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Grantaire wants to go home.                                                                                      

It's a sentiment he's never thought he'd feel. Even after five years of living in Paris, he's never wished he were back in Bayonne. Except now that all he can see outside the wide windows is ship and space and stars, he wants to go back to earth, back to the south, and walk in the door of his childhood home, achingly beautiful though the view is.

Then again, he's a no one in Paris. Back there, Grantaire's just an anonymous man with a scruffy face and a patchy job history, who is, if anything, known for his good nature. In space, he's a fucking reincarnated princess with space vampire children.

Grantaire's not super impressed with space's views on gender, if he’s honest.

On top of that, he apparently has to make a way too high-stakes choice and soon, so he probably shouldn’t be sitting and looking out the window, studying the new and strange patterns in unfamiliar stars, but still.

There's a knock on his door, and Grantaire's not really surprised that it's Feuilly who walks in a moment later.

"Grantaire," Feuilly greets, looking a little apologetic.

"Take a seat, my friend," Grantaire invites, waving a hand to the bench across from him. "Are you here to convince me?"

Feuilly shrugs. "I can see how it's an advantage, but mostly I wanted to see if you wanted to talk with someone about it. I may not have had to make choices about planets, but I do get the whole 'apparently my entire planet is fodder for the Well of Eternal Life' thing."

That makes him stop, surprised at the revelation, and Grantaire's brows arch up despite himself. As far as he's been able to tell, most of Les Amis, if not space royalty are at least from planets in the know. "Wait, you do?"

A tired look creases Feuilly's face, and Grantaire regrets asking even as the other man nods. "A few years ago, my planet was harvested. I managed to sneak onto one of the administrative ships, but I had no idea that there was this whole other universe, essentially. I was lucky to met Les Amis, but... there's really nothing like realizing that there's an entire system that thinks you're an inhuman crop."

"That really sucks," Grantaire manages, throat tight. It's a horrifying thing to imagine. And even though Feuilly's not from Earth, it feels like he could be, like they're in the same boat. "I'm sorry."

"Thanks." Feuilly's smile, though still tired, does look real. "So, if you have questions..."

Grantaire shrugs this time, helpless. "I have so many questions, dude. I will have questions for years. I guess, though... this marriage thing, will it actually help?"

Feuilly is quiet for a moment, thinking about it, and Grantaire appreciates that. His gaze strays outside as well, watching the shifting of different parts of the ship. Feuilly looks entirely human, with red curly hair and dark, freckled skin. The trio of bracelets he wears on his left wrist don’t look like anything Grantaire’s seen thus far - a dark slate blue, a sandy gold, and a deep indigo made of something that looks almost like glass but with greater depth of color. Those might, or might not, be some small part of home he carries with him still. What would Grantaire wear, to keep Earth close to his heart?

"It would help," Feuilly says, finally. "You have your mark of title, which helps, but marrying Enjolras would allow you to protect Earth and any of your other planetary holdings from the Abrasax family line. You could be sure that your planet wouldn't be used for Regenex or any other projects. It really is just business."

Grantaire wants to doubt that, because he’s never seen anyone make any actual good changes out of pure selfishness. But if Feuilly thinks that these revolutionaries are actually committed to their cause, then maybe there's a grain of truth there. Even in the brief time that Grantaire has known Enjolras, he has to admit that the man inspires belief.

It would just be easier if Grantaire had more time to think it through. He wants a week to really look through all the information, or at least to call Cosette back on Earth and talk through it with her and her father. Except with possibly all three Abrasax siblings ready to murder him for their own gain, and the tenuous political networks that Grantaire doesn't grasp, there isn't the time for it.

"Alright," he says, and bites down on the words that threaten to spill out after, the allusions that dance at the edge of his tongue. Grantaire may be selfish and self-absorbed, but even he knows that the billions, maybe trillions depending on the timeframe, on earth matter so much more than his discomfort with a marriage of convenience. In space. "I'll do it."

Feuilly looks startled and a little taken aback. "I didn't mean to pressure you-"

Grantaire is already shaking his head. "You haven't. It's just – look. It's an entire fucking planet, right? I seriously doubt that things will be simple, because the Abrasax family seems to be right out of Game of Thrones, but it's just a marriage. If a piece of paper can save someone on Earth and anyone there from going through what you had to, well, then, it's easy."

"Paper?" Feuilly asks, cocking a brow, a smile playing at the edges of his mouth. "Man, your planet is tiny and behind the times."

"We're terribly technologically outdated. It's horrible," Grantaire says, waving a hand and feeling the cold, tight knot in his chest loosen, because Feuilly's treating him like a friend. "No embedded data tech in our skin - I'll start a new trend if I ever go home."

Feuilly’s look softens a little with something like sympathy, but Grantaire barrels on, unable to take whatever he might say next.

"Come on then," Grantaire continues, pushing himself to his feet. "I guess I had better go talk to Enjolras."

It makes Feuilly smile, if faintly, and Grantaire can’t even really bring himself to grumble as they head back out into the ship proper.

He's grateful that Feuilly knows enough to skirt any of the populated area of the ships, essentially sneaking Grantaire down to Enjolras' quarters, because if Grantaire had to justify it to anyone else, he knows he'd likely lose his nerve, coward that he is.

"Do you want me to stay?" Feuilly asks when they reach the door that must belong to Enjolras, his gaze level and concerned.

"No," Grantaire says, because he'd hate to lose the man's respect if his voice or face falters, or for Enjolras to think he can't fight his own battles, but he's bowled over by the offer and the loyalty it suggests. After a half moment of hesitation, he reaches over to clasp Feuilly's hand. "Thank you."

Feuilly doesn't smile, but he squeezes Grantaire's hand with his work-roughened one, and gives him an encouraging nod before melting off down the hallway.

Alone, again, in the vastness of space, Grantaire draws himself up like he would before a fight, draws his shoulders back even if it pushes his chest out, and raises a hand. He closes his eyes for a moment, and then he knocks - the deliberately casual, offhand rapping that his friends in Paris know on the second beat.

There's a pause, and then the panel slides to the side, Enjolras' hand still lingering by the button he hit to open it. His reserved face slips into faint surprise as he takes in Grantaire. It passes as Enjolras steps back just enough for Grantaire to enter.

"Come in," he offers, and even that makes Grantaire feel inadequate. Enjolras' posture is flawless, his brown eyes are made for winged eyeliner he's not wearing, his hair is dark as the gaps between the stars, and his practical clothing screams tailoring all the same.

Still, Grantaire is a million miles away from the failure of a rabbi’s son and the earth his feet know, so he steps forward and tries not to mumble his thanks.

Stepping inside, he can see that there's about the same amount of space as in the room he's been granted, if more personal, but he can't really linger on it because Courfeyrac and Combeferre are there, respectively sprawled in a desk chair and seated casually on the bed.

"Hi," he says, startled into a wave that hopefully looks more graceful than it feels.

"Hello," Combeferre replies calmly, a line of small crystals along the rise of their cheek catching the light when they smile.

Courfeyrac waves back, shifting to sit up straighter and still looking like something out of a fashion spread. "Would you like us to step out?"

Grantaire shakes his head. "No, by all means, stay. I think I've gathered that the three of you are in charge here, even if it is all egalitarian and shit, so it makes sense for you to stay, unless Enjolras wants you to go, after."

All three of them focus on him more sharply, and it's a little disconcerting, and the hair at the back of Grantaire's neck prickles as Enjolras circles around to stand near Courfeyrac. They wait with sharp attention for him to speak.

"I have a huge collection of books and movies at home, okay," Grantaire continues, stumbling forward and hoping his words will eventually resolve into something like what he needs to say. "I know how political marriages go. I'm not expecting anything, though, I must admit I never thought that I'd be coming up against this particular duty, given that I'm neither Helen nor Iphis, but that's neither here nor there, if rather more there than here, wherever here is. The point, all things said and done, is that I'll consent to marry you, and designate my dowry, such as it may well be termed, to your care."

They stare another moment but then understanding crosses Enjolras' face as he shifts his weight back slightly, cool and smooth as an iced over lake as he examines Grantaire in silence. "You're sure? There are other ways to secure our mutual interests, if you would rather not do it like this."

Grantaire shakes his head, wondering how he can possibly be talking about a birthright of abundant riches and planets when he's standing here in borrowed clothes and has only a Parisian postage square apartment back home. "They'll take time that we don't have. In case you've forgotten, the House of Abrasax has already kidnapped me and tried to murder me. Earth's well being is kind of a big deal being, you know, my home."

Enjolras' brow creases but Grantaire can't get much more than that from his expression. He looks to Combeferre first, meeting their eyes until they nod, and then to Courfeyrac, whose stillness suddenly breaks into a warm smile. It's only then that Enjolras turns back to Grantaire and gives a nod of his own.

"Thank you," he says, and Grantaire shrugs his shoulders, incapable of being serious when he's nearly sick with nerves.

"Well then," Courfeyrac says, unfolding himself from the chair and positioning himself near Grantaire, as if in solidarity. "I'll just go ask our eagle to change course and to call your mother, Enjolras."

"Your mother?" Grantaire asks, arching a brow as he looks back and up at Enjolras. "Does space not do elopements?"

Enjolras' mouth twitches up at the corner but Combeferre speaks up first.

"Not for the Entitled," Combeferre explains gently. "Enjolras' parents have a lawyer who can perform the requisite ceremonies, and they aren't far from where we are. And a little spectacle, even for a business affair, will grant the contract a legitimacy that even the House of Abrasax would be reluctant to challenge."

"Right." Grantaire wonders just what he's gotten himself into, but nods. "Of course. Well, by all means, call your mother. Courfeyrac, is there anything to drink on this boat?"

"It's not a boat," Courfeyrac says, a little puzzled, and it's fair that the metaphor probably has little salience for people who probably grew up knowing what spacecraft was before boats. He tilts his head, even as he slings an arm around Grantaire's shoulders, sweeping him out of Enjolras' quarters. “Besides, how am I supposed to answer unless I know what manner of drink you’re looking for?”

Grantaire makes a bit of a face and makes a dismissive gesture. “If you want to break out the champagne to congratulate us on the upcoming marriage, I can live even with that. I’ll take anything right about now.”

Courfeyrac pats his arm, gentle and good-natured in his quiet humor. “Goodness, you’d think you were going to a fate worse than death.”

“A fate more unexpected, at least,” Grantaire grumbles, but doesn’t dislodge the friendly touch.

It makes Courfeyrac laugh, squeezing Grantaire’s arm lightly. “We’ll do our best to make it bearable. Tell you what, if tonight comes and you still really need that drink, come by my quarters and we’ll see what I can scrounge up to soothe your woes. Fair?”

“Fair,” Grantaire agrees, not even that grudgingly. It’s better than nothing, certainly.

Courfeyrac doesn’t say more, just beams and leads Grantaire out into the common area, and Grantaire can almost feel Éponine’s gold-brown eyes snap to him.

The (former?) bounty hunter may have originally sold him out to Kalique Abrasax for a supply of Regenex but she chose him, in the end, and called in help, even if it was Les Amis rather than the space police who ended up escorting them to Orous. Probably a better call, all in all, and he’s willing to forgive her quite a bit for that.

There's something about Éponine that feels perpetually wary and watchful. There are feathers like a magpie’s curled through her hair and her nails are talon-like, painted a dizzyingly color-sparked black like tiny galaxies. Grantaire is pretty sure that she's a splice.

They're both out of place here on a ship full of ardent revolutionaries, and Grantaire is thankful that they have one another, at least. Feuilly looks over too, and for now, that makes three.

"He said yes," Courfeyrac informs the rest of the room, squeezing Grantaire's shoulders before letting go. "So that means we're going to visit the Enjolras Sovereigns, if anyone wants to change before we get there."

"I'll break out my best hat," Bahorel rumbles from one of the couches, and Grantaire is surprisingly accepting of the fact that a large dragon-dinosaur apparently has a well-developed sartorial sense. More power to him. "Grantaire, have a seat."

"I don't know," he drawls with mock consideration. "Are we going to gossip about my fiancé and decide on wedding colors? I'm not sure that a snow white will look good with my complexion."

"Well, white and red are popular this season," Courfeyrac advises, head tilted a little like he's trying to figure out whether or not Grantaire will be comfortable if left alone with them. "Very overrated, though. I'm sure we can think of something better, something warmer, probably."

Grantaire smiles a bit at that, waving a hand. "I'm sure. I think you were supposed to go plot a course or something - I'll take a vote, if they'll indulge me."

"We can be very indulgent," Musichetta says, from the other side of Bahorel's couch. Her eyes flash golden, as quick as her grin, briefly enough that Grantaire's still not entirely sure that he's not imagining it. "Now come and tell us all about it. Were there flowers? A shiny rock?"

It's teasing but not biting, and so Grantaire laughs, taking a seat by Éponine, who is perched nearby. "No, none of that. I think we're saving the ceremony for the big space wedding. Aristocracy, spectacles, all of that."

"Is that an Earth thing?" Jehan asks, brow furrowing a little. So far, he's seemed quiet, if pleasant, not so much skittering around Grantaire as staying to the sidelines. "Adding 'space' in front of things?"

Grantaire shrugs. He's pretty sure he's been doing that way too much in the last day or so. "We're in space, things happen in space, and therefore they are space things. A logical and simple conclusion, or at least a neat one, because I am airheaded and have little gravity no matter where I am."

Feuilly, at least, laughs, as does Musichetta, and more than that, Jehan smiles indulgently while Bahorel shakes his head. Finally, Grantaire's shoulders seem to settle.

About half the crew is still missing, but Grantaire enjoys getting to know the rest of them a bit better, listening to them idly and playfully bicker about wedding matters and other things. They're good people, he thinks.

It's just weird to think that it might only be a matter of hours before he gets married to someone he barely knows. Then again, a few days ago he didn't know there were people in space (he's always been skeptical about aliens, but they also bathe in humans to remain young, so humanity seems to be literally, universally terrible) or that he's a primary member of what is essentially space royalty.

Grantaire's life is kind of fucked up.

Space travel seems to go quickly when you have money and resources, because it's only an hour in that people start leaving to prepare for being in respectable company. It leaves Éponine and Grantaire to sit and listen to the whir of the engines.

"Do you know much about the House of Enjolras?" Grantaire asks her, unfamiliar with the social and political landscape of space. He trusts Éponine with this. She’s already explained more about the translation device Kalique had installed in Grantaire’s head: apparently the translator had required several hours of intense, vivid, almost hallucinatory dreaming to interface properly with his brain. It explained slightly panic-inducing amount of time he’d lost, at least.

Éponine shrugs, uncomfortably slumped down on the wide, comfortable seats, and the feathers in her hair rustle. "They're wealthy. The line is old, old power - older than House Abrasax, if not as flat out rich. They're not involved in the regeneration business, though. I think they're involved in food supply, but I'm not familiar enough."

Grantaire nods, considering that. "You don't have to stick around if you aren't comfortable, you know."

She snorts. "I don't have anywhere better to go. Montparnasse won't be after me, since he got his pay fair as anything, but I've got no interest in working a job with him or his friends. I’ll be selling my share for profits."

"Well." He doesn't know what words to say to that. "Thank you."

Éponine doesn't reply, but she stays close by, her sharp eyes watching the doors. Grantaire wonders why she decided to take his side, but he's learning to hold his tongue.

"Hey," Musichetta says, leaning back into the room, her spill of curls restrained with a few braids and a crystal studded hairpiece glinting amber and gold like her hair, which is gradient bleached to varied shades of honey. "Do you two want to come watch as we land? It's a gorgeous planet."

"Of course they own a whole planet," Grantaire mumbles, disbelieving and kind of amazed that people can own planets or even large sections of them. Of course, there's the crowded cluster of the so-called homeworld, Orous, crammed full of industry and the sort of overgrowth found in the dense urban centers of Earth. Which he owns. So he probably doesn’t have room to talk.

Musichetta laughs. "They own a lot more than planet. But it's a great view."

There's no way to argue with that, and no way Grantaire can pass up seeing a whole new planet, so he and Éponine follow her to a viewport. As they start descending, everything clarifies into greens and blues, craggy mountains and vast fields of colors Grantaire doesn't think he has words for, and he's sure that his phone won't be able to capture half of them, but he reaches for it anyway, and aches to paint it. It's gorgeous, and the estate - there's no word for it but an estate - is nestled in naturally among the towering peaks, with a city flowing from the lower slopes and out into the valley below.

The estate is grand without being opulent, tastefully elegant in a way that's not as clinically sleek as some of the ships he'd seen earlier and that's entirely different from the rounded domes of Kalique's alcazar. Grantaire wants hours to look at the roofs tiled with dark oranges and reds, and the pale open terraces draped with fabrics in brilliant bright yellows and turquoises and purples, and as they get closer, the stonework, which is all large arches and architectural flourishes made of rock unlike any he's ever seen.

There's nothing to say, but he stands there, knowing that he should probably ask if they're supposed to gather by the door but unable to look away until the ship finally stops above an open landing pad and the hum of the engines dies away. As they do, there are quiet footsteps and Enjolras joins them.

"Are you ready?" he asks Grantaire and Éponine, and it sounds like a genuine question, with no sort of impatience in his eyes or on his face.

Grantaire kind of wonders how Enjolras is feeling about the whole marriage, business contract or no. Had he wanted to find someone else some day, or does it really mean nothing more to him than a contract? Does he think Grantaire agreed in good faith, or does he just want to make sure that another planet in the youth serum industry is out of Grantaire's clumsy, human hands?

In the end, it probably doesn't matter. Grantaire may be a shitty person, but anything that saves Earth from being "harvested" trumps his desire to go back home and pretend this is all the result of a daring probably-shouldn't-have-mixed-all-those-alcohols dream.

So he musters up a smile that ends up being a tilted sort of grin and says, "Ready when you are."

"Might as well," Éponine says, with a firm nod and a look of fierce determination.

Enjolras nods at them but doesn’t look back as he starts to lead the way out. Musichetta falls in beside Grantaire's other side with a friendly smile. They're an absurdly amiable group, and it would be disconcerting, but he's pretty sure that he won Musichetta over with puns about bees and bureaucracy a couple of hours ago, so that makes her his sort of people.

It’s easy to see that Enjolras is basically space royalty – his firm steps are sweeping, and he walks with a smooth sense of purpose. He must be glad, at least a little, to be home, because Grantaire sees his shoulders come down a fraction when they step out into open air. It’s a little cool but the breeze isn’t too bad, and it smells a little like pine and citrus, sharp but pleasant.

Everyone else has descended already, and Musichetta breaks off to go stand by Joly and Bossuet with a last, encouraging smile. True to his word, Bahorel has a rather fantastic construction of a hat perched on his scaly head, and it’s one that matches Quill’s beaded headpiece nestled in among her spines and spiked hair. Even Marius looks anticipatory, fidgeting with the hem of his black jacket.

That’s when the Sovereigns of the House of Enjolras get close enough to see, and, well, Grantaire can understand why. They’re imposing, if not intimidating, and even if they look not much older than Enjolras’ age, they carry themselves with so much weight that he wants to duck his head. They’re also unfairly gorgeous.

Enjolras’ father has striking blond curls combed back from his face and skin a pale gold like early wheat, but he’s as tall as his son, with fantastic cheekbones and eyes that, though dark blue, are equally intense, and they’re offset by the dark reddish orange of his trailing sleeves and high-cut collar threaded through with gold. Enjolras’ mother is nearly as tall, her warm brown skin several shades darker than her son’s, her face the same picture of serene reserve, and she looks like a galaxy, elegantly coifed hair threaded with crystals like stars, her gown a nebula of pitch black and turquoises and purples and silvery whites and something that shimmers.

They stand hand in hand and Grantaire feels like he’s looking at some medieval tapestry brought to life.

“Mother, Father,” Enjolras greets, and when Grantaire glances over, a slight smile is creasing his mouth up. “It’s been too long.”

“Much too long,” Enjolras’ mother agrees, stepping forward to kiss Enjolras’ cheek briefly. “Welcome back, all of you.”

There’s a chorus of greetings, but even though she doesn’t say anything, Grantaire can feel her eyes on him and Éponine.

“Let me introduce you to Éponine Thénardier,” Enjolras says in response to her unspoken cue, and then shifts slightly to draw more attention to Grantaire, “and to Grantaire. He’s the authentic Recurrence of the Abrasax Sovereign.”

“A pleasure to meet you both,” Enjolras’ father says, with more sincerity than Kalique’s elegant hospitality could muster. “I am Alban.”

“And I am Melindre. We are the Co-Sovereigns of House Enjolras,” Enjolras’ mother says, nodding to them both before looking to Enjolras. “I take it this is the reason for your visit?”

Enjolras nods. “Shall we talk?”

Apparently everyone but Grantaire knows how this works, because Enjolras and Melindre trail behind to speak while Alban leads the rest of them toward the main building, past iron statues with draping as carefully and beautifully wrought as anything in marble. Grantaire follows along, but Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta seem to notice his discomfort and drop back to walk with him and try to cheer him up.

Relenting, Grantaire lets them engage him, and it eases the brief sting that because of being a Recurrence, everyone will know the moment he’s introduced. Not that passing validates him, but it still sucks. He swallows down the frustration and wracks his brain for another pun to continue the vein of jokes.

Still, his attention is split between them and the architecture, the stunning multitude of things that Grantaire has never seen. The inside of the main building is, like Kalique's alcazar, fairly open, but the elegance is more subdued, owing more to stately arches and slim pillars than ornamentation, and it doesn't feel quite so echoing. Little by little, the group splits off into what must be their usual rooms, thanking their hosts each in turn.

Courfeyrac and Combeferre peel off last, their rooms on either side of the hall, which leaves Grantaire alone with all three members of the House of Enjolras. It is an entirely civil ambush.

"I take it that Enjolras has filled you in," Grantaire says after a moment, turning to look at Melindre.

She nods, and there’s a hint of a smile at her quiet mouth. "It is a reasonable course of action, and will solidify both of your positions."

Alban echoes her nod and the sentiment. "That aside, we were on good terms with Seraphi in the time leading up to her death. It is a pleasure to meet you, and I hope that we will have a chance to know you better."

"I hope so as well," Grantaire says, and searches for what to say next. He's not the most diplomatic, but he has a feeling that casual nonchalance won't do him any favors here. "I know our arrival was unexpected, and I'm sure that my presence complicates things, so thank you even more for the gracious welcome."

They share a look at that, and Enjolras' brows rise slightly, like he hadn't thought that Grantaire was capable of any measure of tact.

"It is our pleasure to host you," Alban says. "If there is anything you need, we will do our best to make you comfortable."

"I'm in your debt," Grantaire replies, and feels adrift. He knows how to ping-pong pleasantries, but getting along in Paris has pretty much nothing in common with trying to stay on the good sides of what seem to be very politically savvy aristocracy in a culture he still knows next to nothing about. Navigating the Homeworld Ministry on Orous was easier than this, if more tedious.

Either because Grantaire's face gives away how out of his depth he is, or because he's impatient, or maybe for some reason altogether, Enjolras steps forward.

"Mother, Father," he murmurs, touching each of their elbows. "While it is very good to see you both again, I'm afraid we have much to discuss."

"Of course," Melindre agrees, and nods to both of them. "We’ll leave you to it. Grantaire, welcome, again."

She folds her hands in front of her, which seems to be the way people - or at least aristocracy - walk in space, and turns to leave with her husband, the pair of them seeming to glide down the hall. Enjolras waits until they've turned the corner before looking back to Grantaire.

"Would you prefer to speak in my rooms or yours?" Enjolras asks him, and Grantaire shrugs.

"Which is closer? Not that I mind walking, but I have a feeling we have a lot of things to cover."

Enjolras considers that. "Not so much, I don't think, but your rooms are closer. Just around the corner here."

"Sounds good. Lead on, Macduff, and all that." Grantaire smiles and flourishes a hand, trying to remind himself that space people just aren't going to get his Earth references when Enjolras gives him a coolly bewildered look. It probably doesn't help if he uses mangled references and in English, at that.

Enjolras doesn't ask, though, just leads him silently down the hall and into a room. The first thing he sees from the door is a balcony that looks to be carved out of the side of the mountain the complex is built on and into, leaving the room feeling open and airy while more private than the one in Kalique's home. Grantaire also really wants a better chance to look at the walls, which almost seem to be made of cobblestones as smooth as tile mosaics in cool shades of grey - it reminds him a little of a river running over rocks. There are also a few low, comfortable looking couches, so Grantaire flops down on one with little elegance and gestures for Enjolras to do the same.

He does, with rather more grace, settling opposite Grantaire. "As you saw, I spoke to my mother. She will make suitable arrangements, assuming you still agree this is the best course of action?"

Grantaire rolls his eyes before he can stop himself. "Enjolras, for someone who assured me that it's nothing more than a business contract, you seem very concerned about my emotional response. I've no desire to retract a contract, and if I had changed my mind, I could have said something several hours ago. There are rather more witnesses than a merger, or so I understand, but I think I can handle that."

"Point taken," Enjolras allows after a moment, studying Grantaire like he's not entirely sure what to make of him. "Very well. I... apologize if I offended you by asking again."

With a snort, Grantaire shakes his head. "Not at all. I am very hard to offend, given how much offense I give on a daily basis. I'm not so hypocritical as all that. Are there any arrangements I need to make or details I’d hate to be surprised by later?"

Enjolras shakes his head. "Depending on whether or not you choose to stay here or go back to your planet, we may need to make decisions about property inheritance and lines of succession, but for the moment, this will simply mean that none of y- of Seraphi's children will have claim to your planet or inheritance. It also gives us both provisional consort status in one another's Houses, unless one of us decides to abdicate our hereditary position or we decide to merge titles."

Grantaire considers that and then nods, agreeable. He notices the slip, of course, but Enjolras gets points for correcting himself. "In that case, I've no complaints for the moment. Are we doing a ceremony, then?"

This time, Enjolras nods. "Relatively small, comparatively, though I'm sure you'll think it rather large. Everything can be arranged by tomorrow morning, if that’s sufficient?"

There's no reason to say no, so Grantaire nods. He's getting married in the morning. He is getting married tomorrow morning, and it's a little bit of a head-trip. But that's doable, and he's done stupider things with less notice. "Right. Okay. Tomorrow morning works."

And then, because this must be affecting Enjolras too, no matter his principles, Grantaire reaches out to brush his hand.

"Thank you," he says, and is pretty sure it comes out even more sincerely than he intends it to. "I know we have similar goals, but this means a lot to me all the same."

Enjolras blinks at that. "Of course. Thank you."

"It's my home," Grantaire says, which cuts too close, again. He smiles, forcing cheer. "Besides, I'm pretty sure I'd hate for there to be a universe where no one remembered all of the ridiculous, terrible pop culture. You all don't even know about Harry Potter, and that is a damned shame."

"I'm sure it is," Enjolras says, and it actually sounds honest, which is kind of amazing. "Speaking of Earth. I imagine you have cultural traditions around marriages. Are there any you'd like to include?"

Grantaire can't imagine he'd be able to find a rabbi in space, and it would feel awful to have a rabbi who wasn't his father officiate anyway. He thinks of his cousin's wedding, and the way she'd shone as bright as any star with happiness, and how this is worlds away. He shakes his head. "It's just a contract. But thank you for asking."

"It would be rude not to," is all Enjolras says, and then he rises. "If you have any other requests or questions?"

"Like I told Feuilly, I will have questions for years. None about this, though, thanks." Grantaire grins up at him. "Oh, hey."

“Yes?”

“There… isn’t a chamber presence in here, right? Or if there is, is there a way to turn it off?” Grantaire asks. He shrugs, even though the idea of something other than him being able to manipulate his body and move him about like a doll makes his skin crawl. “Kalique, you know.”

Without hesitation, Enjolras nods. “Venka, please deactivate for the duration of Grantaire’s stay.”

“It would be my pleasure,” comes the disembodied, distorted voice, and then it goes silent.

“Thank you,” Grantaire says, earnest. “Seriously. Though if you think of anything else that you need, I'll be here.”

Enjolras hums an acknowledgement to that and sweeps out the door, and Grantaire wonders how anyone can be so fearless.

He contemplates seeking out some of the crew but decides not to, dragging himself off the couch to take off his shoes and flop out over the incredibly comfortable mattress, stroking his fingers over the fabric of the sheet. Eventually, he'll take as many pictures as he can, but he's exhausted and a little burned out by the many revelations and all the running around.

Eventually, though, he sits up enough to strip off his clothes, folding his shirt and pants on the chair next to the bed, and breathes a sigh of relief as he takes off his binder as well with another quick twinge of relief that however Kalique had his clothing changed had left him with his own underclothes. He still can't imagine why, between the stubble and the binder, she'd defaulted to a dress in the first place, or perhaps she'd just been willfully ignoring them, given how quickly she’d replaced them with pants and a shirt when he’d woken up. Mind games always seem to come with power.

But. He's a world away, literally, and as he drifts off to sleep curled under the covers, it’s with the scent of an alien breeze and the faint glimmer of his sigil on his wrist.

 

--

 

His dreams are restless, seeking things, gauzy mutations of Paris that melt into one another and fade into vast and strange halls. When Grantaire wakes with the first hints of light, he can't recall more than that, only that his heart is beating a little too fast as he cracks open his eyes and recalls where he is.

He's getting married today, and that's all he can think as he rubs sleep from his eyes and rises in search of a shower. Someone must have been kind enough to think of him, because there's a sheave – which basically amounts to a more futuristic version of a tablet, it’s not that hard to work out – that tells him how to work the shower, and contains some basic directions.

Grantaire's just glad for the shower, rather than to have woken up mysteriously made clean. He washes like he can strip away the strangeness of his life and it can somehow take him back to the person he was a week ago, and it might not work but he feels a little more human when he finally steps out.

For lack of anything better, he dresses in the clothes from the day before, and has only just finished pulling on his shirt when there's a chime from the door. Grantaire's not entirely sure if it's incredibly good timing, or if there's creepy future surveillance that let someone know he's awake.

Dragging fingers through his curls for some semblance of order, Grantaire crosses the room and opens the door to find Enjolras' mother waiting patiently.

"Please," Grantaire says, surprised, "come in.”

He's not entirely sure what her correct title is, but Melindre just smiles faintly and steps in when he shifts to the side, two attendants following her.

"Given that the ceremony is soon, I thought it would be prudent to provide assistance," she offers mildly. "Good morning."

"Good morning," he replies, shifting awkwardly. "Thank you, the assistance would be welcome."

She nods and gestures her hand subtly, the two attendants crossing to the corner of the room. , They don’t seem to be human or splice, more like the androids he’s seen elsewhere, and not her ladies-in-waiting. One of them seems to pick up on Grantaire's unease and smiles at him, reassuring. He smiles back.

Melindre waits until he looks back to her to speak again. "I would appreciate the chance to speak with you candidly, and I imagine you could say the same. First, however, do you have preferences on clothing?"

Grantaire shakes his head. "I imagine you have a much greater sense of what's fashionable for men here than I do, and which colors are appropriate."

He does think a touch longingly of the achingly gorgeous dresses he's seen, and of Cosette's stubborn insistence that clothing doesn't need to be inherently gendered, but given that everyone in space knows he's the Recurrence of Seraphi Abrasax, Grantaire doesn't want to chance anyone confusing him with Seraphi herself more than they already seem to.

"Very well.” She accepts it entirely without complaint or comment, not even a twitch of an expression. "You'll need to strip down."

Maybe that shouldn't be surprising, after Kalique Abrasax disrobed entirely casually just to show off her creepy as fuck rejuvenation pool, but Grantaire still balks a little. He's not body shy, figures there's no point in wasting time on being less than confident, because for all its flaws, this body is his and he'll take no shame in it. But all of these people who look at him and know, who misgender him because it never occurs to them that if Seraphi was a woman, Grantaire can be a man, have him suddenly unwilling to allow anyone to see.

"If you'd like, we can put up a screen." Melindre's words are serene, again, but clearly an afterthought, so she must have picked up on his discomfort.

Grantaire shakes his head and strips down to his undergarments with a confidence he doesn't fully feel, then cocks an eyebrow at her.

"All the way bare, please," says one of the attendants, a briskness to their tone that puts Grantaire in mind of Matelote.

"I'll keep the binder on, if it's all the same to you," he says, firm.

They click their tongue quietly. "We can supply you with one that fits better under your garments."

Admittedly, he's a bit taken aback by that, but raises his hands in exasperated surrender before removing that as well. As if to prove the point, the attendant materializes a new one onto him, and Grantaire can feel the way it fits snugly but without constriction, easier to bend in than his usual.

His surprise must show on his face, because Melindre's mouth curves up in amusement. "You didn't think everyone outside of your planet was comfortable with the gender assigned them?"

"Considering how Kalique constantly compared me to her mother and assumed I'd wear a dress, which, no judgment, is something I've seen no other men here do thus far, I wasn't entirely sure," Grantaire tells her dryly. Just because Bossuet’s told him she’s in the same boat as he is doesn’t mean space isn’t hopelessly biased about that sort of thing. Especially given the unsettling emphasis on genetics. "I'd rather not confuse the point."

She just nods at that, either unoffended or simply unruffled. "It is not uncommon, but it is less common for a Recurrence to be of a different gender than their predecessor."

Much easier to keep yourself young forever, Grantaire thinks, and given how young she looks, wonders if he's being cruel. What does he know about her choices or what she's known? He wants to like her, for her kindness, and knows that even being Entitled doesn't spare him from knowing nothing about this world. So he says nothing, just lets his smile quirk at that.

Seemingly ignoring their conversation, the attendants dress him in instantly-created clothing that settles on his skin with a shiver.

"There," she says, after a moment, surveying him with a cool gaze. "Something with your hair, I think, and you will be ready. I know my son asked you if you had questions, but if you've thought of any over the night...?"

"No. No, thank you." He smiles at her, smoothing down the fabric with the flat of his hand and feeling the weight of the coat hanging behind him. "I think it’s straightforward enough. Though I wish you all luck with my hair, considering its inclination to be unkempt."

He's not sure if he imagines the way Melindre's eyes flash with amusement and her mouth turns up a little more, but he thinks he doesn't, given the texture of the few pieces of her hair that aren't tightly coiled up. "I'm sure we can manage."

Sure enough, when they turn him toward the mirror a minute later, Grantaire actually looks presentable. He's decked out in deep blue-green, black, and copper, with embroidery and gem beading along the front and draped sleeves, copper and topaz twined through his hair.

"I'm impressed," he tells all three of them, making sure to look both attendants in the eye and getting pleased smiles in return.

"Are you ready, then?" Melindre asks, and Grantaire straightens before nodding. He follows them out of the room, where two women who must be her previously-absent ladies-in-waiting are stationed outside the door, but she simply tells him to follow her attendants and watches them walk away.

The two lead the way down the halls, which, though he knows they haven't changed, suddenly seem foreboding. They wind up at a large set of doors, and Grantaire can hear people chattering beyond it, and he suddenly realizes that he's taken one step forward more than they have and pauses, uncertain.

The chattier of the two smiles slightly.

"They're awaiting your entrance," they say. "The audience, so you know, is a simulation. It isn't as big as it looks."

"Oh," Grantaire says, and blinks. He smiles, offering out a hand. "Thank you both, very much, for all of your help. I'm Grantaire."

"Our pleasure," they reply, smiling back and taking his hand. "I am Aren and this is Ora."

Ora lifts a hand in greeting, still apparently uncomfortable talking, and then waves at the door.

Grantaire chuckles, and sweeps them a bow before standing in front of the doors, which swing open for him. When he steps forward, it's onto a platform inlaid with a sunburst pattern. It dips very slightly under his weight and whirs a moment before suddenly gliding forward.

The crowd would probably have startled him without the warning, but a lifetime of CGI in animation and GIFS means that, paying attention, he can see the little suggestions that it's a looped illusion. It's clever - a way to have spectacle and intimacy both. On a series of other elevated platforms rising out of the floor, he can see the crew of Les Amis' ship as well as Enjolras' parents sitting in curved bench seats. Of course it'd be hard to miss, all of them with futuristic headpieces that Grantaire can't help but find a little amusing.

Enjolras, stately and tall and decked out in similar colors to Grantaire, is brilliant in the light from the glass ceiling and approaching on another levitating platform, the two pieces setting into cutouts in the main platforms. It's more egalitarian, probably, than just one of them traveling as a showpiece down what counts for an aisle in a space wedding, and he likes the concept behind it.

That doesn't make it any less strange to find himself suddenly stopping. He steps forward, thankful for his good sense of balance, and meets Enjolras in front of the lawyer waiting for them. Enjolras does look regal, his head held high and an intricate hairpiece worked into his coiled braids, a sweep of bright gems across one fine cheekbone, but his eyes are still unreadable when he looks at Grantaire.

There's no nervousness anymore, just a faint sense of wistfulness. He's never thought too much about marriage, never really been in a serious relationship where he's wanted to even consider it, but there's always been a faint sense in the back of his mind that if he ever did, it would be to someone he loved and wanted, who loved and wanted him, who would be worth taking home and introducing his family to.

Now he's getting married in a culture entirely not his own, to someone who hardly knows him and comes from a life that Grantaire can't even fathom. Except that when he does this, then there might be people who can have that for generations, if humanity doesn't fuck up the world first.

Grantaire is really bad at duty, but he's a stubborn asshole, and it would be nice, if there could be people who could look as happy as his cousin did the day she married.

So he grins at Enjolras, sketching a hint of a bow and offering a hand. It seems to come off sarcastically, because Enjolras' nose wrinkles slightly before his face smooths out again and he accepts.

The actual ceremony is brief. It is more contract than vow, and even though Grantaire now technically knows Enjolras' first name, it's too strange to think of him by it. He guesses that Enjolras thinks the same, from the way he looks over when Grantaire states his full name. Then again, Grantaire's still a little wigged out over being called "Your Majesty" by anyone.

Still, he places his hand on the engraving stone and watches it etch patterns across his finger. It doesn't hurt, actually, and the signifying bond is the same sort of faded iridescent shimmer as his mark of title, inscribed around the base of his finger. And that's it. He's married, at least as far as space is concerned.

"Well," Grantaire says in the silence that follows, looking up at Enjolras. "Yay us.”

Enjolras blinks, and it looks like his face is warring briefly between bewilderment and something that could become laughter when Quill, who apparently overheard, starts laughing, which sets the rest of them off. The solemnity is broken, and Grantaire just feels like Grantaire again.

"Lunch, then?" Enjolras asks, turning to look at their gathered friends. Or, his gathered friends. Grantaire's still not sure how many of them he can lay that claim to.

