You were the brightest shade of sun when I saw you
And you will surely be the death of me
But how could I have known?
“Is he still there?”
Enjolras is sprawled on a settee, in Combeferre’s parlour. His long dark legs – darkened still by the sun, and his constant running around – hang limply off the side. He pulls at one of his own curls.
He’d picked a book from Combeferre’s vast collection earlier, but it had turned out to be dry military strategy. Combeferre favours it, he knows. She prefers cleverness to brute force.
She is more mischievous than they gave her credit for.
She stands now at the window, peering out from behind a curtain. She has shed her armour – an event – and the hem of her chiton leaves her legs bare. She is only slightly darker than Enjolras, and a great deal taller. That isn’t hard, all in all – most people are taller than Enjolras. Her curly hair is braided neatly to fall over her shoulder.
She hums and says, “Oh, oh, Aphrodite, have pity, I am but a complete fool who should stop stepping on Athena’s geraniums.”
It makes Enjolras smile, which is her intent.
“You don’t care about the flowers,” Enjolras observes.
“It’s rude,” Combeferre replies. “And Courfeyrac likes them.”
She stands at the window for one more moment, then huffs and comes to dislodge Enjolras’ legs so she can sit. She immediately gathers them again in her lap.
“He won’t take the hint,” she says. “I’m afraid we can only smite him, or wait him out. He won’t get in, though. You’re quite safe here.”
She pats Enjolras’ leg reassuringly. He stares up at the ceiling and wills his breaths to slow.
“I know I am,” he says, attempting a smile at her. He knows she will see right through it.
“You’re safe – but still bothered,” she says.
Enjolras’ mouth twists. “I am not free.”
Of course, he could have taken drastic measures. He could have set a curse upon the man, or turned him into an animal, or a tree. But Enjolras is quite sure the suitor is a demigod at least – son of a nymph or other, tragically fallen in love with Aphrodite – and doing that would be more trouble than it was worth. And he doesn’t like resorting to extreme measures most times.
When he does, he makes them count.
“Maybe you need a new hideout,” Combeferre says. “They cannot get in, but they expect you to be here by now.”
It had been brilliant in the beginning – suitors hadn’t suspected he and Combeferre might be close. She is known as wise and severe, which does not mix with their perception of Enjolras. Volatile, passionate, fickle. He doesn’t like seeing some truth of himself in those descriptions.
There are also stories of an epic rivalry based on their compared beauties. Enjolras doesn’t see the point of it – his own beauty is a worn fact, remarked upon so much as to become boring. Combeferre is beautiful, but her pride doesn’t hinge on that so much as her skill. That they could come to quarrel over their looks is laughable.
No one had guessed that they were friends, not in the beginning. At this point, however, word has gotten out.
“Somewhere they wouldn’t suspect?” Enjolras says. “Even more than you?”
He can think of a few places – the Underworld being one. He has no love lost for Hades, but his spouse is a very pleasant person. The prospect, however, is rather grim. Combeferre’s had been appealing because of her company, and because of the library, and the fact that Courfeyrac would often be visiting with her as well.
“Think on it,” Combeferre says, giving him one last pat. “I’m gonna get rid of him.”
Combeferre’s temper is also shorter than people give her credit for.
The first time Aphrodite appears in his workshop, Grantaire thinks he must be hallucinating.
Aphrodite – Enjolras, as he knows Athena addresses him – stands in the doorway, the lights of the furnace playing on his cheekbones, bringing out the bronze in his brown skin, the gold in his curls, which are braided back. He is ethereal most days, and today he is heavenly.
He is beautiful, untouchable and really, intensely irritated.
“Sorry to intrude,” he says. Some of his curls are plastered to his sweaty temple. He’s winded, panting, and absolutely radiant.
Grantaire has stopped with his hammer mid-air. The Cyclops working at the furnace with him has stopped fanning the fire and is now staring completely transfixed.
Enjolras has a way of slashing through rooms like a sword – sharp and impossible to ignore. All eyes, anywhere, turn him.
“Intrude on what?” Grantaire asks, intelligently.
Enjolras seems even more put upon, and gestures awkwardly.
“Ah, well – this,” he says. “I am sure you’re – doing something.”
Enjolras’ hesitation seems to snap Grantaire awake. The sword, beneath him, still deserves his attention.
Dragging his eyes away from Enjolras is hard, but he manages. He resumes his work, and fires up the furnace with a thought, since the Cyclops is still dawdling.
Get a grip, he thinks. He doesn’t know to which of them he refers.
“No intrusion,” he says, trying to make his voice even. “Just routine. What can I do for you, Pandemos?”
He chances a look up, and sees Enjolras blinks in surprise. Then, to Grantaire’s surprise, some of the annoyance leaves his face.
“That’s the epithet I prefer,” he says, unexpectedly. “I didn’t think you knew.”
Grantaire shrugs, and says nothing.
Enjolras is silent for a beat, as if he were gathering his thoughts.
“You see,” Enjolras says, at length. “There is a nymph just outside – she’s rather keen. Not that – honestly, even were I… of that mood, today, I rather wouldn’t.”
Enjolras’ face, twisted that way, is a revelation. It makes Grantaire bark a laugh.
“Beneath you?” he finds himself teasing.
He sees Enjolras startle, his eyes widen. “That’s not it at all!”
“Right, I guess having her beneath you is really what you’re trying to avoid.”
“Anyway!” Enjolras exclaims. He looks rather flustered. “This was probably a terrible idea.”
He hangs back, as if ready to flee at the slightest provocation. Grantaire, suddenly, doesn’t want to make him go.
“Technically,” he says, lifting his head from his work again. “You haven’t told me what your idea was yet.”
Enjolras is embarrassed – it’s curious to see, on his face. Grantaire had only ever seen him sure, or incensed.
Grantaire prefers not to stay too long on Olympus if he can avoid it, so despite having known each other distantly for a millennium or two, Grantaire couldn’t say that he Enjolras are very well acquainted.
This could actually be the longest conversation they’ve ever had.
“I was wondering if I may stay a while,” Enjolras asks, finally. He’s shed all hesitation, and stands straight as a needle. “I have lost her, for now, and she won’t think to look for me here.”
His face is carefully blank, awaiting response. Despite knowing what he means – that they have no reputation for being friends – Grantaire can’t help but feign offense.
“Why, I see,” he says. “No one would ever dream fair Aphrodite would mingle with the likes of Hephaistos.”
Enjolras opens his mouth, perhaps to agree, then Grantaire’s tone seems to click.
“What do you mean by that? The likes of you?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Aren’t there stories about Hephaistos’ hideousness? Surely everyone would expect the god of beauty to steer clear of that!”
“The stories!” Indignation sits well on Enjolras’ face, the lines of his body drawn tight and graceful. He spits the word like a curse.
Grantaire does his best to leer. “Isn’t that why you’re here? No one would look for you, you said so!”
“Everyone knows you dislike me!” Enjolras snaps. “That’s why!”
It wipes the grin right off Grantaire’s face. “Dislike you?”
It’s preposterous to Grantaire, who can barely look at Enjolras in fear that he’ll turn moon-eyed like everyone else.
The thought makes him pause. It is true he avoids speaking to Enjolras when they both happen on Olympus.
“You avoid me,” Enjolras says, in fact. “And when you do speak to me, you mock me.”
I don’t mock you, Grantaire thinks. Rather, I mock myself for my delusions.
“Surely you know that’s just me, how I am,” Grantaire says, then stops. Bitter and unfunny, is how the sentence was supposed to end. He says, instead, “I don’t dislike you.”
“How would I know?” Enjolras replies. “I don’t think we’ve ever properly talked.”
That, of course, is true.
“What would you do here?” Grantaire says, at length. “I have nothing to entertain you.”
Enjolras looks away. “I don’t want entertainment, only quiet. If you don’t want me here, just say so.”
Grantaire takes a moment – he hasn’t ceased working in the meantime. The sword under his hands is white-hot and glowing. He doesn’t need to check the temperature – he knows it like he knows the ache in his bad foot. He turns and hands it to the Cyclops.
“Soak it, will you?” he asks, snapping him from his reverie. There is a grunt of assent.
The hiss of steam behind him almost covers his next words. But Enjolras’ shining eyes, trained on him, tell him he has heard.
“Stay,” he says. He raises his voice, then, “As long as you want. It’s no bother to me.”
Enjolras’ forehead smooths over, and he nods.
There is a bench, in one corner of the workshop, half taken up by mismatched parts of armour. Grantaire orders the Cyclops to clear it further for Enjolras, which seems to fluster both of them. Enjolras thanks him kindly, and asks after his name, which only makes matters worse.
Maybe it is a bad idea.
Enjolras settles on his bench and takes out a book from his bag – something about military history, which Grantaire had not expected.
He wonders whether he’ll be able to get anything done. Enjolras is, as promised, quiet and absorbed in his book.
But he is also always at the corner of Grantaire’s eye, shining in the light of the furnace like a finely cast, reclining bronze. A beautiful distraction.
The Moirai spill into his dining room, in the warm heart of Aetna, several hours after Enjolras has taken his leave.
Musichetta leads the way as she always does – it’s strange how they manage to always come in formation. Joly follows with his shining bronze staff, which Grantaire had made, and Bossuet comes right after.
“End of day, Apollo willing!” Musichetta sighs, and puts her bag down, her spindle clunking inside.
“Does Fate ever truly sleep?” Grantaire asks, pulling out a chair for her.
“Do you?” Joly counters.
“When fire is out, it is out. Men stop working at night, and I can sleep.”
“We’re just hoping no one is born in the night,” Bossuet says, sitting down himself. “But even so, Musichetta will get it.”
“More people die than are born in the night! That’s yours to get.”
“Either way, don’t wake me up as you get out of bed,” Joly says. “And now, out with your news, Grantaire.”
Grantaire groans. He almost regrets being friends with those who know all.
“Do I even need to tell you the story? Won’t you know?”
“I don’t know what you think or how you feel,” Joly says, reaching out a hand for Grantaire’s. “Tell me, my friend.”
So he tells them of Enjolras’ visit, as servants bring food and wine. They listen and only interrupt twice.
“You did not!” Musichetta gasps, once.
“Aw,” Joly coos, another time.
They are silent, when he finishes his tale, which is somewhat unnerving.
“Well,” Musichetta says. “I don’t know how much we should say.”
“Say it all,” Grantaire snaps. Then backtracks, “No, wait. Do I even want to know?”
“You could say the die is cast,” Musichetta says, carefully. “Something has started.”
“So it will happen again?”
“It’ll happen again,” Grantaire concludes.
“Do you want to know?” Bossuet asks.
“Actually,” Grantaire says. He bites his lip. Does he? He dreads either answer. “Don’t.”
“Will it help,” Bossuet says. “If I tell you that you will be alright?”
“I am deathless,” Grantaire snorts. “I will live through it.”
Regardless of whatever pain comes in between. He’s survived worse things, for sure. Being thrown off Olympus – twice – left its marks. One foot who can't take his weight for long periods of time, and a more than generous smattering of scars.
“It does not surprise me that he wouldn’t like the stories,” Joly says, at length. His leg is extended to ease the ache, and it knocks against Grantaire’s foot where it hurts quite similarly. He likes the fact that he and Grantaire match, and is fond of challenging him to cane duels. Grantaire thinks he might work on a brace for him.
“Don’t they call us ugly crones?”
“I am an extraordinarily attractive crone, thank you,” Bossuet says.
“They are right about some things,” Grantaire says, and smiles, knowing it’ll make his scars stretch and bend.
“I don’t like it when they call us sisters,” Musichetta says, patting his cheek. “And I think you’re charming.”
“Lovely and hilarious,” Bossuet confirms. “Truly, there aren’t enough stories about your sense of humour.”
“Or yours, my dear!” Joly says. “They only ever talk about you cutting threads. Why, your puns are way more deadly…”
They go on as such for a while, until they are on another topic altogether, almost managing to make him forget.
Enjolras has a few blessed days of respite, where he actually manages to get some work done. Combeferre calls him to her city for a while, where some great political debate is taking place. She says she needs Aphrodite Pandemos to unify the people, that she needs him to stir emotion to truly drive her wisdom home.
This is the best part, he thinks -– he thinks that there’s nothing more beautiful than voices raised together towards a common goal.
When people think of Pandemos – of all the people – they think common love, and lust, and while he is that too he is also this. Unifying love.
And now he’s got a particularly ambitious mortal on his heels because he challenged him to see which of them could run fastest. He was careful not to promise anything in case the bastard won –- he won’t, but still. Enjolras may look youthful, but he was not born yesterday.
There is no reason why the race should bring him in proximity of Mount Aetna, but perhaps he meant to do that, too.
The race was almost fun, to begin with, but it has grown to be tiring in the end. He tries, most days, to find what fun he can, when he’s in this type of predicament. Some days he doesn’t hesitate to make his wrath known, but that is its own brand of exhausting.
He makes a couple rounds of the mountain, just to throw the man off his trail, then ducks into Grantaire’s home. He sees a couple of servants – some type of mountain sprites – startle at his passing, but even if they stare, they let him through without a word.
They did the same when he was last here, but then he saw a few of them scurry off to warn Grantaire. At least, he assumed that was what they were doing.
He was surprised, at first, that the inside of the mountain was so straightforward – long hallways of bare rock, and heavy shut doorways every few paces. It isn’t hard to find the workshop. It’s down where the heat is most intense – and it’s enough to follow the clanging, booming sounds.
He only thought later that this might be only a fraction of the mountain, that there might be places he does not have access to.
Grantaire doesn’t seem surprised to see him. He has four Cyclopes with him this time, all working on a different piece of armour. The one Grantaire moved for him is still abandoned on the same bench Enjolras occupied last time.
Enjolras sits by it without a sound – he’s small enough that it’s not an issue. He isn’t under the impression that Grantaire hasn’t noticed him. He can’t believe he doesn’t know every single thing that goes on in his mountain.
Grantaire surveys a breastplate – bent down so his curly hair falls in his eye. His cheek, when he looks up, is smeared with black, and gleaming with sweat.
Enjolras takes his time looking – he didn’t have time to think of picking up a book this time.
He knows the stories call Grantaire ugly.
It isn’t in his nature to stop at the scars – the ones from Grantaire’s fall from Olympus, which make his nose crooked, and the ones that dot his cheek and make his colouring uneven. He’s also not one to only take stock of Grantaire’s broad shoulders and strong arms – though he isn’t oblivious to them.
He watches Grantaire’s hands instead. They’re sure, and never wrong. His eyes are dark, and they narrow when looking at the design on the breastplate. He smiles, nods.
Enjolras never liked the stories much. Or believed them.
Grantaire finally looks up and meets his eye. Enjolras almost follows the instinct to look away, embarrassed to be caught staring.
He doesn’t lower his gaze, though, and looks on steadily.
“Welcome back,” Grantaire says. “No book today?”
“This one caught me unawares,” Enjolras replies. “I didn’t have time to plan ahead.”
“Does it happen a lot? Shouldn’t you be carrying something at all times?”
“Sometimes I don’t bother running,” he says. He smiles, then, and sees Grantaire’s eyes widen, taking in his meaning.
Grantaire’s mouth twists, though Enjolras can’t decipher his expression.
“How impolite,” Grantaire comments. “What does Aphrodite’s wrath bring, then?”
Enjolras shifts uncomfortably. “Surely you’ve heard.”
“What, stories?” Grantaire replies. He looks up, humour twinkling in his eyes. It looks well on him.
“Fair enough,” Enjolras says. “Turning people into wildlife is always an option.”
“Very traditional,” Grantaire says. He is painstakingly doing some detail work on a shield now. “No fallen empires? No murder?”
Grantaire meets his eye, when he says that. Enjolras makes sure not to look away.
“You don’t want to know,” he says.
Grantaire holds his gaze for a moment, then looks down again.
“What are you working on?” Enjolras asks, instead. He’d rather the conversation not linger on his less honourable deeds.
“Ah, a suit of armour, of course,” Grantaire replies. “For a great, great hero in the mainland. Speaking of wrath, I should have scorned him when he refused my first attempt. Or turned him into a dolphin. I hear that worked well for my brother.”
“He refused?” Enjolras exclaims. No one refuses armour from Hephaistos.
Grantaire smiles at his outrage.
“Yes. It’s the one right by your fine ankle.”
Enjolras looks over, and for the first time inspects the armour more closely.
“I see no fault in it,” he says. “Your work is as perfect as ever.”
He catches Grantaire’s mouth shifting again. He doesn’t think he imagines the pleased look on his face.
“It’s not any fault in form he took issue with. There are none,” he says, for the first time with a bit of pride. “Look at the shield.”
Enjolras lifts the shield. It’s spotless, gorgeous, glowing in the light of the furnace, still perfect despite having been left aside to rust.
The image on it depicts a young man running in terror from a lion.
Enjolras can’t help but laugh.
And yes, Grantaire is definitely pleased, judging by how his wide mouth stretches further. A honest smile. A first.
“I cannot lie on my shields,” Grantaire explains. “It’s bad form.”
“So this is the truth?”
“The story goes that he slayed the lion, but that’s not quite true. I checked with the Fates, who know all.”
“I see,” Enjolras says. “How come you are making a second? Surely that’s an indignity.”
“Oh, I was ready to stomp away in anger!” Grantaire says. “Cause the ground to tremble beneath him and all! I was set on it. But it seems this one has Zeus’ favour.”
Enjolras’ smile fades, and he frowns. Grantaire makes a noise of assent.
“Precisely,” he says. “So it was either be persuaded to make a second, or start another family row. And as the last ones have ended so well for me…”
Grantaire grimaces, and points to his face, forever marked. He shrugs, then, and seems to put the finishing touches on the shield.
He raises it for Enjolras. This one seems even more brilliant than the first, this time showing a man being crowned, wearing a lion’s hide.
“The lion was hunted down for him,” Grantaire says. “And he was crowned king of his small kingdom, in the end. So that is all true.”
“No lies,” Enjolras says.
“Yes,” Grantaire replies, putting the shield down. “Don’t mistake me – I don’t mind lies, sometimes. The man was just very unpleasant. Seeing his face that day was a gift.”
Enjolras knew Grantaire had a penchant for mockery. This particular mischief, however, charms him despite himself.
"Will you put that on a shield as well?"
Grantaire's smile is startled, amused. "I would paint it, if I could."
Their conversation continues on such light topics, as Grantaire finishes his work. Enjolras can see now that he is almost at the end. The Cyclopes are quiet, and follow Grantaire's instructions when they don't anticipate them. They work like a well-oiled machine.
More than two hours pass, and Enjolras realises he hasn't been bored once.
"So what is the story, today?" Grantaire asks finally. "Who are you escaping?"
Enjolras realises that the man in question has probably given up by now, and he could try leaving.
He draws his legs up, wraps his arms around them.
"A mortal, this once," he says. "He came claiming he was in love with me, and would prove himself however I wished. I told him I would consider him if he beat me in a race."
"Why do that?" Grantaire asks. "Why not say no?"
Enjolras shrugs. "It would get tedious if I didn't invent something, every once in a while."
"What would you have done had he won?"
"He wouldn't have. Not fairly, anyhow," Enjolras replies. Then he smiles, "And had he cheated and won, I would have been justified to punish him in anger. Or I could have called it fair -- I would have considered it."
Grantaire makes a thoughtful, humming noise.
"And then you would have said yes?" his eyes dart to Enjolras briefly, as if assessing him.
Now that he knows how to look for it, Enjolras sees that spark of amusement. Mischief.
"Of course not!" Enjolras says. If he exaggerates his outrage, why should anyone know?
Grantaire smiles, though it isn't as open as Enjolras – he now realises – had hoped.
"Of course not," Grantaire agrees.
Then he is quiet for a moment, while Enjolras watches him work.
"I do not know why he thought he could win," Grantaire says. "How could he beat a god?"
Enjolras knows his face shows his emotion only too well – his pride, which is almost as bad as the stories say.
"He thought me weak, of course," Enjolras says. "Small and pretty – why should I be able to run?"
"Why shouldn't you?" Grantaire says. He seems to regret the clear earnestness of his tone, and masks it behind a grin. "After all, how else could you escape your suitors?"
"They think me soft," Enjolras says.
Grantaire's laughter is like a bark, sharp and bitter. "You are anything but soft."
Enjolras would have taken this as a compliment, had it come from anyone else. In any other tone.
But this is Grantaire. And he has said he doesn't dislike Enjolras, but wariness still comes from him in waves.
"What do you mean?"
Grantaire sighs. "I have seen you shout at the king of the gods, Enjolras. You aren't soft. And you don't tolerate being controlled."
Enjolras settles, accepting the explanation. Yet Grantaire still makes it sound like a reproach, somehow.
"Do you mean I shouldn't? I should let Zeus command me about, even though I am almost as old? I should take injustice without complaint?"
He realises his voice is rising too late. He is only proving Grantaire right.
"Trust me," Grantaire says. His face is already shuttering behind a sneer. "I am the first to disagree with my father."
He turns, then, and the Cyclopes scatter. Enjolras realises they are finished.
He purses his lips, and takes in the line of Grantaire's broad shoulder, gone tense.
He takes his leave, murmuring a few parting words.
He sees Grantaire bow his head in acknowledgment, though he does not turn to look.
Grantaire does not know why Enjolras' words stung.
In the following days, he often thnks back to the blush that had taken Enjolras' bronze cheeks – always invisible except when he is hot with anger – and his frowning brow.
He knows why he hides his words on Enjolras' ire behind careful scorn. He does not want the truth to shine true. It is that much easier to get hurt over it.
He is deathless, and still, despite it, a coward.
Enjolras does not come back for days, and Grantaire's workshop is blessedly quiet, except for the constant work of the furnace. The Moirai visit him once more, and yet again a servant comes bearing a message from Jehan, who says they will be in town soon enough.
For a whole week, everything proceeds as normal, until Enjolras enters his workshop again, this time followed by a demigod.
Grantaire, when he is told of their coming by a mountain sprite, takes a few blessed seconds to compose himself.
The demigod strides in first – she's a pretty woman with golden brown skin, dotted with freckles, and a head of short dark curls. Her green eyes glitter under the light of the fire. She’s quite lovely.
"Did you finally cave, and then decide you should introduce me to your new love?" he says.
The demigod laughs a lively, cheerful laugh. She is only slightly taller than Enjolras, and wraps her arm around his shoulders easily.
"I'm afraid not, Enjolras wouldn't have me," she says. "My name is Courfeyrac."
"Courfeyrac would not have me," Enjolras counters.
"Nonsense," Courfeyrac says. "You know I love you dearly."
Enjolras smiles. A soft smile that Grantaire doesn't think he ever saw before. It's quite painful to see, and it makes his chest feel too thin.
"Courfeyrac is neither my suitor, nor my love," Enjolras says. "She is favoured of Athena."
The mention of her name has Courfeyrac smile brightly and oh – that's right. It is quite clear.
"I have just returned from a long voyage over the sea," Courfeyrac says. "Barely made it out – Poseidon has no love lost for me, though my beautiful, wise lady saw me through the worst of it. And I come back and learn – why, that Enjolras has taken to spending time with the smithing god!"
Enjolras' shoulders tense ever so slightly, and he raises his chin. "No one has picked up on it yet – you cheat."
"I have Combeferre," Courfeyrac says, using Athena’s familiar name. It seems to be answer enough by itself.
"I am sorry we're intruding," Enjolras says, again. "I know it isn't the usual arrangement..."
"Why, because there is no suitor?" Grantaire says. "That doesn’t change things much for me. You'll still be here, just the same. Only I don't know why you'd want to spend this fine afternoon underground."
Courfeyrac frowns. "Why, I'm curious. I have never spent a fine afternoon underground. And I wanted to see if you're really as fearsome as they say."
"Do I pass the test?"
"Unfortunately, I'm sad to say you are almost as fearsome as Enjolras."
"So that's a yes."
"Are you joking? I don't think I have ever been afraid of Enjolras in my life."
Enjolras turns to her in slight reproach, but his posture is still easy. Grantaire wonders – it is clear they aren't lovers, but their manners are familiar, and the slight jest is taken with no offense.
They may not be lovers, but they do love each other. Grantaire can't help it if he is a bitter wretch.
"You happen to be in on a free day," he says. "So I'm afraid there won't be much smithing to be done around here."
"A free day?" Courfeyrac asks. "I thought gods couldn't get tired."
She says it with a smile that implies a long-standing joke. Enjolras looks quite exasperated.
"You know that's not –"
"Oh, Enjolras, yes, I know -"
Grantaire says, "It's mostly for the Cyclopes. It always seems cruel to have them work every day. Not that they'd mind it very much, I don't think – they love the heat. But it doesn't do them any good, being stuck with me all day, every day, and so."
Enjolras looks at him for a long moment, with wide brown eyes.
"Oh, that's –" he starts. He snaps his mouth shut and seems to have to process. "That's very thoughtful."
"So you agree they need to be let out from my company?"
He has the pleasure of seeing Enjolras riled up again. "Don't twist my words!"
"That's unfortunate," Courfeyrac cuts in smoothly. "I was hoping to see some examples of your work. The stories talk so much about it."
Enjolras still looks like he wants to say something in retaliation, but manages, somehow, to reign himself in. He does not stop scowling.
"If it's trinkets you want to see," Grantaire says, affecting cheerfulness. "That won't be a problem."
He regrets, momentarily, leaving his cane so far away from his station, but once he's reached it, he leads the way behind his work station, towards one of the inner doors.
The doors are charmed – a useful spell that was gifted to him – so that only he is allowed to open them. He doesn't mind visitors, but he is picky with them.
Opening the doors to Enjolras and his friend is thrilling and terrifying all at once.
The room, inside, is huge – the rock ceiling is high, the walls open wide around them, and the clutter of a millennium or so of discarded, unfinished, and forgotten projects still lies around.
He hears Courfeyrac gasp.
"Oh, I knew it!" she says, and immediately moves to the humanoid bronze figure nearest to the door. "I had heard you had attempted automatons!"
"Attempted, key word," Grantaire says, his mouth twisting. He is still not quite over that attempt. He knows he'll probably go back to it, in a decade or so.
Enjolras wrinkles his perfect round nose at it. "Does it have a purpose?"
"Not yet, no," Grantaire replies. "I assumed I'd find one if I managed to make it work. But it is not perfect yet."
Grantaire can tell, he can read on Enjolras' face that he thinks the automaton ugly. It is quite damning, from Aphrodite.
"I know, he is not very handsome," Grantaire says. "Like father, like son."
Enjolras appears startled, and his frown disappears for a moment.
"Why do you keep –" he says. Then, alas, the frown is back, "Nevermind. It's just... it's abandoned."
Courfeyrac turns and smiles gently at him. "Oh, Enjolras, it's just metal. No need to be sad."
Grantaire's eyes widen, though he thinks he manages to cover it quite well. The thought that he misread Enjolras this much is humbling – sadness? For his unfinished automaton?
"It was a prototype," he says, finally. "It'll be finished eventually."
Enjolras is holding himself very straight now. He says, "No, of course. Not all things need a purpose, I suppose."
He seems to hold his tongue, as if wanting to add something. He doesn't. He walks towards a diadem mounted on a bronze bust. It glitters and glows faintly.
"That's very pretty," he says, a clear change of subject.
"That'd look very well with your hair," Courfeyrac jokes, elbowing him.
"I would give it to you as a gift, but I'm afraid it is cursed."
He sees both of his guests take an involuntary step back.
"Maybe we should head to lunch instead," Courfeyrac says, turning around.
Her smile is very wide. It is also, somehow, very convincing.
Later, when they are done with supper, and Courfeyrac has managed to make him laugh where he hadn’t thought it possible, and Enjolras has sat at his table and leaned a perfect cheek on his hand, and smiled soft smiles… later, Enjolras gestures for Courfeyrac to walk out ahead of him.
