“I swear to God I have bought you mittens before,” Enjolras says the moment Grantaire walks up. He’s been waiting on the side of the street for only six minutes, and even in his own fur-lined gloves, his fingers are starting to tingle. Although it’s only late November, winter has taken up a permanent residence in Paris. It’s beautiful, in that way that nature always is, in a breathtaking, dangerous way that always reminds you of your own fragility.
“You have,” Grantaire agrees. His breath makes a tiny white puff, which quickly disappears into the dark, snowy night. “But they’re more than likely stuck in a box labeled 'winter' in the back of my closet.”
“It is winter, R,” Enjolras sighs. They fall into step together, heading up the street towards the bright Café Musian sign on the corner.
“I can tell.” Grantaire sticks his tongue out, catching a snowflake. He turns, grinning at Enjolras.
“Then why don’t you prepare for it?” Enjolras chides. “Your nose is completely red, you have on your old fall coat that you got back when you were what, sixteen? And I’d bet anything that your fingers are freezing.”
“You can’t know that for sure.” Grantaire pointedly shoves his hands further into his pockets.
“You could avoid this all by checking the weather.”
“And miss your lectures?” Grantaire laughs. “Never.”
They’ve reached the café, and Grantaire grabs the door, opening it up, and a soft bell rings, announcing their presence. A welcome, warm gust of air greets them, along with a bright green sign telling them all the specials of the day, and gentle background melody wishing them a merry Christmas.
“Do you see them?” Enjolras asks, looking around to the left of the café.
“Over there.” Grantaire nudges his arm, and jerks his head towards the back. And there sit the entirety of Enjolras’ university club, totally engrossed in one another, completely oblivious to their old president’s and least involved member’s presence.
“Go, mingle,” Grantaire says, giving him a nudge. “I’ll get your hazelnut mocha.”
“Thanks.” Enjolras gives him a pat on the arm, and heads over to that side of the room, who give him an enthusiastic welcome once they finally take notice.
“I get him first,” Feuilly says after there’s been a general chorus of hellos.
“No fair,” Courfeyrac whines. “I haven’t seen him in three months.”
“It’s been a year for me,” Feuilly shoots back. “So stuff it.”
Enjolras laughs, and takes a seat, feeling his chest warm with just how much he loves and misses this. They chat for a few minutes, only interrupted by Grantaire silently putting Enjolras’ drink on the table before heading over to the couch that holds Eponine and Jehan. They’ve made it through most of the past year in an easy ten minutes, finally catching up to rather unexciting present day.
“And what are you up to lately, Enjolras?” Feuilly asks, sipping out his mug.
“Not a lot,” Enjolras admits. “I’ve applied for a few jobs, some around the city, some not. It’s difficult being out of work. Lately, I’ve just been spending my nights with Grantaire, and giving him what is probably completely useless commentary on his choreography of the middle school musical.”
“So, you two are still best friends?” The question by all means should be innocent, but the way Feuilly purposefully takes a long sip of hot chocolate, eyes on the ceiling, tells a different story.
“Yes,” Enjolras answers slowly. “Were you expecting something different?”
“No.” Feuilly lets out a short laugh. “I actually wasn’t.” The mirth and amusement on his face irks Enjolras a little more than it should, and it makes him reply with a bit too much bite.
“Is there something you want to say, Feuilly?”
Feuilly huffs out a breath, and sets his mug down with a clink.
“It’s just the same question everyone has been wondering since like, second year of university. Are you going to have an answer now?”
“To what, why I put up with him?” Enjolras snaps, pushing his chair back. He loves Feuilly, he does, but he’s one wrong word from sending Enjolras off either on a long, angry tangent, or to a different table without a word. “I think you should know the answer by now.”
“Relax, Enjolras,” Feuilly soothes, his hand moving to cover Enjolras’. “That wasn’t what I meant.”
“Good,” Enjolras retorts, scooting his chair back into the table with a scrape. “Then what did you mean?”
Feuilly runs a hand through his hair, eyes on the ceiling. “Okay, look, don’t get mad.”
“I asked you to tell me.”
“Okay, fine.” He looks Enjolras straight in the eye. “You two have been best friends for over twenty years, and you’ve still just that. Friends.”
“Uh,” Enjolras stutters, thrown.
“After all this time, friends. I’ve seen you two together for over five years now, and I got to say, man, I’m just surprised. You’ve never had even a moment where you considered becoming more?”
Enjolras steals a glance at Grantaire on the other side of the café. He’s sitting across from Eponine and currently rhapsodizing about something, his arms flailing around his head with wild gesticulations, and Enjolras feels his heart twist slightly. He glances back at Feuilly, and then down at his coffee in his hands. “We don’t talk about that.”
See, there have been moments.
It’s almost impossible for there not to have been after that many years of friendship, twenty three years of it, growing from simply childhood next-door neighbors to constant and close companions through the rest of their adolescence and adulthood. Surely, with two people having grown up as close and dependent on one another for happiness and peace as Enjolras and Grantaire were, there had to be at least one moment where at least one of them considered that the bond went somewhat deeper than a friendship.
There were moments – with emphasis on the plural.
Neither claim to remember it, but the first one was way back when they were only six years old, when Grantaire asked his mother if boys can wed other boys, because he’d quite like to marry Enjolras one day.
(The forgetfulness is a lie on both ends - Enjolras remembers it because it’s the first time he was someone's #1 person, while Grantaire remembers it for the first, but definitely not last, time his mother turned away from him with a disgusted snort).
There were moments.
Elementary school wasn’t full of them, since it isn’t a time when children really know or understand that specific range of human emotions.
If Enjolras ever thinks back, and he does often, when he’s cold and alone and unable to sleep, it’s mostly to the day when some bully threw a rock at him for holding hands with Grantaire, and how, when he threw it back, stomping his feet and screaming about how if people changed opinion would change, Grantaire had grabbed his arm, pulling him away before a teacher came out to see what the trouble was. And how, angry and upset in a righteous way that was surprisingly precocious, he had felt some of the anger drain when Grantaire hugged him, feeling grounded as he shoved his nose into the crook of Grantaire’s neck, hands hanging on tight.
If he ever really considers it, and he does sometimes, when he’s lonely and tired in a way that has nothing to do with sleep, he can only recall basic fuzzy memories of staring at Grantaire, in class or during play dates, and the basic thought of “Yeah, I could be around this person for the rest of my life.”
There were moments, and middle school was probably when they actually started.
“Please Enjolras, please play it with me. It will be fun,” Grantaire begs.
“I don’t like video games, R.” Enjolras crosses his arms in front of his chest. “I never win.”
“It’s not about winning,” Grantaire tries, but Enjolras just snorts.
“It’s always about winning. It’s a game.”
“Enjolras, please,” Grantaire whines. “I read your stupid book for you.”
“You said you liked it,” Enjolras blinks, hurt. Grantaire runs a hand over his face.
“I did, Jesus, but I didn’t think I would, did I? Maybe you’ll actually like this one, just like that, eh?”
Enjolras is one hundred percent positive that won’t be the case, but Grantaire looks so earnest, clutching the pawnshop bought game with absolute reverence. A look at Grantaire’s well overgrown hair, unkempt, baggy clothes, and spotty complexion reminds Enjolras that he doesn’t have anyone else to ask, because middle school is full of judgmental assholes, and he finds himself agreeing.
Thirty minutes later, he’s killed himself accidentally so many times that they’re forced to start a new game, and Grantaire falls over into Enjolras’ lap, laughing so hard that tears are coming out of his eyes, and—
—and yes, that’s probably where it starts.
“Enjolras?” Grantaire calls softly, knocking on his door. “Are you in there?”
“Go away!” Enjolras shouts, hating how stuffy his voice sounds.
“No,” Grantaire answers, contrary, which isn’t surprising at all. “Not until you let me in.”
“I’m not letting you in, ever!” Enjolras yells through the door, though it’s probably muffled, since he's face first in his pillow. Grantaire seems to understand, though, since he replies,
“Fine, I’ll just wait outside your door until you do.”
Enjolras tries to ignore him, he honestly does, but Grantaire’s presence outside the door feels heavy in a way he can’t overlook, and it’s distracting him from his crying.
He stalks to the door and wrenches it open, feeling pettily satisfied when Grantaire falls through it onto his back, obviously having been leaning up against it. He jumps back onto his bed, stuffing his face back into his pillow. He feels Grantaire’s hand come to rest on his spine, obviously unsure.
“My mom told me what happened,” Grantaire starts softly. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m not,” Enjolras snaps back, sitting up abruptly. Grantaire’s arm falls to his side, useless. “They fought constantly. I’m glad he’s leaving. I’m glad he’s found someone else to shack up with, and marry, and buy a house with, and love. I’m glad he’s no longer here. I’m glad he doesn’t love us anymore.” Enjolras is shaking slightly, he can’t help it, and he shoves his face into his hands, breathing hard, irregular.
“I’m sorry,” Grantaire murmurs, reaching an arm around Enjolras’ shoulders, and pulling him into his side. Enjolras’ tucks under his arm, trying not to sob. “I’m sorry.”
“I shouldn’t be crying,” Enjolras says, voice muffled by his hands.