When he distractedly glances out over the open space, the illusion of a crowd is gone, but the room is somehow more beautiful for its emptiness, with light spilling in from outside and casting everything in a warm glow that sets the floor far below sparkling almost like fire opals. It's breathtaking and a little dizzying.

He must be preoccupied too long, though, because there's a light touch to his elbow and Enjolras looks faintly concerned.

"The consensus was lunch," he informs Grantaire, and the light coming in behind him glints on his hairpiece, limning him with rings of light like a halo. Grantaire might say he looked a statue, except that since seeing Kalique's statue of her mother, he's a little wary of statues, and Enjolras’ countenance is softened and affectionate when he glances over at his friends.

"Lunch sounds good," Grantaire agrees. "Hopefully you know how to get down from here."

Enjolras huffs a soft sound and almost rolls his eyes, but he nods. As it turns out, there are more floating disks that bring them all down in a gentle curve around the side of the platform and deposit them by a side door. This compound must be made of all sorts of levels, and the blueprints would have to be fascinating, because there's no trouble as they make their way to an open terrace covered with fabrics tightly woven enough to block out the harshest parts of the sun and food laid out in plenty.

With a little maneuvering, Grantaire winds up with Bossuet, Joly, and Musichetta again, and he jokes with them and lets them introduce him to even more new foods, the like of which he's never imagined and is suddenly glad he doesn't really try to keep kosher most of the year, because he has no idea what might or might not count.

It's a good move, though, because the three of them have excellent taste, and there are some foods that almost remind Grantaire of home, and bizarre new things that he wants to share with Matelote and Gibelote immediately. The three also really, really like puns and bad Earth jokes, and they’re happy to share jokes from their own worlds in return, and soon enough Grantaire ends up laughing and loose.

Still, he glances over sometimes, and sees Enjolras quietly conversing with Combeferre and Courfeyrac and Feuilly, a quiet but genuine smile lighting up his face, so clearly unguarded and at ease in a way he's not even close to with Grantaire.

The small celebration, or gathering, at least, goes on for the rest of the day, but the pattern remains the same. Grantaire and Enjolras, no matter who they're talking to, stay on other sides of the terrace, orbiting the space and avoiding one another like planets with a fixed distance between them. He overhears Enjolras, at one point, speaking fiercely with Jehan about some issue on one of the interior planets, and he sounds full of conviction and light and purpose, and Grantaire hears the reserve and formality fall away.

When they break apart as night falls, all heading for their beds, Grantaire finds himself alone again. He changes out of the finery, leaving it carefully folded as best he can, and finds the most comfortable pajamas he's ever touched sitting on the edge of his bed. He has a sneaking suspicion that it's the work of either Aren or Ora, and that makes him smile a little, pleasantly surprised. It’s a quietly warm feeling that carries him all the way to dreaming.

What he learns over the next few days, he doesn’t learn from Enjolras.

From Ora and Aren, and some of their friends, he learns more about the genetics based hierarchy and eventually manages to convince them that until a few days ago, no one out here would think him better than cattle. He learns, too, that Melindre is the hereditary sovereign of the House of Enjolras, with Alban abdicating his own title to join her family, and that ever since Enjolras brought home evidence of the harvested populations being sentient, they’ve completely forgone rejuvenation treatments in favor of recodes.

Grantaire learns from Bahorel about the tyranny of Balem Abrasax and his army of Sargons and the refinery on Jupiter he inherited from Seraphi. Musichetta explains more about genomgineering and the splice marks, and if Grantaire’s right, she’s related to Floréal, or at least they share a homeworld. He refuses to say maker. Feuilly shares a little more about his home world, which he calls Svillmaye, and the things he remembers most.

He learns that for a group of people who spend most of their time sharing a ship, Les Amis love and like one another enough that they still seek each other out, and pull Grantaire and Éponine along with them, sprawling out on plazas and balconies to chatter and soak up the sun like it’s a rare treat to be out in open air. Which makes sense, considering, well, space.

It is three days before Enjolras seeks him out, when the gathering of their group starts to naturally disperse again. Usually, he seems rather quiet, but if he does say anything, it’s usually to Courfeyrac or Combeferre or to Feuilly. Approaching Grantaire can’t just be for casual conversation.

"Would you like to discuss legalities?" he asks, perfunctory but polite.

Grantaire isn't particularly interested in legalities, but he nods all the same, because he probably should be. "Yeah. Sure."

Enjolras moves a chair over with ease, graceful as he sinks into it and regal as he folds his hands on the table and looks at Grantaire intently.

"As of now," he says, "our assets have been merged and removed from the line of inheritance from either of our houses. If one of us dies, the other receives all of the shared property - which can then be passed to a designated heir."

"So basically, Seraphi's kids can't get shit from my inheritance, even if they kill me," Grantaire surmises. "And you probably have a designated heir already?"

"I do. Or if you prefer, I can make a provision that if Earth does pass to me, it be held in accountancy for any potential recurrence." Enjolras frowns, his brow furrowing. "You speak of dying very casually."

Grantaire shrugs a little, helpless. "Well, yeah. Average lifespan's just, like, 86 years or something on my world and I am not the most excellent candidate for that. Also apparently attempted murder is part of my life now, and not even because I'm Jewish or trans or just personally obnoxious. That part is probably more of a surprise than any of the rest of it, honestly. Besides, I'm like, not even a full dot on the grand timeline of transhuman history, especially because I'm not counting the whole Seraphi thing here. I am like a tiny, annoying mosquito to the Abrasax line, but, dude, I took Earth away from them, okay."

He waves his hands a little helplessly, trying to convey something of what he means.

"I am cool with that being the effect I have on the universe. Sure, no one's gonna remember it, but I can live without being Eris' golden apple in the grand story of space. For what it's worth, I mean," he continues, mouth twisting up in a bitter sort of half smile. "On a scale, that's kind of shit. It's not gonna stop the whole fountain of youth business just because I stole a crop out from under their nose, but apparently I am a sucker for exercises in futility."

Across from him, Enjolras' brows pinch further, and he looks displeased.

"It's what we're trying to stop," Enjolras says after a moment, tone as mild as ever but clearly disapproving. "Of course, the process is slower than we'd like, but changes are being made."

"Oh boy," Grantaire retorts dryly. "The process is supposedly humane. Totally sure that'll make up for whole worlds' worth of cultures being lost."

He holds up his hands when Enjolras' eyes sharpen dangerously.

"No, dude, it is an admirable goal," he allows earnestly. "It's just – do you really think you're going to make a difference? You're up against this huge machine. Your bureaucracy is hopelessly tangled up and slow - the very epitome of bureaucracy, I admit and allow - and the rich people think of my planet's population as, like, livestock, so they've got no incentive to change, and I imagine many of the rest are too busy struggling to survive to really give a shit about something they hardly know about."

Enjolras is quiet for a long moment, long enough that Grantaire's stomach starts to squirm with heavy anxiety and the sick feeling of saying too much starts creeping up his throat, and he burns internally with shame, dropping his gaze to the table between them.

"Progress is slow, and the fact that there is change doesn't erase the harm that we, collectively, have visited on any number of planets," Enjolras finally says, hair falling back over his shoulders as he straightens a little more. "The sacrifices that people like Feuilly have made to make their experiences and cultures known are ones that can never be repaid and shouldn't be forgotten. In the far scope of things, it may not be much, but it's like throwing open a window. And we strive to open as many windows as possible, to illuminate the dark and shadowy corners of the universe - not just the rejuvenation industry, but the way that those we love and care about are treated - until even our deaths make it impossible to ignore what isn't right. With work and time, we are changing things, so that even if we have to suffer, those who come after us will never have to endure the same things, so that when we're pulled again into the universe, it's a peaceful one where connection, not longevity or power, is what is valued. And it may look like a small effect to you, but what you have done for and with us, Grantaire, is part of that, and I am grateful for it."

Then he smiles, so sincere and full of belief that his stern face is flooded with brightness. He speaks with such conviction and certainty that Grantaire wants to believe it too.

He can see why so many people love this man. The full weight of that faith and sureness and gratitude is intoxicating.

"It was literally the least I could do," Grantaire replies, and can't bring himself to meet Enjolras' eyes. "But. Thanks."

Enjolras blinks at that, but then nods, apparently falling back into his normal demeanor. "Well. That said, what are your plans?"

"Honestly," Grantaire says, suddenly feeling very heavy and very old, "I really just want to go home."

There's another pause, but Enjolras doesn't seem to be judging him. He looks, strangely, almost sympathetic. "Alright. We'll arrange to take you back as soon as we can."

“Thanks,” Grantaire says, and his throat feels dry. Unable to bear the itch of anxiety, he rises. “Well, I’m gonna go entice the terrible trio to some trouble. I’m sure they’re pining for my company.”

Enjolras just nods, and the weight of his eyes are heavy on Grantaire’s back as he walks away. It gives him a shivery feeling that only wears off slowly when he holes up in his room, still lingering when Combeferre tracks him down the next day.

Grantaire is sitting out on the very edge of the balcony in his room because there’s no wind at the moment, and he really doesn’t want to face any of these people who for some reason think he’s noble, not just incredibly selfish, when Combeferre knocks on the door. They tentatively push it open when Grantaire calls a reluctant response.

“You must have incredible balance,” Combeferre says, walking out onto the balcony and standing a few feet away, like they don’t want to invade Grantaire’s personal space. “Is there a recreational or labor activity you do back home that requires it?”

“Yeah,” Grantaire says, shrugging. Being gracious is too exhausting, too heavy, and he can’t muster it. “Dancing, fighting, acrobatics, take your pick. It’s a party trick really.”

Combeferre smiles, even if there are still traces of concern in their dark eyes. “Well, it’s a good trick. I’m impressed. I’m also sorry to disturb you, but I have a FTL here for you.”

He blinks, taken aback. He can’t think of anyone who would want to call him – other than the Abrasax siblings, but he can’t imagine anyone would have taken the call in that case. As far as he knows, none of them know where he is. “From who?”

“The Aegis marshal in Paris,” Combeferre tells him, giving the name of the city a good attempt. “The Aegis captain who assisted you and Éponine must have considered it her obligation to inform the marshal that you were safely taken to the Ministry on Orous and were with us. Apparently my name was given as reference, because she contacted me.”

Floréal. Floréal, whose mouth had twisted down when she’d offered her Earth pseudonym but didn’t want to be called by the name she’d left in space, but who had lit up and laughed when Grantaire called her Floréal for the bees flocking around her. He barely knows her, but his chest catches anyway at the thought of talking to someone from home.

“Are you respectable too, then?” Grantaire asks him, teasing a little, because he can’t fucking keep his mouth shut for anything.

Combeferre looks sheepish, spreading their hands. “Supposedly. One of my mothers is a well-respected genomgineer who doesn’t believe in the rhetoric around genetics as a basis for superiority. She’s also known for treating genomgineered individuals with the same respect as those who aren’t. That probably played a part.”

“Hey, I can’t complain,” Grantaire replies. “That’s cool. Also, I imagine that the marshal’s got something important to tell me, if she looked you up. Uh?”

“Ah, right. Here.” Combeferre holds out a small device that looks like it would settle in his ear. “There’s no video, sorry. There’s no infrastructure for such a long distance call with tech of this size.”

“That’s fine. Thank you.” Grantaire grins at them, accepting it. “So, do I need to hit anything? Put it in a certain way?”

“You’re more than welcome. Just slide the catch on the side – there, yes – and put it in your ear. I’ll wait inside?”

When Grantaire nods, Combeferre turns and goes in, presumably to settle on the couch or in a chair. Satisfied that he’ll have a bit of privacy, Grantaire slides the little device into his ear, shifting his jaw around to get it to settle.

“- ello? Hello?” comes Floreal’s voice, clearer and cleaner than any radio Grantaire’s ever heard.

“Floréal,” Grantaire greets. “Hi, hello. Are you alright? Is your house okay?”

She scoffs a little, but sounds relieved to hear him. “My house will be alright, thanks. The Aegis will pay for a lot of the repairs. I’m okay. Your friend, Cosette, invited me to stay with her, and her mother and her father and uncle Fauchelevent, who’s lived here since before I was posted to this planet, have offered to help if I need it. How are you? I heard you made it up there okay, but if you need me to get you out, say the word and I will make it happen.”

He sags with relief to hear that Floreal’s okay and that Cosette and her family are too. Éponine’s assurance that no one has any interest in any of them has kept him from panicking, but he hasn’t realized how tense the worry and uncertainty has kept him. Grantaire lets out his breath in a huff.

“I’m grand,” he promises. “Combeferre and his friends have kept me safe and helped me secure Earth. They’re good folk – I think you’d like them. Some of them, at least. Anyway, I’ve been doing my best to steer clear of the Abrasax primaries, and I should be coming home soon.”

“They had better be,” Floréal snips, then pauses again. “When you come back to Paris, I will do my best to protect you, but there’s something you need to know. Grantaire, Titus Abrasax offered me an unreasonable sum of money and a promotion to somewhere more “civilized” if I turn your location over to him. Securing your inheritance was a good step, but I doubt it will be the only thing you need to do, to stay safe.”

Grantaire clicks his tongue, trying to think past the roar of exhaustion and frustration and unexpected fierceness that wells up in his chest. “He thinks he’s tied us up nicely, doesn’t he? Mmn. Well, I always was a terribly sore loser, so, I mean, fuck that. Can you give me a few hours to make sure I won’t get anyone out here tangled up in this? Then, I say take the money, and let him find out that he’s not the only thing with teeth trying to look like a lamb.”

“You’re incorrigible,” Floréal grumbles. “Alright. If you have a plan when you call me back, then I’ll consider going along with it.”

“Of course,” Grantaire agrees. “It’s as though you don’t trust me. Take care, Floréal. Will you tell Cosette that I say hello and I love her and that she’d best take care, too?”

Floreal’s voice goes surprisingly soft at that. “I will. I’ll talk to you then, Grantaire.”

There’s a faint click on the earpiece, and Grantaire makes himself take a slow, heavy breath before he fishes it out, sliding down off the railing. Usually, he has no problems abandoning a project halfway through – one of his worse characteristics, according to his teachers, second only to his awful puns and inability to shut up.

Combeferre looks up when Grantaire comes in, immediately looking worried. “Is everything alright?”

He nods. “Oh, for now. They’re okay. But I really need to talk to Enjolras right about now.”

Apparently Grantaire’s face gives something away despite the light tone, because Combeferre rises, slowly, with a tight nod. “I’ll take you to him. Just. If you need to talk to anyone, or if there’s anything we can do, please let me know. All of us like you, and I’d like to help you, however I can.”

“You’ve already done a lot,” Grantaire tells him. “Seriously, Combeferre. You’re a great person. I don’t know how they’d get anything done without you.”

They duck their head a little at that, a faintly visible blush spreading over their cheeks, and it’s clear that Combeferre is flattered and quietly pleased.

“Well, thank you,” they say, and reach out briefly to squeeze Grantaire’s hand. It’s a brief touch, but it’s affectionate, and Grantaire finds himself smiling and squeezing back without thinking about it. They drop the subject once they leave Grantaire’s room, but something comfortable falls between them, which is how he finds himself enthusiastically discussing the architectural features of the halls with Combeferre, who apparently has done research on them.

Eventually, they stop in front of what Combeferre tells him is the exit to a small garden.

Grantaire thanks them again before stepping out into the sunlight, shading his eyes with a hand while he gets his bearings away from the cool dark of the hallways. There’s another twisting path, laid out with large, flat pieces of pale stone set in dark, loamy looking soil, and it takes him past beautiful, lovingly tended plants the likes of which he’s never seen and under trees that rise on knobbly, twisted trunks and arch their branches overhead, offering dappled shade.

It takes him several long minutes to find Enjolras, who’s seated on a floating bench in a sheltered area of the garden, surrounded by a congregation of flowers that spill around him like weeping. There’s a screen of some sort folded in his hands, but his eyes are closed until Grantaire apparently gets close enough to hear. He blinks at that, clearly taken aback as he comes back to focus. “Grantaire.”

“Enjolras, hello.” He fidgets a little, trying to decide how to say what he needs to. “I need to talk to you. I’d have waited, but it’s a little bit urgent.”

“Sit,” Enjolras offers, and Grantaire does so a bit gingerly, not used to being in such close proximity. “What’s going on?”

He makes a face. “I got a call from Flor- from the Aegis marshal in my region. Everything is okay there, but Titus Abrasax is trying to bribe her into turning me over. She wouldn’t, of course, but I’m going to have to deal with him sooner or later, because the last thing I need is for this to come back to bite me like some self-fulfilling prophecy or Oedipus or something. So, I need to know if it’s safer for you all to make sure I get back to Earth or if something else would be better.”

Enjolras looks at Grantaire strangely, his head tilting ever so slightly to the side and his brow pinching a bit. “It is unlikely that he’ll let you be, but going in without a plan seems like an unnecessary risk.”

Grantaire rolls his eyes. “Don’t worry, I’m making sure that none of you will suffer fallout no matter how badly it goes for me.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Enjolras insists, his frown deepening.

"I like your little ragtag band of misfits too much to get them hurt on my account," Grantaire says, and Enjolras' mouth opens like he wants to protest being called that until he registers the fullness of Grantaire's remark. Grantaire studies the elegant curve of a white flower, the way it dips toward the ground. "Look, just. Titus wouldn't go to all the trouble of getting me alive if I didn't have something he wanted. That means I have a bargaining chip and a way to get home."

For a moment, Enjolras says nothing, then sighs. "Alright. Not Earth - that's too far, if you need backup from the Aegis. We can go back to Orous, on the excuse of filing our revised wills and orders. If you are sure?"

"Try me," Grantaire says. "It will be okay. I'm sure."

Enjolras looks almost reluctant for a moment, but then he nods. "Very well. Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," he agrees. "I'll let her know that's the plan."

"I will tell the others," Enjolras replies, rising with the data screen still tucked in his hands and leaving with a tight, polite nod.

Grantaire shakes his head, a little incredulous that anyone can be perpetually so intense, and the tries to figure out how to return a call on Combeferre's earpiece. It takes a few tries, but then it connects, Floréal picking up immediately. He sums the information up as best he can, giving her enough details that she can decide which ones Titus needs to hear.

Floréal waits him out, and then waits a moment when he finally stops talking. "Come home, Grantaire. You've just taken responsibility for this planet - it's no fair to leave it just to me now."

That makes him laugh, tipping his head back and nearly roaring with it even though it's not the funniest thing he's ever heard. "I'll come back and make you wish I'd buzz off and leave you bee for waxing eloquent on any number of inconsequential subjects."

"Oh, honey, I wish," she says, and he can all but see her rolling her eyes. "See me when you get back."

"I will," he promises, because if he can, then he will. It's too terrifying, to think of never going home to Paris again. So, he has to get back to Paris.

Grantaire is very good at living in denial.

 

--

 

He does it through their goodbyes and returning Combeferre's phone, through the last dinner with Enjolras' parents and Les Amis, through farewells to Aren and Ora and the leave-taking in the morning. He does it through a sleepless night and a ride that leaves him restless, and it's only once they're weaving through a new array of fantastically constructed and colored ships in the Homeworld harbor that Grantaire even sort of lets himself acknowledge the tension in his stomach.

Most of the group is staying on the ship for a fast getaway, if they need it, but Enjolras has Courfeyrac, who has a pretty little dangerous device of some sort tucked into an arm sheath under the fold of his cape, and Bossuet come with them. Grantaire lets himself hug each of them for a long moment and makes mock annoyed sounds when Éponine cuffs his arm, wishing he didn't see the worry in so many of their faces, and then the little group is descending.

Luckily, Enjolras knows the process of bureaucracy well, and Bossuet even better, because she cheerily leads them through the maze of departments while telling Grantaire all the gossip and stories about various people and places. Courfeyrac is politely pretending not to be listening and Enjolras seems to be ignoring it even with a faint, fond smile on his face.

Sometimes, it's heart-in-his-throat clear how disgustingly much they all love one another.

As it turns out, the paperwork they're filing is much easier to do than the things Grantaire had to get for his mark of entitlement. They only have to wait two unnecessary hours, not four, and there are only half the people who send them in circles. It's practically a miracle.

Bossuet laughs when he tells her as much.

"The schools are just as bad," she tells him solemnly, leaning against a pillar while they wait for Enjolras to finish speaking to the administrator in the next room about some follow up to the papers they just approved. Her dark eyes are bright with mischief. "Why do you think I fled all the way out into the nothingness of space? Other than being expelled, of course."

"You, expelled?" Grantaire arches an eyebrow at her. "Now I have to wonder what sort of grievous crime you committed. Did you fill out a form with pen and ink, instead of a sheave? That would be just unforgiveable.”

That makes Bossuet laugh harder, her arms wrapped around her middle and her body full with it, which of course means that the doors slam shut and they find themselves at gunpoint and surrounded by minions.

Grantaire freezes for a moment, because he never really considered the idea that Titus' people might corner him when he was with someone else, and the fact that Bossuet just smiles wryly and holds up her hands in surrender makes everything worse. It's certainly a change to his priorities, but there's not much he can do at gunpoint, cursing himself under his breath for being so unprepared.

"Just don't be stupid," Bossuet tells him as they're separated, flashing a smile even though her eyes stay focused and serious. "Bad luck is a good friend of mine, and you have other things to keep your mind on."

"I'll do my best to follow your example," Grantaire says dryly, before they're marched away, and there's nothing more to be done.

A few minutes later, he's on the deck of a giant, ostentatious ship, looking down at Titus Abrasax and the crowd of soldiers lining the welcome hall. From here, Titus looks utterly unintimidating, like a spoiled child who thinks he's just gotten a new toy. Grantaire is not impressed.

"Welcome, your majesty," Titus says, sweeping a bow, even though he's clearly evaluating Grantaire. "I am Titus Abrasax, third primary of the House of Abrasax, and it is my profound honor to meet you."

"And my profound honor to meet you," Grantaire replies as evenly as he can, bowing a little in return and careful not to overextend it. He meets Titus' eyes straight on, and smiles. "Though had you wanted to meet me so badly, you should have sent an invitation. I'm sure that detaining another entitled is, at best, of questionable legality, and I'm sure we'd like to avoid any misunderstandings."

He really, really should have done more than a cursory reading of the entitled code, but he'd stupidly assumed he'd have time when he was home. Still, Titus' smile goes a touch rigid.

"As you say. I hope that, if we're following the code, you'll join me dinner, at least."

"It would be an honor," Grantaire says. If there's anything he's good at, it's bullshitting. He can talk without saying a thing for six hours and he's fucking timed it. It's the least that he can do, to gain some time to figure out how to get out of this mess now that Bossuet is involved.

The part that sucks isn't the idea of matching wits, but the whole getting shepherded off by Titus' ruthlessly efficient and lovely deputy to change clothes again thing, since apparently he's insufficiently dressed for the occasion. At least he's conscious for this one, even if something's already been selected for him - black and sleek and sparkling, with a straighter, narrower silhouette than he's used to seeing. Eyeing himself critically in the mirror, Grantaire straightens from his habitual slouch, carrying himself like he's about to head into a boxing ring, head held high as he walks out of the room that’s entirely too decadent to be practical.

Titus might be smart enough not to intentionally misgender Grantaire, but that doesn't do anything to settle his suspicions. Especially not when he can see the way the man's eyes track down his figure and back up, like he's checking for the signs that Grantaire is "really" Seraphi returned.

"Your majesty cuts a dashing figure," Titus says, pouring wine, and he's all smarmy, sly charm.

Grantaire smiles back, taking the seat opposite Titus'. "As do you. I thank you for the loan of clothing and for the invitation. I imagine there aren't many who receive such a quick invitation to your table, seeing as it's me alone."

"Your companion is unharmed." Titus is trying hard to seem trustworthy, leaning in just enough to seem earnest and not enough to press Grantaire back. He is good, but Grantaire’s guard is already up. "I know you do not trust me, but I am not your enemy. I was very close to my mother, and I desire to get to know her recurrence before you go."

"I'm afraid I'm likely much different from your mother." Grantaire watches Titus sit and picks up his glass to swirl the wine. He tips it toward the other man with a crooked smile. "Though if you have your good taste in wine from her, perhaps I'm wrong. This is a lovely specimen. A toast to family and to your hospitality?"

"A toast," Titus agrees, his smile faltering for a fraction of a second at the wording, his eyes sharp on Grantaire's face as he raises his glass as well. They both drink, and it is a good win; it’s full-bodied and heady, the sort of thing an inexperienced drinker might overindulge in, the sort of thing he has no problem genuinely praising and asking after.

They stay on that topic for a while, and then the food. Grantaire's mother worked her way through culinary school, freshly arrived to the strange new country of France with only Grantaire's father as a friend, and has stubbornly made a name for herself as a regional restaurant critic. It's the one passion in her life she's ever tried to share with any of them, whether making challa bread or delicacies they can't often afford. He's built up his own palette, in Paris, with seeking out the best wines and cheeses, foods and places.

It doesn't matter if it's space, if the food Grantaire is eating is from something he can't even conceive of, he knows how to talk about it, how to flatter Titus' cook and his own sense of taste and refinement. Again, it isn't hard work: the table is an excellent one, and it's designed to put a backwards, backwater Earth person in a state of humbled awe. Grantaire has never been one for pretension or showiness simply for the sake of gilding, as much as he keeps cheerfully, guilelessly directing the discussion.

"You are more like my mother than I think you realize," Titus tells him, when they're nearly finished with their second glasses of wine. "She also had an appreciation for fine things in life."

"Oh, yes?" Grantaire tilts his head to the side. "You were close, then?"

"Very close," Titus repeats. "So close that I could tell by the way she raised her eyebrows exactly what she was thinking. At this point, I probably know more about you than you know yourself."

"Not to cast aspersions," Grantaire says, waving a hand, "but your mother and I have had very different life experiences. Perhaps not, though! Try your best."

Titus tuts softly. "Just like her, always expecting the worst from people."

Grantaire snorts, spreading his hands. "And isn't it funny how people always seem to be worse than my worst expectations? People are only disappointing if you think better of them, my lord. We are greedy, grasping creatures."

"You see, that is the very distrust in others, and even yourself, that has made it difficult for you to fall in love," Titus says, so very sympathetically.

This time, Grantaire has to fight a burst of laughter, smiling wryly.

"Well, love is a terrible thing," he says, and that much is true, because even though it is terrible and painful, Grantaire has always fallen in love much too easily, and it's always ended very, very badly for him. "You know, Kalique claimed to be close to your mother, until the last years of Seraphi's life."

"You'll notice the "until," your majesty." Grantaire shouldn't antagonize Titus, who is poisonous as a viper. "Besides, my sister has her own agendas."

He nods. "Oh, I'm sure. She seemed to think you would be very against me claiming my title."

"On the contrary, I must admit I'm relieved," Titus says.

"Even if it puts you at a disadvantage?"

Titus shakes his head. "Not long ago, I might have said so. These days, it is only Kalique and Balem who are competitors for market positions and potential planet profits. Things... have changed, for me."

Grantaire watches him pour a little more wine in each of their glasses, even though this is clearly going somewhere. "How so?"

"Come with me," Titus says, and rises. He leads Grantaire through a doorway, into what must be a vast storage unit, filled with pyramids upon pyramids of tubes of a glowing white liquid.

Éponine showed him what Kalique Abrasax paid her and her partner, Montparnasse, for handing Grantaire over to her rather than Balem, before she went to sell it. This lacks the dragonfly sigil on the end caps, but Grantaire knows that this is more Regenex. And, his cynical mind notes, it has to be enough to keep Titus alive for a very long time.

"The youth serum," is all he says, glancing over to Titus, who nods almost apologetically.

"I am sure that the... crew who rescued you told you where it comes from," Titus says, and waits for Grantaire's nod before he continues. "At the end of her life, my mother experienced a profound change. She decided that its production was unethical. I resisted at first, but she convinced me."

He pauses, look grave.

"I cannot allow my siblings to access my part of the inheritance upon my death," he continues. "It is a small part – only four planets, much smaller than your earth, but I cannot in good conscience allow their peoples to be used so callously. I need an heir I can trust. M. Grantaire, what would you do to protect your planet?"

"I would do and have done a great deal to make sure my planet would be in safe hands," Grantaire says, realizing that Titus is completely unaware that circumstances have changed. "You see, I had the same thought. Four days ago, I married – well, I say married, but it seems that it’s more of a contract, which sits very well with me – the First Primary of the House of Enjolras to secure Earth. I did not know that your goals and mine would be so compatible. However, I was also told that there were other ways to make contracts, if you still have concerns."

Titus' facade barely slips and Grantaire is grudgingly impressed. "Ah. I will... You will forgive me if this comes as a surprise, your majesty. Will you allow me some time to consider what the best options might be?"

"Of course." Grantaire grips his elbow in a friendly gesture, even though everything is making him want to shake.

He's not entirely surprised when Titus escorts him back to the room he's been assigned, and though Grantaire doesn't check, he's fairly certain it's locked. The whole thing is opulent, richly decorated in sort of a space rococo and he honestly finds it a bit tacky, like the rest of the ship part extravagant bachelor pad and part gothic cathedral, more gilded than Kalique's gossamer alcazar.

Absurdly, he misses the stonework of the Enjolras' estate almost as much as he misses the shitty but tastefully painted walls of his tiny Parisian apartment. He takes a sharp breath in, and tries to figure out what his next move should be, especially when he doesn't know where Bossuet is or how she is.

The door, when he tries it, is definitely locked, and he feels a familiar swell of resigned despondency bleach his chest dry and painful. Grantaire paces, spending a restless night wandering the room, doing his best to figure out what he can about the ship to keep his thoughts from twisting back to the black pits that rush up so often to consume him.

Eventually, he drifts off for a few hours, dozing lightly by the window with the stars hanging in clear dark skies, but Grantaire is awake again and dressed once more in his more practical clothes when his door slides open in the morning.

"Lord Titus will speak with you now," Famulus says, her eyes apathetic on Grantaire's face as though he's below her notice, and she turns away without a word. As he follows her down hallways, her heels click on the floors, each step tightly controlled.

It's only when they enter a dimmer, sterile smelling hall in the lower decks of the ship that Grantaire realizes that they're walking toward what would most likely be termed the dungeon. He thinks suddenly of Bossuet and swallows down the wave of panicked nausea.

Titus, decked out in more finery, is pacing the room, glaring at the guards and the grates set into the floor.

With a lurch, Grantaire realizes that those are the cells, small, dark, and constricting.

"M. Grantaire," Titus says, eyes like burned-down coals on Grantaire's face, narrow and suspicious. "I've considered your proposition."

"And your decision?" he asks, unwilling and unable to trust that this is going anywhere good, especially considering where they are.

The Third Primary of the House of Abrasax smiles, but it's a cold thing. "I'm afraid you made a terrible choice in who to trust, and it will serve you poorly, especially seeing as how there are no mutually beneficial options left to me. Though I really must ask, have you heard from your escort?"

Grantaire's neck prickles, and he's grateful he's able to shrug, face blank even though his heart beats faster. "Bossuet? Not since you decided to kidnap us. Still pretty sure that's illegal, by the by. Have you managed to lose one of your abductees already? A rather farcical proceeding, all in all."

"Oh, I assure you, I'll find her," Titus murmurs.

"The Aegis are demanding to board, sire," Famulus breaks in, cool and calm as she stands in the corner. Titus looks back at her, clearly displeased.

"Do what you must," he says, "but keep them off this ship."

"I can't imagine you'll stall them for long." Grantaire's mouth tilts up wryly. "If police are anything like they usually are, there's nothing they like more than breaking through a barricade. Do you intend to find a fiddle to play while your ship burns? Or perhaps you'll attempt flight, though I think history usually finds that to be a very good indication of guilt, so you may want to find a different option. Alas for the effectiveness of technology! There just doesn't seem to be any way for you to get out of this in a good light. Oh, I'm certain you can treat your planets like chattel and bribe your way out of any trouble, but a reputation is a much more delicate thing than a justice system, and I can only imagine that your much more prominent siblings - not to mention myself and my husband - would be very glad to see you diminished, if only to make our lives significantly easier. Personally, I think you could have thought this out a little better. How do you imagine working your way free of this?"

Titus' mouth creases, then turns up. "It's quite simple, really. I will find your friend. She's a splice, is she not? All I need to tell the Aegis is that she took over my ship, and when she realized they would break through anyway, decided to use your trust to toss you out the airlock, and my men subdued her. No one will care about the fate of a splice. Very tragic what's befallen your majesty so soon after your entitlement, of course."

"You still won't have Earth," Grantaire points out, forced to take a step back when Titus' guards advance. He realizes, unsettlingly, that they're pushing him toward the airlock, and that once he's there, it will be all too easy to dispose of him. There's nothing he can do but keep talking, because even all his fighting experience is nothing against future space guns in the hands of so many. In the distance, the sound of explosions reverberates. "And it's a lie that will fall apart quickly."

"Honestly, lies are sometimes the only reason I get out of bed." Titus looks too smug for someone who was just so agitated. "If a splice associated with the First Primary of the House of Enjolras kills you, it will be so very easy to imagine she did it on his orders. What was it you were just saying about the consequences of reputation...?"

He waves a hand, and the guards step forward. Grantaire steps back, shifting into a defensive stance even as the first set of doors to the airlock slide open behind him.

Failure is a heavy vise gripping the back of Grantaire’s neck, a sick feeling of realizing that everything is over. For once, he’s tried, and it’s gotten him pressed into a corner, about to die thousands and thousands of miles away from the few people he cares about. There was no way to win this stupid fucking game, and he should have known that when Cosette and M. Valjean first explained to him about the society hiding out in space. There’s a dull roaring in his ears and all his muscles tense.

Belatedly, Grantaire realizes that the roaring isn’t all in his head. The commotion is inside the ship, and the door to the dungeon opens. Miracle of miracles, Enjolras strides through, his face grimly set and a gun grasped tightly in one hand, making straight for Titus. Bossuet hurries in behind him with a woman dressed in one of Titus’ uniforms, both followed by Bahorel and a few members of Captain Tsing’s crew.

All of Titus’ guards lower their weapons, but Enjolras is some fierce and unstoppable Achilles. He fists his hand in the back of Titus’ tunic and twists his arm, forcing the youngest sibling of the House of Abrasax to his knees. Enjolras’ face is death.

“You have one minute until the rest of the Aegis arrive,” Enjolras says, leveling his gun at Titus’ head. “I suggest you not give me cause to startle.”

“Enjolras,” Grantaire says, or maybe breathes, stunned by the enormity of the other man’s appearance. He takes a breath and steps forward almost on auto-pilot, sick feeling easing when the first airlock door closes behind him with an innocuous swish.

Enjolras looks over at him, eyes still hard even as they flick over Grantaire as though looking for signs of injury. The tight line of his full mouth eases very slightly. “Grantaire. You are well?”

“I’m unharmed,” he replies, and Enjolras nods and looks back to Titus. Grantaire finally finds his feet, and skirts the guards to cross over to Bossuet. “Are you alright?”

“I’m great,” Bossuet promises, throwing her arms open, and Grantaire, laughing, hugs her tightly. She hugs back just as tightly. "What did I tell you about getting into trouble? I'm the eagle, after all. You're not the one who should be flying out of airlocks."

He snorts. "You shouldn't be flying out of airlocks either. Though, who opened the door to your cage? It seems you did manage to fly away."

Bossuet pulls back enough to beam at him, waving grandly to the woman standing beside her. "Ah, this is Louison! She’s a security officer who decided that we are birds of a feather and so she should help me."

Louison smiles a little sheepishly at that and shrugs her shoulders. Shy though she may seem, her hair is dyed shades of blue fading into green like waves rolling up to the shore, and her pale blue eyes and the electronics set into her face miss nothing. "Well, she didn't do anything, did she?"

"I've told Bahorel for years that my jokes aren't bad enough to warrant being locked up, but it looks like I may have been wrong," Bossuet sighs, arching her feathered brows like she’s trying to get Grantaire to laugh. There's a bruise near her temple and running up the side of her bald head, molting her skin even darker. "Thankfully lovely Louison disagrees! She hid me last night, and when Titus' people launched the warhammers, she stole the codes to shut them down and let the Aegis and our intrepid band in. I have to say, too, that I'm very glad you haven't been murdered."

"I'm glad I haven't been murdered too." Grantaire laughs a little, hugging her again. "And very glad that you haven't been. Thank you, Mlle. Louison, I think it'd be a lonely nest without Laigle in it."

That's about the time the rest of the Aegis arrive, with Joly and Musichetta in their wake. They immediately spot Bossuet, and Grantaire and Louison kind of get swept up in the hugging too, and even though he's listening to Bossuet explain what happened, he glances over and sees Enjolras, his gun tucked away now, watching him with a peculiar kind of expression.

"Let's go," Enjolras says suddenly, turning to Captain Tsing. "If you require statements, you have a way to get in touch with me?"

"I do," she says, with a sharp nod, and Enjolras nods back before turning to leave.

Les Amis, with Louison still decidedly being brought along by Bossuet, Musichetta, and Joly, do the same, and Grantaire wearily starts to follow when Titus catches his eye.

"Honestly," Titus says, and other than the malice in his eyes, he could almost look composed, "while you may be half as smart as my mother, I don't believe she was ever as intolerable as you."

Grantaire spreads his hands. "Well, then it's a good thing I'm not her, isn't it?"

He walks out of the room, exhausted and detached, only dimly aware of the ship as they walk away, the sound of his friends (they came to rescue him along with Bossuet, he's going to call them friends) distant like the sound of waves in a seashell. Even standing back on the Musain doesn't feel real.

There's a touch to his arm, and Grantaire starts a bit, blinking before looking up at Enjolras, trying to bring the world back into focus.

"If you're injured or unwell, we can certainly have Joly or Combeferre look you over, or take you to a medic," Enjolras tells him, brows furrowed.

Grantaire can't decide if it's disapproval or concern. He doesn't care anymore. He's just so tired. He wants to sleep under the covers for a week and not worry about the enormity of all of this. Still hazy, he shakes his head. "Dude, please, just take me home."

Enjolras hesitates a moment, but then he nods. His hand lingers another moment before he finally lets go. The weight of expectation follows it away. "Alright. I'll let them know."

When he leaves, Grantaire ducks into the common room, relieved that no one's there now as he sinks onto one of the well worn couches and drops his head into his hands, curling his fingers into his hair and closing his eyes.

He's going to go home and when he feels like he can breathe again, he's going to hug the shit out of Cosette and Floréal and Irma, and he's going to call Matelote and Gibelote and not even try to protest when they ask him over to dinner like they always do, and then he's going to book a ticket down south to see his family again and let his siblings hug him tightly enough to lift him off his feet, let his mother draft his help in the kitchen as she talks in rapid Russian, and set his father talking about obscure points of Jewish law until Grantaire can't help but smile.

