When Grantaire answers the door, Éponine raises an eyebrow. "You're in your boxers," she points out, unhelpfully.
Grantaire covers his chest with his arms. "Good morning to you. Nice dress."
"You need to put some clothes on." Barging past him, Éponine kicks an unsuspecting cushion to one side. It lands on the floor with a thump. Grantaire winces. "But first, we're having breakfast."
"I guess that means you changed your mind about the wedding?"
Eponine whirls around, glaring at him. "R," she says, "I may not be the best friend in the world, but I'm good enough to get over my crush on the groom for one afternoon! So there."
"That rhymes," Grantaire says. "Groom. Afternoon. Kinda."
Éponine rolls her eyes. "Clothes," she says. "Good. No clothes. Bad."
"Alright, Caesar," Grantaire says, and locks the door behind her.
"You call these eggs?" Éponine pokes at her plate with a fork. She's got her nose scrunched up, and her lip's curling. Grantaire knows that look.
"Shut up. It's nutritious." Grantaire scoops up a mouthful, and proffers it. Éponine shrinks back. "This is the stuff that makes champions. Try it, if you don't believe me."
"Ugh." Éponine holds her spoon up to the light, peering at it. Outside, a branch hits the window. Grantaire starts. "What's this thing, anyway?" Moving it towards her lips, she takes a tentative sniff.
"Eggs," Grantaire says. "Salt. Pepper. Mayonnaise."
Éponine recoils, dropping her cutlery. "Mayonnaise?"
Grantaire frowns. "Of course. It contains everything I need, don't you know."
Éponine stares at him. "It doesn't. It really, really doesn't."
"Forgive me. I'm not the dietician."
"This isn't healthy. This can't be healthy."
Grantaire's lip rises. "Enjolras is picking me up," he says, smoothly changing the subject. "Do you want to catch a ride, or - ?"
"Oh, Enjolras is picking you up, is he?" Grantaire hits her shoulder. Éponine just laughs. "What? I didn't say anything! And no. Thanks for the offer, but I'll take myself. I can't stand any more of your mutual pining."
"It's not mutual. It's singular. Get your facts straight." Grantaire spoons eggs into his mouth, and pastes on a smile. "Come on. We all know he despises me."
Éponine leans closer. "Then why is he your designated driver?"
"Because it's logical; we're heading in the same direction. And because it's good; I'm the only one who doesn't have a car, and I can't cycle for one hundred and eleven miles." Standing, Grantaire scrapes his egg into the bin. "That's who Enjolras is. I'm his charity case for the day."
"And you couldn't have come with Combeferre and Courfeyrac, or Marius and Cosette, or, I don't know, me - "
"Firstly, you named two sets of couples. Sharing an enclosed space with any of them would be sickening."
"Precisely my point about you and Enjolras!"
"Secondly, if you'll let me finish, Enjolras lives closest to my apartment. He wouldn't want me to inconvenience - and here I quote - anyone else." Grantaire leans against the sideboard, and shoves his hands deep into his pockets. "That's what Enjolras thinks I am, Ponine. An inconvenience. So please don't try to tell me he's secretly been pining this whole time, because he hasn't. Okay? My butt isn't that nice."
Éponine looks him up and down. "You've got a plenty nice butt," she says, "and if anyone asks, I never said that."
"Charmer," Grantaire snickers.
"Yes, it is rented, and yes, I know I look fabulous in it, so please can you stop gawking?" Grantaire performs a little twirl. The suit jacket flaps around him.
"I'm taking a photo," Éponine says, "this is going on Instagram. Smile."
Grantaire does. "Cheese."
"Put your thumbs down. I'm trying to make this classy. And don't stuff your hands behind you, either."
"Didn't know you were the camera expert," Grantaire mutters.
"Ever since Notre Dame? Yes, I have been."
