’s probably the right thing to do, he makes a point of going to clean his teeth so that Enjolras has time to change. Sure enough, when he returns his roommate is leaning over the desk, now in a loose white T-shirt and the same jogging bottoms as before.
'I can find you something to sleep in,' Enjolras adds, as Grantaire reappears.
'Another change of clothes. This must be what hell is like.'
He may joke about it, but when Enjolras has handed him some freshly washed pajamas he's grateful. Enjolras leaves to clean his own teeth, so Grantaire changes and gets into the sofa bed. Stretching out on the stiff mattress, he takes a deep breath and wills himself to relax. He doesn't usually like sleeping in rooms with other people and there are so many ways this could go wrong.
(He might snore. He’s never been told he does, but it could be something that’s developed recently. Or he might sleepwalk. Given his ability to embarrass himself when he has conscious control, Grantaire doesn’t want to know what he might do when asleep.)
Enjolras returns, bringing the scent of peppermint into the room. He nods politely at Grantaire and goes to his own bed.
'Night.' Grantaire says it without conviction. Enjolras switches the light off, and the two of them are left staring at the stickered constellations that spread across the ceiling. Grantaire wonders if they're all correct. They probably are. The only constellation he knows is the Plough, or the frying-pan, as Éponine calls it. He's never had much interest in the stars; he was more of a dinosaur kid. Beyond looking up his zodiac (Gemini) he's never bothered much with the night sky.
To his surprise, he does fall asleep. It may be a sign of his emotional exhaustion that it doesn’t bother him to be sharing a room. Or perhaps by now he’s comforted by the fact that he can’t possibly embarrass himself in front of Enjolras any more than he already has, and in that respect has immunity. Éponine can always come and save him, he thinks hazily, as the glowing stars on the ceiling become increasingly blurrier.
If anyone's wondering, The Plough is a British name for the Big Dipper/Ursa Major.
I can now say with full confidence that there is only one chapter of this left.
I'm really sorry for the haphazardly timed updates, I've been exhausted recently with college and other stuff and haven't had much time/energy for writing. The last chapter shouldn't be *too* far away as I've already started it, but we'll see how it goes. I'm going to try and aim to have this finished by next weekend.
As always, if you enjoyed it please let me know in a comment or send me an ask at betweentheheavesofstorm.tumblr.com!
He makes it to the bathroom without knocking anything over, though he does experience a perilous moment with a potted plant.
Grantaire doesn’t remember waking, yet sadly it still happens. He’s momentarily confused, until details from the previous day begin to return and his surroundings start to make sense.
It’s still dark; everyone in the house is asleep now. The thought is both comforting and disturbing. On the one hand there are no onlookers. He can exist without being disturbed or observed, and that is reassuring. Yet at the same time he is alone, isolated in a house flooded with darkness. A strange house with strange people in it, and one he is trapped in until further notice. Best not to dwell on that for too long.
He lies there for a little while, listening to the sound of Enjolras’s breathing. Every now and again he makes a weird sort of snuffling sound. The most accurate description Grantaire can think of is a rabbit snoring.
Suddenly claustrophobic, he sits up and throws the covers back. The cold air outside the bed is refreshing, so that at first he doesn’t mind the goosebumps. He sits on the edge of the bed, feet resting on the floor, and wonders whether he can get to the bathroom without waking everybody up. If he’s honest with himself his chances aren’t fantastic, but not is it appealing to stay put till morning – whenever that will be. Grantaire hesitates a moment longer, and then grabs his phone and rises. The pitiful light from his screen may be of some assistance, and several notifications are blinking.
Exiting Enjolras’s room turns out to be the hardest part. The floorboards nearest the door are squeaky and the door is wedged in the frame. He has to wrench it to get it open, and the process is quite noisy. Enjolras doesn’t stir, though, and Grantaire is able to escape out into the hall.
