No matter how much Enjolras tries to breathe deeply and channel Thomas Keller, he cannot deny that what he’s watching is no less than a total meltdown of his kitchen, the team at the Barricade restaurant that he has worked so hard to build and train. It is seven thirty on a Saturday night and his friends are in the weeds as they try desperately to cook faster than the orders are coming in. Enjolras, expediting on the other side of the line, is doing his best to guide them through the storm of tickets, but by this time everyone is shouting at each other, encouragement and invective and questions mixed together. It is chaos.
Combeferre, his executive sous chef and strong right arm, is supposed to be helping him expedite, but Enjolras sent him back to help Feuilly manage the twenty steaks he’ll have at any given moment on the thousand degree broiler. Courfeyrac, who’s number three and a faster cook, though far less calm and organized, is ricocheting back and forth with a sauté pan, helping put up side dishes and fish and getting in the way of the three people trying to do exactly the same thing: Jehan, Joly, and Bossuet.. Down on the end of the line Eponine and Bahorel are doing fairly well, all things considered, putting up salads and fried appetizers, but none of them are coordinating anything. Enjolras has food for five tables up in the window, but none of them are completely ready to send out
He is ready to tell Combeferre to trade places with him, to throw himself into the line and try to lead from there while the older man manages the irate customers and distraught servers pestering him about how long their tables have been waiting for food. He is about to throw a sauté pan across the kitchen and take off his apron forever. Enjolras does not do any of these things, however, because a large, callused hand falls on his shoulder and a calm, accented voice is speaking in his ear. “Calm down, lad.”
He is opening his mouth to say he doesn’t know what when Monsieur Valjean raises his voice and addresses the line. “Gentlemen, lady-” with a nod to Eponine “-I need you all stop for a moment and look at your tickets.” The kitchen goes nearly silent, with only a yelp from Joly as he drops a pan to peer at his orders. “Please give me tables 56, 42, and 31 first, and then continue as your chef directs you. You’re all doing splendidly.” A few of the cooks actually smile, though Courfeyrac is still swearing a blue streak under his breath.
Enjolras feels some of the tension leave his shoulders as Valjean lowers his voice again. “Cosette and I will pacify them with alcohol, lad, for just as long as you need to make certain the food is perfect.” And with another reassuring squeeze the elderly man is gone, and Enjolras can breathe again.
He is deeply grateful for an understanding owner who not only knows people but food as well, and for his daughter, who is sprightly and pours a strong drink. And for Combeferre, who is calling five minutes on table 56, seven on 42. Enjolras bellows for hands to run the food and three servers appear as though by magic. The tables go out and the kitchen regroups. Bahorel even laughs a little and stops threatening to fry the next person who asks him for pommes frites.
Two hours later the rush is over and Enjolras tells Courfeyrac, who’s been there since morning, that he can go home and calls Combeferre to take his place out on the expo line. As though by magic, Cosette appears with a blinding smile and four shots of Jameson, and they all knock one back. Enjolras doesn’t drink socially, hardly drinks at all, rare in a kitchen, but this night they’ve gotten through hell, and solidarity with his sous chefs- and the best bar manager in the city- is paramount.
Throat burning, he heads back to the office to change before he leaves, stopping to check on Gavroche and Azelma, who are still washing up the mountains of dishes, and Fantine, who’s even busier than usual at the pastry station. Enjolras wonders how many desserts they’re giving away tonight to placate people complaining about how long they waited for dinner. She stops rolling quenelles long enough to kiss him on the cheek and ask if he survived. When he shrugs and rolls his eyes, she pokes a macaroon into his mouth, ignoring his protests entirely.
Once he’s closed the office door firmly behind him, Enjolras sinks into the lone chair and begins unbuttoning his red double-breasted jacket. He is tempted to kick off his clogs as well, since he arrived before Courfeyrac and has been on his feet ever since, but the door opens. When he sees who it is, Enjolras bites back a curse and scrambles out of the chair, reaching for his hoodie, but Valjean waves him down. “Sit down, lad. God knows you deserve it.”
“I’m very sorry about tonight, sir,” Enjolras says, but he does sit back down as the older man closes the door behind him.
“Quite unnecessary.” Valjean gives a small, Gallic shrug and sips his glass of wine. “Five hundred people ate your food tonight, and most of them liked it.”
Enjolras is not quite sure what to say to this. He learned shortly after being hired last year that arguing with Jean Valjean is a bad idea, but Enjolras is also learning slowly that he tolerates pride in no one, least of all himself. “We are not Burger King,” the old man goes on. “People in this country need to learn that food takes time to prepare properly. Patience is a virtue, as you say.”
Enjolras looks up to see a smile crinkling around the edges of Valjean’s eyes, and he tries to smile himself, though weakly. He cannot help the deep-seated failure that he still feels over the chaos of tonight. The hand descends on his shoulder once more as Valjean continues. “You would do well to be more patient with yourself, lad. You’ve come very far very fast.”
Enjolras cannot argue with him, could not argue with Combeferre when he told him the same thing a week ago. “Thank you, sir,” he manages. He knows he is terribly young to be executive chef of anywhere, much less the newest fine dining sensation in the city, but he tries to make up for it by pushing himself even harder than he did in culinary school, as hard as he saw the chefs he staged with in France push their brigades.
“Now, you’re off tomorrow, yes?” Valjean fixes him with a piercing stare, well aware that when Enjolras is off he nearly always manages to find some pressing reason to come in to the restaurant for at least a few hours. “I don’t want to see your face all day.”
Enjolras sighs and nods, but he goes on. “And on Monday I’ve made you an appointment here.” He hands Enjolras a folded bit of paper.
Suddenly on guard, Enjolras reads it hurriedly, then once more, to be certain. “A soup kitchen?”
Valjean sets his empty glass down by the computer. “I imagine they were quite busy tonight, as well, and that none of their patrons complained about having to wait for a meal. It would do you good to see how their operation runs.”
Enjolras nods, unable to hide his dismay. What has he done that he’s being sent to a kitchen for the homeless? Valjean continues but does not really answer his puzzlement. “When I had nothing in my pockets and nowhere to go, I could always count on a hot meal at this establishment, with no questions asked and no judgment.”
This is enough to finish startling Enjolras out of his misery over the night. He knew that Monsieur Valjean has not always been a successful restauranteur, has heard Cosette tell stories about her childhood, has seen the look in Fantine’s eyes when plates of food go into the trash untouched, but he has never heard Valjean himself speak like this. “Yes, sir,” he says again, hastily. “Of course.”
“It will do you good,” Valjean repeats, sounding quite sure of himself. “Now go home so I can see how much money you made me tonight.” He is already bent over the computer, pulling up the night’s figures. Enjolras sneaks a glace at the screen as he stands, and what he sees makes him feel a bit better.
He is still quiet as he goes out, though, walking the short distance to his car and driving the few miles to his apartment without even turning on the radio. After he showers and lies in bed he cannot sleep, so he pads to the kitchen and makes himself an omelet. It is the first time he has cooked for himself alone in he cannot remember how long. He does not own a television, so he pulls Daniel Boulud’s Letters to a Young Chef off one of the bookcases and reads until he falls asleep curled on the couch, the plate forgotten on the coffee table.
Enjolras wakes slowly from a combination of sun in his eyes and cramping in his shoulders and thighs. He sits up and stretches slowly, trying to shade his eyes with his book. It doesn’t quite work, and he rolls off the couch swearing over never having gotten around to buying curtains. A chalky mouth and aching head send him staggering toward the kitchen wondering what on earth happened the night before. He is not hungover, has not been hungover since France.
There is a lone bottle of Pellegrino in the refrigerator, and he downs a quarter of it, letting the carbonation wash away the sticky feeling on his tongue. His phone is blinking on the kitchen counter, and when he catches sight of the time he has to peer closer. It is 10:52 in the morning. He cannot remember ever having slept so late in his life, never mind that it is his day off, never mind that his boss has specifically forbidden him to come into work. Enjolras leans against the counter and wonders what on earth he’s going to do today.
Although an idealist at heart, the profession he’s chosen is slowly making him a pragmatist, so Enjolras starts a load of laundry, mostly work clothes. He rarely wears anything else these days. The milk next to the Pellegrino is lumpy and sour, but the apple juice is fine, so Enjolras drinks that as he rummages in the pantry, which contains five types of salt, three different honeys and a full spice rack but very little in the way of breakfast food.
A thorough search turns up a package of steel-cut oats that is neither out of date nor stale, with microwave directions printed on the back. Enjolras feels slightly ashamed as he follows them, adding some berries from the freezer for good measure, but he tells himself that no one will know. It is hardly less nutritious than the smoothie he usually buys on the way to work, in any case.
When the oatmeal is cooked through but still too hot to swallow, Enjolras takes the bowl and the bottle of water back to the couch, finding himself wishing once again that he owned a television, that he knew how to tune out and vegetate. That he did not feel compelled to reshelf the book and wash the plate leftover from the night before. But he does, and after it’s done he sits down and shrugs and eats his breakfast, not knowing how to be any other way.
When he’s almost finished his phone beeps again. It’s a text from Cosette, hoping he’s all right. He texts back a smiley face, taking a moment to find the rarely-used characters. She replies almost immediately to say that she hopes he enjoys his day off. He does not reply because he cannot think of how to. Instead, he texts Courfeyrac, to tell him to double-check the produce delivery because the Thenardiers have been unreliable lately. And then he texts Combeferre to remind him that they need to run a fish special tonight to use up the extra lemon sole in the walk-in.
Both of his chefs text him back within seconds of each other to remind him that he’s off today. From Combeferre it’s a simple “Done. Enjoy your day off,” but Courfeyrac has mastered a variety of emoticons, but not, Enjolras realizes, a few basic rules of grammar and etiquette. “I do not need to get laid,” he texts back after a moment of glaring at the phone. “Do not ruin my menu with substandard ingredients.” Courfeyrac sends him a picture of two men in an alley committing an act that is still illegal in many countries. Enjolras stares at it for a moment before sending Courfeyrac a picture of a frowning cat. Courfeyrac is quick to respond with a picture of the same cat with a rude caption even less grammatical than his first text. Enjolras turns his phone off for the first time in months and goes to take a shower.
His bathroom isn’t large, but in the shower there’s enough room for him to lean against the tile wall and let the water wash over him, as scalding as he can get it from the tap. For all of his unruliness, Courfeyrac is a capable sous chef and Combeferre will be there to temper his exuberance and double-check everything. Enjolras has known both of them for years. He and Combeferre met in culinary school, and they’ve worked with Courfeyrac at two jobs before this one. The Barricade will be fine.
But it wasn’t fine last night, says a small voice in his head. Tonight isn’t Saturday, Enjolras tells himself firmly. But there’s a banquet tonight, replies the voice. “It’s only forty people,” Enjolras says aloud about the water before he reaches down to take himself in hand.
He discovered in high school that masturbation can banish the whispers of self-doubt for a little while, and while he knows that regular release is healthy, he’s never felt it was a personal biological imperative. “Gay,” says Courfeyrac’s voice in his head, and Enjolras tells him to shut up, quite firmly. He does not want to think about Courfeyrac at all just now.
