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I Fall Deep

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It starts on a regular Thursday night at the Musain.

Enjolras is trying to have a meeting, but nobody is really paying attention to what he’s saying about the university’s department cuts. Bahorel is leaning back in his chair with his feet on the table, carving something out of a small piece of wood with his pocketknife. Next to him, Feuilly is making origami flowers and tucking them into Jehan’s hair. Jehan himself is lying across three chairs with his head in Combeferre’s lap. Combeferre is the only one who seems to be listening to Enjolras, but he’s also rubbing slow circles in Jehan’s shoulder, and probably doesn’t even notice he’s doing it. Across the table, Courfeyrac is stealing Feuilly’s origami paper in order to make paper airplanes, which he tosses back and forth to Grantaire. Origami paper does not work very well for airplanes; the planes keep veering off in strange directions and nosediving onto the floor. In the corner, Joly and Bossuet are playing hangman. Bossuet hasn’t won a game yet. Marius isn’t there, probably hanging out with Cosette again. He’s been absent more and more since they started dating. Enjolras is constantly biting his tongue to keep from saying what he really thinks about people who care more about sex than their academic institution.

Enjolras ducks as one of the airplanes nearly hits him in the face. “Are any of you listening to what I’m saying?”

“Sure we are,” Grantaire says. “It’s riveting.” Enjolras raises an eyebrow skeptically.

“Department cuts bad, degradation of this fine institution, we should print flyers,” Courfeyrac says. “I’m still not sure what the big deal is. So we won’t have a grad program for Russian anymore. Not like anyone will miss it.”

“That’s not the point,” Enjolras insists. “It’s about transparency and accountability—“

“What about a letter-writing campaign?” Combeferre interrupts. “The departments being cut are small, but there’s enough of them that we can get a sizable movement going if we try. Besides, cutting the journalism major was a bad move. If there’s anyone we can get to stage protests, it’s journalism students.”

“Point,” Enjolras says. “Can you send out a mass email?”

“I’ll try to get it out by tomorrow morning,” Combeferre promises. “Perhaps we can revisit the issue then? I think Jehan is falling asleep.” Jehan looks wide awake to Enjolras, but Combeferre can’t see his face from where he’s sitting. When he speaks, Jehan closes his eyes and suddenly looks completely exhausted.

“All right,” Enjolras says. “Grantaire, Feuilly, can you work on designs for some flyers? I want to see them as soon as possible.” Grantaire and Feuilly nod their agreement.

Everyone heads out, fumbling with coats and scarves. Combeferre is half carrying Jehan, whom Enjolras suspects is pretending to be sleepier than he actually is for this very reason. Grantaire hangs back, twisting his hat in his hands.

"Do you need something?" Enjolras asks, pausing in his shuffling of papers and books to look Grantaire in the eye. It’s a trick he learned from his father. People like to know you’re giving them your full attention, he’d said. Of course, Dad was hoping Enjolras would go into business, not social justice, but there’s a very small selection of skills that carry over from one to the other.

"It's nothing," Grantaire says. "I mean, I was just wondering." He looks up, meeting Enjolras' eyes with a look of determination on his face. "Do you want to get coffee sometime?"

"Is this different from all the other times we get coffee?" Enjolras asks, because he's pretty sure he knows where this conversation is going, but he hates ambiguity and nothing's more frustrating than people getting hurt over a miscommunication. And maybe he’s completely misread the situation, and he can still avoid having to do this.

"Well, yeah," Grantaire says. "I meant as a date." So much for that.

The thing is, Enjolras likes Grantaire. The young artist is cynical and belligerent and pretty much Enjolras’ complete opposite, and they fight like rabid dogs more often than not, but Enjolras honestly likes him. He likes Grantaire’s jokes, and the way everyone is always a little happier and more relaxed when he’s around. He likes that Grantaire challenges him, and calls him out when he’s being an ass. He likes that Grantaire is always there, even if he’s not doing much, just a constant comforting presence.

And he hates that he hasn’t figured out a way to have this conversation that won’t hurt Grantaire, but Enjolras can’t change who he is, and he figures it’s best to get it over with quickly.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Enjolras says. “I’m not interested.”