“It’s okay, Enjolras,” Grantaire soothes, rubbing Enjolras shoulder with the hand already wound around him, his other arm coming up to encase him in a sideways hug. “You’re allowed to be sad. You don’t have to be brave all the time.”
“Yes, I do. I need to be brave for my mom. I shouldn’t be so weak.”
“Crying isn’t weak. I think crying is probably a pretty normal reaction.”
“It is so weak,” Enjolras says, voice breaking. “It is so. And I don’t want anyone to see me like this.”
“Well, you’re only being weak in front of me, then,” Grantaire says, holding him tighter. “And I don’t count as anyone. I’m just me. So, how about you just let it all out in front of me, and then you won’t feel the need to be sad in front of anyone else?”
“You’d do that?” Enjolras asks, hysteria already subsiding slightly. He looks up at Grantaire, eyes misted over with tears. “You really would?”
“Totally.” Grantaire nods. “I’ll make you look brave.”
Enjolras leans his head back into Grantaire, and there’s a new feeling in his stomach, one much different from all the misery.
“Enjolras,” Grantaire whispers. “It’s 3AM.”
“I know,” Enjolras whispers back. He tries not to giggle. “We’re so bad. We were supposed to be asleep five hours ago.”
Grantaire does giggle, and it sets Enjolras off, them laughing quietly in their sleeping bags on Grantaire’s floor.
“Your mom is going to stop letting me stay over if she knows what we get up to.”
“What we get up to?” Enjolras rolls over onto his side, and leans on his elbow to look Grantaire in the face. He quirks an eyebrow. “And what exactly do we get up to? We haven’t really been doing anything scandalous.”
“I doubt we were supposed to watch Nightmare on Elm Street on your laptop,” Grantaire points out, and Enjolras flushes slightly.
“Well, yes, I suppose. But it’s not like we’re looking at dirty magazines or anything that normal twelve year old boys do.”
“Right,” Grantaire frowns, and rolls over, so he’s staring at the ceiling. “We don’t do that. We don’t even talk about girls. Why don’t we do that?”
“I don’t know,” Enjolras lies, his heart starting to beat erratically. “Why don’t we talk about girls we like?”
“I will if you will,” Grantaire says, rolling back over to face him. They’re very close, only a foot or so between their faces, and it makes Enjolras squirm slightly.
“What if there aren’t any?” Enjolras hedges, closing his eyes so he doesn’t have to see Grantaire’s reaction.
“That’s boring,” Grantaire says with a laugh. “None?”
“No,” Enjolras says, and he knows he’s going to do it this time, and this is the moment he’s thought about for months and months on end. “What if I’m not sure I like girls?”
Grantaire’s quiet a moment, before saying very quietly, “You mean you like boys?”
“I’m not sure I like anyone,” Enjolras answers honestly. “But if I did. Then. Yeah. Boys, I think.”
“Okay,” Grantaire says easily, and it makes Enjolras open his eyes, and look over. Grantaire looks perfectly calm.
“Is it?” Enjolras asks, and tries not to look terrified at the answer.
“Yeah,” Grantaire answers simply. “It’s fine. I think I like boys too, but only sometimes. And I like girls too. Like Amanda Fisher. She’s great. But then there’s also Barney Thompson. So yeah. Both.”
“Barney?” Enjolras says, only to deflect. His heart is still beating irregularly, but it’s a warm beat, red hot through his veins, and he can feel every limb in his body for some peculiar reason. “Come on, Grantaire, have higher standards than that.”
“Grantaire?” His head is in his locker, and he may look perfectly normal to an outsider, but Enjolras can tell that his shoulders are just a bit too tight, his hands just a bit too rough where he’s shoving books onto the shelf. “Are you okay?”
“Fine,” he bites out, his voice taut and clearly close to tears.
“Leave it,” Grantaire says shortly, and when he slams his locker, Enjolras can see his eyes are glistening.
“Absolutely not.” He grabs Grantaire’s arm and pulls him over to the area aptly dubbed by the student body ‘the empty corner.’ Grantaire lets himself be lead, but roughly pulls his arm out of Enjolras hold the moment they stop.
“I told you to leave it. Why don’t you ever listen to me? God, you’re the most fucking annoying person I’ve ever met.”
“What’s wrong?” Enjolras asks again, ignoring the words and the strike of hurt they cause to flash through him.
“Nothing,” Grantaire says, but Enjolras can see his resolve crumbling, and all it takes is a hand to the shoulder to make it completely fall down. Grantaire shrugs off his backpack, and opens the front compartment, roughly pulling out a crinkled lined sheet of paper. Wordlessly, he hands it over to Enjolras, who takes it silently.
He scans it. It’s written by a girl, obviously, the handwriting bubbly and I’s dotted with little hearts. It’s a love note, asking Grantaire out on a date, but unsigned, asking him to come meet her by the north drinking fountain at the end of second period. Enjolras looks up just in time to see Grantaire hastily rubbing a tear away.
“Did something go wrong?” Enjolras asks, handing the note back to Grantaire, who takes it in a fist, crumpling it to a ball. Enjolras tracks the movement, and, confusedly, looks back to Grantaire’s face.
“It was a prank,” Grantaire says, and Enjolras can tell how hard he’s trying to shrug it off. “I got there and Missy’s gang was already there, and they all laughed at me, asking how I could possibly think someone could like me with my face.”
“Those fuckers,” Enjolras bites out, and grabs the note out of Grantaire’s hand, just so he can tear it in two.
“It’s whatever,” Grantaire says, but it’s so, so not, and Enjolras can’t quite tame the wrath he feels quite so easily.
“Screw them,” he says vehemently, throwing the shredded note into a trash bin. “Screw them.”
“They were right, though.” Grantaire swings his backpack onto his back, looking at the ground. “It’s not like anyone does want me with this face.”
“Middle school is full of idiots,” Enjolras bites out. “They don’t know what they’re missing, R, they don’t.”
“Bad jokes, bad study habits, and a shitty DVD collection,” Grantaire replies, and he’s not quite able to hide the emotion this time.
“I’d date you,” Enjolras blurts. Grantaire’s head snaps up, and Enjolras immediately colors. “Fake date, I mean.” Enjolras covers. “We could teach them a lesson. I just won ‘most likely to succeed’ for the school yearbook. We could fake date for a while, show them where to shove it, show them that someone wants you.”
“Thanks,” Grantaire says, though he doesn’t sound grateful in the slightest. “But no thanks. That’s somehow more even more pathetic.”
“It’s going to get better,” Enjolras says, because he can’t think of anything that might help. “We won’t always be here.”
“Thanks, but somehow, it’s hard to exactly take myself out of the immediacy of this situation.” Grantaire quips, and if he’s sarcastic, he’s probably feeling slightly better.
“The dating suggestion is still open,” Enjolras offers again, and his voice betrays him slightly, giving away the flutters that that induces in his chest, the ones that suggest that he might actually mean it in a totally different context.
“No, thank you,” Grantaire says, but his voice is softer. “Let’s just get to history, okay? We’re already at least five minutes late.”
“Okay,” Enjolras agrees, and they fall into step, walking back towards to east wing. “And for the record, Grantaire? You will find someone someday who’s not an idiot, I guarantee it.”
Grantaire bumps his shoulder, mouth finally quirked up slightly, and that feeling that he might have been serious grows. So he takes the feeling, puts a label on it of unimportant isolated moment, and refuses to look back on it.
High school has its moments, though they’re more often repressed than not. It works like this:
First year, they’re still best friends.
Second year, they’re still best friends, but the times are achanging, and they’re changing with them.
Third year, and they’re still best friends, but there’s the underlying, ignored current that this could be something else.
And their last year, they’re still best friends, and there’s that feeling that maybe this could be something else, but with the accompanying knowledge that it won’t.
And throughout all of those years – there are moments.
Hang out after school? Enjolras texts for what he feels is the twelfth time in three weeks. The response he receives, Sorry, I have theater practice! serves to give him another bout of deja vu, since it’s the same basic iteration he keeps receiving. He tries not to slam his textbooks on his desk, but he knows he’s not successful.
“Problem?” Cosette asks, raising her eyebrows at him. He tries not to glare at her; it’s not her fault.
“Grantaire has practice again today.”
“He’s in the musical, isn’t he?” Enjolras isn’t sure how she would know that, but he nods. “Well, then, it stands to reason that he’d have practice for it, does it not?”
“It’s just that it’s been almost a month since he’s come over.” Saying it like that, he feels petulant. “Every time I ask, he has some kind of practice – wrestling, theater, art club, something. I feel like he’s avoiding me.”
His phone chirps, and Enjolras looks down. It’s from Grantaire, and says, I can do tomorrow, though? Feeling petty and spiteful, he texts back, Can’t, study group for advanced world history. He then shoves his phone out of sight, as it’s getting close to the bell ringing, and looks up into Cosette’s judgmental face.
“What?” he asks.
“You’re being stupid.” She lowers her voice as the teacher walks to the front of class. “He’s your best friend. Make it work. Go to his practice and study there, for God’s sake, if you miss him so much.”
“I don’t miss him,” Enjolras hisses back, because he’s fourteen, and he has to preserve some of his dignity.