It takes him a while to settle on someone to think about, though. He knows that those of his cooks not sleeping with each other are either married or madly in love with Cosette and deathly afraid of her father. He also knows that she’s only ever gone home with Eponine, though both of them have sworn him to secrecy. He values Cosette’s friendship and hard work, and Eponine’s too, but neither of them is really his type.
Enjolras takes a moment to consider what his type might be. Someone driven, certainly, someone who’d understand the industry and his passion for food. Preferably someone with a similar schedule who’d understand why he works eighty hours a week. But they would understand that, the small voice says. And both of them would. But somehow that fact remains irrelevant, and his list of qualities that would make the perfect partner is distinctly not arousing, Enjolras finds.
He shrugs and continues stroking himself absently, aware that nothing is compelling him to find a partner, but Enjolras is not a man who does anything casually, and that extends to his love life, which is probably why he does not have one. He could, though, he tells himself. He could find a friend (“With benefits,” adds Courfeyrac.”) or a stranger. He could pick someone up and take them home and fuck them. He could do any number of things. Enjolras is aware that he’s attractive, that people admire him. Azelma told him the week before that three of the servers have crushes on him. It would not do to sleep with someone from the front of the house, though, Enjolras feels.
A stranger, then. He tilts his head back and imagines someone tall, to match his height, with dark hair, for contrast. A Frenchman like his first lover, but softer, less bitter, with a sweet mouth and gentle hands and a wicked, wicked tongue. Enjolras’s cock jumps at the thought. He names the man in his mind Francois and thinks of him on his knees in front of Enjolras, licking him, swallowing him. Yes, that’s it, he thinks, feeling himself grow warm from more than the water.
And after he brought him to the very edge of climax, Francois would lay him down and take him slowly, thrusting deeply until Enjolras writhed beneath him, unable to do anything but beg for release. He holds himself on the edge now and reaches behind to slip a finger into himself. It slips in easily, so he adds another, stretching himself open as though preparing for a lover. The third finger he slides in burns enough to make him moan and bite his lip, and before he knows it, Enjolras is coming. He keeps fucking himself deeply as the orgasm wracks him, pulling out only when he can’t stand up anymore and has to slide down the tiles into the tub.
Still gasping as the spasms fade away, Enjolras bows his head under the water. Yes, he thinks, Francois is quite enough for right now.
The shower leaves him drained mentally and physically, so Enjolras spends the rest of the day doing things he doesn’t think of as important. He dries and folds his laundry, laying out clothes for the next day. He will be off but not quite off, so he decides on dark jeans and a plain black chef coat and skull cap.
He pads around the apartment naked, cleaning the already neat space, throwing out the things in the refrigerator that have gone bad and making a small shopping list. He thinks about calling someone to go out to dinner with, but really, everyone he knows is at work, and he’s not going to think about that, because then he will have to turn his phone back on and look at all the pictures that Courfeyrac has found to send him.
He ends up slipping into a worn hoodie and soft old black work pants and walking two blocks to Whole Foods, where he buys butter and milk and cereal and the makings of dinner for one omnivore who spends his life thinking about food and touching food and feeding other people. It is all a bit much to carry home on foot, but he manages, and the short walk in the dusk is pleasant.
He puts away the groceries and sets about making a plate for himself as though a prospective employer is watching him, gauging his skills. He sautés the lamb chops and pats off the excess oil, letting the juices reduce for the pan sauce while he dresses the mesclun in a sherry vinaigrette which Enjolras feels took him far too long to emulsify. He worries that he is losing his touch with a whisk and contemplates making hollandaise as an exercise. Perhaps at work, where the butter is already clarified and the yolks already separated, he thinks, and then wonders if he’s getting lazy in the kitchen. But then the sauce is done and he composes his plate and takes it to the couch to eat, wishing he had a real dinner table. But really, he thinks, what would he do with it? Tables are for eating at with people, and he’s always the one who makes them the food to eat.
The lamb is delicious, even he has to admit, and in a fit of pettiness he sends a picture of the last perfectly browned chop to Courfeyrac, who replies more aspersions about Enjolras’ sex life. He turns his phone off again and goes to clean up the kitchen.
After everything has been put away he pours a very small glass of port and lies on the couch. It will be the middle of the dinner rush at Barricade by now, and he hopes that Marius, who does prep in the morning, actually made Caesar dressing. Not that Eponine would yell at him if he forgot. Enjolras is not quite sure what’s going on there, but he’s sure it isn’t good for the restaurant. Cosette’s involved somehow, and he hopes for her sake that she’s happy with it. Enjolras really doesn’t know how to ask her about it.
The port finished, he takes an Ambien and makes himself lie in bed until it knocks him out. He dreams in confusing, smoky images: gun shots and cannon fire, Eponine crying, and thick red blood everywhere. When he wakes at dawn he gets up at once, too sickened to try to sleep again.
The appointment Monsieur Valjean made him is not until ten, but Enjolras leaves as soon as he’s dressed and sufficiently caffeinated that he can speak civilly with others. He figures that if they need help in the kitchen he can offer his services early and hopefully escape soon enough to get over to the Barricade in time to oversee the lunch rush.
The receptionist, who seems to be some kind of nun, is the only person in the building as far as he can tell, but she cheerfully points Enjolras down to the kitchen and thanks him for coming. The hallway and stairs feel like a hospital or a prison, and Enjolras can only hope they have decent facilities.
All kitchens look basically the same, though, and this one is no exception. Enjolras is slightly impressed until he heads to the back and hears swearing. The only other person in the kitchen is a young man with unruly black hair wearing an Avengers teeshirt and cargo shorts under his apron. Enjolras stares at him as he wrestles with the tabletop can opener. After a moment more cursing at the handle, the man looks up and stares back. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“Shouldn’t you be wearing a hair net?” is all Enjolras can think to say.
“What?” The man scowls at him. “Listen, buddy, I run this kitchen. I can wear whatever the fuck I want as long as I put the food out.”
Both Enjolras’ eyebrows shoot up and he blinks. “That’s not health code. I came here to speak with the chef. Are you telling me you’re him?” Things must have changed since Monsieur Valjean was here, he thinks. He can’t imagine what kind of food this person must think it’s all right to serve.
“Not a chef,” the man snaps. “No stupid hat, no fancy coat. Just me, and you know what?” He points in the general direction of the main dining hall. “No one out there gives a fuck.”
“Probably because they don’t have a choice about what they’re eating,” Enjolras snaps back.
“You’re a prick, you know that?” The man turns back to opening the cans. “What the hell are you doing here, anyway?”
“I’m volunteering,” Enjolras tells him, feeling vaguely sheepish and wondering if he’ll get thrown out now, and if so, what will he tell Monsieur Valjean. He holds up his knife roll and apron as proof.
“Oh, are you now?” The man turns back to him with a smirk. “That’s just lovely. Community service, probably. .Bet you don’t know a thing about food.”
Enjolras does not dignify this with a response. If this idiot doesn’t recognize him from the review in the Observer, he’s not going to spell it out. Instead, he turns away to tie on his apron and lay out his knives. “You won’t need those,” the man says behind him. “Not that I’d trust you to use them, anyway.” Enjolras grits his teeth and puts his paring knife on his steel, honing the already sharp blade. The rasping does nothing to drown out the mocking voice behind him. “Do you know how many people you could have fed with what those knives cost?”
Enjolras whirls, rage rising. “Do you know how many people I’ve fed with these knives?” he growls. “Do you know anything at all?”
“Know enough,” the man spits back. “Know you’re not better than me or anyone else. And you can get to work or get the fuck out of my kitchen. And put the knife down.”
It takes Enjolras a moment to realize that he’s holding the short knife out in front of him, a cardinal sin in any kitchen. He puts it down, trying to tamp down his anger. There is no way he’s leaving now. Not before he’s shown this idiot a thing or two.
The idiot is pointing toward the row of #10 cans. “Do you think you can handle finishing those and putting them in a pot?”
Mutely, Enjolras nods and starts opening the cans. “Chicken Parmesan’s on the menu today,” the man informs him. “Do you think you can handle making marinara sauce?”
“My specialty is actually French cuisine,” Enjolras informs him bitterly, taking a spatula to scrap the cans clean with.
“What did I do to make you think I gave a good goddamn what your specialty is?” the man inquires, his voice now dangerously calm. “This is my kitchen and it’s my sauce.”
Enjolras thinks that this is far worse than all the chefs who shouted at him in France and America together. He wishes now that he had not put down the knife. Gritting his teeth, he tips the cans of tomatoes into the rondo and turns on the gas to start them reducing, wondering how much worse this morning is going to get.
Without a word, a plastic covered recipe is slapped onto the table beside him, followed shortly by a Lexan full of rough cut mirepoix. Although he privately feels that he could make marinara sauce in his sleep, Enjolras sneaks a glance at the recipe. It is standard, classic, something he would serve if Barricade were that kind of restaurant. He looks up into a sneer. “You got that, Rachel Ray?”
Instead of punching him, Enjolras ducks his head and takes the recipe. “Yes, chef,” he says quietly, which is the only thing to say when someone is yelling at you in the kitchen. It has always worked in the past, and Enjolras dearly hopes that now it will get him left alone to cook food he could think about being proud of.
Enjolras spends the next two hours finishing the sauce and trimming, pounding out, and breading hundreds of chicken breasts. It is the kind of monotonous, mindless prep that he hasn’t done since his time in France, and so he pretends that that is where he is, and that Jean-Luc, his saucier and first real boyfriend is around the corner sneaking a cigarette and planning what he’ll do to his little American plaything that night.
Jean-Luc was an education in more ways than one, as relentless in the kitchen as he was in the bedroom. He pushed Enjolras to practice his French until the second language was second nature, pushed him to have one glass of wine, then two; a kiss, then a little fumbling before they parted ways at closing time.
Jean-Luc is the reason his knives are perfectly sharp and his cuts are perfectly neat, though Enjolras performed quite adequately in culinary school. Jean-Luc is the reason he can take any measure of his sexuality at all, because Jean-Luc gave him just less than what he wanted for over a week before Enjolras made the first move, and they went from deep kissing to frottage in the walk-in cooler. He taught Enjolras to peel a new potato so it is perfectly round, as well as how to swallow without choking, and oh, did Enjolras swallow.
He ignores the taunting, this time in English, and takes his frustration out on the chicken, pounding it like Jean-Luc would pound him into the mattress after a busy Friday night. The chicken has absolutely no hope in this world, and neither did a nineteen-year old in a strange country, which Jean-Luc knew perfectly well, and he did his best to help most of the time and was quite selfish the rest.
They were together half of the eighteen months Enjolras spent abroad, but at the end of it, Enjolras would not stay in France and Jean-Luc wouldn’t leave, and so they parted with a handshake and a kiss. Enjolras has not cried since like he cried when the plane took off. He has not thought about it in years, and he finds it is quite uncomfortable now. He takes this discomfort out on the unoffending chicken.
“It’s not scallopini,” comes an irate voice from the direction of the freezer.
“I know!” Enjolras shouts back, and then stands awkwardly holding the mallet when he realizes just how loud he was. A mussed black head emerges from the freezer cautiously. “Woah, there. Do you need a cigarette break or something?”
“I don’t smoke,” Enjolras mutters.
“Beer? Weed? I don’t have any coke on me.” It is a grudging overture, and it takes Enjolras quite aback.