Grantaire’s face shows a painful mixture of devastation and embarrassment. “Sorry,” he says quickly, his face burning red. “I didn’t— Never mind. Forget I said anything.” He turns to leave.

“It’s not personal,” Enjolras blurts out. “I’m asexual. I’m not interested in anyone. Sorry.”

“Oh.” Enjolras waits for more. He’s not ashamed of his sexual orientation, but he considers it fairly personal information, and so doesn’t much like spreading it around. Besides, he’s had his share of bad coming out experiences. Denial, arguments, condescending advice, he’s heard it all, and he isn’t sure how Grantaire is going to react. But for some reason he feels like he owes Grantaire an explanation, and it makes the mortified blush fade from Grantaire’s face, so that’s good.

Grantaire doesn’t say anything else, just looks at Enjolras with an expression the blond man can’t read. After a moment, Enjolras resumes packing his things.

“See you tomorrow?” he says, attempting an awkward smile.

“Yeah,” Grantaire says. “See you tomorrow.”

***

Enjolras isn’t sure what he’s expecting when he finds Grantaire waiting for him outside his first class the next morning, but this isn’t it.

“So,” Grantaire says. “Do you want to get coffee with me?”

This time Enjolras doesn’t look at him, just keeps walking. Grantaire follows. “I’m having the oddest feeling of déjà vu,” Enjolras says drily. He was up until three in the morning studying for an exam he has this afternoon, he lost points on his most recent essay for exceeding the page limit again, and he suspects Grantaire is teasing him, although the other man has such an earnest look on his face that it’s hard to be sure. Enjolras has no patience for going through this again, and he’s rather regretting telling Grantaire anything in the first place.

“I thought I’d try again,” Grantaire says with a cocky grin. “I’m nothing if not persistent.”

“Well, my answer hasn’t changed,” Enjolras snaps. “I told you. I’m asexual. That means—“

“You aren’t sexually attracted to anyone.” Grantaire waves his hand. “There’s a spectrum and shit. I know, I looked it up. I also know that that doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not you want to go get coffee. With me. Alone. Together. As a date.”

Enjolras stares, speechless.

Grantaire’s smile falters, and he sighs. “Look,” he says, “if you really don’t want to go out with me, just tell me so now, and I promise to leave you alone and never mention it again. But if you think you can’t, or you shouldn’t, maybe you should give me a chance to prove you wrong?”

“I am not going to have sex with you,” Enjolras says, slowly and clearly, because Grantaire doesn’t seem to be getting it. That’s the only possible explanation for this turn in the conversation. Maybe if Enjolras is very, very blunt, he can shock Grantaire out of his hopefully temporary insanity.

He deliberately doesn’t ask himself why he doesn’t just say no.

“Did I mention sex?” Grantaire looks puzzled. “I was trying really hard not to.” His smile is back, but softer and more timid than before. “I was talking about coffee. That’s it. No strings attached. What do you say?”

This is a terrible idea, Enjolras thinks. “Sure,” he says instead. “I’ve got two hours before my next class.” That he should be using for some last-minute cramming for his exam, but at this point, caffeine will probably do him more good than a little extra reading.

“Great,” Grantaire says, his face lighting up. It makes a small warm spot bloom in the center of Enjolras’ chest.

***

They go to the Musain, because of course they always go to the Musain. It has the best coffee around. (And Enjolras has a lifelong ban from the Starbucks on the other side of campus after he got into a screaming match with a visiting corporate executive, but they never talk about that.) Eponine is bussing tables near the door. She looks up when they enter, notes that they’re lacking the crowd of boys that usually follow Enjolras and Grantaire around, and her face splits into a devious grin.

“If you say a word, I’ll come over the next time you’re babysitting Gavroche and feed him expresso,” Grantaire threatens.

Eponine mimes zipping her lips.

Grantaire insists on paying for Enjolras’ coffee. They take a small table by the window instead of their usual back room. Grantaire proceeds to add about eight packets of sugar to his cup.