There's a little tapping knock on the doorframe, and Marius stands there, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot. Grantaire's about to tell him to please just go away when Marius takes in a sharp little breath, his fingers curling tightly on the door. His face is drawn and a little waxy, his grave eyes wide.

"My grandfather is their uncle – the primaries of the House of Abrasax, I mean," he says, all in a rush. "He's the Sovereign of the House of Gillenormand."

"So we're cousins or something?" Grantaire asks, not entirely sure where this is going.

Marius nods. "I'm disinherited, but I've met them and they're all really awful people, so I thought maybe you'd like some commiseration, or a hug, or. Well. I mean. Maybe not. But."

"Yeah." Grantaire smiles a little. "I could do a hug."

"Oh!" Marius smiles like the answer takes him by surprise, and it softens the severity of his round, solemn features. He's actually pretty adorable when he smiles, with a scattering of freckles over his nose and cheeks and textured curls left loose, not swept up and back like seems to be the fashion, but Grantaire guesses he can see something in the cheekbones that suggests he's related, even a little, to Titus and Kalique.

Grantaire pulls himself up to his feet, noting that Marius is tall and gangly, which at least maybe explains how all of Seraphi's kids are tall when Grantaire's edging kind of towards short. Marius, he thinks he should also note, is very good at hugging, holding on like he's almost as in need of this as Grantaire is. That part helps. When they both let go, Grantaire drops back heavily onto the couch and pats the space next to him.

Marius, still looking a little surprised, sits beside him, hands folding together the same way Enjolras' do subconsciously. "Are you... are you going to be okay? I'm sure that wasn't easy."

"Yeah, I'll be alright," Grantaire says, and means it, even if it's kind of an ‘eventually, after a complete breakdown over this whole fucking thing’ sort of way. He smiles wryly. "Thanks though. So, which side of the family is this grandfather on?"

"He's my mother's father," Marius says, looking down at his hands. "She got sick, and they didn't catch it in time to- to do anything for it. Sometimes I wonder if they even would have. My grandfather didn't much like my father."

Grantaire rocks his shoulder against Marius' gently. "Sounds like an asshole."

He nods. "I mean, my dad was a lycantant in the Legion. A person genomgineered with something like a wolf. I don't know if you've noticed, but splices are considered..."

"Less than? Yeah, I've noticed. That's pretty fucking bullshit," Grantaire says.

"It is," Marius agrees. One of his hands goes up to trace the tip of his ear, which curves to a gentle sort of point, and Grantaire really doesn't want to imagine how many times he's heard awful things about himself based on his genes.

Grantaire is really shitty at being comforting. He knows it, and that's why his usual technique is to offer food and distraction. But Marius clearly tried despite his discomfort, so Grantaire can just fucking try too.

Carefully, he reaches over to pat Marius' knee, and maybe speaks just a little too loudly when he does. "Hey, seriously, fuck them, right? I might be going back to Earth, but if we're the more tolerable people in our families, then clearly we should stick together. Anyone who disdains us can go fuck themselves."

Marius looks so grateful that Grantaire almost wants to hug him again. He doesn't say anything though, so Grantaire doesn't either, and sitting in comfortable silence makes Grantaire feel just a little less alone.

They sit there, listening to the low hum of the engines and the faint sounds of other people in other parts of the ship. It's almost peaceful, and it makes the crushing exhaustion ease a little as Marius dozes off and tips over against his shoulder, so that Grantaire almost forgets how unsettled he is until Enjolras appears in the doorway.

"We're en route to Earth," he says quietly. "We should be there within the hour."

"Thanks." He tries for a smile, but isn't sure he manages it. "And, y'know, for the timely rescue."

Enjolras blinks at that. "There's nothing to thank me for. We should have made sure that it couldn't have happened like that."

Grantaire can't quite bite back a scoff. "Well, I had an idea that he might have wanted me dead. I'm kind of ceasing to be surprised by it."

“All the same,” Enjolras says, softly, and though they’ve always been civil, this feels like something new and strange.

It certainly is to Grantaire.

“Pull up a chair, if you aren’t too busy to join us,” Grantaire says. “Marius and I had a brief rumination on shitty relatives, and then we were communing with the stars, but since I hear tell that you do that often, perhaps you’d like to share some tidbits about your family?”

Surprisingly, Enjolras looks quickly at Marius, blinking a few times as though startled before he smiles a little, still stern but at least less so. “I suppose I can do that.”

He takes a seat a few feet away from Grantaire, crossing his ankles and folding his legs to the side the way Grantaire’s sister does on the rare occasions she wears skirts. His look is contemplative, and the silence stretches longer than Grantaire would have expected. But most of the silences in space seem to linger too long.

“I’m afraid there’s not much to say,” Enjolras says, finally. “I am my parents’ only child, and most of my cousins are of my father’s former house. You’ve met my parents, and seen the estate I grew up on. What about you? What are families like on your planet?”

Never would Grantaire have expected Enjolras to take an interest in him or his tiny backwater planet.

"Well. I mean, even in my city, you're going to find four answers for every three people you ask. But I don't think there's anything like what you all have. Even people who believe in reincarnation can't exactly set aside for a recurrence, at least not now- the technology isn't widespread even if it's, I guess, technically available. The whole system for it isn't there, and the idea is different anyway." That line of thought could easily distract Grantaire, but he tries to force himself to stay on topic with Enjolras watching him intently. He gestures with his hand, waving awkwardly in the empty air. "There are people who try to insist that a family is a legally bound man and woman, usually with joint children, but that's fucking bullshit and always has been, but when you're in power, you get to people make think it's true, I suppose. My family, now, falls under that category. I've a mother, a father, two older siblings, as well as a smattering of relatives. It's all very exciting, I suppose, though I'm sure all of them would laugh if you told them that I was space royalty."

"Do you see them often, then?" Enjolras asks, and Grantaire would say he sounds uninterested, but he's leaning forward just enough that it seems more likely to be reservation than anything.

Grantaire shakes his head a little and shrugs. "Not so often. We're in the same country, but they all live in the southwest, and I live up north. I suppose it would make no difference in a ship like this, but then they'd see me so often they'd remember why they're glad that I'm gone. I am an ill houseguest, the sort better suited to staying only as long as the wine runs. But! Since I know you haven't sprung from stone, Enjolras, and I've met your exceedingly lovely parents, what else is in your life? Am I intruding on a very romantic and dramatic tryst?"

The man's expression is a little bewildered, like he doesn't know quite what to make of Grantaire and his lack of brain-to-mouth filter. He's quiet for a moment, but he does finally answer.

"No, no romances. I travel often for what we do. Which is good. My friends are the best companions." Enjolras' smile, though still slight, widens, and his eyes are radiant. "I barely know what I would do without them. Courfeyrac, as I am sure you've seen, has an amazing exuberance and warmth, and Combeferre's capacity for kindness astounds me. All of them are the light of a sun curving around dark planets, illuminating and elucidating me. I could ask for no one better, loyal, generous, or goodhearted."

It's painfully clear, even to an outsider like Grantaire, how much Enjolras loves and adores his friends. As quiet and stern as his manner might be, he shines with his affection for them, and it makes him luminous. Grantaire finds himself smiling without really meaning to, because he can't deny that they all have that effect. He'd be honored to call any of them friend, and their hearts are open and welcoming. It's a little astounding, especially when the rest of space seems to think he's nothing more than a very inconvenient and insignificant intrusion on a galactic chessboard.

"They're pretty great," is all he says, and Enjolras nods. "And I am pretty sure I owe all of you at least five rounds of drinks the next time I see you, but I am also going to need to buy Bossuet and Louison ice cream for the next three years."

That makes Enjolras' smile lift a little higher. "We're all very grateful to Louison, and Bossuet is rather wonderful."

Grantaire nods emphatically. "They are all my favorite space people, but she is currently my most favorite space person."

And if Enjolras looks a little bemused again, at least he doesn't look judgmental.

The conversation trails off, and they sit in silence to listen to the faint scrape of stardust along the body of the ship. It’s peaceful, in an entirely different way than sitting with Marius was, and Grantaire's frantic, flitting thoughts finally ebb until he can nearly breathe again.

 

--

 

In the end, it's Feuilly who comes to let them know that they've reached Earth. Grantaire rouses Marius, who was maybe kind of drooling on his shoulder a little, and stretches out his back.

"I guess I'd better say goodbye, then," he says, and he selfishly wishes for a moment that he could have the best of both worlds, but he's just so tired and he needs to go home.

"I'll get everyone," Enjolras says quietly, rising in a fluid, graceful motion and clasping Feuilly's shoulder on his way out the door.

Feuilly's eyes follow him until he disappears before he turns to look at Grantaire with a quiet, sympathetic smile. He hasn't seemed overly tactile before, but he opens his arms.

Grantaire grins back and moves in for a hug. "Thank you, seriously, for everything."

"Thank you," Feuilly replies and hugs back just as tightly. "I'm glad you have a home to go back to."

"Same here. You're always welcome to drop by, you know. All of you are," he says, and he means it. From the way Feuilly's smile softens, he knows it too.

When Feuilly lets go, Grantaire hugs Marius; he might be an awkward, fumbling nerd, but he's really a good sort. If Grantaire has one non-terrible cousin in space, he's glad it's Marius.

After that, people stream in, and it's a little overwhelming. Bahorel nearly lifts Grantaire off his feet with his hug, and Quill laughs her bright laugh when he tells her she'll start a hairstyle trend if she ever visits Earth. Jehan kisses Grantaire's forehead and solemnly makes him promise to bring plants next time.

Combeferre clasps both of Grantaire's hands warmly in theirs and tells him to call them any time. Courfeyrac hugs him for a solid half a minute and doesn't let go until Grantaire hugs him back just as tightly. Louison shakes hands with him.

Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta tug him in for a four-way hug and promise that they'll visit soon. Somehow, Grantaire isn't entirely sure how, they have a secret handshake and he kind of wants to cry with how much he's going to miss the three of them already.

Even though they’d already made their farewells, Grantaire feels the gap of Éponine’s presence, only a little comforted by the reminder that she planned, at some point when done with her mysterious errand, to come by again.

It’s strange, looking at all of them clustered together, and Grantaire tries for a smile. “Guess that’s it then.”

“We’ll wave all the way out of the atmosphere,” Joly promises, and Grantaire’s smile turns a little more real as they make their last goodbyes.

Something hollow, like bird skulls and empty flower beds scoured by Parisian winters, chokes his chest, and Grantaire's heart echoes like catacombs as he follows Enjolras, nominated to be his escort or that eager to be rid of him, through the ship. The sight of Paris spread out before him, glittering with lights and dampened by smog, through the pale, glittering blue of the tractor beam, can't even rouse him much. It sets them down less than a block from his apartment building, tucked out of sight.

Enjolras seems content to follow him, though his eyes flick rapidly around, clearly trying to take in as much as he can in the middle of the night, dim even with the streetlamps. A distant part of him wishes he could show off the city in full light, but ultimately, he’s just too relieved to actually see his apartment building, clear and familiar after so long.

He leads the way up the stairs and fumbles in his pockets for his keys, the weight and feel of them suddenly foreign in his hand. The door opens with its habitual creak, and he wants to close his eyes as the scent of home floods him, but something is wrong. Grantaire tenses and grabs the heavy flashlight by the door as he turns on the light.

“Grantaire,” Enjolras says, low and urgent, at the same moment that a small, rabbitish looking man steps out from the shadows of the tiny kitchen, flanked by two Sargons nearly as large as, and definitely more hostile than, Bahorel.

"Good evening, your majesty," he says, with an oily little smile that sets Grantaire's teeth on edge.

Enjolras has his weapon drawn before the words are finished, that cold and calculating something back on his face.

"Good evening, gentlemen. Though, I didn't expect to see you here," Grantaire replies as calmly as he can, moving forward, making himself more of a target than Enjolras, whose aim is straight and no doubt true. Sargons mean Balem Abrasax, who definitely has motive enough to ambush Grantaire in his own home. "It's been long enough that you must know that the transfer of title has already been processed, and so, while I'm generally good company and open to visitors, that means you and your lord are trespassing. In front of multiple witnesses, even!"

"We are aware of the current legalities," the man says, stiff and short. One of Grantaire’s bottles of vodka sits open on the counter, shotglass beside it, and that probably accounts for some of the redness of his eyes. "I have been instructed to offer Your Grace a proposal."

"What sort of proposal?" Grantaire asks, suspicious. Beside him, Enjolras lowers his gun slowly, though Grantaire notes he doesn’t put it away. "Pretty sure you don't have leverage over me, with Earth in my line of succession and removed from your lord's."

"Quite simple, Your Majesty," he says, with another one of those smug, sly smiles. "You are to come with me to meet my lord. There, you will abdicate your title and in return my lord guarantees that he will do everything in his power to see that no harm comes to you or your Earth friends."

Grantaire stares a little, because he can completely believe that Balem Abrasax would kidnap the people he cares about to try to fucking blackmail him into giving up the Earth. They aren't people to him, just pawns, and every fucking time Grantaire thinks that humankind can't revolt him anymore, someone does something new and strikingly awful.

"Monsieur," Grantaire replies, with a wry twist of his mouth, stomach twisting like a wedge of lime into the drink he wishes he had, "I'm afraid you'll find I'm too much a fan of ridiculous police procedurals and too wary of throwing myself upon a sword before verifying that the black sails mean death indeed to not ask you for proof and proof of life before I even consider your blackmail."

"Ah, I see you have the standard Abrasax pragmatism," the sycophant replies, and Grantaire tries not to bristle visibly at that. He waves a hand, and summons a- the only word Grantaire has for what materializes is a hologram. It plays, a little life-like loop of the Sargons preparing to carry Floréal and Cosette and Cosette's family into a shiny portal, and the sight of them hanging limply in the air claws its way into the space reserved for nightmares in his brain.

Grantaire pointedly looks back, meeting his eyes steadily. "Wow, kidnapping an Aegis marshal. Disrespect for life and law alike. Okay, so, assuming everyone is true to their word, which I very much doubt, your lord returns all of them alive and safe to this planet in exchange for this planet?"

"That is what was offered. If you'd prefer me to tell my lord that you reject his offer..."

"No," Grantaire says, and wants to walk out the door and to a bar and drink until he doesn't need to think about any of this anymore, until he can pretend it's all some twisted nightmare, until it floods his veins and he doesn't have to wake up again. He lifts his chin up instead. "Alright, fine."

Enjolras, who has been a quiet, solid, supportive presence at his side, reaches out to lightly grip Grantaire's arm. His hand is warm, searing Grantaire's frozen self like a firebrand. Enjolras leans in, having to bend just slightly to murmur in Grantaire's ear.

"He is lying," he says, like Grantaire doesn't already know it. "Then you, your friends, and your planet will be lost."

"I know," Grantaire says, closing his eyes tightly, listing toward Enjolras' solidity like the sway of gravity on some small moon. "But he'll kill them if I don't, and a world without them is something even I can’t just make myself accept. If nothing else, it buys you some time, okay? If you can find a way to help them, please."

"I will try," Enjolras says, and squeezes Grantaire's elbow before he lets go. His face is carved of unyielding stone, unreadable and unrenderable. His eyes are chips of black ice. He nods, though, once and firmly, before looking to Balem’s lackey. "You will allow our ship to follow, Mr. Night?"

It barely ticks up at the end, more imperative than question, and Mr. Night nods, vicious eyes gleaming triumph.

The sargon, menacingly looming behind him, adds, "If it will make you feel nice and cozy."

"They'll follow," Grantaire says, because if Enjolras can respect his decision, he can respect Enjolras'. He steps forward, towards more bravery than he feels comfortable ascribing to himself, and away from the only thing that's felt like safety since he was jettisoned into all of this.

Grantaire feels like the heat death of the universe is contained in his skin.

No one speaks to him on the space ship, not when they slip through the portal to just outside of Jupiter. Because of course Balem Abrasax owns Jupiter, a planet so close to Grantaire's own. It would almost be impressive, the way that the ship glides through the layers of hurricane like they're nothing more than gentle breezes, except for the fact that they inevitably, terribly, leave the Musain behind.

Grantaire shouldn't even be surprised. He stays quiet and keeps looking forward, breathing like tides and watching the orange and rust and brown part like the red sea, except that Grantaire is heading the farthest away from freedom. He wonders, though, if it felt like this.

Jupiter's surface is unreal; no scientist would believe it. Balem’s domed city is comprised of large structures – processing plants, probably – in black and metal, like something out of science fiction, like he's on Ix or some other impossible planet. They drift toward a large building, which must be Balem's lair. Everything feels distant, for the first time like something utterly unfamiliar.

When he finally enters the hall where Balem awaits him, Grantaire's fury burns sickeningly hot in his throat. The large, empty hall echoes as he strides forward, the sound of his footsteps resounding from the high gothic arches. Desolate. It's desolate, except for Balem standing in front of the massive glass windows, his the drape of his cape trailing down like some ancient regalia and sweeping back as he turns, light dully catching on a multitude little disks of something like glass set into the fabric.

Now, Grantaire can see more resemblance to Marius, the points of symmetry in the high cheekbones and severe features, the curve of the jaw and the arch of the brows. Marius' nose is much more impressive, though; Marius has a fantastic nose. Balem just has a fantastic ability to commit planet-wide genocides.

"Lord Abrasax," Grantaire says, sweeping a mocking bow, as precise and insulting as the one Titus had given him. "There are much, much easier ways to get my attention than to kidnap and threaten people I care about."

"You should have stayed dead," Balem rasps, as though he hasn't heard. He looks over at Grantaire like he's the dirt beneath his feet.

Grantaire laughs, because he can't help it.

"Wow. Okay." He shakes his head, because apparently he still has no fucking self-preservation instincts but this guy is just such a fucking asshole. "You totally cannot pin your shitty personhood choices on me because my existence does not, like, magically drive you to kidnap and threaten uninvolved people- including a government official, nice job there. Also? I am not your mother."

Balem's mouth curves up in a snotty little smirk, though his eyes are full of distaste. "Clearly. My mother never lacked so much ambition and drive. She, at least, understood the pressures one faces in creating an empire, a vast machine defined by evolution in the pursuit of longer and better life. It takes power and delicacy to control, something you certainly lack, if you can't realize that all the human beings on your planet are merely resources to be converted into capital, or to leverage, as the case may be.”

He studies Grantaire’s face as he comes closer, close enough to let his finger ghost over Grantaire’s cheek. His eyes are tear-filled and terrible.

“She made me understand that every human society is a pyramid and that some lives will always
matter more than others,” he continues in a whisper. “It is better to accept this... than to pretend it isn't... true.”

“And so you killed her, just like you want to kill me?” Grantaire asks him, the snarky remark tripping off his tongue thoughtlessly. He’s sick of this family and the destruction they wreak on everyone around them.

Balem whirls, and his backhand is a blossoming pain in Grantaire’s cheek, his face contorted in anger. “How dare you?!”

Balling his hands into fists, Grantaire jerks back from the sudden, vise-grip Balem has on his face. He laughs bitterly, feeling fragile and slightly hysteric. Tension drags between them. "Right. Well. You must live a very lonely, paranoid existence, watching around every corner for fear of retribution or someone whose life matters more than yours. I am known for my words utterly lacking substance, but I've no heart for your monologuing. Where are my friends?"

The Abrasax scion blinks at Grantaire and then waves a hand, looking like he thinks he's already won even as he pulls out a sheave. The floor beneath them turns clear, the illusion of black marble vanishing dizzyingly. Industrial works gape below, and suspended by the anti-gravity cuffs clasped at wrists and ankles, hovering under an intimidating array of cruel tools, are the people he came to save.

"This is a notice of abdication," Balem says in his soft, hoarse voice that bores through Grantaire's horror and pulls his attention back. "You will confess your genetic incapacity to rule and you will return the title to its natural heir."

Grantaire tries not to look away. The images of Floréal motionless, of Cosette looking delicate enough to shatter, of Valjean more vulnerable and old than the usual strange combination of kindly and intimidating large, of little wrinkled elderly Fauchelevent, of Fantine like she's ill on a hospital bed are all burned behind his eyelids, neatly filed away for even more nightmare fuel.

"If I sign," Grantaire says, after a moment, pulling his shoulders back and lifting his chin like he refuses to be intimidated, "how do I know that you'll actually return them safely home? Given everything, especially your very blasé view on the value of human life, your word is about as valuable as that of any politician."

Balem only snarls, out of patience. "You are in no position to negotiate."

He waves his hand again, and the machine whirs to life.

"If you kill them now, I have no reason to sign your abdication." Grantaire says it as quickly as he can, eyes riveted to the blades just centimeters from the curve of Fantine's cheek, the warm light brown of her skin washed out in the cool blue lights. The scream builds up in his throat and catches until Balem practically hisses and halts the blades with another gesture.

"If you do not sign the abdication, all of you will be dead, and it will be on your head," he whispers, staring unsettlingly at Grantaire.

Grantaire can't stomach the thought of being responsible for people dying, not when Floréal gave up so much and put herself in danger, when Cosette has fiercely defended Grantaire for all the years they've been friends, when Valjean and Fauchelevent and Fantine have all given so much to keep Cosette safe, running across the galaxy and giving up their lives to hide on a tiny backwater planet, and risking that safety for Grantaire. Reluctantly, he nods, accepting the tablet to abdicate. Perhaps Floréal or Enjolras, who will have Captain Tsing to back his claim, can at least prosecute Balem for his violations of code and law.

The screen glows threateningly, and Grantaire can't help a glance back over at the machine to assure himself it's still.

Fantine, Cosette's quiet mother, who always wears tinted glasses which he now knows disguise the catlike flash of her eyes, the only real suggestion of the feline parts of her DNA, lies limply under the harsh lights. Abruptly, Grantaire recalls raspberry jam stirred in tea to break fevers and quiet lulling Russian and the way his mother always double checks the locks on the door of their home, the quiet iron in her spine as she told his older siblings that she had made France her home and that no one would make her flee in fear ever again.

Grantaire shuts his eyes and remembers Éponine skidding into the hallway of Kalique’s alcazar, Feuilly’s bracelets and the pain of a world annihilated worn on his face, Combeferre shouldering fatigue like a badge of honor, Louison hovering in Bossuet’s shadow on the strength of her conviction, Bossuet herself with blood and bruising on her head like a crown, and Bahorel’s face scarred by his leaving. Enjolras’ fire bright eyes when he asked Grantaire to marry him, for the sake of saving one small planet in all the universe.

He thinks of his father kissing the top of his head, when Grantaire was small and his curls reached down past his shoulders, and telling Grantaire that a people who were chosen must have a burden to bear and that meant reaching to find courage even when they thought they had none left, like oil, to burn.

"See, here's the thing," Grantaire tells Balem. "I always figured that human beings were ruthless creatures, driven by nothing more than selfishness and hungry for power and prestige to the point that they would happily beat down anyone they could convince themselves was less. But you seem to think that's a good thing, which means your mother was fucked the fuck up. No wonder you all hated and feared her. What a terrifying Titan, who would consume her children to protect herself, and only teach them to consume to the point that you, Jupiter and ruler of Jupiter, decided to slay her.

"Me though, I grew up worlds away from the way that she did, and I'm pretty fucking sure you can't even start to understand why someone saying that people aren't people and should be exterminated, used solely for capital gain and then destroyed, enslaved and oppressed, is something that I will never, never fucking stand for, so fuck you. I am one of them! I am one of that horrible, awe inspiring mass of the downtrodden and unhappy, and I will not turn them over to the likes of you, no matter what you do to me."

“This is not a game; I am not my brother or my sister-” Balem starts, only to be interrupted by the door to the hall slamming open. “Mr. Night!”

Mr. Night bows, skittish. “Beg pardon, my lord. It is an emergency! The grav-hull is ruptured and the gas is reacting to the stock works. Evacuation has begun.”

Balem whirls on Grantaire with murder in his eyes.

“Seal it!” he demands as he reaches out to grab Grantaire’s wrist.

Instinct and too many hours of sparring and fighting and teaching have Grantaire moving almost before he’s aware of it, using Balem’s reach to pull him in and down, Grantaire driving his knee up into Balem’s groin and the heel of his hand into Balem’s solar plexus before shoving him backwards. Balem reels, wheezing and doubled over, and Grantaire smashes the sheave on the ground, crushing it under his heel.

Grantaire is pretty sure that he is going to die, but the grav-hull being ruptured probably means that Les Amis and the Aegis are on their way. There’s no way, now, that Balem can wrest Earth from Grantaire, which will sit in Enjolras’ trust no matter what. Dying is easy. Even Grantaire can’t fail at that.

Perhaps he really is too pessimistic, because the last thing he expects, as he backs away from Balem and away from the doors, is for the immense wall on the lower level to shatter.

It shouldn't surprise him that Bahorel and Enjolras, Quill's gravity boots on his feet, come tumbling through. Bahorel is already shooting, probably knowing better than any of them what would happen the moment they entered the atmosphere. Enjolras' situational awareness must be amazing, because his expression doesn't even change as he takes in what's going on above them, using the lift of his boots to slam one of the door creating devices under the space of floor where Grantaire and Balem are standing before he goes ducking behind cover.

Grantaire abandons his search for a weapon, because it's pointless, and ignores Balem struggling back to his feet other than to keep the man between himself and the lone guard in the room. Grantaire does not have training in taking down Sargons and doesn't want to figure it out on the fly.

It doesn't matter, because Balem shoots forward like he wants to try to strangle Grantaire with his bare hands, shrieking for them to kill him. The floor gives way beneath them and Balem crumples. Grantaire lands in a crouch.

Everything is chaos. Bahorel is locked in battle with Greeghan, the other Sargon guards lying dead on the floor, but the noise is deafening, the world ending with bang rather than a whimper.

He ducks behind the pillar where he last saw Enjolras and is relieved to find him there, and also kind of astounded because this is the worst plan. "What are you doing here?"

"The Aegis couldn't enter, nor could our ship, so Bahorel and I took a smaller vessel and broke through the hurricanes. Our crew is helping with the evacuation, but the Aegis are standing by to help get your friends out as soon as they can," Enjolras tells him, voice steady even as his eyes burn like coal ignited and doused in oil. There’s a gun, confident and sure in his hand. "Get them out of here."

"Okay," Grantaire says, because that's all that he has the strength to say, and impulsively reaches out to squeeze Enjolras' upper arm probably a little too tightly before turning away again.

Miraculously, they're all unharmed. Grantaire goes to Fantine first, moving her carefully away from the machine ready to maul and martyr her, drawing her supine form over to a protected alcove. Enjolras is there a moment later with Cosette's uncle, silent as a shadow.

"I'll get them to safety," Enjolras says with the weight of a promise as he presses his gun into Grantaire's hands. "Stand guard and I will return as quickly as possible."

He does, and by the time Grantaire has moved all of Cosette's family and Floréal away from the industrial equipment, Bahorel's fight has moved up and up, spiraling out from the ruins of Balem's hall. Grantaire is left alone, except for the First Primary of the House of Abrasax, who is no longer heaped upon the floor.

Wary, he turns a slow circle to look for any disturbances or flashes of movement and nearly gets stabbed in the back for his trouble. Instinct, again, saves Grantaire, letting him fend off Balem's wild stabbing and shove him backwards, leaving them feet away from one another. Grantaire aims the gun, steady, though it feels all wrong in his hands.

"You're just like her," Balem starts, and Grantaire is abruptly so very done with this that he barely realizes he's shifting the gun and pulling the trigger. Balem shouts with pain and rage, clutching at his leg.

"Seriously, just fucking stop," Grantaire tells him past the bile crawling up his throat. "That assumption is getting you fucking nowhere. Just stop."

And the world shudders and shakes apart again, crumbling beneath them when a pillar crashes down through the floor beside them. Grantaire falls like Alice and loses all sense of orientation as they drop deep into the inner works of the building.

The blue isn't a hallucination, though, but another of the traction beams, and it slows him enough that he can grab onto twisted metal without wrenching his shoulder too hard. Panting, throat raw from the scream wrenched without his permission, Grantaire climbs up onto a broken walkway only to find Balem across from him.

For a moment, Grantaire considers launching himself across the way, anger a dying sun, a gravity well in his chest. He turns away, though, and ducks inside. He has other priorities. He didn't see anyone else fall, but he needs to make sure that Floréal and Cosette and her family get out safely, that Enjolras and Bahorel get out safely, because this is all Grantaire's fault.

All he needs to do is go up.

Apparently the universe agrees, because traction beams and stairs are still relatively intact despite the wailing as the city collapses and the jets of fire. There's a whole chunk of the side of the building missing, and Grantaire can see flames consuming the refinery buildings and little black ant ships fleeing for the skies. Sick, he wonders how many people have died already, and how many have made it away safely.

It lingers in his mind as he steps into a traction beam that pulls him up and up, away from the wreckage. Grantaire doesn't know how long he wanders the building, trying to fight his way higher, how many dead ends he loses himself in. Time has lost all meaning. His mind is hazy - maybe the stockworks are toxic. Probably.

There’s a flash of motion out of the corner of his eye and Grantaire’s heart leaps up to his throat until he realizes that it’s Enjolras.

“Grantaire,” Enjolras says, reaching out to steady him. “Are you alright?”

“I’m okay.” He breathes in, tries to calm his pounding heart and aching head. “Are you? Is Bahorel? Did you get everyone out?”

Enjolras’ hands are steady, steadier than Grantaire feels he’s ever been. Enjolras looks alright, temple bloody and clothes bloody and the stock of a ruined gun at his side. His chin is tilted up, his eyes level as the razed ground. “I am, and so is Bahorel. We got your friends safely evacuated and he’s with the Aegis medics. I came back to find you.”

Grantaire lets his breath out, sags with relief so strong it almost makes him feel sick. If Enjolras says all’s okay, Grantaire can almost believe it. “Let’s head up, then. Thank you.”

Enjolras nods, and leads the way deeper into the building toward a set of stairs. They climb without speaking, with time pressing insistently against them, the distant collapsing buildings like a warning signal as the floor rumbles unsteadily under their feet.

The faint dizziness and the adrenaline are probably why Grantaire doesn't expect Balem to appear from nowhere again, planted directly in their path as they turn a corner. Grantaire scrambles for make sense of it – had Balem seen them as they scrambled upward? Been tracking Grantaire through the building this whole time? – but he takes too long. Disheveled and bloodstained Belem might be, but he’s prepared. He brings up a length of pipe and swings it with all his might, blow connecting before Enjolras can finish bringing his arm up.

Grantaire reaches out to catch Enjolras, just stopping his head from cracking against a railing as he drops. A follow up strike takes Grantaire across the back and sends him gasping to his knees, his head ringing.

He struggles to his feet, spinning back against the wall and stumbling away. Pain sears his bones. If he just gives Enjolras time to recover, time to improvise a weapon, if he just makes time. Balem catches hold of Grantaire, hauls him backward, and Grantaire trips over his own feet as he falls out onto a balcony, the sky a churning dust cloud above him.

"Is this familiar, Mother?" Balem asks as he tangles cruel fingers in Grantaire’s hair, using his grip to pull Grantaire’s head back and forcing him to arch his back unnaturally, and lashes out with his foot. Balem’s voice is a low, resonant threat, malice drowning out the explosions rushing up through the building. "Does some part of you remember this like I do?"

Grantaire wheezes, but grits his teeth, draws on some untapped vein of determination he'd never known was there, and digs his thumbnail into the tendons of Balem's wrist until Balem cries out and lets go. Grantaire twists up and kicks out, aiming for Balem's knee and the ugly, bloody wound in his thigh.

When Balem staggers, Grantaire rolls away from the dangerously close ledge, struggling for breath enough to run. He drags himself up past the ringing in his ears and spits blood to the side, his lip split.

Enjolras meets his eyes over Balem’s shoulder, the ruined gun in his hand, recovered and having pulled himself up and to his feet. Violence clings to him like an aurora. Controlled and deadly, he swings so very precisely and Balem chokes with pain, dropping the pipe. Grantaire takes it up, and it is a comfortable weight in his hand, so close to familiar from years of kickboxing, and strikes Balem again, hard enough to make him fall.

The world suddenly seems silent.

"Just give up," Grantaire says and closes his eyes just for a moment, then forces them back open. They sting. "The whole blood feud, revenge, cycle of murder and greed thing just doesn't work. You don't have to pick the hatred of all men or of the gods. I'm not fighting to destroy you. There's so much more to be done than killing, and I'm so fucking over it."

Balem only seems to hate him the more for that, his eyes burning into Grantaire, but he doesn't have a chance to reply before the building shakes and the metal groans and gives in. Grantaire scrambles back for the main building and Enjolras catches him about the waist, hauls him back into the stable structure of the building and keeps holding him as they see Balem go sliding off the platform, still grasping for purchase.

Grantaire just feels empty.

“We should-” he says and trails off.

“We should go,” Enjolras agrees. He sounds so, so sad, like he’s taken this so very personally. “Hold on tightly.”

Belatedly, Grantaire realizes that he’s clutching onto Enjolras still, hands fisted white in the other man’s shirt. He shifts his hold to something a little more stable and holds tightly while Enjolras pushes off from the floor with a gentle whir of the gravboots.

The Aegis ship is waiting, hovering among the debris and explosions, and Enjolras makes a beeline toward it. There are no more evacuation ships, the last few small dots of them just vanishing into the haze of the tunnel out, and the refinery has crumbled, the remnants sticking up like twisted skeleton spires, clawing up from the ground.

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair, Grantaire thinks, and closes his eyes as the world drags by in a blur, faster and faster.

The port to the ship is still open and they skid in with a lurch, Enjolras cutting the power on the boots just a little too quickly and dropping them to the floor. Grantaire winces as it jostles his arm and hisses out through his teeth, letting go of Enjolras to sit back on the floor.

“Oh, thank fuck,” Bahorel says, the fricatives hissing a little. He’s perched on a float pallet with a medic prodding at his where his strong tail is bent at a strange angle.

“Hey,” Grantaire says, and can’t help smiling. There are more pallets nearby, and there’s no doubt that anyone was lost in the shuffle, and they all got away okay.

Enjolras frowns slightly at Bahorel’s injury, but looks up at the medics. “The planet is as clear as it’s going to get. Are we clear to go back to our ship once we’ve left the atmosphere?”

One of the medics is on the line with the command staff, but another bends down to heft Enjolras to his feet. “You will be, but we’ll look you over before you go.”

Grantaire’s situational awareness is completely shot, because he jumps when another medic crouches down by him and carefully levers him up, careful not to jostle the arm still tucked against his chest. He watches, distantly, as she coaxes it fully back into place and tilts him this way and that to treat whatever injuries her scans discover.

His gaze feels out of focus, and he doesn’t really register any of it until there’s a stinging touch to his head that makes him flinch. After that, he tries harder to pay attention, which gets much easier when the doors open and Courfeyrac comes rushing in, heading straight for Enjolras.

They speak quickly in low voices, Courfeyrac’s hands cupped gently around Enjolras’ shoulders, and finally Courfeyrac sighs, kissing the back of each of Enjolras’ hands and then his forehead with soft solemnity before letting go. His greeting to Bahorel is much more exuberant, chiding him jokingly and letting himself be tugged in for a strong hug. At last, he turns to Grantaire, approaches more slowly.

“Come on,” Courfeyrac says, and his smile is kind and coaxing as he reaches out a hand. “Let’s get you and yours home.”

Grantaire grabs Courfeyrac's hand and hauls himself up with a grin that feels like it sits heavy on his face. "Yeah. Yeah, let's."

With Courfeyrac and Bahorel's help, they get Cosette, Floréal, Valjean, Fantine, and Fauchelevent all moved over to Les Amis' ship, with the medics' assurances that they're recovering and will wake in approximately sixteen hours. Floréal, apparently, will be staying with the Aegis for a debriefing. And thankfully someone's thinking straight, because once they’re back in the turbulent crescendo of their own ship, Courfeyrac casually assures the designated greeting committee that everyone is okay and Bahorel cheerfully heads off to set up even more new rooms, herding people out with him. The quiet cuts.

"Do you want to see the others?" Courfeyrac asks him, head tilting to the side. His catlike face is free of smudges even if his sleeves are torn and rolled up, and his dark hair looks artful rather than disheveled, and it jams Grantaire's brain. "Or do we need to get Joly to look you over?"

"I want to sleep," Grantaire says, and it comes out raspy and low. "I just don't want to be alone."

"Okay," Enjolras murmurs, and he's still right by Grantaire's elbow, a familiar presence that his mind can't even register as a threat. "Come with me?"

Grantaire nods and follows without question. His thoughts gape like Jupiter below, like chasms that swallow men alive. Everything is too silent and too loud all at once and his feet hardly seem to touch the floor.

Enjolras, silent and bloody and the only thing he knows for sure is real, leads them to his rooms and lets them in, tipping his head when Grantaire hesitates.

"Surely you don't mean a discussion at a time like this?" Grantaire asks, balking, suddenly panicked.

"No." Enjolras' brow furrows so very faintly as he studies Grantaire. He looks sad still, and tired now, some iron in his shoulders finally softening. "I don't want to be alone either, and the ship took enough damage that it will be hours before we can portal. Will you stay?"

"I'll stay," Grantaire promises, and steps inside.

Enjolras smiles, and it makes him look younger, with his braids spilling around his shoulders and the tatters in his clothing, but it's genuine. He turns and strips off his ruined shirt, muscles pulling as he draws pajamas from a cabinet hidden in the wall.

Taking the cue, Grantaire sheds his trousers and accepts the ones he's offered, too long in the leg and a little snug around his hips, but he's far too tired to care. His shirt goes next, and it's as irreparable as the binder underneath, the fabric torn despite the sturdy weave. Fuck it, he decides, and removes that as well, breathing deep and feeling the pinch of ribs kept constrained too long, an ache that resonates through his battered and overtaxed body.

Already changed, Enjolras is pulling back the many covers on an impossibly soft and welcoming looking bed, his hair tucked back into an orderly queue, with only the quiet sigh that escapes him to give away how wrecked he must feel.

"So, how should we?" Grantaire asks, a little uncertain still, and crosses his arms over his chest.

Glancing up, Enjolras lets one corner of his mouth tip upward. "However is comfortable? We are married, after all."

"Ah, so marriages are largely affairs of state and contracts, and yet the joke works all the same out here," Grantaire replies, feeling a touch of humor and warmth return, and smiles back. "I see how it is. That works."

Enjolras huffs a breath of a laugh as he slips into bed and Grantaire follows, unable to resist the gravity of another warm body as he curls in toward the middle of the bed. When Enjolras shifts to make more space for Grantaire to fit against him, he gives in without thinking or overthinking the consequences, just slips closer and lets his eyes drift shut.