“Coffee?” he says hopefully, wondering what kind of person this man thinks he is to offer him that spectrum of choices.
“Tame, but yeah, coffee sounds good.” After some rummaging a French press and a rumpled bag of Seattle’s Best is produced and Enjolras washes his hands and sets water to boil. The man—Enjolras still does not know his name—produces a prescription bottle from the same cabinet as the coffee and downs two pills from it, then offers it to Enjolras.
He stares at it, more than a little wary. “What are those?”
“Aspirin,” the man says, smirking. “Hangover just won’t fucking die.” He shrugs and puts the bottle back. “You don’t look like you’ve ever had one. Old enough to drink yet?”
Enjolras glares at him and pours boiling water over the coffee grounds. “You have no idea what I’m old enough to do.”
That earns him a raised eyebrow. “Oh, really? You’re pretty and you’re rich and you think you can cook. I imagine you think you’re old enough for all kinds of things.”
Enjolras tamps down his rage for what feels like the hundredth time that morning. “I am old enough to run my own kitchen, which is more than I can say for you. How many people are we feeding at lunch?”
This is cause for only a shrug. “They usually close the door at two fifty max. That’s what our budget allows for.”
Enjolras nods. That’s a sizeable lunch crowd, even if there is only one thing on the menu. “Are there servers, or…” He trails off, feeling even more uncomfortable. He’s never been in a place like this before and has no idea how things are run.
“Just us.” Another smirk. “Hope you’re old enough to be a cafeteria lady.”
Hands shaking as he fumes, Enjolras decants the coffee. “Milk? Sugar?” he inquires, all mock sweetness. “And if we’re going to be cafeteria ladies you really will need that hairnet.”
The object of his wrath, to his great surprise, throws back his head and laughs out loud in the little space. “Oh, you’re something else. I take my coffee black, princess.” He reaches for the cup, holding out his other hand carelessly to Enjolras. “I’m Grantaire, by the way, but please do keep calling me ‘chef’. It’s so good for my ego.”
Enjolras thinks seriously about throwing his coffee at Grantaire’s chest. “My name is Enjolras!” he bellows. “And I am a chef! I was told you were doing good work here, that it would do me good to come help. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, or what the hell whoever let you in here was thinking either.”
Grantaire does nothing more than take a sip and continue smirking. “His name is Jean Valjean, and he’s on our board of directors. Hear he put you in charge of your place, too.”
Enjolras blinks. “He hired you?” This place is not anything like Barricade. In no way does this revelation mean that this idiot is anywhere near his level.
“Yeah.” Grantaire shrugs. “I’m a good cook. Come on, we’ve got to start the pasta. I haven’t got nearly enough in the freezer.”
He’s seriously going to feed two hundred and fifty people fresh pasta, Enjolras realizes slowly as Grantaire starts taking tray after tray of linguini portions out. Well, it’s not impossible, he supposes, rolling up his sleeves before he starts making an enormous flour well on the largest prep table. At least they have good olive oil and fresh eggs. And at least now there is coffee.
Sorry about the wait for this chapter, guys. I've been trying to catch up on sleep and pack so I can move next month. It also hasn't helped that I accidentally cut two fingers at work(only one with a knife, mind you: the other was with an evil mandoline and totally not my fault) and it's rather hard to type now. :s But I will do my best to update regularly now.
Combeferre meets him at the back door at soon as he walks in. “Enjolras,” he says, the faint lines on his forehead the only sign of visible discomposure. “I need to talk to you. I made coffee.”
Enjolras nods. He finished a Red Bull on the drive in, but he’s known Combeferre long enough to know something is wrong enough that anyone else would be pacing and swearing. They cut through the line, greeting the cooks prepping and setting up their stations, and head straight to the office. There is indeed coffee service waiting, wedged perilously on the desk between the two computers.
Combeferre pours two cups and wraps his hands around his as he stares at Enjolras for a long moment. Enjolras begins to worry. “Did something happen while I was gone?” he asks, because this is always his deepest fear on his day off. “Did Courfeyrac do something?”
Combeferre cracks a thin smile. “Of course he did. But we can order more turmeric and Marius says his hair will grow back.”
Enjolras rolls his eyes, really, really not wanting to know. Nothing appears to have been destroyed, and that’s good enough for him. “Did all the orders come in?”
Combeferre nods, sipping his coffee, which is more than half milk and sugar. He won’t look Enjolras in the eye now. “Did someone quit?”
“Not—no.” He’s getting closer to the issue, Enjolras can tell, but no new information is forthcoming. “Did Javert come in?” He’d like to think that if the city’s draconian health inspector had made a surprise visit that Combeferre would have called him immediately, day off or no.
“No, thank god,” Combeferre sighs. Enjolras does not believe in God, but he is grateful. “No, it’s just that, well, Valjean offered me Egalite’.” And he buries his face in his mug.
Enjolras sighs in relief. “Of course he did! Is that all?” Monsieur Valjean’s latest restaurant is set to open before the end of the year, a small urban bistro with communal tables and a seasonal tasting menu.
Combeferre says nothing, being busy gulping his coffee down. Enjolras reaches out and touches him gently, awkwardly on the shoulder. “You said yes, didn’t you? It’s your restaurant, Gabriel. It’s perfect for you.” He rarely speaks this warmly to anyone, but this is Combeferre, his right hand and oldest friend, and even though he is leaving him, Enjolras is very pleased.
“I told him I’d talk to you,” Combeferre mutters. Surely the mug must be empty by now.
“And you have,” Enjolras tells him with finality. “Make sure he pays you what you’re worth.” It’s most of a joke. Valjean is more than generous with his employees.
“I can’t,” Combeferre says very quietly. “I can’t, not now. Courfeyrac—”
“Take Courfeyrac with you,” Enjolras says, without thinking about it, and then continues. “Feuilly deserves to be on salary, as hard as he works, and he’ll make an excellent sous.”
Combeferre not, still not looking convinced. “We’ll help you open,” Enjolras offers, because of course they will, and everyone on the line will send their trusted friends in the business to Combeferre. He’ll have a kitchen staff in no time.
“I’ll talk to Valjean,” Combeferre says, pointedly not committing to anything.
“You’ll accept his offer,” Enjolras commands. “And next year you’ll win Best New Restaurant.”
A blush rises high on Combeferre’s cheeks, because Barricade narrowly missed winning the same award this year. “I’ll stay until you find another sous.”
Enjolras shrugs, since it would be a lie to say that he isn’t grateful for every minute Combeferre supports him. The older man is a far better manager than he will ever be, and he handles the mundane details of scheduling and politics so that Enjolras can create and lead. “Thank you.” He hopes it is enough.
Combeferre sits back, at least pretending to relax. “Good days off?” he asks, like he’s trying to make conversation about something, anything else, but Enjolras knows he genuinely cares.
“Valjean told me I couldn’t come in,” Enjolras feels the need to say, because it’s the longest he’s stayed away from the restaurant since it opened.
“Good.” It’s Combeferre’s turn to be final. “Courfeyrac showed me the chop. Did you go out or…”
Or did you have someone over, he doesn’t says, though Enjolras can hear it. “No, it’s just been a while since I cooked for myself is all. It was good.”
Combeferre looks far too pleased for Enjolras’ liking. “And M’sieur Valjean said you went over to the Inn….”
Enjolras nods; he should have known that his friend would be happy to see him doing charity work. “I made pasta for two hundred and fifty people. The chef over there is some kind of addict. He’s completely insane, but he can cook.” He hadn’t known he meant to say it until it came out of his mouth. And he supposes that it is true
He’d spent the entire day ricocheting around the kitchen after Grantaire, frying chicken, slicing cheese, setting up an ancient steam table, and finally serving the food. And everyone, every single person to whom he’d given a plate of food, had thanked him, even if only in a sleepy mumble. They all seemed to know Grantaire. Some of the older people had hugged him before he’d even given them their food.
When the line finally ends and it is just the two of them again, looking out at the room full of people all eating happily at the long tables, Grantaire turns to him and smirks. “Any of those rich bitches you feed ever thank you before they’d even tasted it? Or did they just ask what was gluten-free and could they have the sauce on the side?”
Enjolras glares but mostly he just feels exhausted and more than a little ashamed, because Grantaire is right. “Did you save us any?” he asks, to change the subject and because he is truly, ravenously hungry.
“Yeah, come on.” There’d enough pasta cut to feed a army, and while the water comes back up to a boil, the two of them portion it onto enough trays to fill half the freezer again.
“Do you do this every day?” Enjolras has to ask.
Grantaire shrugs. “When I can. The shelter has more kitchen volunteers, though.”
Enjolras knows now why the Inn won’t let any of them in the kitchen with Grantaire. Mostly, though, he remembers being shocked. “You’re a volunteer?” The only time he remembers working this hard for free is when he was trying desperately to get hired somewhere.
“Community service.” Grantaire plucks the pasta out of the sauce and expertly twirls it on two plates, which he passes to Enjolras for the chicken. “Keeps me out of jail. Out of trouble, the old man says.”
Enjolras realizes that he means Monsieur Valjean. “Do you—where do you work?”
“I only have vague ambitions in that direction,” says Grantaire airily, jerking his head toward the dining room. “Come on, let’s eat.”
Enjolras is used to eating family meal on the expo line with a clipboard in one hand and his phone wedged in between his shoulder and ear, snatching bites between calling in orders, abandoning the plate half-eaten when someone needs him in the kitchen. He cannot remember the last time he sat down and ate a meal with another person.
Grantaire finds them a place at one of the tables and digs in without comment. Enjolras looks around for a moment before getting up to pour himself some water. When he comes back, Grantaire’s plate is half empty. “Sorry I can’t offer you a glass of Merlot to compliment your meal,” Grantaire says around a bite of chicken, managing to be sarcastic even with his mouth full.
“I wouldn’t drink Merlot with this,” Enjolras says quietly, swirling his pasta properly with the aid of his spoon.
“Not haute cuisine, sorry.” Grantaire’s swung right back to the bitterness he greeted Enjolras with. “Can’t offer you a tasting menu with wines paired by the resident sommelier, but you know what?” He sweeps his arm around in a grand gesture. “No one here gives a fuck!”
Enjolras blinks at the savage whisper, wondering if he’s in store for another tirade. He chews and swallows a couple bites slowly while he thinks about what he might say that Grantaire won’t find a way to make fun of him with. “I cannot remember the last time I had chicken parmesan,” he says carefully, “but I’m sure it wasn’t as delicious as this is.”
Grantaire looks taken aback for a moment, but then he snorts and finishes the last few bites. He goes back to the kitchen without saying anything.
Enjolras takes his time finishing his plate, thinking about how the dish isn’t seasonal or authentic at all, and how that doesn’t matter at all to anyone sitting around him. How it maybe doesn’t matter at all, really.
And now, looking at Combeferre, he’s still wondering. “It was good,” he says slowly, reflecting. “Good to get my hands in the food again.”
For his part, Combeferre looks like he’s thinking hard, too. After a moment he sets his mug down and clears his throat. “There’s a party of fifty in the Oak Room at seven.”
Enjolras automatically looks up at the row of clipboards. The one for Tuesday is empty. “There’s not a BEO,” Combeferre tells him, confirming his suspicions. “It’s a la carte.”