He makes it to the bathroom without knocking anything over, though he does experience a perilous moment with a potted plant. Once he’s reached the bathroom he decides he’s far enough away from other people’s bedrooms to be able to turn the light on without disturbing anyone. Come to think of it, he might have been able to get away with the hall light, too. Damn. He’s turning into one of those people from mystery novels who for some reason wandered around in the dark on the night of the murder even though they really didn’t have to.
The bathroom light is blindingly bright when he first switches it on. It’s like an interrogation room – or what he imagines one would be like. He goes through the motions mechanically, going to the toilet and washing his hands, and then sits on the closed toilet seat to check his phone. Éponine had responded to his last text, and when he opens it his heart plummets.
“cosette thinks ur adoration of her dork brother is hilarious btw”
He and Éponine are going to have a very serious talk tomorrow, about topics such as privacy, secrets and not telling the sister of your crush that you have a crush. Granted, there’s a slim chance that Cosette has figured it out by herself, (she’s not exactly stupid) but this is still definitely Crossing A Line.
The other text he has is from Joly, offering sympathy. He replies to it before remembering that Joly won’t see it until the morning. Oh well.
He thinks he hears a noise, and sits up straight. He doesn’t particularly want to go to bed just yet, but nor does he want to be discovered texting in the bathroom. The plausibility of the excuse will wear thin, and while this may not in the long run be the most compromising position ever to be caught in it won't help his presentation of himself as Not A Weirdo either.
Maybe he could go downstairs. Nobody will be around there, and he'll be able to sit and scroll through Buzzfeed uninterrupted. (His priorities are important. He has the app.) The idea gets better by the minute, and he gets up hastily.
Of course, the moment he turns the bathroom light out he can't see anything. The light from his phone is woefully insufficient, so he waits for a few minutes until he can see a little clearer. There's a window by the landing that doesn't have curtains, and through it is falling bluish light. Moving slowly and carefully, Grantaire heads along the landing.
Downstairs, he goes into the kitchen and pulls out one of the dining table chairs. The wood is cool to the touch, but pleasantly so. He keeps the lights off; the windows are bigger here and he can actually see OK. He's got an impressive 43% battery remaining, and tells himself that he'll go to bed when it runs out or he starts feeling tired. It would be stupid to render himself a zombie tomorrow just for obstinacy now. For somebody who never sleeps enough, he's not very good at things when he's tired.
It’s quite enjoyable, not needing to use his brain. He takes Which Hipster Bicycle Are You and then Would You Survive The Hunger Games. Once he’s exhausted the immediate supply of interesting quizzes, he goes through the Buzzfeed selection again with lower standards. When he’s bored with that he ends up on YouTube, watching two-minute recipes with the sound off. The smiling vloggers always make it look so easy; if he tried their Quick & Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake he’d probably burn the house down. Or Enjolras’s house, seeing as it’s unclear when he’s going to regain the use of his.
The really shitty bit, the bit he hasn’t yet thought or admitted to himself is that things were getting better. The number of times he showed up to work with a hangover were rapidly decreasing, and after the last time Éponine purged his supplies he couldn’t be bothered to replace them and find new hiding places.
(That itself is a losing battle. Éponine knows every inch of their flat and seems to be able to predict which corner he’s going to try and use next. He’d appreciate her concern if it weren’t so annoying.)
And then stuff like this comes along and mixes up whatever progress he’s making, whatever tentative routine he’s establishing. He’s probably overtired and overreacting because spending one night away from home is hardly the worst thing to happen, especially not to him, so there’s no sensible reason for it to have shaken him so.
He must have been there for an hour at least when a noise makes him jump. He looks up, and at first he thinks the shadowy outline silhouetted in the doorway is a burglar. This is a nice house; it’s not unreasonable that somebody would have their eye on it. Grantaire wonders if he’s dedicated enough to get beaten up in defence of Éponine’s girlfriend’s house, a question to which the unfortunate answer is yes.