Grantaire tosses his head. Éponine snaps a picture. "That was ironic, Ponine, that was - "
"Very obscure? Would I probably not have heard of it?" Éponine grins. Grantaire tries to hit her arm, but she dodges, flopping onto the sofa. "Enjolras could be here any minute. Why sully your finery? Besides, Prouvaire texted me, and he's dressing up. So you will, too. We can't be outdone by him."
"When Enjolras arrives, he won't wearing a suit," Grantaire says.
When Enjolras arrives, he isn't wearing a suit. His jacket is folded up to the elbows; he's standing straight and stiffly, sending little glances up and down the hall. His glasses keep on falling down his nose.
"I'm here to take you to the wedding," Enjolras says, as though Grantaire doesn't already know. His lips are pink. He's scarcely smiling. "If you haven't made other travel arrangements."
In the doorway, Éponine coughs. Grantaire turns around, and mouths, was I staring? She nods.
"No," Grantaire replies quickly, "no, I'm all yours. Lead the way." And he salutes.
Enjolras rolls his eyes, but takes hold of Grantaire's arm anyway, long fingers hooking in. Grantaire is surprised enough to be rendered dumb.
The first part of the drive lasts for an hour. During this time, Enjolras doesn't turn on the radio. He doesn't speak. The city flashes by, and slowly transforms into smaller houses, and then into allotments, and then into open fields. Grantaire even spots a couple of sheep, but they're gone before he can count them.
In this light, Enjolras looks rather stunning. As he navigates traffic, he occasionally bites his lip. More than once, while he's been switching gear, their hands have brushed. Enjolras always jerks his away first.
You're beautiful, Grantaire wants to say, but whenever he tries, his throat seals up, and he's left choking. Do you know that?
After the first forty minutes, Enjolras informs him that there are cough mints in the back seat pocket. Grantaire snatches one up, just as Enjolras's curls fall across his cheekbone. His fingers drum against the wheel. They're long and pink. His nails are half-moons; they've been bitten.
They pull over at a motorway service station, where Grantaire insists they sample every flavour of crisp available, simply because it'll be something to take the time away. Apparently, Enjolras's special favourite is prawn cocktail. Grantaire doesn't know what to make of that, apart from the fact that it suits him.
Crisps finished with, Enjolras leans across, and puts his finger to the corner of Grantaire's lips. Grantaire freezes. The world narrows. There isn't any pink light, or anything, but it's damn near close, far closer than he's ever been comfortable with. If he isn't careful, he'll spot a deer skipping along in the background.
"You had a crumb," Enjolras explains, and leans away.
Grantaire swallows. "Might want to warn me before you spring, next time. So I can get my guard up."
Enjolras scowls. After that, the hush is soured.
It's almost dark when they arrive, crunching to a halt. The house is tall, and splendid, and far too expensive for Grantaire to consider setting foot inside. There's a gravel path leading up to the door, flanked by trees. They dapple the road.
"This is - wow," Grantaire says. Enjolras holds his door open for him, and they walk down together. The setting sun casts a hue over Enjolras's face. His lips are pursed, and his hand is warm in the crook of Grantaire's elbow. "It's something else, isn't it?"
"I don't know." Enjolras shrugs. "I grew up in a house like this one. They've lost their charm for me." As they pass beneath a tree branch, Enjolras ducks and holds it up for Grantaire to walk beneath, which he does.
Before Grantaire can question that, there's a shriek.
"Hey! You two!" Courfeyrac yells, and charges directly into Enjolras. Enjolras promptly turns stiff as a board, as Courfeyrac's arms pinion him in place. "It's so good to see you! And your - oh. Hello, Éponine."
"Courfeyrac," Eponine says, with a nod. "Hi, Comb. It's nice seeing you again. When was the last time?"
Combeferre blushes. The roots of his hair are stained red. Courfeyrac detaches himself from Enjolras - who has never looked more relieved in his life, most probably - and snakes his arm around Combeferre's waist.
"When you separated," Enjolras supplies.
There is a silence.