“I told Felix if he ever did this to us again, he’d be out of a job.” Enjolras has no actual authority to fire the catering manager, but he’s determined to make his life a living hell for this stunt.
Combeferre is already standing up. “It’s a Tuesday night. We can handle it.”
Enjolras nods. They’ll have to. And if he can feed more than two hundred people with only one sociopath for kitchen staff, then his brigade can certainly handle fifty.
It is eleven o’clock on Wednesday morning and things are already falling apart. Barricade is not open for lunch, and never will be if Enjolras has his way, but the bakers and prep team are there, and Cosette is in the wine room doing inventory. Enjolras is wedged in the office with Fantine, a coffee pot, and a plate of half-eaten pastries, costing out dessert recipes. It’s easier with two people, one to go measure things and call out amounts and the other to do the math and enter the data.
Fantine is a capable pastry chef, and Enjolras is glad enough to have her that he has never inquired into the odd relationship she and Monsieur Valjean and Cosette have with each other, which comes up in restaurant gossip from time to time. Enjolras pays attention to gossip with purely academic interest, and tries to quell the worst of it.
“They aren’t charging us that much, I know.” Fantine peers at the screen, flipping through the sheaf of invoices. Enjolras does not understand why they need to order five kinds of dark chocolate, but Fantine is right, they really are not that expensive.
He sticks his head out the door opens the door so he can see the storage shelves, thinking maybe the units are wrong on the cocoa bags, and that is when he hears the swearing. Hastily excusing himself, he hurries into the kitchen to find Marius struggling with the Robot Coupe. There is hollandaise all over him, a tearful Eponine is hovering nearby, and he is paying no attention at all as he tries to wrench the machine open.
Sighing, Enjolras pinches the bridge of his nose and orders Marius to put it down, or at least unplug the thing before he sauces the entire kitchen and electrocutes himself. Marius obeys, looking sheepish.
Enjolras then goes to find Eponine, who is now hiding by the hand sink blowing her nose. “What’s wrong? You’re supposed to be off today.” The words come out sounding harsher than he meant, and he winces internally.
Eponine mops her face and straightens, making a visible effort to compose herself. “Gavroche and Azelma can’t come in tonight, and you still need dishwashers, so I’m here.”
“Why can’t they come in?” is Enjolras’ first question, because he does need his dishwashers, after all. And then, because he also needs Eponine to know he’s human: “Are they all right?”
She shakes her head mutely, tears threatening to spill again. “My parents came and took them, I don’t know where. They can’t do anything to me anymore, because I’m eighteen, but they threatened to call CPS if I didn’t let the kids leave.”
Enjolras had known that Eponine lived with her siblings and supported them in some measure, and that none of them had had it easy growing up, but he hadn’t thought it was his business to find out any more. Eponine had worked with him before, and when she’d told him her siblings were looking for work, he’d hired them gladly, because they were good workers.
Now he finds himself at a loss, because things are clearly very bad. He thinks hard about what she’s said as he pats her shoulder awkwardly, wondering what on earth he can do. “CPS? Eponine, how old are they?”
She looks down, fists clenched in her apron. He tries to remember the paperwork he’d filled out when he hired her brother and sister, remembers not looking too closely at the documents because he was trying to staff a restaurant as quickly as possible.
“Chef…” Eponine sighs. “’Zelma’s going to be sixteen, and Gav is fourteen. We needed—they needed to be out of the house, and my parents don’t bother about sending them to school. And the money helps, when they won’t buy things for the kids.”
Behind them, Marius has successfully extracted the hollandaise, and sounds very pleased with himself. Enjolras wishes that someone, anyone else was here to deal with the situation. He wonders how much trouble he could get into for hiring minors and expecting them to operate large, dangerous machinery like Barricade’s cantankerous dishwasher. He wonders what Monsieur Valjean would have to say about all this, and then feels even more ashamed, because the older man would be kind and compassionate and find a way to fix everything.
He looks over his shoulder and tells Marius to be quiet, and then he hands Eponine a paper towel, because by this time she’s given up on trying not to cry. “I don’t know what to say,” he says finally, because it’s true.
Fantine chooses that moment to come out of the office to see why he hasn’t come back with the cocoa, takes in the three of them and shakes her head. “Marius, hush.” She pushes him toward the employee restroom before going to Eponine and putting an arm around her. “We’re going to lunch,” she tells a relieved Enjolras. “I’ll bring you back a sandwich.”
He nods, relieved, but she is hurrying Eponine toward the front of the restaurant, calling for Cosette. He is grateful beyond words that she has taken one problem off his hands, but he still has to deal with the fact that he has no dishwashers. There are already pans stacked around the pot sink, and the dish pit is filling up with plates from family meal.
With a sigh, Enjolras goes to the office to change his coat, wishing the only spare shirt he had in the office was something other than a faded New Order tee.
He starts with the pots, since they’ll be needed first, and by the time his cooks start to arrive for the dinner shift he’s washed a sizeable stack of dishes. “We’ll take turns,” he tells them, and someone is quick to relieve him while the others put away the clean pans and start setting up the line for service.
No sooner has Enjolras sat down to call in his produce order than Joly calls, convinced he’s dying again, to say he can’t possibly make it into work. Enjolras is ruder than he should be, but Joly does this at least once a month. Still, Joly is his friend and an excellent cook. Enjolras is glad he isn’t actually dying.
He finishes his order hastily and goes out to tell Bossuet the news. No one on the line is surprised. “Just my luck,” the bald man says, shrugging. “Oh well, we’ll probably be slow tonight.” Enjolras gets a list of what he needs for prep and hands it to Marius, who still has hollandaise on his hat.
It’s close to four when the girls come back, and Eponine is smiling and someone has fixed her hair. She hugs both Cosette and Fantine before she goes to find Enjolras and give him his sandwich.
Unwrapping it, he realizes that he’s ravenous, but Eponine is still standing there biting her lip. “Go clock them in,” he tells her, knowing it’s the only fair thing to do, “and don’t tell anyone.” Enjolras isn’t sure what to do when she kisses him on the cheek and hurries off to the dish pit.
He spends the night, which is unusually busy for a Wednesday, swinging sauté and running back to the dish pit to help Eponine while Combeferre expos. By closing time he is covered with sweat and greasy dishwater, but the crowd has been fed with reasonable success.
As he checks the clock and the floor so he can finally tell everyone to shut it down, Enjolras’ phone buzzes. It’s a message from Feuilly, a simple “?”.
He stares at the phone, ready to look up at his grill cook and shake his head, because the time and effort of a liason seems unthinkable after the chaos of this day. And Enjolras does look up and see Feuilly duck his head, and he nods, slightly, almost imperceptibly. We can have a drink, he thinks, irrationally, because Feuilly drinks even less than he does. I can tell him I need a new sous. I can ask him, after he’s had me, and maybe then he’ll say yes.
“1,” Enjolras texts back. It is just turning eleven thirty. That will give him enough time to drive home and shower, and Feuilly enough time to clean the broiler and close down his station. If he hurries, that is. Enjolras knows he’s never shoddy, always precise, and he knows that Enjolras will check the station the next morning when he comes in.
The next morning, when he hopes it will hurt to walk. He nods again, to himself, goes to the office to change, and drives home, not thinking about anything at all.
Feuilly shares Enjolras’ bed only half a dozen times a year, and the rest of the time he goes home to his wife and three children in a tiny apartment in the bad part of town. Barricade is his second job, and he is the best cook Enjolras has ever hired, better than anyone he knows at butchery, and he is entirely self-taught. Enjolras could only admire him more if he understood him. As it is, he thinks the world of the quiet, dark-haired man whom he first let fuck him into the mattress two years ago, when the pain of losing Jean-Luc had dulled into a longing for the simple pleasure of being fucked into oblivion. Enjolras spends so much time in his own head that even he knows it is necessary to lose himself once in a while.
He steps out of the shower, still damp, a red towel slung around his hips, waiting for the knock on the door. He stares at himself in the mirror for a moment, finally deciding that Feuilly wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t want to come. It’s easy to reach into the medicine cabinet and pull out one of the many bottles, some of them years old, most of them still full, and extract a tiny, bluish pill. Enjolras breaks it in half before he swallows it, so that by the time Feuilly arrives he feels melted and pliable.
Feuilly has a key, but he always asks and he always knocks. Enjolras goes to open the door, feeling nothing at all. They embrace, though Feuilly is stiff, as though his spotless whites are dirty from work. He smells only a little of char and oil, Enjolras thinks as he winds his arms around him. Like a kitchen, like his life.
They stand in the kitchen while Enjolras opens a bottle of five-year old Syrah and pours two glasses. It isn’t awkward, because they can talk about the night, about ticket times and tables and the flow of service, about everything that is their world. Both of them agree that the night could have gone better, that there’s room for improvement in the brigade, and then they are kissing, tasting the wine between them, Feuilly’s stubble scraping Enjolras, who has never had to shave more than once a week since he hit puberty.
After a moment it becomes too much for Enjolras, who simply doesn’t do this regularly, and Feuilly lets him lean close and finish his wine before they move into the bedroom. Once there, though, he is all business, folding his clothes neatly on the desk and pressing Enjolras into the bed with firm and reverent hands. Enjolras lets him, compliant because this is what they are here for.
Feuilly knows him, sees him every day, leads from behind the line as Enjolras leads from the other side, and he knows how to prepare him just enough so that the first penetration will make him gasp but not cry out. He goes slowly at first, because he can tell that Enjolras has not been doing this with anyone else lately, though he would not particularly mind if he had been.
When he’s found an easy rhythm, though, when Enjolras is moaning into the pillows and clutching the sheets for purchase, then he begins to fuck in earnest, driving the man beneath him into the mattress as though he were a thing to be used and not quietly respected in the light of day.
For his part, Enjolras allows, submits, does not quite enjoy. The encounter is what he expected, what it has been every time Feuilly has come to him: a release of passions both men hold in check for most of their lives. Enjolras, who never simply accepts anything in his life, takes this one thing. He braces himself on his hands and knees until the relentless thrusts force him flat on the bed, where he lies bonelessly, shuddering as Feuilly shudders, but not in climax.
When Feuilly collapses beside him with a groan, Enjolras curls up around him, half-hard, well-fucked, and still more than a little stoned. For once in his life nothing seems urgent or important. He drifts into a doze, barely registering as Feuilly strokes his hair and cleans both of them up.
When the bed shifts beside him, he lifts his head. Feuilly is dressing, and in the half-dark his coat is brilliantly white. “Thank you,” Enjolras says, taking care not to slur. Feuilly kisses his hair before he leaves him, locking the door behind him.
Enjolras sleeps through his alarm the next morning for the first time in years. He wakes up only half an hour after it would have gone off, though, and eases himself out of bed and into the shower, for once too groggy and disoriented to wonder if something is wrong with his life. To say that he is very sore would be an understatement, he thinks, because the parts of him that do not ache gently hurt actively. Still, he washes as quickly as he dares, dries and dresses with only a slight pause by the medicine cabinet to contemplate downing another tiny bluish pill. Because he actually needs to function at work, he passes it up in favor of two Excedrin and a large glass of water.