Enjolras hasn’t been on a date since high school, and he’s not quite sure how this is supposed to go. He’s fine in a large group of friends, but one on one is a lot more difficult. So he falls back on his favorite conversation topic, politics. Maybe not the best choice, in retrospect, but his imminent exam is still on his mind, and anything is better than awkward silence. And Grantaire doesn’t seem to really understand what Enjolras is going on about, but he also doesn’t look away from Enjolras’ face, so that’s all right.

When their time is up, Grantaire insists on walking Enjolras to his class. “I’m not a teenage girl,” Enjolras grumbles, but he secretly kind of likes it. At least he knows he didn’t fuck anything up too badly. There’s another awkward moment when they get to Enjolras’ class, and neither of them are quite sure how to end things.

“Do you think you want to do this again sometime?” Grantaire asks. “I mean, I know this isn’t really your thing, but I had fun, and I thought maybe we could…” He trails off.

Enjolras smiles. “Yeah,” he says. It’s nice. He feels normal. “Definitely. I’ll see you around.”

The last thing Enjolras sees before he enters his class is Grantaire’s grin. He can’t stop thinking about it all through his exam.

***

They do go out for coffee again. They study together. They go to a party, although that is mostly Courfeyrac’s doing. Once, at the Musain, where their little group has gathered in their usual back room, Grantaire takes Enjolras’ hand under the table. Enjolras is busy debating tuition hikes with Combeferre, but he gives Grantaire’s hand a squeeze.

He’s pretty sure that everyone else knows what’s going on. If nothing else, Eponine surely told them. None of them say anything, although he catches a few significant glances across the table from time to time. He minds much less than he thought he would.

When Enjolras spots a flyer for a local artist’s exhibit, he doesn’t even think before pulling out his phone and texting Grantaire. They make plans to go that weekend.

On Saturday, Enjolras picks up Grantaire outside his apartment. Grantaire launches into a speech about this artist compared to some other, and Enjolras really has no idea what the hell he’s talking about, but Grantaire’s enthusiasm is catching, and Enjolras finds himself grinning.

The art itself looks like a lot of watery lines in painful color combinations, but Grantaire keeps going on and on about the quality of light and metaphorical resonance of the human soul. “You’re just making stuff up now, aren’t you?” Enjolras finally asks, rolling his eyes.

Grantaire grins. “Maybe a little. That one looks like that outfit Jehan wore last week.” The purple and orange monstrosity does indeed resemble something in Jehan’s wardrobe. Enjolras laughs and slips his hand into Grantaire’s.

In truth, he doesn’t mind listening to Grantaire ramble about art. Enjolras is used to being the one who does most of the talking. But here and now, he likes the excitement in Grantaire’s voice, and he likes the feeling of Grantaire’s hand in his, and he likes what the two of them have together.

When they’ve had all the art they can stand for one day, they stop at Enjolras’ favorite Thai place for dinner, and then Enjolras drives Grantaire home.

He stops the car in front of Grantaire’s apartment, and the two of them sit in silence for a moment. “Do you want to come inside?” Grantaire finally asks. “We could, I don’t know, watch a movie or something.”

“Sure,” Enjolras agrees. “Sounds good.”

He’s been in Grantaire’s apartment once or twice before, but always accompanied by Courfeyrac or Combeferre or Eponine. It’s tiny and full of mismatched furniture, with half-painted canvases leaning against the walls and piles of miscellaneous clutter on every flat surface. Grantaire tosses his coat over a lamp. Enjolras makes a small pile of his coat and shoes in a corner by the door.

Grantaire pops V for Vendetta into the DVD player, probably because he likes how conflicted it makes Enjolras. (“V’s a revolutionary trying to overthrow a corrupt government. Should be right up your alley.” “But he’s wearing the face of a man who tried to institute a Catholic theocracy!”) Enjolras sits down on the couch and a moment later, Grantaire hands him a beer and joins him.

Everything is going well up until the 1812 Overture starts blaring, which is when Grantaire decides to oh-so-casually put his arm around Enjolras.

Enjolras isn’t ignorant of romantic clichés, however much he disdains them. He shrugs off Grantaire’s arm. “Stop that,” he says, standing up.

“Enjolras.” Grantaire grabs Enjolras’ wrist. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. Will you sit back down and talk to me?”