He doesn’t feel much of that dignity as he’s walking into the theater room after school, awkwardly standing by the door. There’s dozens of students lounging about the auditorium, some reading lines, some studying, but all looking comfortable and at home in a way he knows he isn’t.
“Enjolras?” He turns, and sees Grantaire walking towards him, looking surprised. “What are you doing here? Did you need something?”
“No,” he answers, feeling increasingly foolish as he stands there. “I just thought I might wait for you until you’re done tonight, and we can spend the evening hanging out.”
“I would,” Grantaire starts regretfully, and Enjolras can feel his stomach drop. “But practice goes until eight, and then I said I’d go out for dinner with the cast afterwards. But we could hang out on Friday?”
“You have wrestling,” Enjolras reminds him, if a little bitterly. “Like every Friday.”
“Saturday?” Grantaire suggests.
“I have to write a paper that day.”
“I could do Monday after fencing,” and God, how did Enjolras forget about the fencing. “It would be at like seven?”
“I was going to go to the movies with Bossuet,” Enjolras says. He feels like he’s grasping for something moving, that something is slipping from his fingers, like a fistful of sand.
“We’ll find time, okay?” Grantaire says, looking over his shoulder. “Look, I got to go, we’re warming up. But we’ll hang out soon.”
“Don’t hurt yourself trying,” Enjolras snaps.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Grantaire asks, eyes narrowing.
“You can’t just ignore me because you think I’ll still be there when you want me.”
The truthful answer is yes, always, but he wants to hurt Grantaire, to gut him in the same way Grantaire’s silence has, so he squares his shoulders, and looks him straight in the eye.
“Maybe I’ve reached my limit.” He turns to stalk out, completely missing Grantaire’s face crumple.
It’s been a month and a half, and they haven’t talked more than the cursory hello in the hallways. It’s eating at Enjolras, and he feels it like a literal hole in his side, but he doubts Grantaire feels the same, as he seems to be so busy that he doesn’t even have a second to spare Enjolras even a text.
It’s midnight on a Tuesday, which is why Enjolras falls off his bed in surprise when Grantaire knocks on his bedroom door.
“How did you get in here?” Enjolras asks, scrambling up to his feet.
“You never your lock your doors. It’s not safe, you know that?” Grantaire walks in, and takes a seat at his desk, like he always does, and something about the familiarity of it makes the taut strings inside Enjolras snap.
“I know. Why the fuck are you in here?”
“Because I want to talk to you,” Grantaire replies, and the waver in his voice pulls Enjolras up short. “Remember what that was like, us talking?”
“Barely,” Enjolras snaps. “Maybe I’d remember if you spent more than five minutes with me in the past month.”
“And that’s all my fault?” Grantaire shoots back.
“Yes!” Enjolras throws his hands up in the air, and maybe that’s slightly unfair, but he’s not going to take it back. “You’re the one who’s always so busy. You have a different club every day, and you make no time for me. It feels like you don’t even want to be friends anymore. You have this whole life without me now.”
“I’m drowning,” Grantaire says, putting his face in his hands. His back starts to shake. And no matter how pissed he is, that’s something that Enjolras will never be able to respond to except with kindness. He walks up, and kneels beside Grantaire’s chair.
“Everything!” Grantaire explodes, standing up from the chair, nearly knocking Enjolras over. “I’m fucking failing almost all my classes, Enjolras. I can’t keep up with any of the course work. High school is too fucking hard for me, and I’ve been trying to make up for it with extracurriculars, but they’re eating away so much of my time that I can’t even begin to study any more, so I’m just doing worse in my classes. And I can’t stand half the clubs, and I’m not good at anything, and you,” he screeches, pointing at Enjolras. “You’re nowhere to be found, always hanging out with those snooty academic types in the morning, and constantly studying on any of my free days. What exactly did I do to make you never want to be around me? What is it exactly about my personality that makes everyone run the other way?”
He turns, and starts kicking Enjolras bed. Damning the last month and with his heart in his mouth, Enjolras stands, and walks over to Grantaire.
“Hey,” he says, reaching to grab his arm. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“You already have, though.” Grantaire sits on his bed, all the energy draining out of him at once. “We never talk anymore.”
“You’re always so busy. I thought you were kind of using it as an excuse to not talk to me anymore.” Grantaire laughs, wet.
“You’re the only person I actually want to talk to. You’re the only part of my day I look forward to, and lately, you’ve not even been a part of my day.”
“I’ve missed it too, R,” Enjolras admits, far more honest than he’d usually be. “I’ve only been hanging out Cosette and Marius because you’re nowhere to be found, normally. And I need to study a lot; you know how much I want to get into university.”
“You will get in, though,” Grantaire says. “There’s no doubt about that. You’re smart. Unlike me, who’s failing fucking everything.”
“Okay, you’re not stupid. And you know what, you’re dropping like, all your extra curriculars, you hear me? I’ll tutor you. You’re going to fucking pass your first year if it kills us both, do you understand?”
“I did something bad,” Grantaire says, and it’s such a swift change in topic, that Enjolras feels mentally whiplashed.
“I did something bad,” Grantaire confesses. “I broke into my father’s liquor cabinet, and I drank one of them. It tasted fucking awful.”
“Did you get drunk?” Enjolras asks quietly.
“Yeah,” Grantaire nods, not catching Enjolras’ eye. “Turns out I’m a really weepy, sentimental drunk.”
“Well,” Enjolras says carefully, after a pause. “You’re not going to do that again. And you’re going to drop at least half of what you’re doing, and we’re going to study. And, most importantly, I’m getting my best friend back.”
“You’re such a fucking sap,” Grantaire says, and that sounds more like the fourteen year old he is, and less like the premature bone-deep misery that has been haunting his voice for this entire conversation. “Don’t be such a girl.”
“That’s offensive,” Enjolras shoots back immediately, and this is far, far more normal. “Showing emotion is a human characteristic, and it’s not a weak quality. Attributing it to women in that kind of context—“
“Shut up,” Grantaire says fondly, knocking into his shoulder, and Enjolras knows they’ll be okay.
It was the first time he was faced with the possibility of losing Grantaire, and it’s not a risk that he wants to revisit, ever.
“Oh my fucking God, Enjolras,” Grantaire says the moment he comes into view, and immediately, he knows this was a bad idea.
“Please, for the love of God, don’t say anything.”
“Punk.” Grantaire confirms. “Punk is the look you’re going for, right?”
“You’re saying things. Please stop saying things.”
“It kind of works for you,” Grantaire says, and it makes Enjolras look up sharply. “The hair could use a little less gel, but I dig the eye liner.”
“Really?” Enjolras asks, and his voice is smaller than he wants it to be. “Do you like it?”
“If it’s what you like, man, I’ll put up with it.”
“Very affirming, thank you, Grantaire.” Enjolras rolls his eyes. “I just thought I’d try it out.”
“That’s a little ill-timed with your protest thing, isn’t it?” Enjolras only spares him a glance, though his hands shove his books into his bag a little harder than necessary.
“Yes, my ‘protest thing’ is this week. I’m not intending to wear this during it. Not that you care, or anything.”
“I told you it isn’t personal,” Grantaire sighs, and yes, it looks like they’re going to go through this again.
“You could at least show up,” Enjolras snaps. “I don’t understand why you aren’t willing to just stand there in solidarity. You don’t even have to say anything.”
“Look, I agree that the dress code is ridiculously sexist, okay?” Grantaire glances around, and seeing that they’re alone, continues. “But I cannot get in any more trouble with the school, or I’ll get suspended. If the principal takes thirty students coming to his office in the wrong way, which he easily could, then I’m fucked. And I just can’t, Enjolras, I can’t.”
“Do you even care about the issue?”
“Vaguely?” Grantaire answers, and Enjolras can tell he’s getting annoyed. Which is good, since Enjolras is already annoyed. “It’s shitty for the girls, but it’s not like it effects me directly. And, come on, it’s not like they’re going to change it for you. This is the basic dress code enforced in every high school in the nation.”
“Oh, so what I’m doing is pointless, then?” Enjolras knows he should really be feeling fury instead of cold hurt, but he can’t quite force it.
“Not pointless, just hopeless. Resultless. I’m proud of you, but I’m not going to stand with you when my presence will make no difference for your cause, and I could be seriously hurt by it. Do you want me to get suspended again, Enjolras?”
“No,” he grits out. “But I would like my friend to support me.”
“I will come if you ask me to,” Grantaire says, and cuts off Enjolras as he begins to immediately do just that. “But please, can you at least consider what you’re asking of me?”
“Considered. Please come. Even if you stand at the back, please come.”
“Fucking fine, I’ll be there,” Grantaire says, and begins to stalk away towards his first class, leaving Enjolras to watch from behind.
He knows Grantaire walked away angry, but he can’t stop smiling.
“You’re not being a good prom date to Sam,” Enjolras comments, swirling his water around the plastic cup.
“Sam asked me out because her friend bet her no one would say yes. She doesn’t need me to be a good date,” Grantaire responds, grabbing a handful of pretzels from the middle of the table. “I’d much rather hang out with you.”
“Thanks,” Enjolras mutters. “Apparently you’re the only one.”