He starts to feel slightly human on the drive in, when he has Tool in the CD player and a Red Bull in his hand, but he is still sitting gingerly and wondering how he’s going to manage being on his feet all day. As he is steeling himself to get out of the car and make the short walk to the restaurant, Enjolras remembers why he doesn’t have a sex life. “It’s just too much fucking work,” he says petulantly into the cavernous silence of the parking garage, and then looks around hastily to see if anyone heard him. He makes it a point not to swear at the restaurant, as much as possible.
The sight of Grantaire nursing a cigarette outside Barricade’s back door makes him bite back a few choice epithets, however. Before he can open his mouth to ask him what the hell he’s doing here, dressed in reasonably clean work clothes and clogs, with an offensively bright orange knife roll slung over his shoulder, Grantaire smiles brilliantly and crushes the cigarette out on the wall. “Hello, chef!”
His eyes are bloodshot, but he seems perversely cheerful, as though sensing this will piss Enjolras off even more than being sullen. “It’s a lovely morning, isn’t it?”
Enjolras glares, trying to think of something suitably quelling to say before anyone else sees them. Grantaire seems oblivious. “It’s so lovely that I haven’t minded waiting out here for you for oh—“ He pauses to check an a nonexistent watch. “Nearly an hour! You look like you might have a good excuse for being late to work, though. Did you get wasted last night? I didn’t think you had it in you! Who’d you get to hold the stick once you took it out of your ass?” He makes a show of leaning over to look at Enjolras’ backside while Enjolras tries in vain to sidle out of the way. Even sidling hurts.
Enjolras can feel his face getting red as Grantaire’s smile becomes a truly diabolical grin. “Did you get laid last night, chef? I didn’t think you had that in you, either, but ooh, someone got it in you, didn’t they?”
Enjolras doesn’t think, can’t think, can’t remember ever being this angry about anything ever before. “Shut up,” he says very quietly, and then again, firmer. “Shut up.” Grantaire, shrugs, but his green eyes are still laughing, and before Enjolras realizes he has even moved he is shoving Grantaire hard against the back door, one hand planted squarely on the man’s broad chest. “This is my restaurant.” He presses once more for good measure, and then steps back, trying to control his breathing. “Now tell me what the fuck you’re doing here or get out.”
Grantaire dusts himself off with exaggerated strokes. “Heard you might be hiring soon. The old man put me up to coming over and seeing about a stage.”
Enjolras thinks that he will never get used to anyone referring to Monsieur Valjean like that, but he’s more concerned with other things just now. “So that string of insults was supposed to convince me to let you volunteer in my kitchen? Really?” Enjolras crosses his arms over his chest in disbelief, wondering how Grantaire is still between him and the door.
“I don’t know how you’ve lasted this long in a kitchen without being able to take a joke.” Graintaire shakes his head. “Jesus, just lighten the fuck up. You helped me, I’m here to help you. Free labor. At least you know I know what I’m doing.”
“Fine,” Enjolras says shortly, tell himself that it is fair, after all, and good for his labor cost, and that Monsieur Valjean invited Grantaire here, so who is he, Enjolras, to turn him away?
In fact, Enjolras soon discovers that Grantaire is quite happy to behave in his restaurant. It is disconcerting to watch Fantine greet him warmly and accept a kiss on the cheek, while Cosette practically squees and throws her arms around Grantaire when she sees him. He and Courfeyrac hit it off immediately and spend the rest of the morning making fun of Marius, making stock, and organizing the walk-in.
Enjolras watches in a daze, clutching his clipboard and coffee mug and trying to get things done. He receives several deliveries without really registering them, and is left with a sheaf of invoices while the product disappears into the cooler. Marius is bullied off to put away the rest in dry storage, and then its afternoon and his cooks are arriving.
By the time Enjolras realizes that he should assign Grantaire to sauté, since Joly is still convinced that death is imminent, Grantaire has the station set up and is down at the other end of the line, bent over the recalcitrant left fryer with Bahorel and Eponine. Enjolras goes over to help them, since he cannot in good conscience let his cooks go into service with just one fryer, not on a Thursday night.
By the time he works his way down the line, Grantaire has the door open and his head nearly inside the lower mechanism, swearing at the pilot light. Enjolras crouches down beside him, trying to get a look at what’s wrong when Grantaire straightens up suddenly and knocks him over onto the rubber mat covering the concrete floor.
Enjolras stares up at him, wondering how he missed hitting his head on the stainless steel drawers of the station behind him. Grantaire’s face is a clouded mask of consternation, Bahorel looks like he’s trying not to laugh, and Eponine is covering her mouth. “Jesus Christ,” Grantaire says finally, and just then the fryer whooshes into life.
“You fixed it!” Eponine laughs, half-hugging Grantaire while Bahorel gives Enjolras a hand up. He looks past Bahorel, expecting to see Grantaire’s smirk or at least some sign that this is payback for the shove this morning, but Grantaire just looks disturbed and maybe a little sorry. Enjolras shrugs and goes back around to the expo line, because tickets are starting to come in in earnest.
By eight o’clock he knows they’ve done at least two hundred covers, and there is still a crowd of people around the bar waiting for tables. Enjolras steps into the server station to down a glass of water and when he comes back there is a string of tickets hanging off his printer and Bossuet is yelling that he doesn’t have table twenty-three.
Enjolras watches Grantaire spin around from the eight-burner stove and slide two plates into the window. “Two pork,” he growls, just short of furious. Enjolras checks the dupe for table twenty-three, his lead ticket. Two pork, reads the faded ink, as well as—“Lemon sole,” says Grantaire, with slightly less rage, and then all Enjolras has to do is make sure that Eponine has the table’s salads up.
When the rush hits in earnest, Enjolras trades places with Courfeyrac, who is just getting in Feuilly’s way trying to help with the broiler. Feuilly is nowhere near the weeds, but Enjolras would rather be behind the line doing something than watching and wishing he could sit down. The painkillers and caffeine have worn off by now and everything below his waist aches ferociously.
Feuilly has the entire broiler cranked up, though, and soon Enjolras is sweating so much that the pain becomes secondary. He cuts open the cryovaced steaks, seasons the meat and lays it out for Feuilly to throw on the Montague, which is at nearly a thousand degrees by now. When the steaks come off, Enjolras lays them out to rest, flashes them under the salamander as needed, and plates them to go in the window. It’s the easier half of the station, but Enjolras will be the first to admit that Feuilly is better at gauging temperatures than he is.
“All right, boys!” Courfeyrac shouts genially, having clearly decided that everyone needs a pep talk. “And Eponine! And chef, bless his heart!” Enjolras looks up from the porterhouse he’s salting to glare. “And Grantaire, who wins rookie of the year tonight! Four for you, Grantaire!” Grantaire throws a grilled lemon at him, and Courfeyrac catches it with a flourish and squeezes it over the three flounder that just came up in the window. Enjolras smiles in spite of himself, and sets up the steaks to sell the fish.
This chapter is shorter, but I'm not sorry because I think it is a pretty good one. Also I am exhausted and can not write anymore at the moment.
When the rush tapers off enough that Feuilly has two steaks working instead of a dozen, Enjolras steps off the line and nearly runs into Cosette, who hands him a to-go cup of water from the tray in her hand. He thanks her profusely and helps her distribute the rest of the waters to the cooks. “Tequila tonight!” Courfeyrac crows, leaning over the pass to kiss Cosette while Bahorel whoops.
Enjolras has no intention of drinking anything stronger than a small glass of wine while he reads food blogs in bed tonight, but he is theoretically in favor of anything that promotes unity among his cooks. If they want to go out and get plastered tonight, he’s not going to stop them, just hope that they all make it back to work tomorrow.
He heads back to the office to check the numbers for that night, easing himself into the chair and wishing it were softer. A few clicks tells him that they fed nearly three hundred and fifty people, and that all those steaks he sweated over added up to a number that would be good for a Saturday night, much less a Thursday.
He doesn’t linger, knowing that Cosette and Monsieur Valjean will be in to run the final reports for the nights soon, so he just grabs a sheaf of new hire paperwork and heads to the walk-in to see what he can use for family meal. It ends up being a couple bags of pommes frites from the freezer and some flounder pieces that are too odd-shaped to sell. He hands both over to Bahorel in passing and heads to the bar to beg a couple pints of dark beer from Cosette, promising to save her some fish and chips. Eponine volunteers to make the batter, so he passes the booze over to her and, clutching the application like a weapon, goes looking for Grantaire.
He finds him in the walk-in, swearing at the fish bins as he pulls them out and dumps new ice over the carefully bagged and organized filets. Enjolras is more than a little surprised, and the small speech he had planned seems petty now. He thrusts the papers out, trying to keep from shivering. “I need you to fill these out, and then make some tartar sauce and remoulade.”
Grantaire stares at him, the ice bucket still raised. “Really, boss? Like you have any intention of hiring me?”
Enjolras grits his teeth and takes several calming breaths through his nose. “Monsieur Valjean vouches for you, and I know you can run a kitchen.”
Grantaire jerks his head at the papers. “Once I fill that out and you run a background check, I doubt you’ll want me anywhere near your kitchen.”
Enjolras doesn’t want him anywhere near his kitchen now, but he’s about to lose half his line to Combeferre when Egalite’ opens, and the fact is that Grantaire can cook. When he hired Enjolras, Monsieur Valjean told him that he believed in second chances, or in Enjolras’ case, first ones: no one else in town would have put a twenty-six-year-old in charge of a six million dollar restaurant. He thrusts the papers at Grantaire’s chest again.
“I’m an alcoholic sometimes,” Grantaire argues, sounding angry and desperate. “I’m chronically unemployable, and I don’t play well with others.I wouldn’t hire me.”
Enjolras tamps down a whole new set of misgivings. “You need a job, don’t you?”
“Yeah, so?” The look in Grantaire’s eyes takes all the nonchalance out of his shrug.
“Then don’t come in too drunk to cook.” It’s just that simple, Enjolras tells himself. He will tell Grantaire what to do, and Grantaire will do it. And if he doesn’t show up for a shift, Enjolras will fire him. “Family meal’s in thirty. I need that sauce.”
“You’re going to regret this,” Grantaire mutters, but he finally accepts the application.
“Yes,” says Enjolras, his mouth set in a thin, hard line. “I expect I will.”
I'm very sorry about the delay of this chapter, but now that I've moved and have a nice little office, I will be able to write more regularly.
This bit is a bit longer to make up for the length of the wait.
Trigger warning: chapter contains a semi-graphic scene involving dubious consent, or at least one with consent /issues/ if you squint.
Grantaire presents no less than five sauces with the fish and chips for family meal, the tartar sauce and remoulade requested, as well as a lemon aioli, sauce gribiche, and a hot sauce too scorching for anyone but Bahorel, who pours it over everything on his plate. Enjolras is mildly impressed at the display, though he tries to hide it, and makes a point to taste each of them. Grantaire watches, trying to look like he isn’t.
Enjolras eats on the expo line, filling out the kitchen log for the night between bites and listening with half an ear as his cooks clean up and argue about where to go drink after they’re finished.
Courfeyrac and Bahorel are by far the loudest debaters, but nearly everybody puts in their two cents. As the line breaks into two rough sides, those with more money to spend and those with less, Enjolras finishes the report and goes to the back kitchen to trade log book for clip board.
The easiest way to manage the flow of money in his kitchen is to keep track of the high cost items in use every day: the protein items. So Enjolras prints off a new count sheet and goes around to each station to collect the unsold fish and steaks and return them to the walkin, which is safer than leaving them in the coolers on the line, which cannot be locked and might lose power.