The heavy thud of a heartbeat in his ear is, finally, loud enough to break through the haze in his head, and Grantaire lets the rhythm of Enjolras' blood and breathing settle him down again.

Beside him, Enjolras sighs and his arm shifts around Grantaire, holding him closer as he curls up a little. It strikes Grantaire for the first time that Enjolras may have been honest in not wanting to be alone, that he needs someone to hold to as tightly as Grantaire is holding to him.

"You didn't have to come back for me," Grantaire says into the dim and quiet, imagining he can see whole constellations behind his eyelids in the space between him and Enjolras’ chest. "All the inheritance issues would have been settled anyway."

"Of course I came for you," Enjolras says, and there's a hovering hesitation before his hand rests comfortably on Grantaire's tangled thatch of curls.

There's so much Grantaire could say to that, but the acrid scent of Jupiter and shredded metal is finally disappearing under the softer smell of Enjolras and his room.

Grantaire opens his eyes and tilts his head up, pressing a gentle, closed mouth kiss to Enjolras'.

"Thank you," he says, simply, instead of anything else.

Enjolras smiles quietly. He doesn't say anything, but he kisses Grantaire's forehead with something almost like reverence.

In one strange moment, it doesn't feel like there's anything to say, so Grantaire ducks his head back down, tucking himself under Enjolras' chin, and lets the ebb and flow of the engines below and warmth all around him tow him in their wake, leaving the planet behind as he drifts off to sleep.             

If Grantaire wakes in the night, heart pounding, the lurking terror is soothed away by the feeling of someone beside him, and he falls asleep almost without awareness.

 

--

 

When Grantaire finally does stir, hours and hours later, he and Enjolras are still curled around one another comfortably, overwarm in the way of dozy, golden mornings.

Grantaire tries to extract himself from Enjolras' embrace without waking him. He fails, though, because Enjolras lets go about halfway through, blinking a few times as he sits up.

"Sorry," Grantaire says, apologetic, but Enjolras just shakes his head.

"We should check in with the others and see if your friends are awake. Breakfast, too. And,” Enjolras pauses, and then says quietly, “thank you for staying."

"Yeah, dude, of course," Grantaire fumbles, taken aback. He tries for a smile, sure it comes out awkward, but Enjolras' expression lightens.

Enjolras rises, quiet on bare feet as he crosses over to the door to palm it open.

"Combeferre left some clothes for you," he says, scooping a pile of fabric from the hall floor and then turning to offer them to Grantaire with a hint of a smile.

"Bless Combeferre and bless their house," Grantaire says, relieved, as he accepts them. "Do you mind if I get changed?"

"Not at all," Enjolras demurs, tapping some hidden button in the bed frame that has some mechanism straightening the sheets and blankets even as he gathers clothes for himself and slips into what must be an attached bathroom.

Grantaire waits until the door closes behind him to dress, thankful and maybe a little freaked out to find everything correct size. By the time he leaves the clothes borrowed from Enjolras folded on the end of the bed, Enjolras has finished doing the same.

"I talked to Bossuet," Enjolras says. Except for a small cut by his temple, he looks as though he was never in a fight at all. "The ship has been sufficiently repaired for us to portal, so we'll be by Earth just as soon as we initiate. Is there anything you need before you go?"

He shakes his head, though he's just realizing that he hasn't eaten since being on Titus' ship and is starving. Grantaire figures he can wait long enough to get home, finally, and to make sure that all of his friends are truly safe and well after everything that's happened.

"No. I'm...” He trails off, takes a breath, tries again. “I'm ready. Perhaps this time I'll get farther than a few steps in the door."

"I'd certainly hope so," Enjolras agrees with a slight inclination of his head. "But I know we all hope it won't be too long before you call us."

"Aw, man, not at all." Grantaire follows him out into the hallway, gesturing expansively with his hands. "I like friends. I'm probably gonna be bugging you to come partake of my hospitality and hearth so much that you have Earth on portal speed dial."

That earns him a strange look from Enjolras. Whatever combination of translators they use seems to translate colloquialisms most of the time, but not always. This must be one of those times.

Before he can explain, though, the ship lurches, making both of them startle. Grantaire figures that he, at least, is too much reminded of the way the platform jolted as it started to fall apart. He can’t speak for Enjolras; he doesn’t want to speak at all. Running a frustrated hand through his curls, he shakes his head and stays silent the rest of the way.

Most of Les Amis are gathered by the departure port, and both of them are instantly swept up. Grantaire finds himself getting passed from person to person, their embraces and words fierce like they're trying to press warmth back into his bones, and by the time he's finally whirled over to Musichetta, he laughs when she spins them around in a circle.

He still feels tired, but not hollow the way the last round of farewells left him. It's easier, this time, not to cling to their hands, but to smile back and make them promise to be in touch soon. Joly, though, is missing, and even though Bossuet and Musichetta seem unconcerned, Grantaire can't help but notice.

It turns out he doesn't need to wonder too much, because Joly steps in a minute later, cane touching so lightly on the floor that it must be a good day for his bad leg. He lights up when he sees Grantaire, snugging him in for a one armed hug before looking him over critically, like he doesn't quite believe that the Aegis medics were sufficient to treat whatever minor injuries Grantaire had collected.

And then Cosette comes in, with her pastel, slightly ruffled sundress and her seven ear piercings and her shawl drawn tightly around her shoulders like she wants to make herself smaller still, and Grantaire lets out a choked noise before they're holding onto one another.

"I'm sorry," he mumbles, kissing her cheeks and pressing his face against her shoulder. "Cosette, I'm so sorry."

"Don't be stupid, Grantaire," she tells him, a little scolding, and she kisses his cheeks in return, affectionate and an oasis of calm. "I'm just happy that you're okay. Let's go home?"

"Let's go home," he agrees, but then gets distracted because he has to make sure that Cosette's family is really okay and apologize to them too (at least the first round because he'll be apologizing for months for putting them in danger, accident or no).

Then, too soon, he finds himself by Enjolras, and says, very quietly. "I'll talk to you later, then?"

"I'll make sure Floréal has equipment and contact information for all of us," he promises, and reaches out. His hand brushes Grantaire's elbow, and it feels like it has much more magnitude than it probably actually does. "Take care of yourself."

"You too," Grantaire says, sincere, and then because he's incapable of being serious and has no sense of when to fucking stop, adds, "honey."

Enjolras, amazingly, just shakes his head and lets his hand drop. His eyes, at least, don't frost over.

When Grantaire looks up to ask if they're good to go, Cosette and Marius are standing two feet from one another, both of them blushing and with expressions of gentle surprise, their fingers almost brushing.

"Hi," Cosette says, a little breathless, and Grantaire knows the way her smile curves and he wants to groan.

"Hello," Marius breathes, with the look of someone who's about to embark on a very ill advised makeover to impress someone else.

Courfeyrac catches Grantaire's eye, like he recognizes it too but is much more delighted by the prospect. Grantaire might be a little delighted by the prospect, but Cosette's parents look distinctly unsure about this and dammit, Grantaire just wants some breakfast.

"Cosette, this is my cousin Marius," Grantaire says, stepping forward, "who I'm very sure is going to visit sometime soon."

Cosette' cheeks flush darker and she offers out a hand. "It's pleasure to meet you."

"The pleasure is all mine," Marius says earnestly, and he dips into a stately, slightly stiff bow, nearly toppling himself over before he catches her hand and kisses the back of her fingers. It's all very courtly, and Grantaire is sure that it's just normal Marius greeting habits, but Cosette looks flattered and pleased.

"Transport's good to go," Courfeyrac breaks in, cheery. Somehow, from him, it seems diplomatic rather than intrusive. "Whenever you all are ready."

"We are," Fantine says, polite and reserved as she smiles around the room, and Grantaire suddenly realizes how much Enjolras reminds him of her. "Thank you for your help."

There's a chorus of assurances that it was no trouble, and another round of farewells, and then Cosette's arm is slipping through his, and they're floating down over the city again.

Cosette's indrawn breath is one of awe, and Grantaire feels more like the first time he saw it, the majesty and strangeness of Paris spread out below his feet in the quiet breath before the dawn. Then their feet touch the ground, and all Grantaire can do is look up to see the faint shimmer of the invisible ship disappear again.

"Would you like to come home with us, Grantaire?" Fantine offers, ever considerate, while Fauchelevent and Valjean speak quietly to one another in the back.

Grantaire shakes his head.

"Thanks," he says, and squeezes Cosette's hand before he steps away from her. "Seriously, thank you, but I'm just gonna head home."

"Call me later, okay?" Cosette asks softly, and waits until he nods before she kisses his cheek with a smile. She doesn't give her family another attempt to be kind, which Grantaire appreciates, watching from the corner as she shepherds them all off toward home.

Then it's just him, alone on the streets of Paris.

Grantaire breathes deeply enough it seems to reach the pavement beneath his feet, and even though the streets are kind of grimy and the weather is kind of terrible, he'd never regret what he almost gave up for this planet. He walks slowly, lingering through the road he suddenly appreciates even more, and his heart aches at every touch of familiarity, flickering like streetlamps around him.

When he gets home, still feeling like part of himself is waiting out between many planets, Grantaire puts the place to rights. He's nowhere near tired enough to sleep more- or, he is, but there's no way he'll fall asleep now, and hunger has turned to empty ache.

Instead, he lights his sister's favorite scent of candle and curls up on his bed. His face is squished against the duvet and it makes the air a little heavy as he breathes, but when he shuts his eyes and lies there, listening to the usual early morning sounds, Grantaire's usual life slowly filters back to him, collecting piece by piece.

It's entirely possible that he drifts off for a little, or maybe it's just more like one of his funks, but when he finally feels gathered enough to pry himself up from the bed, it's almost six and everything seems almost exaggeratedly realistic. It’s a goddamn reality hangover.

He has vague plans of leaving the house, so he showers, reveling in the hot water and the inconsistency of his water pressure, washes his hair free of grit from Jupiter and missed bits of oil and blood from his skin. The clouded masses of bruising, wine-dark, stay where they are. When he dries off, the towel is comfortably rough on his skin, and the simple jeans and shirt and jacket he shrug on feel like armor.

The clothes from the Musain he sets aside to wash and save for later. Productive, Grantaire clears out the contents of his small fridge and opens his stiff, groaning windows before he leaves the apartment.

At first, he only intends to fetch food, but his feet carry him past the Corinthe, and Grantaire can't keep himself from stopping, going around back to knock at the kitchen door because Matelote and Gibelote are always awake by this time.

It's Gibelote who opens the door, her face already streaked with flour, but her smile unfurls at the sight of him, slight and sweet like some darling bud of May.

"Hello, Grantaire," she signs, and opens the door wider, gesturing to let him in.

"Hey, Gibelote," he returns in kind, because even with her hearing aids in, she much prefers it, and steps inside. The whole kitchen smells like fresh bread, and it's warm and soft and kind.

She studies him a moment, doesn't remark on his obvious pallor or his absence or the way he holds himself, just busies herself with putting together a plate, and Grantaire stands there watching and leaning against the counter. Eventually, Gibelote sets it next to him, followed by a cup of coffee.

"Do you want to go to the gym later?" she asks, still shy after all this time. She's a woman of few words, but the invitation is just what he needs and the food is her way of showing compassion. And she's a fantastic gym buddy, as he discovered after she took her first self defense class and fell in love with it.

"Yeah," Grantaire agrees, and thanks her before he starts eating, leaning against the counter and watching her work. He sips his coffee, letting the steam spill up into his face and over his closed eyes, and thinks I want to live – it’s a shock, still, profound as sitting in front of his wardrobe at fifteen and realizing it for the first time; more, because this time he could have slipped away. Another sip of coffee, and he lets the thought fade away, turns back to his food.

When he's finished, she puts him to work polishing glasses and he does so without complaint, the repetition polishing the world in turn.

Matelote, when she walks into the kitchen, lets out a desperate noise and swats Grantaire's arm with the back of her hand, sharp enough to sting. "You asshole, you can't just disappear like that!"

"Emergency stuff," Grantaire says, shrugging. "Are you saying you missed me?"

"Of course I missed your hideous face," Matelote tells him with her nose in the air, then ruffles his hair affectionately. "Everything else just looks so beautiful in comparison."

Grantaire grins at her and winks. "Do you mean yourself?"

"I'm already twice as gorgeous as you, you gargoyle." Matelote's retort lacks bite, though, and her arms wrap briefly around his shoulders. "It's good to have you back."

"Good to be back," he says, sincerely, and helps them get the restaurant set up for the rest of the morning. The work, usually something that sets him fidgety with boredom, centers him and calms down the storm cloud in his mind.

On the way home, Grantaire takes a deep breath, and calls the counselor he worked with two years ago. There was nothing wrong with her; he'd just let things fall off because it was so much easier when he was dropping back into another dark Charybdis, to never refill the antidepressants that had stolen his appetite and his sleep. Now, he tries to sound like someone in control as he makes an appointment a week out.

It saps the last of his energy just in time to get back from the store, and Grantaire doesn't leave for days. The desire to hide under the covers and try to process the impossibility of space and everything proves too great to resist, and he finds himself swinging between huddling in fear of the vastness of the problems he's facing and a rare, raw anger that strips him down to nothing he recognizes.

Inactivity, in the end, proves too much like waiting in Titus' gilded cage for a death sentence.

So Grantaire drags himself up and a comb through his curls. He buys actual plants, to show Jehan if he ever visits. He goes to his counseling appointment and fumbles for words to explain the change in vantage point, goes to the gym and relearns the weight of wood rather than pipe curled against his palm, goes to work and finds himself again in teaching a young couple to dance for their spring wedding. He goes home and finds Floréal waiting on the stoop.

He drops his bag on the ground and surges forward to grasp her shoulders. She's fresh and bright as the flowers in her apartment and her brown hair is artfully disheveled, kept just past her jaw line and parted far on the right, tumbling down to loose, messy curls. It's very contemporary, much more appropriate to a fashionable Parisian flower and honey seller than an Aegis marshal.

"Welcome home," Grantaire says, because they share this home and his heart aches for it. "Wanna come have a cup of coffee and catch up?"

"Sounds great," Floréal replies, clasping his arms and smiling at him. "I brought some honey."

"Much obliged. It'll go lovely with some brie and fruit," he tells her, and lets them into the building. It's no time at all to get the kettle going and he deftly slices fruit while Floréal looks about the small studio with undisguised curiosity.

She looks up when he comes over with coffee and food, and she smirks. "Not exactly a palace, huh?"

Grantaire laughs, setting down the tray and sitting on his beaten and well-loved sofa. His walls are dull-pitted plaster and his windows seem grimy after the crystalline clarity of those looking out on starscapes. "I kept trying to convince people I was no prince. Your superiors didn't give you hell, I hope?"

"Not at all!" Floréal sits as well and accepts a cup of coffee with grace, cradling it in her neatly manicured hands. "You are unconventionally friendly, the first primary of the House of Enjolras is both charming and terrifying as promised, and no one in my office likes Titus or Balem. I'm likely to receive a commendation instead, for protecting civilians in the line of duty and all that.”

“I’m glad, since I got you involved in the first place.” Grantaire scoffs lightly. “I do generally try to avoid responsibility.”

Floréal just laughs. “Are you kidding? I’d have gotten involved no matter what. I’ve been waiting years for Balem to fuck up enough that I could report him, and now this planet’s free and clear, leaving me to enjoy it. But how are you faring?"

Her eyes flash gold and piercing, pinning him in place, and Grantaire spreads his hands with a wry smile.

"Intrigues and family dramas suit me very little, and truth be told I make a much finer ‘Aire than héritier. I am a poorly cast Electra, so let us discard that comparison, and while I may be dog-faced enough for an Agamemnon, it seems cruel to hold me to account for faults I do not recall committing. I guess I could be an Orestes, then, but I've always thought myself a better Pylades- though certainly I've neither the wisdom nor the still tongue." Grantaire grimaces and sips his own coffee. "As to the other, I think I am equally ill suited to married life, because I haven't spoken to my husband in a week."

Floréal snorts. "I admit that I'm not as up on the Classics as you, but from what I remember, the whole sorry mess does sound like a tragedy. And that reminds me, I've got some rather nice tech for you. Your friends – or your husband – sprang for the good stuff, so you've got that going for you."

"A full bouquet of friends is better than the full bouquet of a glass," Grantaire says cheerfully, and it comes out too sincere despite himself. "Also, you need to give me your mobile number, because I like you and Cosette likes you and clearly that means we all need to go out and get brunch sometime. Space food may be delicious but it has nothing on the best parts of Paris."

"That's hardly a fair statement to make," Floréal protests, laughing. "Alright, I'll make sure you have both my numbers. Now let's get this equipment hooked up and you can help me complain about the absolute travesty that are those shawl collared jackets which all the rage."

Grantaire has always dismissed the fast friendships of fiction as the same sort of wish fulfillment as dragons and implausible eye colors, but either there's some grain of truth or the universe has decided that because he's a long lost reincarnated space prince caught up in battles for control of the Iron Throne he might as well get the whole impossible package, because Floréal understands him in ways he can't voice and Joly's cheery voice when they put a test call through to the Musain swells his heart to overflowing.

It's a good way to get him through the day, he decides.

And just like that, Grantaire's life crashes back to quiet again.

Well, not entirely. Cosette eventually talks him into coming over for dinner, which he reluctantly does, though her family is surprisingly forgiving and kind about the whole kidnapping thing, and Grantaire can't look up at the sky without knowing what's out there. He's also set aside his usual stack of books in order to make the slow, lengthy study of the Entitled Code just in case this sort of bullshit happens again. It's dry and textbook like, but since Grantaire's not exactly keen on Greek tragedy levels of violating laws of hospitality, he keeps at it.

Irma comes by, impossibly beautiful and incredibly blunt, all but letting herself in. Her mouth pinches in a frown as she studies him, but seems content to let it go.

"You've been out of touch," she reproaches, one impeccable eyebrow arching upwards. Her fingers slip into her purse and come out with a fan of bills held crisply. "I got sick of waiting for you to call to claim your cut."

Abruptly, he recalls he hasn't seen her since walking her to the fertility clinic. She had no use for eggs, she'd sniffed, and a lot more use for money. Irma had talked him into going with her, offering a minor but still appreciable cut, for lending respectability as her pretend and greatly devoted fiancé. Grantaire hadn't been sure if she had meant that simply and sincerely, or if she'd mostly wanted the support and company.

It feels like a lifetime ago, hazy in the wake of recent weeks.

Guilt swells in his throat at the idea that she thought he was cavalierly ignoring her, but Irma's no more prickly than usual and he seems to be forgiven. He'll have to make it up to her all the same.

She's still holding out the money, and Grantaire nudges her hand back toward her body gently.

"I've recently decided that I really don't want any part in black market body trading," he tells her, both joking and sincere, and grins at her skeptical look. Besides, he has more than enough assets now. "Also, I was a terrible body guard, so there's no use paying me for that."

"We had a deal." Irma looks only a little suspicious, folding her arms and staring at him.

Grantaire shrugs. "Darling, if it bothers you that much, you can buy breakfast the next time we go out."

"You're even more impossible when you're moping," Irma informs him, but relents, tucking her money away again, and invites him out with a group of her friends. Grantaire grumbles, but he goes.

Slowly, he builds his normal life back up, and if the glimmer of the seal on his wrist reminds him of what's changed, well, then that's how it's going to be. In the grand scheme of things, the universe isn't pressing on him. It's one more thing to assimilate into his knowledge of the universe, another body of riches and rags, privileges and oppressions. He'll find the right hypothetical framework later to ask his father about where this fits cosmologically.

Thankfully, Enjolras waits until Grantaire's life has listed back to an even keel before he calls.

Grantaire runs his fingers through his hair, checks that there's nothing overly embarrassing in the background, and picks up, still a little thrilled by the screen that fills with seamless color.

"Enjolras." He smiles. "Hey."

"Hello, Grantaire." Enjolras looks serious – he always looks serious – but he doesn't look exhausted or stressed, so that's a good sign. "I received news from the Aegis today and thought you might appreciate the update."

"Lay it on me," Grantaire tells him, and reaches over for a pad of paper in case he needs to take notes.

Enjolras blinks at him, like maybe the idiom doesn't translate quite right, but then he continues. "The testimony you gave, and mine, as well as a survey of Jupiter, have served to confirm Balem's death and deposition. I'm not sure if you knew about the recording equipment I carry as a rule? The footage I turned over was sufficient to establish what happened."

Grantaire did not know about that, but it makes sense given what he does know about legal systems, so he nods. "Okay. So, what does that mean for us?"

This has Enjolras reaching for his own notes, like he's double-checking the facts. Grantaire appreciates the thoroughness. "All of the property Seraphi willed or gifted to Balem reverts to your control. The rest of his estate is either set aside in trust for his own recurrence or reverts to the Abrasax line for general distribution in accordance with the laws. His company's capital is a contested point- it either goes to the state or possibly to us, if we wish to file grievances."

It's a lot and there’s a reason Grantaire avoided law school and seminary. He lets a blink linger moments too long and holds up a hand to stall Enjolras for a moment while he thinks. No matter what he says, he's going to give too much away. After all they’ve been through, though, there can’t be much more to give away.

"Alright." Grantaire breathes deeply, then sighs. "Okay, I don't really know what to do. The- the workers, the people who worked in the factories, what's their position like?"

Enjolras is watching him with a strange expression, but he answers. "If the money goes to the state, they're unlikely to see it. They'll receive insurance payouts, but factory work is a risky business and it's not much."

Grantaire feels sick. "Can we, like, file some form of damages on their behalf, or something? I really don't want or need Balem's money."

"Not directly, without getting caught up in the courts for a century," Enjolras says. "We can, however, distribute damages awarded to us directly to them. Another option, if you wanted, would be to reaffirm your position as Abrasax sovereign, with all its rights and responsibilities, not only as a courtesy title from Seraphi’s inheritance. With Balem out of the line of succession and Titus' position precarious, it might be possible, at which point Balem's company would be in your control, and you could dissolve it. I would need to see the investment details, though, and it isn't my area of the law."

"I didn't know you were a lawyer," Grantaire replies, surprised, and desperately wishes he had a drink handy to explain the inanity of that response. Instead, he smiles wryly and scrubs a hand over his face. "Right, sorry. Immediate issues. How long do we have to make a decision and what's going to be best for the people who worked at the plant?"

"We have plenty of time. The timescales on these cases tend to run longer than you’re used to. I'll look into our options, and give you my recommendation." Enjolras' voice is almost, amazingly, gentle, his dark eyes holding Grantaire's gaze steady. When Grantaire only nods helplessly in response, he's quiet for a moment. "You could sue for Balem's trust, if you like."

Grantaire shakes his head immediately. "No. Hey, though, what about Titus? Have you heard anything?"

Enjolras, thankfully, doesn't press the issue. "He's restricted while the trial is ongoing. Again, there's evidence, and defying direct orders from the Aegis as well as admitting intended murder of another Entitled certainly doesn't put him in a good position. Kalique hasn't bestirred herself to support him, but she's only advantaged by his and Balem's loss."

"I figured that was the case, but that's good to know." Grantaire sighs. "Lord, what fools these mortals be. And onto better things, how's everyone?"

"I know you were speaking with Feuilly recently," Enjolras points out, and it sounds more like teasing than a reprimand. His posture eases, though, the lawyer sliding away in place of the friend. "They're well. Bahorel's fully healed, by now, and insists on showing off as a result. The votes have come in for a vacation, if a short one, Louison is staying, and I think Éponine may be nearly convinced to join us sometime in the future."

"Well, they certainly deserve it. Let everyone know that I'm always happy to have visitors," Grantaire says with a smile.

"I will." He says it sincerely, but they must have reached the limits of their friendship, or acquaintanceship, because he glances off-screen and his mouth goes quiet.

Far be it from Grantaire to delay him.

"Thank you," he says, and waits for Enjolras' answering smile before they disconnect.

It’s only when Grantaire is going over everything in detail later that he realizes he has no earthly idea of what he should do. Even if Enjolras looks into the options, there’s nothing that Grantaire can do and there are people out there who have just lost jobs and family, and they’re never going to see a credit of that money unless Grantaire does something. Grantaire has used up every last shred of bravery he possibly had already. The problem looms, greater than earth, than Jupiter, a universe of impossibility with himself at the nexus.

No wonder Enjolras doubts him, because Grantaire had absolutely no idea what he was getting into. Inheritance systems are fucking bullshit because genes definitely haven’t given Grantaire any basis at all for knowing how to fairly deal with several planets worth of people. His heart has thrown itself from a platform all the way back on the refinery and his blood stutters under his skin and he’s not even sure how anything is real. Grantaire thinks he might throw up.

He can’t call anyone here, because they don’t know, except Cosette who is currently dealing with the fallout of his fucked up genetic legacy. He could call Feuilly, but wow would that be a dick move with how much he’s already leaned on him. Calling Éponine would be even worse, because she’s still out looking for her siblings. Floréal would give him tough love and practical advice and he’s really not done freaking out yet.

Marius, though, understands the sudden grasp of terror and, presumably, the horrifying fact of being accountable for other people’s livelihoods and existences. Grantaire calls before he can think better of it, still well into his meltdown when Marius answers.

“Grantaire?” Marius asks, surprise flashing into pleasure then melting instantly to concern.

“Marius,” Grantaire says, “our space family is fucked up and I am in charge of fixing all of this damage but the courts will probably take years and I am pretty sure that the universe itself is laughing at me.”

“Oh.” He looks mildly overwhelmed, but to his credit, he frowns sympathetically. “The courts do move slowly. I guess even more so if you aren’t used to our time scales. Um. But Enjolras knows what he’s doing?”

Sometimes Grantaire forgets that Marius was studying to be a lawyer too, and he appreciates the attempt. He’s still trying to figure out how to respond when Marius tilts his head, suddenly seeming to refocus.

“Wait, what is it you’re responsible for?” Marius asks, brow furrowing. “Balem’s estate should be accountable for the damages, not you.”

Grantaire stares at him, slightly wild. “In the great tradition of human callousness the universe over, the interests of the rich and quibbles on the fine points of their estates are given a whole heck of a lot more value than the lives and livelihoods of those they exploit, a commonality I really shouldn’t be surprised to -”

“Oh! You’re worried about the refinery workers!” Marius exclaims and then slumps slightly, worrying his lower lip. “I mean, that’s still not your obligation, and I know Enjolras will prioritize that, that’s what he does, which is really very admirable. It probably will take a long time, but they will get a settlement eventually…”

Bitter and exhausted, with the immediate rush of panic draining from his veins, Grantaire jams his fingers in his hair and sinks further down in his seat. “It’s bullshit. Is there not even, like, a space social welfare network?”

Marius doesn’t seem to realize it’s rhetorical and shrugs. “Well, there are some places that do, but not much of a system-wide one. Orous doesn’t have the organization to run one efficiently. If you’re really feeling bad, you could probably donate to a fund?”

Grantaire automatically starts to retort that it’d be a nice dream if he had money before abruptly realizing that he does have money. He has a frankly terrifying, unreal amount of money, just from what Seraphi left him. His stomach ties itself in knots and Grantaire can barely breathe past the tightness in his throat. “I can do that?”

“Well, yes.” Marius nods, not quite able to hide his relief that Grantaire’s not quite so frantic. “I’m sure someone’s set one up. If not, you certainly could. Some people even have a secretary who finds good causes for them to donate to if they’re philanthropic.”

The thought of being able to do something real and concrete to resolve even something of the situation makes Grantaire’s head spin with sudden lightness. He has enough money to do that, to do more than that.

It would be like pouring money into a car that would never run, something bitter in his head bites, and it wouldn’t do anything to fix the really, really fucked up bureaucracy of space. There’s something selfish lurking in it, too, because why should he give up that much? The incredible, implausible thing is that Grantaire can give away millions of Euros and hardly make a dent in his literally unfathomable wealth. What does it matter that Grantaire can’t possibly believe that people are good, he can hire people who can and let their bright idealism try to get money to the people who really need it, who are crushed by a system that’s made itself way too big to care for them.

“Could I set up something like that?” Grantaire hears himself asking. “Delegate to a committee or something?”

“I don’t see why not.” Marius looks thoughtful, and then finally nods. For a few moments he’s quiet and Grantaire’s sure he’s gotten lost in thought, but then he looks back up, shy and earnest. “I could help you set that up, if you want? I’ve negotiated some of those sorts of things, back, you know-”

Back when he lived with his grandfather, Grantaire fills in, and softens. It’s hard not to like Marius, with as hard as he tries and as kind, as giving as he can be, even if he is a bit of a dork. “Dude, you would make my fucking day.”

Marius smiles, lightening his whole face, and Grantaire really wishes he could talk more, but he’s so drained after the emotional hurricane that he barely remembers to get caught up on how Marius has been before he promises to send another FTL later with more details and hangs up. Exhausted and scoured empty, Grantaire tries to do anything but think about what it means to have that much capital.

This time, when he finds himself a moment free, he dials his sister Aurélie’s number and asks her, because he’s half convinced that she’ll be prime minister of France within ten years if they’ll let her and she is wonderfully diplomatic, what the best way to handle complicated reparations situations might be. Because she’s known Grantaire all his life, she seems to take it as some point of argument and offers a thoughtful answer. Then, because she’s lovely, they catch up a little and she asks if he’s okay, alone in Paris, and reminds him that she loves him. He presses the words back quietly, like they’re a talisman that will keep her safe from the political realities of who he is now, and feels calm when they hang up.

He can’t be sure if she called their brother or if it’s just the usual overprotectiveness, but when Xavier swings through town, he calls Grantaire and invites him out to lunch. For all that Grantaire spent most of his childhood being as bitterly envious as utterly adoring of them both, he’s missed both of his siblings painfully lately. He lets his easily cheerful, charismatic brother wear away his worries for an afternoon, and accepts the tight hug and murmur of affection against his curls before they part.

 

--

 

He keeps Enjolras’ words in mind though, and he’s not really surprised when Floréal, appointed emissary, shows up on his doorstep with Marius. Grantaire, whose home is always more open than his heart, pulls Marius inside and promises he can stay for the week, of course he can, and manages to procure another mattress.

“I don’t mean to impose,” Marius says, still shy, and his fingers dart a touch to his ear and its elven point. “Your planet just sounded so interesting and-”

“Hey, dude, no, I invited you,” Grantaire replies, and smiles. “I can’t show you the whole world or anything, but I think I can show you the best of Paris in a week.”

He digs out an incredibly soft, sea green hat from his armoire and settles it over Marius’ head as he kisses his cheek, and people are going to see the dark sea foam curls crashing out from under it and the handsome cliffs of his face, not the points of his ears. Marius has no cloak of loud indifference, and looks grateful for the obscurity as he follows Grantaire out into the streets.

Grantaire shows him architecture that reaches for the stars in glass and stone, the imposing halls and close cafés, the bustling markets whose sellers know Grantaire by name, the art that is inked discreetly and discretely onto Parisian streets, and Marius takes it in as wide eyed as Grantaire would be on any foreign planet. And because Grantaire can make as many jokes about airs and sleeping amongst the stars as he likes but he’s always been a sucker for seeing others happy, he calls Cosette and invites her with them.

She and Marius walk side by side, their arms tucked together like some period romance as she turns her face to him like a sunflower and he leans his spindly form close to listen, and they speak in quiet, delighted voices, like words are enough to penetrate one another’s souls.

Married and many months single, Grantaire trails behind them, and wonders what that safety and surety feels like. His hands, unlike the flowering trees, are bare.

It’s impossible not to fall into the hazy lull of springtime they embody though, and Grantaire finds himself smiling through meals to see two people he adores (fiercely, Cosette; already, Marius) sliding together so neatly without rushing ahead.

Only when the week is up and Marius is reluctantly packing up his things including delightfully touristy tchotchke, because Marius is the sort of person who thinks everyone will treasure some little memento of his travels and it’s sort of fantastic, does Grantaire realize how much he’s needed this too, how much he feels alien in the city that’s beat in his blood since he set foot on her cobblestones. A stranger in a strange land.

When they embrace, they cling to one another like a mooring and Grantaire is truly, completely glad for a cousin like this. Marius turns red, flattered, when Grantaire says as much.

It’s mutual, too, at least according to Combeferre, when they call Grantaire. At nearly three in the morning, because apparently Grantaire’s fucked up schedule syncs up well with space.

“Marius hasn’t stopped talking about you – and Cosette – since he got back,” they say, mouth curved into a smile. Combeferre has an easy smile, if a gentle one, and Grantaire’s always pleased to earn it. “Everyone will be clamoring to visit you soon.”

“They totally should,” Grantaire replies, warmed by the sentiment. “I mean, sure, I can’t squeeze all of you into my tiny apartment, but I’m sure we could work something out.”

Combeferre looks amused. “Don’t tempt me. I’ll have to send Enjolras that way to get him to take a break.”

He almost protests that, on account of the fact that Enjolras doesn’t like his politics or him, but Enjolras at least likes him enough to stand a night curled around one another for the sake of not being alone. “I’m sure there are places he’d rather vacation than Earth, but he, like all of you, is welcome.”

“We’ll keep that in mind.” Combeferre’s smile is genuine, and his eyes are warm with it. “Remember that you’re always welcome out here, too. It doesn’t always have to be so dramatic.”

He knows it, intellectually, but it still startles a smile out of Grantaire, touched that the offer still holds in the aftermath of all the drama. “I will. Thanks. What, need me out there anytime soon?”

“We might,” Combeferre admits. “Nothing concrete yet, but with all the legalities, Courfeyrac thinks you might be. Either way, you’re welcome to stay with us.”

“Noted and very much appreciated,” Grantaire replies, thinking through the months ahead. “Just, y’know, give me a heads up if you are gonna need me. My jobs are many, varied, and very flexible, but I do kind of need to let them know I’ll be gone, generally speaking.”

They promise to do so, and turn the conversation gently elsewhere. That’s the nice thing about Combeferre, they’ll happily follow along on whatever twists and turns Grantaire’s attention takes the conversation through, and will always have something interesting to contribute. It’s a nice distraction, and it finally wears Grantaire down enough that he starts yawning, which is when Combeferre diplomatically dismisses him to bed.

Too tired to do much else, Grantaire turns off the screen and shuffles down on the sofa, wrapping the blanket from the back around his shoulders and focusing on the quiet city sounds drifting into his cramped apartment. Grantaire has never slept easily, and sleeps less easily still now, in the wake of brimstone mouths before him and abysses at his back.

He dozes and he wakes, curling toward the back of his sofa in absence of a warm presence and sleeps a little better than the gaping flatness of his bed. Marius’ breathing, at least, had been a reminder of someone living and a way to time his shallow breathing.

Sleep deprivation catches him up, and Matelote frowns as she teases him about it, plying him with tea and Grantaire guesses she’d refuse him wine if he’d been drinking as much as he has in the past. Frustrated, he throws himself into his work, counting down the days until the other shoe drops.

Drop it does, with the insistent trill of an incoming message.

So maybe Grantaire's being a bit melodramatic, because it's not a bad sort of shoe drop, all things considered.

"Grantaire," Joly sings when he picks up, smile bright and big, while Bossuet and Musichetta jostle for position behind him. It breaks Grantaire’s brain a little that his translator can manage to convey both Combeferre’s ungendered pronoun and Joly’s gender-neutral masculine because French doesn’t have words for the gender concepts Joly’s people have. "Guess who's gonna be in your orbit?"

"Oh man, I don't think the whole ship could fit in my flat," Grantaire replies, affecting a troubled look before he grins at them. "When're you dropping by?"

Bossuet shrugs, hooking her chin on Joly's shoulder. "Not long. It’s only the three of us, but we’ll endeavor to be loud and picky enough for the rest!"

"Well, let me know." Grantaire has no idea what "not long" even means, because they're all kind of terrible at converting time systems. Apparently Feuilly's circadian rhythm still tries to reset to Svillmaye's sometimes and has, like, two days in everyone else's one. "I can totally give up my bed for a day or five if you need a place to crash."

"We'll be there a bit longer than that, dude," Musichetta says, her accent catching on the slang term picked up from Grantaire, and absently flicks her earring, setting it swinging. "Your Floreal's getting us set up with an apartment - I think maybe in your same building?"

He blinks at them with a horrible, dawning suspicion. "Did our intrepid leaders assign you guard duty?"

"Pretty much," Bossuet says, cheerfully.

"But it's also a vacation," Joly adds. "We need one."

Grantaire frowns as he studies them. They do look like they need a vacation - Bossuet's shoulders droop and her dazzling lively eyes have bags under them, and Musichetta has a protective hand cradling her shoulder, looking quietly frazzled at the edges herself, and Joly's smile is a little strained at the edges, brittle and tired.

And wow, he's a dick, being so wrapped up in his own problems when of course Bossuet's been having to deal with the whole Titus thing too, and the three of them probably do need a quiet, safe place to steady themselves again. Besides, no one deserves to stumble around Paris with no knowledge of Earthian or French or Parisian cultures.

"I'll buy you all a round of drinks," he promises, and maybe it comes out gentle, because all three of them look a little more at ease, like the sun burning away the clouds. "We'll make sure you fit in, too. I mean, you would totally be trend setters, but let's give you some time to work up to it."

Joly gasps, twisting in the chair to look at Musichetta and Bossuet in unabashed delight, and exclaims, like it's a well worn groove, "Apartment fashion shows."

Even light-years away, Grantaire has found his people, and is going to introduce them to Paris and to Matelote and Gibelote and to the space patterns that are all the rage, and it's going to be wonderful.

It gives him something to look forward to, and the day he comes home to find Floréal helping them set up the apartment across the hall is one of the best he’s had in a very long time. Floréal and Musichetta share a splicer’s mark in common, and adopt one another practically on sight. Joly fiddles with the radio to find music that all of them can enjoy, and Bossuet laughs as she spins about the room, half-dancing between bouts of unpacking.

He finds that he spends a lot of time in their apartment – a delightful cacophony of shiny space décor they brought with them from the Musain and the knickknacks they all seem to collect – soaking in the warm and cluttered feel of it, the colors that never seem to dizzy or overwhelm him because they’re as shining as laughter. Even with the sitcom-like shenanigans of helping his friends adjust to life on Earth, it feels like he’s settled into a familiar rhythm, like the ground has finally gone sturdy again under his weary feet.

It makes it easier to stay in contact with the rest of the crew too, whenever time and tech permits, which means that when Grantaire walks into the door to the sound of an incoming FTL one evening, he’s not thrown by it in the least.