He turns to Grantaire and suddenly look almost contrite. It sits strangely on him.
“I apologise for not warning,” he says.
Grantaire blinks, puzzled. “You never warn before coming,” he says.
Enjolras shifts uncomfortably. “You have allowed me in. I do not presume the invitation extends indefinitely.”
“But it does,” Grantaire can’t help but blurt out. He regrets it immediately.
“Believe me, Enjolras, if I did not want you here I’d make it known.”
He only realises after, when he sees Enjolras’ eyes widen, that this is the first time he has called him Enjolras. He has used the more familiar name, instead of any godly epithet.
He is about to take it back, when Enjolras smiles. It is nothing as large, or as fond as the smiles he gives Courfeyrac. It is still devastating enough that Grantaire has to make a conscious effort not to let the room’s temperature get away from him.
“Regardless,” Enjolras says. “One can’t invite one’s friends over without the host’s permission.”
Grantaire has to concede.
“Well, only send word ahead if you are bringing Athena. I will have a spear waiting for her. And I do like Courfeyrac, so tell her she is welcome to visit, when she is not adventuring.”
Enjolras is still smiling, which all in all is a blessing.
“I’ll be sure to do that,” he says. “I hope I will get to meet your friends, at some point.”
Grantaire thinks of the ruckus the Moirai will raise if that ever happens. It sounds like a dreadful, wonderful thing.
Enjolras keeps coming back, in the following weeks. Grantaire had thought it would be harder to work, with his constant presence, however quiet he may try to be.
He is surprised, however – even when Enjolras speaks, his questions never distract him from the task at hand. Sometimes, they even bring things into focus that Grantaire had not thought of before.
The automaton is one of these. Enjolras had looked so incredibly sad, while staring at it, that Grantaire had found himself looking back on the blueprints he had first made.
He still doesn’t understand why Enjolras had looked at it like that.
The plans, he has seen, were all wrong. He isn’t quite sure how he’d ever thought they’d work. He takes a day – he banishes everyone from the workshop and sits with the plans. Then he takes out the automaton and lays it down on the table to peer at its insides.
Of course the servants seem to think that a ban of ‘everyone’ does not include Enjolras.
He looks hesitant, when he enters, the workshop quiet except for the crackling fire. He eyes the brass chest-piece abandoned on the floor, and Grantaire elbow-deep in the bowels of the automaton.
“Everything alright?” he asks, though his early tentativeness has given way to a smile.
“Absolutely,” Grantaire says. “Only I don’t know what I was thinking when I made this… it’s all wrong. I will have to re-do him all over again.”
“Oh, really?” Enjolras says, and takes that half-sad, half-guilty look again. As if he is already berating himself for getting too attached to a piece of brass. “Is nothing salvageable?”
Grantaire shrugs, and peers at the automaton’s blank face. “The shell, I suppose, except it’s ugly.”
Enjolras’ face twists further. “Don’t say that”
Grantaire raises an eyebrow at that, and Enjolras clearly looks like he already regrets having spoken.
He can’t help but smile. “You think I’ll hurt its feelings, Enjolras? It doesn’t have any.”
Enjolras actually blushes, which is usually rather hard to see with his complexion. It makes his cheeks glow.
“I know that,” he says. “Don’t mock me. I just – it’s still callous. And besides, you are not a good judge of beauty.”
Grantaire stares at him, realising Enjolras has made his way across the room to stand on the other side of the table. His long fingers trace the ridges on the side of the automaton’s skull.
“What makes you think so?” Grantaire asks.
Enjolras doesn’t answer at first, and when he does it’s completely senseless.
“And I should know, shouldn’t I – it’s mine. Most people don’t understand it, though, they think a series of traits is enough for beauty, but we all know it isn’t truly so. A pretty face can become unbearable if you can’t stand the person – average faces become beautiful when you love them.”
Grantaire can’t help it, he snorts.
Enjolras’ dark eyes narrow at him dangerously, but this, of course does not stop Grantaire.
“Average faces, sure,” he says. “But ugly ones – you and I both know ugly faces cannot be saved, even by the gentlest of souls. There’s only so far one can go – ”
“So you presume to teach me!” Enjolras says, then bites his lip. “I’m sorry – I do not mean… it is only, I didn’t think you would misunderstand me.”
He looks genuinely crestfallen, and some part of Grantaire understands that when he says me he means beauty, and he means love. Because those things are him as much as they’re his domain.
But the rest of him wants to shy away from this conversation. He has no abilities in premonition, but he’s not a fool either, and he already knows it’s a line of discussion that will, inevitably, lead them to disaster.
They argue anyhow, a lot of the time. It is why they avoid talking during the rest, and often just sit quietly existing in each other’s presence.
He tries to jest, “Why? Should I be more sensitive to the topic, because I am ugly?”
Enjolras starts – he visibly recoils as if he had been hit.
He says, “But you’re not.”
Suddenly, Grantaire doesn’t feel like joking at all.
Enjolras’ eyes are wide, painfully blank, and Grantaire can’t believe he is lying, but there’s no other way –
He knows he doesn’t manage to keep his own face neutral.
“That’s not funny,” he says.
Enjolras frowns. “Why would it be funny?”
“I don’t know!” Grantaire snaps back. It’s clearly not what Enjolras expects, because his eyes are shocked, uncomprehending. “Because I’m sure we both known it is true. We both know everyone says so as well – everyone knows the smithing god is the ugliest.”
The same strange mix of sadness and outrage lights up Enjolras’ eyes, and if it is a lie, gods, it is a perfect one.
“Have you not heard a word I said?” Enjolras says, exasperated.
“I have!” Grantaire says. His chest is aching, and he needs this to stop. “And I don’t know why you’re doing this. I didn’t think you were cruel.”
Enjolras stops, his mouth parted. The confused, pained look on his face is unbearable, so Grantaire doesn’t look.
He wants to ask him to leave, but doesn’t have enough breath in his lungs for it. Enjolras comes closer, and lays his hands right by Grantaire’s, where they’re gripping the automaton’s brass shell. His long, perfectly shaped brown fingers, resting by Grantaire’s thick, scarred ones.
“I don’t understand you,” Enjolras says. “Will you look at me?”
Grantaire does – he isn’t good at denying Enjolras things, not when he asks for them so softly. Uncertainty doesn’t sound natural, in his voice. He keeps his head bowed, looking up through his curls, and finds Enjolras frowning helplessly at him.
“We don’t have to speak of it,” Enjolras says, finally, though he is still frowning. “I didn’t mean to – anyhow. Only know I wouldn’t lie. And if you find it in your heart to do one thing for me, will you keep the automaton’s shell?”
His sudden softness is almost more upsetting than his outrage, and Grantaire is entirely powerless against it. His brown eyes look black in the flickering light of the workshop, still sad and frowning. Enjolras does not understand him, and Grantaire can’t say he is surprised. How could he, when they are so wildly different?
Grantaire doesn’t understand him in turn, after all – he doesn’t understand his fixation with this piece of brass any more than he understands why he would insist on coming here. On trying to tell Grantaire he’s not –
“As you like,” Grantaire says. “So long as it works, it doesn’t make much difference to me.”
Enjolras nods, and his forehead finally smooths. He even attempts a semblance of a smile, though it comes strained, and is gone much too soon.
It’s replaced by a different look – serious and intent. It sends a shiver down Grantaire’s spine because it is one he has come to recognise. He’s seen it often, when Enjolras talks about the politics of the city, or the opinions he has formed on the books Combeferre lent him, or when he is looking over one of the old scrolls on philosophy.
It’s the look he takes when he is presented with a challenge, and it promises nothing good.
Lyrics from Like The Dawn by The Oh Hellos, from the unofficial playlist for this fic.
Chapter notes, which Erin suggested I add in case mythology references are lost:
- The Moirai, or Fates. Musichetta is Clotho, who spins the thread of life, Joly is Lachesis, who measures it, and Bossuet is Atropos, who cuts it.
- Enjolras telling the suitor that he must beat him in a race is linked to the myth of Atlanta, who said she wouldn’t marry unless someone beat her in a race. When they lost, she beheaded her suitors. My kind of girl.
- Courfeyrac is based on Odysseus, who was favoured by Athena (though he was not a demigod).
“How are you finding him, then?” Combeferre asks.
They’re in her gardens of Combeferre’s home. She and Courfeyrac are playing dice, and she has won five matches on five. She is not the type to let anyone win if they haven’t earned it, and Courfeyrac isn’t paying very much attention.
“He is -” Enjolras starts, and isn’t sure how to continue. He settles for, “He's different from what I expected.”
“I agree,” Courfeyrac says, turning around in her seat.
It’s a beautiful day out – Apollo, whom they call Cosette, is shining down on them, and feels peaceful and gentle. Enjolras appreciates it. It’s a good weather for weddings, and today he feels inclined.
“I expected him to be grumpier, honestly,” Courfeyrac says. “Rougher. Less polite. He was a good host.”
“He’s been… accommodating,” Enjolras says. Then, “Mostly.”
“We’ve had our disagreements.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Combeferre says. “It can’t have been bad, if you keep going back.”
Enjolras shifts uncomfortably on the grass, where he’s lounging and looking up at a corner of blue sky.
“Do you think we’re very incompatible?” he says. “Grantaire and I? He says he does not despise me, but until recently I had no idea. I thought surely that was why he behaved the way he did.”
“I think he’s shy,” Courfeyrac says.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
Grantaire is very many things, but shy – it is said he built a golden throne for his mother, cursed to never let her stand again. He has no qualms in disrupting gatherings on Olympus by quarrelling with Apollo, or Ares, or Hermes.
“No, listen,” Courfeyrac says. “You know just as well as I do that Grantaire is not shy most days. And yet he does shy from contact with you.”
That is one way to put it, at least.
“Why would he, though?” Enjolras asks.
“Ah, now,” Combeferre says. “That is the question, isn’t it?”
Enjolras goes back, of course. Some days it is indeed to escape attentions – not always suitors, sometimes it is well-meaning gods or worshippers. Sometimes it is too many prayers.
And increasingly often he finds himself wandering underground simply when he feels the need to.
It’s a strange arrangement – on certain days, they do not talk. Grantaire simply works while Enjolras reads, or writes, or watches.
He catches himself watching more often – Grantaire’s hands are a true spectacle, he learns. They are big, and yet surprisingly precise. Decisive. Never falling wrong.
It is their conversation, when they have any, that tends to turn wrong. Some days Grantaire is chatty, and tells him this or that rumour or gossip he has learned from the Moirai, or he talks about details of his projects.
Other days he is sullen and impossible to draw out of his shell.
Some days Enjolras doesn’t know the difference until they are already at each other’s throats and shouting.
Today, a whole two months into their arrangement, is a day he has been chased down here against his will.
“He says I should marry,” Enjolras growls, pacing the length of the room. “He asks how I can know my domain if I don’t explore it! As if I were a young godling!”
“Did you smite him, then?” Grantaire asks. He is bent over some schematics, today, at a large table away from the furnace. His Cyclopes are not around, and he is fastidiously scribbling and crossing things out, starting over.
Enjolras isn’t paying very much attention to it, to be fair. He’s too lost in his own indignation.
“I think my anger scared him enough,” Enjolras knows. “I can’t believe – if I fell for every other man that fell for me, I’d never have time for work. I’d never have time for anything.”
Grantaire lets out a breath then – rough, faintly mocking.
“I mean, you can count it as work, can’t you?” he says. There’s something bitter, off, about his tone. “We aren’t all so lucky.”
His words stop Enjolras in his tracks, make him frown.
“What’s that?” he asks.
“I just mean,” Grantaire says, raising his head from his paper. “Not all of us have the luxury to traipse around dealing with first loves and blushing maidens and weddings.”
Something isn’t right, Enjolras knows. The line of Grantaire’s shoulders is drawn tight, as if squared for a fight. Some distant part of him realises this, that Grantaire is goading him.
But the rest of him… He hates to see the volatile, spiteful Aphrodite of the stories in himself, but the rest of him burns.
“What do you know?” he snaps. “How can you speak like that? What do you know of what my domain is? How can you, when you spend all of your life underground?”
Grantaire’s eyes meet his. They are dark, his brow knitted into an unforgiving scowl.
“By all means, you’re right, what in the world do I know of love?” he shouts, right back. “What do I know? No one has ever chased after me, certainly I can’t complain of being overly loved. I know nothing. Most of all, I don’t know what you’re still doing here.”
Enjolras feels the heat rise in his cheeks, burning like a slap in the face, like unfairness, like –
“You’re right,” he says. “You know nothing about me. And I, you. I should go.”
Enjolras is the god of love and beauty, and thus even he knows that love is fickle and beauty subjective. That not everyone is bound to love. It had never felt like this before.
Not everyone is bound to love him, or even simply want him.
The plans to fix the automaton lie forgotten on the table for a week, after Enjolras leaves.
The furnaces burn steadily, because the heat is the only thing that eases his breathing. He does not work – he lets the Cyclopes carry on their daily output without his interference.
Most of the people these weapons, shields, trinkets are destined for won’t even be able to tell the difference. Not all objects he makes glow obviously like Achilles’ armour.
He does not hear Jehan enter, though he can feel their steps in his mountain quite well.
Jehan knows his hallways almost as well as they know their own home, and they find his room without a missed step.
He feels their weight at the edge of his bed, scooting closer, then a gentle hand in his hair.
“My friend,” they say. “Aetna glows dimmer than usual, today. What’s the matter?”
Grantaire is sprawled on his belly quite dramatically, and turns to peek at Jehan, leaning into their touch.
They look quite well – their skin has grown darker under the sun, like mahogany, a thick coil of braids hangs over their shoulder, and their eyes are milky and pale. They can’t see anything of the physical world, though they can see beyond it quite well.
Jehan is still mortal, despite their multiple unfortunate clashes with gods. It is often astonishing to him that they came back alive – though not unscathed.
Neither they nor Grantaire have any particular love lost for his mother, to put it simply.
“Should I call you man or woman, today, Jehan?”
“I will let you know if I figure it out,” Jehan says. “Though today seems in-between.”
Grantaire turns on his side and lets Jehan curl up right beside him.
“Don’t think you’ll distract me like this,” Jehan says.
“Why, don’t you want to tell me about your latest journeys? How many people did you warn off certain disaster that refused to listen?”
“What if I warn you? Will you listen?”
Grantaire grimaces, then vocalises his displeasure for his friend’s benefit.
“I don’t think so.”
Jehan smiles sadly. “Let me try?”
“I have ruined a perfectly good thing,” Grantaire says. “I was bitter, and afraid, and had recently been summoned on Olympus. I lashed out at the wrong time.”
“And someone else got hurt for it?” Jehan asks, gently.
“I don’t know about hurt,” Grantaire says. “But he was furious.”
“Sometimes I am afraid,” Jehan says. “That you hold yourself in such low esteem that you don’t realise you may hurt those that care for you.”
Grantaire frowns. “How do you mean?”
“By pushing them away,” Jehan says. “You think you don’t deserve it – so you won’t let yourself have it.”
“If you knew him,” Grantaire says. “You’d know it’s not like that.”
They are quiet for a very long time, before Jehan pulls themself up to sit, and Grantaire follows suit.
“Well, I knew you wouldn’t listen,” they say, stretching out their arms, though they’ve only been lying down for a few seconds.
“Told you,” Grantaire says.
Jehan hops off the bed. “You should still apologise. Not all is lost.”
“Is that your professional opinion, Tiresias?”
Jehan turns to him, a dangerous bared-teeth smile on their mouth. “Indeed! Now take me to the shop, and show me your latest wonders. I want to touch them all, and you must tell me what they do.”
Olympus is cold. It’s all marble and fountains of nectar, and nymphs laughing.
Enjolras doesn’t like to spend too much time there, and he especially doesn’t like being summoned. But it seems the heavenly king wants him there for dinner, along with the others.
It grates on Enjolras especially – sitting at long tables, inevitably seated too far away from Combeferre, and too near Ares.
He is one of the few gods at the table who are not Zeus’ children. In fact, were he any prouder he’d demand to be seated higher up on the table. He was born of Ouranos, himself, though indirectly. Zeus rarely acknowledges this fact. He is King, and that suffices.
But Enjolras doesn’t mind not sitting by him, all in all, and he has no wish for higher status than he already has.
Simply, he balks at being ordered around by anyone, and especially by a child of Chronos.
Combeferre is seated across from him, two seats down towards the head of the table. Their eyes meet from time to time, while Combeferre listens to her younger sister Hermes, whom they call Gavroche.
“Athena is so patient,” Eponine says, sat beside him. “I cannot listen to her for that long, half the time.”
Enjolras knows this is somewhat a lie, because Eponine favours Gavroche in many things. Gavroche is Eponine’s closest sister apart from Cosette.
Cosette, in fact, gives Eponine a look.
“Liar,” she says, smiling. Cosette’s hair is almost as bright as Enjolras’, except hers refracts the light. She is the warmest thing in Olympus, like sunlight.
Eponine, on the contrary, is quiet and cool beside him. She looks half uncomfortable, having left her bow at the door. He knows Combeferre feels similarly, though she tends to hide weapons on her person anyhow, and no one could possibly convince her to shed her armour on occasions such as this.
Cosette is seated right across from him, and Grantaire is at her right. That is also a problem.
The further problem is that Hera, the queen, is at the end of the table between Grantaire and Eponine, and that has made no one’s mood lighter.
Enjolras is pointedly not noticing the hushed conversation Hera is having at Grantaire. Not with him, because he doesn’t seem to be responding at all.
Part of Enjolras still burns at their argument. It hasn’t been two weeks since it happened, and yet he still thinks of it more than he probably should.
I don’t know what you’re still doing here.
He knows there was something else bothering Grantaire, that his presence was probably just one extra annoyance.
I thought you wanted me there, Enjolras had found himself thinking, replaying the conversation over and over. He kept thinking of things he might have said, in the moment, if he’d only thought to. He’d flinched at his own presumption, and corrected himself, to himself: I thought you didn’t mind. You said you didn’t mind.
It has only been two weeks, and yet it’s enough to realise he’d grown complacent. Reliant. On Grantaire and the times he spent in the mountain, unwinding.
Grantaire has looked at him only once since Enjolras entered the Zeus’ hall, his face a mask. He’d looked away right away.
Enjolras feels wound tight like a lyre. He is catching some words from Hera now, and one of them definitely sounded like marriage, and had made Grantaire’s shoulders tense. He’d hidden his face in his cup of wine and hadn’t replied.
There is always something off about the way Grantaire interacts with his parents – when it comes to anyone else, Grantaire is ready to fly off with a rebuke or a witty reply. Solicited or not.
He is only quiet when it comes to them. And Enjolras knows about the story of the golden chair, and the small ways Grantaire has shown his displeasure to them, but he has never truly witnessed it.
Now, Grantaire says, “No. I think that’s enough.”
Hera rears back, frowning. She’s very beautiful, with hair of red-gold, finely braided, and long-lashed brown eyes that seem to be the only thing her son inherited.
She turns those eyes to Enjolras, suddenly, and he thinks, Oh, no.
“Aphrodite, my dear,” she says. “Will you help me knock some sense into my son? Surely you’ll agree, marriage – ”
“Enjolras and I have already discussed marriage,” Grantaire says. “He’s already argued with me about it. Please spare him, mother.”
Grantaire is still not quite looking at him, but rather at an indistinct spot by his left ear. Enjolras clears his throat.
“Surely you’ll agree,” he says, wilfully using her own words. “Marriage is something one should never enter unwillingly.”
Grantaire’s eyes meet his, surprised, for one fleeting moment. It only winds Enjolras tighter. It hits him then that – yes, Hera is suggesting Grantaire should marry. The thought makes his stomach twist unexpectedly.
Hera is smiling indulgently. There’s a trace of condescension there too, and the uncomfortable coil in Enjolras’ belly resolves itself into much more familiar irritation.
“You would think so,” Hera says. “I forget how truly romantic you are. The way I see it, marriage is a stable foundation onto which to build. Love isn’t necessary. That comes later.”
“I never spoke of love,” Enjolras says.
That smile again. “You didn’t need to,” Hera replies.
Enjolras feels himself flush, and he can’t help how short he sounds when he replies, “Did you read my mind, then? I only meant, love is not what I was talking about. I would rather there be love, but willingness is base. There have been successful marriages without love, where there is trust. But both parties have to be willing.”
He can tell Hera does not appreciate his tone, because her lips purse, and her eyes shutter. For a very fleeting moment she looks almost like Grantaire, in anger. But the way she hides it behind a honey smile is completely foreign, and hers.
“What’s this?” the King asks, from the other end of the table. He is also very handsome, in a different way. He is all angles, with a long straight nose. Enjolras thinks Grantaire might have got it – Combeferre certainly had, it made her look regal – but that it had been broken in the fall, so as to be unrecognisable now.
“Only talk of marriage, dear,” Hera said. “Nothing you should bother with.”
“Oh, yes, I have heard rumours,” Zeus said. “You seem to have many suitors, Aphrodite.”
Enjolras straightened. “No, you misunderstand – it isn’t – ”
He bit his tongue. He turned to Grantaire, whose eyes were wide. He looked almost horrified. For the first time they looked at each other, and seemed in sync.
He didn’t have the time to appreciate that moment in any way, because Zeus went on.
“Maybe you should just pick one already, son,” he said. “It’s causing unrest. And it is unseemly, for the god of love to not be married.”
Anger is like a live thing, inside his belly, burning hot. It makes him feel sick, makes his hands shake. He can hardly speak. He wants to lash out and tell the king to never call him son again.
“No,” he says. “I won’t.”
He doesn’t go on, because doing so would mean not being able to stop. His tone is abrupt, however, and the way he meets the King’s icy eyes, head on, is a challenge of itself.
“Why not?” Zeus asks, his voice going low. “You’re only spoiled for choice.”
Enjolras takes a deep breath, hoping it’ll calm him down enough to speak.
“Because I don’t intend to. As I said,” Enjolras says, “I don’t believe in marriage unless it’s willing. And I am unwilling.”
Combeferre straightens his back to speak. “Aphrodite’s domain is quite different from the Queen’s, Father. He does not represent marriage quite as she does.”
“Surely Enjolras should marry for nothing less than love,” Grantaire says, then.
Enjolras is shocked to hear him speak, and for him, of all things. Their eyes meet, again. Grantaire doesn’t look hesitant, exactly – more cautious.
Grantaire’s mouth is a grim, straight line, but his eyes are earnest as they hold Enjolras’. He can’t breathe for a whole different reason.
Grantaire looks away. Towards his father.
“Why should he settle? Do you think those people will stop because he’s married? They won’t.”
The other gods, at the table, are quiet and frozen.
Zeus looks thunderous, but it is Hera who raises her voice.
She laughs, a high laugh like bells, ice-cold. “My dear, what do you know of love?”
Grantaire visibly starts, then seems to wilt momentarily. It is only a second, but it is visible to Enjolras, who is watching.
What do I know? Grantaire had said. I can’t complain of being overly loved.
“He is right,” Enjolras says. “They won’t stop. I won’t settle.”
Grantaire’s hands are tight on the edge of the table, and Enjolras watches them instead of meeting his eyes. He can’t.
He turns to Hera instead, and sees her eyes narrow.
She says, “You said you two were speaking of marriage, didn’t you? How come?”
He is about to open his mouth to speak, again, and he knows he won’t be kind. He hears Combeferre clear her throat.
They share a look – her dark eyes are dangerous. They dart from Hera, who is sitting straight as a spear, to Zeus, at the other end. His fist is poised on the table, and he seems halfway ready to rise.
Combeferre looks back at him. It is a warning.
She knows where this will lead, Enjolras understands suddenly. Quarrelling with them will only lead to disrespect, and while they can’t hurt him, they will have no scruples targeting mortals he cares about.
Combeferre’s eyes warn him for Courfeyrac’s safety, without ever saying a word.
Enjolras settles back against his chair. He wills his heart to slow its violent thumping.
“Nothing important, my lady,” Enjolras says, evenly. “We were just agreeing on how we are both unwilling.”
He smiles, then. He knows his smile is charming enough that he’ll be able to pass it as a jest, even though his stomach has turned to lead.
He knows Hera doesn’t fall for it completely, though she is mollified by his address. She smiles, and it is a sharp, sweet thing.
“I guess anyone would be unwilling to be tied down, had they so many choices,” she says, and laughs. She covers her mouth with her hand when she does.
Then she pats her son’s shoulder, where he is stiff at her side. “I don’t know why I try with this one.”
It is almost enough to break Enjolras’ resolve, but Grantaire raises his head to deliberately meet his eyes then.
He looks at him steadily. He shakes his head minutely and breathes in deeply once, then twice. Enjolras understands him, and breathes along with him, until the rise and fall of their chests follows the same rhythm.
Only then does Grantaire look away from him.
Family dinners must be Grantaire’s eternal curse – and yet, he must endure. He isn’t summoned very often, because he knows that, despite all she pretends to care, his mother does not like to look upon him.
He supposes it must be hard to swallow, that one of the very few children she has been able to give Zeus would turn out to be such a disappointment
The presence of Enjolras at these things had always made it worse and better. He usually commandeered the room enough that some attention could be taken from Grantaire himself. At the same time, looking upon him hurt.
This has been the first time they’ve been on Olympus together, since the arrangement started. Grantaire had hoped the first time would be pleasant, maybe, that maybe he and Enjolras could share at least some understanding across the crowded table. It had been a nice, foolish fantasy.
Now it’s gone wrong and right at the same time, and Grantaire is still trying to understand how that could be.
He tried escaping as soon as it was acceptable by his mother’s standards, though he apparently didn’t do it fast enough.
He is almost at the gates, when Enjolras’ voice reaches him. Grantaire wishes he could ignore it, but he doesn’t think that’d ever be possible.
He turns to see Enjolras hurry in his direction, scattering a group of nymphs bathing in a fountain. They make way for him and giggle, watching him go. Grantaire would blame them if he weren’t feeling much similarly.
At least he has yet to giggle.
“Grantaire,” Enjolras says, finally reaching him. He is slightly winded, the rise and fall of his chest mesmerising. “Could we talk?”
“I – ” Grantaire stammers. He can’t say he’s eager to, but – “Of course. Here?”
Enjolras looks back to the nymphs, who are still stealing glances in their direction.
“Maybe not,” Enjolras says, grimacing. “My temple is not too far off. Would you mind?”
Temples on Olympus are less for worshiping and more to house the gods when they are passing through. The temple to Aphrodite is lower on the mountain, and Grantaire realises it is so because of the way the clouds dissipate, offering view of the sea.
It is quieter, here, and Enjolras sits down on the marble steps, looking down towards the waves.
“Let’s not go inside,” Enjolras says. “I don’t think having a giant statue of myself looking on us would help.”
It makes Grantaire smile, despite himself, and he sits down by Enjolras, leaning back on his elbows so the sharp edge of the step digs into his back.
“I wouldn’t think so,” he replies. “I’d never seen the view from here.”
Enjolras’ lips curls up in a smile. “I like it. My home is by the shore as well. I like that better. The smell doesn’t make it up here.”
Grantaire nods. “You said you wanted to talk?”
He may have made a mistake, but on the other hand his stomach is still twisting, and there is no point delaying this. Might as well put himself out of this misery.
“Yes,” Enjolras says. “I wanted to thank you for speaking in my favour, inside.”
“Don’t,” Grantaire says. Then he bites his lip, gentles his tone. “You don’t have to thank me.”
Enjolras is looking at him, frowning like he does when can’t understand.
“I think I do,” he says. “Though you might not want to hear it. It seems you understand me better than I thought.”
“It was nothing,” Grantaire says. “It only makes sense. You deserve better than settling for someone because you have to.”
He had not meant to speak thus, truly, though it doesn’t seem he really has a choice. The words just tumble out.
“You deserve better,” he repeats, quietly.