"And that's not awkward," Grantaire mutters. "Way to land us in it, Apollo."
"Éponine asked a question, and Combeferre wasn't going to answer it." Enjolras blinks. His glasses magnify his eyes. "Did I say something wrong?"
Courfeyrac looks inclined to combust upon the instant.
Inside, they discover Joly lurking beside the chocolate fountain, fingers already sticky with antibacterial gel. Combeferre pounces on him with a startling intensity even Courfeyrac fails to match.
"Bousset's in the back," Joly is saying, as Grantaire helps himself to a third strawberry. "I asked him to get me some hand towels."
Combeferre nods sagely, apparently wholly enthralled by this turn of events. "How is Laigle? The last I saw of him would have been - Christmas?"
Behind Combeferre's back, Éponine and Coufeyrac are solidly staring towards opposite walls. Eponine's mouth is twisted into a grimace.
"This," Grantaire whispers, "is the reason why you don't bring them up."
"I didn't know," Enjolras hisses back. "How was I supposed to?"
"Aren't you two charming." Smirking, Bahorel nudges Enjolras's shoulder. "And yes, I have just arrived, thank you for asking. I knew you missed me. How are you two lovebirds?"
Grantaire levels him with a glare. Bahorel shrugs, takes a sip from his glass, and pulls a face. He shudders.
"We're fine," Enjolras says. "Thank you."
They all file into the pew - Courfeyrac first, hurriedly putting space between himself and Ponine; then there's Joly and Laigle, and Éponine, her hand on Bahorel's shoulder, and Grantaire, and finally Enjolras, lanky legs folded inwards.
"Gosh, it's roasting," Coufeyrac announces, fanning himself with the pamphlet. "I wish they'd just hurry up and marry already."
Joly sneezes politely into his handkerchief.
"Bless you," Enjolras and Grantaire chorus. Éponine snorts. Laigle sighs, long-suffering.
Marius is standing at the head of the aisle. He's waving like a cork in a storm, hands jittering all over the place. Combeferre's holding onto his shoulder, face set in steely determination, acting the Best Man to the T. At Marius's other side, Prouvaire just seems lost. He's blinking ten to the dozen.
"He looks like he's about to pass out," Grantaire says, leaning over towards Eponine. She doesn't spare him a glance. "Alright. Blank me. Fine."
In the pew in front, Feuilly turns around, and offers up a four-finger wiggle wave. And then he turns back, and continues talking to -
"Oh," Grantaire murmurs, "is that - tell me that's - "
"Javert," Enjolras says, face paling. "What is our former history teacher doing here? Why is he here? What is he doing here? Here?"
"I don't know." Grantaire grits his teeth, pasting on a smile. "Just act natural."
"I can hear you, you know," Professor Javert informs them, smiling sweetly.
After that, Grantaire just doesn't speak.
When Cosette finally does deem to make an appearance, she's on her father's arm. He's every bit as grizzled as Grantaire had predicted, and appears to have broken a razor in his beard in an effort to make himself presentable. Even so, Cosette is, apparently, delighted; she's giggling all the way down the aisle.
Soon, Marius walks down the rows to meet her, doing a little hop-skip in the middle. He's positively glowing as he lifts the veil, to reveal Cosette's grinning face.
"I need some air," Éponine says.
Grantaire does his best to smile. "Go," he says. "I'll cover for you."
Eponine squeezes his hand gratefully, and then shuffles down the row. Enjolras pulls his knees to the side to let her pass.
Marius doesn't even look across. He glows.
The room's stifling. Grantaire adjusts the collar of his tux, but it doesn't do anything to relieve the heat. He's sweating like a boiled lobster. And he's itching, which doesn't help matters much.
"Where's Éponine?" Courfeyrac asks.
"Family emergency," Grantaire supplies, and, surprisingly, Enjolras nods.
Beside the broad bay windows, Marius doesn't seem to mind too badly. He's occupied with Cosette's palm in his own. The ring glints on her finger.