Still sweaty and dressed from teaching dance, Grantaire barely even has time to accept, aware he looks a terrible mess with damp curls and cheeks stained red with exertion.

In perfect contrast, Enjolras is neatly arrayed, braids held to the side in a golden clip inlaid with his sigil.

“Grantaire,” he starts, and now Grantaire can hear the exhaustion and strain there. “Is this a good time?”

“It’s fine.” Grantaire leans forward a little. “Did something happen?”

Enjolras at least takes his words at face value and doesn’t ask further, just nods. “While Balem’s corporate holdings are still a matter of debate and will be for some time, the transfer of property is going well. I can act on both of our behalves as representative, but you need to personally authorize some of the distributions, which means that you will have to visit Orous. We’re happy to come pick you up, if you’d like.”

“That makes sense,” Grantaire says, though he’s not really keen on visiting the red tape maze of the human homeworld anytime soon. “I can do that, and a lift would be much appreciated. What’s the bad news?”

It must be bad, because Enjolras is quiet for a moment, his face more grave than solemn. This all must be getting to him. Grantaire’s gotten the impression that Enjolras doesn’t really like working within the system for all that he knows its ins-and-outs well enough to exploit them viciously. Cooperating and coming in such close quarters with all the legal bullshit must be taxing.

“The court processing the case against Titus wants your in-person testimony before they’ll make any judgments on putative measures or awarding damages,” Enjolras says, even quieter than normal. “Bossuet and Louison have been summoned as well, but your position means that the large part of any reparation will go to you.”

Grantaire’s head spins and he almost wants to throw up, unbalanced like space is an emptiness he’s about to be sucked into. “And if I don’t?”

Enjolras’ face hardens, and Grantaire’s very sure he’s being found wanting. “Then he’ll end up going free with ease.”

“I fuckin’ figured.” Grantaire’s hands tremble with the effort it takes not to fist them in his hair and pull. “Alright. I can do testimony. Is Kalique contesting anything, or?”

He shakes his head, still cool and distant. “She still seems to have no interest in helping Titus, especially if any of his property will be distributed to her at any point.”

Tenuous, all the same.

“And if I sue for Balem’s company? She’s his competitor, so I hear, but the added assets might be the Golden Fleece that outweighs by far the benefits of a better market position alone,” Grantaire says, his mouth twisting like some ugly wound. Bitterness runs from it. Bitterness runs in his veins. “And Balem’s other rivals! How might they profit from my errors – I’ve no head for business nor math, so my professors despaired of me.”

Untouchable, Enjolras watches him with a still face. He takes his time to pick his words, and dismisses the bulk of Grantaire’s senseless words. “It’s true she might not take it well. Courfeyrac is much more aware of how those circles move. I’ll ask him to look into it.”

“Thanks,” is all Grantaire can muster, parched of words. “How long will all this take?”

“Not more than three of your Earth days,” Enjolras says, with the care of someone who anticipated Grantaire’s unfamiliarity with their systems of time. “Your Earth” rankles, but he bites back the comment snapping behind his teeth. “We can be there anytime, really. When can you come?”

He thinks it over. There’s a job tomorrow, but he can reschedule the one on Tuesday, which leaves him three days clear. “Can you give me approximately 20 Earth hours? I can go then.”

Enjolras just nods, like Grantaire’s testimony is just one more item to tick off his list.

“So,” Grantaire says. “What’s court attire? Ermine cloaks? Powdered wigs? Shall I find myself a crown, or is that sort of ostentation frowned upon?”

Sarcasm with aliens is a really bad idea, because Enjolras takes him seriously if the frown is any indication, and Grantaire feels like a jackass. “We can provide appropriate clothes, it’s no trouble.”

“Thanks,” Grantaire mutters. He can’t do this. “I’m gonna go.”

The expression on Enjolras’ face is one that Grantaire can’t make sense of, but he nods, so Grantaire hangs up.

He's jittery the rest of the evening, unable to focus and unable to sleep. Finally, he gives up and throws off his blankets.

Generally speaking, Grantaire doesn't smoke much. Of his many vices, it's a rare indulgence, but tonight he digs out a pack of cigarettes and leans out the narrow window. The smoke that curls out into the breeze when he exhales is, at least, a reminder that he's alive, and Grantaire eventually gathers himself enough to stub the remains of it out on the stone.

He closes his eyes and breathes deeply. Paris will wait for him.

Grantaire makes the calls he needs to, leaving messages and making arrangements, and manages to snatch a meager handful of hours of rest. He powers through the day and his job, and he makes a half-hearted attempt at looking presentable before he's set to meet up with Les Amis.

When he gets to the top of the roof though, and shuts the door behind him, Enjolras is the only one there, waiting beside the faint shimmer of a small spacecraft.

Grantaire raises his eyebrows.

Enjolras brushes something that allows the ship to flicker into view. "You seemed distressed when we spoke. I thought I would offer you the chance to take care of this without seeing all of the others."

It doesn't seem a relief until the tight line of his back eases a little. Grantaire runs his hand through his hair. "I'd like to see people, just, maybe on the way back? If we can get the paperwork and testimony out of the way."

"We can do that," Enjolras agrees, and shows Grantaire into the small ship. It might be cramped, but there's enough space for him to change into the neat clothing left folded on his seat, apparently the rough equivalent of an Earth suit. Enjolras is similarly dressed, with his hair swept up and back into a high ponytail. It seems as good a place as any for Grantaire to take his cue.

"Are you sick of playing errand boy yet?" Grantaire asks as he sits down beside Enjolras.

He looks over at Grantaire, just a brief glance before steering the ship toward the small distortion of a portal suddenly in front of them. "Errand boy?"

"Well, running me around the universe, playing secretary, all that."

Enjolras shakes his head, looking thoughtful. "I'm glad the proceedings have been going as quickly as they have. Besides, I'm thankful for your help and flexibility. As our joint representative and with my background, I am doing nothing out of the ordinary."

Grantaire thinks he's being earnest.

Enjolras looks a little more like a space lawyer, if not space royalty, put together and lit up by the warm, iridescent shimmers subtly highlighting the lines of his clothes. His dark eyelashes cast fanning shadows on his cheeks. It's strange, to look at him and think that he's Grantaire's husband, that they're married. It's strange to look at him and think that they're friends, now, or something like it.

"Thank you, then," Grantaire says after a few beats too long, and Enjolras glances over to smile in response, slight but true.

It's quiet after that, but a comfortable quiet. Grantaire, still a little off balance, is grateful for it, glad that he doesn't have to try to carry a conversation when all he can feel is the cold fear of the airlock doors hissing open.

"So," Grantaire starts as they wend their way through the metal ringing Orous, cruising past lands built into the undersides of halos that look like textured globes or ant farms, "is there a set order to how we need to do things?"

Enjolras shrugs, an easy, fluid motion that suggests Grantaire's not irritated him yet. "Either order would be fine, I think. If you would prefer one to the other?"

"Paperwork first," Grantaire decides. It tumbles out of his mouth like an impulsive decision, but the thought of waiting in lines for days when all he'll want to do is run, run like cowardice is his core, is nauseating.

Ever graceful, Enjolras inclines his head, guiding them gently to dock. He murmurs something into his communications mic, likely alerting the stationmasters to their intent, before he rises and offers an arm to Grantaire.

Grantaire huffs something that might be a laugh. "I thought these were affairs of state, not arrangements of emotion."

"No," Enjolras agrees, and the faint curve of his mouth and the cant of his eyes look almost sly, almost smug, "but it never hurts for interested parties to think there's both."

It startles a bark of real laughter from Grantaire. He likes Enjolras like this, the Enjolras who has a sense of humor, who can take satisfaction in confusing the people who would put him in a box.

"When you put it that way, however could I refuse?" Grantaire sets his arm in Enjolras' and wonders how they look as they alight in the ministry's halls.

He's starting to get a sense of the way the sprawling complex is laid out, or at least a sense of the best way to read the signs even with the rapid flickering, but he lets Enjolras lead all the same.

"So, how many hours of lines do you think we've ahead of us today?" Grantaire asks, trying for light hearted.

Beside him, Enjolras considers. "Not many, I would hope. A sheave for transfers of title and a confirmation of your understanding of the current line of succession for the House of Abrasax."

"Joy," Grantaire mutters, but at least it's an excuse to avoid testimony for a while longer.

Too clever by half and not nearly as unemotional as he likes to pretend, Enjolras seems to notice, but he's at least gracious enough not to mention it. Grantaire feels a little bad for how badly he'd reacted last night, but there's no good way to bring it up again, and it makes him shift and fidget a little.

It's too easy to get lost in his thoughts, wrapped up in the strange spirals of almost panic while they wait an achingly long time. Even though it feels like it takes much too long, they do inch forward until they reach the front of the line. The clerk they speak to looks utterly bored as they ask Grantaire for his identification, and he tugs up his sleeve to show and verify his sigil.

"Your majesty," the clerk says blandly, "please step this way. An advocate will be with you momentarily."

"Thank you," Grantaire replies and bows, enough to indicate respect but not enough to seem mocking, and it surprises the bland clerk into smiling and bowing back at the waist before calling past them to the next in line.

As they step around the gate, Enjolras is giving him a strange look.

"What?" Grantaire asks, tilting his head. "Too much?"

"No, nothing," Enjolras murmurs, and he smiles - a subdued, lovely thing. "You were fine."

The advocate approaches and introduces herself before leading them back to her tiny, cramped office. She's no nonsense at her job, but there's something like a picture hung lovingly on her wall, a flowering forest of frost on some faraway planet, that reminds Grantaire of Jehan.

She has him has him review the distribution procedures and authenticate the sheave Enjolras already put together for his acceptance of his part of the inheritance. It is, strangely, that easy.

Grantaire wonders how many people have to travel all the way to this congested, straining planet, spending more than they have to spare, to file something as quick and simple as this. Even in space, there must be a better way to do things, because the thought is painfully fucking ridiculous.

"Thank you," he tells the advocate as she shows them out into the industrial hallway. "I like your picture, by the way. Where is it from?"

"It's the forest on Xergla," she says. "I hear it's amazing to see in person."

"I hope you can, someday," Grantaire replies sincerely, even though he knows that the sorts of dreams that perch on walls are the ones more distant than the stars, that hoping to achieve them is akin to hoping to wear the moon on a necklace.

The advocate, though, smiles and softens a little, so very much like Jehan. "Thank you - I hope so too."

She's called back into the office then, but bobs a bow to them both.

It's not much, but Grantaire's stomach churns less with dread as Enjolras starts walking toward the quickest transport to the Aegis' station.

"Do you do that often?" Enjolras asks, sudden question neither accusatory nor annoyed.

Grantaire shrugs. "I guess? To hell with the human race, but people are always fascinating. Don't tell me you think it was unbefitting, since I know you think the whole conduct and class stratification idea is a crock of shit."

Enjolras blinks, and in the shitty, universally terrible lighting of government buildings, he looks starkly young again. "I don't agree with that ideology, no. It just... never occurs to me to ask. I would be afraid to infringe on privacy."

At first, Grantaire wants to bristle, but even he can tell that it's not meant as a critique or an attack. It is, to Enjolras, the unvarnished truth. He doesn't look discomfited, but Grantaire wonders if perhaps it's only in formal settings or among close friends that Enjolras has his easy command and confidence, that casual communication doesn't come easily to him. It's a strange thought, when Enjolras so often seems effortless.

"I'm too curious for my own good," Grantaire tells him cheerfully enough. "There's a saying in one of Earth's languages: curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back. Between a cat's nine lives, me, and Seraphi, I feel there's a wealth of jokes to be made, but Courfeyrac's much more a cat than I."

"I'll defer to you there," Enjolras says. Or possibly 'de-fur,' the asshole, but Grantaire may just be hearing puns no matter where he goes. "The amount of feline DNA possessed by Courfeyrac is a matter of frequent debate, I will give you that."

Grantaire can't help laughing at that, because he fucking loves these people and their horrible senses of humor, and he can just see them lounging about the Musain having a heated debate and clever puns about just how much of a cat their friend might be. It's a rather delightful image, and he misses them all so badly it pulls the ache up through the hollows of his bone to sit heavy on his chest.

They eventually get to the Aegis command center. It's dull, even with all the tech, in the way of police generally.

"As you probably know, my husband," Grantaire says, unable to stop himself from saying and giving away too much again, "I've no talent for wooing. Will I have to muster the charm to court a court? I fear I'm much more a jester or some irreverent troubadour than an honest and well kept witness."

Enjolras shakes his head. "I'm not sure what the process is in- France?"

He hesitates over the name, but Grantaire's touched that he's remembered even that much and nods a confirmation.

"In France," Enjolras repeats with more confidence, "but you don't have to actually appear in a courtroom, for a case like this. They tend to go on for long enough that the court prefers to have all testimony on a verified record. You'll have to speak with an Aegis officer, but Captain Tsing told me she's done her best to arrange for you to speak with someone more used to working with people from planets unaware of our existence."

"Tersies is that bad a word, huh?"

"Feuilly makes a compelling case for its problems, enough that I tend to avoid it," Enjolras answers, even though he can't meet many people to whom it’d be applicable.

Still, he nods. "Fair enough. So I just have a recorded interview?"

"Essentially." Enjolras is quiet a moment, and he lays his free hand on top of Grantaire's as they walk arm in arm. It's strangely comforting, especially since they're seeing more people in the halls and can't talk quite as openly. "I'll be waiting in the lobby in accordance with regulation, but if something, if anything goes wrong, or the officer speaking to you is in violation of code and conduct, come get me."

Grantaire blinks, not expecting anything like that. Enjolras doesn't seem to think that anything will go wrong, but then, he supposes it makes sense that someone so unhappy with the system is skeptical of its foot soldiers, even as he'll use the law to his advantage. "You sure do know how to make someone feel special."

"You're a friend, Grantaire." Enjolras speaks in an undertone, but he sounds sincere. "It is the absolute least I can offer."

Maybe it's not a surprise, but it still takes Grantaire as a shock to hear Enjolras say it so openly and so earnestly. After all this time, and the way they speak easily as often as they do, yes, they're friends.

"I'll try my best not to need to," Grantaire says, and briefly tightens his hand on Enjolras' arm in lieu of thanks.

Then they're at Testimonies and Statements, and the officer in charge quickly and efficiently whisks Grantaire off to a small, cubical style room. It’s plain, on the edge of industrial, and there are sleek electronics set up to record in full detail. His statement will play out like a three-wall play, and Grantaire feels edgier than the blade of a knife. The agent across from him, eyes abyssal black, seems as sharp as one. Grantaire’s mouth is dry.

Except when he's prompted to talk, the words come spilling easily out of his mouth. They blur, in the aftermath, but he knows he ended up relating what happened with Titus like it's any bit of trivia that's stuck in his brain, and that he included the details about Bossuet and the code and conduct violations he can identify after studying the guide. They offer to let him take a break at several points, but Grantaire isn’t tired and can speak for hours if provided with something to drink. He wonders absently if they’re timing it.

It's a strange sensation of remembering in hyper-realistic detail and everything being a fog, and despite the pleasantries on the part of the officer, he feels like he stumbles back out into the lobby, exhausted.

He manages to reply to all the conversational prompts and even musters a smile when informed that his statement should be sufficient. If they need him, they say, they'll send a FTL or have the local marshal get in touch. Floréal, it would have been so much easier to relate everything to Floréal, framed as a conversation. Grantaire just nods in reply, mechanical, and misses even Paris’ polluted air.

 

--

 

When Grantaire finally emerges, Enjolras is still waiting in the lobby. He looks a little rumpled for the wait, the fabric of his coat a faintly lined from sitting and his ponytail slightly askew, and subtle as it is, it still makes him seem a little more real.

In a tick, he's crossed over to Grantaire, fingers brushing his elbow. Grantaire's not sure if it's a move to emotionally, or physically, steady him or if it's part of the charade. The warmth is welcome either way, as is the concern writ deep in Enjolras' dark brown eyes. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah." Grantaire's mouth trips up in a smile, his muscles lagging and his voice rough as he speaks, throat dry from so much speaking. "Fuck, I need a drink and somewhere quiet. Who knew working with the police could be so exhausting?"

Enjolras huffs a quiet breath of laughter, still close to Grantaire’s side. “Those can be arranged. Since this took less time than anticipated, you’re welcome to come back with me for a day if you’d like. The others will want to see you, but they certainly aren’t quiet.”

“You just want to trick me into spending more time with the in-laws,” Grantaire quips. “It’s gonna backfire, they’ll be inexplicably charmed and I’ll ask them for your baby photos.”

“They already like you,” Enjolras replies dryly, steering Grantaire out into the halls with his usual pragmatism. Then, “Though if you’re uncomfortable -”

“No,” Grantaire protests, with a chafing shiver of guilt. The last thing he wants is to make Enjolras regret the kindly offered hospitality. “No, sorry, I’m just being an asshole. That’s the shitty part about being friends with me- I lose all my filters. That’d be nice, thank you.”

The lines of Enjolras’ face are too perceptive, but beyond a raised eyebrow, he doesn’t reply. Grantaire wonders if he’s thinking back to when they first met, to the stilted conversations and the palpable aura of disdain radiating from Enjolras.

“So,” Grantaire says, incapable of silence. “Catch me up on everyone.”

Enjolras doesn’t point out that this contradicts his previous request for quiet and instead tells Grantaire what he hasn’t heard since he last caught up with the rest of them. In return, he gives a raspy but spirited rendition of Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta’s latest adventure in Earth cultures and fashion. It has Enjolras smiling at least, amused at his friends because he’s always fond of his friends, until they end up descending into the atmosphere of Enjolras’ family’s planet.

The view, now into the planet’s autumn, is still gorgeous, and Grantaire doesn’t think he’ll ever tire of this feeling. Rather than making for the large, open landing pad though, Enjolras carefully maneuvers them down into what must be the equivalent of a hanger.

“I notified my parents of our approach, but also that we needed no formal welcome,” Enjolras explains as the engines drift down into silence. He opens the hatch to let them out, making a quiet noise of discontent as he stretches out his legs. “They seemed to put you on your guard, last time.”

“Well, no shit,” Grantaire says, following him and arching his back when his body complains of the extended time in cramped spaces. “Marriage of convenience or no, it’s always intimidating to meet the parents, particularly when they’re space aristocracy.”

Enjolras’ mouth twitches. “You’re space aristocracy too, and equal in position when your petition goes through, Abrasax sovereign.”

“Backwater Earth boy,” Grantaire points out. “Let me tell you, back there I am far from anything close to power. Also, my country beheaded the aristocracy a couple centuries ago.”

“I hate to think what they’d do to the ruler of Earth.” Enjolras’ tone is dry, but then settles into a more sincere contemplation. “I’ve always thought Republicanism an admirable goal, if limited. All people should be free and equal, no matter the makeup of their genes.”

“I’ll drink to that.” Grantaire thinks he sounds weary. “It’s just a question of how to make it happen.”

Enjolras’ dark eyes study Grantaire’s face, penetrating. “I think securing the Earth’s opportunity to discover that is a step in the right direction, at least.”

Grantaire shrugs, uncomfortable, not wanting to explain to this idealistic, admirable man how inherently selfish his actions always are.

“About that drink, then?” Enjolras offers, because he may be stern and resolute, but he’s not unkind, and Grantaire nods.

They make their way to Enjolras’ rooms and though the invitation is freely given, Grantaire feels he is trespassing in some inner sanctum. As fine as the suite he was given was, it is clear that this room belongs to a member of the household and that Enjolras has molded it to a space all his own. The grey stone walls are the same, somewhere between cobblestone and mosaic, but the room is draped in deep blues, cool and comforting like the water fountain that adds a soft, white noise to the wind passing warmly over the balcony and windows.

“I don’t really drink alcohol,” Enjolras says, either not noticing or ignoring Grantaire studying his room, instead crossing to a cabinet and withdrawing a bottle. “I never developed a taste for it, but if you’d rather that, I can find some…?”

“That’s fine.” Grantaire, in truth, could use the alcohol, but he’ll take anything to soothe his parched throat, especially if it means not ruining this strange equilibrium between them. “Thank you.”

Enjolras just nods, returning to the table in the corner of the room to pour drinks. He lets Grantaire take his pick when they’re both seated.

Grantaire takes a glass, finding it cool to the touch and smelling of something almost sharp. Cautious, he takes a sip. It’s sweet and rich, almost like hazelnut, with something like light citrus and anise, and warms him through. A bit too sweet for his tastes, but it’s more than made up for by the delightful fact that Enjolras has a sweet tooth.

“It’s good,” he tells the other man, because it is.

“I’m glad you approve.” Enjolras looks down into his glass, quiet for long moments. “I hope I don’t overstep my bounds, but how are you? Really?”

The question takes him aback, but Grantaire considers it fully before he answers.

“I’m alright,” he says, and it’s the truth. He didn’t lose himself in memory, and that’s all that can be asked. “I thought it would be worse than it was, really. Nice thing about pessimism is that you get to be pleasantly surprised on rare occasions.”

There’s a polite skepticism to Enjolras’ gaze. “You weren’t happy about doing it.”

“I wasn’t.” That’s the terrible thing about idealists, Grantaire thinks. Or at least the terrible thing about Enjolras, who wants to know why Grantaire does things and keeps trying to ascribe him nobler motives than he could ever lay claim to. “Didn’t really want to account my lack of political savvy nearly costing Bossuet her life. Didn’t want them deciding it was all my fault because I’m an ignorant asshole.”

There. Honesty, laid bare, but Enjolras doesn’t regain the pinched, judgmental look from months before.

“Ignorance still doesn’t excuse the perpetrator of the crime,” Enjolras says with finality. Then he pauses, softens slightly and awkwardly makes a gesture with his free hand. “I apologize, you didn’t ask for a drink to be pestered with questions. If you’d care for a distraction or to be left alone, I’ll do either.”

Grantaire shakes his head, hard, wonders why this is so much more difficult than the aftermath of Jupiter, when they understood one another as instinctively as magnets. “I don’t need a distraction from the bad so much as I’d rather think of something good.”

Again, Enjolras goes silent, eyes still on Grantaire, until something shifts and settles in his expression like he’s come to a decision.

“If you’d like conversation, I’m happy to offer it,” Enjolras says, but then he holds out one elegant hand, dark fingers perfectly carved. “If you’d like to join me in bed for the night, I’d welcome you freely.”

At first, Grantaire takes it as an offer to repeat the shared sleep in the wake of catastrophe, but Enjolras’ extended hand makes no sense in that context, and he puzzles over it. It takes an absurdly, embarrassingly long time to realize what the other possibility might be.

“Do you mean sleep in the same bed or have sex?” Grantaire asks, hesitating to give voice to it in case he offends Enjolras, but well aware that a miscommunication would be entirely too possible.

“I meant the second, but the offer stands for either or for both,” Enjolras replies, sounding calm, even though it must have cost him something, as private and reserved as he is. But Enjolras, as far as Grantaire can tell, believes that love is made up of actions, and he believes that Enjolras is offering freely and sincerely.

Some of Grantaire’s best friendships have had turns like this, and the company would be welcome tonight. Not to make him feel real or human again, but to feel warmth in his bones.

He smiles and reaches to clasp Enjolras’ hand, finding it warm and smooth against his own. “I’d be happy to join you. Gotta ask, though, what do you have in terms of birth control and protection against diseases? Not that I don’t trust you, but different planets and all that.”

Enjolras nods firmly, because he probably prefers forthrightness in matters like these, and sets his glass down on the table. “I have an implant that takes care of birth control. As for the other, there’s a fast-acting preventative tablet. There are other options, of course, but that seems the most expedient and relevant.”

“Sounds good,” Grantaire says, because he didn’t bring condoms to space and trusts that Enjolras is being truthful. “I’ll get Joly to give me the basics later.”

“Joly is good at that,” Enjolras agrees. He pauses, tilting his head a little. “First, though, may I kiss you?”

Grantaire squeezes the hand he’s still holding, and feels his heart speed, because Enjolras is lovely and this thrill between them is charged and comfortable all at once. His throat feels dry. “Yeah.”

Enjolras fits his hand to Grantaire’s jaw before he leans in and kisses him, mouth soft and full against Grantaire’s. It’s not quite fierce, but not tender either, and Grantaire is happy to kiss him back, to yield to it as Enjolras draws him closer. His touch is electric, lightning bringing light to humanity, and Grantaire already burns beneath it.

When they part, Enjolras’ teeth catch Grantaire’s lower lip, only the hint of a touch, but it makes him shudder. Enjolras looks pleased, a faint flush to his high cheeks and his eyes intent.

“Just a moment,” Enjolras murmurs, and he kisses Grantaire’s cheek, friendly and familiar, before he rises to fetch the previously mentioned tablets. Grantaire suspects that the gesture was picked up from Courfeyrac or Combeferre, and thinks it’s more endearing than anything else.

When Enjolras returns, Grantaire accepts the little pill and swallows it down with the rest of his drink. Enjolras, who is apparently superhuman, has no problem swallowing it dry.

“Come kiss me again?” Grantaire dares, committed to this now.

Enjolras acquiesces, his hair a beautiful fall over his shoulder as he bends down. He kisses Grantaire even as he draws him to his feet, his mouth hot and searching, insistent but not demanding, and Grantaire allows himself to be pulled, allows himself to follow the current of the kiss. They stumble, entangled, to the bed, which turns out to be almost ridiculously soft and piled high with blankets and throws.

Grantaire’s hands curl around Enjolras’ shoulders, keeping him close as they kiss, deep and exploratory, celestial. Enjolras presses Grantaire into the blankets even as he pulls back enough to trail kisses along the soft curve of his jaw, not quite nipping at the soft skin below Grantaire’s ear.

Slowly, intently, they divest one another of clothing between kisses, the easy back and forth of touch. Enjolras doesn’t falter at the scars that decorate Grantaire’s skin, nor the curves over his muscle. He only pauses, briefly, at the binder, and that only long enough to rest his fingers at the edge of it in voiceless inquiry. When Grantaire nods, Enjolras helps him free of that as well, pressing a kiss to Grantaire’s collarbone and smiling there as Grantaire sighs in relief.

Beds are one of the few places where his mouth doesn’t run away with him, and Grantaire draws Enjolras back up to learn to kiss him better, letting his fingers skitter down the line of Enjolras’ spine before setting to work undoing his trousers.

Enjolras, bare, is a glory to look on, all smooth lines despite the lingering softness of his body, light turning to glowing amber where it meets his skin. His spine is a superb arc, his ass divine, and the sweep of his throat graceful. His soft mouth is parted ever-so-slightly with want and his eyes are dark and heavy as surveys the lay of Grantaire’s body with pleased consideration.

“What would you like?” Enjolras asks, a conscientious lover, as he strokes a hand along the curve of Grantaire’s waist. “I don’t want to assume.”

Grantaire gives himself over freely in their marriage bed – it’s easy, when they’re friends. He’s not fragile, exactly, but the depth of trust and comfort needed for penetration isn’t something he can manage. “I’m not really up for penetration.”

He’s not sure how confidently it comes out, but Enjolras only nods, taking it into account without the interest in his eyes dimming. “Then how?”

In response, Grantaire nudges him back and rolls over on his knees, letting his hands catch the headboard so that his back slopes artfully. “If it’s a war we’re fighting, then I think it best to go in the manner of the Greeks, if you’ve any willingness to fuck my thighs.”

“The Greeks?” Enjolras asks, kissing between Grantaire’s shoulder blades as he places his hand on Grantaire’s hip. It’s not an objection, not with the way he reaches with his free hand for what must be lubrication.

“Mm-hm.” Grantaire watches Enjolras over his shoulder, the way he pools the lubricant in his hand in preparation, the stiffness of his erection. Fuck, but he has an exquisite dick. Grantaire wants his mouth on it, wants so badly to suck him off, but he’s meant to be explaining and regretfully yanks himself away from contemplating exactly what he could do. “A country on Earth. Your statues remind me of theirs. Thousands of years ago, when it was a collection of city states, some of them encouraged soldiers to sleep together for bonds of unity and devotion. There are other traditions as well, ones I’m sure you’d find less savory. But, for like reasons, this was the method preferred for sex between men.”

Enjolras makes a thoughtful noise, and his kiss to the small of Grantaire’s back is a warning before his hands go to Grantaire’s spread thighs. The lubricant is thick and slick, warmer than Grantaire is used to, and he’s all tight with anticipation as he shifts to bring his thighs together.

“Like the Greeks, then,” Enjolras murmurs as he presses his slick cock between Grantaire’s thighs, and the gorgeous pressure of it makes him drop his head down between his arms.

It's been a while since he's been in the mood for sex, and this, Enjolras' warm body against his own, the weight and length of his cock pressed against Grantaire, reminds of how much he's missed it, how much he desires this.

Enjolras' breath is a shaky exhale against the back of Grantaire's neck, and his hips stutter before he finds a rhythm, and he makes a sweet little noise in the back of his throat when Grantaire clenches his thighs just that much tighter.

Grantaire rocks back into it, wanting. Their angles are off until they aren't, and every glide of Enjolras' cock against him is ambrosial friction, slick and wet and hot and Grantaire is ignited, incinerated, ablaze, pleasure sparked higher by Enjolras' quiet sounds and his hands stroking, stoking bare skin.

It's better still for the fact that Enjolras kisses the side of Grantaire's neck, pressing open-mouthed, searing heat to delicate skin, that he raises a blood bruise on Grantaire's shoulder. It's an overwhelming rush of sensation, the way they discover how best to fit together.

And, fuck, but space lubricants must be something amazing, or Grantaire is just that wet, because even when Enjolras speeds his hips it's smooth and easy, and Grantaire can't help bowing his back, gasping as he seeks just that much more.

"Is this alright?" Enjolras murmurs before his teeth catch on the shell of Grantaire's ear.

"Fuck, yes," Grantaire manages to choke out, breathless because Enjolras moves his wicked hands from Grantaire's skin to hold onto the headboard as well, and Enjolras' body curves to Grantaire's own, sealing them together as they move.

At this new angle, Enjolras' cock slides teasingly between Grantaire's thighs, a hard pressure against his cunt and just barely teasing at his clit, not quite enough to be satisfying, and Grantaire lets out a soft, needy sound.

He gathers himself enough to turn his head, curls damp as they cling to his skin. Enjolras, though, glows with it, exertion brushing his cheeks darker and his mouth full, his hair hanging long and spilling over his shoulders, his eyes fathomless galaxies of want.

"Good?" Grantaire manages to ask all the same.

"Yes." Enjolras' voice is strained and soft, tight with self-control. "I'm almost-"

His thought gets lost, words trailing off into a throaty, full moan that sends shivers down Grantaire's spine.

Grantaire lets the abrupt clench of his thighs relax and gives Enjolras a breathless grin when he sighs at the loss. "Go ahead."

Enjolras doesn't look at all amused, but when he bows his head, he leans down to kiss Grantaire's shoulders as he quickens the roll of his hips, a glorious string of half-formed sounds falling from his lips almost against Grantaire's ear. When he comes with a soft cry, it's over the back of Grantaire's thighs rather than between them.

The consideration would please Grantaire already, but the weight of Enjolras, satisfied and supple against his back, close enough that Grantaire feels the racing of his heart and breath like it surrounds him, is something sweeter still.

"Can I help you?" Enjolras asks, a genuine question rather than looking for an out, and he shifts his weight off of Grantaire - a mournful loss.

"Yeah, if you don't mind," Grantaire replies, because he is aching for want of touch, all of him crying out for something to bring him that much closer.

Every time Grantaire starts to forget Enjolras' athleticism, Enjolras seems to prove him wrong, now fitting an arm around Grantaire's waist to pull him up and back so that he's seated in Enjolras' lap, his back pressed against Enjolras' chest and his softening cock.

"Like this?" he asks, careless of the stickiness coating Grantaire's thighs, one strong hand resting on Grantaire's knee. Normally so quiet, in bed he is comprised of questions.

Grantaire doesn't hesitate, just nods and relaxes into Enjolras' hold. "This is good."

He spreads his thighs, which are trembling from the tightness of before, and sighs when Enjolras' long, clever fingers slide over his stomach and down. If Enjolras has never done this before, it doesn't show, or his determination makes up for it, because his fingers slip over the rise of Grantaire's clit, such a shock after so much teasing that Grantaire drops his head back and swears.

"Little lighter," is all he has to say when Enjolras' touch gets too firm and Enjolras, responsive, complies.

Grantaire’s chest aches, too, and he shifts enough that he can bring his hands up, thumbs and forefingers teasing over his nipples. Grantaire is expansive, weightless and heavy all at once as he tries to press into Enjolras' hand and into his own, biting his lip to keep quiet as he gets so very near.

Enjolras' free hand, a surprise, given that it had just been at Grantaire's hip, touches his in silent question, and Grantaire relinquishes his nipple to Enjolras' skilled mercy.

Grantaire isn't prepared, long moments later, for the sudden pinch at his nipple and Enjolras' mouth a bright, hot pleasure at the point of his pulse at the same time his fingers press just right and it sends him toppling into an orgasm that shakes him.

Whining a little as he comes down from it, he swats at Enjolras' hand – immediately and graciously withdrawn – even as he unthinkingly turns his head against Enjolras' jaw.

"This was an excellent idea," Grantaire declaims, voice husky and gratified. Behind him, Enjolras is warm and sturdy.

Enjolras hums an agreement, sounding insufferably smug, but Grantaire is much too pleased to give him grief for that just yet.

Grantaire, in fact, is still trembling a little when they move and he goes to clean off his thighs, suffused with contentment. When he wanders back in from the attached bathroom, passing Enjolras on the way, Enjolras has folded down the many covers of his plush bed, an invitation to stay.

It's easy to pull on underwear and a shirt and climb in rather than wandering off to find his own room, and Grantaire's eyes drift half closed as soon as he lays his head on the pillow. He doesn’t fall asleep, but he’s resting on a cushion of endorphins and oxytocin, feeling steady and quiet.

When Enjolras slips into bed on the other side, Grantaire feels the weight shift and opens his eyes to look at him. Enjolras looks mostly content, a little pinch between his brows as he looks at Grantaire while they face one another under the covers in the dim lighting.

"Are you comfortable?" Enjolras asks, his fingers just brushing Grantaire's hand.

Grantaire nods and shoots him an easy, languid smile. "Yes. Thank you."

"Thank you," Enjolras responds, and it's natural and easy as they drift into silence and to rest, separate but curved toward one another under the soothing weight of the covers.

Grantaire wakes in the morning, dreamless. They've shifted in their sleep and he's curled around Enjolras' back, an arm slung around his liquid waist. It feels somehow more intimate than the sex had, so he's careful in untangling them.

Enjolras doesn't even stir as Grantaire extracts himself from the bed, awake not long after dawn by the look of the horizon visible faintly through the light, airy curtains by the balcony. He knows himself well enough to know that he won't be able to fall back asleep, though.

Carefully, he tiptoes into the bathroom to wash up and dress. In the morning, less hazy, he can appreciate the quiet lavishness of it, the way that it's clearly designed to be a retreat and a sanctuary. The clean, quiet lines of it must appeal to Enjolras, even if the lushness does not.

It's a far cry, certainly, from the cramped, ancient porcelain in Grantaire's flat. The thought that he has enough money to make this sort of thing for himself still kind of sets his head spinning. Instead, he pushes the thought aside and pulls on yesterday's clothes as neatly as he can, though he's sure he doesn't look half presentable.

When he slips back into the bedroom, Enjolras still seems dead to the world, his face mashed into his pillow and his hair curtaining the rest, and there's a small array of food arranged on the table that definitely wasn't there when Grantaire stepped out.

He steps closer to take account, and sees something that looks like tea and smells more of lilies – a little spicy and rich – as well as some sort of pale, steaming broth and a sweet, eggy looking bread with cream and honey beside. His famished stomach aches, but there's still no sign of where it came from, and Grantaire, despite himself, can't trust the constant monitoring of the chamber presences. He hesitates.

"Someone brought it in," Enjolras mumbles from behind him, levering himself up from the bed and stifling a yawn. "I'm always up around this hour."

"Then I won't feel a bit of guilt if I woke you," Grantaire says cheerfully, voice rough and raspy from the day before. "I will feel very disgruntled if I missed the household gossip."

Enjolras snorts, dragging his hair back from his face and rising to join Grantaire at the table. Behind him, a pale blue glow rises and tugs the sheets and blankets all back into order before fading. "I'll do my best to catch you up, then."

Unsurprisingly, Enjolras is terrible at gossip, or takes it as a euphemism for a general status update, because it tells him nothing about how anyone he knows here is really doing. Grantaire does learn, though, that Éponine's shy younger sister, Azelma, is now part of the household, somewhere between a ward and a lady in waiting, while their younger brother, Gavroche, has smoothly inserted himself in the Musain and refuses to consider being anywhere else.

Amazingly, it's not awkward at all, and other than the inclusion of breakfast, Grantaire feels strangely like they're catching up over FTL like they do every so often, and it's a warm, welcome feeling. There's a lump in his throat that he doesn't know what to do with, so he just drinks more of his tea and closes his eyes to savor the flavor. Even when Enjolras excuses himself to clean up and dress properly, Grantaire feels only a little like he's intruding on a private space, but the quiet and the calm make everything that happened the day before seem a far and distant dream.

It still feels like a dream, but space always does, and it's a more pleasant sort of dreamy when they stop by Les Amis' ship and Grantaire is whirled through hugs and chatter and has things for him and for Joly and Bossuet and Musichetta pressed into his hands all the way back to Earth. Louison’s turned her hair a cool purple fading into lavender grey, and Feuilly has orange mourning braids woven into his, and Courfeyrac rubs his face against Grantaire’s shirt like a cat, and he’s missed them all so much.

Éponine introduces him to Gavroche, who eyes Grantaire with high-handed suspicion until he grins and darts off in search of Bahorel - lately his hero, to hear Éponine tell - with barely a word.

"He seems like a good kid," Grantaire tells her. Gavroche is a kid who will have a chance to be a kid, and that's all that can be asked in the worlds they live in. "I didn't get a chance to meet Azelma, but sources say she's cunning and a fast learner."

"They're both good," Éponine says firmly, and her magpie eyes glitter in the light, proud and fierce. She doesn't say, outright, that the money from selling Kalique's payment went to fetching her siblings from their parents, but he kind of gets that impression all the same.

It's definitely worth being kidnapped.

"So," Grantaire starts, instead of telling her that, leaning on the wall beside her. "Are you actually sticking around here? Or can I seduce you off to Earth?"

Éponine snorts, looks affectionate. "I'm mostly staying around, but if something shiny tosses itself across my path, I'll chase it down. Besides, then I'd have no excuse to come around without notice."