“I don’t see what there is to talk about,” Enjolras says stonily. “I think I’ve made my position perfectly clear.”

“Actually no, you haven’t,” Grantaire snaps. “You said you didn’t want to have sex, and then you flip out whenever I try to even touch you.”

“I know what you’re thinking, all right? I’m not going to be pressured.”

“Jesus Christ.” Grantaire finally releases Enjolras’ wrist in order to scrub his face with his hands. “I’m not trying to pressure you into anything. Despite what you seem to believe, I can control myself. Although if you’re so worried about me tearing your clothes off, I don’t know what you’re still doing here.”

“Well then maybe I should leave.” Enjolras catches the panicked look on Grantaire’s face a fraction of a second before he shuts it down.

“Or you could try trusting me,” Grantaire says. “I know it’s hard, what with my scandalous reputation as a corrupter of innocence, but that’s what people do. You know, when they like each other.” Enjolras glares in silence. Grantaire sighs. “Look, I promise not to push your boundaries if you promise to stop overanalyzing everything I do. Deal?” Enjolras looks at him for another moment, then sinks back down onto the couch, leaving a foot of space between him and Grantaire. Grantaire sighs again.

“So what do you like?” Grantaire asks. If they’re going to have this conversation, they might as well get it out of the way. “What do you want, don’t want, might be willing to try, never in a million years? You’ve got to give me some idea, Enj, I’m flying blind.”

Enjolras feels his face heat up. “I don’t know,” he admits. “I’ve never—“

“Never what?”

“Never anything,” he says, and it shouldn’t be so embarrassing, because it’s not like he couldn’t get laid if he wanted to. He just doesn’t want to. But sitting next to Grantaire, he still feels inadequate.

But Grantaire doesn’t seem to be judging him. “Okay, so we’ll go slow,” he says. “Really, really slow.”

“‘Going slow’ implies you have a destination in mind,” Enjolras comments.

“Nope,” Grantaire says. “It’s the journey, and all that.” He considers Enjolras for a moment. “Would it be okay if I kissed you?”

Enjolras’ chest goes tight and breathless, and he’s pretty sure it’s not just nerves. Now that he’s fairly certain Grantaire isn’t going to try anything untoward, he’s… curious. “Yes.”

Grantaire leans forward slowly, looking Enjolras in the eyes the entire time, and presses a dry kiss to Enjolras’ mouth. His lips are rough and chapped, but not at all unpleasant. Almost before Enjolras can process it, Grantaire withdraws. “How was that?”

“Not what I expected,” Enjolras says. There’s a flicker of uncertainty behind Grantaire’s eyes. “But it was good. We could do it again, if you want.”

Enjolras would never have guessed that Grantaire had this much patience, but he doesn’t rush or push. He acts like Enjolras is made of glass, and Enjolras hates feeling so fragile. He’s already planning ways to take back control. Not yet, he’s still not quite comfortable, but he’s beginning to think he will be. Enjolras is many things, and ‘gentle’ is not one of them. But for now, he let’s Grantaire take the lead.

They don’t do anything more than kiss, although Grantaire swipes his tongue over Enjolras’ lower lip in a way that gives him shivers. After a while, Grantaire excuses himself to the bathroom, and Enjolras sits awkwardly on the couch, trying to calm his racing heart.

When Grantaire returns a few minutes later, he doesn’t act like he’s at all uncomfortable with the way things are going. He gives Enjolras a smile and puts his arm around him, and this time Enjolras leans into the embrace, and they watch the last few minutes of the movie together.

“Do you?” Grantaire asks out of nowhere. “Like me, I mean.”

Enjolras rolls his eyes. “Would I be here if I didn’t like you?”

“No,” Grantaire answers. “I don’t suppose you would.”

***

They’re not at the Musain, for once, because finals are over and someone, Courfeyrac or Bahorel or Grantaire, insisted that they needed to celebrate with alcohol. Enjolras sips at his beer. Technically Eponine is the DD tonight, but Enjolras never really saw the point in getting drunk. When he has fun (and he does have fun, despite what his friends might say,) he prefers to remember it the next day.

