“R on line three, sir.”
“Thank you, Cosette, but I'm already on lines one and two--”
“He says it's important, sir.” Cosette readjusts her attendant clipboard. “A code black, sir.”
“Hold my other calls.” Enjolras scrubs a hand across his brow, reaching for the handset with the other.
Cosette is already gone. He picks up the phone -- an old-fashioned monstrosity attached to a landline with all five lines blinking -- and pinches the bridge of his nose between two fingers. The headache that has been threatening blossoms around the name. “Grantaire.”
“Before you say no--”
“No,” says Enjolras. “Not now. Not today, not this week, not this month. Not this electoral cycle. We have had this discussion. So many times.”
“It's just that this afternoon, we found a source in Turkey who can--”
“No,” says Enjolras. “You cannot.” The headache isn't a blossom, it's a mushroom, mushrooming into a nuclear cloud. It's been a long day, a long year, a long life, and he can't have this now.
But he makes himself take a breath, because commandments do not command Grantaire, and he makes himself stop gripping the phone hard enough to hurt, and he softens it. “I'm sorry. But you knew the conditions when you went abroad, and today is not the day to try to change them.”
Silence from the staticky connection on the line, and Enjolras worries that he's lost him; so many dropped calls, or calls made with the sirens and mortars of war in the distance, or calls from Grantaire late at night when it's morning in the Middle East and Grantaire is still awake and drunk and broken from what he has seen and needs to be pieced back together.
Calls like this are worse: Grantaire all too sober, Grantaire on edge and ready to drop off of it, Grantaire thinking with his camera and not his brain. Then Grantaire says, “I know what we agreed. But this is two, three days at most, just across the border to the nearest rebel-held city and back. Seventy-two hours. We have security, and reliable guides. Enjolras. I know, I know, but I know what I'm doing. You have to trust that I--”
“I do,” says Enjolras. “I do trust you. What I don't trust are disparate heavily armed militias roaming a countryside engaged in civil war, and the fact that any journalist is at risk, let alone a Westerner, let alone an American whose name is known world-wide and would be an easy prey and prize for anyone with a message to send.”
“But Feuilly--” Grantaire tames the petulance in his tone, but barely. “Feuilly is going. And we have front-page clearance.”
“Feuilly isn't married to me.” Enjolras can't pull out his hair because Cosette will kill him and attack him with a comb and talk about the importance of his image until he lets her get out the hairspray but he'll have to ask Joly if it's medically possible to die from a headache and the thought of Grantaire over the Syrian border.
Grantaire's voice is smaller. “I feel that it's important. The pictures will show a lot that words can't convey, even Combeferre's words. He's going too, by the way.”
“And what did he say?”
“That I should ask you,” says Grantaire. He hesitates, and then Enjolras can almost see the tiny flit of a smile and a frown across his lips at the same time, his lips like a perfect bow. “Also, no.”
Enjolras exhales, mightily, even as Grantaire is saying, “But it's just such a short trip--”
“Grantaire.” He needs to end this before the looping threat scenarios running through his brain at top speed hit a wall and make him as angry as he is frightened. “After I'm re-elected, I'll stamp your travel visas myself.” He doesn't actually have that stamp as a Congressman but he's not entirely sure Grantaire knows that. “But you know the kind of target you make. You know the eyes on us now.”
“I'm aware of it.” This time, Grantaire tries to keep something like bitterness from his tone; it isn't that, exactly; it's more like resignation. Not unhappy, no, but -- he has never liked the attention, never, and though he does well at the public functions, and the endless fundraisers, and the countless receptions, the hardest part of their increasingly high profile for Grantaire is the restrictions it places on his formerly death-defying photojournalist career.
Once he was known for being a man willing to take pictures in trenches and refugee camps and over enemy lines, but now his photographs draw more notice for the name attached. Everyone in America, and the international press, and a fan community around the world and on the internet, are aware of Grantaire, husband to the country's rising outspoken political superstar.
Are you ready to be the first “First Gentleman” of the United States of America? The paparazzi are fond of asking Grantaire, and Grantaire will say Jackie Kennedy had nothing on me, friend, but look like he'd far prefer to be in a warzone than fielding the question.