He is recounting the rib-eyes for the third time, trying to get the number to match that morning’s count minus the number sold that night, when Courfeyrac opens the door and pokes his head in. “We’re going to Corinth. You’re coming with us.”
“I am not,” Enjolras says, not looking up from the trays of meat. “I’m missing three hundred dollars worth of meat.”
“It’s in my pants,” Courfeyrac shoots back. “Look, Marius probably fucked the counts up again. No one stole a case of steaks.”
Enjolras thinks about this. He trusts Feuilly far more than he would even think of trusting Marius’ ability to count. Courfeyrac is probably right, but there is no way in hell that Enjolras is going to admit it. “You can go get wasted tonight. I’m not.”
Courfeyrac sighs exaggeratedly. “Come on, Feuilly’s already begged off, and Bossuet has to go take care of his boyfriend. No one’s saying you have to get wasted”
“Remember what happened the last time we went to Corinth?” Enjolras puts the clipboard down and pins Courfeyrac with a look. “Are you sure they’ll even let you in?”
Courfeyrac looks briefly doubtful before rallying. “That was weeks ago! Megan doesn’t work there anymore.” He neglects to mention why this is, Enjolras notices.
“I’m not going anywhere until I find this meat,” Enjolras says firmly.
“Told you, it’s in my pants,” Courfeyrac snickers, but then he phones Marius and makes him admit that he did the opening counts before he’d had his coffee and that there might have been some estimating involved. And then he hands the phone to Enjolras and steps out of the way. The phone loses signal inside the walkin before Enjolras can work up a proper vitriolic fury, but he hands the phone back to Courfeyrac feeling that he at least made an impression. They square the numbers with the counts from the previous days and then go out to check the line.
The equipment is tuned off and clean, and so one by one the cooks leave with plans to meet at the bar. Enjolras, against his better judgment, sighs and agrees that he’ll be there soon. He crosses the dining room to the bar to say goodbye to Cosette, who’s the closing manager, before going out to find his car. A battered black Mustang he doesn’t recognize passes him on the way to the parking garage. He sees Eponine waving at him from the passenger window and shrugs.
Cornith is only a few miles away, but the little dive might as well be another world over from Barricade. Most of the patrons know better than to order food, but the drinks are cheap and strong, which Enjolras knows is most of what his cooks care about it. It’s a bad service industry bar, but it manages to stay in business somehow.
He eases onto a stool next to Bahorel, wondering how long before he can leave without Courfeyrac fussing. He orders a Michelob Ultra, which gets him a laugh, but he knows asking to see the wine list, if there is one, would be even worse. Courfeyrac snorts and orders a round of shots. Enjolras usually makes it a point to avoid anything with “bomb” in the name, but the things are red and smell like pomegranates. They taste like syrup, it turns out, and by the time he’s finished his beer he’s feeling pleasantly numb.
The lights come up for last call and Bahorel orders one final round of shots before they all tab out. Eponine helps Courfeyrac with the math, and Grantaire fumbles in his pocket before muttering something to her. She shrugs and tells him it’s all right, that he can treat on payday, and they all put their heads together to come up with enough to cover everything. Enjolras, who’s feeling less buzzed by the minute, even with the sticky taste of the last Vegas Bomb lingering in his mouth, throws in a couple of twenties and stands up. He’s still sore, but walking isn’t so much of a problem now, and they’re all staggering anyway now.
The night air’s cold enough to sober them up a bit, all but Grantaire, who looks pretty dazed. Courfeyrac offers Eponine a ride home, but she shakes her head and looks at Enjolras, biting her lip. He nods, feeling like he can drive if he’s careful. Grantaire, who drove her to the bar, is lurching toward the black Mustang, patting absently in his pocket for the keys. When he can’t seem to find them, he circles the car, finding the passenger door unlocked, and begins digging around inside the car.
With a guilty smile, Eponine holds up the keys so Enjolras can see them. “There’s no way he can drive,” she says quietly.
Enjolras sighs, looking around. Eponine is right, but the rest of his cooks have disappeared, and while he doesn’t mind giving Eponine a lift, Grantaire is another story. But she is already going over to the car and leading him to Enjolras’ red Civic with the ease of someone used to dealing with drunk people. Enjolras rubs his forehead and unlocks the car.
It’s a quiet ride to Eponine’s apartment, because Grantaire has passed out in the back seat and Eponine is huddles against the window, looking like she wants to throw up. Enjolras wonders how the night turned so bad so quickly. “Are you going to be all right?” he asks as he circles the seedy complex.
Eponine nods almost imperceptibly. “’Zelma’s there, and the little boys. I don’t know where Gav is, but they say he’s not with mom and dad.”
Enjolras is once again at a loss. He’s knows Eponine won’t accept any kind of handout or outright charity. “Come in at two tomorrow, all right?” he finally says. “There’s a lot of prep to do for the weekend.” That’ll make sure she gets a few more hours, and maybe a little overtime. “Bring Azelma if you want.”
Smiling a little, Eponine accepts, glancing back at the snoring Grantaire as she gets out. “What are you going to do with him?”
“I have no idea,” Enjolras says honestly.
“Don’t throw him out.” Eponine is almost begging. “He’s really nice to people who, um, aren’t you.”
“I noticed.” A great wall of exhaustion has hit Enjolras, and he feels like pulling over and passing out himself. Instead, he walks Eponine to her door, and when he gets back to the car Grantaire is sitting up, shaking his head.
“Where do you live?” Enjolras asks, slowly and loudly, as though Grantaire might pass out again without warning.
“You know, that’s a very good question,” Grantaire observes, fumbling in his pockets once more for his keys. “I like to consider myself a citizen of the universe.”
Enjolras starts the car and turns on his GPS. “What’s the address?” He really hopes it isn’t too far away.
“The intersection of No and Where, I believe,” Grantaire continues. “I’m not sure you’ll be able to find it with that thing.”
“Is there someone I can call to come pick you up?” Enjolras presses. It is already far later than he planned on staying out, and Grantaire is being no help at all with the directions.
“They’d have to be local, right? And alive? That’d be important, yeah?”
Enjolras is becoming less tired and more angry by the minute, and Grantaire seems to finally realize it. “You should have just left me with my car,” he mumbles finally.
“You’re not driving anywhere,” Enjolras orders, wondering if he should let Grantaire know he has his keys or not.
“Wasn’t planning on driving. More of the sleeping.”
“You’re not sleeping in your car tonight,” Enjolras fires back, not quite sure why. Grantaire would at least be out of his hair then.
“Worked fine the past couple of nights,” Grantaire mutters, staring out the window.
“Are you—“Enjolras bites his tongue, because even though Grantaire technically works for him now, some things still aren’t his business. “I have a couch,” he finally says, apropos of almost nothing.
“Wish I had a couch.” Some of Grantaire’s old sarcasm is back. “Must be nice.”
Enjolras ignores him and turns the car toward home. It’s a short, horribly awkward drive. “Come on,” he says, turning the car off with finality. “I have to be back at the restaurant in-” he checks his phone- “six hours.”
“Christ.” Grantaire gets his door open and tries unsuccessfully to lever himself out of the car. It takes him a couple tries before he’s successful, and when he slams the car door triumphantly behind him, Enjolras winces.
Grantaire trails after him into the apartment, shielding his eyes and squinting, though Enjolras tries to turn on as few lights as possible. “Is your boyfriend going to mind you bringing me home?”
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” Enjolras tells him as he retrieves a stack of blankets and sheets and a spare pillow from the closet.
“Well, you sure as hell don’t have a girlfriend, unless she really likes to strap it on.” He turns to eye Enjolras speculatively. “Do you have a girlfriend who likes—“
“No!” Enjolras says, louder than he means to, and thrusts the bedding at Grantaire. “I don’t, I’m not, and it’s none of your business.” He knows it’s not possible for him to actually be more drunk now, but he feels like it. He needs a bed and silence.
“That’s exactly what Courfeyrac said you’d say,” Grantaire says, taking the blankets.
“Courfeyrac is full of shit,” Enjolras snaps bitterly, and then regrets it immediately. He’s known Courfeyrac for a long time, and for the most part the man is a good and loyal friend. “Don’t tell him I said that.
“Oh, he said you’d say that, too,” Grantaire says. “Now where is this fabled couch?”
Enjolras points the way to the den and Grantaire goes obediently for a change. “Bathroom’s this way,” Enjolras calls after him, and then wonders why he’s pretending to be a good host.
To prove he doesn’t care, he goes in the bathroom himself and closes the door while he brushes his teeth and splashes cold water on his face. Showering is just too much of an effort right now. When he emerges the apartment is silent. Grantaire has probably passed out, he thinks, but he still shuts the bedroom door firmly before he undresses. Enjolras is not terribly worried about what he might do if Grantaire isn’t dead to the world. Most of his valuables are in the bedroom with him, and if Grantaire damages the furniture Enjolras will happily take the cost out of his check. He rolls over once to set his alarm and is asleep in minutes.
Some time later the door opens, but he does not hear it, and he registers the shift of the bed as Grantaire settles into it only enough to roll over and curl into the other man’s warmth, since by this time his comforter has slid onto the floor, leaving him naked under the twisted sheet. Grantaire groans a little and slides his arms around him. Enjolras accepts the embrace as he never would while awake.
“That’s a very nice couch you have,” Grantaire mutters, mostly to himself, “but it’s nowhere near as warm as you are, or as comfortable.” He folds himself around Enjolras a bit more. “I wonder how long it’ll take you to wake up and kick me out. Maybe, maybe, I can convince you that this is just a very good dream, and I’m not me, but someone you like, if there’s anyone alive that you do like.” He reaches up to stroke the blond curls pressed against the pillow. “If you’d just stop being pissed off and serious all the time, more people would notice how beautiful you are.”
“’M not beautiful,” Enjolras protests, still very much asleep.
In the dark, Grantaire rolls his eyes. “Yeah?” He explores for a minute under the sheets before finding what he’s looking for. “Oh, yes you are, chef. I think it’s fair to say that you’re carved out of grade-A fucking marble.”
A few strokes, and Enjolras is trembling in his hands, moaning restlessly. “You’ll never let me have another chance at this, will you?” Grantaire asks rhetorically before leaning down to take Enjolras’s cock into his mouth. The sleeping man bucks involuntarily at the contact, but Grantaire’s tongue is warm and wet and therefore welcome at some level in his subconscious. It’s the first blowjob he’s had in over a year, and awake or asleep, he wants to relish it.
Grantaire is out of practice but skilled, and he works his tongue and then his throat up and down Enjolras’ shaft until the still-drowsing man is thrusting into his mouth and moaning. Grantaire relaxes his jaw and matches the rhythm, moving with him until with a long sigh and a series of minute twitches, Enjolras comes. Grantaire swallows, and swallows, and then wipes his mouth and rolls carefully off the bed.
“I don’t know if I hope you remember this,” he says quietly as he closes the door.
In the morning Enjolras sleeps through his alarm again, but when he staggers to the kitchen, there are crepes and café au lait in the microwave, still warm, and the apartment is empty.