Grantaire is completely wasted, of course, and normally Enjolras would be at least a little bit annoyed, but Grantaire’s in such a good mood that he’s finding it difficult. Being drunk normally just makes Grantaire more sarcastic than usual, but tonight he’s unusually affectionate. Enjolras keeps catching Grantaire’s hands as they wander places that are not strictly inappropriate, but a bit more intimate than Enjolras likes in public, and Grantaire just laughs, dark curls falling into his sparkling eyes. Eventually Grantaire ends up mostly sitting on Enjolras’ lap, giggling as Enjolras tries and mostly fails to look disapproving. Grantaire gives up on trying to regain possession of his hands and plants a wet kiss on Enjolras’ lips. Enjolras’ cheeks burn.

“That doesn’t count!” Joly says loudly. Enjolras tears himself away from Grantaire to see Joly glaring indignantly at Courfeyrac, who has his hand out and is wearing a smug grin.

“I don’t know how much more obvious they can get,” Courf says. “Unless they start stripping.”

“They didn’t actually say anything yet, so it doesn’t count!” Joly insists.

The rest of them are wordlessly trading money. Eponine leans over and grabs the twenty Bossuet glumly holds over his shoulder for her. Jehan is giggling in a way that’s slightly terrifying.

Enjolras rolls his eyes and decides that if they’re all going to be this way, he might as well give them something to look at, and attacks Grantaire’s face with enthusiasm. The sarcastic retching sounds from behind him are more satisfying than they should be.

Eponine still has work in the morning, so around one she insists that if they don’t want to sleep under the bar tables tonight, they’d better get in her car right now. Shepherding the rest of the boys outside, she casts a questioning glance at Grantaire, who is playing with the ends of Enjolras’ hair.

“I’ve got him,” Enjolras says. He hasn’t even finished his first beer; he’s still fine to drive, and he brought his own car because he came straight from his last final. Eponine raises her eyebrows suggestively, but she looks pleased not to have to drag a clingy Grantaire around along with the others. He hears her shout, “No making out in the back seat of my car!” at someone right before the door swings shut behind her.

“Come on,” Enjolras says, standing up and pulling Grantaire up with him. Grantaire makes an unhappy whine. “Time to go home.”

“Don’ wanna,” Grantaire mumbles, clinging to Enjolras’ shirt. He seems to be confused as to how they’re moving across the room.

“You can’t stay here,” Enjolras points out patiently.

“Could stay with you.” Grantaire looks up shyly through his long eyelashes.

Enjolras sighs. His apartment is closer, anyway. “Fine. Don’t throw up in my car.”

“‘M not tha’ drunk,” Grantaire says, allowing Enjolras to manhandle him into the car.

“You are pretty drunk though,” Enjolras says. Grantaire leans his head against the window and is silent for the entire ride, and Enjolras thinks he’s fallen asleep, but when he parks, Grantaire sits up and looks at him. “What?” Enjolras asks.

“You’re pretty.”

Enjolras rolls his eyes. “And you’re more wasted than I thought. Come on, let’s get you some water before you pass out, or you’re going to be miserable in the morning.”

Grantaire sits on Enjolras’ couch and obediently drinks the water Enjolras hands him. “Don’t move,” Enjolras says. “I’ll find you some blankets.”

Grantaire’s ability to emulate a sad puppy is remarkable. Enjolras absolutely will not admit his heart is melting. “Fine,” he says. “You can get in bed with me. As long as you behave.” He tries to glare sternly.

“Promise.” Grantaire follows Enjolras to the bedroom, and Enjolras manages to get both of them stripped down to their boxers and into bed. Grantaire curls up against Enjolras’ back, draping one arm over his waist. “This okay?”

“Yeah,” Enjolras says. “It’s fine. Now go to sleep.”

“I love you,” Grantaire mumbles, and he’s mostly asleep already, so it’s barely intelligible, but it makes Enjolras’ heart speed up.

If he doesn’t say it back, he figures Grantaire won’t remember in the morning.