Enjolras came with a large group of friends, all proclaiming that it was more fun to ‘be single and mingle’ with friends than go with a specific person. About ten minutes in, they’ll all ditched him at the table to dance, and he hasn’t seen hide nor hair of them in over an hour.
“You could always go join them.” Grantaire gestures towards the dance floor, where groups of their peers are all gyrating and grinding to some objectable T-Pain song that went out of popularity three years ago.
“I think I’ll stay, thank you,” Enjolras responds, and takes another bite of his taquito, which is growing cold. “I can’t believe I actually spent over sixty dollars to be here.”
“I have to say, I was surprised when you said you were going.” Grantaire pulls his chair closer to Enjolras so they don’t have to talk quite so loudly. “Not that you aren’t willing to have fun – but this isn’t usually what you call fun.”
“It seemed like the thing to do,” Enjolras says, which honestly is most of the story.
“Do you know what I think the thing to do is?”
“What?” Enjolras asks, leaning closer.
“Ditching this place.”
“We were both driven here by limo,” Enjolras points out. “We’d have no way to get back.”
“We can just go outside,” Grantaire suggests, and Enjolras finds himself standing before his brain even processes it. He smoothes down the pants of his tux, and offers his hand to Grantaire. “Shall we?”
It’s a brisk night; spring is on the horizon, but hasn’t completely pushed out winter yet, the trees still free of buds, the grass still brown and covered in a thin layer of frost. They both shiver, and use that as an excuse to sit not two inches from one another, on the back steps of the Brighton Country Club, where their school apparently thought was an appropriate place to hold a prom.
“It’s so quiet out here,” Enjolras comments, shivering slightly. There’s only the noises of basic suburbia – the few cars driving by, the unidentifiable bugs chirping out their night song, the wind whistling through different holes and crevices.
“A huge improvement from the top 40s rap,” Grantaire says.
“You’re still such a hipster.”
“Hipsters are so mainstream,” Grantaire says, making Enjolras laugh. He’s quiet a moment, before commenting casually, “You know, I wish we just went together.”
Enjolras looks at him sharply. “What do you mean? To prom?”
“Yeah.” Grantaire blows on his fingers, rubbing some life back in them, before continuing. “We spent most of the night together anyway. It just would have cut away the pretense.”
“But we’re all about the pretense, aren’t we?” Enjolras asks, staring at Grantaire, who seems to be refusing to look back.
“I suppose so,” he agrees after a long moment. “And that just seems stupid.”
“Does it?” Enjolras says, leaning into his side, feeling oddly, supernaturally calm. “Should we stop it then?”
“I don’t think we’d know how to function without it, actually.” Grantaire leans back into him, and suddenly they’re supporting each other, body weight against body weight. “Who would I be without pretending to understand schoolwork, and who would you be without pretending to save the world?”
“Those don’t count,” Enjolras says, feeling peaceful in a way that’s almost unfitting for the situation. “We both try, on those – you try to get math, and I try to get people to give a shit about the world they’re destroying. It’s only pretense if we are trying to make something appear true that isn’t. And we do that too – with other things.”
“I am trying to make it seem like I’m not failing, and you’re trying to make it seem like you’re not losing an already lost battle.”
“You’re not failing, R,” Enjolras sighs. “You’re not doing well, but you’re passing. And it wouldn’t be a losing battle if people would just give a shit. Asking them to care isn’t so much, is it?”
“It shouldn’t be,” Grantaire agrees. “But it is. And you literally asking every person in the student body to sign your petition isn’t going to actually save the whales.”
Enjolras turns his head, staring into Grantaire’s neck.
“You know me better than anyone, R. Am I wrong, doing this, asking this of people?”
“Maybe a little,” Grantaire says, and somehow it means so much more than he’s honest. “You have to realize that not everyone can care as much as you, and that doesn’t make them wrong. People are worried about themselves.”
“How can people not care about others? I just don’t understand how they can’t care.”
Grantaire sits up, dislodging Enjolras from where he was leaning against Grantaire’s arm. He glances over, giving him a speculative look.
“You know what? I change my answer. You’re not wrong. Everyone else is.”
“What?” Enjolras laughs.
“Seriously,” Grantaire says, in a tone that immediately stops Enjolras laughter. “Listen, Enjolras, never change, please. I mean it.”
“I wouldn’t know how,” Enjolras says. “And you—you never change either, please.”
“I think I could actually do with a lot of changing.”
“Nah,” Enjolras says, leaning up against him again. “I disagree.”
“Sap,” Grantaire chides, and leans back up against him. It’s freezing, and both their legs are going numb on the cement staircase, but neither make any signs of movement. “That was almost too cute.”
“Did we just have a movie moment?” Enjolras asks, eyes closing.
“Nah, we’d have to be together for it to be a movie moment.”
“Yeah.” Enjolras waits a moment, and then, because he can’t not, he continues. “So, did we have a movie moment?”
Grantaire goes still, but not stiff, against him. There’s a long, pregnant moment, where Enjolras can physically feel them teetering on a precipice of that ineffable, untouchable something, and he so wants to grab Grantaire’s hand and jump off that cliff into the abyss of that maybe – when the door opens, and two of their classmates stumble out of it, kissing with sloppy sound effects and all.
“I think that’s our cue,” Grantaire says, standing, and offering a hand to Enjolras. He takes it with an almost crushing disappointment, and locks the maybe away again, into the land of willful ignorance.
“It’s senior year,” Enjolras explodes. “Don’t you think it’s beyond time you get your shit together?”
“Mind your fucking business, Enjolras,” Grantaire snaps back, throwing the test with the big red F on it in a trashcan, and stalking out towards the parking lot.
“You are my business.” he says, a step behind.
“My grades aren’t. My future isn’t. That’s mine alone.”
“Oh, your grades aren’t my business?” Enjolras hisses, crossing his arms, trying to march in stride with Grantaire. “Tell that to the two hours a day I wasted on tutoring you since freshman year, then.”
“Nice to see you think it was a waste as well.”
“Stop walking away from me!” Enjolras yells, beginning to jog. Grantaire quickens his stride. “I’m talking to you.”
“I don’t want to talk to you. You’re just going to make the same fucking argument, and I don’t want to hear it.”
“What’s your plan, Grantaire?” He grabs his arm and twists him back around. The fury in his eyes isn’t enough to make Enjolras step back, but it’s a close call. “If not university, then what?”
“Going and dying in a ditch, I suppose,” he says cheerfully, and turns back around, all but ready to make a theatrical stalk out once again. Enjolras’ grip says differently, and he turns back around, huffing in annoyance. “I don’t know. What do you want me to say?”
“The truth,” says Enjolras, like it’s that simple, like there’s one honest answer of the meaning of his future that will fall out of the life slot machine.
“There is no truth. I don’t know what I want.”
“It’s not that hard,” Enjolras insists. “If you could be anything – anything at all, no barriers, what would it be? If you got to pick anything in the universe, what would you be doing?”
“I don’t know,” Grantaire says, over-enunciating his words, because there has to be a way to make Enjolras understand that he truly doesn’t have an answer.
“How can you not know?” Enjolras cries, pulling at his hair. “There has to be something that sounds more appealing than something else?”
“I guess I’m not that imaginative. All I can see myself doing is trailing after you, working some minimum wage job, watching you do something magnificent. Why isn’t that enough?”
“Because you could do something magnificent too,” Enjolras says, resisting the urge to shake him. “If you only tried.”
“I try.” Grantaire takes a steadying breath. “Just because I’m not on your level doesn’t mean I don’t try.”
“I believe you can do better.”
“I really can’t.”
“I believe in you.”
“You’ve misplaced your faith.”
“You’re never a misplaced faith, Grantaire,” and he has to look away, because how do you have a non-emotional response to that? “You’re intelligent; I know you are. You have good enough grades to get into a university.”
“A shitty one.”
“But a university. Why not go? I know you could get a sports scholarship.”
“Because what’s the point?” Grantaire yells. He takes off his backpack, and chucks it across the parking lot, making Enjolras jump. He watches with wide eyes as Grantaire begins to pace. “It will just be a more difficult version of high school, and I could barely fucking manage this. I would just fail out.”
“No, you wouldn’t,” Enjolras says immediately, shaking his head, and Grantaire wants to know what he did to deserve this kind of faith. “You get good grades in things you care about. You aced literature and most other social studies. We just need to keep you out of math, and you’re gold.”
“I would fail.”
“You wouldn’t.” Enjolras takes a step towards him, putting a hand on his shoulder, and forcing their eyes to meet. “Grantaire, you wouldn’t. And I’d be with you, every step of the way.”
“I don’t know if I can, Enjolras. I don’t know.”
“What will you do if you don’t go?” Enjolras asks, as soft as he can. “I’m not saying a degree is a guarantee of a job, but what’s your plan?”
“I don’t make plans – that’s your corner.”
“Then let me make the plan – you’re applying to university.”
Enjolras makes a curt nod, like that settles it, and steps around Grantaire to grab his backpack. Picking it up off the ground, he brushes it off, and makes his way into Grantaire’s car, waiting to be driven home.
“I was accepted there too,” Enjolras says casually, after reading over Grantaire’s acceptance letter. Grantaire’s shell-shocked surprise dissipates slightly, and he turns to frown at Enjolras.