Enjolras is silent. Then, unexpectedly, his hand comes to rest on Grantaire’s. Grantaire watches it, feels it as if from a distance. Enjolras’ fingers, warm and soft and shockingly real.
“It was not nothing,” Enjolras says. His eyes are steady, and hold him in place. “I know it isn’t easy, with them.”
It makes Grantaire stop breathing, because maybe Enjolras understands him better than he thought, too.
“I can speak against them,” Grantaire says. “If it matters. It’s just, usually it’s useless. And the grief isn’t worth it.”
Enjolras looks away, displeased. Maybe Grantaire is starting to read him better, too, because any other day he’d have thought he was displeased withhim. But his hand is still on Grantaire’s, and tightens briefly.
“You dislike her,” Grantaire says. “My mother.”
Enjolras’ lips are pressed thin, a severe line. “I don’t like how she behaves towards mortals, especially – especially the ones your father beds.”
Grantaire’s mouth twists bitterly. He knows half the gods hold grudges because of Hera’s treatment of their mothers.
“I don’t like the way she behaves towards you,” Enjolras goes on. “I don’t like the way she loves.”
Grantaire doesn’t know what to say. Enjolras’ thumb is brushing his very gently, back and forth.
Enjolras says, “I shouldn’t have said what I did, to you, that day.”
Grantaire suddenly finds himself turning his hand in Enjolras’, gripping back.
“I should be the one apologising,” he says. Suddenly it’s like he can’t get the words out fast enough. “I was in a terrible mood, and it had nothing to do with you at all. And I did not mean what I said.”
Enjolras’ eyes are wide, surprised, and flitting about his face. Grantaire forces himself to withstand the scrutiny, and look back.
“I do not like being misunderstood,” Enjolras says, slowly. He looks uncertain, hesitant. “I didn’t like thinking you really thought of me that way – that you thought that was all there was to me.”
“I don’t,” Grantaire hurries to say. “I know who you are, Pandemos.”
Enjolras’ smile dawns on his face slowly, and Grantaire is once again struck speechless with it. It is inconceivable that that smile might exist because of something he said.
“Of all the people,” Enjolras says. “You do understand.”
And Grantaire does – he never doubted that Enjolras was more than simple romance, or uncomplicated beauty. He is fierce, and his beauty is two parts fury, one conviction. Half the weapons he makes are used in battles fought for Enjolras. Not the ones fought for greed, or arrogance, but ones of necessity, the ones that could not be avoided. The ones fought for love.
“I’m sorry we parted like we did, last time,” Enjolras said. “But can we consider it forgiven? May I – ” he hesitates, here, and bites his lip before continuing. “May I come by again?”
Grantaire can’t help but huff a laugh. “I thought I had made it clear, you are always welcome.”
Enjolras ducks his head. There is still a trace of a smile at the corner of his mouth. Grantaire doesn’t think he’d be able to look away, were he paid to.
“You also said you didn’t know why I was still there.”
Grantaire flinches involuntarily. “I didn’t mean that you should leave. I just don’t understand why you’d like to spend all your time there, is all.”
Enjolras looks up at him again, and cocks his head.
“Surely you don’t think it’s always because of suitors,” Enjolras says. He is still smiling. “The first few times, sure enough, but you can’t have believed it was every time since.”
Grantaire frowns, and feels himself flush, much to his embarrassment.
“I hadn’t thought about it very hard, honestly.”
He hadn’t wanted to question a baffling, miraculous thing.
Enjolras laughs, warm and not unkind.
“Is it absolutely unbelievable that I might like spending time with you?”
It is, is the thing. They do nothing but bicker, and talk about this or that book Enjolras read, or discuss Grantaire’s projects. He doesn’t know why anyone would want to spend their time underground.
He widens his eyes, exaggerating purposefully. “It’s baffling, honestly.”
It has the desired effect – Enjolras rolls his eyes, though his smiling mouth remains soft.
“I hope that doesn’t mean you think it an awful time – ”
“No!” Grantaire replies, horrified.
He knows he’s fallen exactly for what Enjolras intended, when his smile shows teeth. It’s a very dangerous thing.
“Well, then, you may repay the visit, sometime, and we’ll call it even.”
The thought is absolutely wild – that their encounters might occur out in the light of day, not safely nestled inside Grantaire’s mountain, where it’s private and deniable.
But then, he supposes today happened in broad daylight as well.
“As you like,” Grantaire says. “I wouldn’t mind seeing the sea.”
Enjolras’ smile would be reward enough. But then, unexpected, Enjolras grows even closer. Grantaire feels his hot breath on his cheek. Enjolras kisses him there, soft and fleeting.
Grantaire’s mouth is parted, but no words make it out.
Just as suddenly, Enjolras is drawing back, squeezing his hand one last time and then letting go, moving away to stand.
Grantaire isn’t sure what the look on his face says, if it shows a hint of the way his chest feels like it’s too full.
Enjolras looks down at him, still smiling, and says, “Well, then I trust I’ll be seeing you soon.”
Grantaire can only nod.
Enjolras doesn’t exactly know when it started – when he started noticing more. He had known, on a very distant level, that he thought Grantaire attractive from the beginning.
That’s the thing about him, however – he sees beauty everywhere. That isn’t surprising.
But there is a very specific balance he’s struggled to strike before – wanting someone, and liking them, and wanting to spend more time with them, and wanting something different from friendship, carnal love notwithstanding.
Of course it has happened before – he’s too ancient, it would have been unlikely. And he loves easily, just often in different ways.
He had started liking Grantaire’s hands first, looking back. They are wide and obviously bear marks of his work. His knuckles are often red and cracked, and criss-crossed by little scars. Grantaire’s body seems to be unable to forget anything that happened to it, bearing every mark like a badge, a map of where he’s been.
He’d watched Grantaire’s hands first, then the way the muscles in his arms shifted with his movements, and how his cheeks flushed in the heat. The beads of sweat that gathered at his collarbone, and the sudden impulse to bury his face in the crook of Grantaire’s neck and –
That’s that. Enjolras knows lust like he knows the palm of his hand.
He’s noticed for a while, that he likes watching Grantaire work, not just because he now knows he wants him.
He likes the fact that Grantaire makes beautiful things, and the way he scowls when he concentrates. Most of all he likes to hear him talk of alloys, and tempering techniques, and this or that project he is working on. Enjolras isn’t well-versed in metallurgy, so he’d found himself sneaking out a book on the subject from Combeferre’s library.
She’d noticed of course, and thrown him a knowing look.
When he’d asked Grantaire a question on lost-wax casting, he’d seen him positively light up, and could not regret a thing.
That was around the time he had learned his interest in Grantaire had gone way beyond wanting to touch him – that he wanted to lie around with him in the after, and speak softly of every topic under the sun. That he didn’t mind if they ended up bickering half the time, it had lost the initial undercurrent of tension, had gathered a wholly different kind of heat.
The only problem was what to do about it.
It was still on his mind when he returned to Aetna, only a few days after their meeting on Olympus. The servants seemed pleased to see him, or so he thought. The loud noises coming from the furnace sounded almost cheerful to his ears.
The Cyclopes were at work on weapons, as usual, and a murmur went through them when Enjolras stepped in. They all carefully looked away after, and Enjolras waved at Alkaios, whom he’d met on his first day here.
“You’re fond of them,” Grantaire says, from the threshold of one of the inner doors, leading further into the mountain.
Enjorlas shrugs. “We’re kin, of a kind.”
Grantaire’s eyes widen for a moment, understanding dawning in them. “That’s right, you’re both of Ouranos. I had forgotten.”
“Our people are all very… prolific,” Enjolras says. “It’s hard to keep track.”
Grantaire grins, and it makes Enjolras stupidly pleased with himself.
“I’ll have to introduce you to Mabeuf then – he is the eldest of Aetna’s Cyclopes. He was known as Arges at the very beginning of time.”
It was Enjolras’ turn to light up in recognition. “I have heard of him. I would love to meet him.”
Grantaire nods. His smile has receded, but a trace of it lingers in his eyes. It’s a lovely sight, and Enjolras realises he’s quite hopeless.
He still doesn’t know what to do.
“We have a few thousand swords and spears on the way,” Grantaire says, with a grimace. “But the Cyclopes are taking care of that. I wanted – there’s something I wanted to show you. It isn’t finished. But if you’ll – ”
He gestures uncertainly to the room behind him, almost shy. It is impossible to tell if the redness in his cheeks is because of the shyness or the heat.
Enjolras follows him to the other room, where it seems Grantaire keeps blueprints and scraps. On a table in the centre lays the automaton, once again bolted up and whole.
“I’ve been working on him, and I wanted to try winding him up. See if he works better than last time.”
Enjolras can’t help the way his breath catches, and a smile spreads on his face. Grantaire looks at him with raised eyebrows, faintly amused.
Enjolras knows Grantaire doesn’t understand his fixation with this machine, and the truth is Enjolras isn’t quite sure of it himself. There had been something sad about the way the automaton had been sat against the wall, its head bowed as if in defeat. Abandoned.
Not all things need a purpose, he had said. When really, what he had meant was, Not all things need to be loved.
Not all things needed to be loved, but it was impossible for him not to wish otherwise.
He had been surprised when Grantaire had taken up the project again. Surprised, and secretly pleased. Maybe it was presumptuous to think that Grantaire was doing it for him but – why else? Why had he chosen to take it up now?
Grantaire props the automaton up to sit, head slumped forward, and stands behind it, where he can wind it up.
When he is done he stands back, and the automaton stays upright. Enjolras holds his breath, and watches it raise its head slowly.
He can’t help but gasp when the automaton hops off the table with a jerky motion. It’s so much like magic, and yet Enjolras knows it is not.
The automaton takes a few halting steps towards him, then bends at the waist in a clumsy bow, judging by the way its arms bend to follow its motion.
Mid-bow the automaton wobbles, and loses its balance.
“No,” Enjolras says, watching it tip over. Grantaire swears, and jerks forward to catch it, but Enjolras gets there first.
It’s heavier than he supposed, but Enjolras has no trouble holding it up. He ends up with the automaton in his arms like a swooning maiden.
Grantaire huffs, clearly frustrating. “Well, that’s charming.”
The automaton’s head is thrown back, blank face unseeing, tipped towards the ceiling.
Grantaire sighs, “Well, there it is. I’m afraid that’s all I’ve managed, for now. The balance keeps being a problem, but also – it doesn’t move the way I want. It’ll always be limited.”
“That’s alright,” Enjolras says.
He doesn’t know what he meant, or what he wanted, from Grantaire, and from this piece of brass. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect.
And he doesn’t know what makes him bend towards the automaton to kiss its brass cheek, but he does. Perhaps he meant it as a blessing.
As soon as he does, the machine jerks in his arms, and Enjolras is startled enough to let it go.
The automaton stumbles back, a couple of steps. Suddenly its movements aren’t forced and jerky anymore, but fluid. Almost organic.
The automaton raises a hand to its cheek, and shakes its head, the picture of exaggerated embarrassment. It bows again, this time smooth and quick, then takes its face in its hands again.
“Look at it!” he says.
Grantaire is staring at the automaton wide-eyed, mouth parted. He meets Enjolras’ eyes, full of awe and astonishment.
“How did you do that?”
“I don’t know,” Enjolras replies. “I did not mean to.”
The automaton is still silently fretting, in little fleeting movements. It seems to catch sight of Grantaire and is flustered once again, giving him a hasty little bow.
Grantaire, still stunned, bows back unthinkingly. It makes Enjolras laugh again.
Grantaire straightens with a grimace and says. “Oh, yes, very funny.”
The automaton stops, then, for a second time. Mid motion, it just stills abruptly. This time, it only wobbles and manages to stay upright.
“Oh,” Enjolras says.
“It can only run for a short amount of time,” Grantaire says. “Then it stops. I’m working on that.”
He looks apologetic, hands tight around the top of his cane.
Enjolras can’t help but smile.
“That’s alright,” he says, again. “It’s more than enough for now. Did you see how well it moved?”
“That was not me,” Grantaire says “I’m not sure what you did – ”
“I – ” Enjolras says. “I just thought it was okay if it was never perfect. It didn’t need to be, I – ”
It strikes him then that it was a kind of affection, a kind of love, that had led him to kiss the automaton. Nothing like what he felt for Combeferre, or Courfeyrac, or even, as he was coming to know, for Grantaire. It was the kind of affection one might feel for a pet, or a favourite book.
He couldn’t say that – he could already tell the way Grantaire would roll his eyes, and probably mock him for it.
He shrugged instead, “As I said, I don’t know. But it’s not enough to make it run by itself. I don’t think it’s alive, in any case, or has consciousness. It’s just – moving. Performing.”
Grantaire nods, and taps his cane on the floor thoughtfully. He’s looking at the automaton intently, and Enjolras can almost see the thoughts chase each other in his head, buzzing angrily, the half-formed plans.
“I’ll leave you to it,” Enjolras says.
Grantaire looks up, snapped out of his reverie.
“Oh, no,” he says. “Stay! I mean – you can, if you want. I am going to work, though, so… But you’ve been here while I worked before. You can stay.”
He’s once again hesitant, as if Enjolras hadn’t already spent afternoons in silence with him, keeping himself entertained while Grantaire worked.
Enjolras bites his lip, because while he knows he won’t have quite the same view as when Grantaire is working at the anvil, he appreciates watching Grantaire frown in concentration, and bend over his blueprints and plans just as much. Not to mention watching his big hands, surprisingly nimble on detail work.
“I have some letters to write,” Enjolras says. “Don’t worry about me.”
Grantaire ducks his head, then, and pulls out a chair for him at one end of the table, clearing stray papers from it.
“Be my guest,” he says, grinning.
Enjolras would like to say he gets most of his letters done that day. The truth is he spends far more time looking at Grantaire through his lashes, not knowing whether he wants to be caught.
- Jehan is Tiresias, whose myth is complicated. Suffice to say, Tiresias has been a man and a woman at different points in their life, and when called to weigh in on a dispute between Hera and Zeus they got the short end of the stick. Hera didn’t like their reply and made them blind, Zeus did but couldn’t reverse his wife’s punishment, so he gave Tiresias the power to see the future instead.
- Aphrodite was born from sea-foam, which came from the *cough* bits of Ouranos that fell into the sea when Chronos castrated him. We’re now ignoring the fact that if we considered her a child of Ouranos, that would make Enjolras and Grantaire related. Please suspend your disbelief like the entirety of the Percy Jackson fandom does, and let’s pretend godly blood doesn’t really count.
- Enjolras’ ability to give life to things with kisses is linked to the Pygmalion and Galatea, where Aphrodite brought the statue (Galate) to life when Pygmalion kissed it.
- Hephaistos does build automatons in the myth, for his workshop. ‘Automaton’ is technically just a word for a self-operating machine.
The thought of visiting Enjolras’ home is, quite frankly, all sorts of terrifying.
And yet Grantaire does want to go – he hadn’t lied when he’d said he wanted to see the sea. His mountain is on an island, but it is an island big enough that the sea is not too close.
He hasn’t been that close since he left the house of Thetis and Eurynome, who fished him out of the waves when he was cast out as a child. He hadn’t been back in a while, though his first years in their home underneath the sea are the last time he remembers being peaceful.
And there is something about Enjolras’ invitation, about being trusted like that. Sure, he’d been the first to let Enjolras in, but he’d never thought much of that.
This reversal seems significant.
Still, it is terrifying. Being let in.
During his previous visit, Enjolras had made him promise he’d come by the next week, and Grantaire couldn’t exactly refuse. He had, however, asked if he may bring someone else.
He hadn’t forgotten Enjolras’ embarrassment at showing up with Courfeyrac. Grantaire may not care much, but Enjolras has proven to be mindful of such things.
One can’t invite one’s friends over without the host’s permission.
He isn’t, in truth, quite ready to introduce the Moirai to Enjolras. It feels huge, important, the way introducing his parents to him would have been, if his parents hadn’t been who they were. The way introducing him to Thetis and Eurynome would feel.
So he’d asked Jehan, who happened to be only a few days away. Grantaire could go out to meet them, and half their travelling time.
Enjolras’ house is half hidden among a pine wood on the coast, at the top of a cliff, all off-white walls and columns. It’s smaller than Grantaire had expected – not modest, exactly, but definitely not the kind of palace Enjolras would have on Olympus, if he lived there permanently.
The first thing that hits them, when they arrive, is the smell of the sea. It’s sharp and rich with salt, and then warm like sand underneath. The breeze is cool and ruffles their hair.
Jehan breathes in deep, beside him, hanging from his arm.
“It smells heavenly,” they say. They tip their head up to the sunlight. “I can see why he’d like to live here.”
“I was born here,” Enjolras’ voice says.
He’s standing on his front porch, barefoot, and looks perfectly at home under the breeze, the light coming mottled through the trees and playing on his face.
He smiles, and comes towards them, uncaring of the pine needles sticking to his feet as he walks.
“Just off the coast, right there,” he says, pointing out to sea.
“Rose from the foam, didn’t you?” Jehan asks.
Enjolras nods. “It was… interesting. Confusing. Few people remember the moment they’re born, I’m told.”
Grantaire shrugs. “Few people are gods.”
Enjolras turns and smiles at him. It is just as heart-rending as the first time.
“I suppose not,” Enjolras says. He shrugs, and takes a few steps back. “Will you come with me? We’re set up in the veranda.”
“Ah, Aphrodite,” Jehan says. “Take my arm?”
Enjolras comes near and takes Jehan’s hand, guiding it to his arm.
“You must call me Enjolras,” he says. “You are Tiresias, aren’t you?”
“Some call me that,” Jehan says. “But it’s Jehan for you. Want to hear about a particularly foolish king who did not heed my advice?”
“Absolutely,” Enjolras says.
All in all, it goes much better than Grantaire expected.
After lunch, they head back down the cliff – thankfully, there is a gentle slope down – and they get rid of their shoes to tread onto the sand.
A few nereids are lounging on the shore, their long hair all blues and greens, hanging in wet coils about their faces.
Enjolras is usually uneasy around nymphs, but he seems at ease here. He waves at them, and they wave back, calling after him.
His denial is gentle – he smiles and shakes his head, and they flick some sand in his direction, disappointed, but leave him be.
“You’re very friendly with the nereids,” Grantaire observes.
“They all but raised me,” Enjolras says. “They’re practically sisters.”
“That’s very nice,” Jehan says. “If you’ll excuse me, I am going to go ask for baby stories about you.”
They head off across the sand, following the voices of the nereids.
“I – ” Enjolras says. “Actually, I sprang fully formed…”
Grantaire snorts. “Of course you did.”
Enjolras frowns at him, then unexpectedly reaches out and shoves at him very gently. It isn’t even enough to make Grantaire budge, which is probably intentional. Enjolras is stronger than he looks, Grantaire has realised.
“Will you come into the sea?” Enjolras says.
Grantaire hesitates. It’s foolish that he’d be hesitant about stripping to wade into the sea. There are days where he overheats and takes off his shirt in the shop. It’s not like fire could ever hurt him. Enjolras has seen him like that before.
But for all he had lived with Thetis under the sea, he had never actually gone into the sea, past his first fall.
Enjolras is looking at him expectantly.
“You should go if you want to,” Grantaire deflects.
“That is not what I asked,” Enjolras says. “We don’t have to if you don’t want to. But I don’t want to go by myself. What’s the point? I have the sea every day.”
It strikes Grantaire that he is implying he wants to go with him. That somehow, by some miracle, Enjolras is claiming to want to spend time with him.
He sighs, and squares his shoulders.
“Lead the way,” he says.
Enjolras does – he walks ahead, leading, and it strikes Grantaire as appropriate. He also realises there are much more dangerous places he’d follow Enjolras, if he kept asking like this.
He’s wearing a light tunic, which he makes no move to take off as he steps into the sea. Grantaire is silently grateful, on behalf of his sanity. The waves reach for him, welcoming.
He has no choice but to leave his cane in the sand. It’s only a few steps. His trousers can be sacrificed to the waves he decides. He steps into the water as well, and can’t suppress a shout.
Jehan, the traitor, laughs in the distance.
“Oh,” Grantaire says. “Gods.”
Enjolras turns, frowning. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s freezing!” Grantaire snaps.
Enjolras’ eyes widen – and then he laughs. Grantaire doesn’t think he’ll ever get over his laugh, how high and clear it is.
“Don’t laugh,” he says. “How do you stand this?”
“It’s really not that cold,” Enjolras says. He cocks his head, and grins. “You run hot.”
Grantaire raises an eyebrow at him.
“I am the god of fire,” Grantaire says. “You might have foreseen this.”
“I’m sorry,” Enjolras says. He’s still laughing, which belies him. “Truly I hadn’t thought of it. It’s quite normal to me.”
“Well,” Grantaire says, with much dignity. “I am turning back.”
“No! Come, please,” Enjolras says, and holds his hands out. “It’s really not too bad once you adjust.”
“Why would I give it the time,” Grantaire says. But he’s already stilled, and taken a step towards Enjolras.
He didn’t think his recent revelation – that he’d follow Enjolras anywhere – would be put to the test quite so soon.
Enjolras' arms are still outstretched, and it's impossible to ignore. Grantaire is without his cane, too, and the cold travels all the way up his legs, making the hair on his arms stand on hand.
He grabs onto Enjolras' forearms without thinking.
"This is horrible," he says.
"Your feet should be getting used to it," Enjolras says. He's trying to be supportive, that is evident, but the faint smirk on his face is not reassuring. "It's not so bad."
His feet don't feel like they're going to freeze off anymore, but Grantaire doesn't say that.
"Sea deities love to think so, don't they," he snaps, instead. He is not so far gone that he can't feel Enjolras' solid grip.
Enjolras, who smiles at him, eyes twinkling. It is terrible, in more ways than one.
"I am not a sea deity, Grantaire."
"Might as well be!"
They make a slow progress across the water, and Grantaire shudders violently when the water starts lapping at his waist.
"Oh!" he shouts. "Oh, that's cruel."
Enjolras laughs. It almost makes up for the fact that Grantaire's balls are currently trying to crawl their way back up his body.
"You're doing very well," Enjolras says, the liar. "You're halfway!"
It's a testament to how determined, and absolutely smitten, Grantaire is, that he makes it all the way inside.
It's almost worth it to see Enjolras smile.
Then Enjolras ducks his head underwater and emerges shaking droplets from his curls, running a hand through them -- and Grantaire regrets.
He regrets so much.
This particular brand of torture does not last very long, and soon they're back onshore. Grantaire refuses to lie on the sand, because he knows there is no way he will get back up on his own. Jehan is braiding one of the nereids' hair, and seems loathe to leave them.
Still, the sun is going down, lighting the skyline on fire, and they make their way up the sandy slope and back to Enjolras' house. Enjolras suggests that the nereids are more than welcome to join them for the evening, and the three of them, plus Jehan, cheerily lead the way up the slope.
"I am glad you could come," Enjolras says, once they are safely on the porch, drying themselves out. "I have been hoping you would."
Grantaire hopes the flush in his cheeks is hidden in the orange light of the sunset.
"You never said," he replies.
Enjolras shrugs. He's sitting back on one of the wicker chairs in the patio, his chin rested on the palm of his hand. His curled fingers half-obscure his full mouth. The curve of a tentative smile is still visible.
"I didn't know that you'd want to," Enjolras says. "And then – well, and then it didn't seem like a good time to ask."
Jehan and the nereids file out of the house, bringing drinks and towels. The line of questioning is abandoned, of course, but Grantaire lingers on the thought that Enjolras had wanted him here.
Now that the automaton is mostly finished, and only needs fine-tuning to its winding mechanism, Grantaire is already starting to itch for another project.
Sure, he has commissions, but most people want weapons and armour, and he could make those with his eyes closed by now.
And it’s not just that he knows he is gone for Enjolras now – he had been, like all the others, drawn to him from the first. It is only recently that it’s become unbearable, a steady pulsing fire he can’t quite ignore. Not with Enjolras always around.
He’s already thinking about projects when they leave Enjolras’ house.
Courfeyrac is home again, by the time the Dionysia come around, two months later. She insists that they all attend, as she’s met Jehan on her travels, and they had promised to be on the peninsula for it.
“I am so pleased we’re all friends, now,” Courfeyrac says, as she dons her fawnskin for the parade.
Enjolras has already attended the festival in the big cities, and watched all the new plays, but the rural festival is tonight, and Courfeyrac always finds that way more fun.
“You don’t have to appear as yourself,” she’d said, just yesterday. “Just disguise yourselves as mortals and come to the dances. I know you wouldn’t like being part of the parade.”
And they wouldn’t – it would feel too much like rendering honour to Dionysos, and not as an equal. Of course Dionysos would know he and Combeferre were there for the dances, but that seemed like a much better arrangement to them both.
“You’re pleased we’re friends with Jehan?” Enjolras asks.
Courfeyrac sits in front of him, so he can start braiding leaves in her hair. She wears her curls short, so it takes some skill to arrange, but Enjolras has had practice.
“And Grantaire,” Courfeyrac says. “And I have heard they are close with the Fates, as well. It can never hurt to have their sympathy, you know?”
Enjolras huffs. “They can only see the future,” he says. “Jehan too. And is it always good to know? How many have gone straight ahead to their tragic end on the road they took to avoid it?”
Courfeyrac hums. “That’s true. But I’d trust them to know when to tell us, if we needed to know.”
Enjolras doesn’t like to think on what Grantaire might know, seen as who his friends are. Would they tell him? Do they care to look into Enjolras’ heart close enough to see?
“You’re set,” he says, letting Courfeyrac go. She looks like a wild thing, her cheeks golden brown and freckled by the sun, her dark eyes glittering, the Dionysian dress on her. She picks up her basket and kisses him on the cheek, before running off to say goodbye to Combeferre.
Enjolras prefers to leave them their privacy, for that.
He and Combeferre watch the parade from afar – it starts in the late afternoon, although the sun is already going down, and the yellow lanterns shine against the purple-blue of twilight. Courfeyrac is marching with the girls bearing baskets and other offerings, followed by the bearers of water and wine.
“We just missed the first procession,” Combeferre says. When Enjolras looks over, she’s grinning, and he groans.
“You are over a millennium old,” he says. “You can’t still find phalloi amusing.”
“Ignominy,” Combeferre says. “It’s the only way to stay young!”
Of course, she’s always wise.
They don’t join until the parade has reaches its conclusion, and the participants have broken up in small clusters, the music starting tentatively at first.
The lanterns look brighter as the sun goes down, the music gets faster. Enjolras and Combeferre walk among the crowd, glamoured to look just like everyone else, though he knows they still attract some attention. People know they’re not from the village.
Courfeyrac greets them with overwhelming enthusiasm, however, and that seems to dissipate any mistrust. Courfeyrac is missing from her village often enough, but she always brings back enough presents and stories that everyone seems to love her.
“Enjolras, you must dance with me,” she says.
“I must?” he asks, feigning offense. “Since when? I’m not even dressed properly.”
He’s not wearing fawnskin or greens. He’s instead in his regular clothes, though he’s worn some of his own sacred flowers in his hair. It’s rich, since they are supposed to be disguised, but Combeferre has not shed her gauntlets, so it seems fair to him. No one has seemed to notice, anyhow.
“Pandemos, dancing!” Grantaire’s voice rises behind them.
Enjolras stiffens, feels it to the tip of his toes.
He turns to find both him and Jehan, arm in arm. Both of them are wearing green garlands around their heads, but only Jehan is dressed in fawnskin.
“Grantaire,” Enjolras says. “I didn’t know you’d be here.”
“Invited personally,” Grantaire said, approximating a bow. “My brother and I are on good terms. Never shy to honour wine.”
He is, in fact, holding a goblet in hand, and his cheeks are faintly pink in the light of the lanterns.
“If Enjolras and fair Pallas won’t dance,” Jehan says. “I’ll dance with you, Courfeyrac.”
In the end, they all go, because Combeferre can’t not respond to a challenge, when one is thrown.