"Shame," Courfeyrac says, eyes scanning the entryway. "More champagne, anyone?"
Combeferre hits him on the arm.
"I'll go search," Grantaire says. "Come on, Apollo. We're on a mission." And with that, and a nod, he drags them both away.
At his elbow, Enjolras shifts towards him. "How soon can we get out of here?" he murmurs, his breath stirring Grantaire's hair.
"Not soon enough. I've got to play happy city boy for Cosette's dad." Grantaire glances to the left. Cosette is happily nuzzling Marius's cheek, as they sweep around the room together. By the time he turns back, Enjolras is watching them, too. The floor's reflection glances across his glasses. "I'll meet you in the car in five minutes."
Marius is beaming. His head's angled down to meet Cosette's; she's gazing up at him, blue eyes wet with tears. He wipes the track of one down her cheek, and lifts his finger to his lips. Startled into laughter, Cosette lunges forward, capturing his face in her gloved hands. On the other side of the hall, Cosette's father begins to glower. Professor Javert massages his shoulders soothingly, face contorted into something that could, in another life, have been a smile.
"Four," Enjolras says, and, as though this settles it, strides towards the main door. His boot heels click on the tiles; Grantaire watches him make his way through the milling crowd, blonde mop shining bright. Every so often, his head turns from side to side, as though somebody's going to pop out of the walls and waylay him.
Grantaire feels his shoulders slump. "Four, then," he tells his brogues. Reaching out, he snags another far-too-expensive flute of champagne, and downs it in one.
Laigle offers him an apologetic look. "Rough night?" he asks. On his arm, Joly sneezes again.
When Grantaire finally extricates himself from Cosette's Papa's clutches, not only is his head pleasantly fuzzy, but it's grown dark. Hurrying out of the room, he slams his way onto the patio, taking a gulp from his glass as he goes.
Hands numbing, Grantiare fumbles for the keys. When he eventually does find them, he can barely feel his fingers.
Enjolras looks across at him, his own hands deep inside the pockets of his jacket. "You took your time."
Grantaire yanks open the door, and falls inside. Enjolras watches, disdain dripping from every pore.
"I hate society." Grantaire's head hits the dash. "Ow."
"You did anticipate the union." Enjolras begins to pick at one of his nails; they are clean and pink. "I don't know why it's such a horror."
"They're just so - eager. And the wedding was beautiful, don't get me wrong, but you can only eat so many canapés without turning into one."
"Marius did look happy with her," Enjolras comments. He's staring out of the wind screen, fading light streaming down his cheeks. "Marriage."
Grantaire moans. "Don't even say the word. If I ever talk about proposing, knock some sense into me, okay?"
"To want to propose would imply you were in a relationship." Enjolras glances at him sideways. Grantaire feels the back of his neck tingle. His face grows heated. "You're not dating anyone. Are you?"
"No." Grantaire smiles, cursing his treacherous cheeks. "Although I don't see - "
"As your friend, it is my business." Enjolras hesitates, and then says, "Eponine isn't dating, either."
Grantaire stares. Enjolras shifts. "Are you trying to set me up?"
"No," Enjolras bites out, just a little too quickly, "I'm stating a fact, which you construed as - "
"Okay. Sure. But, seeing as I'm gay, I'm not interested. Sorry."
Enjolras blinks. "You're gay?"
Grantaire sighs. "No, Apollo. I spent twelve hours obsessing over topless men because I'm straight."
Enjolras gapes. "That was for an art project! And you thought they were terrible models!"
"They were handsome - they just weren't all too good at standing still."
"I don't believe this. I don't believe it." Enjolras shakes his head. "How could you not have told me?"
"I didn't have you down for somebody who'd freak out." Grantaire shrugs. His stomach twists. "Seems I was wrong. Please don't say that I've been lying by omission."