Then the figure stirs and moves forward into a patch of moonlight. Grantaire hopes for half a heartbeat that it’s Éponine, but it’s Enjolras. Of course it’s Enjolras, Éponine is curled up fast asleep with her cute girlfriend, probably dreaming about unicorns and rainbows.
‘You OK?’ Enjolras asks, pulling one of the other dining chairs and sitting in it.
Grantaire’s not sure whether this is a better scenario than the one involving the burglar. Reluctantly, he puts his phone on the table, face down. ‘Yeah. I couldn’t sleep.’
‘There are comfier sofa-beds in the world,’ Enjolras admits.
‘It wasn’t that. I needed to like, think, and I didn’t want to wake you up.’
‘You succeeded. Well done, I make a racket whenever I try to go anywhere in the dark. Cosette’s a master of it. One time she snuck into my room and put Shrek posters up on every wall in the middle of the night. I didn’t notice till the next morning. It was terrifying.’
‘We were twelve.’
‘Now you mention that, it makes more sense.’
‘What about you – got siblings?’
Grantaire shakes his head. ‘The burden of being the family disappointment rests solely on my shoulders.’ He sees his companion’s expression, and adds hastily, ‘It’s OK. I don’t see my parents much.’
‘How come?’ Enjolras reminds him of a therapist, how he takes the things that Grantaire says without thinking and turns them into Things.
‘Wow, that’s a fun topic. Short version: they were set on me going to university, I proceeded to fail my A-Levels and we haven’t spoken since I took one look at my results and decided to run off and get a job.’ He says it slowly and deliberately, almost enjoying how uncomfortable it’s making Enjolras.
‘I’m sorry, I – ’
‘Don’t be. Things are OK now. Or as OK as they’re gonna get.’
‘I was going to ask.’ Tact and curiosity fight visibly within Enjolras, and the latter wins. ‘How have you been?’
Grantaire shrugs. ‘Some things are good, some things are less good. I take what I can get.’
‘If there’s anything I can do – ’
‘There isn’t. But thanks.’
‘I’m serious. I don’t just mean letting you sleep here, but in general. If you’re ever looking for more work, or anything.’
‘I’m good at the shop. If I need more cash I can always sign up for the corporate hell dimension that is Éponine’s working life. Besides,’ he spreads his arms. ‘What could you do?’
‘I’m not sure,’ Enjolras admits. ‘I could find out, though.’
‘You shouldn’t.’ The part of this that was bugging Grantaire suddenly becomes clearer, in a way that he can explain. ‘Look, I appreciate your help, and you seem like a good guy – ’
‘But I know you’re trying to save the world and all that, and I don’t want you to do the same for me. Like when you ask me how I am and everything it's like I'm a lost seal or endangered species or something. I get that I'm shitty a lot of the time but those things aren't just gonna disappear because I have cool people around. They just get a tiny bit less shitty.’
Enjolras takes a breath. ‘OK,’ he says. ‘That makes sense.’
They're both standing up now, without much space between them. It’s maybe a foot, Grantaire thinks. Just one foot.
He doesn't know which of them moves first, only that there's a kind of twitch and that foot of space disappears. Enjolras's mouth is on him, the only warm thing in the cool kitchen. His hands have found Grantaire's and their fingers twist together at a frantic pace that’s keeping time with the racing of his heart.
Enjolras jerks away, so abruptly that Grantaire barely has time to compose his face.
'Wait,' Enjolras says. He doesn't look mad, which is good news. Still, how good can things be when you're making out and they move away that quickly?
(This might be one of the reasons you're supposed to have communication, Grantaire thinks. He's heard the sappy story of how Eponine and Cosette finally got together after too many faux-platonic lunch dates and movie nights. There was actual talking involved.)
He backs away and hops onto table, establishing a neutral gap. Folding his hands together, he makes his voice as light as possible. 'Dude I'm sorry, if I made you uncomfortable.'