That leaves him and Grantaire alone, which is a surprisingly comfortable state, these days.
“You won’t dance, then,” Grantaire repeats. “Doubt you could – could your partner even hold you close, and not get pricked by your thorns?”
He raises a hand, as if to touch the flowers in Enjolras’ hair, but doesn’t complete the motion.
“They’re roses,” Enjolras points out, needlessly.
“Does not make them any less thorny.”
“Sometimes there’s a price to be paid for beauty.”
Grantaire smiles at that, though in the shadows cast by the lanterns, and the dancers, it looks twisted and sad.
“Are you not going to dance?” Enjolras asks, because suddenly his words seem too heavy.
Grantaire laughs, eyeing the twirling dancers, writhing as if possessed.
“I’m really not that agile,” he says.
“Oh,” Enjolras says. “Will you come see the play, then?”
“I’ve seen it in the city, already, though I hear they’re putting up an excellent parody later tonight. I’m sure the author will be outraged when he hears.”
Enjolras is about to suggest that they go see it, when Courfeyrac appears once again at his side. She has two goblets in hand and thrusts one at him.
“Enjolras, Enjolras! You must dance with me,” she says again. “I know Jehan and my wise lady are both dancing, but I need you, too.”
Enjolras sighs, though he smiles, because she is very close and warm and smiling brightly. The leaves in her hair are already out of place, and he scolds her briefly for it.
When he turns to Grantaire, he’s smiling. He says, “Go dance. I’ll be around, I have my own ways to celebrate.”
Enjolras throws him what he hopes is an apologetic look, and a smile, and he lets himself be pulled into the mass of dancing bodies.
The drums seem to beat right alongside his heart, and the wine is sweet and goes straight through him. More than that, the energy of the crowd makes him heady, overwhelms him. The heat and euphoria, and the myriad couples – and groups – kissing and touching each other in the bushes, in the woods behind trees, and some even in the middle of the dance.
He is too attuned to it, with the wine making his blood sing. He dances – Courfeyrac is the only point of contact on his body that is not overwhelming, at first, though she is soon lost too, dancing with Combeferre.
By the time he makes it out of the crowd again, he knows he has drunk way too much, and he is overheated and also shivering from the energy of the crowd.
He is not in his right mind, therefore, when he sees Grantaire sat at the edge of the small amphitheatre – no more than a few steps and chairs in a semicircle around the performers. He thinks nothing of approaching him.
And then he thinks nothing of seating himself gracelessly in Grantaire’s lap and wrapping an arm around his shoulders.
He doesn’t think he’s ever actually touched Grantaire’s shoulders before, though he’s definitely looked. And he can’t help but hum, pleased, when Grantaire’s arm comes up to hold his waist, by reflex.
Grantaire is making a strange, choking sound – and right, he’d been drinking, just as Enjolras sat down. Enjolras has a vague notion that he might apologise, but ends up taking the goblet from Grantaire so that it won’t spill.
Then, of course, he takes a sip of the wine himself, because it is right there.
“Are you alright?” he asks. He shifts very minutely, feeling Grantaire’s thighs underneath him.
This is definitely an excellent development.
“What are you doing?” Grantaire demands, when he’s caught his breath.
Enjolras sighs, very deeply, still feeling the buzz on his skin.
“Everyone is feeling, so much, Grantaire,” he says, though it comes out as a whine.
Grantaire’s face – flushed and wide-eyed – softens into vague amusement.
“Are you drunk, Enjolras?” he asks.
Enjolras thinks on it for a moment. Every limb feels warm and loose, and he can’t think of why he’s never sat in Grantaire’s lap before, when he’s had plenty of chances to do just that.
“Yes,” he says. “I think so.”
As he says it, he realises he’s really very close to Grantaire. He finds he’s playing with the dark curls at the back of Grantaire’s neck. He’s vaguely mesmerised – they’re very soft and warm.
He doesn’t need to see the way Grantaire’s pupils dilate to know. He can feel the charge in the air, the heat coming from him in waves, making his mouth part.
Enjolras knows want better than anybody.
Grantaire pulls back.
He says, “Well, I thought I’d never see it.”
Enjolras has a hard time not pouting. Some part of him is relieved, but the rest is just – disappointed is not exactly the right term. It is all very confusing.
Grantaire takes the goblet back from him and puts it down on the floor.
“I’m tired,” Enjolras says, and finds it true.
Grantaire clears his throat, and there’s a peculiar strain in his voice, when he asks, “Do you want to sit down a while?”
Enjolras nods, and thinks it’s actually an excellent idea, Grantaire is so smart. So he settles down more comfortably, leaning his head onto Grantaire’s shoulder and tucking his nose into the curve of his neck, where he can feel his sped-up pulse.
It makes him smile, secretly. He hadn’t realised just how hot Grantaire would be, warming him down to his toes.
It’s making him sleepy, so he asks, “What’s the play about?”
Grantaire clears his throat, which Enjolras can feel.
He says, “Blood, murder, betrayal… don’t you ever wish they died onstage sometimes? Oh, yes, and the prince kissed his brother-in-arms very passionately at some point, which I think was not in the original.”
“Pity,” Enjolras says. “Wish I’d seen it.”
“You may be in time yet,” Grantaire says. “I’m sure they’ll kiss at least once more before they die.”
He’s relaxing by the minute, coming to rest back against his chair. His arm is still wrapped securely around Enjolras’ waist, and his other hand has taken back his goblet and is resting on Enjolras’ knee.
He is absurdly comfortable, which is why he finds himself drifting in and out as the play carries on. Grantaire manages to keep him mostly awake by way of a constant commentary and sudden barks of laughter.
He enjoys those too, even if they are somewhat abrupt.
The play is over before he knows it, and another follows. It is well past midnight, and Enjolras knows he won’t last until the small hours of the morning, which is about how long people will stay dancing.
He realizes he’s truly drifted off when he feels Grantaire shift, and a familiar warm voice join is. Grantaire’s is still louder, vibrating through his chest pleasantly.
“Enjolras,” he calls. “Combeferre is here to take you home.”
Enjolras groans, and curls further into the heat and comfort of Grantaire’s solid body against his.
Combeferre’s voice calls his name again, though, and he’s too used to following her, trusting her.
He raises his head, which feels very heavy, and it makes him groan again. Courfeyrac is suddenly also there, enveloping him in a hug and then deceptively pulling him upwards.
She smells safe, like clean sweat and euphoria, tinged with weariness. His legs miraculously hold him up, though he still leans against her.
“Thank you,” he hears Combeferre say, very far away. “We’ll take him home.”
“Nothing to thank me for,” Grantaire says. “Nothing at all.”
He wants to say goodbye, and he even turns and opens his bleary eyes, extending a hand towards Grantaire.
He meets his eyes finally, and receives a smile. Grantaire squeezes his fingers once.
He says, “Sleep well, Pandemos.”
Hera sits at her loom with a straight back, the long lines of her chiton falling just so around her ankles. She moves swiftly, as if the task came quite naturally.
Grantaire is perched uncomfortably on a settee nearby. He fancies his mother would like him to sit by her knee while she tells him stories -- she is currently retelling of the affair with Leto in cheerful tones.
It's a fantasy, of course, because Grantaire has never sat by her knee as a child. He has never been small and bright-eyed with Hera – he came later, already embittered and bearing his scars from the first fall, and his resentment like a badge. He didn't know, then, that he had taken after her in that.
That is, of course, another story.
"But you see, that's just the thing," Hera is saying. The cloth she is weaving is wine-dark like the sea, and braided through with gold. "Everything becomes unstable outside of marriage."
Eirene has taken the place that would be his, at Hera’s knee, handing her things from time to time. She looks up at Grantaire with long-lashed, shy blue eyes. He wonders how she has avoided Hera's wrath, being a child of Zeus and Themis.
"Wine?" Hebe asks. Her eyes are dark and mischievous, instead, her cheeks always rosy and youthful. She shoots him a look that says she knows, she knows.
"Please," Grantaire says, and lets her fill his cup.
"Do not overdo it, my dear," Hera says. "It makes your cheeks go ruddy. It is not becoming."
"Is anything?" Grantaire asks, almost under his breath, so that his mother can pretend that she hasn't heard.
"As I was saying," she continues, in fact. "Marriage makes everything more stable."
Her other handmaiden, Eileithya, is not there. Grantire tries not to take it to heart, although he knows there must be a reason why she does not like to have her son in the presence of the spirit of childbirth.
"You have said," Grantaire says. Once again. It is all he ever says.
"Exactly," Hera says. The rhythmic sound of the loom ceases. She cocks her head to the side, barely disturbing the neat tangle of her braids and curls. She hands the shuttle to Eirene with a sharp, deliberate motion.
"Leave us," she says, to her. Hebe shoots him a wide-eyed look, and the bottom drops from Grantaire's stomach.
Eirene's mouth purses briefly, but her shoulders slump in relief. She does not like quarreling, can probably feel it brewing like the cackle of lightning before a storm. She must be glad to be able to escape to more peaceful horizons.
She only looks at him vaguely apologetically on her way out of Hera's chambers.
Before following, Hebe says, "I'll leave the wine."
They are silent for only a moment, as Hera surveys her work.
"It isn't so bad, is it?" she asks. "Do you think I could compete with Athena?"
She lets out a little laugh, like the cold tingling of bells. Her eyes don't leave the cloth, but the line of her mouth dares him to say otherwise.
“You are both skilled,” Grantaire says. Hades couldn’t pay him to say anyone is more skilled than Combeferre. “I couldn’t judge.”
“How very diplomatic,” she says, nothing gentle in the word.
She stands, then, and comes to sit beside him on the settee, skirts swishing like a breeze.
She smells like sweet jasmine and beeswax, cloying and subtle, and her fingers are thin and smooth on his jaw, turning his face gently towards her.
She says, “My darling.”
He can’t keep his face from twisting at that. He says, drily, “Mother.”
“Can’t we speak of this plainly?”
“I wish you would.”
“No need to be so short.” Her fingers tighten around his chin. “I do not know what got into Aphrodite, the other day. But I was not joking when I talked of marriage. For you.”
“Gods, I wish you were.”
“Cease this foolishness,” she says. Her nails are quite sharp. “Don’t you want to make me proud, at least in this one thing?”
She has no shame, of course – or rather, she is ashamed, but not of telling him of how much he shames her.
“Surely you’re used to it,” he says, and wrenches free of her hand. “Surely you know it’s useless.”
Hera’s eyes are dark and bottomless, and flash dangerously.
“Thetis has spoiled you,” she says. “She and Eurynome – ”
“Don’t speak of them,” he says, finally snapping. “Don’t – ”
“Hephaistos!” she says, her voice like a whip.
She never calls him Grantaire, of course. Only the godly name that she gave him at the beginning of time.
“It’s useless,” he says, his breath coming fast. “No one would marry me. I would marry no one.”
She must know this – she’s not stupid. She is many things, but not that. Her eyes, her dark eyes say it all, still bright with her barely-contained rage.
“Nonsense,” she says. “You are my child.”
“When it suits you,” he says.
He thinks, for a wild moment, that she might strike him. He stands, even though it hurts.
From her regal perch, she says, “That is enough.”
He says nothing.
“You don’t worry about that sort of thing,” she says, all honey-sweetness again. He’s turned his back, so he doesn’t have to see the obsidian sheen of her eyes.
He snorts. No one would marry me.
The tapestry is drawn tight on the loom, right in front of him, the only thing available to look at. Its colour reminds him of the salty breeze of his childhood, of Enjolras’ home, of Enjolras’ thighs slung across his at the Dionysia, smooth under the side of his hand where he held his cups.
No one would marry me. I would marry no one.
“I would marry no one,” he says. “Short of Aphrodite himself.”
He means for it to come sharp and witty, a jest, but he knows, immediately, that he has said it wrong. Too quiet. Too sincere.
His mother pauses. “Don’t be ridiculous, darling.”
Don’t be ridiculous. It makes no sense for his breath to leave him, because he knows, he has been saying so, to himself, for days. Weeks. Months.
Don’t be ridiculous, don’t get in over your head, don’t forget that the fall is coming – the moment he will go to take a step and the ground will fall away beneath him.
The moment the other shoe will, finally, drop.
Waking up in Combeferre’s bed, with Courfeyrac snuggled against his back, is not really an unusual occurrence for the day after the Dionysia. What is slightly different is the pointed look Combeferre throws him from where she was sitting on his other side, propped against the headboard. She has a book in her lap, and the sunlight brings out the blue in her eyes and the gold in her dark skin. She’s let her hair out of its wrap, and it has gathered in wispy curls at her shoulders.
“Well?” she asks.
“Well?” Enjolras replies, feeling his cheeks heat. Courfeyrac stirs against his back and lets out a gravelly, displeased sound.
“I see,” Combeferre says, which was just typical.
It’s been only a week now, and Combeferre still hasn’t ceased with the way she’ll stare at him for long moments and hum.
It’s an overcast, uncharacteristically chilly day. They soon find themselves in Combeferre’s kitchen, the smell of wet earth and grass drifting in from the open window, mixing with the sweet smell of hot spiced wine.
“You might stop acting so cryptic,” Enjolras says, having had enough.
Courfeyrac laughs, from the hob, where she’s spooning wine into cups. “My wise lady thinks she can see the future.”
Combeferre sniffs, with dignity. Her hair is once again orderly and braided. “Nothing like that. Doesn’t take the Sight to plainly see where you two are going. It will all come to a head soon, you’ll see.”
Enjolras sighs, and feels his chest tighten. “You seem so sure.”
“I just saw,” Combeferre says. “I saw the way he looked at you.”
It’s all very well for her – and for Courfeyrac, who comes with cups to give her a kiss, and then perch on the table between the two of them. Her dangling calf presses, warm, against Enjolras knee, where he is sitting.
“It will be alright,” she says, handing him his cup. Her smile is almost as warm as the wine.
It’s not long after that Enjolras returns to Aetna – he doubts he’d be able to stay away at this point. And isn’t that an interesting thought. It has only been a week, and the thought of the way he’d draped himself all over Grantaire’s lap still makes him flush.
He’s already hesitated long enough, however, and the last thing he wants is for Grantaire to believe that something is wrong.
Nothing is wrong.
The furnace warms him to his bones, as soon as he steps foot in Grantaire’s workshop. Of course, it’s all due to the heat, and not at all the silhouette of Grantaire against the flames.
None of the Cyclopes are here, and Enjolras is quietly pleased, as he seats himself on his usual bench, and contents himself with watching the shifting of Grantaire’s gleaming back as he works.
“Welcome back,” Grantaire says, still turned.
“Sorry it took so long,” Enjolras says. “I was trying to remember if I’d done anything to embarrass myself, the other night.”
“Ah,” Grantaire says, still turned away. “So you finally recalled dramatically declaiming odes to Ares?”
Enjolras can’t help but snort, barely containing a sound of disgust. The ease in their conversation sends another kind of unmistakable warmth through him.
It only blazes into a fire when Grantaire finally turns to him, and throws him a smile that makes the corners of his dark eyes crinkle.
He knows, then, without a doubt, that Combeferre is right.
It’s comfortable to settle back into what’s a well-worn routine by now. Enjolras sits on his bench – he has brought nothing to read or work on today – and asks Grantaire about his projects. He gets half-evasive, playful answers in reply, and prods back with prickly, good-humoured answers.
It is because the routine is so known and beloved, by now, that he realizes something is off. Grantaire’s smiles come easy for Enjolras – they always come easy, and are replied to just as easily – but Enjolras has also come to know the laugh-lines by his eyes when he is truly pleased. The skin around Grantaire’s eyes is drawn tight, as if from lack of sleep.
He asks, finally, “What’s the matter?”
Grantaire has his back turned, again. It’s like they’re playing a game – he is keeping his work hidden from Enjolras, and Enjolras is playing along by not simply standing up and striding across the room to see.
He sees the line of Grantaire’s shoulders tense. A small, traitorous part of him is distracted by the thought – my hands have been on his shoulders.
Grantaire shrugs, and doesn’t turn to face him. “It is nothing.”
Grantaire finally turns, just enough for one brown eye to peek over his shoulder. “I just talked to my mother. And, you know... you’ve met her.”
Enjolras frowns, and remembers her cold dark eyes. “I have. Are you alright?”
Grantaire looks almost surprised, at that. He turns to look at him more fully, baring his pursed mouth.
“As well as one may expect,” Grantaire says. Then he shrugs, and gives him his back again. “She’s peculiarly fixated on marriage, still. For me, I mean. We still have very different views on that.”
Enjolras feels his stomach twist with several things, not all of them selfless.
He stands up. “What did she say?”
Grantaire is moving again, feigning disinterest. As if this does not affect him at all. Enjolras wonders when Grantaire had become known – when he’d learned how to read the lie in the studiedly casual movements of his hands.
“It doesn’t matter,” Grantaire says, which of course means it does. “No – don’t come over here. You can’t see.”
Enjolras stops halfway to Grantaire’s workspace. “Grantaire,” he says.
“Now, that’s better – say my name with that kind of indignation again.”
“Mh, not quite, you’re almost amused. I expected a better effort.”
Enjolras has to bite his lip to restrain both a smile and a third iteration of Grantaire’s name.
He slightly resents the fact that Grantaire’s attempts at distracting him are working.
“How long ‘til I can see?” he asks.
“Not long,” Grantaire replies. “It’s… a surprise.”
There’s something in the way he says it that reminds him of the way he’d said, There’s something I wanted to show you, before they brought the automaton to life. Artificial, half-life.
This isn’t quite a game, then.
Enjolras mulls it over for a second, then nods to himself.
“Alright,” he says, and starts walking again. He keeps his eyes stuck to the ceiling – so high, he’d never noticed, made of bare rock.
“What are you doing?” Grantaire asks. Enjolras can hear laughter in his voice.
He heaves himself up on the workbench, keeping his back to Grantaire.
"I'll even close my eyes, if you want," he says.
He hears the low huff of amusement from Grantaire.
"No need. Don't turn around."
He doesn't know why it's any better, waiting without looking from here, rather than from across the room. He can feel the heat of the furnace, here, coming in waves. He can feel the air stir where Grantaire moves, and the very soft clang of metal -- delicate, no sword-smithing clangor -- that he couldn't pick up from where he was sitting earlier.
"Will you give me no clues?"
"No," Grantaire says.
He's silent for no more than a minute.
"Is it for me?"
"Aren't the deathless supposed to be patient?"
Enjolras laughs. "Have you met any of your own relatives?"
Grantaire's bark of laughter sounds bitter, which is not what Enjolras was going for at all.
"You didn't reply," he says then. He sees Grantaire shift out of the corner of his eye. Not turning around is harder than he expected, when he can almost catch the light of the forge glint off his skin. He closes his eyes.
"It is," Grantaire says, very softly. "It is for you."
Enjolras can't reign in a smile. He hopes Grantaire hasn't turned around to see. He is also suddenly glad that there are no Cyclopes around.
He sits in silence, the air suddenly charged. It's not a game. It's not quite a game. He wants to open his eyes.
Grantaire sighs deeply.
"Damn," he says. "If you hate it now it's going to be a laugh."
"I won't hate it," Enjolras says, and he's never been surer of anything. "You made it."
He hears Grantaire swear, very softly. Enjolras' cheeks hurt.
"Alright," Grantaire says, a lifetime later. "Turn around."
Enjolras opens his eyes. He turns around, swinging his legs over the table, careful not to knock into anything sharp. He's sitting on the other side of the workspace, now, side by side with Grantaire.
For a long moment, he only looks up at Grantaire's face. He's frowning, brow knitted, mouth twisted and uncertain, lit by the fires.
He feels warm fingers wrapped around his wrist, then skin-warm metal replacing it.
He looks down. The cuff is gold and gleams in the half-light. It is, of course, perfectly made. Not too heavy, the exact size for Enjolras' wrist. It does not bite into his skin. It's carved with a pattern of myrtle wreaths and his own sacred birds -- swans, doves, sparrows. Even Enjolras, who does not often wear jewellery, is left speechless.
Indeed, if it were anybody else gifting him shiny golden things, he wouldn't take it quite so well, or be quite as breathless.
But it is Grantaire. Maybe that's the point.
"It's beautiful," he breathes.
Grantaire huffs another laugh, dismissive. "Oh, yes, it's pretty. That's not it, though."
He takes Enjolras' hand, then, and Enjolras can feel his calluses against his palm.
"You can do this one of two ways – wish really hard, or press here."
He presses right below Enjolras’ wrist bone, and with a soft click the top of the cuff slithers out, extending slowly over the back of Enjolras’ hand. The blade reflects the light, shiny like still water, razor-edged. It ends maybe an inch past Enjolras’ fingers.
Grantaire’s hands curl his into a fist. The blade shoots past his knuckles, deadly.
“So, there,” Grantaire says.
Enjolras stares at the weapon at his hand, the beautiful flowers and birds.
He looks up to see Grantaire, staring at him intently, his face blank, only the vague glitter of hope in his eyes. They are very dark, reflecting the fire.
Wish really hard, Grantaire said. He does.
The blade hisses faintly as it retracts. The gold catches the light as Enjolras brings his hand up to skate across Grantaire’s jaw.
Grantaire’s eyes go very wide, and Enjolras kisses him.
He doesn’t even have to lean up, from where he is sitting on the workspace.
His hand is still resting on Grantaire's cheek, stubble against the pads of his fingers. Warm, he's so warm. He is frozen against Enjolras for a moment, before his lips go soft. For a moment, Enjolras feels him press back, breath rushing out of him. He is kissing Grantaire.
Then Grantaire seems to startle. He pulls back.
His eyes are still wide, but there’s something there now beyond surprise, something that makes Enjolras’ chest feel too thin and too tight.
Grantaire has stepped back, dawning horror on his face, matching the white-cold panic rising in Enjolras. How strange, to feel cold in a forge.
"Why did you do that?" Grantaire says. His voice sounds far away, thin.
"What do you mean?" Enjolras asks. He is still sitting, the wood biting into his thighs, the lightweight gold around his wrist. "I wanted to."
"Don't –" Grantaire says, inexplicably. His fist comes up to press against his lips, which Enjolras kissed. What has he done? "Don't – toy with me."
"I'm not," Enjolras hurries to say. "I'm not. Why would I?"
"That's exactly what I'm asking!"
There's something horribly wrong, and some part of Enjolras screams with the sting of rejection – the part of him that still hisses, not everyone is bound to love.
But the line of Grantaire's hunched shoulders is all wrong, Enjolras thinks. He thinks that if he had just not wanted to be kissed, then he would not look quite so wretched.
"Tell me," he says. "I thought – it doesn't matter what I thought. Tell me it was a mistake and I will go. But I can't give you a different answer, because I don't have one."
Enjolras stops, takes a breath. His heart is pounding, pounding, pounding.
“Grantaire,” he says again. “Tell me it was a mistake.”
Grantaire is silent, fists clenched and shaking. He squeezes his eyes shut, and Enjolras just wants to know what’s going on in his head, what kind of battle he’s waging in there.
“I can’t do this,” Grantaire says. He is still drawn tight like a bow.
Enjolras slides off the table, on unsteady legs. He doesn’t know how he ended up here, wants to rewind time back to when they were playing a game.
It’s not a game.
“Tell me to go,” Enjolras says. He almost thinks, for a moment, that he said it too softly.
Grantaire is still quiet, but he turns on his heel. He turns his back to Enjolras, once again, right before he leaves.
- When Hephaestus was thrown out of Olympus as a child, he was in fact raised by Thetis and Eurynome, and went on smithing under the sea until he was nine.
- The rural Dionysia like the one in the scene actually happened in December, but I tweaked the timeline so that it happens more or less in April, right after the city Dionysia (This festival was held from the 9th to the 13th of the month Elaphebolion (the lunar month straddling the vernal equinox, i.e., Mar.-Apr in the solar calendar)
- ‘Wine-dark’ is how the sea is often described in myth. Nobody knows what that actually means, because the sea is blue and wine is not. It’s a thing.
Love for you,
is larger than the usual romantic love. It’s like a religion.
Grantaire is sitting rather uncomfortably, squinting in the midday sun. He feels, all in all, rather like a racehorse on parade. A racehorse that can't race, but that is beside the point.
He already misses his workshop clothes. Formal wear is, all in all, not as uncomfortable as it could be. The chiton reaches his knees, and the cloak is a dark red, pinned at the shoulder. The brooch is plain, etched with the hammer and tongs, and he made it himself. His head is bare, and he sits at his mother's left.
Hera is beautiful, of course, in her long snow-white robes. Her smile is sweet and sharp. She’s getting what she wants.
He is getting married.
It had not happened all at once, and most of it had happened without him wanting it. He isn't unused to this, of course.
A moon ago, he'd gone to Thetis like he hadn't done since he was young, and his father's godlings had come to take him back to Olympus.
It had been a miscalculation; the sea breeze, which he rarely felt these days, had reminded him of Enjolras.
Most things, these days, reminded him of Enjolras.
The scene in his furnace plays behind his eyelids unbidden. Over and over. He plays the warmth of Enjolras against his side, and his dark eyes gleaming when he'd stared down at his gift. And the way he had sighed, against Grantaire's mouth, for just a moment.
He had ruined it, he knew. And yet he couldn't help the way his heart had seized and cold panic had washed over him -- his mother's words in his ear again, Don't be ridiculous.
Enjolras' eyes had been so wide and earnest, and unable to penetrate his panic. He had to leave. He had to.
And he had ended up at Thetis' door, ushered in by frantic nereids who had not seen him for an age.
He hadn't been able to bear their delighted voices, or their calls of, You have grown! You have become so tall!
Everything sounded like a taunt.
Thetis had been cool and light as a breeze. She had peered into his face with her bottomless eyes, all-dark like the waves, and she had known. She had known for a long time.
Eurynome, with her hair like sea-foam, had been sitting at the edge of her and Thetis' bed and she had clucked her tongue and patted the bedsheet for him to come sit.
"So much wretchedness," she had said kindly. "Tell us about it."
"I should think Thetis already told you all," Grantaire said. He sat beside Eurynome, who was as small and dark and lovely as she had been when he had left her, a lifetime ago.
Thetis was pale as fishbones, and just as unchanged. She sat on his other side and chided, "You know enough Seers to know better, Grantaire."
They had named him Grantaire, when they had caught him from the sea – like a fish, Eurynome would say, when he was a child -- and refused to call him by Hera's godly name.
Eurynome reached out and touched one of his curls. She said, "Now tell us about it."
He told them. About what had happened, and the panic in his chest, which they knew about, and the words that whispered in his ear that he had ruined it – and yet that it was the only possible way, because how could it ever be possible?
"You were scared," Eurynome said. "Oh, Grantaire."
"I know. I know, it was stupid --"
From the way her mouth twisted, he knew she wanted to tell him that it was not. But she had promised, long ago, never to lie to him.
"There are other things to consider," Thetis said. She would not lie to him either. "The Queen."
Eurynome's mouth changed again, this time to distaste.
Grantaire groaned. "Not you too."
"Do not underestimate her," Thetis said. Her pale hand was on his shoulder, squeezing. "Your mother will go to great lengths to get what she wants."
He saw Eurynome's hand clench in her robe at the word mother.
"What does she think she will achieve?"
Thetis was silent for a moment.
"I regret," she said. "That you have been so long parted from us. When I say this, know that it is neither the truth nor what I think. But she is ashamed. She thinks a marriage will set things right."
He had not known how to speak past the knot in his throat. Thetis had bony hands, but she attempted to gentle them. He could feel it in the tension of her arm.
"She thinks a good marriage will erase her failings," Thetis said.
Grantaire couldn't help but snort. "How? How does she think this will solve anything? I won't be any less me, married. No one would –"
"Don't," Eurynome said. "Don't speak thus. There are plenty of reasons why someone would."
Someone, someone. He was grateful to her for not saying the name he both wanted and dreaded to hear.