"I hate it. I hate it. I hate you. You're - you - I tried so hard to be nice around you, even though - I spent hours choosing what to wear today!" Enjolras's hands are flying around; thrusting them downwards, he grips onto the steering wheel, staring directly ahead. "And it wasn't even for Marius! I thought - maybe - if I tried - and you've been gay? This whole time? And you're not - not even remotely - "'
Grantaire blinks. "You're wearing what you always wear."
"Yes," Enjolras replies, through gritted teeth, "that's the point. And I hate it."
He doesn't appear inclined to say anything else. Grantaire waits, picking at one of his thumb-nails. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Enjolras's shoulders rise up.
"Yes?" Grantaire says.
Enjolras leans across, and jabs a finger into his chest. Hard.
"You're pointless. Meaningless. You don't work, and you don't study, and you don't - you don't do anything. You exist, and that's it. You don't try to make people like you. You don't have to try. You just stagger in, and act like you know everything about everyone, and it's infuriating!"
Enjolras's voice has been steadily rising, throughout his speech. By the end, Grantaire's ears are starting to ring. Enjolras takes a deep, long breath - controlling himself, Grantaire guesses, feeling his heartbeat climb - and then continues: "You're an idiot, Grantaire. You're lazy, and you're foolish, and you are everything - everything - I should want to avoid."
Grantaire feels him lip twitch, despite himself. There's a cold pit in the centre of his stomach. He's used to that - that comes with the job. The thing is - now, there's something else, too. Something hot, just below his line of vision - can't see, can't touch, can't hold on to.
There are thick, black shadows underneath Enjolras's eyes. There is still a hand - with long, pale fingers, and brown-black pen smudges on the fingertips - fisting his shirt. It presses against his chest and the rhythm there.
"And why would that be, Apollo? Are my rugged good looks not enough?"
Enjolras's face contorts, twisting and spinning into something that vaguely resembles...something. Grantaire doesn't have a word for it. In the back of his mind, a memory stirs, of a long-ago gap-year - Notre Dame cathedral, and the gargoyles there, and a shutter-stock camera. Éponine had bought him ice cream.
They've grown closer. Enjolras is seething, body twitching, only a couple of inches away. Grantaire can feel warm breath, on his lips. In his wrist, his pulse climbs to a crescendo.
"You," Enjolras hisses, "don't want to go out with me. And I tried so hard to make you see, but you - it's not that you're straight, it's just that you're uninterested! Completely! I was invested!"
For a second, Grantaire is blind-sided. He just...sits, unmoving. Enjolras is still panting, up close in his face, boiling and livid. His cheeks are flushed, and his knuckles are white. Any second now, he could lash out and break Grantaire's nose. From this distance, probably more.
Enjolras's hair is very, very blonde. In the moonlight, it seems to be stained with plaster-dust.
"Don't hate me," Grantaire says, and leans forward, and kisses him.
They kiss. Grantaire surges forward. Enjolras tastes of champagne - Grantaire's mouth fizzes. He puts his hand on Enjolras's shoulders. Enjolras tenses, but moves to meet him, fumbling, curls brushing against his cheeks.
A CD case sticks into Grantaire's chest. "Hang on," he says, and moves back, and tosses it to one side. "Where were we?"
Enjolras blinks at him, eyes wide and frazzled. "But - you said - marriage - "
"Look. I'm not interested in getting married. But that's not to say I don't want a relationship!" Grantaire scratches his neck. "What were you planning on trying, anyway? Altering my sexuality with the power of persuasion?"
Enjolras flushes hotly. "It wasn't my best plan to date," he admits, running a hand through his hair. Grantaire watches the movement. Enjolras's tongue emerges. "But I've had worse."
"Like this?" Grantaire says, and leans forward, and presses a kiss to the curve of Enjolras's chin. It's bare - there isn't any stubble at all.
"Like that," Enjolras agrees, neck gradually reddening.
"And this? And - that?"
Enjolras bats him away, and sits upright. "You do know Cosette has been betting on us? How long it would take for you to - discover my feelings."
