The lake is a lot colder than Grantaire remembers it to be.
He used to do this a lot, get into an argument with his father, and come out and try to drown his anger in the water. Back then, people didn’t really care if he caught a cold, or if he actually drowned in the lake.
There are ripples in the water, his manservant is waddling into the water, begging him to come out of the water, telling him that the king will be so upset if the Crown Prince falls ill. Grantaire snorts at the incredulity of that statement, and then, out of spite, because he is still so angry at everyone, he removes his shirt, and submerges himself in the water, shutting his eyes so that he can finally enjoy some peace and quiet.
He doesn’t get to stay under for long; he would know the touch on his upper arm anywhere, and he will defy anyone and everyone, but he will always do as Enjolras asks.
He emerges from the water.
“It’s freezing out here, Your Highness,” Enjolras says lightly. “You’ll catch your death. And then what?”
Grantaire doesn’t say anything. He’s tired all of a sudden, completely drained.
Enjolras unclasps his cloak from its place, and drapes it over Grantaire’s shoulder. The cloak is partially wet from when Enjolras came into the water, but Enjolras apparently deems it better than nothing.
He offers Grantaire his hand. “Let’s get you out from the lake before your manservant goes into hysterics again, sire.”
Grantaire takes Enjolras’ hand, but he doesn’t make a move to leave the spot he’s standing on. “Do you ever wish that it’d been me in that fire instead?” he asks Enjolras instead, voice quiet. He doesn’t wait for Enjolras to answer, but continues, instead, “I do. I think about it all the time. Combeferre was a better person, a better prince, and he would’ve been a better king instead. I wish that fire took me instead.”
Enjolras’ grip on Grantaire’s hand tightens painfully. “I don’t,” he tells Grantaire.
“I never wanted to be the crown prince,” Grantaire says.
Enjolras runs his thumb over Grantaire’s knuckles lightly. “I know,” he says softly, and starts to lead Grantaire back out of the lake.
Grantaire follows, because it’s Enjolras leading him, and he’s always going to go where Enjolras leads him to. His chest constricts at the thought that he mightn’t be able to anymore.
“My father isn’t getting better,” he says, when they’re back on land. He doesn’t let go of Enjolras’ hand, not yet. “I heard the physicians conversing. They say he doesn’t have long.”
“I am sorry,” Enjolras says.
Grantaire waves off Enjolras’ apology, and they start to make their way back to the castle. Grantaire turns, and dismisses his page, who is trailing behind them, because he has things he needs to say to Enjolras, and he doesn’t want an audience for it.
He waits till they get back to his chambers before he says, “He thinks that our enemies will see his passing as an opportunity to strike, to attack while the kingdom is vulnerable.” Grantaire scrubs a hand over his face, and then turns to flash a wry grin a Enjolras. “My father thinks that they will succeed because the kingdom will have a weak king.”
“Then he is wrong,” Enjolras says firmly. He squeezes Grantaire’s hand. “You’re not weak.”
Grantaire lets out a laugh, bitter in his mirth. “You’re the only one who thinks so,” Grantaire says. He doesn’t add that Enjolras’ opinion is the only one he really cares about; he doesn’t think he has to. “My father plans to arrange for me to marry Princess Cosette.”
He watches as Enjolras’ lips part in surprise. Enjolras attempts to remove his hand from Grantaire’s grip, but Grantaire doesn’t let go, doesn’t want to ever have to let go.
“He plans to stabilise the allegiance with her kingdom through marriage, so that they will be obligated to help, should our kingdom be attacked,” Enjolras surmises. His voice is even.
“You’re displeased by this,” Enjolras observes.
Grantaire barks out another laugh. “Yes, Enjolras,” he says. “I’m displeased by this.”
There is a flash of something in Enjolras’ eyes. “Many princes would be happy to wed her,” he murmurs. “She is said to be very beautiful.”
“She is,” Grantaire, who was shown a portrait of the Princess Cosette earlier in an effort to entice him into agreeing to the marriage, agrees. He lets go of Enjolras’ hand, but steps closer to him to compensate for the lack of physical contact.
He has a brief moment to ponder over the fact that maybe Enjolras doesn’t know, maybe Enjolras has never known, for all Grantaire was never all that subtle with his affection for Enjolras. He should deliberate over telling Enjolras, but he doesn’t want to.
He’s spent too long not saying anything to Enjolras. He needs Enjolras to know.
Enjolras swallows. “Then why-”
“She isn’t you,” Grantaire breathes, and lists forwards, wraps his arms around Enjolras’ waist, then presses his face to the crook of Enjolras’ neck, breathing him in deeply. “I’ve only ever wanted one thing my whole life, and that is to be with you. But now that I’m here, now that I’m the crown prince, now that I have all this power, I get told that the only thing I will never be able to have is the one thing I really want, and it’s not fair. I never asked for the kingdom, I don’t want the kingdom. I only ever wanted you.”
Enjolras lets out a ragged breath at that, and his arms come around Grantaire. “You have me,” he says, the words punched out of him. He pulls away, and when he looks at Grantaire, his eyes are bright and wild.
Grantaire laughs, because he knows it’s not true, but when Enjolras says it, when he says it like that, eyes trained fiercely on Grantaire, conviction evident in his voice, Grantaire can almost pretend to himself that it’s true.
Enjolras must read Grantaire’s disbelief from his expression, because curves a hand over Grantaire’s cheek, and says gently, “I never wanted to stay here, to be a knight, to serve the king.” He smiles at the look of confusion Grantaire is sure is written all over his face. “I thought I had a duty to my family to do so, and your brother was kind to me. He always had my back, even back when we were just training to be knights.”
Grantaire swallows. Enjolras’ face softens whenever he talks about Combeferre, and Grantaire doesn’t think he wants to hear the rest of this story.
Enjolras shakes his head. “He was my best friend, and he made it tolerable for me to stay, but he wasn’t the reason I stayed.” He huffs out a laugh. “You and Combeferre were close, you came by to see him all the time, and I-”
Grantaire draws in a surprised breath.
“Combeferre used to say that he loved you, but that it was obvious that I loved you more,” he confesses. “He wasn’t wrong.” He thumbs gently over Grantaire’s lips. “You’ve always had me, and you’re always going to have me.”
Grantaire’s lips tremble under Enjolras’ touch. “But I have duties, obligations- I can’t give you anything.” And Enjolras deserves everything, deserves more than Grantaire can give him.
Enjolras smiles at that, and his hand trails down from its place on Grantaire’s face, over the curve of his neck, until it comes to rest gently on Grantaire’s chest, right over where his heart is pounding to a wild beat.
“Just this,” Enjolras murmurs. “Just this is enough for me.”
“You have it,” Grantaire tells him, honest. “It’s always been yours.”
The I have always been yours goes unsaid, but judging from the bright smile on Enjolras’ face, as he leans in to close the gap between their lips, he hears it anyway.