"Not last because you are a god," Thetis said. "You should give yourself some credit."
He laughed – barked, more like. It didn't sound very joyful. Eurynome still smiled.
"She will pick some," Thetis said. "Suitors. Beware of those. Some will come for the promise of immortality."
"Some," Eurynome said, "will come for you."
Grantaire hadn't thought that very likely, but he hadn't wanted to see Eurynome frown again.
"No, you must listen," Thetis said. "I know you will not stop her."
That stung, even though she was right. Defying Hera came with prices Grantaire had felt before. He was not brave enough to try again. He was not brave enough.
"It isn't just that," Thetis said, reading his thoughts on his face. "She will do anything. I told you. No mortal you love would be safe."
Grantaire knew that. He remembered one smouldering look Combeferre had sent Enjolras, across the table, on Olympus. He thought of Jehan, who had told Hera the uncomfortable truth, once, and had paid for it.
"So you're saying there's no point," he said, feeling his shoulders slump.
The prospect of complying was as terrifying as the prospect of fighting. The mere thought of what Hera had planned made his skin prickle, as did the thought of marrying some stranger. Sharing life with some stranger.
"I can't do that," he said.
He felt Thetis' cool fingers on his jaw. Her eyes were staring into him. They were very different from Hera's obsidian eyes, and different yet from Enjolras' dark brown ones. When he was very young, he liked to think his looked like hers. He knew who he had really taken from, however.
"I would not say this to you if I didn't think it would be the path that brings you less pain," she said.
He felt her words ring true, almost a prophecy. Not quite. Like a lyre chord striking the right note, at the right time.
"Is that your professional opinion?" he asked. He attempted a smile.
She swatted his shoulder. Gently.
"Smart mouth," she said.
"Please don't misunderstand us," Eurynome said, at his other side. "If you wanted to fight, you could win. It would bring great grief, but you would have allies."
Win? Victory did not seem likely at all. Grief, however. Grief sounded realistic.
"And if I don't?"
Thetis was still looking steadily at him. "Just because it is the path of least resistance, it does not mean it is wrong. We just want what is best for you."
"Then again," Eurynome said. "So does your mother."
The word sounded rather like an insult, more jarring because it was in Eurynome's kind, soft voice. It made him smile.
That was it, then.
And now the sun shines bright on Olympus, and Grantaire’s belly is full of snakes. Hera is pleased, and she touches his cheek very gently with her pink, soft hand.
“I knew you would be reasonable, darling,” she’d said.
It is done. The gods have gathered, his father at Hera’s right, and Ares beyond him. He hasn’t counted all the gods that have gathered, though one can assume the majority are present. He knows of one sore absence, though he had tried very hard not to notice.
He’d thought Combeferre was missing as well, but he sees her file in at the last minute, helmet shining on her head and Aegis at her arm, terrifying passerbys.
Her grey-blue eyes pierce right through him knowingly. He cannot not, for the life of him, decipher what she’s thinking.
The games will be held on the mountain, of course, in his father's palace. Hera had spent the past weeks preparing, keeping him close to her side more as one would an unseeing, mute statue to air one's thoughts to. She had briefly considered dances, and asked his opinion. She had decided, all on her own, that dances would not be an appropriate challenge for his suitors, but that they should be present nonetheless.
Grantaire had been relieved. He may have died, had anybody been required to dance for his hand. He may expire either way -- the embarrassment of the entire thing is enough.
It's a farce.
He hadn't believed anybody would show up for it, after all. Seeing the people on the grounds is stunning enough -- the line of suitors is, actually, an impossibility.
"How did you trick all these unfortunates?" he whispers, half wishing she wouldn't hear.
She does, of course. She purses her mouth, then smiles.
"Don't be silly, Hephaistos," she says.
They had been introduced one by one as they arrived. They had declared their names to him and bowed – a few demigods; heroes, princes and princesses. A few godlings and nymphs with powerful limbs. He's even more stunned that immortals would come. The demigods and humans he can believe – immortality is seductive.
Do they realise it means eternity?
It doesn't surprise him, but it also makes him dislike them immediately. Immortality is really not as idyllic as the songs would make you think.
He's been forcing himself to pay attention, even though his insides keep doing very unpleasant things. Will this one be the one to win? Will the next one? Will he have to spend eternity with the small-island princess walking up the steps just now, introduced by her father? What will they even talk about, for the next millennium? Will she mind living in a mountain?
The princess in question – she has godly blood in her, he can tell by the absurd shine of her dark hair – is actually looking none-too-happy as she is escorted up, and her aunt bows and introduces her as Kharis, the youngest of her sisters.
He sees Hera shift, out of the corner of his eye, and files away the notion. Kharis meets his stare and makes a face. He's startled to sit straighter, and she smiles. He's almost pleased. She's quite pretty, which is a surprise.
When she leaves, he looks at his mother. She is attempting to hide a frown, but her eyes burn.
She smiles, brilliantly, and hisses, "One of his bastards."
He flinches, then. So much for pretty godlings smiling at him. He is sure Kharis will be subject to some strange accident that'll put her out of the running. If Hera even decides to be that subtle.
He is distracted, just then, seeing Combeferre abruptly stand. She makes her way down the dais and into the crowd, with purpose.
"What's going on with Athena, now?" Hera mutters, following the trail of Combeferre's robes, the glint of her armour under the sun.
Hera's eyes widen, then. "Oh," she says.
Grantaire follows her gaze, and sees Combeferre cutting back through the crowd, coming towards them once again. Someone is following her, though it is hard to see, behind her towering form.
Then they have reached the bottom of the steps, and the line of sight clears. They step up together, and Grantaire is frozen in his seat, wide-eyed.
Enjolras is at the bottom of the dais, looking up at him steadily. His hair haloes him in gold, and he can see a golden myrtle wreath peeking through the curls.
Grantaire’s gift also gleams golden against his wrist. They have not seen each other in a month.
“I come to present a suitor,” Athena says, her voice deep, making heads turn. “Aphrodite Pandemos.”
Enjolras looks right at him.
After leaving Aetna, Enjolras had paced for hours in his own home, probably scaring the servants. Surely he had not misinterpreted the signs – surely he had felt Grantaire kiss him back. For one moment, he could have sworn –
That did not matter. It did not matter in the face of the very real fear in Grantaire's eyes when he had pulled away. And yet he couldn't help but be confused.
He hadn't been able to stay one more moment, not after Grantaire had fled from him. He had considered running straight to Combeferre's house, but he'd realised soon that he needed time. Silence.
He had ended up on the edge of the cliff over the sea, outside his house, knees gathered close to his body under the shade of the pine trees. It felt not unlike licking his wounds.
He wouldn't have time to do that for long, he knew. He needed to pick himself up, maybe find answers. He wouldn't -- he wouldn't sit nursing the pain in his chest for very long. It wasn't what he did.
The sun was just dipping underneath the horizon, and Enjolras was going through the conversation again, trying to understand what he had missed, what had gone wrong.
Steps through the underbrush, upsetting the pine needles and dirt. It could have been a nereid come to see why he looked so sullen, but Enjolras almost immediately knew it wasn't so.
Jehan smelled like sage and citrus, as they sat beside him on the edge.
They were, in fact, accompanied by a nereid, who touched Enjolras' hair briefly, before disappearing.
Jehan sat beside him, scooting up until their thin legs were dangling over the side of the cliff, all that empty air underneath.
"I asked her where you were and she insisted on walking me here. Thought I might step off the cliff by mistake."
"Would you have?" Enjolras said.
Jehan huffed, and picked up a pine needle, starting to break its brittle length into very small segments.
"No," they said. "I'm a traveller. I've been all over, from the Ionian coast to the walls of Athens, and I have not once stepped off a cliff. Granted, I've had a few stumbles," here they waved one leg, etched at the knees with dark brown scars. "But who hasn't? She was kind, though, and smelled like sea-breeze, and walking with nymphs is never a chore. They know all the best gossip."
"What has she told you?" Enjolras asked.
"That you have been sulking on this rock for most of the day," Jehan replied. "And that you have not called your wise lady, or her small lady, as you would have done any other time. That you returned home looking very upset indeed, and that they all think you and the smithing god have quarrelled again. Of course, I had a hunch that it might be true. It’s why I came."
That wasn't unexpected. Something else was amiss.
"Why are you not with him, then?" Enjolras asked. The thought was mildly alarming, in fact. "He probably needs someone more than I do. I will be fine."
"Of course you will be," Jehan said. They turned in his general direction, and laid one warm hand on his arm. "Enjolras, so will he."
Enjolras took one long, shaky breath. "I – I'm glad to hear you say so."
"If he needed me, I'd be there," Jehan said. "Of course, you know that. No, there is someone there for him, though I am not here to tell you of his whereabouts."
"Good," Enjolras said. He's unsure to which part of that he was referring to. "Why have you come, then?"
"I know you're confused," Jehan said, after a long moment of silence. "And I'm afraid this means you won't do what needs to be done. And you'll do it out of very noble feelings, but it will also ruin everything."
The prediction felt like ice in his veins, lead in his stomach.
"You will stay away, because you think you have been rejected. But you need to give him one chance to explain, and that will not happen if you don't speak to him."
"I can't just – you didn't see the way he looked at me," Enjolras said. He didn't know how much Jehan knew about what had happened. "I – I would not tread where I'm not wanted."
"As I said, noble feelings, and right," Jehan said. "I can't pretend that I know what's happening in his head, darling. I can't speak for his feelings. But I know you need to give him one chance to talk about it, or you will both regret it."
Enjolras stared out to the sea, still glittering under the purple, pink and blue. His chest still felt tight, and the thought of even – of confronting Grantaire again, was excruciating. Some cowardly part of him didn’t want to give himself another chance to be rejected, a more selfless part of him really did not want to tread where he was not wanted. He had not lied.
"I'll – I don't know. I need time."
"That's very well. Your feelings matter," Jehan said. "I'm just not sure you have time."
They heard voices coming from the house, just then. The lamps had been turned on, and they now glowed orange against the purple night, casting shadows among the pine trees and columns.
They walked back all the way to the house, and Combeferre met them at the door. Armourless, clad in a long chiton that swayed with every step.
"Enjolras," she said, vaguely alarmed. "They said something happened."
Enjolras felt it clog up his throat, again. For a moment, he could not speak. Combeferre raised a gentle hand to his shoulder.
"Let's go inside," Enjolras said, at length. "I will tell you what happened."
Inside, they found Courfeyrac halfway through helping light the lamps. She came rushing to Enjolras as soon as she saw him, and wrapped him up in her arms, warm cheek against his.
“Tell me all about it,” she said. “You’ve sent the nymphs a-flutter for miles.”
He laughed, though it was a reedy, pathetic thing. “Sit down, please.”
He told them what had happened, and saw Jehan nod along and scrunch their nose as he told it.
“Oh, Grantaire,” they muttered, once.
Combeferre didn’t look best pleased. In fact, her eyes were daggers. Courfeyrac rose from her chair to hop on the table beside her, then swinging her legs across Combeferre’s and taking her hand to rest on her own knee.
“People have been scared of love for ages, darling,” she said. “Don’t be unfair just because it hurts him.”
Enjolras looked between them, holding his breath. The notion hurt him twofold: that Combeferre might dislike Grantaire, and that Combeferre might be angry on his behalf.
And then it hurt, again, that Grantaire might be scared of him.
“There is nothing to be angry over,” he said.
“Don’t, Enjolras,” Courfeyrac said. “Of course we would be angry. You are hurt.”
“So is he,” Jehan said. It was as if he wanted to remind them that he was, after all, Grantaire’s friend first. “I don’t think there is anything simple about this situation.”
"No," Enjolras said. "No, there isn't."
Jehan was silent for a long moment, their head bent towards Enjolras.
"I have heard," they said, finally. "That Hera intends for him to marry."
Enjolras frowned, and met Combeferre's eyes across the table.
"Yes, I know," Enjolras said. "But Grantaire will never agree."
Combeferre's mouth pursed.
Enjolras narrowed his eyes. “Combeferre?”
She seemed to choose her words carefully. “I don’t know how long he would last, if he resisted.”
“He is very stubborn,” Jehan said. “And he has been… strong. For a long time. But I saw – I saw that–”
“He can’t be strong forever,” Combeferre said.
Jehan didn’t look too pleased to be interrupted, but they went on, “Hera is going to call a contest for his hand.”
“Surely it’s up to him to choose,” Courfeyrac said.
“It would be,” Jehan said. “He’s no blushing bride. But Hera wants this to be a production – the grander the contest, the more honour it does her.”
They paused, their mouth twisted.
Several feelings were at war within Enjolras. One won out.
“He’ll hate it,” he said.
The show, the contests, being held up to be seen and judged. Grantaire would hate that. Being stuck with someone, who had no chosen him for him. He would hate that most of all.
Jehan inclined their head. “I’m glad you said that. It shows you know him.”
“Something must be done,” Enjolras said, more to himself.
Jehan, however, smiled. “You keep giving me the right lines, Enjolras.” They leaned closer. “I’ve talked to the Moirai. I was trying to see if I was seeing clearly, and they agree with me. They can’t influence things as much as they wish, but they care about Grantaire as much as I do. We have a plan. But first, we need to know how far you’re willing to go, Enjolras.”
Jehan was turned towards him, and Enjolras got a little lost looking at the serious lines of his face. He kept seeing Grantaire’s wide eyes after he had kissed him, remembering his warm hands around his wrist. He found himself tracing the gold still clutched there. He had not taken it off. He wouldn’t.
“Beyond the pillars at the end of the world, if I must,” he said. His mouth curled, bittersweet.
Jehan’s smile was a bright thing. They said, “Correct, again.”
It took a while to get through the rest of the suitors, but more importantly the announcement of every gift brought to his mother in his honour. Half the gifts Grantaire wouldn’t touch, as he has no business with robes and livestock, but there are quite a few weapons and suits of armour which look quite interesting. The catch is, of course, that no weapon or armour can top those he could make for himself, and everyone must be very careful not to imply otherwise.
Really, Grantaire would be offended on principle – godly pride is not a thing to be trifled with, and he’d hate to tarnish his own reputation – except he has not been paying very much attention. He has been, mostly, thinking about Enjolras.
He is no swooning maiden, so there really is no reason for his heart to be fluttering the way it is, or for his palms to sweat.
But he had met Enjolras’ eyes across the dais, and Enjolras had smiled.
He keeps seeing it behind his eyelids – the upward curl of the corner of Enjolras’ mouth, a little shy, the way he’d bitten his lip.
The wretched expression on his face when he’d seen him last, a month ago.
There is no reason for Enjolras to be here.
I come to present a suitor. Aphrodite Pandemos.
He cannot believe that that is the reason, despite the signs. It does not make sense.
He kissed you, a faint voice in his head tells him. Not strong enough to overpower the notion that he had ruined it.
There is a difference between wanting to kiss someone, and courting them. The second is rather more permanent.
“I think we need a break,” he says, loud enough that the line of gods on the dais can hear.
Hera frowns, her red mouth pouting. “We are only halfway through the presentation of gifts.”
“Exactly, dear mother,” Grantaire says. He can see the way being addressed so makes her shoulder relax. “Surely our guests deserve some refreshments?”
He swallows the bile that rises up in his throat, and leans close to her. “Besides, this will only draw the show longer.”
He makes sure to smile when she looks at him – not too widely, that’d only be suspicious.
She does narrow her eyes, but the corner over her mouth twitches with a smile.
“That’s not a terrible idea,” she says. Then she gestures for Hebe to call the servants. She calls for the break in a high, clear voice, which carries across the room.
Grantaire rises, then bends down to kiss her cheek. She gives him a cool look, all motherly disapproval. She knows it’s a show. It doesn’t matter. A show is what she wants, after all.
“I will be right back,” he says. She does not protest.
He descends from the days and among the benches full of the crowd – suitors and families and spectators. Of course there would be spectators.
He’s not quite sure how he’s going to find Enjolras, at first.
When he’d been staring up at him, Combeferre announcing his name, Enjolras’ eyes had shined in vague apology.
Let me explain, he’d seemed to be saying. Grantaire isn’t particularly comfortable with listening to his instincts, and yet.
He spots the flash of wispy blond curls, Enjolras leaning over one of the tables, talking to the grace, Kharis. There is a small wrinkle between his brows, at least until he looks up. Meets Grantaire’s eyes.
His faces settles into careful blankness, though the wrinkle does not disappear completely. Grantaire holds his gaze, feels his stomach flip. Don’t be ridiculous.
He nods, eloquently, and glances sideways to the doors. He doesn’t wait, once he’s seen the flash of understanding in Enjolras’ eyes. He walks right out the doors.
Enjolras comes out the same doors only moments after, looking perfectly put together, if not for the harried look in his eyes.
“Grantaire –” he says. He reaches out to Grantaire for a second, then he seems to think better of it, and his hand falls back against his side.
Grantaire closes his eyes. “Not here.”
The hallway is deserted, white marble. Everybody’s crowded in the feast hall for the presentation of the gifts. He doesn’t know how long they can afford to be gone.
“This way,” he says. He does not look at Enjolras, as they walk. He does not reach out to grab his wrist, where the gold cuff gleams. He knows it’d be skin-warm, if he touched it.
There’s an alcove, sheltered by the dark red drapes his father favours. They always seemed to appear rather conveniently, when he was younger, just picked up from his home underneath the sea and carried here. It seems fitting that one would appear now.
He ducks inside, and realises the predicament he’s in only after he’s pulled the drape closed so that they won’t be seen.
The alcove isn’t very large, and so they have to stand close. The sun is going down, outside – the gentle sunset throws fiery highlights across Enjolras’ skin, making it gleam. It reminds him, vaguely, of the glow of the furnace, the last time.
It’s rather ironic.
“What are you doing here?” is what ends up making it out of his mouth.
Enjolras who’s been staring at him intently, sighs. He’s frowning.
“I thought that would be obvious,” he replies.
“Don’t – don’t do that. You know what I mean,” Grantaire hisses.
“Do I?” Enjolras hisses right back. Then he closes his eyes. “No – this isn’t how I want this to go.”
He takes a deep breath, and Grantaire just looks at him. When he opens his eyes again, he looks – determined. Radiant. Grantaire can’t remember a time when he wasn’t weak for that particular look.
“Before I tell you what happened in the past month,” Enjolras says, leaning even closer. It makes Grantaire’s head spin. “I need you to know. You asked me why – last time, you asked me why I kissed you.”
Grantaire feels the words like they’re alive in his chest, making his breath catch, bringing it all back – the heat, and Enjolras’ mouth, and the warm metal and skin under his hand.
“I told you I did it because I wanted to, and I did. I do,” Enjolras is looking up at him steadily, eyes wide. Having all that earnestness trained on him is a little heady. Enjolras takes a breath, seeming to steel himself for what will come next.
For what, devastatingly, comes next.
“I want you,” Enjolras says. “I think I’m a little in love with you.”
It sparks the same old panic into Grantaire’s chest, and something else yet. Overwhelming and undefinable. It clogs his throat. It sounds too good, too good to be true.
He closes his eyes, for a breath, and his mouth twists. “A little?”
Enjolras tilts his head, letting out his breath in a rush. He smiles. “I’m trying not to rush.”
A sharp, hoarse laugh escapes him. “You came to me as a suitor.”
Enjolras keeps smiling, for a moment, then seems to purposefully reel himself back. He has not stopped looking that awfully intense.
“Grantaire,” he says, then, almost hesitant. Nervous. “I asked you whether it was a mistake, I asked – that is, you never told me if,” he stops, bites his lip again, “You never told me if you wanted me, too.”
Grantaire knows his eyes have gone wide. Enjolras is looking, looking at him, with his own wide, earnest dark eyes. One of his hands has gone out to grip the burgundy drape, his knuckles paling with the strength of his grip.
“Because if not, I will go,” he says. He’s so close, his other hand fluttering out, uncertain. “So I need you to tell me.”
If you wanted me, Enjolras says, and it’s such an absurd notion. That he might not know. It squeezes Grantaire’s chest – surely it’s obvious, surely everyone from Olympus to the Pillars knows how gone he is.
But Enjolras is looking at him pleadingly, his hand still held out, not actually touching him. I need you to tell me, he’s asking.
And Grantaire may be terrified, still, always, but he’s not a liar.
They are very close. It’s so easy to lean even closer, give in to Enjolras’ gravity just a little bit.
“I’ve wanted you – ” he says, low, so his voice won’t crack. “I think since I first saw you. That isn’t unusual, I don’t think.”
Enjolras’ breath catches, in the small space between them, but he does not move yet. His face is still, expectant.
“And I was – I was more than happy to live with it,” Grantaire continues. It’s surprisingly hard to put into words, wanting Aphrodite, growing to know Enjolras. “But then you came to me – and you kept coming to me. And somehow, I got to know you and I had not realised I could want you more than I already did. That it could be bigger than that, but it could.”
He has to take a breath, relearn the particular ache in his chest when he had known that the way he had wanted Enjolras before had been insufficient, only a fraction of how one could love Enjolras.
And the ache that came after. He says, “Except it was still just as impossible.”
He has closed his eyes, somehow, at some point, and they flutter open only when he feels smooth fingers against his cheek, sliding over his jaw. Enjolras is close enough that the sight of him is blurred, brown-bronze-gold. He rests his forehead against Grantaire’s, so soft Grantaire thinks his insides might shatter.
“It’s not,” Enjolras says, his hand against Grantaire’s cheek. “It’s not impossible.”
“My mother – when she told me this needed to be done – I tried – I said something… Well, it was stupid.”
It’s a curious sensation – he can feel Enjolras frown against his brow.
He says, “What did you tell her?”
It’s surprisingly easy to push it out, this thing that’s been burning like shame inside of him and sparking panic. Which had ignited when Enjolras had kissed him. It’s like a confession.
“I told her,” Grantaire says. “That I would marry no one short of Aphrodite himself.”
Enjolras sucks in a breath, and Grantaire can feel it, warm against his face. His other hand comes up, both his thumbs now tracing Grantaire’s cheekbones.
“Grantaire,” he says, soft, soft. “Grantaire, can I –”
It feels a bit like standing on the edge of a cliff – the same fear. Grantaire knows a lot about falling. It feels also, a bit, like knowing he will be caught upon landing. That is quite new.
He nods, which brings him even closer, brushing against Enjolras’ nose. He can feel the rush of blood in his ears, and Enjolras’ shallow breaths.
Enjolras doesn’t do the expected thing. Enjolras so rarely does the expected thing.
He rises up on his tiptoes and brushes his lips against the soft skin underneath Grantaire’s eye, then to the eyelid when it flutters closed.
Grantaire is still, barely breathing, as Enjolras tilts his head, switching sides to kiss the side of his nose. It makes his breath huff out in a half-laugh. He feels Enjolras smile, against his cheekbone. He kisses there too.
“Alright?” he whispers, and he’s pulled back slightly, their noses brushing once again. He is right there.
“Yes,” Grantaire says.
Enjolras has pulled back enough that Grantaire can see his dark eyes glitter, looking into his. He smiles.
“Good,” he says.
Then he kisses him – finally, finally, he presses his mouth right against Grantaire’s for the second time.
It’s like he’s been waiting, waiting, tense since the first moment Enjolras’ lips touched his and then left.
He is not going to run this time.
His hands have found their way to Enjolras’ hips, though he does not remember when. He presses back, tentatively, and Enjolras sighs. That small, pleasured sigh that has been haunting Grantaire’s thoughts for a month.
It makes his hands tighten at Enjolras’ sides, which elicits an even better sound – a sharp one, devastatingly close to a moan. His hands make their way up, through Grantaire’s hair and that feels too good to be allowed.
It all feels like it should not be allowed. It is exhilarating to think that it is – but there is no space to entertain the thought any further. Not when Enjolras’ lips move against his. He moves away a fraction and does not go far, only tilts his head to a better angle, and kisses him again. Keeps gloriously kissing him, until Grantaire forgets anything that isn’t the warm touch of Enjolras’ wet mouth, and the sharp spike of pleasure when teeth sink into his bottom lip.
He forgets himself enough that he pulls Enjolras against him, pressed all along the length of his body, which makes Enjolras make that sharp sound again. He smiles against Grantaire’s mouth.
Enjolras says, breathlessly, “That’s right.”
It makes Grantaire make a wounded noise, which only makes Enjolras kiss him again. He has never felt quite so wild.
They have to break apart, to catch their breath. Enjolras is still smiling at him, and Grantaire’s back and leg have started to ache, but he thinks maybe he is going to ignore it a while longer, even if he is going to regret it.
He thinks, with Enjolras’ eyes, shining, looking at him – at him – he might not regret, for once.
Grantaire presses forward, then, buries his face in Enjolras’ neck. Enjolras’ arms come up to wrap around his shoulders, and Grantaire feels him nuzzle against his hair, a gentle contrast to the way his hands hold him against his body. He smells like sand, and dusty pine needles, and the sea.
“There you are,” Enjolras says. And Grantaire, surprisingly, knows exactly what he means.
They stay like that a long time, probably longer than they should. Enjolras’ neck is smooth beneath his lips, and Grantaire kisses it without thought, feeling Enjolras shiver.
When they draw apart, Enjolras is smiling. The dying light only makes him look more beautiful. The impossibility of him is staggering, and yet – Enjolras is never expected. It only follows that the impossible would be possible for him.
His hands are on Grantaire’s cheeks again, smoothing the broken line of his nose this thumb, tracing the arc of his heavy brow. He rises on his toes to kiss him just once more, light and brief.
It’s all Grantaire can do not to chase the kiss.
Instead, he asks, “Now what?”
Enjolras’ smile turns a little bashful. He says, “Marry me?”
It steals all the breath from his lungs, of course. “Is that not rushing?”
Enjolras looks away. “If we had time – if we had time, I would court you.”
It’s the easiest thing to lift a hand from Enjolras’ waist to cup his cheek, mirroring him. Enjolras closes his eyes and leans into it.
“You wouldn’t have to try very hard,” Grantaire says, truthful.
It makes Enjolras laugh – Grantaire had not realised how much he had missed the clear, joyous sound. That’s when he is hit with the reality of the proposal – the chance to try and earn that sound for the rest of their very long lives.
The same thoughts that had hounded him on the dais come back, except instead of the lines of unknown suitors it’s Enjolras, at his side. Beautiful Enjolras who comes into his mountain for shelter, unbidden, who is looking up at Grantaire now. Enjolras, wanting him. Enjolras, who kissed him.
Enjolras, who’s whispering, frantically, “You can say no, it will not change anything. Not – not how I feel. I will still be here. And we will find a different way to get you out of this. Jehan and the Fates have it all figured out, we can get through a day of games and then – ”
“Yes,” Grantaire says.
Enjolras stops, and looks at him, wide-eyed, for a long moment.
“Yes?” he asks.
“Yes,” Grantaire repeats. “I’ll marry you.”
The smile that blooms on Enjolras’ face is nothing short of blinding. It seems to involve his whole body, which arches up towards him as if he were the sun.
He kisses Grantaire, sloppily, pressing against his mouth clumsily. It does not last very long, he is too busy smiling. Grantaire finds himself having a very similar problem.
“Yes,” Enjolras whispers, against his mouth.
“Yes,” Grantaire repeats.
Enjolras rears back just to plant a giddy kiss on Grantaire’s forehead, then his cheek, and his eyelid again. Raining kisses on his face. It draws a shocked burst of laughter from Grantaire, and that only makes Enjolras pull back and look at him, star-struck.
“Yes,” Enjolras says.
“Are you broken?” Grantaire says.
Enjolras swats him half-heartedly, though he can barely manage to keep looking put-out. Grantaire’s neck is definitely aching, and he definitely needs to sit down, but he also can’t really help bending down and kissing Enjolras’ bottom lip.
When he pulls back, he says, “You still need to win the contest.”