"Well, our sweet Marius is going to be gaining a lot of money tonight." Grantaire shakes his head. "I may or may not have made a wager with him. About you. Liking me."
Enjolras collapses backwards. A fly buzzes across his nose. "We've been stupid, haven't we?"
"Well, I always am, so that's alright."
Enjolras hums, and then straightens. His feet land in Grantaire's lap. Somewhere along the way, he's lost his boots. "I wasn't lying, you know," he says. "I do hate you, sometimes. And then other times, I can't stop myself from picturing you. Thinking about you."
"What a romantic!" Grantaire punches his shoulder, leaning across. "You make me swoon!"
"Shut up," Enjolras sighs, but he's smiling, and he's biting his lip, and he's saying, "You. What am I going to do about you?"
"I don't know," Grantaire says. "I suppose that's what we're going to have to work out."
"I suppose so," Enjolras agrees, hand creeping out. Grantaire moves away, giving Enjolras's feet room, and takes hold of it. Their pinkies loop together. "You're impossible."
"I have been told as much. But that's usually followed by some kind of debate, and I'm not quite ready for that tonight."
Enjolras's brow creases. "I don't debate all the time."
Grantaire scoffs. "Really? Because it seems to me that we're arguing. Right now."
"There's a very definitive difference between an argument and a debate. In a debate, both sides have a chance to say their piece, and the conversation is carried out in a logical manner until there is one clear victor. In an argument - "
"Everybody shouts over everybody else. I know. I've heard this a dozen times." Shoving Enjolras's feet across, Grantaire reaches out, and snatches his glasses. "If you don't quieten down, I won't give them back."
Enjolras huffs. "Fine," he snaps. "I can't see. Are you happy, now?"
"It's like Notre Dame all over again. Where were they, in the end?"
"Éponine had them," Enjolras mutters, "I knew she was lying."
"Of course you did." Grantaire ruffles Enjolras's hair. Enjolras bats his hand away. "And you knew I took your camera, too."
"That was you?"
"Well, I was hoping it would get your attention. Sadly, I was a little too good." Grantaire sighs. "I think Marius has it now."
"I was pranked by Marius?" Enjolras sits upright suddenly, and whacks his forehead against the roof of the car. "Ah!"
"Enjolras? Are you okay?"
"I'm sporting a lump the size of an egg, and I'm absolutely fine." Enjolras is almost shouting.
"Is this about the joke? Because we were just trying to get you to talk to - "
"You? It didn't work! I wanted to! But you were always with - somebody else!"
"Wait." Grantaire rubs his forehead. Enjolras flinches. "Ponine. You were scared - of Ponine."
"She wasn't like she is now. She was intimidating." Enjolras swallows. He looks at his hands. "She was a very attractive woman, and I believed you to be straight."
For a second, Grantaire's brain explodes. It takes him a while to piece it back together.
"Get over here," he finally blurts out, and, grabbing Enjolras's forearms, meshes their mouths together. Enjolras melts into him, cupping Grantaire's face with his hands. "You're beautiful. Do you know that? Because I do. And it's sickening."
"Thank you," Enjolras replies. "You're handsome, too."
"Don't mention it," Grantaire mutters, and then they're kissing again, and Enjolras is leading him down into the seat, their elbows clicking together, Enjolras's chin bumping in; Enjolras leans upwards, nestling into the crook of his neck, into the small, safe space there. Grantaire gasps.
Somebody is tapping on the window. Grantaire swivels his neck around, and there is Courfeyrac. Enjolras breathes in. Grantaire meets his eyes. They laugh. Enjolras's hand comes to rest, tentatively, on his upper arm.
"Sorry to interrupt," Courfeyrac says, after the window is eventually wound down. "But Cosette's tossing the bouquet, and she wants you there. Can't think of a reason why. Can you? It's hardly as though it signifies anything."
"Oh God," Grantaire says.
Enjolras simply smiles.