Enjolras realizes that he's holding his breath again, literally breathless, because there's still the chance, no matter what he says, or what Combeferre proscribes, that Grantaire will elect to do something rash and reckless and heroically stupid, just to show that he still can; and he can't have that happen. Not now. He's not strong enough for it, and the knowledge of that keeps him grounded. Maybe it will ground Grantaire. He swallows pride instead of air.
“I can't risk -- you,” says Enjolras. “Of all things, not you. I need you next to me. I need you to get me through this. Election day's in three weeks. It's hard enough to have you gone on assignment, and it's only been eight and a half days. Grantaire, I -- I --”
“Oh, go on. Now I'm listening.”
“You know I love you,” Enjolras says, “It's more than that. It has to be, because of who I am, and who you are, and what we do. Because I love you, you're at risk, and that's what I can't have. If anything happens to you I will be completely compromised, which means the state of Vermont is down its incumbent candidate, the House of Representatives loses an Independent, civil rights, healthcare initiatives, freedom of information and anti-corruption bills are potentially set back a decade, not to mention anti-war campaigns, anti-death penalty movements, dismantling of the prison industrial complex, financial regulation of--”
“Well, if you're going to bring the prison industrial complex into it--”
“Please,” says Enjolras, a rare word for him, rarer still since he'd been elected to his first city council position, and become used to staffers and hangers-on jumping to meet his whims and falling over themselves to agree with him first.
Grantaire tempers him from that, but Grantaire must also be tempered. It's a rhythm they found and worked out a long time between them, after a lot of missteps and misunderstandings. Once understood, they have never wavered from each other; that is the problem here. He cannot do what he is doing without Grantaire because he has never had to try, and he never intends to start.
“Zimbabwe,” says Grantaire, “in March.”
“Done,” says Enjolras.
“You are a son of a bitch.”
“She'll be glad to hear you're thinking of her. And will want to know if we're doing Christmas in Aspen or Nantucket. Did you have an opinion?”
“I hate your job,” Grantaire says, softly.
“I hate yours.” At least they're honest about it.
“I miss you so fucking much,” Grantaire says. “Feuilly says I talk about you in my sleep and that he's going to sell the information to the Russians.”
“I miss you, too.” Headache receding under a wash of crisis-averted relief, he lets himself lean back in the big leather desk chair. He doesn't put his feet up, but it's a close thing. Victory always tastes sweet.
“Constantly.” Enjolras is grinning. “Cosette has threatened to confiscate your passport. Apparently I'm a bit more difficult to wrangle when you're away.”
“A bit.” Grantaire's snort manages to be affectionate. “Let me guess. You forgot about lunch, but you pushed a contentious bill through your committee, terrified precisely seventeen lobbyists, caused a siren on the Drudge Report, and are currently trending on Twitter.”
“Look, you must've seen the Twitter thing--”
“Christ,” Grantaire says, around his laughter. “Christ God, I love you.”
“I want to be under that desk,” says Grantaire, across static. “I want to be under that stupid desk with all your stupid important papers, on my knees.”
Enjolras is definitely grinning. These are the phone calls from Grantaire he prefers to receive (and give). Code purple. “Under the desk? Why would you be down there?”
“Because you have a crucial meeting of international importance, so I had to hide,” says Grantaire. “So I go down on my knees, and I'm hidden under the desk. Only you can see me, since my head is in your lap.”
“That would be visible,” Enjolras agrees, shifting in the chair. The big desk of hand-carved Vermont oak is high and his legs fit underneath it with room to spare; with some maneuvering Grantaire could certainly crouch and remain from sight.
“Getting your pants down will be difficult, and you will have to help; but I know you are canny enough to pull it off. We'll work together, and you'll distract your meeting with a stirring speech, and I will take your pants off. By now, since you are complicit with the situation, I expect to find you hard, but if you are not yet that will be my first order of business while you go about yours. Will you be hard?”
Grantaire's voice has become a breathier thing on the line, and it slides straight from Enjolras' ear down his spine and pools hot in his belly. He undoes the button on his suit jacket and lets himself ease a hand beneath his waistband and around his aching cock, neglected with Grantaire gone and now so, so hard at the sound of him and the imagined sight of Grantaire waiting to torment him under the desk.
“Yes,” says Enjolras, like it's a business call. “I believe that's verifiable.”