Enjolras drives to work in a confused rage, carefully not thinking about anything at all because he has a job to do and no one else will do it if he doesn’t. It is a Friday, and he knows Barricade will already have at least two hundred reservations on the books, and that they’ll feed more than twice that many. So Enjolras throws himself into prep after he calls in his orders, and by the time his cooks show up for service, he has three specials ready: a simple gnocchi Bolognese, a Berkshire pork chop with mashed potatoes, and a chocolate semifreddo that even Fantine approves of.
He has successfully put everything that happened the night before out of his mind, he believes for good, until he emerges from the walkin to check the line for service and finds Grantaire helping Bahorel set up his station. Jaw set, keeping an iron grip on his composure, Enjolras works his way around the line, spot-tasting and greeting his cooks until he gets to the fryer. Bahorel and Eponine shake hands with him as usual, but Grantaire will not meet his eyes.
“I need to talk to you,” Enjolras informs him. “Outside. Now.” He turns on his heel, leaving Grantaire to trail behind him while the other cooks stare after them.
Once they’re both out the side door, Enjolras pins him with an icy blue glare. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Grantaire shrugs, seemingly fascinated by the wall above Enjolras’ shoulder. “You need cooks.”
‘My cooks are my friends. I trust them,” Enjolras tells him slowly. “They don’t take advantage of my hospitality. They don’t take advantage of me.”
Grantaire drops his eyes. “So you do remember.”
“I thought it was a dream until I woke up and you’d run away.” Enjolras can feel himself getting more furious by the minute and wonders how on earth he’s going to be able to direct service that evening.
“I thought you liked it,” Grantaire says, barely above a whisper. “Would’ve stopped if I thought you didn’t.”
Enjolras stares at him like Grantaire’s the biggest idiot he’s ever seen. “I was asleep.”
“I was a little drunk,” Grantaire admits. “You let me crash on your couch. Seemed like the least I could do to pay you back.”
“You wanted to suck me off,” Enjolras spits. “So you did. Do you know what that makes you?”
Grantaire swallows hard and doesn’t say anything for a long moment while Enjolras seethes. “I’ve gotten arrested for a number of things,” he says finally, voice cracking. “Actually did most of them, too. Sure as hell did the time. Well, most of it. But I never thought—nobody’s ever said I was—“ He swallows hard and crouches down on the concrete to touch Enjolras’ clog with two fingers. “It’s worthless, me being sorry, but I am.”
Enjolras stares down at him, nonplussed and absolutely at a loss. His first, irrational instinct is to kick Grantaire, to scream at him to get up and shut up. But there is also a part of him that knows when he woke that he thought it had been a good dream, and that he’d hoped to see Grantaire still asleep on the couch. His stomach had dropped when he found Grantaire gone and began to wonder about his “dream.” And now here is Grantaire at his feet, almost on his knees.
It takes him a minute to realize Grantaire is speaking again. “Should I leave, or do you want me to stay here while you call the police?”
“They’d take my word over yours,” Enjolras warns him. ”You’d go to prison for a very, very long time.”
“Probably life, with the record I’ve got,” Grantaire agrees softly.
Enjolras pulls out his phone, ready to do it just so he won’t have to look at Grantaire anymore. He’s never been anywhere near a prison in his life, but he’s quite ready for Grantaire to become acquainted with one for a very long time.
But what would he tell Monsieur Valjean, who sent Grantaire to him in the first place? The old man would demand some kind of explanation, and Enjolras knows exactly what he thinks of the penal system, had agreed with him until now. “I sent him to you for a second chance,” he can hear Valjean’s voice saying in his head, “and you have doomed him utterly, when it was in your power to forgive him.”
There is nothing in Enjolras that feels the least bit forgiving at the moment. He weighs his phone in his hand, looking down at the contrite head, the mess of black curls that had bent over him in the dark.
“Eponine can have my car,” Grantaire whispers, and Enjolras thinks at first that he’s misheard. “It’s beat up, but it runs. Tell her she can throw out all the shit in the trunk, except the knives and the books.”
“How do you know Eponine needs a car?” he asks stupidly. Enjolras himself hadn’t known she needed a car, she had always managed to be at work more or less on time, with her siblings or not.
Grantaire shrugs. “All the shit she’s got going on, it’d help.”
“You barely know Eponine.” Enjolras feels he should be able to do more than just state the obvious at the moment, but he can’t quite seem to manage it.
“Got drunk with her.” Grantaire looks up, daring a half-smile. “How else do you get to know someone?”
Enjolras drinks with his cooks as often as they can drag him to the bar, but he’s never considered giving any of them his car. “You can make sure she gets to work every day, then,” he finds himself saying. “And her brother and sister.”
Grantaire fishes out his keys and offers them up, making Enjolras feel like kicking him again. “No, you’re on the same schedule with her,” he says, his disgust very nearly real. “And you’d better show up, too, because I need a tournant.”
Grantaire looks up at him with hope dawning in brandy-brown eyes, and Enjolras tries to keep his face carefully neutral. “It’s Friday night. Get up, we’re going to get our asses kicked.” The words feel strange in his mouth, and he doesn’t know what to say after them, how to fix the horrible things he’s still feeling.
He doesn’t have to say anything else, though, because as he’s pulling Grantaire to his feet, Courfeyrac thrusts his head out the door and looks around wildly. “I don’t know what the fuck you two are doing out here, but you better get inside, Enjolras. Javert’s here.”
This chapter was quite difficult to write for a number of reasons. I'm sorry about the wait, as well as the typos I've missed.
Grantaire follows them inside. “Who’s Javert,” he asks, very quietly in Enjolras’ ear.
“Health inspector,” Enjolras answers shortly, mind racing. “And there’s no reason he should be here, not at night. Not on a Friday night.”
Courfeyrac shrugs, leading the way to the line. “He’s a bastard, and everyone knows he hates Monsieur Valjean. Enjolras, he’ll shut us down if he can.”
“I know,” Enjolras says grimly, right as Grantaire asks why. “Did you break out the crash kit?” This is nothing more than large box that normally stays in the office, containing extra sanitation buckets, gloves, and tape and Sharpies for labeling containers.
“Yeah, but it won’t do any good,” Courfeyrac tells him. “He’ll find whatever he’s looking for. They say he used to be a detective.”
Enjolras is terribly afraid he’s right. He makes sure Barricade’s kitchen is kept spotlessly clean, but it is also a working kitchen, and tonight it’s a very busy one.
Cosette runs up to them before they make it to the line. “He’s at the bar right now,” she tells them breathlessly. “My bartenders are stalling him, but that won’t work for long. He’s already cited us for five different things. When I left, he was taking apart the ice machine.”
“The ice machine?” Courfeyrac asks incredulously, sounding a bit strangled. “The whole ice machine?”
Cosette shrugs. “Nobody can stop him. I’ll make Marius put it back together in the morning.”
“It’s fine,” Enjolras says shortly. “It’s buying us time.”
“My father’s on his way,” Cosette promises.
Enjolras is more relieved to hear this than he hopes shows on his face. He knows that he needs to be up on the line expediting. He can hear the tickets starting to come in, and knows that in thirty minutes they’ll be well and truly in the middle of the Friday night rush. “We can’t spare everyone to clean,” he finally says. “Courfeyrac, take the dishwashers and go through the walkin. Grantaire, take a look at dry storage. Temp everything. Label everything. Hurry.”
Neither man argues with him, which is some kind of miracle. He leads Cosette around to the expo line. “He’ll want to speak to me at some point,” he tells her, quietly. “I’ll try to hurry, but if he wants to go over everything, I’ll need you to make sure the food’s going out.”
Cosette is looking more and more terrified by the minute, and Enjolras doubts that it’s at the prospect of managing the ticket board for a few minutes. “Don’t argue with him, Enjolras, please.”
“I’ll do whatever I have to,” he promises, pulling the string of tickets off his printer and sorting through them, matching tables up with food that is already in the window.
Enjolras manages the rush with Cosette’s help, and there are no major catastrophes in the kitchen. He does have a few choice words under his breath when a table sends back a pair of perfectly cooked rib-eyes, insisting that they are too fatty, but Cosette cuts an enormous slice off one untouched steak and shoves it into her mouth.
“Fuck them,” she says sweetly after she swallows. “Their loss. Come on, eat up. If we all lose our jobs tonight, who knows when we’ll get to have steak.” So Enjolras takes a piece off her fork, chewing quickly before another ticket can come in. And it is sublime, enough so that he manages to smile at Cosette.
He makes up his mind that he will not capitulate, will not go to Javert like a supplicant, trembling, and try to placate him. The man is here to do his job, he tells himself, and I will do mine. And so he leads his brigade and they feed the people who have come to them to eat, and when the dining room starts to clear, he turns from the expo line to see the black-clad figure standing behind him, waiting patiently with a clipboard.
Enjolras clears his throat and tries to compose himself as Cosette squeezes his hand and slips away to see what Courfeyrac is waving frantically about behind Javert. The form on the clipboard is familiar, and he’s braced himself for the flurry of X’s and circles covering the lists of potential violations. Javert refuses to exchange pleasantries, so Enjolras follows him back through the kitchen, admitting that yes, those sinks could use more paper towels, and yes, the gap above that drain could be a little wider. He dutifully notes a few thermometers that are few degrees too high or too low, keeping track all the while of how many points will be docked for each offense. The restaurant is not dirty, but it is in use, and he knows that Javert is more than willing to take advantage of that fact.
The final blow comes when Javert leads him into the walkin to a small case of Japanese cucumbers that has been carefully placed in a tightly lidded Lexan. “Look,” Javert commands, and he obeys.
After a long moment of squinting at the vegetables, Enjolras sees a tiny striped insect ambling out of the box and back onto the fruit. “It’s a cucumber beetle,” he says weakly. “They’re not—“
“It is a pest,” Javert interrupts him. “It is alive and it is in your restaurant, which is no longer an establishment authorized to prepare food for public consumption. Sign here, please.” He thrusts the clipboard under Enjolras’ nose.
He blinks at the paper as the words seem to blur. He cannot look up at Javert. He cannot say anything, because Javert has followed the letter of the law, and if Enjolras refuses, he knows that his restaurant will be closed by force, and the entire city will know about it, and he will never, ever work again.
Enjolras takes a pen from his pocket with trembling fingers and sketches his surname on the line Javert indicates. He dates the signature when prompted to, and is wondering what he might be forced to do next when the door bursts open and Monsieur Valjean stands silhouetted in the light from the kitchen.
“Javert!” he calls, powerful voice echoing through the cooler. “Finish your business and be on your way.”
Javert smiles savagely. “I believe we are already finished here.” His eyes flick to Enjolras, still standing paralyzed with the pen in his hand.
Valjean starts inside, face drawn, and Javert removes a copy of the inspection report and holds it out to him. He scans it quickly, his mouth set. “So you have your wish,” Valjean says slowly, looking up from the paper. ”I hope it makes you happy, thinking of the hopes you’ve dashed, the good work you’ve put an end to, for now. Get out of my restaurant.”
The wolfish smile thins. “Gladly.” Javert nods curtly to Enjolras and marches out.
“He is so proud,” Valjean says quietly after the inspector has gone. “So sure. He should eat more butter.”
Enjolras tries to laugh at the comment and fails to manage more than a weak smile. He still feels in shock, numb to the news that everything he’s worked so hard for has been taken from him. “This won’t last, lad. We’ll make an appeal and request another inspection.”