Grantaire laughs, drawing the attention of the rest of them enough that they get pulled back into the bigger conversation. He's in better spirits, coaxed to something like normal by the time they stop lingering and portal close to Earth.

Everything he's been given is neatly tucked into a bag borrowed from (and packed by) Combeferre, and he lingers in the last round of hugs. Enjolras waits for him by the descent deck.

"Will you be okay?" Enjolras asks, reaching out to touch Grantaire's shoulder with quiet concern. "Or, well, I guess I mean- if you aren't, or if you just want to talk, send me an FTL."

A little surprised and taken aback by the offer, even though he knows that Enjolras doesn't dislike him and that they are friends, Grantaire blinks at him a few times, something cutting snapping to the tip of his tongue.

He lets himself soften, more easily than he used to, and smiles.

"Thanks, Enjolras," Grantaire finally says, and rises up to kiss him sweetly, barely more than brushing his lips. "You too, yeah?"

Enjolras' answering nod is slight, as his smile, but his thumb brushes briefly over Grantaire's arm before he takes his hand back. "I will. And thank you."

"Anytime, dude," he replies with a grin and a tossed off salute. "But I have three anxious astronauts pining after me and I need to bribe them back to good spirits with dinner."

"Of course." Enjolras actually looks amused, trying to suppress it and failing. Or Grantaire's just learning better how to tell. "Pass on all our love to them."

"Will do," he promises, something he can actually deliver. "See you around."

And with that, he's sent floating back down to the roof of his building. Paris, this time, seems to welcome him home, the bright points of streetlamps and the damp glow of the windows guiding him back to solid ground.

Grantaire has the copied key out to unlock the door to the stairwell, but he gives himself long minutes to look out over the city he loves and let it settle back into his bones. The cold starts to bite at him, eventually. He takes a deep breath, turns, and goes inside.

Even though it's late, Musichetta pokes her head out of their door and invites Grantaire into their apartment. Not even sparing a thought for his own lonely apartment and bed, he accepts and is pulled into their huddle on the couch.

The three of them are so easily tactile with one another that it doesn't even feel weird to relax into it, passing around gifts and requested items from the crew of the Musain, which are exclaimed over with delight.

"Really not sure why they delegated such an unreliable messenger," Grantaire tells them, half apologetic. "They could have just had you up. I'm sure I can't convey the full ferocity of the hugs Bahorel told me to pass on."

"Because they thought you needed to get home and sleep and take care of yourself," Joly says cheerfully, reaching up to pat Grantaire's face several times. "We'd have kept the party going all night and day, and we'd never reach the Corinthe in time for brunch."

Grantaire blinks at him, frowning a little. "Well, that's bullshit. It's not like they're here every day. They should have seen you."

"Excuse you, now we have a better excuse to get them here for vacations," Bossuet says, perking at the prospect. "Imagine the bets we can have! Besides, you're our very favorite."

"So we're very glad that they all want to take such good care of you too," Musichetta finishes in a gentle tone that nevertheless leaves no room at all for argument.

Joly snuggles up to Grantaire's side. "Okay?"

"You're my very favorites too," Grantaire tells him instead, and that gets him a kiss on either cheek.

"Besides!" Musichetta leans around Bossuet to see them better. "We've got shenanigans to tell you about!"

"Regale me," Grantaire says, and listens to Joly's adventures in the library stacks, and Musichetta's brand new card tricks, and how Bossuet completely accidentally ended up with a job pet sitting a parrot that'd taken a liking to her. They've also discovered another ten movies for the Netflix queue, and Grantaire has somehow promised to make a quiche over the weekend, and Joly's nimble fingers idly teasing his curls is a welcome touch.

Then, because it's late, like ‘sun's up in a few hours’ late, they find themselves trapped in a circle of yawning. If laughter's contagious in their group, yawns are just as bad. Grantaire's half tempted to just fall asleep on their couch and deal with the aching back later.

"Come to bed with us?" Musichetta suggests with the gentleness of a down duvet, while Bossuet, who's tumbled to her feet, offers him and Joly her hands. Joly looks over at Grantaire with a warm, encouraging smile.

He loves them, these people who so instinctively understand him, who he so instinctively understands. Grantaire takes her hand and nods.

When he wakes up in the morning, tangled up in them and face mashed against the back of Bossuet's shoulder, Grantaire indulges in slowly surfacing, basking in the shared warmth and the slight sounds of Musichetta's buzzing snore that sounds more kittenish than beelike.

At length, they all do finally manage to drag themselves out of the comfort of bed, and then they go get brunch at the Corinthe, where Matelote makes Grantaire promise to call her later to make plans.

For all that Musichetta, Bossuet, and Joly are supposedly there for Grantaire's protection, it seems like between their apartment and Grantaire's recent visit, it's more an excuse for various members of Les Amis to come by Earth.

Courfeyrac is first, and insists on staying on their couch even though Grantaire's (regrettably) is less likely to have spontaneous glitter events and enthusiastic sex. He does spend a lot of time with Cosette though, which means that Marius probably factors into the whole situation. Somehow, he usually does, and he’s even more Grantaire’s favorite lately than usual, because when one of Kalique’s counselors applied to be on Grantaire’s Give People Money committee, theoretically as a peace offering but actually incredibly unsettling, Marius somehow managed to politely and tactfully turn him away with no political incidents. Courfeyrac and Cosette seem to get along fabulously between themselves as well, so Grantaire will count it a win.

Feuilly comes next, and he happily takes Grantaire's couch for the (relative) quiet, and they spend hours eating cheese and fruit late in the night as they talk. Feuilly, patient and with embers of anger still burning at his heart's hearth, is good to talk to, and Grantaire is surprised at how well they relate to one another. One day, while they're out in the bustling city, Feuilly sees a fan painted with a whimsically colored bird and eyes it with such wistfulness that Grantaire sneaks back to buy it and ends up shoving it in Feuilly's bag when he's not paying attention.

Even Bahorel and Quill swing by, though they (possibly wisely) opt for a hotel with a lovely view. Bahorel has some sort of disguising device that is probably very expensive and somehow manages to make him look like a tall, broad-shouldered man with a dark mane of hair and a bright grin rather than a giant lizard, and he takes to Paris like a duck to water, delighting in fights and fashion. Quill seems to enjoy herself just as well, preening when someone takes her mark for a tattoo and asks how she did her hair to get the effect made by the quills spread through.

None of them treat it like any big deal to come around, and maybe that's why it's on Grantaire's mind when Enjolras calls.

"You look rough," Grantaire comments as they're talking over the FTL.

Enjolras usually wears his hair down when he's relaxed and unbusy, but in spite of that, today his mouth is pulled into a deeper frown and his look is a little pinched. He looks exhausted, not quite slouched but slumped forward slightly onto his desk. There's a crispness that he lacks.

"It's been hectic," Enjolras allows, subdued. He covers his eyes with his hand for a moment before sighing and sitting back in his chair. "We've been busy. I am tired."

Grantaire doesn't even really hesitate before he offers. Enjolras is a friend, and it doesn't even feel too strange to suggest. "You should take a break. Come see Paris for a week or something."

Astonishingly, Enjolras doesn't reject it out of hand. He actually looks almost regretful as he shakes his head. "It wouldn't be fair to everyone else for me to disappear."

"Uh-huh." Grantaire doesn't actually doubt that Enjolras is important, but there's such a thing as taking it too far, and so he arches an eyebrow. "And when's the last time you actually took a vacation? Like, a real break from work."

"It's been a while," he admits. "It just doesn't feel like I have a good excuse when there's so much to be done."

"Science says you're more productive if you give your poor brain a break every so often," Grantaire tells him in his most convincing tone. "Besides, you're married now. If anyone gives you crap, plead a poor, neglected husband. You can come crash at my place and I'll introduce you to awesome Earth things or if you'd like, you can just curl up on the couch and I will ply you with tea and mindless, happy things to watch. Some of our other friends have come and Combeferre and Courfeyrac keep threatening to send you on a trip, so I know no one will be upset if you take some time to chill. You don't have to, but coming here is definitely an option."

Enjolras is quiet, studying Grantaire with his weary dark eyes for long enough that Grantaire worries he's misstepped. Then Enjolras' expression eases, not quite smiling, but almost. He nods, serious. "That would be nice."

It feels amazingly like he's actually won this round, at least for a brief, shining strange moment.

 

--

 

It's not that Grantaire regrets extending the invitation, at all, but he's not sure how well it will go.

They're friends, at least of a sort, and they're married, but they don't know one another well and there's a gulf of things between them. Grantaire isn't sure what Enjolras will make of him, in his tiny apartment and boisterous Paris. Musichetta, Joly, and Bossuet don't mind, but they almost know Grantaire better than he knows himself.

Grantaire has been in Enjolras' family's estate and his lush, quietly luxurious bedroom, so beautifully crafted and kept orderly. Even Enjolras' quarters on the ship, while less extravagant, are still fine and filled with technology that makes Grantaire's look hopelessly out of date.

Enjolras steps in when invited and looks around as Grantaire leads him through. He looks thoughtful, taking in the shabby but immensely comfortable furniture and the light spilling in from the grubby windows, and finally turns to look at Grantaire.

"It's lovely," Enjolras tells him, so out of place in his sleek black clothes, without any hint of lie in his voice.

Something in the way he says it makes Grantaire ease, able to chatter about this and that as he offers to fix Enjolras some gratefully accepted tea.

Apparently Enjolras is much more savvy than Grantaire, which he knew already, because Enjolras asks questions about the local culture and customs between sips of tea. Though to be fair, Enjolras was not almost assassinated and mysteriously kidnapped. But by the time the sun starts to set, Enjolras has a somewhat decent crash course in how to survive Paris for a week.

Since Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta have taken the ship’s proximity to Earth as a good cue to go catch up with their friends, Grantaire cooks for just the two of them that night, with the flat haunted by the absence of the music he usually leaves playing.

It’s a strange quiet, like the strange gap, this parody of domesticity that they act out, eating side by side. They’re friends, and this should be normal. Grantaire likes to cook for his friends, especially those from space who exclaim over new tastes and textures, but they’re also married, and for all that it’s a business contract, Grantaire feels the missing familiarity keenly. Enjolras seems to notice at as well, but he’s self-contained and it doesn’t seem to make him so uneasy.

Grantaire is almost relieved when Enjolras shows signs of tiring. He makes up the couch with blankets and pillows, tells Enjolras to make himself at home, and flees to his bed for the night.

Except that he tosses and turns in the lightless room, and what sleep he does get is interrupted by images of abyssal Jupiter and grasping, sharp edged machinery and Balem’s hate-filled, hateful eyes, all bubbling up from the deepest and darkest parts of Grantaire’s brain.

Sometimes, when he has his face buried in his pillow, half-suffocation, half-muffling the cries threatening to escape, he can hear Enjolras restless on the couch. Grantaire shoves his face deeper in the pillow, and closes his eyes tightly until he can claw his way back under.

In the morning, Grantaire feels stiff and exhausted, but Enjolras has the good grace not to comment on it. Grantaire figures the least he can do is return the favor, because Enjolras looks like he’d like to flop back down on the couch and sleep for a week, and goes to start the coffee and put together something that they can pick at for breakfast.

Enjolras at least seems to like the coffee, eyebrows arching up a little in pleasant surprise and his eyes brightening as he tastes it, and Grantaire will happily take credit for a good pour.

It's not quite jetlag, and not entirely a night of too little sleep, but Enjolras is worn out enough that Grantaire doesn't bother suggesting anything adventurous for the day, just leaves Enjolras with instructions on how to watch shows on the computer and in anticipation of the terrible trio from across the hall, and goes off to work.

When he does get back, Enjolras has been gently folded into Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta's usual tangle of affection while they catch up. The added company makes dinner a livelier event and it might be late, but Grantaire is running high and tired on dazzling laughter by the time his wayward friends bow out to get some sleep. It's his and Enjolras’ cue to do the same, and there's something quietly delightful about the fact that Enjolras' face and posture soften with growing drowsiness as they stumble around to finish getting ready for bed.

But once the lights turn off, it's the same as the night before and Grantaire thinks this whole thing is just ridiculous.

Throwing the covers off in irritation, he shoves himself to his feet and pads across to the couch, where Enjolras is equally incapable of sleep and meets him with weary dark eyes. Grantaire leans on the back of the couch, curling his fingers against his palm to avoid the temptation of a flippant, dismissive gesture.

"Okay, this is absurd. Clearly neither of us is having an easy time to fall asleep." Grantaire lets his mouth pull up in a half-hearted, exhausted attempt at a smile. It falls far short of charming. "You might as well come to bed. We know we can sleep next to one another."

Enjolras is impassive, for a moment, then thoughtful, and it takes only a moment before he nods, pushing back his own blankets. Yawning and hiding it behind the back of his hand and his wrist, he follows Grantaire back to the bed.

The blankets are still warm, and they settle back to back this time. Grantaire curls up, already closing his eyes again, and Enjolras lies straight, like an unconquerable seawall.

Even so, it's easier. Even so, Grantaire's mind starts to settle, with the warmth of someone else beside him, so far from the cold vastness of space.

"Thank you," Enjolras murmurs, sounding half asleep himself, and Grantaire hums an acknowledgement. There's nothing more that needs to be said, and unconsciousness slips up on him at last.

After that, maybe predictably, it’s smoother between them.

There’s less of the stiff formality, and Enjolras comes back from meeting Cosette looking thoughtful and pleased, and Floréal joins them for brunch one afternoon. Grantaire even takes Enjolras around to meet Gibelote and Matelote, who gives Grantaire curious, pointed looks, but doesn’t outright ask questions.

When Joly nudges Grantaire’s thigh most of the way through dinner at the trio’s apartment and asks, “Soooo, are you up for weekly board games night tonight?”, Grantaire simply shrugs.

"Sure," he agrees, with a roll of his shoulders. "Why not?"

Musichetta cheers and Bossuet lounges deeper in her chair with a grin at Enjolras, relaxed and easy and apparently utterly content.

"Well, are you game?"

Enjolras blinks at them, but then spreads his palms with a quiet, affectionate smile for his friends. "I'll do my very best, if you'll be patient with me learning the rules."

Bossuet's grin just widens and Joly muffles a snigger against his sleeve, but then the conversation slips back onto other topics with ease. After, the dishes piled up for later, Musichetta fetches the board game box and sets it on the table with a flourish.

While they set up, Enjolras reads over the handwritten instructions, and then looks up at Bossuet, Musichetta, and Joly with something that might be disbelief and amusement. At least, his eyebrows are arched and his mouth is pulled at one corner, like he’s trying not to smile incredulously.

"Did you make a game out of the political and social positions of the Entitled?" he asks them, sounding, to Grantaire at least, both perturbed and impressed.

They look unrepentant, and Musichetta's eyes flash a merry gold as she beams. "Well, why not? Grantaire's gotten quite good at it. You'll have competition!"

Enjolras' eyes crinkle at the corners, and their smiles all increase in clear delight at that even as Bossuet starts handing out their pieces.

As it turns out, Enjolras is as intent in amusement as he is any other time, and Grantaire doesn't really even mind or feel insulted by the fact that Enjolras wins as easily as he does. It's delightful, to know that Enjolras can have fun, especially because, truth be told, the game really is a help, so much more than attempting to endless memorize facts from endless readings.

Besides, they also introduce Enjolras to other, French games, which is a whole different sort of fun in and of itself. It's late before they stumble, exhausted, back across the hall, but Grantaire is floating on good company and warmth all the way into the apartment.

"They're fantastic," Enjolras murmurs, as they settle on the sofa, turned toward Grantaire and comfortably close, even if they aren't touching.

Grantaire grins, because it’s absolutely true. "Yeah, they are."

"I'm glad you're friends," Enjolras adds a few moments later. He doesn't say it in the way that people sometimes do, the way that really means, ‘I'm glad you aren't completely isolated, so I don't have to feel guilty,’ but with a sincerity and earnestness. He's truly, genuinely happy that the people he likes care about one another.

There's a helpless flutter in his chest at that, and Grantaire doesn't reply, just lets their conversation lapse into restful silence.

All in all, it’s a good week, and Grantaire is by now sure that he can’t tire of introducing people to his favorite parts of Paris, especially when they have no romantic notions of what it’s like. He likes seeing Enjolras’ determined focus on what Grantaire’s world has to offer, the way he asks a thousand questions, the way he loosens when he falls into sleep, the way they tumble together in a tangle of kisses and touches when the restless darkness covers them.

"Thank you," Enjolras says at the end of his stay, his fingertips a whisper on Grantaire's shoulder, "for showing me your planet."

And he leaves, but Grantaire is stock still, because something about his phrase and his tone hits the uncomfortable note of the abstract becoming concrete, like Grantaire stumbling his way through a political maze has some worth in it now. It's too close to credit and it gnaws at him.

Finally, the next day, he sits down on his couch and calls up Feuilly.

"I think Enjolras is giving me too much credit for saving the world," Grantaire says, and tries to make a dismissive gesture. Feuilly seems to see straight through him, only tilting his head in encouragement to go on. "It's ridiculous of course. I'm hardly the figure of an epic, and, as I remind all of you noble knights errant constantly, there's no such thing as an honorable motivation. It's not like I woke up and went 'Ah, yes! I, being reincarnated space royalty, must take down the evil space capitalist empire and win freedom for the planet.' This planet is terrible. It's a pit of people every bit as capable of cruelty as any Abrasax. You all don’t even know."

Feuilly humors him with a thoughtful hum.

"I don't think Enjolras has any illusions about you," he says finally, and somehow manages to say it in a way that Grantaire's brain can't twist it into something agonizing. "It probably did change his perspective though, and he can better appreciate what the two of you've done. But, out of curiosity, what were you thinking?"

"At the time?" Grantaire shakes his head and flourishes his hands aimlessly. His brain scrambles for an answer and his tongue trips over words. "I mean, I can't really know- my memory of those couple of days is like an impressionist painting, and not even a very good one. I guess, if pressed, Cosette's dad fled across the universe to give her somewhere safe to grow up. I wanted nothing more than to go back to my family's house, even though I've never missed it before. Gibelote was so excited about some books being translated into French and her eyes were so bright. Irma had just written a paper about musicals as the vernacular poetry of the modern day, and her words flowed like honey from her mouth when she explained it to me. She spoke with such loving eloquence that no one could help but realize her beauty is so much more than physical. There's a patisserie down the street, and it would be a pity if I never had their pastries again. Little things, unimportant things. That's not the stuff of heroism, that's just- that's just life. Our thoughts are very small and focused on the immediate self. The universe, like justice, is too vast to comprehend."

Feuilly lets the tirade wash over him; it seems to break against him like waves. He's quiet for a long moment, something contemplative and nearly lost on his face. His voice, when he speaks, is subdued, like he's drawing Grantaire back across the years and light-years.

"I worked with a woman named Beljan," he says. "She didn't many people in her life either, so we tried to look out for one another. Her birthday was the day the company started the Harvest. All she'd been talking about for a month was the next book coming out in a series she loved, so I'd got her a copy. And I don't- I don't blame myself for not being able to stop it or do more, but sometimes I still realize sometimes that she never got to know what happened next. She'll never get to know what happens next, even if I keep it until I die. She should have had the chance- everyone should have had the chance to finish their books. I think that's a good enough reason to try."

"Yeah," Grantaire replies, throat dry. "Yeah, I guess it is."

He knows better than to offer Feuilly even more condolences for the loss of his home and culture, or to thank him for understanding. Instead, he offers what assurance he can of his own, and tries to make it come out in the simple, honest words that Feuilly prefers.

"If you ever need a break from space," Grantaire tells Feuilly, trying to close the distance between them, "my home is always yours to share."

Feuilly seems to know what he's trying to say, and he looks surprised and touched, almost bashful to be offered friendship so freely. His dark eyes are soft and his smile is genuine. "I'll keep that in mind."

They speak the same language, and Grantaire feels unusually peaceful as they sign off.

The world takes on a new cast, and it doesn’t. Responsibility is a terrifying weight on his shoulders, pressing down and down and down with the awareness that there’s a whole universe accounting him in charge of a planet. And yet it feels as methodic as ever to go to work, to meet people he knows in the streets of the city, to fall into the lull of good friends and good food.

Grantaire isn’t entirely sure why he doesn’t curl up in a defensive ball, sick with the expectations stacked against him. He’s not sure why he doesn’t just pretend that none of that ever happened, why he can’t make himself just flat out not care.

He makes and keeps his counseling appointments. There’s so much that he can’t explain.

The consequence of dying strangles him, keeps him restlessly awake, and Joly, ever gentle, draws him into their bed for the sake of warmth and comfort sinking into his bones.

 

--

 

“So,” Courfeyrac says the next time he calls, cheery and cheekbones shimmering with some fine glitter. Combeferre and Enjolras are there too, and Grantaire fights the urge to call in his own reinforcements from across the hall.

“So?” Grantaire asks instead, arching a carefree brow. “Have I earned an official reprimand?”

Courfeyrac smiles. “The opposite, in fact. You’ve earned an invitation!”

“Enjolras’ parents are hosting an event,” Combeferre explains, with Enjolras nodding a confirmation beside him. “Is that something you’d be interested in?”

“I think you should go,” Courfeyrac says, and though he’s still smiling, his dark brown eyes are serious and his countenance calculating. He taps his fingers on the edge of the table they’re sitting at, idle and easy. “It’s been fine to keep to yourself while you’ve been learning all the political systems and things, but it’s about time to make an appearance. Not just as Enjolras’ husband, though that’s obviously important to show that your alliance is still firmly in place, but also as you’ve claimed the position of Abrasax sovereign officially. No one out there has any idea about you other than you’re married and the rumors swirling about Balem’s disappearance. Showing up in that position publically will cement your claim and give you a chance to establish yourself as an individual and independent agent.”

“That’s a fair point,” Grantaire allows. He can follow Courfeyrac’s line of thinking. It would show, too, that he’s chosen to engage with their society and industry, rather than being a political non-entity sequestering himself on earth. He considers it.

Enjolras must take the pause as reticence and speaks for the first time. “If you’re uncomfortable, we certainly won’t force the issue.”

Something soft, not quite like gratitude, clashes with embers of frustration in his chest. It takes effort for Enjolras to allow for the personal above the needs of their cause, he’s sure, and Enjolras’ respect of his friends is one of the things Grantaire admires most about him. But the implication, the suggestion of, ‘If you aren’t up to the job,’ makes his stomach clench and his jaw tense.

Grantaire swallows the bitter bile and lets a wry smile gash across his face.

“No,” he assures them. He meets Courfeyrac’s eyes, nods to show he understands how important this is. “I’ll go. I always love a good party.”

Courfeyrac’s smile flares back to life, but his eyes are fixed on Grantaire’s and serious. Weighty. How anyone forgets that Courfeyrac is good at politics and politicking, Grantaire can’t fathom. “Kalique will almost certainly be there.”

Enjolras’ offer of an out makes some amount of sense, now, but Grantaire only waves his hand, accepting the risk. He can manage. They’ll manage. Even if it comes to the worst, which isn’t quite in her best interests.

He asks after the necessary details, tries his best to commit them to memory, and then sweet-talks Cosette into making him review the Entitled Code relentlessly. He’s always been good at picking up the flow of conversation and the gossip, but even Grantaire’s not foolish enough to take this on the fly, not after the Abrasax siblings proved about how seriously these things are taken.

The rest of it, though, that’s easy. Courfeyrac is eminently helpful, sure to let Grantaire know details of formalities and color schemes, though it seems that black is the standard base color, and that it’s the details of the embellishments that are important in a scene like this. Floréal, who has a third career in fashion, adds in her own opinions.

By the time the Musain comes to pick them all up, because Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta have missed their other dear friends and their spaceship, Grantaire feels an easy confidence buoy in his chest. This, of everything, feels like something he can do. People and the language of compliments, those have always come quicker to Grantaire than dinner-table insinuations or the graceful negotiation his sister excels at.

The plan is for Éponine – currently taking Bossuet’s place in the pilot rotation – to drop Enjolras and Grantaire off at the House of Enjolras’ estate while the rest of them pursue other tasks. Grantaire has a sneaking suspicion that means taking advantage of the cluster of Entitled to rifle through personal shuttles, but he decides he’d rather hear about the adventures later than ask now.

In any case, it means that he has just enough time for whirlwind greetings before he needs to get ready for the sort of party he’d never merit an invitation to back home. Marius’s awkward face splits into a genuine smile, Bahorel knocks their foreheads together, and Jehan grasps his hands tightly and kisses the backs of them.

Grantaire doesn’t actually see Enjolras until the ship descends into the atmosphere and they both head for the bay. They’ve coordinated nicely; tall Enjolras’ sharpness is somewhat softened by a lighter fabric in the drape of his cape scattered with a fine shimmer of impossibly small crystals, and his hair is pulled up and tied with one neat, shining clasp that gives him a subdued authority. Beside him, the hints of military structuring in Grantaire’s tailored jacket make Grantaire look slimmer and crisp enough to be taken seriously without any hint of overcompensation, thanks to the slightly more elaborate hairpiece.

And yet, Enjolras looks almost uncomfortable, though he must have done this many times before. There’s some slight tightness to his mouth and too much iron to his spine, but he twitches a suggestion of a smile as he takes in Grantaire.

“Grantaire, hello,” Enjolras greets and leans down to kiss him, chaste and almost casual.

Grantaire returns his smile, touches his hand gently for a fraction of a moment. “Hey. Are you ready for this?”

Enjolras nods, short and perfunctory. “And you?”

“I endeavor to do my best,” Grantaire tells him airily. He’s not sure if he should say more, if there’s anything that would ease what may be nerves or simply anticipation, and his mouth opens for a string of thought that will likely get him tangled up in his own words when the engines cut and the door opens.

Beside him, Enjolras’ chin lifts slightly and he offers his arm to Grantaire. It throws him, suddenly, back to the day he had to give testimony on Orous and Enjolras had done the same thing, somehow more formal and familiar both.

Trying to bite back a grin, he takes it, and takes in as much as he can as they wend their way into the building and to where the party is.

“Most events of this sort take place on ships,” Enjolras murmurs to him as they follow a pathway of floating, warmly glowing lights. “More convenient and effective for showing wealth and status. With, ah, current events, estate events have become popular. Or so I’m told.”

It takes Grantaire’s brain a scrambled moment to realize that ‘current events’ refers to Titus and his clumsy but unfortunately effective abduction plan. His jaw tightens until he forces it to relax, and dismisses the biting quotations that clash against the back of his teeth. “I hadn’t realized that things were so widely affected.”

Enjolras’ sideways glance suggests that political events always have such subtle, wide-reaching ramifications. Which Grantaire supposes makes an unfortunate amount of sense.

Maybe it’s better this way, to be somewhere he somewhat knows. Grantaire recalls some of these turning hallways, and recognizes some of the staff – sure to give them a flash of a smile and a nod – which has to be an advantage of some sort.

He also, he realizes as they step into the hall, knows this room. It’s the same sparkling hall where he married Enjolras. The tiers of stone play out in circular patterns around the room, giving levels and texture to the space, and the wide-open ceiling showcases the stars sprawled out in the sky. Rather than warm, diffused citrines, the lights are scattered throughout the space, elegant and subdued and cool.

It’s a masterpiece of design, and Grantaire wishes he had a camera to capture it. Instead, he lets Enjolras clear their way toward his parents with his purposeful stride. Grantaire can hear the whispers in their wake.

Grantaire can see the way that the heads of the House of Enjolras reflect the space, the subtle ways they’ve aligned themselves with their estate and this room, reinforcing their ownership and their hosting. Both of them are favoring dark colors with gold undertones and midnight-blues for contrast, gleaming with embellishments like fields of stars diffusing with distance. And Melindre’s face is framed by a gold headpiece, intricate and worked in a circle, an iconographic halo reminding everyone by whose sufferance they’re permitted here.

Enjolras’ parents are warm, if formal, in their greetings. Alban favors them both with a nod and a touch to the shoulder, and Melindre makes a point of taking Grantaire’s hands in hers just as she does to Enjolras.

It’s no wonder that Enjolras is ruthlessly, intensely clever; Grantaire can definitely see where he gets it from.

Other than the undercurrent of politics and the unfamiliar canapés and drinks, it’s more or less like any other party, only with a side of high-fashion, intricate and glittering haute couture lifted from the most avant garde runways.

He catches a flash of Kalique from the corner of his eye, young and beautiful and understated, bright purple and blue dragonfly iridescence that blazes against the starry dusks and midnights around her. They share a civil, acknowledging head nod no doubt closely observed by everyone in viewing distance, but she doesn’t move to approach him. Yet. Grantaire wonders if she’s been warned away by her hosts or biding her time.

Grantaire talks to a woman whose company does spaceship installations and a man who looks Marius’ age but only wants to show Grantaire images of his grandchildren. Enjolras knows most of the guests, including a handful of advocates he studied with, and Grantaire learns a lot about the way the planetary and interplanetary systems function. There’s a young person from the same place as Joly – probably a teenager, but Grantaire really can’t be sure with so many centuries old space vampires running around – whose eyes light up as she tells him about a show that’s popular with such enthusiasm that he couldn’t bear to interrupt her even if he wanted to.

People are interesting.

Well, most people. Grantaire can deal with the dullness, either by tuning out or walking away, but there are some scions of important families he really wants to tempt into anger. Instead, he gets another drink, trying to pace them out over the night, and realizes that at some point, he got separated from Enjolras.

Looking around, as he couldn’t make himself go above the first tier up, he eventually spots Enjolras down near a corner. He picks his way over, only getting distracted twice to greet people he gets the sense he’s expected to know, and finds himself in one of the quieter swirls of the festivity. There are still conversations going on, but they’re a little more intense, lacking the brassy glitter of the center of the party.

“Enjolras,” he greets, coming up to the man’s side. Does it look odd that they use one another’s family names? Maybe, but Grantaire doesn’t think he could use endearments with a straight face and using first names would feel strange.

Enjolras shifts to allow him into the conversation with a smile, his fingertips darting along the line of Grantaire’s sleeve in greeting.

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” the woman Enjolras was talking to says with a smile. Her impeccable eyebrows curve upwards in something of a prompt or an invitation, a stark question mark across her pale face, though she must have her guesses. Enjolras, beside them, watches with still features and sharp eyes.

Grantaire takes in the narrow silhouette of her fine dress and the hundred tiny gems laced into her coiled hair, and makes a bow with a broad smile of his own. “We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, no. I’m Grantaire, Sovereign of the House of Abrasax and Enjolras’ husband. ”

He’s done the introduction spiel several times over tonight, and he’s come to expect the way her eyes flicker over him, the thoughtful if subtle tilt of her mouth. Courfeyrac was right – there’s power he’s taken very decisive control of, by publicly announcing his position.

“The pleasure is mine, your majesty,” she replies, meeting his bow with her own. “I’m Teóphi, second primary of the House of Telegues. I understand you’ve been dealing with your House’s restructuring?”

“Among other things,” Grantaire says, breezily. The system of political connections is gargantuan, but if he recalls correctly – and he hopes he recalls correctly – she’s one of Enjolras’ allies. Which doesn’t mean this isn’t a test, just a different sort of test. Grantaire is learning to detest politics even more now that he’s involved in them. “There’s always work that goes into policy changes and internal reform. But, of course, don’t let me derail your conversation.”

It’s obvious, though, that the conversation won’t go back to what it was. But Teóphi’s sharp enough to catch the use of ‘reform’ rather than other words, and her querying glance to Enjolras suggests she’s confirming that Grantaire’s not just a clueless or troublesome political game piece who Enjolras married to keep from fucking up the board.

Enjolras, polite but cool, wraps the conversation up naturally enough that Teóphi barely seems to notice the dismissal. When she’s gone, though, Enjolras doesn’t immediately move onto his next political score for the evening.

“Is that how all your conversations this evening have gone?” he asks Grantaire.

Grantaire snorts, because Enjolras was there for at least some of them, but then he shrugs extravagantly. “As you know, I’m an aspiring politician, and as any good politician, philosopher, scholar, or know-nothing must, there was a great deal more chattering on my end and a great deal more boredom on theirs. I am a prodigious sayer of nonsense but I am very colorful, which is quite a thing to be in a circle of magpies.”

“So I see you’ve decided to wing it,” Enjolras murmurs, straight-faced, and his hand slips into Grantaire’s arm.

Even in the shadows of a grand and crowded room, he’s a supernova.

Grantaire mimes a jaunty hat-tip and follows Enjolras back into the crowd.

In the next few hours, Grantaire learns a lot of things. He also meets a lot of people, so he doesn’t have much hope for holding it all straight in his head, at least not for long. All the same, it’s a joy to see Enjolras in action. He’s charming and full of conviction, delightfully subtle even as he shines.

It’s still not a surprise when, just as things begin the slow process of winding down, Enjolras pauses them in an out of the way alcove to ask if Grantaire would mind joining him out on the balcony for a respite.

Grantaire studies Enjolras’ face for a fraction of a moment, touches his elbow, and says he doesn’t mind at all.

It probably shouldn’t surprise Grantaire that Enjolras meant the balcony in his own room, despite the walk through long and winding corridors. Not that Grantaire is complaining. He doesn’t mind the noise at parties, as such, but it’s the sort of thing that crashes down as soon as he gets somewhere quiet.

“I didn’t expect you to find your feet so quickly in that sort of thing,” Enjolras says absently, once they’re settled comfortably on his balcony. There are chairs and a table, but they’re sat on the ground, looking out over the steep and forested hills.

The loftiness of it should sting, but Grantaire doesn’t think Enjolras actually meant it to hurt, so he just shrugs, leaning forward. “Well, y’know, I didn’t learn all that dancing for nothing.”

Enjolras doesn’t laugh, but his eyes light up at the wordplay, his mouth doesn’t seem quite so compressed. “Ah, well, that’s so.”

Grantaire waits for Enjolras to speak, if he wants to speak, and in the meantime reaches over to place a hand on Enjolras’ knee. Enjolras’ shoulders lose some of their tension, and he presses ever-so-slightly into Grantaire’s touch.

His eyes close, and he tips his head back with a deep sigh. There’s something easier to him now, more reserve than stiffness.

“You really don’t like parties, do you?” Grantaire asks, because he has no self-restraint and a limited tolerance for silences.

Enjolras’ mouth quirks wryly, and he straightens up to look over. “Not as such, no. Not of that size, certainly.”

“You’re good at them, though,” Grantaire replies, finally withdrawing his hand. “At convincing people, too.”

“Well, I am a lawyer,” Enjolras points out, and looks pleased when Grantaire huffs a laugh. “It’s worthwhile, talking to people, and there’s a lot that needs to be said.”

“But?” Grantaire prompts, because that sounds the kind of sentence that desires further prompting.

Enjolras weighs out his words carefully. “It catches up to me. Even I wonder if it’s worth it and what I’m doing it for. If it’s the right thing, or for the right reasons. Even if I believe in the right people, do I believe in the right things?”

"I'm afraid I can't help you there," Grantaire says, locking his elbows and leaning back, tipping his face up at the brilliant strange skies to avoid Enjolras' eyes. "I don't believe in anything."

"I didn't mean that in a spiritual sense," Enjolras corrects, too gently for there to be any lingering irritation.

Grantaire shakes his head. "Doesn't matter. I can't believe in anything."

For a long moment, Enjolras processes that, but he's not so wrapped up in his own concerns that he doesn't look over, his gaze setting the side of Grantaire's face aflame with laser intensity. "Nothing? That sounds very-"

"Well," Grantaire recants, honesty pulled from him by the specters of smiles. "I believe in my friends. I believe in you. You make it seem less crushing to have faith in a person. But everything else? The idea that you can somehow fix all of this? Nah."

Enjolras' mouth has pinched in a short frown, and his spine is an elegant, upright curve. "Then why try so hard with a convoluted and unfamiliar legal system? Why try so hard to gain your due title? And don't tell me it's greed, because you don't have the ostentation for it."

Grantaire snorts a laugh at that, looking away again. Down, this time, onto dark and timbered hills. He wonders if there are ravines of deep, clear water ribboning through the land below, pricked with the reflected light of a thousand stars in blue depths.

"What the hell else am I going to do with more money than I can literally comprehend?" he finally asks, something between wry and bitter compressing his ribcage. "If I had more, I'd share that too. There's nothing that can be done about the problems of one country, let alone one planet, let alone all of this. It's like dipping your fingers in the ocean to carry away droplets of water. It's fucking pointless. Even if I did manage to save Earth – debatable, by the way, and at the moment inconclusive – it's still nothing compared to the endless nexus of problems your universe holds. Seraphi may have considered Earth the jewel of her holdings, but it was just a jewel to her in the end, and even she didn't do anything to protect it, no matter what changes she supposedly went through. But, like, it's also a question of scale. I buy someone groceries, back home, or teach someone how to block a blow, and it might mean something to them, but it does shit to change the reasons why they needed it. I know you don't agree, so why'd you even ask?"

Enjolras lets out a thoughtful noise, and Grantaire looks over, helpless to his curiosity. He wonders, fleetingly and inanely, if Enjolras is his inverse. If, where listening to Enjolras' soaring, lofty faith hauls Grantaire's eyes from the gutter, listening to Grantaire's muddy defeat will swallow Enjolras down.

"You say that like I don't get discouraged either," Enjolras finally says, just dry enough for a quiet, tired amusement. His dark eyes are wellsprings of sympathy, emotion that runs deep in his veins but rarely shows on the rest of his face. He sighs, sitting forward and letting his shoulders bow. "Of course I wonder if I, if we, do enough, or if there's a better way to change the system than what I do now. Ultimately, it comes back to your question of scale. You thought you could change one small thing in an individual life and you did everything in your power to save your planet, where Seraphi wouldn't protect a jewel. It's easy for me to get lost in wondering about the universe, and forget how much my impacts can affect one person. They're both important."

Grantaire's mouth twists. "Still droplets to an ocean."

"Still droplets," Enjolras counters, features rounded in the moonlight. "Your generosity counts for more than you act like it does, and your friends love you."

And Grantaire loves them, because he's helpless to it, stuck in their cycles of kindness and patience. He shakes his head, but it's fond. "They're easy to love, though. There may not be any right things, but they’re the right people."

Enjolras hums, but doesn't argue. He's silent for a moment that stretches as fragile as spun sugar, eyes fixed on some distant horizon while he contemplates their conversation.

"Why didn't you sue for Balem's trust?" Enjolras asks, head tilting, pinpoints of light playing across his shoulders from behind. It feels like a non sequitur, and it takes Grantaire a few moments to even figure out what he's asking.