Enjolras tilts his head, and grins, sharp. He looks suddenly fierce.
“I will win,” he says. The certainty in his voice is unshakeable, and sends a shiver down Grantaire’s spine. “All that mattered to me was that you said yes.”
It makes Grantaire smile. “You sound very sure.”
“I am sure,” Enjolras says. “I have the favour of Athena, Artemis and Apollo. The Fates and Tiresias have foreseen that this is the right path.”
Grantaire slumps back against the wall, and Enjolras follows, gloriously pressed against his front.
“You have my favour,” Grantaire says, without thinking.
It makes Enjolras light up, again. And it makes him kiss Grantaire, again, his hands trailing up and winding in Grantaire’s hair, scratching the back of his neck and making him shiver.
It starts soft, like the others, but does not stay so much longer. Enjolras’ mouth parts against his, and Grantaire’s breath catches at the hint of warm, wet tongue.
Grantaire has just parted his mouth to meet him, when they hear steps. They break apart, a bare inch between their mouths, and stand very still, in wait.
The steps fade, but they have inevitably reminded Grantaire of how long they’ve been gone. The ache in his back and leg is tell-tale enough.
“We need to go,” he says.
Enjolras frowns, his mouth still kiss-stung and wet, and now pouting.
Grantaire sighs, because it’s all quite unfair. Then he sweeps down and kisses that full mouth one more time.
The frown dissipates. He can feel Enjolras’ lips go pliant, and then curl in a smile. He does not deepen the kiss.
“I will win,” Enjolras says. He pulls away at last, cool air rushing between them. Grantaire feels his loss distinctly. “Keep an eye out for my gift, will you?”
He throws Grantaire one last bright grin, and then he is gone. He might not have been there at all, except for the aches in Grantaire’s body, and the sting of his kiss on Grantaire’s mouth, the ghost of his touch in Grantaire’s hair.
Hera looks vaguely displeased, when he returns, but Grantaire can barely pay attention to her, past the joy of being seated again. He extends his legs with a relieved groan.
“What have you been doing?” Hera asks, put out.
“Running laps, dear mother,” Grantaire says. It does not put him in her good graces.
Combeferre is near enough that Grantaire can meet her eye across the dais. She raises one perfect eyebrow at him, and her stare is scalding.
He feels heat in his cheeks, and her mouth softens. He shrugs one shoulder, and she nods, then goes out to stare into the crowd, clearly looking for someone. Enjolras.
Her shoulders relax after a moment, and when she turns towards Grantaire again, she is smiling.
“Best start again, now,” Hera says. And waves her hand imperiously.
And there they go.
It’s ten more gifts of jewellery and trinkets for Hera, a few suits of armour for him – he does wonder where they expect him to wear them, as he has never been known to be a warrior – before Enjolras steps up.
Grantaire straightens in his seat.
Enjolras is at the bottom of the dais just like he had been before, Combeferre having descended to join him. She presented him, and so she gets to stand at his side for this part, too.
Except earlier, Enjolras had looked determined, yes, but a little uncertain. Grantaire doesn’t think it had been obvious, except to those who know him. He had looked up at Grantaire tentatively.
Now he looks up at him and gives him a broad, devastating grin. He stands straighter, managing to look impressive even with his height in stark contrast with Combeferre’s.
“Aphrodite brings a gift to our gracious host and Queen,” Combeferre announces, and sweeps a hand towards where the servants are bringing in an intricately ornate chest, which is opened to reveal shimmering robes. “Woven on Athena’s own looms.”
Enjolras bites his lip, quite distractingly. There’s a hint of humour in his eyes. It’s a very, very veiled assertion of Athena’s superior weaving skills, though it is also a deference to Hera’s rank. No robes but Combeferre’s would have been good enough for her.
Enjolras himself speaks up, then.
“I also bring gifts,” he says. “To Polymetis Hephaistos.”
Some of the others presenting gifts to him directly had chosen to call him fair, which was inaccurate and frankly irritating. Grantaire should not be smiling at the fact that Enjolras chose to call him resourceful, instead. It is only one of his epithets, a statement of fact.
He does not have much time to ponder on this, because Enjolras is staring at him with some vague mischief in his eyes.
There’s a startled cry from the crowd, and the attendants bring Enjolras’ gift forwards. The whirring, mechanical sound of gears is what reaches him first, and a strange sort of huffing, heaving sound. The clang of brass hooves on marble.
They part the crowd, which again cries out, and whispers, and shouts, watching their passing. Two tall, mechanical horses, gleaming bronze in the light of the lamps. Their eyes glow red.
Grantaire can feel his own eyes go wide. He recognises the gears and springs shifting underneath the horses’ joints, though he has never seen them move quite so well.
“From the workshop of Daedalus,” Enjolras says. “His skill can never compare to yours, ingenious one, so they are but a prototype.”
There is a dimple flashing Enjolras’ cheek, where he’s biting it. His dark eyes glitter.
Daedalus’ blueprints showed flaw – Grantaire saw them. His automatons were only as good as Grantaire’s own had been months ago, and he only solved their problems recently. Enjolras knows this.
The horses move like they are alive, and Grantaire could recognise that unnaturally natural movement anywhere. It is how his automaton moved when Enjolras kissed it.
Enjolras did this. From anyone else it might have been unacceptable – a risky, bold gift. But Enjolras’ shining eyes challenge Grantaire, and laugh. It is their inside joke.
“I thought they might serve well for a chariot,” Enjolras says.
Before he knows it, Grantaire bursts out laughing. He does not know what that does to Hera, who is conspicuously silent. He only knows how it makes Enjolras’ smile widen until it shows teeth. He only knows that he feels half-drunk on the feeling ballooning in his chest.
Quote from Richard Siken's 'Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out' will I ever stop quoting this poem? Probs not.
- There’s no saying that Thetis and Eurynome were lesbians but hey, did they raise a kid together and who am I to make it hetero.
- Kharis stands for ‘grace’ and the youngest of the Graces (referred to as Kharis in theoi.com) was Hepahistos’ second wife after Aphrodite (obviously that will not happen). She’s a goddess, and it’s implied here that Floréal is a demigod.
- Lmfao Combeferre’s chiton in this chapter is an Ionian chiton I’m sorry carry on
- Enjolras' line “Beyond the pillars at the end of the world" refers to the Pillars of Hercules (aka the Strait of Gibraltar), which was 'the end of the known world' in Western Classical lit.
- This type of contest with games and challenges was based on Helen’s suitors, and was usually something that happened for women/heiresses, so we’re stretching it a bit, because Grantaire ‘is no blushing bride.’
- Hephaistos does not have a chariot, but rather a flying chair (!!!) or he travels on a donkey.
- Daedalus does build moving statues in myth apparently! My steampunk horses aren’t totally anachronistic!
The first time Enjolras met the Moirai was just after Jehan had outlined their plan to him. They stood at the door for a long time, scrutinising him. They had seen him before, of course – they knew all – but they had never looked at him quite in this light. Not as Grantaire’s possible suitor.
Musichetta was olive-skinned, wild-haired, kind-eyed, and she had lifted her hands, hovering at the sides of his face, waiting for permission. When Enjolras had nodded, she’d held him in her hands and turned him this way and that. She’d pulled the skin beneath his lower lid with her thumbnail, and looked into his eye.
Then she’d let him go and said, “Very good.”
Her two companions had looked at him with curious smiles, which had only widened with her verdict.
When the Moirai knock on his door that night, after the festivities on Olympus, the pine wood outside has gone pitch-black, the sea is a long, inky, glittering expanse.
Musichetta smiles widely at him and holds out her arms for a hug. She is soft and smells sweet, her black curls light against his face.
Joly and Bossuet, behind her, wear identical grins. They don’t look much alike; Bossuet is tall and dark, and Joly pale and dark-haired – though not short. He’d defended himself strongly against the accusation, proclaiming that it was not he who was under-sized, merely that Bossuet was so tall. He was not wrong. Enjolras, being shorter than both, couldn’t very well argue the point.
"My friend," Joly says, at his door. "We heard your suit was successful."
Enjolras lets go of Musichetta to usher them in. "Technically, I still need to win the contest."
Joly laughs. He says, "You will."
Combeferre pokes her head into the foyer, from the sitting room. "Would you stand by that prediction?"
Enjolras leads them towards her and into the room, gesturing for them all to sit. They arrange themselves on a couch, half-lying on top of each other. They did the same last time, it seems a habit of theirs.
"I wouldn't say so, precisely," Joly replies.
Bossuet finishes for him, "It is more an educated guess based on available information."
"Like the fact that we know of Enjolras' stubbornness," Musichetta concludes.
Enjolras feels himself flush, though he merely shrugs and perches on the arm of the settee, where Combeferre is lounging.
Courfeyrac comes in, bearing a tray of spiced wine, and sits by Combeferre's legs.
"You are not wrong," he says. "When Jehan first came, I promised them that I would do anything, and I meant it."
"You put it rather more dramatically," Courfeyrac says.
"Ah yes, he did," Jehan’s voice comes, from the foyer. They appear in the door. "Sorry, we did not knock, but you left the door ajar."
Behind them, is Grantaire. He looks half-shy, lingering in the doorway behind Jehan. His mouth twitches, as he bites the inside of his cheek.
"Enjolras, dramatic?" he says. "I can't possibly imagine."
Enjolras' ears might catch fire, but he barely minds, as he meets Grantaire's eyes. He looks better, now, once again alive with mischief.
On the dais, today, he had looked miserable, folded into himself like a vine begging for sunlight. There had been something dull and resigned in his eye, as he looked over the crowd, shifting from suitor to suitor. It had been an immense relief to see him melt into breathless surprise and then –
And then they had kissed, and kissed, and kissed, and Enjolras had asked him to marry him. And he is quite certain Grantaire is thinking of the same thing now, judging by the blush on his face.
It does not stop him from asking, "Say, Enjolras, how exactly did you phrase it?"
Jehan is about to open their mouth to tell him, but Enjolras precedes them. He walks right up to both, and sweeps Jehan into a side-hug, then swats Grantaire's chest.
"Are you honestly making fun of me, at a time like this?" he says.
Grantaire shrugs and makes a face. "You should know what you're getting into, my dear."
He is joking, but there's something in his tone that Enjolras has learned to recognise. He also has not missed the happy jolt in his stomach at being called dear.
He ignores the second in favour of taking care of the first. He reaches up on tiptoes, which brings him almost of a height, and kisses Grantaire's cheek.
"I do know," he says. He rocks back on his heels and smiles, and watches Grantaire flush redder still.
“Oh my,” Courfeyrac says. “They are adorable.”
Enjolras turns to throw her a chilling look. “Be quiet.”
She smiles at him brightly, and coos. “I love you too, Enjolras.”
Then she makes space for Jehan on their settee, which brings her close to Combeferre’s side. She settles there contentedly, as Enjolras determinedly pushes Grantaire towards the last remaining armchair.
That is his usual favourite spot, especially in late summer afternoons, when the light goes soft and golden and he can settle in to read. The chair is wicker, with soft white cushions, and seeing Grantaire settle there, lying his cane against the side of the chair, makes him smile foolishly.
He sits on the arm of the chair, rather precariously. It forces him to wrap an arm around Grantaire’s shoulders.
He is trying to be cool and collected about it, except Grantaire tilts his head up to look at him, almost upside down. Does he know he’s doing that? Does he know how he’s looking at Enjolras?
Does he know?
“Alright, enough,” Combeferre says, though she is smiling.
Enjolras turns towards her, and catches sight of the Moirai, who are throwing very significant looks their way, at Grantare. He chooses to ignore that.
“I’m assuming there’s a reason we’re all gathered here,” Grantaire says, and shifts minutely to lean against Enjolras.
He must know.
“Yes,” Musichetta says, straightening in her seat. “We want to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
“And then,” Bossuet says, lifting two fingers. “We want to celebrate.”
Courfeyrac beams. “I do like how you think.”
“Should we celebrate yet?” Grantaire says “It isn’t all done.”
“Oh, darling,” Jehan says. “The hard part – you two, that is – is done.”
The Fates laugh, and Enjolras brushes his hand very slowly across Grantaire’s shoulder, where it lies.
“You shouldn’t underestimate her, is all,” Grantaire says. Is tone, though, isn’t half as concerned as before. “And hush, I’ve had enough with you.”
Enjolras smiles, looking down at him. The angle isn’t all right, he can mostly see the top of Grantaire’s mop of dark curls, the slope of his nose. It is enough. His fingers brush against him more firmly.
“Jehan did explain to you our contingencies, right?” he says, at length. “In case you had said no?”
“I said yes.” Grantaire looks up at him, frowning. “I do not need contingencies.”
The tension in his voice is a bit too much for Enjolras, who can’t help bending down and brushing a kiss on top of his head.
“I just want you to know all your options,” he says.
“Well, I have chosen,” Grantaire replies. There is something still strained about his tone, so Enjolras retracts his hand to bury it in the curls at the back of Grantaire’s neck. He feels a fraction of the tension leave him, in a minute shiver.
“I have explained it to him,” Jehan says.
“Of course,” Enjolras says.
When Jehan had come to talk to him, they'd outlined a plan in case Grantaire rejected his proposal. Something that would get him out of Hera’s schemes. At the time, Enjolras had still been unsure, wrecked with the thought of the panic in Grantaire's eyes as he retreated from his kiss. He had insisted on planning for the eventuality, because he himself was not certain at all. Jehan had seemed pleased with it, and Enjolras had the feeling they would have been the one to insist, had Enjolras not done it.
It was not a complicated plan, and it involved a gathering much like the one they are in now.
"I can't believe Courfeyrac suggested kidnapping me," Grantaire says. His tone is a bit forced, feigning good humour.
"We had to be prepared for any situation," Courfeyrac replies, full of dignity. "I, for one, would have been very far from the action."
"I should hope so," Grantaire says. He turns towards Jehan, who smiles as if feeling his eyes on them.
"We have defied gods before," they say.
"And look where that got you," Grantaire replies. "I seem to remember Courfeyrac telling me how she almost drowned in the Aegean a few times.”
Combeferre frowns, and turns almost by instinct towards the sound of the waves, outside. Courfeyrac reaches out to lay a hand on her thigh, and says, "No need to bring that up now!"
"Anyhow," Musichetta pipes up. "We're here because Grantaire has deigned to join us, and must now detail all he knows of the trials that await us!"
Grantaire shifts, which brings him closer to Enjolras' side. Enjolras holds him there, gently, so that he may draw away if he wishes.
"Isn't that unfair advantage?" he asks.
"Yes," Enjolras replies. He can feel the way it tugs at the corners of his mouth, though he bites it back. "You did say I had your favour."
Grantaire tilts his head up towards him. He doesn't quite look at Enjolras, but he’s wearing the same expression, the same half smile.
"I did say that," Grantaire says. "I suppose having the favour of so many, you really cannot lose."
There’s some trepidation in his voice, a tinge of hope that makes Enjolras' heart race. Suddenly, the truth of what they are doing seems so close that he could touch it. He scrapes his fingernails, softly, on the back of Grantaire's head, where his hand still rests. Grantaire sighs quietly, an almost imperceptible motion.
"Alright," he says. "Here is how she outlined it to me. Now, be careful, she changes her mind as often as the wind changes direction. I don't know if tomorrow she will decide on another course of action. She does, however, often speak at me while she is thinking, and I have had to listen for the past month. I could probably write a treatise on the different shades of the chitons she was going to wear for each trial."
Grantaire outlines Hera's plans for them – there are to be three challenges. At each round a certain number of suitors will be eliminated, until only one is left.
"I suspect that she intends to favour a few," Grantaire says. "More than one. She likes to keep her options open. But one of hers will get to the third trial, if Enjolras is the other."
“So the one to win the final trial will be chosen,” Joly says.
“In theory,” Grantaire says. “Those are the rules she outlined. But if she does not like the result she might – ”
“That’s no matter,” Enjolras says.
He has stayed quiet while Grantaire spoke, but the thought of getting to the end, winning, and then being denied by Hera, makes old rage rise up in him, like the ocean depths from which he sprung.
Grantaire’s hand, brushing against his knee startles him out of his thoughts.
“We will go back to our contingencies, if she becomes difficult in the end,” Combeferre says.
“Like we have planned,” Jehan says. “We play her games so long as they end our way.”
Grantaire’s knuckles are still touching Enjolras’ knee, a tentative back-and-forth motion. His fingers are warm. Enjolras is having difficulty paying attention to anything else.
He inches his leg a little closer, and scratches Grantaire’s nape with his fingers again.
“That is enough war talk, for tonight,” Musichetta says. It makes Enjolras stiffen against Grantaire, to hear it called a war. Grantaire’s hand has not stilled, though, and it gentles him soon enough.
“There’s wine,” he says, but hesitates to rise. The arm of the wicker chair is very uncomfortable, and he knows it’ll leave marks in his thigh. And yet he does not want to move. “It has probably gone cold.”
“I like it better cold,” Bossuet says, with a smile.
Enjolras does rise, in the end, to grab cups for himself and Grantaire. When he turns back, Grantaire is looking at him, or rather, at the wicker-marks on his thighs. His brow is slightly furrowed and he flushes when he catches Enjolras catching him.
Enjolras can’t help a smile. They kissed in the alcove, and he got a yes, but there’s still some trepidation in him when he walks back up to Grantaire and does not resume his seat on the arm of the chair.
He sits in Grantaire’s lap, instead. He feels him go very still for a second, and then they’re looking at each other. Grantaire’s eyes are soft brown and wide, and from this angle they look up at him through dark lashes.
“Yes?” Enjolras says, and hands him the wine.
Grantaire smiles, and takes the cup. His arm is resting between the small of Enjolras’ back and the chair, and it slowly adjusts in a better position, wrapping around his waist.
“Yes,” Grantaire says. His hand, holding his cup, rests on Enjolras’ knee. It’s all much like the Dionysia, which somehow feels like a long time ago.
Enjolras remembers touching Grantaire’s shoulders and marvelling that he had not done it before, and he wraps his arm back around them now. His fingers find their way back where they’d been, in the skin-warm curls at Grantaire’s nape.
Yes, I’ll marry you, Grantaire had said.
Their friends are chattering of other things, wisely giving them space, and Grantaire sighs and melts back against the chair. His forehead brushes the curve of Enjolras’ neck, and Enjolras can feel the way his pulse flutters, quicker than he wants, against Grantaire’s skin.
He knows it’s giving away his nerves, but Grantaire laughs quietly and tilts his head towards him. It leaves the side of his neck bare, where Enjolras’ fingers are curled.
He can feel the same pulse on Grantaire’s neck, beating, beating, beating with trepidation. They are of a mind. It curls Enjolras’ mouth in a smile, and Grantaire doesn’t move his head from where it’s leaning into Enjolras’ neck.
Joly bursts out giggling at something Jehan has said, and Combeferre hides a smile, pressed into the curve of Courfeyrac’s shoulder. Musichetta reaches over and slaps Bossuet’s shoulder when he counters with a poorly thought-out come back.
The future is still uncertain, and yet Enjolras can’t help the way his heart expands, the hope and sense of rightness filling every empty space in his chest.
All of the people he loves are here. Grantaire’s leaning against him. They are going to be married.
It’s a few hours past midnight, when their friends finally file out, each heading to their respective homes. Enjolras would have asked them to stay, it was late enough, except there was something in the way Grantaire was looking up at him, towards the end.
He stands with the others, goes as far as picking up his cane, but Enjolras touches two fingers to his wrist.
“Stay?” he asks.
Grantaire hesitates only a moment, before drawing a shaky breath and nodding.
Their friends leave after many rounds of goodbyes and hugs, which extend past a half-hour, as everybody decides they can only leave after several minutes of chatting on the porch.
Enjolras finally closes the door behind them, then turns to lean against it. He looks at Grantaire, who is standing in the foyer, looking back.
For a moment, they do nothing else, both waiting. Then the tension breaks, and Enjolras laughs. It sparks a matching smile from Grantaire.
Enjolras holds out a hand, expectantly, and feels his stomach flip when Grantaire does not hesitate to take it. Grantaire’s palm sliding against his, so he can feel every place where work made his hands rough.
Enjolras bites his lip, and thinks of wicked things.
They do not rush, nor do they speak. The lamps are quietly burning down, and Enjolras stops several times to extinguish them. Grantaire trails after him, not making a sound, still holding his hand.
Everything goes dark, though the moon throws a silver beam through the half-open curtains. Enjolras leads him surely through the hallways. He has never had trouble orientating without light.
They have a name, for him, like this. Melainis, dark as night. Like this, he is powerful. It has been a long time.
His heart is kicking like a drum again, and he can feel a twin flutter where his wrist presses against Grantaire’s, as they make their way down the silent hallway.
Once they reach the bedroom, he squeezes Grantaire’s hand once, and reluctantly lets go. He goes to the windows, fists his hands in the heavy black-out drapes and the light see-through white curtains, and pulls both back. He opens the window, and is met immediately with the breeze, ruffling his hair, smelling like sand and salt. It fills every corner, along with the moonlight.
A flame flickers behind him. Grantaire lit a lamp, though it does little, merely filling the corners where the moon does not reach.
Enjolras inhales deeply, still turned towards the black sea, the sound of the waves reaching all the way to his window.
When he turns, Grantaire is sitting at the end of his bed, back bowed and elbows against his knees. He looks up at Enjolras and smiles, extending a hand.
Enjolras doesn’t need to be asked twice. He slips his hand into Grantaire’s again, like they had never parted at all. He does not stop there, however, and his fingers slip right out of Grantaire’s hold to trail up his arm.
He steps in, between Grantaire’s knees, and strong arms wrap around his waist, pulling him in.
Enjolras takes his face between his palms, fingers curling behind Grantaire’s ears along with his hair, thumbs tracing the line of his cheekbones, his scars, the broken slope of his nose. The dark smudge of his eyelashes when he closes his eyes.
“We don’t have to – ”
Grantaire’s mouth bends. Enjolras’ thumb is hopelessly attracted to it, drawing its outline.
Grantaire’s breath is hot against his skin, when he speaks, “I did think that was what you intended.”
“Do you not want to?”
“I do,” he says, sincere. His thumb pulls at Grantaire’s bottom lip, and his mouth parts slightly. Not rushing to meet it with his mouth is a hard task.
Grantaire’s eyes open, and they are also dark as night, only a smudge of moonlight in them.
“I want you,” Grantaire says, shrugging. Like it is a simple thing – a mere, uncomplicated truth.
It runs through Enjolras like fire. I want you, answered in his own body in kind. He gives up on his restraint, and bends to kiss Grantaire, who is already reaching up to meet him.
It’s immediately a deeper thing than they’ve shared yet, Grantaire’s mouth opening underneath his, a flash of hot tongue. But it is not hurried. They have the night, and the moon outside, and the sea beating and beating the shore.
“Move up a bit,” Enjolras says, and Grantaire does as he is bid. Enjolras follows him on the mattress, until they are sitting at the centre of it, Enjolras kneeling between Grantaire’s bent legs.
“I am glad,” Grantaire says, on a breath. “I’m glad we’re here.”
Enjolras can’t help his smile, or the way his hands are drawn to Grantaire’s hair. It’s something about the way he stands slightly taller, in this position, which makes Grantaire look up at him. It’s quite a novel thing. He thinks he could do anything, with Grantaire looking up at him like that.
Enjolras bends to kiss him again, and for once takes his time. If Grantaire’s lips are warm, and his mouth is a furnace, when it finally opens to him. He also can’t help the sound that escapes him when their tongues meet again.
Grantaire’s hands tighten at his sides, fisting in his chiton.
Grantaire says, “Tell me it will work.”
Enjolras frowns, though they are too close, and it is too dark for Grantaire to see.
“It will work,” he murmurs, and kisses him gently. “Do you believe me?”
Grantaire’s breath leaves him in a rush, his shoulders sagging. His hands unclench, and he runs hot palms across Enjolras’ back, one coming up as far as Enjolras’ nape, where dense curls are nestled.
“I believe you,” he says.
It makes Enjolras sigh, and lean in again, forehead resting against Grantaire’s, fingers clenching in his hair and scratching his scalp.
“You always run so hot,” Enjolras says. “I didn’t know touching you would be so – ”
He doesn’t know how to finish, so he doesn’t, and feels his cheeks flush at this unexpected artlessness.
Grantaire laughs, low and startled. “I am the god of fire.”
Enjolras huffs, and some of the tension singing through him shatters. Grantaire has gone soft with laughter, and Enjolras pushes at his shoulder, feigning offense.
He doesn’t push very hard, but Grantaire goes down anyway, never relinquishing his hold on Enjolras’ neck, pulling Enjolras down with him.
He finds himself lying down against Grantaire’s broad chest, which is a rather satisfying development. Grantaire’s hair is a dark halo around his head, missing the pillow by inches, and his thighs cradle Enjolras’ hips and they are here.
They kiss, again, Enjolras propping himself up on one elbow, bending down to bite at Grantaire’s bottom lip. The instinctive jerk of his hips, at that, makes Enjolras gasp.
Grantaire’s hand finds his, his mouth chases Enjolras’ kiss. Warm, calloused fingers trace his palm absent-mindedly, and Enjolras makes a sound against his lips, kisses him harder.
They kiss for a long time. Grantaire’s breath grows quick and shallow, his hips make small, aborted movements, driving Enjolras wild.
He lets go of Grantaire’s hand, reluctant but for the fact that he gets to put his hand on Grantaire’s thigh. It’s as hot as the rest of him, soft, and Enjolras can run his fingers all the way to his hip before he finds the edge of his chiton, which has ridden up.
He pulls away from Grantaire’s mouth, and Grantaire makes a sharp sound of complaint.
“I want you,” Enjolras breathes. The words are almost pressed against Grantaire’s parted lips. “Do you believe me?”
Grantaire makes a pained, whining sound. He squeezes his eyes shut.
Enjolras waits patiently, leaving kisses at the corners of Grantaire’s mouth, of his eyes, across his cheekbones.
“Yes,” Grantaire says, at length. “Come back.”
Enjolras can’t deny him, doesn’t want to. He kisses him, slow and warm and wet.
It is Grantaire who pulls away first, this time. Both his hands, now free, are back to trailing fire across Enjolras’ back. His mouth moves to Enjolras’ jaw, then wander down to the soft spot underneath his jaw. He leaves an open mouthed kiss there
Enjolras feels the moan low in his throat, answered by Grantaire’s fingers scratching lines across his back.
“I want to – ” Grantaire says, against the soft hair behind Enjolras’ ear.
“Anything,” Enjolras says, and means it. His fingers are still tracing aimless patterns on Grantaire’s hip. “Anything you want, phíltate.”
The word escapes him before he can stop it, before it really forms in his mind, even. Most beloved.
Grantaire’s breath hitches and then he is flipping them over.
Enjolras finds himself looking up at him, breathless, before Grantaire ducks to kiss him again. There’s something almost desperate in this kiss.
“Beloved,” Grantaire repeats, against his mouth.
Enjolras moans and fists his hands in Grantaire’s hair, trying to keep him close. Grantaire moves away, though, trailing wet kisses down Enjolras’ neck.
Enjolras’ hands, on his shoulders, find the clasp of his chiton.
“Do you mind taking this off?”
Grantaire stops, where he is nosing at Enjolras’ collarbone. Still, for a long moment.
Enjolras hesitates. “It’s alright if you do.”
Grantaire shakes his head, and drops another kiss on Enjolras’ skin.
“You too?” he says.
Enjolras smiles. “You don’t have to ask me twice.”
Grantaire unclasps his own chiton, while Enjolras fusses with the belt. When they’re both bare, covered by nothing but lamplight and moonlight, Enjolras’ hands find their way back to Grantaire.
“I don’t think I’ve ever told you how much I like your shoulders.”
Grantaire ducks his head again, hiding his face by pressing kisses lower down Enjolras’ chest. It makes Enjolras’ breath speed up, but he isn’t ready to let the subject drop.