Come morning, Enjolras wakes to the usual sight of sunlight streaming through the blinds, and the rather unusual sight of a head of curly black hair tucked under his chin. He’s warm and comfortable, and he likes the feeling. He likes the peace of not having any classes or commitments, and he likes Grantaire’s warm weight on his chest, and he likes the smooth feel of Grantaire’s skin as Enjolras traces his fingers in patterns across Grantaire’s shoulder.

He can spot the moment when Grantaire wakes up, because he goes completely still. “Well this is interesting,” he mumbles from the vicinity of Enjolras’ collarbone. “I really wish I could remember how I ended up here.”

“You didn’t want to go home last night,” Enjolras explains. “You were… quite affectionate.”

“Oh God.” Grantaire jerks his head back so he can look Enjolras in the eyes, wincing as the motion makes his head pound. “I didn’t do anything, did I? I mean, I was really drunk, but that—“

“You were a perfect gentleman,” Enjolras assures him, kissing him on the cheek. “Although we did kind of make out in the middle of the bar. You know the others were taking bets?”

Grantaire groans and buries his face back in Enjolras’ shoulder. “Let me up,” Enjolras says. “I’ll make breakfast.”

“No way. I’ve seen the shit you call breakfast,” Grantaire says. He crawls over Enjolras to get out of bed, giving him a kiss on the way. He manages to to stand up, although he staggers a bit. “Although if you could find me painkillers, that would be awesome.”

Enjolras digs a bottle of ibuprofen out of the medicine cabinet. Grantaire makes eggs. Neither of them can stop smiling, although they try to hide it.

***

They both fly home for winter break to different corners of the country. Enjolras manages to make it through the holidays without getting into any major fights with his parents, although he spends much of the time biting his tongue. Grantaire is less fortunate. They’re both glad to get back to school, though.

The Sunday before classes are due to start, Enjolras has a meeting with his advisor, but they plan to meet at the Musain for lunch. Enjolras gets caught up in a discussion with Dr. Lamarque about class privilege and is running late. When he gets there the café is already fairly crowded, but he heads straight for the small back room that his friends have mostly claimed for their own. They spend so much time there, nearly all the café’s regulars know to avoid it.

He’s about to burst in when he hears his name and stops. From where he stands next to the empty doorway, he can’t see who’s inside, but it sounds like Grantaire and Eponine and maybe Courfeyrac?

“So have you seen Enjolras yet since you’ve been back?” Eponine asks.

Enjolras isn’t proud of himself for eavesdropping, but he can’t quite bring himself to interrupt.

“Come on, spill,” Courfeyrac says. “Tell us everything.”

Enjolras has a feeling he doesn’t like where this conversation is going.

***

“So have you seen Enjolras since you’ve been back?” Eponine asks, smirking. She’s on her break, and she’s electing to use it to bother Grantaire.

“Mm-hm.” Grantaire swipes the trashy celebrity magazine out of her hands and begins flipping through it. “We hung out yesterday. He’s meeting me here for lunch.”

“Come on, spill,” Courfeyrac says, leaning over the table. “Tell us everything. The two of you have been obnoxiously discrete about this whole thing. I want gossip.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” Grantaire says, flicking a page. “You’ve been there for pretty much all of it.”

“Not all of it, I hope,” Eponine says with a suggestive giggle. Grantaire glares at her. She rolls her eyes. “Jesus, R. I don’t even care that much about the gossip, I just want to know why you’re holding out on me. You’ve been dodging this for weeks.”

“There’s nothing going on. We go out. We hold hands. Sometimes we make out. You’ve witnessed all of this.”

Courfeyrac stops laughing. “You’re not having sex?”

Grantaire rolls his eyes. “No.”

“But you’re dating.”

“Yes.”

“Monogamously?”

“Not all of us are players like you, Courf.”

“No need to snap,” Eponine says. “We’re just confused. Don’t you want to tear all his clothes off?”

“Well duh. Who wouldn’t?” Grantaire says with gritted teeth. “But he doesn’t, so we’re not.”

“That prick,” Courfeyrac growls.

Of all the responses Grantaire is expecting, this isn’t one of them. “What?”

“He’s stringing you along and pretending he’s your boyfriend, but he won’t even sleep with you?” Courfeyrac asks. “Dick move.”