"Oh," Grantaire says, and scoffs a little as he shrugs. He heaves a sigh and waves a hand. "I'm clearly not Seraphi. Any recurrence of Balem's wouldn't be him anymore than I am her, necessarily. How much of a dick move would it be to leave the nebulous future presence empty handed and helpless in this whirlpool of awfulness, just because someone who wasn't them tried to kill me? They should get a chance to prove their character for themselves."

Enjolras just nods at that, but there's approval at the corners of his mouth.

“Besides,” Grantaire adds, “while I doubt Kalique or Titus would try to fight me on it for more than their share, they would certainly take notice.”

“They won’t take notice that you haven’t?” Enjolras asks with a quirk of a brow. He doesn’t try to assure that Titus is a non-factor in all of this, which is good, because Grantaire is entirely unconvinced that he’s found a justice system that isn’t bullshit.

“Of course they will,” he scoffs and looks back up at the sky, with the stars in their unfamiliar constellations, full of stories he doesn’t know. “Maybe they’ll think I’m weak, but they’ll at least think that I’m not coming for their wealth. Well, I am for Titus’, but if it’s me and Kalique both, then that changes the game.”

Enjolras hums noncommittally, but his eyes are dark and keen like ancient pools. “The arrest helps, I imagine. Kalique isn’t under arrest, though. She shouldn’t be underestimated.”

“She shouldn’t be.” Grantaire slumps forward again, pressing his forehead to the cool railing. She’s been a mirage at the edges of his sight all night, a phantom of laughter and glistening fabric and covetous stares heavy on the back of his neck. “Balem did, though. Underestimate both of them. Which is funny, because I’m fairly sure that Kalique’s the most dangerous of them all, genuine in her sentiments or no. Balem, of course, was full of sound and fury to the last, and Titus was much too clever with his dislike. Kalique was the only one who tried to make sure I walked away without hating her. Kalique just lost her two greatest competitors, both in the market and for the family inheritance, without any implication falling on her, which is very political of her, truth to be told, and then there’s me. The sensible thing, of course, would be for me to go home to Earth and rest on my laurels, remembering how kind she was to me. And I, of course, know nothing more than stories, seeing as how I wasted away youth with paints and revelries.”

Grantaire snorts. It would likely have worked, is the chill in his bones, when he was eighteen and so desperate for validation and reward.

“But I’m an idiot,” he continues, “which means I married a lawyer and claimed the title and am using it. Be a darling and do let me know if you’ve any prophetic dreams suggesting I’ve gotten all wrapped up in my hubris and am about to be murdered.”

Enjolras’ fingers brush the top of Grantaire’s hand and don’t linger. He wishes they had, to keep away the chill.

“I’ll do my best,” Enjolras says, sincere and teasing all at the same time. “You’ll have to introduce me to more Earth things though, because I think I miss half of what you say.”

Of course Enjolras knows about Kalique, and that she’ll be a growing threat. He’s probably put as much thought into this as Grantaire has, if not more. But Enjolras can be kinder than people give him credit for, because his words cut through the memento mori in colorful gowns and the impossibly young face that constantly nibbles at Grantaire’s brain like dragons at the root of a world tree.

“Probably,” Grantaire admits. “I’ve no original thoughts nor words of my own- it’s all cribbed from various things. It’s a terrible habit that drove my parents to despair and my siblings to throwing cushions at me. So if you keep visiting, eventually understand the shit that comes out of my mouth, though I admit there’s a good chance that you’ll want to strangle me that much more.”

“Louison likes talking in quotes, too,” Enjolras replies, undaunted. “Besides, Bossuet, Musichetta, and Joly have started getting very into Earth pop-culture. So really it means that when you come to visit us, we’ll have to inundate you with our media. Then you’ll at least be quoting things we know.”

Grantaire laughs at that, feeling lighter still. “Even I can admit that’s fair. You’ve subjected me to your terribly posh parties, so I need to see the other end of things as well. Speaking of posh parties, are we going back, or hiding here until it’s over?”

“Neither.” Enjolras smiles, somewhere between amused and sly. He looks lighter, like the moon has swelled him like the tides. “We’ll abscond with a tray of canapés and Éponine, who’s undoubtedly visiting her sister, avoid the end of the festivities, and hear about a much more interesting time than we had.”

“Now that sounds like an excellent party,” Grantaire replies to keep from giving into the laughter threatening. “Alright, lead the way.”

Enjolras offers Grantaire a hand up, which he accepts. They don’t talk on their way out, at least not much, but it’s a comfortable, peaceable silence that sits warmly between them.

Even avoiding the major hallways that might take them past any guests, Enjolras leads them speedily to the kitchens where their arrival is apparently anticipated, and by the size of the containers they’re given, warmly.

It’s just as easy to find Éponine, whose sister is smaller and shyer, but who has the same magpie eyes and straightens to watch Enjolras with admiration when they stop by. It could be a crush, Grantaire supposes, but Azelma’s spine straightens and her skittish features school into something more reserved, so his bet’s on hero worship. Enjolras doesn’t seem to notice, but then, he probably doesn’t have much experience with people who aren’t used to being treated as such, let alone afforded with his particular civil courtesy.

Éponine just looks amused as she herds them out and toward where the Musain’s been tucked away for the time being.

They arrive in the middle of movie night, or whatever the closest space equivalent is, with everyone sprawled on couches or on their stomachs on the floor, with some story playing out across the wall, hyper-realistic to Grantaire’s eyes even when he’s half-familiar with the effect from the FTLs.

“Welcome back,” Marius tells says, looking up with a smile, perking up the way he always does when someone he likes walks in.

“If you hurry, you can change into comfy clothes and be back before the climax,” Joly informs them seriously. “It’s gonna be a dramatic one! Scandal and heartbreak!”

“Excellent for snark and puns,” Feuilly adds.

“We’re not pausing,” Combeferre continues, though they shoot the group a warm smile.

“Wouldn’t miss that for the universe,” Grantaire replies, sincere, and Éponine snags the canapés from Grantaire’s hands so she can go flop down in the spot Bahorel and Feuilly make for her. Mindful of the impending movie climax, he hurries off for the room Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta share.

Enjolras gives him a strange look when Grantaire bypasses the room he’s been given, en route to his own. “You know you can leave things here, right? The room is yours.”

“Yeah, I know.” Grantaire smiles, because he’s still kind of bowled over that he has a place here, that they want him here. “I just haven’t had the chance, yet. Next time I’m around for a few days.”

That gets him a satisfied nod before Enjolras hurries onward, and Grantaire muses that he really doesn’t spend time in his room here, for the most part. Might not much still, since he and Enjolras seem to end up sharing a bed for one reason or another no matter where they are together. Not that he’s complaining.

So for the moment, he lets himself into his friends’ room, because their clothes all seem to be a mixed up mess these days. Musichetta’s pajama pants fit across Grantaire’s hips and don’t need to be rolled up, and one of Joly’s tanktops makes a more comfortable substitute for Grantaire’s binder, and Bossuet’s sweater might be bright yellow, but it’s soft. Certainly more comfortable than the sparkling formalwear that gets left on a chair, at that.

He makes it back in time for the finale of the movie, though there’s barely enough space to lean against the couch when Marius obligingly folds his legs up. Enjolras, appearing a few moments later, doesn’t seem to have qualms sitting beside Grantaire, tucked up close with his knees to his chest and a fond expression as he listens to the riot of sound and laughter around them.

Jehan passes down the canapés, mixed in with other treats at this point, and Grantaire snags a handful before offering them to Enjolras.

He has no idea what happened earlier in the film, and probably misses about half the jokes, but he’s really okay with that, because Louison is snickering and trading innuendos with Courfeyrac, and Bahorel , Quill, and Éponine seem to have a complicated points system going on, and Marius is sniffling a little at the on-screen romance. Grantaire has nowhere else he’d rather be.

He stays with them that night and doesn’t get home until the next morning, after a full night of introduction to space pop culture and sleeping in a giant pile in the living room because they were all too stubborn to admit defeat and go to bed.

In the morning, Enjolras walks Grantaire to his door, following Grantaire through a few streets of Paris and up to the door of his apartment building.

“You’d better take care of the troublesome trio,” Grantaire tells him, grinning. “I would really hate to have to get new neighbors after all of that.”

“You could come with us and keep an eye on them yourself,” Enjolras points out, and it’s a sincere, genuine offer.

Grantaire reaches out and brushes Enjolras’ arm. “I really do appreciate the offer, but I’ve missed enough work as it is and I do have a small number of things keeping me here.”

“I know,” Enjolras agrees, nodding once, “and I understand. I just wanted to let you know that the offer is still open and always will be.”

This time, it’s not empty, not when they’ve come to know him as well as they have. Grantaire’s stomach swoops and his head spins at the idea that they, Enjolras included, can want to include him in their carefully built family. It’s something he hugs close, tucks behind his heart for the days that drag and drain.

“Thank you,” he says, and it comes out sounding strangely gentle. He turns it to a broad smile, because Enjolras’ features start to soften near imperceptibly. “You’re the best husband a guy could ask for.”

Enjolras pauses, a thoughtful look crossing his lovely face. His eyes, dark brown and grave, watch Grantaire’s face carefully. “Is that what I am?”

It is incredibly tempting to play innocent here, but Grantaire doesn’t dare. It’s a complicated question. Clarification is probably a good idea.

That doesn’t mean he has to like it.

“Well.” Grantaire grimaces a little. “Certainly that’s what you are, for a start. It’s the very basis of our relationship, after all- goodness but we do things out of order. That much can be established. Put it on the list. So, point one, we’re married in the eyes of at least one law, and as that’s the one attempting to grind us in its legal machinery, that’s the one that matters. Point the second, we’re friends- I’m sure there are some very inspiring quotes I could use to summarize the whole thing but, look, by this point, we’re friends, itself a very admirable goal when you consider the both of us.”

Grantaire spreads his hands helplessly.

“Which brings us to a resounding round three, which is that we’ve had sex, and very good sex at that, so full marks to us on that count. Note for the court that this also supplements point one, because, hey, we can’t file for annulment on the basis of no consummation, meaning we are definitely husbands. The final point being whether we have a relationship, and while I’m sure our mutual escorting last night did much to assure space society, I have no fucking clue.”

It’s an utterly absurd conversation to be having on the pavement at dawn, outside the dingy walls of Grantaire’s apartment building, hoping that no passing people care to listen in.

All the same, Enjolras’ face stays calm as he considers. At last, probably only moments later, Enjolras shifts. He doesn’t actually reach to touch Grantaire this time, apparently unsure if it would be welcome, but he relaxes his posture, lets the reservation fade away like pushing a curtain aside. His proud mouth eases.

“I think we’re trying,” he says. His soft-spoken sturdiness is resolution, tying off Grantaire’s anxiety into neat knots. “That’s enough to know for now.”

“Sounds good,” Grantaire agrees, because that makes sense. He can live with that. “Does that mean we can still be pen-pals?”

Enjolras’ eyes are bright with his constrained laughter. “Yes. Of course.”

“Then I’ll be in touch with your weekly dose of incomprehensible media references,” he promises.

When they make their farewells, Grantaire gathers his courage, pushes himself up to his toes, and kisses Enjolras sweetly, letting it linger for a moment. It has the solemnity of a pact. It has the effortlessness of concord.

Enjolras doesn’t say anything, but he seems reassured by that, something calmer still about him as he watches Grantaire head inside.

 

--

 

With Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta gone, Grantaire has a lot of time to himself. It gives him the chance to catch up with other friends, to talk to Fantine about the world she grew up in, to visit the synagogue and settle in the sense of the familiar.

Grantaire goes to visit Floréal too, and the bees that always linger around her.

It’s an incredibly calming home, even with the cases of weaponry he knows are very, very deadly. It’s the well-tended and much loved plants, cascades of verdant green and vibrant color, chosen as much for the well-being of the bees as for their beauty. And, of course, Floréal’s impeccable taste helps, with the warm cream of the walls, with their accents of lavender and storm blue, and the open, airy windows.

“Do you ever miss being in the Legion?” Grantaire asks her, the two of them sitting at her small table, coffee and pastries between them. “Or Aegis space-duty, I suppose. I kinda get the impression that planets like this are supposed to be a punishment.”

Floréal shakes her head and takes a thoughtful bite of pastry. “It usually is, but I volunteered for a posting like this. I joined the Aegis after a medical discharge from the Legion, but that was still hectic, as I imagine you saw. So I took a marshal’s post here.”

A bee alights on the curve of her hand and she gently shoos it away.

“Pretty quiet until you showed up,” she teases, then continues more contemplatively. “I like Paris. It’s an interesting city to be in. I like my bees and my plants and my flowers-”

“- And the investment banker who thinks you’re a lovely eccentric blossom to wear in his lapel?” Grantaire interjects with an arched brow.

Floréal snorts. “Oh, shut up, Grantaire. Yes, and my investment banker, because I also like glittery things and fine food, and my department likes budget cuts. Nothing wrong with someone funding my hobbies.”

Grantaire concedes the point with a wave of his hand, though he really does think that Floréal could do much better. Maybe he’s just biased against businessmen these days, after the whole space capitalist mess.

“Besides,” Floréal adds, a bit pointedly, “the fashion scene here is much easier for me to get into here. I can get my hands on fabrics and work with them myself- it’s not all machine design and production. Which means that since said banker has very little interest in fashion, I’m counting on you to use your ridiculous wealth and my fantastic connections to get us to fashion week next year.”

“I’ll do my best,” Grantaire says dryly, but really, he can’t think of a better use of his virtual swimming pool of gold coins than to make her face really light up like spring unfurling from winter.

Her grin is blinding.

“I’m glad to hear it. Now, speaking of fashion, I demand party gossip.”

He acquiesces gladly, telling her everything he can recall and ending up bent together with her over a sketchpad to outline what he can remember about the fantastic constructions of clothes he’d seen, with the bees swirling loosely around them.

When Grantaire finally packs up to go home, he pauses. “Hey, Floréal, are there any bee friendly plants that are easy to take care of?”

Musichetta, with her golden eyes, would be delighted to have the bees around, and Grantaire’s grown to like them even more now, figures that if he can keep a few welcoming plants at his tiny window ledge, then he ought to.

“A few,” Floréal agrees, with a smile that says she knows just what he’s thinking, and foists an armful of potted plants off on him.

“I’ll send you instructions on how to care for them later,” she threatens, and then shoos him out the door.

Grantaire keeps them cradled in his arms the whole way home, sets them up and looks after them as best he can. There’s something calming about tending them, about making the time to take care of one small thing he can protect. Besides, they liven the place up, and Jehan seems to approve when he visits not much later, leaving with a handful of plants of his own.

When Grantaire's lease runs up, he doesn't renew it. Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta don't renew theirs, either. They've spent weeks searching until they've found a place with enough space for the four of them to share comfortably, and they move in as soon as they can.

It's bright and airy, and all of Grantaire's plants thrive in the sunlight streaming in where it can. The whole place feels bright, and it's not just the vibrancy of their decorations; it's that Musichetta, Joly, and Bossuet light up the spaces they occupy like tiny suns, and even Grantaire's waning moon can't dim them.

Enjolras, the next time he comes through, to drop off the sheaves of the latest updates on their legal cases, looks around Grantaire's room, dark eyes appraising. The mid-afternoon sun casts warmth on his face and illuminates his smile.

"I like it," he says, earnest, as he sits on the edge of Grantaire's bed, hair swept forward over one shoulder. He looks like some fantastic refutation of Renaissance portraiture, his head turned to the side so he can watch Grantaire.

"I'm pleased with it," Grantaire agrees, quietly delighted that Enjolras seems comfortable in his space, even if it's not as elegant or spacious as Enjolras' home. "Think you can stand staying here for a week?"

"I think so," Enjolras replies, dry, but underneath there's a levity. He looks at ease here, sharp but not tense, and he leans back on his arms. "The bed seems comfortable enough, at least. Better than the couch."

It's a joke, which Grantaire appreciates, but all the same- all the same, their shared beds have been cast in shadow, refuges from the darkness that clings to their memories when they're so near to one another. He wonders if this bed will be lighter, and worries it won't.

Some of that must cross his face, because Enjolras coaxes Grantaire to lean down, one elegant hand cupping his jaw as he kisses Grantaire. It's soft, softer than Enjolras usually tends to, but it's warm.

"Okay?" Enjolras asks him when they break apart, less a rock to dash a ship upon and more a welcome and well-hidden harbor. Grantaire could kiss him again for that.

"After that? Hell yes," Grantaire says instead, and smiles. "Serious question time, though. Dinner's not for a few hours, and what would you like to do while you're here?"

"Actually," Enjolras replies, eyes darting to where his hand sits on the line of Grantaire's jaw, and raises his eyebrows slightly in quiet suggestion.

Grantaire flushes in spite of himself, surprised at that, but pleased.

"Sounds good," he says, brushing a kiss to Enjolras' waiting mouth before straightening so they can have an actual conversation. "Is this, like, casual making out or have-awesome-sex-before-R's-roommates-get-home? Not that they'd care about the sex, but they've got plans for us all tonight."

Enjolras doesn't quite laugh at that, but his eyes are amused. "I was thinking the second, but if you'd rather the first, that's fine, of course."

"I'm down for the second," Grantaire tells him. It's been a while, and they're good at sex. It flows between them, in a way that words don't always. “Any specific type of sex? Because I feel I should inform you that since we’re here, I have a selection of dicks in various sizes, if you’re interested. If you’re not, that’s cool too.”

“Interested, yes,” Enjolras says, though he looks amused.

Grantaire shrugs, reaching for the drawer where he keeps all the sex related paraphernalia.

“There have to be some advantages to not having a built in model,” he says dryly. “This way, I’m adaptable. Suited to your preferences!”

Enjolras flashes him a smile. “It’s certainly a plus.”

Agreeably, Grantaire nods, laying out the options. He tries to keep at least three on hand, because he generally does like to accommodate his partners, especially if they find something too big to be uncomfortable. “Pick your poison, dude.”

Clearly intrigued, Enjolras looks over them thoughtfully, though his gaze shifts back up to Grantaire. “Does earth like to build in flashy features?”

“Sometimes,” Grantaire allows with a shrug. “But these are the what you see is what you get type. If you want flashy, you can bring the futuristic space sex toys next time, okay?”

Enjolras snorts at that, but it seems affectionate rather than derisive. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

He goes quiet, turning his attention back down with a thoughtful frown. Of course he takes this seriously, and Grantaire finds that weirdly charming.

"That one," Enjolras says after his moment of contemplation, the authoritative line of his finger pointing to the middle size. It's an average size, texture enough to be interesting, and it seems like a very good place to start.

"Sounds good," Grantaire replies, kissing Enjolras' cheek before pulling out the rest of the supplies they’ll need. It's not that he takes sex seriously, he prefers levity in his bed and values laughter, but communication and preparation make it infinitely better. He prefers it, when he has the option.

Apparently curious, Enjolras watches, though he doesn't ask questions. He doesn't seem anxious, but this is something new for them, and it shows. But Enjolras is severe even in his pleasures, a dedicated student, and he pays close attention.

Grantaire, who takes to fucking like he takes to other athleticisms, is unbothered by his gaze. He sets everything on the bedside table, then steps back to strip off his shirt, wiggling out of his binder as well.

"That's abrupt," Enjolras comments, shifting further up on the bed. His eyes are trained on Grantaire, seeming to trace the lines of limb and muscle.

"I'd say it's a weight off my chest, but it's rather the opposite," Grantaire snarks, irreverent. His hands cup his breasts pointedly, and Enjolras laughs, quiet but sincere. Grantaire laughs too, though more because it strikes him that he'd never thought, at first, that Enjolras would be someone he could laugh about his body with as easily as this.

"You're just being shirty." Enjolras pulls off a good deadpan, mostly because it's not exaggerated, but his mouth twitches up at the corner, as it always does with a bad pun.

Grantaire cocks a brow even as he sets about undoing his belt and his jeans. "Forgive me, but you're the one still wearing a shirt."

Enjolras inclines his head in acknowledgement and pulls his shirt off in an easy motion. When he sees what Grantaire's doing, he shucks his trousers as well, reclining on the bed in just his underwear. His fingers trace a delicate arc along the inside of his glorious thigh, a quiet taunt, a tease. Between the sunlight and the cool, winter-evening grey of Grantaire's covers, he's lit up and golden.

Grantaire is seized by the desire to take Enjolras to the ocean, to coax him out in the surf and along the seaside streets, to luxuriate in the warmth of southern France. Grantaire is seized by desire, flat out, and strips off his own underwear before climbing on the bed.

He stretches over Enjolras, catching his mouth with a kiss. It's not quite teasing, but not desperate either. Playful and wanting.

Enjolras tilts his head for a better angle and wraps a hand around the back of Grantaire's neck to pull him closer, and Grantaire happily obliges, indulging in the back and forth of it. His teeth catch the edge of Enjolras' lip, not quite nipping, but it makes Enjolras catch a sharp breath and his hips roll up.

He’s hard already, and hot through the thin fabric between them, and Grantaire, feeling devious, moves his mouth to kiss along the line of Enjolras’ neck. He sucks and bites a mark at the first place that makes Enjolras choke on a needy little sound.

The day is warm, and Grantaire is warm. He delights in slowly exploring Enjolras’ body, in feeling Enjolras’ fingers tangle in his curls and pull, not to the point of pain, still a little lighthearted, but enough to make Grantaire muffle a groan against Enjolras’ firm stomach.

He relents, following the pull of Enjolras’ hand back up until he can lean down to kiss him again. Enjolras kisses him back, letting go of Grantaire’s hair to slide a hand down his back, his fingers following the curve of Grantaire’s spine and lower until his hand cups the back of Grantaire’s thigh, hitching his leg up slightly.

“Would you be okay,” Enjolras murmurs the next time they break apart, his mouth kissed darker and his eyes shaded with want, his cheeks flushed, “with fucking me now?”

Grantaire laughs, surprised and delighted to bring Enjolras so quickly to wanting this much, and grins at him. He ducks his head down for one more kiss, firm and thorough, and leaves Enjolras sighing breathlessly after him as he reaches for the dildo.

They’ve not done this before, so it’s been ages since Grantaire’s used it, but he shimmies into the harness easily, movements still quick and practiced and familiar. Enjolras swallows, all of his incredible attention bearing down on Grantaire’s body as his legs fall thoughtlessly open, and Grantaire has never felt so powerful.

“I’m starting to think I’ve been remiss in husbandly duties if you’re this impatient already,” Grantaire tells him, flippant, even as he pours lube into the curve of his palm, coating his fingers in it.

Enjolras laughs, unselfconscious as he lies back against the bed, the powerful muscles of his legs tensed firm as he anticipates Grantaire’s touch. His eyes are bright, but his quiet voice is dry. “I suppose I should be glad you didn’t just tell me to go fuck myself.”

“I would never,” Grantaire vows, mock serious and skating close to genuine, still laughing as he bends to kiss the side of Enjolras’ knee, slick fingers just teasing over Enjolras’ entrance, thrilling in the twitch of his hips. Grantaire glances up at him, meets his eyes straight on and revels in the want he sees reflected there. “You’re a delight in bed, a work of art. Why tell you to fuck yourself when I could be fucking you?”

“I’m starting to think it might go faster if I did it myself,” Enjolras mutters, and Grantaire rolls his eyes.

“You’d make a terrible hedonist,” he says, levering himself down on one elbow to kiss the swell of Enjolras’ calf, bathed in shadow, his fingers pressing in a slow, easy circle as Enjolras slowly relaxes. Grantaire tests his teeth lightly against Enjolras’ skin, smiles when he jumps and gasps in response, his fingers twisting in the covers. “I literally just said fucking you is a work of art– it’s got to be enjoyed.”

Enjoy himself Grantaire does, lavishing kisses over Enjolras’ obscenely soft skin, raising subtle bruises over his thigh and listening to the sounds that spill from him, restraint coaxed away until he’s giving shuddering little moans, tossing his head with impatience as Grantaire plies his fingers. Enjolras’ dick, which Grantaire still finds incredibly impressive, strains every time Grantaire brushes his mouth over it.

By the time Grantaire finally draws his hand back, Enjolras is a wreck, his hips canting eagerly and his eyes somewhere between imperious and pleading. Enjolras sighs as Grantaire settles between the bow of his legs, and reaches up to thread his fingers through the curls tangling about Grantaire’s face.

“Have you made enough of an artwork of me yet?” he asks, but he looks fond, face tilted up toward Grantaire’s.

“Mmm.” Grantaire draws out the noise, as if deliberating, and leans down to kiss Enjolras, sweet and brief. He teases him with the head of the toy, not quite pushing in yet. “Was it really all so bad? I just wanted to make you feel good.”

“You did,” Enjolras replies, and then catches Grantaire’s mouth in another kiss, assertive but not demanding. His hands slide up Grantaire’s thighs with welcome warmth and pressure, and Grantaire shivers helplessly at his touch. “You could also make me feel better by hurrying up.”

“Yeah,” Grantaire allows, and it comes out a little breathless. He swallows, takes another second to steady himself, and rocks his hips forward.

Enjolras’ back arches and he hums, eyes sliding closed as his head tips back, sounding utterly satisfied as he yields to the pressure.

Grantaire’s mouth is arid as the deepest deserts with want, and he curls his hand around Enjolras’ generous thigh to ground himself as he tests their angle, draws his hips back infinitesimally and pushes them forward. Enjolras is biting his lower lip, but the sound he lets out is purely bliss, and Grantaire laughs, warm with it as he leans down to kiss Enjolras’ shoulder.

Enjolras laughs too, quiet and pleased as he hooks his leg around Grantaire, urges him onward. There’s a challenge, lighthearted though it is, in his eyes, and Grantaire takes him up on it, setting a faster pace and reaching down to stroke Enjolras’ cock with his still-slick hand. They don’t speak much, little murmurs of affirmation or appreciation, but they trade kisses and touches and the sort of breathless laughter that stays close between them.

A cloud drifts past the sun and dims the light, but that’s alright, because the faint sketches of shadows cling beautifully to Enjolras’ ribs and jaw. Being fucked, Enjolras is incandescent. His muscles ripple and strain, his hips seeking upward and upward even as he cedes to the pace Grantaire sets. The muscle in his thigh twitches desperately, and Enjolras’ hands burn across every inch of Grantaire’s skin within reach.

And more, his face is open to Grantaire, the quiet curvature of his smile that vanishes into aching gasps, the flush of his cheeks with colors paint could never describe, the star-strung waters of his eyes, vulnerable and unflinching from Grantaire.

It’s the last that sparks a flare in his stomach, makes Grantaire joltingly realize how close the insistent pressure of the toy inside and against him has driven him already, everything tight and hot and close as he makes a desperate noise. Whatever Enjolras sees of his face draws an astonishing noise from him as he reaches up to tug Grantaire in for a hard, grasping kiss that sends Grantaire spinning dizzily into his orgasm.

Even with the blinding sensation of it, Grantaire can feel Enjolras’ fingers running through his hair, something almost affectionate on his face when Grantaire can focus again.

“Holy fuck.” The words gust out of Grantaire thoughtlessly, and Enjolras’ whole face is a seismic shift when he smiles and hums his agreement. He might look patient, but his face is bright with exertion and his dark eyes are nearly black with craving more, so Grantaire kisses him, less coordinated than he’d really like but delirious on endorphins. A pause, enough to draw breath into his lungs like breaking the surface of the ocean, and Grantaire thrusts his hips forward again.

It’s too much too soon, and he aches at it. Enjolras, even though he’d made another of those quiet, satisfied noises, seems to notice the hint of a grimace that crosses Grantaire’s face, and he lays a hand on Grantaire’s hip, stilling him.

“Too sensitive?” he asks.

Grantaire nods, not quite apologetic as he ducks in for a kiss. “Yeah. What can I do for you?”

“This is fine, but your hand would be nice,” Enjolras murmurs, though there’s eagerness still in the tension of his back and the way he kisses.

“Happy to oblige,” Grantaire says, and it comes out throaty but amusement lightens Enjolras’ limbs anyway. Enjolras is a glorious contradiction of hard and soft under Grantaire’s hand, and drops of pre-come ease the way, the twists of his hand as a quiet sound builds in Enjolras’ throat.

He comes hard and with a muffled cry, shuddering in Grantaire’s hold through the last of it until he sinks, panting, into the bed with a satiated sigh. Grantaire kisses his slack mouth and then pulls carefully, reluctantly away, easing out of Enjolras.

Just as carefully, he works the dildo out of himself as well, placing it temporarily on the towel on the nightstand, followed by the harness. Thoughtfully, he considers his wet and sticky hand, wrinkles his nose, and then wipes it unceremoniously down the side of Enjolras’ hip.

Enjolras gives him a reproachful look, just a little ruined by the hazy contentment easing his features. “Were you just compelled to ruin the moment?”

“Always,” Grantaire tells him, and grins. Enjolras, in a great moment of immaturity, rolls his eyes.

Grantaire flops back down beside him, stretching out and luxuriating in the pleasant ache of his muscles. He nudges his arm against Enjolras’, skin against bare skin, and looks over.

“I promise I’ll get you acquainted with our nice new shower when you feel like moving again,” he offers. “And next time, you can supply the fancy space toys and show off how much better they are.”

“I’ll hold you to it,” Enjolras murmurs, sounding drowsy and amused, and relents enough to nudge Grantaire back and let his eyes drift mostly closed again. A smile hints at the corners of his mouth.

Eventually, they do get up, and shower, and sit in Grantaire’s quiet bedroom with cups of coffee and slices of almond cake as they catch one another up on everything that’s happened since the last time they spoke. That’s how Bossuet finds them when she gets home, and Enjolras promptly gets buried under a pile of enthusiastic embraces that he doesn’t seem to mind at all. Of course, Enjolras’ first thought is always for his friends, the one place they’ve always agreed.

It’s proven true again a day later, just hours before Enjolras has to go back to the ship and his work, with Joly in tow this time. They’re walking down the street, because Grantaire refuses to let them leave without a box of macaroons to share with everyone else, when Enjolras pauses beside him. His fingertips brush Grantaire’s wrist, and Grantaire stops as well, eyes darting to see what could possibly have caught Enjolras’ attention.

“What’s…?” Enjolras murmurs, voice low, and his head tips ever so slightly. Grantaire follows his line of sight and frowns as he looks back, an unsettled concern swimming in his stomach at the idea that they might have a significant, serious problem.

Across the road, a young man propels his wheelchair down the sidewalk, laughing with his friends.

Grantaire catches Enjolras’ sleeve and tugs him along, because if they have to have this conversation, it’s not going to be in front of the kid, fucking hell. They keep walking, and Grantaire tries to keep his voice level. “It’s a wheelchair, an alternative method of getting around for people who have issues walking.”

Enjolras’ eyes are bright. “And you can just… get them?”

“Uh, I guess? Why?” Grantaire’s brows scrunch up, inquisitive.

“Combeferre,” Enjolras says, simply, and his breath tumbles out of him all at once. Grantaire’s muscles unclench with relief, reassured even if he’s still not entirely sure what’s going on. Enjolras’ mouth does something complicated. “Combeferre, they have- they’re in pain so much sometimes, from walking. They try not to show it, but there’s nothing anyone can do without genetic restructuring, but Combeferre doesn’t want that. And why should they? They don’t need to be fixed, especially not if there’s something like this. No one’s ever even thought of something like this, and it would, it would help so much.”

Grantaire really doubts that Earth is the only planet that’s ever invented a wheelchair or something similar, but he can see how the society that Combeferre and Enjolras come from would overlook it entirely, when it was so comparatively easy to just muck around peoples’ DNA. The thought makes him almost want to shudder. Instead, he reaches for Enjolras’ hand gently and smiles.

“Well, they’d probably have to come around and we’d have to do some research because I am so not an expert,” Grantaire qualifies, but Enjolras squeezes his hand all the same, “but, yeah. We could get one.”

There is something almost fragile in Enjolras’ expression, and his fingers stay twined with Grantaire’s all the way back to the apartment. His mouth, when they kiss goodbye, pours forth a quiet gracefulness and gladness for these things they’ve saved together.

Grantaire stays quiet and thoughtful afterward, because it seems like space, and Enjolras, will surprise him at every turn. He almost retreats to his room, but he can see the way Musichetta and Bossuet sit uncomfortably with Joly’s absence and so he asks if they’d like to stay with him for the night. They all end up in the three’s bed anyway, because it’s definitely larger and probably more comfortable, but Grantaire likes to think it’s the thought that counts.

His dreams are still unsettled, red and gold and dusty at the edges, but they aren’t cavernous. When they stir him toward wakefulness, Grantaire buries his face into pillows that smell like home and wonders with dream-blurred half-thoughts how he can miss the scent and feel of Enjolras so much.

There’s just not really time to dwell on it, all in all.

 

--

 

“Right,” Bossuet says over brunch at the Corinthe, where they’re tucked into their usual corner table by the window, pointing her fork at Grantaire with a dramatic flourish. “Since Joly has embarked on the Very Important Mission of checking up on our wayward friends, and we don’t even have
Snapchat to stay in touch-”

“Seriously,” Musichetta agrees. “Why doesn’t space have anything like Snapchat?”

Bossuet nods and continues with barely more than a pause. “We are going to tackle all the information packets that Enjolras dropped off, and then curse the lawyerly establishment for all time. But only after exploiting them for resources that we can then fairly distribute. Confusion to our enemies!”

“To confusion!” Grantaire toasts, raising his glass solemnly. “Both that of ourselves and our enemies. My understanding of space law is not much better than my understanding of math.”

“In sum,” Musichetta says, nudging Grantaire not-quite-reprovingly with her elbow, “you solve exponentially more problems with the addition of math to space laws, but thankfully can divide the work between yourselves, while I subtract myself from the equation to do much more fun things.”

“You’re the worst,” Grantaire informs her, propping his hand on his chin after draining his glass.

Matelote, leaning in to check on them, snorts. “Musichetta’s an angel. You’re the worst, you toad.”

“A toad forever looking upward,” Grantaire retorts, easily. “Which is nearly as good as an angel, if a very minor one. Certainly you’re more of a Titan, Matelote.”

Matelote only rolls her eyes exaggeratedly, and backs out of the room with an idle and insulting flick of her hand. Still, she has to be more of an angel than he is, because she brings him another coffee without needing to be asked, and Grantaire needs it, if he’s going to spend the day buried in legal procedures.

They linger over brunch, as they always do, and Musichetta splits off before they get back to the apartment, but it still feels all too soon when Bossuet pulls up the information they need. Grantaire doesn’t even need to see the name of the fucking forsaken planet to feel his stomach gape and maw in sympathy with the refinery, still learning how to breathe past the lump in his throat when he’s faced again and again with the reality of it.

He closes his eyes, ignores Bossuet giving him the moment that they’ll both probably need when they get to the Titus complications, and tries to claw back the feeling of safety and warmth of the shared bed last night. It works, but he still wants to throw it back in his therapist’s face. Whatever, he has a week before he sees her, he’ll probably get over it by then.

“Right, so,” Bossuet says when Grantaire is focused again, blessedly skating past the awkward pause. Bossuet, for all her nonchalance and unhurried approach to anything, is sharp as a tack and still familiar with the laws.

They go through every single sheave, slowly and thoroughly. The distributions are complex, and made more so by the fact that Titus’ status is still in limbo, while the provisions are extensive and labyrinthine. Grantaire swears he has a headache twenty minutes into the whole process, but Bossuet is patient. He’s not sure if she’s talked to Enjolras about it, or if she brushed up on her legal procedure, but between them they’re able to make out most of the implications of the court’s proposed decision. Other than the property settlements, it seems fairly straightforward; Balem bears the brunt of the responsibility for the destruction of the stockworks and makes a decent scapegoat, being dead and all that. There’s the testimony of Mr. Night, the rat splice refinery manager, to help with that.

Grantaire is hardly sure what to feel about any of it, other than numb when he sees the seemingly endless list of damages. The death count is astonishingly low – the Aegis, Bossuet fills in, called for emergency procedure instigation before the hull was breached. It turns Grantaire’s stomach all the same. In the end, lives and livelihoods are turned to figures in a table. No wonder at all that he’s always been terrible at math.

“There’s still a planet that could end up in Kalique’s hands, and in Titus’,” Grantaire points out, unsettled. “Can we, like, swap them out for any of Balem’s home planets or refinery planets or anything?”

Bossuet frowns, an unfamiliar expression on her usually cheerful face, and she taps her nose thoughtfully in a way that reminds him of Joly. “I’m not sure, honestly. The planets that could be harvested have more, uh, production value assigned to them than any of Balem’s residential planets. It’s possible that we could manage to get one of the refinery planets that go with the seeded planets, but, honestly, this hasn’t ever been my area, or Enjolras’. I guess it’s one to pass on to an actual expert. Even if we can’t, some planetary patience might serve us well, because the planets in question can’t be reaped for centuries and that gives us plenty of time to run rings around them.”

Grantaire, unconvinced, grunts, but has to admit that he really doesn’t have any better suggestions. He drops his face in his hand and flings the other out in irritation. “This is the fucking worst.”

The fact that Bossuet can’t come up with a witty pun and just jostles his shoulder with her own suggests that she agrees.

“We can go on to the next batch of files?” she offers, not sounding particularly enthused.

The next batch is not particularly appealing, so he can’t exactly blame her. But move on they do.

Titus’ case is mired in arguments and appeals, with all sorts of legal loopholes and trickery that look to drag it out even longer. Even on earth, a case like this could take years to resolve, to say nothing of an interplanetary court system that seems rife with bribery and nepotism and all the other inevitable trappings of civilization. Even knowing that their legal precedent is solid, it’s not exactly encouraging news.

Demoralization and the walls close in, and Grantaire’s throat is as choked as it nearly was with vacuum. Bossuet mutters something about why she’s so glad to not be a lawyer, thank the stars and Marius Pontmercy.

They sit there in dejected silence, with the weight of gargantuan struggles in a widening spiral over their heads, the universe pressing down on their shoulders hard enough that he half expects to hear the couch squeak.

“Why are we even doing this?” Grantaire mutters, caustic.

Bossuet is quiet for a moment, and then shrugs her shoulders. “Because it’s better than doing nothing?”

That’s probably true, all things considered, and Grantaire reluctantly concedes the point. As it turns out, trying the whole doing-the-right-thing shtick is harder than it looks, and he’d like to tell every fairytale that dumps some unsuspecting person with responsibility and shit to kindly go fuck off.

“Wanna do some paperwork?” Grantaire asks her, and Bossuet laughs.

“I’ll buy a round of drinks when we’re done,” she promises, and so they get back to work.