“Good. So I can take your cock that I miss more than you into my mouth the way I like to -- take all of you down without stopping. I'd have to be more careful about it than usual. Because my instinct is to use a lot of tongue on you like you like, on all the spots you like best, and though you have a remarkable composure, Pericles, you make a certain sound when I do that would be terribly hard to explain to your politicos. So I'd have to go slow, and mostly just suck on you, no licking, and I'd have to use all of my stealth.”
“And cunning,” agrees Enjolras, stroking himself in time to the rise and fall of Grantaire's narrative. He could never allow it, of course, but it's far too easy to see, and if it were happening Enjolras would make it a challenge not to be caught, a matter of composure. It's not as though he's never gotten a blowjob from his husband while he holds court on pressing global affairs. It's half of what they do, and Enjolras has taken many conference calls at home.
“Mm. I'd want to lick you very badly, but I couldn't. I am, however, at a prime position to suck you off with only suction and my lips wrapped around you. Now you're fully hard and so hot on my tongue, filling up my mouth--”
“My mouth, as I move my head up and down with your cock in my mouth. But what I would really want, what I hope I would be able to communicate to you, would be if you decide to reach a hand under the desk, putting it casually in your lap, only really you're holding my head in place, or pushing me down so that I take even more of you, that would be appreciated. Then you might oblige me by seeing how much movement you could give your hips before your fellow bureaucrats noticed, and whether you could fuck my mouth or not.”
“Fuck,” says Enjolras, straining into his own grip, his lip bitten, the picture conjured: Grantaire's blue eyes under the black fall of his hair, his hollowed cheeks and pert lips, the impossible wet heat of him. The dark stubble of his jawline, which Enjolras would feel with his fingertips. The tracings of his cheekbones, the line of his nose, shapes Enjolras knew blindfolded. Knew better than the back of his own hand. Ten years. They'd had ten years together, and they only ever got better.
“That's my main consideration in keeping you from coming,” Grantaire says, his own breath coming quicker. “If I put my hand around the base of your cock and hold tight I may be able to keep you from coming until the end of the meeting, and then, once you had given a gracious goodbye with such authority so as not to have to stand up, your drones will troop out, and I can come up from under the desk, and be on it.”
“R,” says Enjolras, rolling it. “I'm so close. I'm--”
“Not close enough. Because the primary objective in all of this has, of course, been to get you to bend me over the stupid fucking desk for a properly patriotic fucking. Have we ever done it under a flag, Enjolras? How have we not? I guess there was the Cuban flag you had on the wall in college -- Anyway, I would prefer if you pushed me down on the desk with a dramatic sweep of the papers to the floor, and said things about feeling conflicted about violating some oath or another by fucking me in your official office, but how you had to have me anyway, regulations be damned, and you tear off my clothes, and you also so happen to have lube in the top drawer, and you say something very Congressional about the state of our union, as you prep me for your cock and--”
“Fuck,” repeats Enjolras. “Fuck. Fuck you, grab your hips, thrust in, lean in and keep you down with my teeth on the back of your neck--”
“Now you're talking--”
“Bend you over the desk, press you down onto the papers, and you'll knock over the penholder, knock over pictures, because I'll be fucking you so hard every thrust is going to send you further--”
“You have no idea how long I've wanted--”
“Wanted me to fuck you on a desk? We've done so, many times--”
“That desk. In that office. With the flag and the -- the eagle statue watching--”
“Is this a new kink I should know about? Eagles?”
“Fuck you, Ganymede. Fuck you. Get back to the fucking.”
“Fucking you,” Enjolras concurs. He's back on the edge, letting his eyes close as the speed of his grip increases. “That's what I was doing. Pulling out to turn you over, so I can see your face, see exactly how it looks when I spread you and slide my cock back in, hitting deep, God, you'll be so goddamned thrilled to be messing up my classified debriefings, the sweat from your skin soaking into the paper. Afterward I'll peel pages from your back, and you'll be covered in text concerning national security, but I'm getting ahead of myself, I know you hate that, but you'll love it if I bite your shoulder while I'm moving in you, if I lick and tease your nipples, if I start to jerk you off, my hand going up and down while my cock goes in and out--”
The sound of Grantaire coming is thankfully louder than the static between them, and Enjolras knows the noise, has prized and pried it loose thousands of times but will never, ever tire of it. A groan, a moan, the start of Enjolras' name, bitten-off and unfinished; his favorite music, and it sends him over to have it against his ear, where Grantaire's lips should be. He comes hard with a half a care for his suit jacket and Grantaire's name, returned to him, heavy as cream on Enjolras' tongue.