“I suppose our lovely Apollo thinks he’s above all that,” Eponine adds venomously. “R, you shouldn’t put up with—“

“Shut the fuck up!” Grantaire isn’t sure how he came to be standing up, the magazine crumpled under his fingers, but he is. He’s shaking with rage. “Don’t you dare talk about him like that.”

Eponine holds up her hands placatingly. “We were just saying—“

“That you think my boyfriend owes me sex for putting up with him,” Grantaire snarls. “Or rather, what should I call him, since according to you—“ he rounds on Courfeyrac “—he’s only pretending. Because of course it’s impossible for two people to care about each other if they’re not fucking.”

“We just want to make sure you’re all right,” Courfeyrac says.

“Then trust me to make my own goddamn decisions,” Grantaire says. “I’m a fucking adult and I know what I want in my own fucking relationships. If I have a problem, I’ll deal with it, and it’s none of your fucking business.”

Eponine and Courfeyrac stare at him for a moment. “All right,” Courfeyrac says at last. “Sorry. You’re right, it’s none of our business.”

“Damn straight,” Grantaire says, grabbing his backpack. “I’ll see you guys later.”

He hurls out of the room just in time to catch sight of a blond head disappearing through the café’s front door.

“Shit.”

***

Enjolras hears Grantaire stand up to leave and decides that he really doesn’t want to be caught eavesdropping on this. He needs to think.

He’s not quick enough, though. “Shit,” he hears from behind him as her reaches the front door, but he doesn’t stop, because he should talk to Grantaire about what he’s just heard but for once in his life he has no idea what to say. Grantaire shouts Enjolras’ name, but he doesn’t follow, and Enjolras doesn’t even look back.

By the time he gets back to his apartment, Enjolras’ thoughts feel less like they’re tripping over themselves. He runs through the conversation again, and it plays back perfectly like a recording in his head, ignorant comments he’s heard a dozen times before, but never so painful as when they come from the mouth of a friend.

Only this time, for once in his life, Enjolras starts to wonder if they have a point.

Enjolras has never been ashamed of his orientation. He’s rarely ashamed of anything, but in particular he doesn’t see the point of feeling bad about things about himself that are natural and he can’t change. In high school his asexuality had been a source of comfort when he was confused by the messages blaring at him from movies and music and billboards, a shield when his classmates prattled on what they’d do to their favorite celebrities, given the chance. It was an answer to why he was different, and allowed him to focus on important things. He told himself again and again, when former friends and total strangers alike hurled vitriol to his face, that he didn’t care what they thought.

Except he never cared about anyone like he cares about Grantaire. The suggestion that he’s hurting his boyfriend fills him with a white-hot anger warring with icy terror.

There are only two ways this can end. Either Grantaire will break up with him once he realizes that Enjolras won’t change his mind, or he’ll keep silent, resentment building, until it explodes in a fight so awful that nothing will survive the fallout. And the thought makes Enjolras feel ill, because he likes Grantaire (not loves, he won’t say loves, that would make it real, and that would make everything so much harder,) and knows it will destroy him if Grantaire starts parroting Eponine and Courfeyrac’s comments. He’d rather have Grantaire’s friendship than nothing at all.

It’s better to end it early, he decides. They’re not too involved yet. They’ve been taking it slow. It will hurt, but it will be better in the long run. It’s the practical thing to do.

Enjolras pulls out his phone. He’s got a missed call and four texts from Grantaire.

R: shit im sorry

R: i didnt know you were listening

R: thats not an excuse though i shouldn’t have

R: idk im sorry ok will you just fucking answer your fucking phone

Enjolras really isn’t sure what Grantaire’s apologizing for, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything. He sends a text.

Apollo: We need to talk.

Grantaire’s answer is immediate.

R: ill be at your place in five

Four and a half minutes later, there’s a hesitant knock at the door. Enjolras opens it.

Grantaire smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Are you okay?” is the first thing he asks. He steps inside, but he doesn’t take off his coat or his shoes or make any move to come near Enjolras.

“I’m fine.” He is. He’s fine. It doesn’t hurt at all. It doesn’t. It doesn’t. It doesn’t.