In the end, it only takes them most of a day to finish everything. In most cases, it’s a simple matter of reading through everything and then rolling his sigil over the reader to confirm his acceptance of terms. It’s tedious, but doesn’t take as long as he’d expected. Bossuet, cheerful, borrows a fistful of money to go buy some celebratory cigarettes and chocolate from the corner shop down the street.

Knowing Bossuet and the proprietor of the shop, it’ll be at least a half hour before she gets back, Grantaire sends an FTL and is a little surprised when Enjolras actually picks up.

“Grantaire, hello,” he greets, at his desk in his room in the Musain, a smile illuminating his features. He must be in the middle of working, because his braids are tied back in a loose, low ponytail and Grantaire can see him rolling his wrist at the edge of the image. “Did you have a question?”

“Uh, no, Bossuet is a gift. She swooped in and used her many talon-ts to make sure I was following along. Just wanted to let you know that all the paperwork is signed and sealed, and it’ll be ready to pick up whenever someone swings out that way or back this way.”

Enjolras nods, acknowledging it. “That’s good. Everything works out?”

“More or less. There’s some stuff about distribution to talk about, I guess, but given the whole timescale of everything, it can probably wait until the next time we meet up,” Grantaire tells him, shrugging. “Other than that, a-okay. How’s the crew?”

“They’re all well.” Here, Enjolras softens further with fondness, but it’s like a gradient, not a sudden shift. Has Grantaire really gotten to know him that much more, that he doesn’t seem so intimidatingly severe anymore? “Louison’s been reading about earth history and wants to visit sometime. Joly’s missing you all, of course, but delighted to see everyone else, and keeps suggesting we make a group trip somewhere, so he can have all his favorite people together in one place.”

“Dude, I’m down,” Grantaire says, grinning. “That sounds awesome. Think on it, leader dude. Bring Louison and we can all go to the beach or something. I know you’re busy, so I won’t bore you with the latest in the saga of Irma Boissey and the one dick in her program that keeps hitting on her at the moment. I just wanted to let you know we are on top of things for once, and look forward to seeing you when we see you.”

“Likewise,” Enjolras replies. He laughs, quiet and easy. “You can catch me up on Irma, then, and hello to her when you see her next time. To Musichetta and Laigle, too.”

“Rodger that,” Grantaire agrees and can’t help but smile back. “Talk later?”

“Talk later. It’s always good to hear from you,” Enjolras tells him with that understatedly intense sincerity of his, and smiles once more before disconnecting. His fondness is dazzling, not blazing like his conviction, but like moonlight skimming the infinitesimal ripples of the sea.

Grantaire didn’t need to call him, not really. Everything they said could have kept. But Grantaire’s grown used to speaking to him, to seeing him often. Somewhere along the way, he’s grown comfortable with Enjolras, watches light and emotion curl over his delicate features not just for their beauty, but because it is a joy to watch him. He anticipates the sweep of Enjolras’ hand brushing long hair back over his shoulder, the quick disdainful fall of his lower lip and the slow embers of his smiles, the warmth of his long, elegant hands.

Somewhere along the way, Grantaire has fallen in love with his husband.

The awareness of it lapses over him, covering him rather than crushing him. It’s not so bad, really. Not terrifying, this time. They’ve faced monsters together. They’re facing marriage together, and- they’re trying. They’ll get there eventually.

He lets it sit in his chest for a moment, sitting still in front of the blank, dark screen in his quiet, cluttered living room. It seems an absurdly mundane place to realize it, but Grantaire is surprisingly okay with that. He’s not going to say anything now, not going to call back and exclaim it; he’s not ready for that yet, but he thinks he’ll get there eventually.

His roommates are probably going to notice quickly, because they know him way too well, but Grantaire’s not worrying about that now, just moves over to organize the sheaves spread out on the coffee table and put them safely away.

As it turns out, he doesn’t even see Enjolras when the Musain returns, with Bossuet and Musichetta going to drop of the sheaves and retrieve Joly after a round of catch up with everyone else, and their return makes a lazy day of it.

 

--

 

“Grantaire,” Cosette says, her distressed panic filtering down the line, “Papa is talking about moving planets, says he wants to tell you about something, but I need you to help me figure out what’s going on, because this is terrible.”

She sounds close to tears, and even though Grantaire knows that Cosette is the type of person who cries easily, it still gets to him every time. And if her father is talking about moving after about two decades hiding on earth, it’s probably somehow his fault.

“I’ll be over as soon as I can,” Grantaire promises her, rolling off the couch so he can put on more presentable clothes now that he’s not lounging around all day. There’s still fugue clinging to him, but it’s pressed back and away, diminished by crisis. He still doesn’t feel real, but Cosette is real, her distress is real. “Chin up, okay? We’ll figure it out and make cookies or some shit when it’s done.”

Cosette’s soft laugh is interrupted by her hiccups. “Okay. But please do hurry.”

Grantaire does his best, throwing on actual clothes and leaving the house with just a quick wave to his roommates. It’s not a terribly long walk to Cosette’s, all things considered, but there’s still plenty of time to think of a hundred reasons for what’s going on, and they all feel imminent, even if his therapist would tell him he’s catastrophising.

He texts when he reaches the street corner, and Cosette darts out through her garden to let him in. It’s an impressive garden, one he’s always liked, full of dense greenery and wild shadows, but now he can see lavender and mint that must be from Floréal’s garden tucked among the more familiar plants. It’s idyllic and lovingly tended, but today’s unsettlement sits ominously in the leafy shade.

Despite Cosette’s anxiousness, Grantaire can see she’s feeling stubborn too, her chin angled high and her normally soft mouth set and determined as she leads him through to her father’s study.

“Grantaire, hello,” Valjean says, looking old and tired for once, his broad, kind face heavily lined. Even his smile is troubled and subdued, and his gaze lingers unhappily on Cosette. “I’m sure Cosette’s told you that I’ve been putting my affairs in order here. She’s told me you’ve been traveling quite a bit, and I was hoping you could put me in touch with someone who does transportation. I’m afraid it’s been quite a while since I’ve intended to go that far abroad.”

It takes Grantaire aback, because he could probably ask Musichetta, Joly, and Bossuet or the rest of the crew, but it would be easier and make more sense for Valjean to talk to Floréal, who is, at least in theory, responsible for those sorts of things.

“I mean, I owe you so much, even more after, y’know, everything that happened,” he answers slowly. “So I would be happy to do whatever I can for you if it comes to that, but I’m not exactly sure what you’re looking for? If it is something to do with that whole thing, I mean, I guess I could understand why you don’t feel safe here anymore, but–”

“Papa,” Cosette breaks in, just as Grantaire runs out of words. “You can’t just leave. What’s going on?”

“It’s nothing to do with what happened,” Valjean assures Grantaire, sounding sincere, but that can’t possibly add up. He looks to Cosette, next, and seems to grapple with himself. “Oh, my darling, I promise everything’s alright. You have so much here for yourself.”

“That’s a terrible response and you know it,” Cosette grumbles, crossing her arms and not looking very intimidating.

Valjean looks fond and sad and tired, and Grantaire feels desperately, awkwardly, that he’s intruding here. “Cosette–”

“You could just tell her the whole story,” Fantine says from the doorway. She’s as unassumingly lovely as always, with her golden hair tumbling forward over her shoulder and wrapped up in a worn cardigan. It’s true that she doesn’t have the same presence as Enjolras’ mother, but there’s a quiet self-assurance that they share, something that makes them seem very similar in this moment. “She might as well know, Jean.”

Grantaire shuffles his feet, uncomfortable. He’s never sure what to do in situations like this, when families are having problems and he’s in the middle of things. “I can go, if you want?”

Cosette’s hand immediately latches onto his arm, determined to have someone in her corner, but she frowns, glancing between him, her mother, and her father. “It’s not like he’s not already involved, apparently.”

Valjean sighs, rubbing his hand over his face. “No, that’s true. Alright. Take a seat, both of you. Fantine?”

She nods, shepherding them over to the low couch and sitting in the comfortable armchair near Valjean’s desk. Gently, she reaches over and rests her hand on Valjean’s knee, a supportive gesture between two people who have been dear friends and raised a child together. And then they start to talk.

It’s harrowing, to hear about how truly exploitative the system can be for even minor infractions, when Valjean talks, however briefly, of his experiences with the prisons of his home system and its ramifications even when he traveled off-world. It’s as bad to hear how easy it is for people to slip through the cracks, when Fantine tells more of her story. Grantaire knows pieces of it, because Cosette told him a long time ago about her childhood and, more recently, about the non-earth details she’d had to strip away.

And how does he keep meeting people who simultaneously make it so hard and so easy to believe that humanity is terrible? Valjean tries to gloss over more or less single-handedly bringing a small settlement to stability with an industrial improvement and his rise to mayor until Cosette and Fantine coax more detail out of him, and Fantine’s stark, quiet story shows an amazing amount of strength to fight for her daughter, from surviving to fleeing, still recovering from near-deadly illness, across the universe.

The peace they’ve had on this world is hard won, and Grantaire’s genes and his fucked up relatives endangered that – twice over, now. It’s bullshit, but it’s bullshit that’s making Valjean worry that he’ll be tracked here now that earth is on the radar, making him worry that his small, close family will be hurt by it.

Cosette’s face has crumpled and she’s wrapped around her father, assuring him of her love and faith, because Cosette is genuinely wonderful person.

Still a little shocked at all of everything, Grantaire pauses as something occurs to him. He clears his throat and waits until they all look to him, Fantine careworn, Valjean weary and spent, and Cosette curious.

“So, since I own the title to this planet,” Grantaire says, “I mean, I can get an official pardon. Like, you shouldn’t need one, but it is literally the least I could do.”

“Young man, you don’t need to compromise your-” Valjean start.

“No, really. I didn’t do anything to earn the rights or responsibilities except exist, which is bullshit, but if I have the power to do that, the least I can do is use it to make things more fair, since it’s not like the justice system’s ever going to get around to it. And even if it’s not my fault, it’s because of me that earth is back on the map at all, which is good enough reason to do it, even if you guys hadn’t been way too kind to me over the years. Besides, I mean, you’ve lived a quiet, non-violent life here being Cosette’s dad for almost twenty years, so it’s not like anyone has cause to object, and even if they did, I’m pretty sure all the other assholes with titles have given out pardons for way less than all the help you gave and all the stuff you went through because of me. If getting a fancy piece of tech with a shiny sigil on it will get people to leave you guys alone, then it is kind of the very least that I can do?”

Only belatedly does he realize he started talking over Valjean and winces.

“And this is why you’re my favorite,” Cosette tells him, beaming at him with watery eyes as she reaches out to poke his shoulder affectionately. Her smile threatens to overtake her face, and it’s no wonder that Marius is head over heels in love with her. “That would work, wouldn’t it, Papa? With a pardon, you’d be free to stay here with us?”

“That’s true,” Valjean admits, finally, looking like he can’t quite believe any of this.

Grantaire smiles, awkward, and sees Fantine hide a smile behind her hand. “Cool. So, um, I think I just need to talk to Floréal and make a trip out there, which I needed to do anyway, and that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“And I’ll come with you,” Cosette adds, sitting straighter and briskly brushing away her tears. “It would be nice to see everyone anyway, and I might as well get used to spending time in space, anyway. Once we have everything taken care of, I’ll come right back home.”

He’s not sure how her parents feel about that, from the looks on their faces, but Grantaire has no problem with that at all. She probably has a point, and what’s more, she’ll probably really enjoy a chance to properly see space, without all the kidnapping and shit this time. Cosette hasn’t seen the world she was born into for most of her life, and Grantaire can’t imagine how much that has to suck. The crew who have already met her get along with her and the rest will probably adopt her on the spot, and Marius will undoubtedly be thrilled, but Grantaire’s honestly just glad that he’ll hopefully have a chance to show one of his best friends the good things that are out there.

“Well,” Fantine finally says, though there’s concern lining her eyes, and she tries for a smile that might miss happy but does seem proud, “I really don’t think there’s any arguing that.”

Ultimately, it takes something more like a month to organize everything. Enjolras and the crew of the Musain are providing support and transportation to the representatives of a planetary body that's trying to gain more protection and recognition under the law, which means they're busy running back and forth until some of the basic agreements can be hammered out.

It gives Grantaire time to consult with Floréal and occasionally Enjolras, determining exactly what it is he'll need to have prepared in order to get an official and endorsed pardon. Cosette takes it in stride, though he can tell she's itching to travel and to make sure that her family is safe.

At long last, though, Les Amis have the time to pick them up, and Bahorel enthusiastically extends the offer to stay over a handful of days, which they gratefully accept. Joly, Musichetta, and Bossuet all stay behind, cheerily enough, stating that someone needs to stay and remember to water the planet, which makes him laugh.

The evening they leave is beautiful, with the sunset poking its way past buildings and the faint pinpricks of stars undeterred by the clouds or Paris' lights. Cosette, standing at his side on the top of the tallest building they could easily get into, clicks her nails and stares up at the sky. She’s as beautiful as always, but glittering tonight with more jewelry than usual and a dress and coat combination that look like Floréal’s bold design and careful stitching, clearly aware of what’s ahead but looking like she can’t quite believe it still exists.

"It's been a long time since I've been really up there," she says quietly, and leans into Grantaire's shoulder when he steps closer.

"It'll be okay," he tells her, matching her for volume and tone. All he can be is someone warm to stand by, but some nights, that’s enough. "And I know you've missed Marius."

She laughs at that, conceding the point, and her smile shines brighter. They stand in companionable silence until the faint whirr of Courfeyrac's cloaked shuttle descends beside them.

He all but tumbles out, though still with artful grace, and immediately seizes Cosette's hands in his, brushing a kiss to each of her cheeks, a gesture laughingly returned.

"It's been too long!" he tells her, sweeping her into a hug next.

All trace of her nerves have vanished as she hugs him back tightly. "It really has! Grantaire, get over here, you're missing out on hugs."

He would probably feel weird about taking up her kindness, except that Courfeyrac is just as kind and sweeps him up as easily, and it's really, really nice, to be sandwiched together with two people he cares a lot about.

"Good to see you, Courfeyrac," he says, amused but meaning it.

"Likewise," Courfeyrac returns and squeezes Grantaire's shoulder before letting go. "Oh man, there is so much to catch you guys up on."

On the way up, Grantaire is content to squeeze into the back so that Courfeyrac and Cosette can talk. Cosette is still trying to talk her family into updating their FTL system and actually using it, for reasons that are clearer than they used to be, and she uses Grantaire's and Floreal's often, but he knows she doesn't always get a chance to talk to the others as much as she'd like.

He's still a little surprised when they enter the main common room of the ship and Cosette and Éponine embrace like dear friends. Grantaire's not entirely oblivious - he knows there's something awkward between them. He'd seen the stark shadow that had crossed Cosette's face when he first said the name Thénardier, and the way they circled one another uncertainly. Now, he's guessing that Éponine’s family was the one that fostered Cosette before her dad came for her, and from what Éponine’s let slip and what he's seen, it hadn't been good for any of the kids there.

Cosette is kind and thoughtful and perceptive, and it's been a year. That probably helps. Still, Grantaire's taken aback at how close they seem. Only for a moment, because Feuilly comes in for a hearty arm clasp and embrace, and then Quill, and Grantaire is dizzy to see all of them at once. Combeferre’s smile is warm and welcoming and Jehan smells of paper and Louison meets his eyes confidently and last of all, Enjolras. Enjolras, who takes Grantaire’s hands in his own, warm as his slow kindling smile.

“Hi,” Grantaire murmurs.

“Hello,” Enjolras replies, touch so soft. He looks tired, they all do, but also genuinely pleased to see them. “Welcome back.”

Grantaire laughs, and lets go so that Enjolras can greet Cosette, feeling full and happy to be back here again, feeling like half of home.

“Hi,” Marius says from behind him, and gives a sheepish little half wave when Grantaire whirls around. There’s a bashful, quiet smile on his face.

“Dude,” Grantaire replies, and holds open his arms, still faintly amazed at how easily his cousin steps in to hug him hard.

“It’s good to see you again,” Marius tells him when they step apart again, all bald earnestness. “Um, I need to greet Cosette, and I know you guys have a lot to get done, but if you’d like an update on all of the committee affairs and administrative things, we can do that later, and-”

“That would be really helpful,” Grantaire tells him, and anticipating what he doesn’t say, “and you also totally need to catch me up on what’s new with you.”

It makes Marius light up, though not in the same hazy starstruck way he does when Cosette catches his eye, the two of them drawing together as if compelled by some kind of gravitational pull. Grantaire fades back, sits in the corner, and contentedly soaks in all these people he cares about so much.

Feuilly, quiet and unobtrusive, sits beside him, his springy curls partly held back with a bright, patterned handkerchief. There's no hint of mourning in him today. "How are you?"

"What, not going to ask how saving the world's going?" Grantaire asks him, affecting surprise but not quite able to bite back a smile. "I'm doing... pretty well, actually. It still sucks sometimes, like the biggest black hole you've ever seen, but it's not as lonely a job as every story ever would have you believe."

Amused, Feuilly snorts. "Your stories and most of the ones Jehan and Enjolras grew up with, maybe. My culture never went in for the lone brilliance style. Unity and cooperation and respect were the bywords of my childhood. Or maybe it's just your cynicism peeking through."

Grantaire gives him a lopsided smile for that. "Probably. You seem pretty quick to turn that cynicism around on me these days, though. How are you?"

It's a sign of how much closer they've gotten – friends of time-strengthened bonds, not just of the initial reaching out – that Feuilly doesn't instinctively insist that he's fine, but considers the answer. Not that the other isn't true, but Grantaire's gotten to realize that for Feuilly, there's multiple layers of truth.

"I'm worn out and feeling kind of patchy," he finally says. His fingers play over his sandy gold bracelet, the middle of the three, thoughtfully. "There's a lot that I miss, and some things that I really don't. But I'm better. I'm as good as you are, if more enthusiastic about the saving the universe plan."

His crooked smile and laughter flash over the last part, and he slides a good-humored look over at Grantaire.

Grantaire slaps a hand over his heart. "Ouch! But yeah, I guess I have to give you that one. You must be doing okay, if you're willing to give me a hard time."

"I guess so," Feuilly says dryly, and readily lapses into companionable silence, watching their friends-come-family with the same fondness that unfurls its budding tendrils in Grantaire's heart.

It takes almost no time at all to get to the Homeworld, and as he gets ready to descend into bureaucracy hell, Grantaire is really glad that they're not heading straight back home after because the world feels more real, more alive when he's with them and he doesn't quite want to lose that just yet.

"Ugh, you're such a sap," Éponine mutters beside him, as if she can read what's on his face, but there's a hint of affection to her exasperated amusement.

"Lies," Grantaire retorts, nudging her with his elbow. "I didn't realize you were coming down too."

She snorts and tosses her head. "Not to stand in line for hours with you, but yeah. I gotta pick up a few things I can't elsewhere. Lots of things scattered in this overgrown dump, if you know where to look."

"Now why do I have no problem believing that," he replies dryly. "You found me in another such dump after all."

Éponine actually laughs at that. "Wow, good to know how you think of the planet you get so fierce about."

"Yeah, but it's my dump, technically literally, so I'm the only one who gets to talk about it like that." Grantaire grins. "I mean, you've got siblings too, you've got to know that."

Her magpie eyes flash like they've focused on something shiny and she snorts again, this time in something like agreement. But that's Éponine, jagged edges and wild amusements and sudden silences.

That could be the fact that Cosette comes to join them, though, breaking away from her conversation with Feuilly and straightening her clothes, squaring her shoulders. Her chin juts up with purpose even if calm self-assurance settles on her shoulders like a queen's robe.

The best-dressed woman in Paris indeed, Grantaire thinks, and reaches over to squeeze her hands once. Cosette smiles and squeezes back, but doesn't need any more reassurance. She can handle it.

And handle it she does, though by the third hour in line, Grantaire's starting to wish he'd brought water bottles as well as snacks, and they're reduced to playing variations of children's car trip games.

"This has got to be the least efficient system," Cosette mutters under her breath, and with a flash of real pain asks, "How can it possibly actually help anyone?"

"Not sure it really does," Grantaire mutters back, discomfited that she's hit on the same thing he wonders about sometimes, stranded in the seemingly endless lines.

Cosette's mouth goes tight and her eyes spark with a familiar stubborn fierceness. "Someone should do something about that."

Someone undoubtedly means her, which means he's probably accidentally found Les Amis' newest member.

It’s probably an inevitable part of her coming out in space, Grantaire knows, and has known, but it's still hard to reconcile, and he pushes it away, counts ornate pieces of jewelry and dents in the walls until they reach the front of one line and then the next, until they finally have a signed and sealed pardon in hand. It's such a little thing, something so small to do away with a problem that's weighed on Valjean for years and years, and Cosette's small, troubled face reflects his thoughts.

Orous exhausts Grantaire, and he feels drained and overwhelmed, after so much noise and waiting and the endless press of people and air and cramped space. Between the two of them, it's a subdued walk back to the transport back up to the Musain.

Slowly, they pull him back up out of his thoughts until he's laughing at Bahorel and Combeferre's enthusiastic description of their latest near mishap in the name of Science and Adventure. Time goes so quickly with them, so fast that Grantaire almost can't breathe for it, stays up most of the night because he's so swept up in their comfortable, enjoyable company.

It's good to see all of them again, to have the time to sit and talk over several days, with physical presence and frequent, brief touches that are absent from the FTL transmissions. It's good to be back on the ship, with the smooth drift of its rearranging wings and the comforting lulling engines, a little louder in the geometric space of Enjolras' room, thrumming below the bed like an echo of Enjolras' heartbeat or Grantaire's own. In a weird way, it's good to see Cosette with them too, so quickly at ease with space's multitude of fashions and customs after so many years away, as quietly charming and clever as she can be, her quicksilver laughter threading through the choir of theirs.

Despite the fact that they've been here for work, and that he goes over all the new data with Marius about the funds and Enjolras, Courfeyrac, and Combeferre about legal proceedings, Grantaire actually feels lighter and relaxed when they get home, like he's let some of the weight of everything rest on their shoulders too, if only a little, if only for a little while.

They drift down in Cosette's garden, which welcomes them with its reaching branches and unfurled plants, and he presses the cool black pardon into her hands. She kisses his cheek in thanks and they go to present it to her father, who looks white from the shock of unexpected relief. Normally, that would send Grantaire running, but tonight he lets Fantine and Cosette talk him into staying to celebrate, and it's warm, like sitting beside the radiator in winter.

If using his arbitrarily granted space powers can lead to doing this much good, Grantaire might actually consider using them more often, and even his therapist makes a comment about his good mood.

 

--

 

He thinks he's starting to get the hang of balancing two very different lives, of figuring out the best way to keep some sort of traction in his life with an endless stream of open doors and the threats that lay behind them. Home isn't as limited as he thought it might be.

Of course, Grantaire is trying to do the ‘actually using some of that ridiculous fortune because it makes no sense to deny yourself entirely’ thing too. Part of that was the apartment they're sharing, and some indulgent art supplies, because even before this, Grantaire was pretty comfortable but still thoughtful about money. Now, he manages to not even feel guilty for offering to take two weeks more vacation when Les Amis start talking about taking a break and maybe visiting earth when they've wrapped up their latest revolutionary exploits. He can't blame them at all - it's been a hell of a year.

So it's something to look forward to, counting down the days until he gets to show off the snatches of beautiful things that the world hasn't managed to fuck up just yet.

The counting down is mostly why he's surprised when, still not at zero, he finds Enjolras at his doorstep one morning.

Grantaire's breath and brain stutter for a moment until he realizes that Enjolras looks weary but not grim, not tense or impatient at all. Automatically, he steps back and opens the door to let him in, not realizing he's smiling until Enjolras smiles back. "Uh, hey."

"Hello, Grantaire," Enjolras replies, stepping in and politely removing his boots by the door. There's a decent sized bag slung over his shoulder and a not-quite-hesitant inquisitiveness on his face.

"Go ahead and put your stuff down," Grantaire tells Enjolras, waving a hand to his open bedroom door, still probably going on autopilot a bit as he trails after.

"What are you doing here?" Grantaire asks, his eyebrows arching up in incredulous surprise, lodged startled in the doorway and smiling. "You should be off with everyone else, seeing new and exciting earth things."

Grantaire should probably feel worse about letting Floréal procure passports and documents for all of them, but it's not like there's a way to apply for an earth visa that earth's aware of (except Grantaire, and isn't that still terrifying). Last he knew, Bossuet spirited Joly and Musichetta away to meet the rest of the group in Switzerland, to get started on their vacation-slash-tour.

Enjolras looks up at him, still in the act of swinging his bag down on Grantaire's bedroom floor. He's not smiling, quite, but his face is soft and he doesn't take the words as a rebuke or provocation.

"I know," he replies, "but I'd rather be here with you."

"I'm joining them in two weeks," Grantaire protest, but it's weak and he's touched.

Enjolras must know it, because he looks amused as he straightens, barefoot step light as a feather as he crosses back over and leans down to kiss Grantaire. Grantaire acquiesces, leans into it and curls his hand over the warm and familiar back of Enjolras' neck for leverage and touch.

"I'm not complaining, though," Grantaire says when they break apart. "You're totally welcome to stay, I just can't promise it'll be exciting, since I still have work."

"That's alright," Enjolras tells him, and he is smiling this time.

And as it turns out, it is alright. They go out for dinner in a part of Paris they've never had reason to go before, and Enjolras looks around with an evaluating intensiveness, his dark eyes tracking Parisians and tourists. Grantaire asks after Enjolras' parents and people he knows in their household, and Enjolras gets up to date on earth gossip.

When they get home, it's late and they’re cheerful but tired. Normally, Grantaire stays up late on his phone or computer, but it's only when they climb into the warm, waiting covers of the bed and Grantaire slips into Enjolras' hold without hesitation that he realizes he's come to expect being able to fall asleep next to him.

Enjolras, probably up late by ship time, seems to be fall asleep faster than usual, his breathing a slow and easy eddy, the sway of his sleep drawing Grantaire down as well, and his dreams don't dare to trouble him until he wakes with his alarm.

For all the time they've spent together, it seems to come in little bursts, and Grantaire isn't expecting how easily, how quickly they fall into a rhythm. Even on vacation, Enjolras is an early riser, and seems to revel in being able to wake up with the slow bloom of the sun. Often, Grantaire will find him at the kitchen table with one of Grantaire's battered paperbacks, with a sheave to take notes, of all things, and a fragrant cup of tea or coffee, idyllic in the light playing around and about him.

They'll eat breakfast together, talking quietly or reading separately, sitting at the slightly battered table and occasionally letting their hands brush in comfortable companionship. It reminds Grantaire of a long and restful handful of days stolen away at Enjolras' family home, eating in the warm breeze and wash of golden light sweeping in from the balcony.

During the day, when Grantaire's busy with his various odd jobs, Enjolras does indeed keep himself occupied, spending time with Cosette and Floréal and, on one memorable day, following Grantaire to a dance class and taking the place of a missing student. Even when meeting with Matelote and Gibelote, Enjolras willingly goes along, accepting Matelote's faint skepticism with equanimity.

Most astonishing of all, is how at ease he seems in Grantaire's space. His sharp edges don't vanish, but they soften until Enjolras fits as easily as a rock worn smooth by the river. His self-containment doesn't disappear, but his thoughtful quiet seems to sit more easily around him, less intense as he meticulously tips water into Grantaire's cluster of plants, raining his focus on their green leaves and delicate blossoms like the sun.

"Didn't know you liked plants," Grantaire remarks, brushing a hand over Enjolras' elbow as he crosses over, leaning against the wall by the window. The plants sit on the sill and the table below, a small forest of foliage, a frequent stopping place for the bees that flit in during the summer and linger to drift about Grantaire like small, curious cats.

Enjolras sets aside the small watering can, a reflective look on his face as he traces the vein of a leaf with his finger, absorbed in his contemplation of his response.

Grantaire tilts his face to catch a ray of light and waits.

"I didn't either," Enjolras finally says. His fingers run along the lip of a terracotta pot and then press into damp, rich soil, making sure it's not too dry. "It wasn't something I ever thought I had time for, but they're really quite peaceful, actually."

Even though Enjolras is quiet, Grantaire has no trouble at all believing that his thoughts never still or allow him a respite. Grantaire touches Enjolras' upper arm, as softly as Enjolras touched the plant.

"Well, feel free to enjoy these plants as much as you like." Grantaire's mouth tips up in a bit of a rueful grin. "I'm really bad at keeping them company, and I'm pretty sure Floréal would raise her eyebrow at me."

Enjolras huffs an amused noise at that and lets the subject drift, but his knuckles brush the back of Grantaire's hand in acknowledgement.

That image, Enjolras with his clever fingers as gentle on leaves as they ever are with delicate technology, is what lingers in Grantaire's mind's eye later, as he backs Enjolras up to the bed, nudges him to sit on the edge of the bed, and drops to his knees.

It's fast, faster than is usual for them, but unrushed, and Grantaire teases the line of Enjolras' erection through his trousers and smiles when Enjolras' breath shudders out just shy of a noise.

"Can I?" Grantaire asks, with the casual ease of the last few uninterrupted days, smoothing his hands out over Enjolras' thighs and looking up at him.

"Please," Enjolras murmurs, and his fingers come down to trace the rise of Grantaire's cheekbone, to rest against his jaw as his thumb brushes Grantaire's waiting mouth.

It's all the permission Grantaire needs, still watching Enjolras' face as he undoes his trousers, only regretting making Enjolras sit down first when they have to take a moment to coordinate getting them out of the way. But then Enjolras' cock is free and Grantaire can tease as he pleases.

He doesn't tease much, though his mouth is light as sucks at the tip. He doesn't want to tease, wants to show as much care and gentleness as he can. By now, Grantaire knows what Enjolras likes, how much tongue and suction to use, how best to play his fingers along his cock with the right amount of pressure.

All the while, Enjolras is quiet, reduced to half-caught moans as his hands touch Grantaire almost desperately. His hands shift constantly, threading through Grantaire's curls, touching his face with fleeting reverence, trailing the back of his neck, and finally settling on the arch of his shoulders, not holding Grantaire in place so much as grounding them both, another warm, bright point of contact between them. Enjolras' legs are spread open, wide to welcome Grantaire between them.

Here is Enjolras soft, unburdened in their respite, and he's so easy for once, with his unpolished gasps and generous mouth and lazy braid of braids spilling down his back, with his dark eyes attentive on Grantaire, and Grantaire revels in this.

Grantaire swallows Enjolras down until there's no space for his hand, until he can all but feel the quivering of Enjolras' tense stomach as he slides his hands close, lets his thumbs flow over the inner creases of Enjolras' thighs, where the skin is so sensitive that Enjolras shuts his eyes against it.

The window illuminates them from behind, and Grantaire can hardly bear to look up at Enjolras, dedicates himself instead to his reactions and the slow crescendo of his pleasure. The ache begins to build in Grantaire's jaw, but Enjolras' hands are fluttering over him again, his breath speeding fast enough to orchestrate a close cascade of sounds.

His fingers push through Grantaire's hair, not pulling, but a silent, helpless warning to move away if he wants, but Grantaire stays close, pulls back just enough to make space for his hand until Enjolras bites down on a final moan, doing his best to keep himself still as he comes.

Grantaire swallows and caresses a kiss to the inside of Enjolras' thigh before he sits back and wipes his mouth. He smiles up at Enjolras, and it's teasing, but it's genuine too, and when Enjolras smiles back, it's effortless and unguarded.

"Does that mean it's my turn to return the favor?" Enjolras asks, and though it's light, it's a real question, and Grantaire takes the time to consider.

Generally, he's not nearly as keen on receiving oral as giving it, and he's never taken Enjolras up on the offer before. Today, though, he's already aching to be touched, relaxed enough that it seems like a good day to indulge in it, unpressured and spontaneous.

"Yeah, actually," he says, and lets Enjolras help him up to his feet.

They trade languid kisses and more urgent ones as they finally undress, and even though Grantaire feels urgent, he sprawls out on the bed, reclining against the pillows and letting his legs fall open. Enjolras stands in the middle of the room, and his gaze sweeps Grantaire appreciatively, lingering over the curves and planes of him on display with clear desire.

"So?" Grantaire prompts when Enjolras still doesn't move.

Enjolras doesn't so much hesitate as pause. "Do you remember several months ago when you suggested I bring space sex toys sometime?"

"Oh my god," Grantaire breathes, delighted and surprised. "I didn’t think you’d take me seriously. Why the hell did you not mention this earlier? Also, c'mon, show me so I can say yea or nay."

It's probably a sign of how much time they've spent together that Enjolras doesn't raise his eyebrows, but just looks amused in his quiet way and turns to the chest of drawers to go through his things. After a moment, he shifts back and raises his hand for Grantaire's inspection.

For a moment, Grantaire's not sure what to make of it, small black pads covering Enjolras' thumb, index, and middle fingers and a slim band circling his wrist, but then Enjolras twitches his fingers in a certain movement and there's the unmistakable sound of vibration.

"Holy shit, hell yes," Grantaire says, stomach curling with want at just the sound, his eyes going wide. He doesn't know whether to laugh at the thought that they're apparently the kind of couple who buys sex toys to surprise one another now, or to be touched at the thought. He figures he can think about that more after more sex, and spreads his legs further in a more physical invitation.

A smug look flashes over Enjolras' features and he joins Grantaire on the bed, leaning down to kiss him. It's a needy give and take, and Grantaire finds himself leaning up to follow after when Enjolras finally pulls back.

Enjolras doesn't go far, but kisses his way along Grantaire's jaw and down to his collarbone as his fingers trail down to Grantaire's parted legs, dip down to press against his clit. Grantaire swears under his breath, hips arching into the sudden and stunning vibration and pressure. It's astounding, made better by Enjolras' scalding mouth against Grantaire's desperate skin.

Encouraged, Enjolras kisses lower, apparently intending to do this all the way down, and Grantaire, overwhelmed by sensation, does his best to relax back and allow it. This has to be the best space sex toy ever, because it varies the vibrations with pressure, light and fluttering when Enjolras' fingers barely stroke over his clit, all but thrumming in Grantaire's bones when he pushes his hips hard against the touch.

Enjolras is not wild in his abandon, but he's focused and detailed, covering Grantaire with sensation so intensely that he feels on edge by the time Enjolras' mouth finally, finally leaves his hipbones and his fingers draw away and a moan from Grantaire.

Grantaire still gasps at the first touch of Enjolras' tongue against him, a gentle balm after the steady, staggering vibration. Enjolras presses two fingers in and Grantaire is so, so glad he doesn't have to hold back a moan, undone by how much he wants this. Ever clever, Enjolras learns how to make Grantaire shift and shiver under his mouth, and the vibration comes back full force as Enjolras crooks his fingers inside Grantaire.

It's heady, and Grantaire totally understands Enjolras' restless, seeking hands before, but does his best to keep his own clenched around the sheets or resting, never pulling, at the back of Enjolras' head.

Keeping one hand curled around Grantaire's thigh, Enjolras instead sucks the start of a mark there, his thumb pressing down on Grantaire's clit as he keeps up a steady rhythm with his fingers, teasing with the thought of a third.

It's only when Enjolras pauses, glancing up with a worry-tinted question, that Grantaire realizes he's making a little whining sound high in his throat, and he shakes his head.

"I'm fine," he promises, breathless, and kicks his free leg out farther, not quite to the point of pain, but as far as he can comfortably go. "I'm awesome, this is awesome, please keep going, I am so fucking close."

"I'd hate to keep you there," Enjolras quips with a reassured smile, and bends his head back down, circling his tongue over Grantaire's clit as he adds the third finger, and the sight of him, kneeling between Grantaire's legs with as much focus as he gives anything, rocking his hand just right, is what finally sends Grantaire over the edge, whole body tensing with it.

His mind whites out, everything else vanishing but this and them as he rides out the orgasm, sighing as Enjolras slips his hand free. It turns into a pleased hum as he stretches out his legs, still blinking his way back to normalcy, comfortable and at ease as he watches Enjolras get his hand free of the vibrator.

"That was awesome and you are awesome," Grantaire informs him, and is completely charmed when Enjolras smiles back. "You've a golden touch, or at least something similar, because I feel about as useful as a statue right now, or you are quite possibly some impossible god of sexuality and I am totally okay with being Psyche in this scenario, especially because I'm allowed to look at you. Want to come be lazy in bed once we get cleaned up?"

Enjolras looks fond and flattered, and the crease at the corners of his eyes belays the serious set of his mouth. "Aren't there other things we should do?"

Grantaire shrugs and points his toes to stretch out his calves. "Neither of us are on call for once, and it seems as good a way as any to enjoy it."

With a sliver of laughter, Enjolras accepts that, and they sit soaking in the warmth between them for a few moments before reluctantly dragging themselves up to get clean.

Grantaire's spine is loose and muscles relaxed as he wanders back to the bedroom after, curls held back from his face by one of Musichetta's headbands and some bobby pins. He flops back onto the bed, not quite tired, but drowsy as Enjolras lies down beside him.

They sprawl beside one another, loosely connected but still too warm to gravitate together. Happiness swirls, red and dusty gold, around him, and Grantaire closes his eyes and concentrates on breathing, lets contentment suffuse him.

When he finally looks over, Enjolras is reading a fantasy paperback that Joly picked up a few months back, stretched out on his back with a look of absorption but with no tense line to his brows. He looks at home, molded to the bed and almost unaware of the way his fingers are twined loosely with Grantaire's.

Grantaire loves him unbearably just about then, but he's still not ready to say it. They're getting there, though, he thinks, which is a hell of a lot more than he ever expected. For now, he holds that thought close and glows in it, and loving Enjolras is a lot like looking at vast new star systems.

There are a lot of options between now and then, in the worlds they're learning with one another. He makes a choice.

"Hey," he says, rolling onto his side and waiting until Enjolras looks over at him. "So. I've met your family. Obviously they can't know the whole story, but do you wanna come meet mine? Next high holy that works out with your schedule?"

Surprise flickers over Enjolras' face before it settles into open honesty and he lowers his book the rest of the way with a smile.

"I'd like that," he replies simply, and leaves the inevitable series of preparatory questions for later.

Which is fair, because Grantaire is going to have to do a lot of thinking about how to navigate explanations, both the ones that will need to come now and the ones that'll come up when he can tell his family everything. Still, there's something nice in thinking about Enjolras listening attentively to Grantaire's father explaining some finer point of faith or custom, and the way his siblings are going to pester him with questions once they hear he's bringing someone home. There's something nice in thinking that Enjolras wants this too.

For now, Grantaire returns Enjolras' smile and tangles their fingers a little tighter.

"Me too," he says, and hopes Enjolras can hear the innumerable things he doesn’t know how to put into words just yet.