“What are doing applying there? I’m sure you could do much better.”
“Probably,” Enjolras shrugs. “But this one offered me a full-ride scholarship. That’s not something I can pass up.”
“Uh,” Grantaire starts, staring at him. “You absolutely can, actually. They have financial aid strictly for that reason. You should go to the best university you can, not the cheapest.”
“That’s not practical, R,” Enjolras shrugs again. “It’s the difference of starting life with no debt, and having more debt than a house. It’s not worth it.”
“It’s absolutely worth it. Wait,” Grantaire says, frowning deeply. “You didn’t apply there simply because I did, did you?”
“Of course not,” Enjolras says smoothly, and Grantaire doesn’t know if he should believe him. Enjolras’ lying face is remarkably similar to his completely untroubled face, which pisses him off to no end. “I applied there because they offered scholarships to people in my position, and I need one.”
“This school offered me a scholarship; they’re obviously shitty.”
“They offered you a wrestling scholarship, Grantaire. That’s hardly the same thing as an academic one.”
“Enjolras,” Grantaire barks out, frustrated, and it makes Enjolras sigh. “I swear to fucking God, if you give up your future just to keep a friendship, I will fucking kill you. That’s something you would do, too, don’t even try to lie your way out of it.”
“That’s not what I’m doing, R. I would go here anyway, even if you weren’t.”
Grantaire stares at his impassive face for a moment, before grabbing his leather jacket off a chair nearby.
“For being my best friend, I really fucking hate you sometimes.”
“Likewise,” Enjolras calls after him.
“Grantaire. What’s up?”
“I picked a different university,” Grantaire says. Enjolras slowly lifts his head up from his lunch.
“They offered me a dance scholarship instead of a wrestling one,” Grantaire lies easily, attentively gauging Enjolras reaction. It’s carefully blank.
“That’s great, R,” he says, patting his hand. “Where is it?”
“North about two hours,” he answers. “So, does this change your plans at all?”
“Not in the slightest,” Enjolras says, taking a bite of his sandwich.
“Enjolras, I have a confession.”
“Oh?” Enjolras says, sitting up from where he was almost dozing on Grantaire’s bed. He looks over, and sees Grantaire sitting at his desk, hands absentmindedly fiddling with a click pen.
“Yes. You know that university I am going to?”
“The mysterious one in the North you never want to talk about?” Enjolras answers dryly. “Yes, I’ve heard of it.”
“Yeah, I lied. That place doesn’t exist.”
“Why'd you lie?”
“Because I thought you were giving up your future to keep an eye on me, and I couldn’t take that. But you just sent in your tuition check yesterday, so I’ve come to the conclusion that it actually had nothing to do with me at all.”
“Brilliant conclusion,” Enjolras deadpans. “It’s nothing like the one I told you two weeks ago.”
“I know.” Grantaire quickly clicks the pen about ten times before throwing it down on the desk. “Okay, so, I sent in my tuition check as well.”
“To my university?” Enjolras asks, blinking.
“To our university,” Grantaire corrects. “Yes. It’s the only place I actually applied to. And I figured, you know, a year can’t hurt.”
“Thank God,” Enjolras breathes. “I was really not looking forward to going alone.”
“You get little old me along with you.”
“I wouldn’t want anyone else.”
“Neither would I.”
They stare at each other for a moment, and it drags out longer, turning into a moment, something thick and sizzling with tension. Enjolras sits up; fully intent on marching over to Grantaire to finally put this unpleasantly reoccurring matter to rest. Unfortunately, it seems to break the tension, and Grantaire turns in his chair back to his laptop, laser focused once again. Enjolras lies back down. He doesn’t even have to tell the butterflies to go away anymore – they just do so of their own accord.
University is when the moments start to blur together, and when, for the first time, Enjolras wonders if they are ever going to stop.
“Are you fucking serious?” Normally, Enjolras appreciates Grantaire’s full belly laugh, but since it’s directed at him and he’s in excruciating pain, he’s less fond than usual.
“It wasn’t on purpose,” he huffs, crossing his arms. He feels a bit ridiculous sitting on the ground, arms crossed and legs splayed like a petulant child throwing a tantrum. “Some kid bumped into me, and I fell down the stairs.”
Grantaire’s laughter peters out, and he bends down, looking far more sympathetic.
“Well, maybe if you had been avoiding the library during the first week of classes like any normal student, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“Save the commentary.” Enjolras tries to stand up, and makes it to a kneel before the pain forces him to stop. Grantaire hurries in front of him, and, like this, it looks like Enjolras is proposing. “Will you help me, please?”
“Of course,” Grantaire agrees, reaching an arm around him to steady him as he stands. Enjolras leans into it, wincing. “How bad is it?”
“Hopefully not broken,” he says, and Grantaire winces in sympathy. They make it about a step, when Enjolras stops him with a hand.
“This isn’t going to work. I can’t put any weight on it, and it’s a half mile walk back.”
“I could give you a piggy-back ride?” Grantaire suggests. Enjolras stares.
“Are you serious?”
“Of course. I’m definitely strong enough, and it’d take all the weight off.”
“We’d look ridiculous.”
“It’s university,” Grantaire says flippantly, which is probably fair, considering they saw someone go by dressed in a Spiderman onesie while riding a neon orange scooter. Enjolras sighs.
“Okay.” Awkwardly, he stands behind Grantaire, and tries not to wince as Grantaire hauls him up onto his back.
“You’re slightly heavier than you look,” Grantaire breathes.
“Shit. Can you do it?” Enjolras’ mouth is no more than three inches away from Grantaire’s ear, with his chin resting on his shoulder, and his arms hooked loosely around his neck.
“Of course,” Grantaire says, and Enjolras knows he’s looking theatrically outraged without having to see it. “I’m so strong.”
“Well, get going then, mighty horse.”
As they walk back to the dorm, Enjolras slightly bouncing against Grantaire’s back the whole way, Enjolras feels an odd combination of gratitude and affection that he honestly doesn’t know how to verbalize.
So he says nothing at all.
“R,” Enjolras starts. At the excited lint in his voice, Grantaire turns to look at him. Enjolras is staring at his laptop screen, face white for the bright reflection of it.
“My committee got approved.”
“Your social justice club?” Grantaire lays down his pencil. He didn’t understand the math problems anyway. “I thought you had to get it approved by student council and the President.”
“I did.” Enjolras sounds stunned. “And they both agreed.”
“Way to go, champ,” Grantaire praises, and throws a pencil at his hair to emphasize it. Enjolras bats it away in an impressive feat of coordination.
“Are you coming?” Enjolras asks. “The first meeting will be Friday evening.”
“Why?” Enjolras asks, puzzled. “You don’t have class.”
“No, but I’m not going to join.”
“Why?” Enjolras tries not to sound whiny. “Come at least for the first day. I need to have members. It’ll be humiliating if only one other person shows up.”
“You know you have at least ten people who are interested,” Grantaire reminds him. “Plus, you’re there to get shit done. That won’t happen with me there.”
“And why not?”
“Because I can never keep my mouth shut around you, and whenever we talk, we go on tangents. It’s like the foundation of our entire friendship – talking shit and it taking hours.”
“You could come anyway.”
“I don’t think so, but thanks anyway.”
“Grantaire,” Enjolras says, striding up to where Grantaire is eating lunch in the student center. “Come to my meeting tonight. Please.”
“Enjolras,” Grantaire sighs, putting down his sandwich. “It’s been three months. Why are you bringing this up again?”
“Because they’re my friends now,” Enjolras says. “Close ones. I want you to meet them, and this is the only time they are in the same place at the same time.”
“I could come at the end of the meeting?” Grantaire suggests hopefully. Enjolras shoots him a baleful look.
“You said once, that if truly asked you to, you’d come.”
“And I would.”
Enjolras looks him straight in the eye. “Please come.”
Grantaire picks up his sandwich, and takes a pointed bite. “Fine,” he says through the food. Enjolras gives him a nod, and leaves.
They made it sixteen minutes into the meeting before Grantaire finally breaks his silence. When Enjolras introduced him to the group, Joly quickly adopted him, and he’s been sitting rather innocently at his table ever since. Both of them knew it was only a matter of time.
“You do realize,” Grantaire interrupts, right as Enjolras is about the change the slide on the PowerPoint. “That even if gay couples were allowed to adopt, it wouldn’t even come near solving the adoption and child abuse crisis?”
The room was quiet before, but now it’s deadly silent, and most of the group is turned towards Grantaire in almost morbid, apprehensive fascination. Only Enjolras looks unfazed, and he’s staring at Grantaire, attention solely focused.
“But it won’t hurt.”
“No, but it won’t do much.”
“But it won’t hurt,” Enjolras repeats, with more stress. “Will it?”
“No, but Enjolras,” Grantaire leans forward, and Enjolras mimics him subconsciously. “What about the thousands of children in the system that are given to abusive foster homes? What about the fact that most adults who want to adopt want a foreign baby, leaving thousands of domestic babies unwanted and uncared for? What about the fact that if a child is over the age of three, their chances of being adopted diminish so much that they are practically non-existent? What about the fact that most child abuse doesn’t even come from children in fosters situations, but one’s that are with perfectly legitimate parents who are simply fucking assholes?”