“Mmh, and your hands,” he says, and reaches for one of them, tangling their fingers. “And your hair.”
Grantaire does silence him, eventually, by biting down on his nipple, then laving it with his tongue. Enjolras lets out a harsh, bitten-off sound, and clenches his hand in Grantaire’s hair.
Grantaire moves lower.
He says, mouth against Enjolras’ hip, only inches from where Enjolras wants him. “Can I?”
“Please,” Enjolras says, on a sigh.
Then Grantaire’s mouth is on him, and the sensation shoots through him like lightning. It has been long. Grantaire’s mouth is so, so hot. His tongue curls in sinful ways.
“Oh, beloved.” It escapes Enjolras again.
Grantaire makes a sharp sound, and lets go of Enjolras’ hand to wrap is fingers around the base of his cock. The fingers Enjolras has just finished praising. He can’t think about that too hard, lest he spend embarrassingly fast.
He loses track of time, soon. It does not feel like Grantaire is experienced, but rather like he is a very determined, enthusiastic, and fast learner.
And Enjolras thinks that there is no way it wouldn’t be good, because he knows of desire, and he knows of love, and he knows he would not be able to see past the love anyway. It’s Grantaire, and his lips stretched around Enjolras’ cock, his hair Enjolras tangles his fingers in. It is his jaw Enjolras traces with his fingers, feeling himself through his cheek.
He has lost count of the unbridled sounds that escape him – many of them breathless iterations of Grantaire’s name – and of how long it takes for heat to coil in his belly in that familiar way.
He tugs at Grantaire’s hair, and cries out a warning, though he is not sure it’s made of coherent words. Grantaire takes him as deep as he can, tracing the spots he’s observed make Enjolras writhe.
Enjolras spills with a last shout, trembling, with Grantaire’s head between his thighs, Grantaire’s arms around them. He fills lit up, alive – spent, but powerful still.
He is lost in it for a few moments, and comes to with Grantaire still holding his legs and biting kisses in the sensitive skin of his inner thighs, provoking cascades of shivers and goosebumps.
Enjolras hums, and plucks at Grantaire’s hair. “Come back here.”
Grantaire does not hesitate to cover Enjolras’ body again, a solid weight. He hides his face in Enjolras’ shoulder, where he presses his mouth.
“You’re so warm,” Enjolras says.
“You’ve mentioned,” Grantaire says. His voice is low, rough, and it pleases Enjolras immensely. Grantaire whispers, “I have been wanting to do that.”
“Oh?” Enjolras whispers, matching his tone. “How long?”
Grantaire shakes his head, and presses another feather-light kiss to Enjolras’ neck.
“Are you determined to draw out all my secrets?” he says. A little amused.
Enjolras hums again, and tightens his arms and legs around Grantaire. He shifts them to lie on their sides. It takes little strength.
“I don’t want secrets between us,” Enjolras says. “But I won’t make you tell me anything.”
“You take everything so seriously,” Grantaire huffs. “I’ve wanted it so long. My mouth on you.”
Enjolras shivers again, a last remnant of pleasure. He still feels Grantaire’s hardness, heavy against his hip. He gives an experimental roll of his hips, and Grantaire whines.
“What do you want?” Enjolras asks.
Grantaire laughs. “You could do anything to me, at this point.”
Enjolras kisses his nose. He reaches down to run a gentle hand along Grantaire’s thigh, tracing a scar there, slowly trailing up to where he wants.
He wraps his hand around Grantaire’s cock, and feels the soft sound Grantaire makes, little more than a huff of breath against his lips. He swallows the moans with a kiss, as he tightens his grip and starts to stroke.
“Tell me,” Enjolras says. “Phíltate, how do you like it? Good and slow? Faster?”
Grantaire groans into his mouth. “I don’t know.”
“You do,” Enjolras purrs. “What feels nice?”
His grip is firm, the pace a leisurely half speed. He does not stop, and Grantaire pants into his mouth.
“I – just. Tighter.”
Enjolras kisses him, licking into his mouth, keeping the pace of his hand, slowing down when he discovers how it makes Grantaire’s hip hitch and every other breath sound like a moan.
Grantaire is quieter than he is, every sound a half-sigh, or a low rumble in his throat.
Only towards the end, does he groan, “Oh. Yes.”
“Yes?” Enjolras whispers. “Yes. Like that?”
When he actually comes, Grantaire goes silent, his mouth open as if in surprise, shaking all over. He only breaks into gasps at the end, through the aftershocks.
Enjolras kisses his slack mouth, as Grantaire melts in his arms – then his cheekbones, and the lines of his scars.
Enjolras thinks he has never seen Grantaire look quite so soft. All of the tension has left his body, and Enjolras knows they will have to leave the bed to wash, but for now he does not want to move, and risk shattering this.
“Tell me again,” Grantaire says
“Tell me we’ll make it.”
Another kiss, this one soft and slow.
“We will make it,” Enjolras says. “It’ll be alright. Do you believe me?”
Grantaire’s mouth bends under his. A smile.
“Of course,” he says. “It’s you. I believe you.”
The day of the first trial dawns dewy and bright – it’s cloudy enough that the sun isn’t likely to glare into their eyes; not too hot, not too wet. It is a perfect day in late Mounichion, just past the first edge of spring.
Grantaire had to flee Enjolras’ bed at daybreak, Eos only just stretching her rosy fingers over the horizon, heralding Cosette’s arrival.
It had been a hard task, because Enjolras had been drowsy and warm, and smiling at him in a truly irresistible way.
He’d kissed Grantaire, close-mouthed, and held his face in his hands, making it even harder to leave.
“Must you go so early?”
“I’m afraid so. The way to Aetna is long, and I have matters to attend before heading towards Olympus. Luckily, I now have two perfectly fast horses, or I might not have been able to stay at all.”
Enjolras had wrinkled his nose and smiled. “Whoever gave them to you must have been very keen on you staying.”
He had still left later than intended – he’d lingered, captivated by the spill of Enjolras’ curls across the pillows. The only incentive to leave had been the prospect of having this every day, for the rest of their days.
It’s not easy to quieten the doubts and bubbling anxiety in his belly, when he reaches Olympus on his chariot now pulled by mechanical horses.
It is early in the afternoon. He rides straight to the stadium, whose stands are half-full already with spectators. It tends to change size and shape depending on their needs, and it looks like it has extended the full four-stade, which had not been done in decades. There are what looks like a dozen suitors gathered at the start line. They are without chariots or horses, though they are wearing light armour. A race, then.
He hands the reigns of his horses to the squires waiting at attention, though they look absolutely baffled and unsure what to do with them.
“Oil their joints, perhaps?” Grantaire says to them. And then, even though he’s not sure it’s not a lie, “They do not bite.”
He climbs to the terrace reserved for the Olympians, although it’s murder on his foot. Hera is sitting at her husband’s left and with a space left for Grantaire at her own left side.
Combeferre, whose seat is at Zeus’s right, is not in her place, but waiting for him at the top of the stairs.
She bends her braided head towards him. “He will need armour for the race.”
“I had thought he might,” Grantaire replies. “I took care of it.”
He had not told Enjolras, but one of the reasons for returning to Aetna so early had been seeing to his armour. He would not have him wear anybody else’s.
“It should have been delivered to him,” Grantaire says. “I made it light, in case of a race like this.”
Combeferre nods. She knows there is no better option in armour in all the known world.
“I did not think she’d choose to make them wear it,” Combeferre says. “It’s grueling.”
“Hephaistos,” Zeus calls, Hera’s hand on his arms. “Come sit by your mother.”
His father has not acknowledged him very much through this whole ordeal. He is not unaccustomed to leaving Hera room to exercise her pride, as long as it leaves him room to exercise his. He looks, at most, bored by the spectacle.
Combeferre's shining eyes gentle a little, and she lays a hand on his shoulder. "May I help?"
Grantaire only hesitates a moment, before taking her offered arm. He finally falls into his seat, at his mother's side. He knows he is probably a sight, exhausted and sweaty for the climb, despite the finery they’ve agreed he’ll wear at these events.
“A most complicated race, mother,” he says, once he’s caught his breath.
“Why, thank you, dear,” she says, though he hadn’t intended it as a compliment. “It is not the only event of the day.”
That catches his attention. “Oh?”
“Yes,” Hera says. “We have decided it would be exciting to have a variety of games, and keep score for elimination. There is a long race, and a chariot race later this afternoon.”
Grantaire’s mouth is already dry, so it cannot get any worse.
“Of course,” he says.
He leans back to meet Combeferre’s eyes. She looks unperturbed, and looks at him with utmost calm. Just looking at her makes some of the tension drain out of him.
To the apparent surprise of everybody on the terrace, Combeferre seats herself at Grantaire’s left.
“A bit obvious?” Grantaire mutters.
Combeferre’s chin is raised, and she arranges her braids over one shoulder with utmost nonchalance.
“I’m not concerned,” she says.
Before yesterday, he would have believed that she simply didn’t care for people’s opinion. Today, after seeing her interact with her lover and with Enjolras, he thinks he can detect a hint of amusement in her eyes.
Mischief. It makes him smile.
“There,” she says, and nods almost imperceptibly towards the end of the stadium.
Enjolras has stepped in with the other suitors. The golden halo of his downy curls is visible from here, left unbridled, today.
Movement, down below – the last few have arrived. Grantaire sees the swarm of them, and his head spins a little.
“What has she promised them?” he mutters, under his breath.
Hera is fortunately stretched towards the husband, as he says it, but Combeferre does not miss a thing.
“You know the usual things,” Combeferre says. “But some, dare I say, are here because they think you make a good prospect.”
“They must think it’s enough to deal with my face for the rest of eternity.”
Combeferre’s head bends to the side in contemplation.
“Remember there is one here for love,” she says.
It makes him flush, and he knows it shows in blotches on his pale skin. It also makes him feel uncharitable. Enjolras still seems impossible – it seems far more likely that Grantaire has dreamt him.
But he told Enjolras he believed him, and that hadn’t been a lie.
“It’s just hard to remember, when he is not here to say so.”
“He’s saying so,” Combeferre says. “Just not in so many words. He’s a bit far away for that.”
He’s known Combeferre for centuries, and yet this side of her is completely new. They are half-siblings, technically, though they have never been close. He had been away as a baby, and then Hera had kept him apart from his father’s other children. And after he had left, he’d done is best to stay away.
It makes him wish things had been different. But then again, Combeferre and Enjolras love each other. If everything goes as planned, Grantaire will have time to get to know her better.
Things are moving, down in the stadium, and the runners are being divided by heats. There are too many of them to count.
“Thirty-three,” Combeferre says. “In case you wanted to know.”
Grantaire snorts. His mother, pulled back from her conversations, throws him a look.
Their section is closer to the action, and so it isn’t very hard to catch Enjolras’ eye when he turns around. His brilliant smile is unmistakable and heart-rending.
Enjolras only looks away a moment, when Hera stands to explain the order of the heats and the subsequent tasks. Her voice carries. The system of points seems overly complicated, and it makes Enjolras' eyebrows arch in displeasure.
Combeferre has her head bent slightly to the side, as if to better take in the information. She purses her lips. She looks at Enjolras, who looks back. Then, she taps her fingertip to her temple once, and Enjolras' expression relaxes.
"Did you understand a word of that?" Grantaire asks.
"Yes," Combeferre replies. "I have. Suffice to say, Enjolras needs to win this race, and the next. It's good, in a way. He doesn't need a perfect score to pass the challenge."
Hera seats herself, and rests one soft rosy hand on Grantaire's wrist, the other on her husband's. She throws them both a brilliant, sharp smile.
"On count of three, attendants."
The count is taken up by a referee, down on the ground. At the signal, they sound a horn, and the first runners are off.
Grantaire keeps most of his attention on Enjolras, who is stretching rather distractingly. He is in the second heat, and the fifth.
"Hypatos is gaining," Combeferre mutters, under her breath. The race is long; most of them are godlings and demigods, and they gain quickly on the mortals. A few, who keep up, might be struck for their pride.
"Isn't it a bit dull to watch?" Grantaire whispers back.
"It is not my favourite discipline either," Combeferre says, with a grin. "Hypatos is definitely winning the heat."
Grantaire recalls the name – he had done Hera a favour once, maybe. He does not doubt that her favourites will win. He cannot be sure yet, however. There are too many contestants.
The heat ends, unsurprisingly, with Hypatos's victory. Combeferre mutters numbers under her breath, and then rattles a list of names to him, of those who are likely to pass the challenge and onto the chariots.
The second heat is Enjolras'. He is positioned, to Grantaire's surprise, right by the girl Kharis. She bends to say something to him, and Enjolras frowns for a moment. The bend of his mouth is not irritated, merely curious.
He nods at her, says something back. Then it is time for the countdown, which seems to take longer.
Enjolras looks up at them for a moment, on the one. He looks straight ahead after that. Two, and he is bending down, his legs strong, his neck arched. Three, and he is poised on his toes, ready to take flight.
At the horn, he sprints ahead, the soles of his sandals striking the earth. Grantaire remembers him with pine needles sticking to his feet, on the sand at his house in Cyprus.
He pulls ahead quickly, only a couple of godlings keeping close to him. And, surprisingly, the demigod girl. Her hair is dark and flies behind her, and her white legs are a blur. She seems impeded by the armour.
Enjolras' armour glints almost as golden as his hair. Grantaire can see the mark of his own hands on it, and the way it hugs his body. It had been easy to remember the planes of it, all its lovely corners and curves. They were forever branded into his brain. The thought that Grantaire might not touch him again is sharper than the marble edge of his seat.
Enjolras has covered the nearer quarter of the stadium soon. Grantaire reaches out towards Combeferre, stopping short of touching her.
"Keep an eye out," he says.
Hera turns to him, at that. She says, "You finally seem interested, darling."
Caught, Grantaire feels the traitorous warmth in his cheeks. He hopes it might be blamed on the spring heat.
"I was interested before, dear mother," he lies.
She does not believe him, of course. Her red mouth purses. It is no matter, Grantaire's own words over a month ago had betrayed him.
She smiles sweetly, "I have not forgotten, my dear. Just don't be disappointed in the end."
Combeferre's hand is very tight around the arm of her chair, the tips of her fingers gone pale brown with her grip.
She meets his eye, and hers are blue and grey like storm clouds, and absolutely undeniable. She does not lose. It is almost as grave as if Hera had challenged her personally.
"The sun might glare off the armour," she says. "It might be a disadvantage to some." Lower, she adds. "But he will not need it."
It is long minutes before they reach the last leg of the race. Enjolras is heading the charge, and seeing it untangles something in Grantaire's chest. He sits a little more relaxed against the uncomfortable back of his seat. It is almost done.
Enjolras does not look triumphant, as if he knows that counting a victory before it is done would be tempting fate. He looks, instead, fiercely determined, his cloud of curls flying. In the months he has known him, Grantaire has come to know that Enjolras is intense about most things. He only found out last night how that did include lovemaking.
Of course, it’s not the time for such thoughts – nothing about the line between Enjolras’ brows as he concentrated, seemingly determined to grip Grantaire’s length just right, find just the right rhythm to drive him over the edge.
Enjolras runs – he is winning. Behind him, surprisingly, the girl Kharis.
Who stumbles, at the last, like the earth has suddenly moved beneath her feet. It makes two runners pull ahead of her. Her pink cheeks are mottled red, in dismay.
Hera makes a pleased sound. When Grantaire looks at her, she is looking ahead, vaguely smug. It doesn’t quite make sense, for a moment, because he would think she’d try to impede Enjolras, who is wiping the floor with her favourites. Kharis was not even near to gaining on him.
He turns to Combeferre, who is supremely calm and has not looked away from Enjolras.
He remembers. One of his bastards.
Her interference has nothing to do with strategy, then.
He almost misses the moment Enjolras cuts across the finish line like an arrow. Sweat glistens on his skin, bringing out the bronze in the brown. He is slightly winded.
He comes to a stop slowly, making a round and coming back towards where they’d started, now jogging lightly. He stops almost right in front of Grantaire. He flashes teeth, at the terrace. He looks about ready to conquer the sun.
Combeferre leans back against her seat and turns towards Grantaire.
“No tricks,” she says. “Not this time.”
She goes back to rattling off other names likely to pass the challenge, taking into account the scores of the winners of the first heat.
Enjolras rests, for two more heats, then goes again on the fifth. Before taking position, he throws another sharp, warm smile in their direction.
He wins. Of course.
- If you guys are TSOA wrecks like me, you’ll know what philtatos means, for everybody else it means ‘most beloved.’ Philtate (φίλτατε) is the vocative, or direct address case. (“Sere,” you ask, “did you honestly review your Ancient Greek declensions to make sure you were using the correct case in this sex scene?” “Ha ha,” I say, as I shove breadstick into my purse. “Ha!”)
- Raise ur hand if ur a Classicist who has seen dawn’s ‘rosy fingers’ referenced way too many fuckenin times
- I realize we’re going to have to talk about travel. How do they go from Cyprus (Aphrodite’s home) to Aetna (in Sicily) to Olympus (in Greece)? I’m citing godly magic for this. How else could Enjolras circle the entirety of Mt Aetna running?
There are several heats after Enjolras’ last, and having won every one of his, he strips off the armour and hands it to a squire. He finds himself beside the girl Kharis, who is doing the same, sullen.
She introduced herself at the feast yesterday, and said that her sisters call her Floréal. Her hair is matted to her forehead and her pale skin is flushed.
She says, “Well, that is not much worse than I expected.”
She did not win any of her heats, but managed to arrive second or third in most.
“I just wish I knew whether this means I am out of the running.”
Enjolras feels partially bad for her, which is ridiculous, seen the situation they’re in. When she had spoken to him, yesterday, she’d been more candid and straightforward than anybody else who had been eyeing him and whispering behind his back.
“So,” she’d asked. “Why are you here?”
Enjolras had raised an eyebrow at her, and replied. “Same reason as you. For Grantaire’s hand.”
She’d hummed. “You use his familiar name?” At Enjolras’ pointed look, she’d continued, “You realize you’ve just ruined everybody’s chances, then?”
Enjolras had smiled at her. “That is my hope.”
She had wished him luck before their first heat, and he’d bent towards her and said, “That is kind. But I will not need it.”
He hadn’t. He hadn’t even needed Cosette’s help with sunlight, though he had not missed the way Floréal had been impeded by Hera.
He asks her why, as they strip off their armour.
“Zeus took my mother, and that’s how I came to be,” she replies. The bitter tone in her voice tells him what she cannot admit to, and he can’t help a scathing look to where the king of the gods seats, far above them.
“It is no use, of course,” Floréal says. “He does as he wishes. And Hera recognized me, so here I am.”
“That’s unfair,” Enjolras says.
“You said so,” Floréal says. She does not say, I cannot say so. “My mother is dead, of course, but I think my aunt believed this contest could lift the dishonour from me. She could not very well hurt me, if I won.”
Enjolras purses his lips. The far off sound of the horn signals the end of the last heat.
“I would wish you luck, if it weren’t against my interest,” Enjolras says. “Is an eternity with a stranger for a husband worth it?”
“He seems like a good man,” Floréal says it. “And marriages have thrived on less.”
Enjolras inclines his head. He says, “He is.”
He does not say, He is mine. Floréal seems to hear it anyway, and she smiles. She has a pair of very lovely blue eyes, and Enjolras realizes that he does like her, and would wish her the best outcome if things were different.
But things are not different, and he bids his squires to take his armour. He does not have a long break, the chariot race will be in less than an hour.
Combeferre meets him on the ground. As his sponsor, there is nothing suspicious about it. Enjolras looks up to the terrace, where Grantaire is still sitting with Hera. Cosette has made her way over to take Combeferre’s seat, and seems to be intent on distracting him. The fall of her hair, somewhere between blond and red, covers her face, but there is less tension in Grantaire’s shoulders than he’s seen in hours.
“Don’t worry about that,” Combeferre says, noticing the direction of his gaze. “We will be alright up there. You focus, now. Hera has picked chariots for a reason. For all we know, she might have bid Poseidon to help her.”
Horses are sacred to Poseidon. It would be incredibly easy to… adjust the results.
“You better make those horses love you,” Combeferre says.
It makes Enjolras smile. “I would have brought my own horses, if I’d known.”
He does well with horses, usually. They are born from sea-foam, like him, and they remember that. And if he makes them love him, they might even defy Poseidon for him. He knows his own horses would. Love does things like that.
“I think that’s the point,” Combeferre says.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Enjolras says. “Though we might be premature. We don’t even know if I’ve passed this challenge yet.”
Combeferre rolls her eyes and does not deign it with a reply. Instead, she turns right back around, her long, shimmering grey peplos swishing with her steps, and climbs back to the gods’ terrace.
The last thing she says is, “Watch out for Hypatos, and Cleodora and her sister. They’re right behind you in score.”
Only the first sixteen suitors make it to the next challenge. Enjolras is at the top, tied with Hypatos, with Cleodora right behind them by three points. Floréal is, despite Hera’s sabotage, half the list down from them, passing onto the chariots.
She gives him a fleeting smile, as the chariots appear, horses already in place and tossing their manes.
Enjolras spends a long time with the horses. They are wearing blinds, but Enjolras doesn’t need them to see him, just to feel his hands, and hear him whisper to them.
By the end, they do not love him like the horses back home, but he knows they can smell the sea on him, and feel the power in his hands. He doesn’t like to make things love him – that’s an ugly sensation, and deed. He does know how to be charming, and these two love easily. They are beautiful, tall and strong, snow-white and dark-eyed.
By the time he climbs on the chariot, he can feel their affection through their newly-minted link, and he is sure that Poseidon would have to go to great lengths to take them from his hands.
He sees Cleodora, who Combeferre named – one of Pandareos’ daughers – and her sister Merope not too far off. Their black hair is braided close to their scalp, long copper-brown arms strapped down and already tense around their bridles. He did not know they knew how to fight. Cleodora has the look of a warrior – her black eyes are steel – but Merope looks softer than such games are built for.
Hypatos is a few chariots down too, with his harsh jawline, his broad shoulders tanned golden by the sun.
It all seems patently unfair, just then. Not that it hadn’t seemed fair, earlier, but Enjolras had only been thinking of Grantaire. Of how painful it all was for him. It is also unfair for all the hopes Hera had sown, and people who would make fine spouses but poor charioteers, or runners, or warriors.
Suddenly, he can feel the hope in some of them – it is not quite love, but a type of longing that is almost close.
He looks up at the stands. Combeferre has taken her place by Grantaire’s side again, sitting tall as a spear. Her breastplate gleams. Grantaire is on the edge of his seat, and he is close enough that Enjolras can see his dark eyes, wide and expectant.
The strongest longing comes from him. Enjolras, already attuned, focuses on that.
The countdown sounds. At the end, so does the horn.
Enjolras barely has to spur the horses, whom he attuned to his mood, who feel the tension in his body, who love him. He did a pretty good job.
It is immediately not quite as easy as the foot race had been. Enjolras trusts his own body, he knows how far he can push himself, and he knows he is fast. He’s spent enough time running. It is not as simple as that, this time.
The Pandareides pull ahead, at first, Enjolras right at their heels. The world is reduced to the dust of the arena and the sound of wheels and shouts. The noise and smell of metal and sweat and horse.
Hypatos is behind him at first, and Enjolras is too concentrated ahead, focused on Merope’s back, as he gains on her. He hears shouts and noises behind him, but doesn’t waste time turning around to see.
Then, he hears Floréal shout in outrage. His horses, in front of him, start to spook, though they are not supposed to. They should be trained.
He soothes them through their link, best as he can. He needs them to be faster.
Then the world shakes, and the crashing noise of wood and metal is all around him. He is jerked so hard that he almost falls off. Almost. His horses scream.
Enjolras turns around to see Hypatos’ grinning face, through his helmet. Hypatos, who just knocked into him. He doesn’t know what look is on his face, but he knows the old anger rising from his belly like a wave. For a moment, he isn’t even thinking about the contest, or why he is here. It is merely an overwhelming rush of, How dare you, mortal?
He doesn’t know the look on his own face, but he can see the way the grin is wiped from Hypatos’ face – he sucks in a breath, which should not be loud in the chaos of the race, but is. Enjolras is good at projecting, making men weak at the knees.
He takes advantage of the brief moment Hypatos is thrown off balance, and reaches out to his horses, projecting his rage again. He stirs right, abruptly, and crashes into Hypatos’ chariot with double the force.
It knocks him sideways into Merope’s chariot, so that he is pressed between them for a moment, before she cries out and falls behind.
Enjolras corrects. They’re coming around the third bend. It probably wasn’t a wise maneuver to pull on a curve.
He is unsteady, but he manages to get control back, and he leaves Hypatos behind in the dust. It is only Cleodora ahead of him, her dark hair slipping free of braids, flying behind her. She is very good, and her horses are fast. He only gains on her in the last leg, and by then it is too late. When they cut the finish line, she is inches ahead of him.
Reality crashes in, then, and he pulls his chariot to a stop and lets out a shout of frustration. The rational part of his brain – which tells him that this is no tragedy, that he has points on Cleodora and that he is passing the challenge without a doubt – is silenced by the sense of having failed, and then of having failed Grantaire.
He takes off his helmet, which is a blessing, cool hair making it easier to breathe. He doesn’t look up at the terrace, because he doesn’t think he can meet Combeferre and Grantaire’s eyes right now.
He will be able to, in a moment. Nothing is lost. His pride is just slighted – he is a god. It is quite a common flaw, for them.
The announcement of the suitors passing onto the third challenge is not surprising except for the inclusion of Floréal. She is last, only passing by two points over the one below. Enjolras doesn’t have any more pride to spare to feel for her. He still nods at her when she throws him a look. Her face is streaked with dirt, and she looks exhausted.
The remainder of them is made up of godlings and demigods, and one lone mortal. Enjolras is quite sure Hera engineered it that way. He doesn’t think the big show for her glory would be satisfied by a mortal suitor.
It also makes him frown up at the terrace, finally. He looks at Hera, who is smiling and unperturbed. Surely it would be an even greater honour for her child to marry an Olympian.
His eyes find Grantaire right after. He’s still frowning, the same worried twist to his mouth, but he smiles when Enjolras finally looks up.
They can’t give each other clear signals from here. But Grantaire’s hand comes up to grip his right wrist. Enjolras, confused, raises his hands to mimic the gesture, and his breath catches when his hands touch warm metal, on his own wrist.
He grips the cuff on his wrist, and ducks his head. The discomfort in his chest eases, a little. When he looks up again, Grantaire is still smiling, and Enjolras is helpless not to smile back.
His eyes find Combeferre next. She’s tucked her own smile into her shoulder, and when she looks back at him her face is mostly blank. He knows her well enough to see the twinkle in her eye.
It is nearing evening, but the days are long, and there is still sunlight. The sun is just starting to dip low enough for the horizon to turn purple.
Hera stands. Her voice carries.
She announces that the last challenge will take place in the morning. It is a duel, until first blood.
There is a feast, after, because of course there must be a feast. The servants have a bit of a fuss, because they’re unsure whether Enjolras must eat with the other suitors, or in his assigned seat as an Olympian. Enjolras looks over it all with a vaguely amused expression.
Combeferre, finally, rolls her eyes and bids, “Aphrodite will sit at my side.”
She sits at Grantaire’s left, again, which means that she is the only thing separating him from Enjolras during the feast. It is almost too much to bear. They have not talked since Grantaire left him, sleep-soft, that morning.
“You look like you are sitting on a porcupine,” Combeferre says, through course number three.
“Did you only just notice?” Grantaire replies.
Combeferre takes a sip of her wine and keeps a completely blank face.
“Enjolras and I will rise soon,” she says. “We will walk out for fresh air. Wait a few minutes, before you follow. He says he will be waiting for you in the same place as last time.”