A meeting to encourage grassroots operations in nine minutes, and Cosette will never forgive him if she has to run to the dry cleaners, which she is capable of reaching in three minutes twenty-two seconds. Still, she'll be pissed, and he already owes her a cookie bouquet for his Grantaire-less behavior, so--
“One small compensation for the fact that you're a narcissistic asshole with designs on running the free world which will totally conflict with my impending Pulitzer,” Grantaire is saying.
“What's that?” Despite the boneless blissful drape of his body across the chair, the phone cradled lazily in his ear, Enjolras has to clench down on the guilt Grantaire's words don't intend to create but do: he feels worse still, because there's little he can do about the truth.
If Enjolras is going where he wants to go, where the buzz of politics and the people are taking him, in the future Grantaire's trips abroad will consist of acts of embassy and be accompanied by a Secret Service detail. A hundred thousand photographers will take his picture, his hands without a camera of his own. “I am sorry. But there's so much you'll be able to do--”
“Whoa there, Washington, you're not in the Oval Office yet. Remember how this country is full of armed bigoted paramilitary groups who don't take too kindly to our way of life?”
“Times are changing,” says Enjolras, another conversation they've had too often before. “We change the times. Tell me what the compensation for my assholery is, Grantaire.”
“Since Combeferre and Feuilly and the rest of the team get to go into Syria like big boys, it means I've been reassigned. Back to jockeying a pit desk.”
Enjolras thinks his voice sounds more strangled now than it had getting off. “You mean--”
“On the redeye,” says Grantaire. “No rest until D.C. in the morning.” The briefest pause. “Did you just punch the air? I think I heard that. I could see it, anyway.”
“I did,” says Enjolras, his heart thudding. “Jesus fucking Christ, you complete bastard, you've known this whole time that you were coming home and you didn't tell me--”
“I wanted to go to Syria,” says Grantaire. “But since I can't, I suppose I'll take you instead.”
“I'll be at the airport,” Enjolras says. “I'll bring a sign.”
“Maybe you could come incognito so there won't be the usual press scrimmage, you could get a chauffeur's hat and jacket--”
“If you like,” says Enjolras, “I'll have that waiting at home. Now I have to get off the phone, and give a speech about local activism, and you have to get on the plane and be here yesterday.”
“It doesn't leave for another five hours. I have to help the team with prep, especially since I'm ducking out, and bid adieu to Ankara's finest bartenders, and--”
“Plane,” says Enjolras.
“No one believes me when I say that the would-be light of true democracy has the patience of a five-year-old.”
“What have I told you about state secrets, Grantaire. I'll have to place you on the homeland security watchlist, and then you'll never be able to leave me again.”
“I never really do,” says Grantaire.
“I know.” Enjolras knows. “I love you. I'll see you soon.”
“Tell Cosette I'm sorry and I'll see her once I've slept off the jetlag.” Grantaire knows. “I love you more.”
Grantaire hangs up before Enjolras has to, but he holds the phone a while, shaking his head and grinning hard enough to hurt; his expressions are focus-grouped these days, but this one uses all his real smiling muscles. Then he buzzes the intercom.
“Cosette, cancel tomorrow morning's appointments until the late afternoon and send Courfeyrac to the labor rights lunch in my place, won't you? Have Jehan take the interns on that tour, tell him I'll make it up to him, tell him I won't backseat edit his next speech, not a word -- reschedule the meeting with the Department of Justice, they get that all the time, and also--”
“Yes, sir. But, sir--”
“Thank you, Cosette.” He opens the first in the pile of folders on his desk, ready to get back to work. Only--
“Excellent. When you go for lunch, would you mind stopping off in the Congressional giftshop on your way back?”
“Certainly not.” She's managed him impeccably for years; nothing is unexpected or not expected. “If one were to ask--”
“I'd like a small statue of an eagle.”
“An eagle, sir?”
“An eagle,” says Enjolras.