“There’s nothing we can do about that, not really. There’s enough love in the world to go around—”
“And yet Jenny from middle school came in with a black eye every Monday morning.”
“Well, what do you suggest, R?” Enjolras realizes he’s holding the slide remote so tightly that he cracked the plastic, and he drops it onto the table with a loud thump. Absently, he notices that the entire room is staring at them.
“I don’t know. Isn’t that your corner?”
“Unless you want me to petition the government to force people to be evaluated and chosen before they have children, I’m fresh out of ideas.”
“That’s a little too close to Plato’s ideal state for my taste.” Grantaire smirks. “Anything close to Plato should immediately be thrown out.”
“I’m well aware of your distaste for Plato,” Enjolras sighs, resisting the urge to rub his temples. “But does that really have anything to do with raising awareness for the bill supporting same-sex adoption?”
“That depends if you let me get on a rant.”
“No,” Enjolras says firmly. “I don’t think we have time for that.”
“And yet you have time to discuss how to write letters to the government.”
“Well, yes, R, that’s kind of the whole point of the meeting.” It never ceases to amaze Grantaire how Enjolras can sound like he’s rolling his eyes with only his voice.
“It’s fucking pointless.”
“I didn’t ask you to write one.”
“Student letters do nothing, and you know it,” Grantaire says, shaking his head. “Maybe if you could organize the entire campus to make calls into their office – maybe then they might take a notice. But even then—”
“It’s not a bad idea, but that’s not practical.”
“You’re just going to fucking waste your time, just like in high school, like you did with that protest on school uniforms, or that sit in for teacher’s salaries. Did they lead anywhere?”
Enjolras sighs, and looks up. At the horrendously uncomfortable faces in the room, Enjolras decides to bring the conversation to a swift end. “If you don’t have anything positive to say, then I implore you to stop talking.”
Grantaire tips his head in his direction. “As you say, boss.”
“I thought he said you guys were best friends,” Enjolras overhears Joly whisper to R. They’re letter writing, and the room is quiet, and although he’s muttering, Enjolras can still make out his words from a table away. He pretends he can’t, focusing on the paper under his hands.
“We are.” Grantaire says, much less softly. “Why?”
“Then why did you antagonize him like that?”
“It’s just how we are,” Grantaire says, shrugging. “He knew that before inviting me.”
“Really? And you guys actually get along?”
“Yeah,” Grantaire says offhandedly, and Enjolras realizes his hand has been still for several moments. He goes back to pretend writing, hopefully creating the illusion that he’s paying attention to what he’s doing instead of Grantaire’s answer. “You know how when you first get to know someone, you’re really nice? But once you become best friends, you’re able to be a lot, I don’t know, meaner?”
“You mean like how there’s a certain level of friendship you need to achieve to insult your friends?” Joly asks, and Grantaire looks over, smiling at him.
“Yeah, sort of. But more like a level of trust, or faith. You trust the other person with the honest truth, and that they will still be there when you’re done. And there’s no one I have more trust in than Enjolras.”
Enjolras had stopped writing again, and furiously restarts, trying to ignore the warming in his cheeks and belly.
“Hey, I downloaded the next episode of Jeopardy, if you want to watch it with me,” Grantaire says as Enjolras unlocks the door, not looking up from his screen. “It’s still off that shady site. You’d think we wouldn’t have to resort to illegal means to watch goddamn Jeopardy, but here we are—” He swivels his chair at the lack of answer, and then jumps up at seeing Enjolras’ tear streaked face.
“What happened?” he demands, forcing Enjolras to sit down on his bed. “Do I need to kill somebody?”
“No,” Enjolras waves his hand, dismissive. He hiccups. “It’s my own damn fault.”
Wordlessly, Enjolras hands over a small stack of papers he was clutching in his hand. Grantaire takes them.
It’s an essay, obviously, with a large, red 65% circled on top.
“Aw, shit,” Grantaire says, sitting beside Enjolras. “What happened?”
“I lost track of time.” Enjolras wipes his nose on his sleeve, and Grantaire pretends not to see the streak it leaves, for which Enjolras is silently grateful. “I was so busy with friends, and other classes, and my job – I just let this class slip under the cracks. I knew it was shit when I turned it in, but not this shit.”
“It’s not bad enough that your grade isn’t salvageable—”
“It is if I want to graduate in the top 5%,” Enjolras interrupts. “Which I need to, if I’m going to get any type of paid internship at the end of university.”
Grantaire throws an arm around him, and Enjolras lets himself cry into his shoulder for several moments.
“I’m so stupid,” he mutters. “I should have kept on top of this.”
“You’re not fucking stupid, Enjolras,” Grantaire snaps. “A 65% isn’t even technically failing.”
“It is to me.”
“But it’s not. I would know.”
“What do you mean by that?” Enjolras frowns, pulling away. Grantaire avoids his gaze, looking off to the left, towards the door. “Grantaire?”
“I was avoiding telling you this,” Grantaire confesses quietly. “Because I wasn’t sure how you would react.”
“Yes?” Enjolras prompts, his own tears forgotten.
“I failed out of Calculus.”
“You failed out?” Enjolras repeats, blinking. “But it’s only midterms.”
“We only have four tests making up our final grade, and I did so badly on the first two that my grade is literally unsalvageable. I dropped the class two days ago.”
“And you didn’t tell me?” Enjolras asks, slightly hurt.
“You know how you get about academics.” Grantaire’s fists are clenching and unclenching rhythmically. “I know you don’t mean to, but you get all—judgey, you know. You take it all so seriously.”
“R,” Enjolras says slowly. “You’ve hated math since they day I met you. I’m not surprised or anything that you didn’t like it any more at a higher level.”
“Yeah, but I need it to graduate.”
“Oh.” They both go quiet and Enjolras can see out of the corner of his eye that Grantaire is starting to cry, in that quiet, uncontrollable way that shows he’s trying his best to stop it. He presses his shoulder into his, hoping it helps ground him slightly. “It’s required for your major?”
“Yeah,” he nods. “I could take it again, but I don’t think I’d it pass the second time either. None of it made any fucking sense, Enjolras, none of it. I even tried a tutor.”
“Then maybe try a different major?”
“Like fucking what?” Grantaire bites out. “Anything I like or enjoy doing won’t make me any money. I can’t pass anything that requires math. What does that even leave?”
“Business?” Enjolras suggests, and rolls his eyes at the horrified look he gets in return. “Okay. Well, what about something that you enjoy?”
“Sugar, if you’re going down, go down swinging.”
“I think that’s really terrible advice, but I'm not positive.” Enjolras bumps his shoulder.
“You’ll be able to move on. Make a list of what majors don’t require Calculus, and research them thoroughly. I’m sure there will be at least one that has a job opportunity that will allow you to support yourself. It's beyond reasonable.”
“I fucking hate Calc,” Grantaire mutters.
“I know. But it’s over with now, and now you literally never have to think about it ever again.”
Grantaire laughs, and turns to face him. “Is it stupid that that comforted me far more than Joly’s long, rhapsodizing speech about how smart I am?”
Enjolras shrugs. “I like to think I know you pretty well by now.” He smiles. “Now, enough about our depressing academic lives. Let’s watch Jeopardy until 6AM.”
“How about we just talk?” Grantaire suggests instead, lying back on the bed. “I feel like we don’t ever have time to just talk anymore. And I like talking to you.”
“Okay,” Enjolras agrees readily, lying down next to him. “About what?”
They still manage to stay up until 6AM, but there’s no television involved. When the sun does come up, heating Enjolras’ skin, he’s already warm from something else, something far more internal. And there’s a moment, when Grantaire doesn’t want to leave the bed, being too tired, and leans back into Enjolras, pressed up against him in a hundred different noticeable areas—
—but it’s just a moment, and Enjolras ignores it, rolling over to go to sleep.
“Guess what I did?” Grantaire yells, throwing open the classroom doors with a resounding bang. The entire group jumps slightly, and Enjolras looks up, irritated.
“I’m sure something that could have waited until the end of the meeting, and not five minutes into it.”
“I changed my major.”
“Seriously?” Bossuet asks, excitedly. Suddenly, all attention has fixed onto Grantaire, who only has eyes for Enjolras. “What to?”
“Theater!” he says, throwing his hands up in the air, and doing a little pirouette.
“Really?” Jehan squeals. “With me?”
“With you, darling,” Grantaire confirms, bowing towards him. “I’m going to take acting, and design, and speech, and dancing. I’m going to be a regular vaudevillian.”
“Are you now?” Enjolras asks dryly, regaining his attention. “And that is a wise choice of major?”
Grantaire turns back to look him in the eye, and quirks his eyebrow. “Well, I’ve loved theater since high school, as you know. And hey,” he shrugs. “If I’m going down, I might as well go down swinging, doing something I love.”
“Sounds wise,” Enjolras says, fighting off a grin. Grantaire laughs, and then marches over to where Enjolras is standing behind a table. Grabbing his sleeve, he pulls him to the center of the room, Enjolras complying bemusedly. Suddenly, Grantaire puts one hand on his waist, and the other on his shoulder, and starts spinning him around the room.