Waiting at the table, without the two of them, is one of the hardest things Grantaire has had to do. It also gives him time to think, however, so that by the time he stands to find the alcove again, he has more or less of a plan.
The curtains are pulled again, and when Grantaire peeks inside, he finds Enjolras leaning against the wall. He lights up when he sees Grantaire, and he is so lovely, and so close that it’s almost hard to –
“Wait,” Grantaire says, halting Enjolras in his tracks. “Come with me.”
He grabs Enjolras’ fingers, smooth in his larger hands, and looks both ways. No one is coming.
Enjolras lets out a laugh, as he is pulled along the hallway. He muffles it into a hand. His eyes are shining, and it’s all Grantaire can do not to pull him closer right now. But there’s a drawing room he remembers, not far from here. It has bookcases, and armchairs and –
He finds the door and ushers them inside. It’s all quite like he remembered, the wine red drapes and upholstery. It’s warm, and he used to read in here, sometimes, though the books are mostly annals and histories, and nothing about architecture or metallurgy at all.
It’s probably a bit too close to the feast hall, but Grantaire has not touched Enjolras in hours. Part of him doesn’t know when it became a need, after only two days, and the rest of him is surprised that he lasted decades only watching. Even though he would have. Kept his distance for the rest of his days, if Enjolras had never stumbled into his furnace, never looked at him twice.
“Grantaire.” Enjolras laughs, and tugs at his hand. There’s still dust all over him, and he’s sweated through the challenges, and there’s a little wine in him, only enough to make his eyes brighter.
He tugs Grantaire towards an armchair, and Grantaire can’t help laughing with him as he is pushed down to sit.
“I thought this might be better,” he says. “My neck starts to ache, after a while bending over you.”
“Are you calling me small?” Enjolras says. “How dare you.”
Grantaire raises an eyebrow. “It’s a statement of fact.” He smiles. “Beloved.”
Enjolras scoffs, affecting displeasure, and then straddles Grantaire in one movement.
“That was rude,” he says, scooting close, flush against Grantaire. “Beloved.”
Grantaire lost his words somewhere when Enjolras pressed warm all along his front. Enjolras presses even closer, in a slow grind that makes Grantaire groan and grow half-hard.
He can look up at Enjolras from here, which is one of his new favourite things. Enjolras is looking down through the fall of his curls, which he tucks behind his ear. He leans in to brush his nose, gently, against Grantaire’s.
A gentleness that he shatters immediately by grinding against Grantaire, again. Grantaire can feel him grow hard against him, which only makes his own situation more urgent.
“Enjolras,” he groans.
“Yes,” Enjolras says, showing teeth.
Then he’s sweeping down to kiss him, immediately wet and frantic, sucking Grantaire’s bottom lip into his mouth, swiping his tongue over it.
“I missed you,” Enjolras says.
Grantaire’s finally remembers he has hands. He slides them up Enjolras’ thighs, feels the warm muscle, clenching and shifting under his fingers, and Enjolras keeps rocking maddeningly. Grantaire grabs his hips and pulls him in harder against him.
Enjolras moans against his lips, open-mouthed. Grantaire slides his hands back, fingers spread against Enjolras’ backside, and feels a sharp smile pressed into the kiss.
“Hello,” Enjolras says, all but purring. It makes Grantaire laugh, and arch up to kiss him again, licking into his mouth.
The roll of Enjolras’ hips against him is dizzying. He holds Grantaire’s shoulders so tight Grantaire thinks he might leave bruises, uses them as leverage to drive himself forwards harder, making them both gasp.
He builds to a steady rhythm, just this side of not enough.
“Good?” he whispers, close.
Grantaire only groans. “They’ll know, when we come out.”
Enjolras shushes him gently, and brushes Grantaire’s hair from his forehead, tender in contrast with the way he’s grinding against Grantaire’s cock.
“They won’t know,” Enjolras says. “Do you think an erection would be easier to disguise?”
Grantaire laughs breathlessly. “I don’t know.”
He doesn’t care. Enjolras feels so good, moving against him in waves. Grantaire’s hands clench where they’re holding him, and make him hiss.
“Like this?” Enjolras asks. “What do you want?”
It’s never the easy question Enjolras makes it out to be. Grantaire looks up at him, shining with exertion above him, and blurts out, “Gods, but you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
He is. Kiss-bitten and dark-eyed and beautiful. There is some complicated emotion playing across his face. He bites his lip and lets out an amused huff of breath.
“I didn’t think it could sound new,” he says. There’s something very close to awe in his voice. “Say it again.”
It is no chore, to let his mouth run, to tell Enjolras how beautiful he is, how radiant, how good he feels under Grantaire’s hands. Calling him philtatos, again, and again, between kisses and slow rolls of their hips. That he shines, like this, full of new power.
Enjolras’ breath hitches every other thrust, and he’s started to make these lovely, breathless sounds. Grantaire recognizes them, and is delighted by the fact that they are becoming known.
“Your hands,” Enjolras commands, towards the end, the heat building.
Enjolras had said something about his hands last night, Grantaire remembers, as he trails fingers back to the tops of Enjolras’ thighs, and up where he’s hot and hard.
Enjolras kisses him hard, with teeth. He fists one hand in Grantaire’s hair, pulling him back to kiss across his jaw, down his neck.
His other hand finds Grantaire’s cock, and he times his strokes with Grantaire’s. He’s still rocking, pushing into Grantaire’s hand, holding Grantaire down.
Grantaire feels the heat building in his spine, in his belly, but watches Enjolras spill first. He didn’t have a chance to properly appreciate it the first time, but he is gorgeous – eyes half-lidded and lips parted on a moan. Golden, at the height of pleasure. Grantaire doesn’t take a long time to follow.
They pant into each other’s mouths for minutes, until Enjolras lets out a breathy laugh, and wipes his hand on the already-stained chiton.
“Didn’t I say so?” Grantaire says, though he’s also laughing.
“Hush, I can fix it,” Enjolras replies, though he makes no move to rise, or attempt to fix anything. He brings both hands up to card through the hair at Grantaire’s nape, and he rests their foreheads together. He closes his eyes. Breathes in.
Grantaire doesn’t close his. He watches the blurred outline of Enjolras, so close.
“You were beautiful out there, too,” he whispers. “You were amazing.”
Enjolras’ lips curl. “I was – inspired.”
Grantaire huffs another laugh. “One more day.”
“Yes,” Enjolras says. “Just one more.” Then he presses closer to Grantaire and adds, “I have already won where it matters.”
Grantaire can’t speak. They sit in silence for a minute more. But they have been gone a long time, and they must return, before they are missed.
Enjolras rises first, then bids Grantaire stand in front of him. He partially unravels his chiton, and Grantaire feels his cheeks heat, though it is foolish. Enjolras has seen him already.
Enjolras re-wraps the chiton so that the folds hide the stains, then does the same for his own, baring and recovering lovely expanses of skin.
He catches Grantaire’s eyes, and says, “Later, if you want. You could come back to me, later tonight.”
To spend another night with Enjolras warm at his side, and the sound of the sea outside – it is no choice at all. And yet.
“I will come,” Grantaire says. “But I will have to leave before dawn comes. You’ll need a sword.”
Enjolras cocks his head. “You have plenty in your armoury. Any one will do.”
“No,” Grantaire says, huffing. “Of course not. It has to be made for you.”
Enjolras rolls his eyes, but tugs at his chiton fondly. “I’d rather have you in my bed.”
“That is why,” Grantaire says. “You are the god of love. And I am the smithing god.”
Enjolras laughs. “Is this what our eternity will be like? Me trying to pry you from your work and into bed?”
It’s an offhand comment, but it opens up an ache, and a warmth, in Grantaire’s chest. He knows that won’t be quite true, because he has seen how seriously Enjolras takes his own work, out in the world. It still makes him smile.
“Nights will be yours, of course, always,” Grantaire replies. “Fires go out and men rest, at night.”
“Men rest,” Enjolras says, stepping close. “And other things.”
“As I said,” Grantaire says, and smiles into their kiss. “Nights are yours.”
Of course, Enjolras knows he won’t have to try very hard. That Grantaire’s attention is on him, always, whenever he is in the room.
The stadium has shrunk back to a mere one-stade, the next morning. Grantaire can feel the weariness from a night spent at the forge, working. It had been a while before the sword had felt right in his hands. He still has not named it, he is waiting for inspiration to strike. It has to be perfect, of course.
Grantaire is back in his uncomfortable seat, controlling his breath. His mother’s hand is on his wrist, burning.
“Isn’t it quite the success, my dear?” she says. “How fortunate.”
He makes a dull sound of assent. Combeferre is back at her place at Zeus’ right, but Cosette is cheerfully at his side, her smile gentle as the morning sun.
There were going to be several rounds, until the final duel, though it turns out that only the last is until first blood. Grantaire assumes this is done for suspense purposes, keeping the best for last.
No one could ever say his mother is not theatrical.
“He looks very well in that armour,” Cosette says, in an undertone.
“Doesn’t he?” he replies.
Grantaire is made of nerves, which isn’t unusual. It has been so for three days, and he has only unwound in small moments, when Enjolras was close enough that they could breathe the same air. He keeps trying to remember that he promised Enjolras he believed him, when he’d said that they’d be alright.
The suitors are presented to him one by one, and Grantaire’s heart races as Enjolras approaches the terrace, and trains warm dark eyes on him. He beams, like he has already won – like he has.
I have already won where it matters.
Enjolras bows his head, looks up through wisps of curls that have escaped his braid. He says, as Grantaire instructed him last night, “Polymetis, may I have a token of your favour? It would honour me.”
Grantaire thought he’d be more awkward with this, even though it had been his idea in the first place. He hadn’t wanted to entrust the sword to some storm wind to be carried to Enjolras – no, he’d wanted to press it into his hand himself. There is not much I can do, but I can do this.
But Enjolras’ dark eyes are steady on his, and his mouth is soft and smiling gently, and Grantaire can’t help but reciprocate, a little.
“I have no handkerchiefs or ribbons to give you, Pandemos,” he says. “But I can think of something.”
The sword is sheathed, at his side, and he takes it out slowly. It gleams in the morning light – Cosette’s smile widens on it – and it throws a shining reflection on Enjolras’ face, making him shine bronze and brown and gold.
Grantaire holds the sword out, arm sure, and Enjolras’ fingers close over his, on the hilt.
“Its name is Alianthes.” It comes to him as he says it. Sea-blooming.
The joy on Enjolras’ face is fierce and bright, and all of this – it’ll be worth it. It will be.
“I am honoured,” Enjolras says, sincere.
They do not linger, past one long shared looks. It’ll be alright. It’ll work.
Enjolras is swept away, and the rest of the suitors are presented. Grantaire doesn’t miss the amused smile on Floréal’s face. He thinks she has understood them both.
When he sits back down, his mother hums, and says, “I see.”
“What?” Grantaire says.
“Don’t play coy, darling,” she says. The undertone of heat in her words makes them bitter-sweet.
“I don’t know what you mean,” he replies. Though he does. Everybody does.
They have played it safe, until now, but the games are over. Grantaire has given his favour publicly. Not that people hadn’t suspected, he thinks. They would have been foolish not to.
He doesn’t become distracted, this time. There’s a first round of four battles, and Grantaire watches them all to attempt to see the strategy in it. He doesn’t have Combeferre to whisper wisdom to him, this time.
The Pandareides are on different sides of the stadium, and likely won’t face off, unless they make to the final duel. Which Grantaire knows they won’t, because one of those spots belongs to Enjolras, who is wearing his armour and wielding his sword.
Enjolras’ first opponent is a demigod, son of a nymph. Grantaire thinks he is vaguely familiar. It makes him laugh when Cosette leans in to whisper that he had been Enjolras’ own suitor once. The fierce grin on Enjolras’ face when he wins says it all.
On the other side of the stadium, Kharis and Merope face off for the first round, and Hypatos defeats his opponent. Grantaire doesn’t quite like the look of him. He has blue eyes and a very strong jaw. Enjolras also complained about him at length, in bed, a peculiar kind of pillow talk.
He also spoke of Kharis and said they called her Floréal. She wins her round, which doesn’t surprise Grantaire as much as it would have, before Enjolras told him about her. She’s good. I would have rooted for her.
The second round sees Enjolras against Cleodora, and it’s not quite as easy as the previous one. Cleodora is skilled – and most of all she is determined.
Grantaire remembers seeing her and her sister following after Hera, who had taken them in after the death of their parents.
“I will teach you to be proper women,” Hera had said. Grantaire remembers it like yesterday. He had been ten, and only just taken from Thetis’ household. Cleodora had wrinkled her nose at him, at first, and ignored him thereafter. Merope had been kind, and curious. He’d kept his distance, for obvious reasons.
Cleodora knows how to move – she’s fast, and light on her feet. Enjolras is her match, but it isn’t quite as easy as fighting someone who underestimates him because of his size.
Watching them is almost like watching a dance. For long minutes, they seem evenly matched. Wherever her sword falls, his meets her, and every one of his blows is parried.
Then, Enjolras starts gaining, pushing her back. In the end, it comes down to a close struggle, which Alianthes wins. Cleodora’s sword draws an arc in the air, torn from her hand.
The audience loves it, and Hera is smiling widely, clapping her hands.
“Well, it is an entertaining show,” she says. Her hand comes back down to hold him.
“Indeed,” Grantaire says. His heart has been racing since Enjolras stepped into the arena, but that’s just as well.
“It’s fortunate that we should have such lovely weather,” Cosette says, like she has nothing to do with it.
“The winds are kind to us,” Grantaire replies, turning to grin at her. It’s even halfway sincere.
Cosette grins back. “They better be.”
A roar from the crowd again. On their half of arena, Hypatos has disarmed and knocked Floréal to the ground. She lies in the dust clutching her arm close, and Grantaire sees Enjolras frown and make to rush over to her. He stops, when he sees attendants do so in his place.
“Oh dear,” Cosette says. “I might pop over and see, be right back.”
When Enjolras sees Cosette herself rush over, his shoulders relax. Floréal will be alright.
She is carried off to be tended to, and Enjolras and Hypatos ready themselves for the final act. The arena is cleared, and it shrinks to a more intimate size. Only one fight.
Grantaire thinks his heart may be trying to escape his chest. And it may be succeeding. He loses himself in a wild, vivid daydream – wouldn’t it be ironic, and entertaining, if he expired right in the middle of this whole production. Everyone would feel very foolish. They’d talk of it for millennia.
He’s startled out of his reverie when his mother rises. She spreads soft white arms and welcomes the final suitors, says some more things about glory.
It has been a long morning, and an even longer three days. Enjolras doesn’t often show weariness, but Grantaire can see it anyway – in the stiff way he carries his shoulders, and the subtle shifting of his weight, from foot to foot.
“You fight until first blood,” Hera says, as if they had not heard it the day before. As if the words hadn’t sparked an awful image, in Grantaire’s mind, of sweet ichor draining out of Enjolras.
Enjolras seems unperturbed. He looks up at Grantaire and brushes the gold at his wrist once. Smiles.
Then he takes his place, and his face is blank and fierce with concentration. Grantaire can see his serious mouth and eyes through the helmet, never leaving Hypatos, similarly arranged on the other side.
Grantaire worries. The fight with Cleodora had been harder than any Hypatos had gone through. Had that been by intentional design? Then again, Enjolras is a god, and Hypatos a demigod. The field is not level, even were their favour thus. And it isn’t. There’s no reason to worry.
There’s no way not to worry, when the horn sounds, and Hypatos swings at Enjolras. Grantaire doesn’t think he’d ever not feel like that, when sharp things are being swung at Enjolras.
Once, what feels like forever ago now – months, more realistically – Enjolras had come to him incensed and Grantaire had asked him how his suitor had thought he could beat a god.
They think me soft, Enjolras had said. Small and pretty.
Enjolras isn’t large, and he is beautiful. He has long limbs and pretty hands. But Grantaire has seen him take on giants.
Enjolras spent more time on battlefields than the stories know. He’d said, once, that most people in battle are there for love.
All the ones who are fighting to come home to someone, and all the ones who are fighting to protect someone, and all the ones who are fighting because they love an ideal.
This is immediately a different fight than the one with Cleodora. Enjolras dodges and parries with relative ease. He gives ground beneath Hypatos’ relentless assault, but does not look distressed. His dark eyes are calculating. He’s taking his time studying.
Then he stops giving Hypatos ground. He starts pushing back, and it’s immediately evident that he is deceptively strong. Really, three days of games should have proved it extensively, but appearances go a long way.
It’s hard to discern Hypatos’ expression through his helmet, from this far away, but it’s easy to see the surprise in his body language. Hera shifts beside Grantaire, but he doesn’t have the heart to look away from the fight.
Enjolras is finally starting to drive Hypatos back, forcing him on the defensive, almost landing a few blows. He does not manage to spill blood, yet.
He seems to be getting closer to it, and then – the ground shifts beneath Enjolras, and Grantaire feels the panic shooting through his eyes like it were his own, feels his own stomach swoop. Enjolras loses his balance, but the wind is suddenly at his back, allowing him respite to find his footing again. Hypatos comes at him in that brief moment of unbalance, and it’s all Enjolras can do to duck and avoid him. Even the loss of control can’t make up for how fast Enjolras is.
Grantaire sees the golden reflection of Alianthes, where the sun hits it at just the right angle, thrown over Hypatos’ face. It’s a trick. Enjolras doesn’t take the easy shot, but does take advantage of it to put Hypatos on the defensive again. Driving him back relentlessly, until he finds an opening.
Grantaire doesn’t see red blood spatter the sand, but he does hear the horn blow, so loud it resonates in his ribcage. Before he knows it, he is standing, as if it could bring him closer to see.
That’s when he sees the glint of red on Enjolras’ blade, and he lets out a long-held breath. His head spins, and his heart races, and he thought he’d feel like a weight had been lifted, but that’s not it at all.
Instead, it’s a rush, too many overwhelming emotions translating into the pounding of his heart, and the way his fingers shake. He stays standing, though, and feels the Olympians stand with him. The crowd is roaring, barely audible over the rush of Grantaire’s own blood in his ears.
The squires run forward, but Enjolras dodges them and comes straight for the terrace. He doesn’t even go around, through the gaps in the barriers, but jumps right over them. He’s wrenched his helmet away, and stray curls halo him in gold. His blade is still stained, and he looks fierce with his victory.
And then he is close enough that Grantaire can see the soft light in his eyes, and feel the undeniable gravity of his presence – he can’t help but stumble forward to meet him.
Enjolras thrusts the hilt of his sword forward, as if to hand it back to him. The smile on his lips has lost the fierce edge, and Grantaire can recognise it now – it’s the one he saw in the alcove, and the past few nights, and so often at the forge in the many months he had been oblivious, had not thought he might be reciprocated. It’s his.
Grantaire covers his hands on the hilt, warm skin and warm metal, and Enjolras surges forward to kiss him.
It’s not a refined kiss – their lips press together too fiercely – but for a moment everything goes quiet, and there it is. The weight being lifted.
The world comes back. They come apart, and Hera walks forward.
“Pandemos,” she says, only. She is smiling, though that means nothing. “Congratulations.”
“I am honoured,” Enjolras says, for the second time today, and does not take his eyes from Grantaire for a long moment.
There is a wreath of golden laurels in Cosette’s hands. She has left the medics and is at Enjolras’ side in a moment.
“Allow me,” she says, bowing towards Hera, who nods in her direction.
She pulls back his hair so she can arrange the laurels on his head, and only then does Enjolras finally look away from Grantaire, bowing his head to receive her.
Then Enjolras turns shining eyes back on him. Grantaire’s heart has taken flight.
It’s a triumph, of course, and Grantaire can’t look away from Enjolras’ laureled head.
They have moved the celebration to the feast hall, bigger and more elaborate than any they have thrown in the past three days. And they have tried very hard in the past three days.
Enjolras started on the dais with them, but was soon pulled down by nymphs, to be fawned over and offered nectar. Grantaire thinks he’s probably expected to join. He knows Enjolras will turn to find his eyes soon enough. He likes the inevitability of it – of Enjolras seeking him out. He’s starting to believe in it, even.
Except Hera makes a sound, at his side, and Grantaire turns to her. And then he cannot stop looking at her face.
He knows that face. Her smile is gone, and her skin is porcelain, marble. Her mouth is hard-set. She is on the edge of something terrible.
Elation turns to lead. His hands shake, but the fear in his chest is overtaken, this once. It’s a new, heady thing, to feel something stronger than fear.
“May I speak with you?” he says, his eyes never leaving her.
This startles her. She turns her eyes – his own eyes – against him. “Whatever for?”
“I think you know,” he says. He’s already rising. “It’s overdue, I think.”
It is a coincidence that they end up in the same room – the drawing room right around the corner, where he led Enjolras just yesterday, where they made love. It’s a coincidence, but a glad one, because it makes him keep his strength.
“What more do you want?” Grantaire says, not turning to look at her. “You had your show, and it was won by a god. You had your glory. Nobody can say you have failed. What more do you want from me?”
“Is that how you want to speak to me, Hephaistos?”
Grantaire does turn, then. She’s smiling, but she’s always smiling at him. Honey-sweet and traitorous. There’s something in the line of her shoulders, in her eyes, that belies it every time.
“Are you determined to ruin my life?”
“Even after all these years, you still act like a child,” she says. “Not everything is about you.”
Grantaire laughs. It’s a harsh sound, and it burns in his throat.
“No, it’s about you,” Grantaire says. “Tossing me out and then bringing me back just to throw me away gain. This entire farce. It is never about me.”
They look at each other, and through that burning in his chest, Grantaire can feel centuries-old weariness.
“If I am childish and spiteful,” he says. “It is because I learned it from you.”
Her smile is gone, which has only ever meant bad things. Worse than when she is deceptively chipper.
“You know what happens,” she says. “When you defy me.”
Grantaire scoffs “And also when I don’t – this happens.”
They look at each other for a beat, then Grantaire says, “I will marry him. He won. I’m marrying him. I would have married him if he had not won. You can go ahead with whatever tantrum you had planned to throw, and we will just have to defy you publicly. But let things run their course, and you will have your glory.”
Hera cocks her head to the side and looks at him with long-lashed eyes for a long moment.
“It is very clever,” she says. Her voice is poison to him. “Is it really such an evil, to want my son to make a good marriage? Is it such an evil to want to be recognized for the things I have done?”
She laughs. “Aphrodite competed for my son’s hand and bested thirty-two suitors. Is there greater glory?”
Grantaire falters. “Then why – ?”
Her pink mouth twists. “He makes you arrogant. I do not like him.”
Of course. He should have known this was about power. She does not like being defied, even if it is in private.
“Yes, it’s all very clever,” she says. She walks towards him, and he does his best not to flinch as her soft hand comes to skim his jaw. “You must truly be my son, after all.”
She leaves him with that, a cold stone in his chest. He stands there for a long time, while the celebration carries on, and wonders why winning never feels like winning, with her.
The feast is cleared, and the night has grown older, and Grantaire still isn’t back from where he had disappeared with Hera. Enjolras is confused.
The joy in his chest, which had been a roaring fire before, is dulled somewhat. He looks into the crowd and tries to find Grantaire, and is about to go look for him outside when he feels a soft hand on his shoulder.
It’s Cosette, with her golden eyes.
“He has left,” Cosette says. “You should follow. Eponine said that she saw him head to Aetna.”
So Enjolras follows, and finds himself at the foot of the mountain again, with the sea at his back and the mouth of Grantaire’s home before him.
Our home, he dares to think, questioningly. Perhaps. They have not talked about that yet.
No spirits or servants are afoot, as Enjolras makes his silent way into the mountain. He knows the way with eyes closed, he can almost fancy he can sense the molten core of the volcano. He follows the heat to the heart of Grantaire’s forge.
He finds Grantaire standing, backlit with the fire, a hand on his cane and one on the workshop table, scarred and used. It’s almost like every time he has been here, except for the quiet, and the steady fire in his chest, and the knowledge that they belong to each other now.
“Have you come calling again?” Grantaire does not need to see him to know. “Avoiding suitors?”
It makes Enjolras’ mouth curl in private irony.
“It seems the tables have turned slightly,” Enjolras says. I come as a suitor. “I was hoping I might stay.”
He doesn’t know why his voice hitches on the last word. It almost feels too powerful. To stay.
Grantaire hears it, of course. He turns around. There’s a tightness in his shoulder that’s easing bit by bit.
He smiles. “I don’t know. I was hoping we could spend the summers on the sea.”
Suddenly, Enjolras can’t quite speak. He just has to get closer, to walk up to Grantaire and into his arms. Grantaire sets his cane down and wraps both arms around him, and they stand like that for a long moment, right in the heat of the furnace.
Grantaire melts into him by increments, until he lets out a last breath, nose buried in Enjolras’ hair. He breathes in. Lets go.
“Why did you leave?” Enjolras asks. “All those people, in there, celebrating us, and I couldn’t find you.”
“I spoke to my mother,” Grantaire says, which makes Enjolras’ heart race, and cold fear shoot through his blood. Until Grantaire says, “She won’t stand in our way. But – she has a way to – ”
One of Enjolras’ hands comes up to card through his hair gently.
“I know,” he says. “I know, I know. But it’s over.”
“It never quite is,” Grantaire says. “She got what she wanted.”
“Grantaire.” Enjolras pulls his hand away, cups Grantaire’s face in his hands. “So did we. We stood our ground and we didn’t give in. If she comes for you again, we’ll stand. Again.”
Grantaire’s eyes are dark, and reflect the flickering light, like they did when Enjolras first kissed him. It’s a sobering thought, and Enjolras doesn’t want it to be a memory that taints all the moments they spend here. So he rises on his toes and kisses Grantaire, gently, like the first time.
This time, Grantaire presses back without hesitation, lips soft and pliant. His arms are tight around Enjolras.
“We won,” Enjolras says, when they part. “Whatever happens, we can face it together now. And with our friends.”
Grantaire sighs, and leans in close, sharing breath.
Enjolras brushes a curl from his forehead and says, “You’re not alone, beloved.”
Grantaire takes a long time to speak, swallowing around the emotions Enjolras can see warring on his face. His eyes are closed.
When he opens them, they’re a bit glossy, but lively. He smiles.
He says, “We’re getting married.”
The roaring joy from before comes back, untempered. Enjolras feels it bloom on his face, impossible to control. He doesn’t want to, anyway, not when he can see the same feeling mirrored right back, in Grantaire. They are attuned, two strings playing the same note.
Enjolras doesn’t know who initiates this kiss, but it doesn’t matter. It’s messy, and neither of them can stop smiling enough to make it less so. It’s good, as it is.
They have the long span of their endless lives to get it right.
I'm still a bit stunned this is over. Thank you for making it this far.
You can find me, as usual, on tumblr at seagreeneyes.
I am definitely picking this 'verse back up for a few codas. Some are about E/R, and their wedding, though most of them are about things that didn't make it into this fic. For starters, Bahorel, Feuilly and Marius! And Valjean and Fantine. The first meeting between Combeferre and Courfeyrac, and possibly Jehan and Courfeyrac's travelling adventures.
It might take me a while, but stay tuned...
- The Pandareides were Pandareos’ daughters. There was a bunch of them. After he and his wife died Cleodora and Merope were taken in by Aphrodite (which we’re ignoring), and taught by Hera to be ‘proper women.’ I think Athena taught them to weave and stuff but we’re ignoring that also. When it came time to find them husbands they were swept away by a storm wind to be handmaidens of the Furies, which as you know, if you follow me on tumblr, I wouldn’t mind happening to me. In no way does it concern our story, but please imagine that that’s what happens to them after this.
- I made Hypatos up, because the only other guy I could find who had Hera’s favour was Jason, and I didn’t want to write Jason. Vaguely based on him, though. I hate Jason.
- Yes, the token is anachronistic as far as I know but we’re doing this for the hashtag romance of it all.
As always, you can find me on tumblr at seagreeneyes