'No, no,' Enjolras is running one of his hands through his hair, which was a very bad decision if he's hoping for a serious conversation because Grantaire's brain can only process so much hotness at one time. 'I mean, you must have known I liked you, but I wasn't sure how you felt? And I know this had been a very long fairly bad day for you, so I don't wanna like take advantage.'
'Take advantage,' Grantaire splutters the words. 'I can't tell you how much I would like you to take advantage of me.'
Enjolras's eyes flash, and perhaps that joke was in poor taste given the tentative ground they're on here. Grantaire clears his throat, and starts again.
'I did not kiss you because I'm an emotionally distraught alcoholic in a moment of vulnerability,' he says, so that they're as clear as can be. 'I kissed you because you're the fucking sun and like, just being around you is enough to recharge me. It's like I'm solar-powered, or some shit.'
'You like me?'
'Yes.’ For the sake of the moment, he refrains from adding you idiot.
‘Can I kiss you?’
Enjolras hurries to comply, and with Grantaire sitting on the table they're almost the same height. He’ll never be able to kiss anyone else ever again, Grantaire thinks, because there can’t be anyone else who’s this good at it and he’d would be lying if he wasn't really, really tempted to wrap his legs around Enjolras's waist. It seems Enjolras has had the same thought, though, because moments later he slides his arms down from Grantaire's torso to support his lower back.
'Just to clarify,' Grantaire murmurs, pausing the kiss long enough to get the words out. ‘If you’re not up for it it’s fine, but I would not be unhappy at all if we were to do unmentionable things while the rest of your family is asleep.'
'Way ahead of you,' Enjolras mutters back, and he half scoops Grantaire off the table. He can only support him for a minute or so, but that minute is interesting indeed. ‘Uh, you OK with staying down here?’
‘Very,’ Grantaire says, still half hanging off him.
‘Oh good,’ Enjolras is breathless in a way that’s adorable and hot at the same time. ‘There’s a carpet in the living room?’
Grantaire follows him through, his heart thudding. This has got to be a hallucination, only his imagination simply isn’t this good. He couldn’t have dreamt up this, not having Enjolras’s tongue in his mouth, or Enjolras’s hands hooking through his belt loops to pull him closer and press their bodies up against each other.
Then he’s lying back on the carpet, and any kind of coherent thought goes out the window.
At some point after nine am, Grantaire wakes to discover that the duvet has entirely disappeared. Beside him on the narrow bed, Enjolras has wrapped himself into a blanket burrito, with little care for his companion. The room isn't too cold, so Grantaire's not concerned as much as faintly annoyed. He stretches out on the small mattress, without making a conscious effort to avoid elbowing the cocoon next to him.
There’s a slight scuffle outside, and then the door opens a crack. Éponine’s head appears around it. He grabs the edge of the duvet to cover himself, and her eyes move from the empty sofa bed to where he is, next to Enjolras. Grantaire scowls, and she starts to laugh. He hears her call in a stage whisper to Cosette, something along the lines of the nerds finally did it.
The walls are worryingly thin in this house, because Grantaire hears Cosette's whispered reply perfectly. 'That's weird. It's like my brother and your brother.’
‘Grantaire’s not my brother,’ Éponine hisses back. ‘More like an idiot cousin that I live with.’
He raises his middle finger at her. She just smirks. Enjolras stirs, and Grantaire seizes the opportunity to grab a handful of duvet to pull over himself. He hadn’t really been bothered by the cold, but it’s so beautifully cozy in here that he makes up his mind that he’s never going to leave.
And this is over! I won't lie, I'm somewhat relieved, especially as I had to come up with an ending two thirds of the way through.
Huge thanks to everyone who's kept reading this, despite how few and far-between the updates have been, and to Carol for continuing to read & support it despite and I say this again, not being into Les Mis herself.
If you enjoyed it or have any questions, please leave a comment below and for general writing queries or updates, come find me at betweentheheavesofstorm.tumblr.com!