“Grantaire!” Enjolras says loudly, clinging on to him. “I don’t have the dexterity for this.”
“Luckily, I do,” Grantaire replies breezily, turning them about the room at far too quick a pace for Enjolras’ liking.
“I’m going to trip over a table and die.”
“Not with me leading,” Grantaire says, and Enjolras rolls his eyes, and lets himself be pulled around the room. After only a minute, he dances Enjolras back to the table, finishing with an exaggerated dip, Enjolras’ hair almost touching the floor.
“Are you convinced I made the right choice now?” Grantaire asks.
“Yes, you’re the height of dancing talent,” Enjolras deadpans. “Will you please lift me up before all of my blood goes to my head?”
Grantaire does so, leaving him slightly woozy. He puts his hands on the table, regaining his balance, and realizes the room is suspiciously quiet. He looks around at their surprisingly confused faces, and is about to ask what’s wrong, when Bahorel blurts,
“I really never thought I’d see the day you’d dance.”
That seems to break the tension, and suddenly everyone’s whispering, a litany of background noise.
“And I never will again, if I can help it,” Enjolras replies.
“Oh no, Enjolras, you’d be great with those long legs,” Jehan coos, and Enjolras can hear Grantaire snort from where he’s still standing two feet away.
“No,” he says firmly.
“But you did it with Grantaire!”
“Yes, and only Grantaire has standing permission to do that. And he should use that permission very wisely and very sparsely,” he says pointedly.
“I’ll pick them carefully, boss,” Grantaire says, leaning in to whisper in his ear. Enjolras shivers slightly. “I bet you can’t imagine the next time I’ll force you.”
Enjolras mind immediately conjures up too many scenarios, too many that he immediately has to force from his mind, and so he just rolls his eyes, and says, “Can we please restart the meeting now?” and completely ignores it.
“What’s up, Bahorel?”
“Can you come pick Grantaire up?” he yells into the phone over the cacophony of background noise. Enjolras winces.
“Sure. Where are you?”
“Corinth. Bar. You know it.”
“I’ll be there in twenty.”
When he arrives, Bahorel and Grantaire are already standing at the front, obviously waiting for him, and by the way Grantaire is slouched on Bahorel’s shoulder, it’s obvious that he’s plastered.
“Hello,” Enjolras greets. Grantaire looks up, his face brightening.
“Oh, it’s you,” he slurs happily. “Hey, you.”
“Hey,” Enjolras says back, raising his eyebrows. He turns to Bahorel. “How much has he had?”
“I don’t know, man. He was already going when I got here.”
“Okay, give him to me.” Bahorel shrugs Grantaire off, and Grantaire steps under Enjolras’ arm willingly.
“I’ll try not to vomit on you,” Grantaire says into his shirt.
“I appreciate that.” Enjolras says, before sighing heavily. “Grantaire, this is the second time this week. What were you thinking?”
“You should come sometime,” Grantaire evades. “You’ve never come to the bar.”
“Because drinking is a waste of my money and my liver.”
"Whatever you say." Enjolras shakes his head, and Grantaire smiles up at him.
“I don’t fucking get you two sometimes,” Bahorel says, making both Enjolras and Grantaire look up sharply.
“What do you mean?”
“This,” Bahorel says, flapping his hand, trying to encompass all the opposite natures and yet tolerance and fondness that just weirdly resonates around them. By their blank stares, he doubts they understand his hand flapping. “I don’t understand how you two work. You seem like you should hate each other. But you don’t. It’s like a magnet where somehow the polarized sides were put on the wrong side, bringing and holding together what should have been destined, or scientifically bound to be held apart.”
“Excuse me?” Enjolras says. Grantaire leans up against him, quiet.
“I’m not trying to attack your weirdo relationship,” Bahorel quickly backtracks. “It’s just confusing.”
“It’s not, actually,” Enjolras says, trying not to snap. “He was there. When I needed him, when it went wrong, when it went right. For all the important moments, he was there. And I’m not going to forget about that because he might be a loudmouth or a drunkard.”
“I’m sorry if I offended you, man,” Bahorel says, patting him on the back hard enough that Enjolras takes a step forward. “I didn’t mean to. But you've got to admit, you two are pretty opposite.”
Enjolras looks down at where Grantaire is quietly snuggling into his sweater, eyes glazed over. He looks back up, and says something he’s privately thought for a decade, but never been able to let himself verbalize.
“Maybe that’s why we work. The law of complimentary colors. Newton’s laws of attraction.”
“Let’s not talk about Newton,” Grantaire mumbles into his shirt.
“Okay, R,” Enjolras says, patting him on the back. “Okay.”
There is a moment – just a moment – when Enjolras vows to never consider the thought again, to banish it from his mind completely, forever.
Enjolras is struggling with the key to his and Grantaire’s room, because, for some reason, the deadbolt had been pulled. After several moments of twisting the key back and forth, the door finally pushes open. Enjolras walks through, turning to shut it, when he hears Grantaire stutter out, “Enjolras,” in a panicky voice. Enjolras immediately turns to look at him, and wishes he didn’t.
“Oh fuck, I’m sorry,” he says, covering his eyes. “The deadbolt…”
“The deadbolt,” Grantaire confirms.
“Hi,” Enjolras says, one hand still slapped over his eyes, the other waving in the general direction of the naked girl. “Nice to meet you. I’m just going to be leaving now.”
He turns on his heel and crashes head first into the doorframe. He cries out, flailing slightly, before regaining his balance, and fumbling his way out the door, still blind.
He makes his way down the dorm hall; completely irritated with himself and the way his eyes are prickling with tears. There’s no rationality to feeling hurt, and it is thus pointless, he tells himself. It was pointless anyway, he thinks, pushing up the door for the staircase. It’s not like anything would change. Grantaire would always be with other people, Enjolras would always be alone – it’s the way the world worked. And I will be fine with it from now on, he swore to himself. I will.
And then there is the moment he knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that it will be impossible to completely detach from himself, that these moments have become an inextricable part of him, even if they continue to lead nowhere.
“Hey Enjolras,” Courfeyrac calls. He’s running, and Enjolras stops under a sycamore tree, waiting. He catches up, panting. “How’s Grantaire?”
Enjolras blinks in surprise.
“Oh thank God,” Courfeyrac breathes. “We were all so worried.”
“Why were you worried?” Enjolras feels his stomach drop out, and his breath starts to quicken without his permission. He stares at Courfeyrac. “What’s wrong?”
“I thought you knew,” Courfeyrac says, eyes wide. “How were you not first told?”
“I’m not his emergency contact,” Enjolras snaps, resisting the urge to throttle him. “What happened?”
“I didn’t see it first hand,” Courfeyrac starts. “It’s all rumors going around the dorm. But word is, he was hit by a car right outside the dorm. Someone saw him being taken to the hospital.”
“Holy fuck,” Enjolras says, all his blood rushing to his head. He grips Courfeyrac’s arm, feeling dizzy. “Is he okay?”
“I came to ask you!” Courfeyrac exclaims. “I have no idea. The rumors—”
He breaks off, and Enjolras’ heart freezes in his chest, and he wonders somewhere in the back of his brain how he can still be alive without his heart beating.
“The rumors say what?”
“I’m sure they’re just exaggerating,” Courfeyrac evades, which does nothing to calm Enjolras.
“They said what?”
“Grantaire’s a fighter. I’m sure he’s still up and kicking.”
“He is not dead.” Enjolras pushes past Courfeyrac, stalking towards his car.
“I’m sure he’s not,” Courfeyrac calls from behind him.
“He’s not.” Enjolras stride lengthens to a march, and, after a moment, turns it into a run.
“I’m here to see Michel Grantaire,” Enjolras says, panting. The secretary looks up, blinking.
“Are you family?”
“Yes, his brother,” Enjolras says, flapping his hand. “My mother is already in the room with him and told me to go up.”
“Do you have identification, sir?” The secretary asks. Wordlessly, Enjolras hands over his phone, opening the owner ID section, where it is newly edited to show Grantaire’s last name.
“This isn’t federal ID, sir,” the nurse says, handing it back over.
“I don’t have any,” Enjolras says, desperate. “Please let that be enough. I need to see my brother.” The nurse takes pity on him, and Enjolras takes off, flying up the staircases to room #601. He bursts in, and Grantaire’s laying on the hospital bed, his face cut up, but otherwise fine.
“Enjolras?” He says, astonished. “How did you find out I was here?”
“Not from you,” Enjolras snaps, striding into the room. He punches Grantaire’s shoulder, hard enough that he’s sure it will bruise. “You couldn’t find one minute to text me that you were okay?”
“I didn’t want to worry you,” Grantaire says slowly. “I figured you’d freak if you heard I was in the hospital, so I was going to tell you after the fact.”
“I freaked more when I heard the rumor going around the dorm that you were killed.”
“Killed?” Grantaire repeats. “I was barely pushed over. The ambulance was just a precaution for my spine. My face broke my fall, but that was the extent of my injuries.”
“I didn’t know that!” Enjolras throws his hands up, pacing the room. “All I knew was Courfeyrac ran up to me, asking if you had actually died, and I didn’t know anything, Grantaire, nothing. You could have been dead for all I knew. Do you know what that feels like?”