“I’m sorry about what they said,” Grantaire says in a rush. “I don’t think they mean it, they just don’t understand, but it was still shitty and I shouldn’t have even let them drag me into that, I should have just told them to go to hell—“

“It’s nothing I haven’t heard before,” Enjolras interrupts, and there’s a hard angry glint in Grantaire’s eye before he smoothes it away.

“Well it was still shitty,” Grantaire says, more softly now, taking a step closer to Enjolras. Enjolras takes a step back, and Grantaire freezes.

“We need to talk,” Enjolras says.

“Well then, talk.”

“We should break up.”

Grantaire winces as if Enjolras’ words were physical blows. “I’m sorry,” he says again. “Can we fix this? I don’t know what you want me to say, Enj.”

“It’s not anything you did,” Enjolras says. He’s reminded of back when Grantaire first asked him out. It’s not personal. I’m asexual. It always comes back to that, doesn’t it?

“Then what’s the problem?” Grantaire is frustrated now, his fingers curling into fists and then uncurling again.

“I just don’t think it’s fair to you—“

“Not fair to me?” Now Grantaire looks truly angry. “What’s not fair is you thinking you can make decisions for me. Did you hear everything?”

“Yes,” Enjolras says cooly.

“Then you heard me say that I’m a fucking adult and I can make my own fucking choices.” Grantaire is breathing hard now, and his fists are clenched tight. “If you want to break up because I fucked up, or because you don’t actually like me—“

“Of course I like you!” Now Enjolras is angry too, because Grantaire is making this hard. “Stop saying that I don’t, I said that I do, I like you more than I’ve ever liked anyone, okay?”

“Then why are you trying to break up with me?”

“Because I don’t want you to hate me!” A ringing silence follows this outburst. “Look, you have… needs, and I’m not going to be able to meet them. It’s better for us to break up now rather than wait for you to end up resenting me because you’re not getting what you want.”

“But I want you,” Grantaire says. “I’m not going to say that I wouldn’t also like to have sex with you, because have you looked in a mirror lately? But that’s not all I want. I want to date you. I want to hold your hand and fall asleep on the couch watching shitty movies. I want to listen to you complain about politics and watch you run your hands through your hair until it sticks up all over the place. You’re enough. You just being you is enough.”

Enjolras is a little stunned. He’s never seen Grantaire so passionate about anything, and it scares him a little, this man’s blind faith in him. “You’ll change your mind.”

“I won’t.” Enjolras starts to protest, but Grantaire plows on ahead. “But even supposing I do, why not just enjoy it now? If you want out, fine, that’s your right. But I’m not going anywhere, and you don’t get to tell me what’s best for me.”

Enjolras stares. “You’re serious, aren’t you.”

“Never been more serious about anything in my life.”

Enjolras chuckles. “I believe that.” Grantaire looks like he wants to say something indignant, but Enjolras cuts him off by shoving him back against the wall and kissing him until they’re both lightheaded. Grantaire moans in his mouth and Enjolras likes this, he likes making Grantaire happy, he likes the way Grantaire looks at him like he’s the sun in the sky, he likes the warmth of their breath and the interesting things Grantaire is doing with his tongue. He can’t believe he was about to give all of this up.

“I love you,” Grantaire gasps when they come up for air, and Enjolras likes the way the words sound in the still, rapidly-darkening apartment. He wonders if he’d still like them whispered over dusty books in the library, or murmured through the chatter at the café, or shouted over the loud music of a club. He suspects he might.

He hopes he gets to find out.

“I love you too,” he says, and Grantaire glows and kisses Enjolras again, and right now, this moment is completely perfect. Whatever happens next, however long it lasts, this is worth it.

***

That night, when Enjolras is asleep with his head on Grantaire’s chest, Grantaire fishes out his phone and sends a group text to Eponine and Courfeyrac.

R: if either of you ever do anything again to make my boyfriend think he has to break up with me ill pour bleach on jehans floral jeans and tell him it was you

He gets answers back almost immediately.

Ponine: understood

Courf: got it

Grantaire turns off his phone and falls asleep with his fingers curled in Enjolras’ hair.