“No,” Grantaire says softly. “But I didn’t die.”
“No, you didn’t.” Enjolras sits down by his bedside, suddenly exhausted. He buries his head on Grantaire’s bed. “You don’t get to do that.”
“Never,” Enjolras answers, voice muffled. “Never.”
“I have my thesis defense tomorrow,” Enjolras says. “Tomorrow, in front of the entire board of my department.”
“You’ll knock them dead.”
“I know; I am so over-prepared for this.”
“I know,” Grantaire agrees, laughing. “You’ve spent every night for three months practicing before you sleep.”
“Sorry,” Enjolras mutters, making Grantaire laugh again.
“No harm, no foul. At least I’ll get to see the fruitation of the many mumbled speeches.”
“I am coming, right?” Grantaire frowns at him. “I don’t have to if you don’t want me there, but I assumed—”
“No, I want you there,” Enjolras hurries. “I didn’t know you wanted to come.”
“It’s important to you, so it’s important to me. Plus, where else I find the details of human trafficking in Guatemala and it’s implications for the UN delivered in such a concise manner?”
“You know what my thesis is?”
“Dude,” Grantaire rolls his eyes hard enough that Enjolras is sure he sees the pupils actually disappear under his lids. “You’ve been talking about it for how long?”
“I didn’t know you where listening.”
“I’m always listening,” Grantaire says, and if Enjolras thinks the warmth in his stomach is unbearable, it’s nothing compared to how he feels in two days, when Grantaire comes in on time, dressed in a suit coat, and claps the hardest and loudest of them all.
University ends as a door shutting close on an entire chapter of their lives, and it feels quick and surreal in a way they most certainly weren’t prepared for, setting their lives on a different, confusing track, one full of promises and confusion, full of mistakes and moments.
“Hey,” Enjorlas chides. “None of that. You promised you could talk right now.”
“I’m awake,” Grantaire mumbles, laying his head onto his arm in front of the laptop screen. All Enjolras can see is his bushy hair and the beginnings of his faded, loose white shirt.
“Grantaire,” he barks. “You are not falling asleep on me again.”
“But I want to,” Grantaire sighs. His shoulder shift slightly, giving Enjolras a good view of how his tattoos seep through the thin white cotton, and Enjolras shifts uncomfortably.
“This is the only time we both have available for a week. I’m going to be miffed at you if you sleep through it. Again.”
“Miffed?” Grantaire repeats, his voice muted from how he’s talking into the crook of his arm. “Did you turn into an 19th century British wife while you were gone?”
“Who knows, I am in London.”
“That you are,” Grantaire says, lifting his head slightly from the crook of his arm, just so he can look at Enjolras through the screen. The soft lighting makes his eyes look a faded green, almost with brown specks, and Enjolras wonders if there’s ever going to be a moment where he stops noticing new things about Grantaire, and he suddenly knows it all. At this pace, he doubts it. “How are you liking the internship?”
“It’s great,” Enjolras enthuses. “Really, it’s amazing.”
“And London? Are you going to stay, become a regular old Brit?”
He was asked that exact same question today by his boss, when he was offering him a permanent position in the England branch. And Enjolras gives Grantaire the exact same reply he gave him.
“I think I still have a life back in Paris.”
“I’m glad about that,” Grantaire yawns, and hides his eyes back in his arm. “When are you coming back again?”
“K,” Grantaire mumbles sleepily.
“Are you nodding off again, Grantaire?”
“Maybe. Can you give me something good to dream of?” he requests. There’s something deeply intimate about seeing him so relaxed, drowsy, and pliant, a kind of freely given trust that has the words in Enjolras’ throat catching.
“So, you’re a revolutionary pirate—”
“You would,” Grantaire interrupts.
“And you’re on a steamboat—”
“No, make it a wooden sailboat.”
“Okay, so you’re a revolutionary pirate on a small, wooden sailboat in the Atlantic in April of 1912.”
“And we see a ship crash into an iceberg, right?” Grantaire’s voice is slurring, and he’s obviously close to nodding off.
Enjolras has to clear his throat before he can continue. “Yes, of course. So you start to paddle towards the sinking ship, when something catches your eye.”
Enjolras continues leading Grantaire into slumber, until only snores answers his questions.
He stares a moment too long at Grantaire’s sleeping figure in the soft light of the lamp, before slamming his laptop shut, warning himself not to go there.
“We didn’t have to do this specifically, you know,” Grantaire comments. They’ve been walking in the woods for over twenty minutes now, and they haven’t said a word. It's probably a record for them. “It’s your first day back. We could have done something more exciting than bird watching.”
“You’ve been talking about it for almost the entire time I was away,” Enjolras answers. “I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.”
“Still nothing. We talked the entire ride back here; we’re almost caught up.”
“I feel like we’re never caught up with each other.” Grantaire says. Enjolras glances over, and seeing that Grantaire's already looking at him, he braves a short smile.
“I know. We never get bored with each other.”
“Oh, so you’re not bored now?” Grantaire asks, a little self-deprecating. “Standing out in the woods isn’t for everyone.”
“You love it,” Enjolras shrugs. “So show me how to love it too.”
Grantaire stares at him a little too long, and Enjolras wonders if he gave something away. For a moment, just a moment, he’s terrified — and suddenly, for the first time in quite in a long time, he wonders what exactly he’s hoping to get out of all this.
“So,” Grantaire says the moment the door is shut. “What did you think of him?”
“He’s blond,” Enjolras answers, throwing out his plate with the pizza crust. “And sarcastic.”
“Both excellent observations,” Grantaire says. He’s leaning up against the door frame, looking all too much like a James Dean impersonator, and Enjolras wills himself not to get annoyed. “But I was hoping for something that dealt more with his personality, and what you thought of him as a whole.”
“I didn’t like him,” Enjolras says, and hates himself for it a little. Grantaire slips off the doorframe, obviously surprised.
“But, why?” he asks dumbly. “What’s wrong with him?”
“Does it matter?” Enjolras says with far too much bite. He turns, grabbing their drinks, and pouring them down the sink drain. Somehow, it’s incredibly unsatisfying, and he feels a strong urge to shatter the glasses on the floor.
“Of course it matters.”
“Why? I’m not the one who has to date him.”
“Because I trust you, and I trust your judgment above anyone else’s.”
“What, and you would dump him if I told you to?” Enjolras sneers.
“Yes.” Enjolras blinks. “If you gave me a reason. But you need to give me a reason, and a good one.”
“Maybe the fact that you’re willing to dump him over something as trivial as my opinion is a reason. You obviously don’t care about him a lot.”
“That is blatantly unfair,” Grantaire snaps, and for the first time in the conversation, he sounds angry. Some part of Enjolras is fiercely proud, that he has a strong enough hold over someone that he can evoke these strong of emotions with only a few sentences. “And it’s not answering the question.”
“I don’t have an answer. He just gave me bad vibes.”
“How?” Grantaire asks, loud. “All we did was eat pizza and watch fucking SpongeBob. What could he have possibly done to give you bad vibes?”
“I don’t fucking know,” Enjolras snaps, and marches over to where his coat was flung over the couch. “I don’t care. Fuck him all you want. I don’t give a shit.”
“You don’t get to do that,” Grantaire says, catching him by the elbow.
“Let me go,” Enjolras says, deathly quiet, yanking his elbow back. Grantaire holds on tight.
“You do not get to march out of my apartment angry.”
“I get to do whatever the fuck I please. I’m an adult, as are you.”
“Which is why we should be able to talk about our feelings, and shit like relationships, without storming out like a toddler.”
Enjolras drops his coat on the floor, and runs his hands through his hair.
“I don’t have an answer for you.”
“Why don’t you want me to date him?” Grantaire asks.
And there’s a moment, just one fleeting, crystal clear moment, that Enjolras actually contemplates answering by pulling him in by the hair, pushing their lips together, running his hand through his hair, pulling them flush together so he can physically feel their bodies rumble against one another—
—and it’s gone, and he’s taking a step back, and answering, “He’s nice. I just got back, I guess, and am worrying that you’ll spend more time with him than me.”
True, but not the truth.
“Never,” Grantaire swears, shaking his head. “I won’t, I promise.”
“Okay,” Enjolras nods. “Okay. Then he has my seal of approval.” Grantaire smiles at him, large and wide, and Enjolras can’t quite find the energy to smile back.
“Hey Enjolras,” Grantaire says, his finger stopping from skimming the emails on his phone. “Guess who I just got an email from?”
“Jacques, begging you to take him back.”
“Fuck off,” Grantaire says pleasantly. “But no. It’s from Courfeyrac.”
“Courfeyrac?” Enjolras repeats, looking up suddenly. “What’s up with him?”
“He wants to know if you’re free next month to have a year-out-of-university reunion.”
“The café Musian. He says everyone else has already agreed to fly or drive in.”
“Then yes,” Enjolras confirms, excited. “Sign us up.”
There have been moments, when they’re meeting friends they both love and haven’t seen in months, when Grantaire forgets his gloves for the hundredth time, and his nose is red, and his coat is old and blue, and he walks perfectly in step with Enjolras towards a small little independent cafe, and knows Enjolras’ coffee order without having to ask—
—but it’s just a moment, like all the rest.