Enjolras can think of anything worse than Javert returning to his restaurant. Valjean sees the horror in his eyes and pats his shoulder. “And a different inspector, I’ll make sure of it. Now, go home and get some sleep. I’ll make sure everything’s taken care of here. We live to fight another day.
“Thank you,” Enjolras manages to say finally, because what else can he say. He wants to believe, really he does, but it’s impossible when he thinks of the finality of Javert’s pronouncement, the stark ink of his own acquiescence.
Valjean gives him a final reassuring touch before he leaves Enjolras to stare at the damning box of cucumbers. He stays in the walkin a long time, staring at the shelves of vegetables, the ice bins of expensive fish and the trays of meat. He emerges only when he cannot stand the cold any longer.
The noise of the restaurant closing down recedes as he moves through the bustle, brushing past anyone who tries to speak to him. He makes it to his car without speaking at all and drives home in silence. When he gets home, he does not even bother to turn on the light before he kicks his clogs into the corner and limps to the couch. He should eat, he knows, should shower and try to sleep, but he cannot muster the will to do anything but stare into the darkness.
It does not matter, Enjolras tells himself. Nothing matters anymore. His Barricade has been taken. Everything else is irrelevant.
He is still staring at the wall an hour later when someone knocks furiously on his door.
A longish chapter to make up for the delay. :) Sorry, I've been sick and in job transition.
Enjolras stares at the door for a long moment without moving. He’s pretty sure it’s someone he knows, probably Courfeyrac from the noise. He does not want to talk to Courfeyrac. But he’s fairly sure that Courfeyrac doesn’t know where he lives, has never bothered to find out. Combeferre would not bang that loudly, and he’s pretty sure Cosette couldn’t.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Enjolras, you’d better not be dead in there!” The knocking stops, and is soon replaced by muffled swearing as Grantaire rattles the door knob.
Enjolras blinks at the door and then gets up to answer it because he knows Grantaire will not stop until he’s broken something or woken the neighbors. He might not stop even then.
It takes Grantaire a second to realize that someone is trying to open the door, and he seems surprised when Enjolras yanks it open. They stare at each other. “You don’t know how many beers it took to convince me it was a good idea to come here,” Grantaire says finally.
Enjolras has no idea what to say to this. He also has no ability to deal with anyone intoxicated at the moment, but he does not want to shut the door in Grantaire’s face. Who knows what he might do then.
“I wanted to make sure you’re all right,” Grantaire says, looking him up and down.
Enjolras spreads his arms a little, as though to demonstrate that he is as fine as can be expected under the circumstances. Grantaire narrows his eyes. “Have you had some wine? You should have some wine.”
Enjolras would like a glass of wine, now that it’s been mentioned, but since Grantaire has suggested it, he can’t say so. Instead he steps back and holds the door open. “Come in before you wake the whole building.”
“Thank you,” says Grantaire, sounding more than a little surprised. He goes into the kitchen and rummages around. Enjolras follows him to make sure he doesn’t break anything or fall over, but he seems to know his way around, and Enjolras remembers the breakfast he had found waiting for him. It seems like a lifetime ago.
In no time at all Grantaire has found a bottle of last year’s cabernet and two clean wineglasses. He fills them nearly full and hands one to Enjolras, who takes it numbly. Grantaire is acting far less intoxicated now, and Enjolras wonders if it was a ploy to gain entry. He cannot find it in himself to care.
“The old man’s having the inspection appealed,” Grantaire offers. “You’ll be able to open again.” He swallows half the glass, which is really an insult to the vintage, Enjolras thinks, though the sip he takes is larger than usual.
“I don’t want to talk about the damn inspection,” Enjolras snaps, and then realizes how petulant he sounds.
Grantaire barely laughs. “He said you’d say that. You can use the time to work on your new brunch menu.”
“Like hell I will.” Enjolras lets his glass be topped up. “No lunch, no kids, and no American wine on the menu. That’s what I asked for when I took the job.”
Grantaire makes a show of squinting at the label of the nearly-empty bottle they’re drinking. “It’s only two days a week. Eggs are cheap. Think about your food cost.”
Enjolras’ food cost keeps him up at night. He glares at Grantaire. “If you think it’s such a good idea, then I’ll put you in charge of it, and you’ll have to come in at seven Saturday morning after you’ve closed the night before.”
“Brunch sucks,” Grantaire says amiably, draining his glass. “Everyone’s doing it; we don’t need to. Happy?”
Enjolras is far from happy. He turns around and surveys his wine rack, but none of the bottles are ones he wants to waste on a night’s forgetfulness. He opens the refrigerator instead and peers at the door, finally selecting a bottle of sauvignon blanc and holding it up for Grantaire’s inspection.
“New Zealand is not America,” Grantaire says, apropos of nothing, and hands him the corkscrew.
Enjolras insists on switching glasses for the white wine, which Grantaire agrees to if there can be food. He has a pan on the range and is cracking eggs before Enjolras can tell him he isn’t hungry, and by the time Grantaire has the butter sizzling, he’s realized that he is. He dices the vegetables for the omelets, a slightly withered onion and a green pepper, deciding that he’s definitely going to let Grantaire handle brunch. The first bottle of wine is making itself felt, and Enjolras is warmer and a better kind of numb.
They move to the couch with their plates and glasses, and Enjolras tries to think of something to talk about while Grantaire wolfs down his eggs. He finally settles on asking Grantaire if he went to culinary school.
Grantaire looks shifty. “You read my application.” He refills Enjolras’ glass, then his own, then sets the empty bottle in the sink. “Goodbye New Zealand.”
“I did,” Enjolras says, swallowing. “’The Culinary Academy of New Orleans?’ It doesn’t exist.”
Grantaire gets up to look for another bottle of wine. “Not anymore, it doesn’t.”
Enjolras thinks privately that it never did, but he keeps that to himself, because Grantaire has made him the best omelet he’s ever eaten. So when Grantaire comes back drinking straight out of a very expensive bottle of chardonnay, Enjolras only frowns.
“I never had time for school,” Grantaire tells him, slurring only a little. “Never had the money, either, but people expect you to have a piece of paper.”
Enjolras nods. “I had a scholarship. My parents never would have paid for it.”
Grantaire seems not to have heard him at all. “I’m a little short of time and money just now, too, boss, and every way I can think to make up for what I did to you last night needs one or both. So you want to give me some other ideas?”
Enjolras stares at him, going over the words carefully in his head in hopes of being able to understand them. “Make up for what you did?’ he repeats slowly. “That’s not how it works.”
“Oh, God,” Grantaire breathes, looking at Enjolras anxiously. “Are you drunk? Are you too drunk to say yes or no to things? You haven’t—you own all this wine, but you don’t actually drink it, do you?”
“I drink wine!” Enjolras protests. “I also collect it, or I did, before you started in on my collection.”
In answer to this, Grantaire takes a swig from the dewy bottle and passes it over. Enjolras eyes it dubiously before taking a sip, thinking it’s probably the first time he’s ever had wine directly out of the bottle, without the correct stemware and time to aerate while he looked up the notes and researched the vintage. “I am not drunk.”
“Then will you let me do it right? Because I did it wrong last night, I know.” Grantaire is not quite begging now, but he is looking at Enjolras searchingly, and choosing his words more carefully than he ever has after so much wine.
Enjolras clutches the bottle and stares at him, feeling that he should be thinking very hard about what Grantaire is proposing, but there is nothing in him that wants to think hard at the moment, because if he is not quite drunk, he will be there soon. His stomach is pleasantly full and if the ache of losing his restaurant still looms in the back of his mind, it is not doing so loudly. He will be miserable tomorrow, he decides, and right now he will drink the excellent wine and try to feel, if not good, then at least not-numb.
“Yes,” he says finally, and the hope that blossoms on Grantaire’s face is almost painful to watch. “You did it wrong last night.” The hope crumples, but Grantaire slides off the couch to his knees anyway. “I didn’t enjoy it: I can hardly remember it.”
“You’ll remember this,” Grantaire promises, and starts to fumble with Enjolras’ pants. With no buttons or fly, the simplest thing to do is push them down with his shorts, so he does. Enjolras rests a hand lightly on his hair as Grantaire tongues his cock, which perks up quickly at the attention. He leans back on the couch and lets himself relax as his world narrows to the warm, wet tongue, mouth, throat surrounding him.
Grantaire licks patiently, tongue swirling in languid circles until Enjolras is fully hard and moaning, and then he swallows him again and sticks his tongue out to lap at his balls. Out of the corner of he eye he can see Enjolras’ hand grasping at the cushion, fingers twitching as he tries to hold on to control. Grantaire smiles around his cock and keeps licking.
Enjolras is drunk, and by the time he comes with a deep sigh and a shiver, Grantaire’s jaw aches and his throat is sore, but he is drunk too, and so he does not mind much. He sits back on his heels and looks up at the man slumped on the couch in front of him, and he can not help feeling proud of himself.
He drags himself up beside Enjolras, thinking hard about asking if he can fuck him now. Grantaire is mostly hard, but he’s also more than mostly drunk and tired. He thinks that he’ll ask tomorrow, if he hasn’t been kicked out by then.
“I learned to do that in jail,” he says conversationally, when the silence has stretched out too long and he can’t find the bottle of chardonnay.
Enjolras turns his head to stare at him. “What?”
“In jail,” Grantaire repeats, digging in the cushions again. “There’s only three things to do in your free time: play Scrabble, work out, or fuck, and most guys would rather fuck your mouth than risk catching something fucking your ass. And if you’re good, they’re nicer to you.” He pulls his shirt up, showing off a nice set of abs. “’Course, if you work out, you get more say over who you’re with. I didn’t play a lot of Scrabble.”
“What?” Enjolras is still staring at him, putting a lot of things together. “What were you in jail for?”
Grantaire laughs hollowly. “The first time? Possession. One fucking joint.” He shakes his head. “And I’d just turned eighteen, so—“ He puts his hands out, wrists crossed.
Enjolras is now, if possible, even more completely at a loss. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly, and when Grantaire shrugs, he says, “That was amazing. It’s been…a very long time.”
It’s Grantaire’s turn to look confused. “So the other night, you didn’t…?”
Enjolras fixes his pants with fumbling hands. “I didn’t do that.”
Having located the wine, Grantaire takes a long drink and passes the bottle over. “So you just gave it up? Gave it up hard, too, by the way you were walking. Shouldn’t do that if you didn’t get anything out of it.”
“That’s none of your business,” Enjolras tells him, too tired to muster up an angry tone. He takes the bottle and finishes the last few swallows.
“Well,” Grantaire says. “If you fall asleep here, you really won’t be able to walk straight in the morning.” He levers himself up off the couch, making it to his feet after a couple of tries. “Come on.” He hauls Enjolras up, catching him as he tries to walk before he has his feet. “Jesus, you need to eat more. Nobody trusts a thin chef.”
“I’m not a chef anymore,” Enjolras says quietly, because it’s sunk into his bones and now it’s rising to the surface.
“Shut up,” Grantaire says. “You can still cook, can’t you? The old man won’t fire you. He knows it wasn’t your fault.” He gives up trying to drag Enjolras to the bedroom and slides an arm under his knees so he can pick him up and carry him.
Enjolras goes stiff instantly and starts trying to pry his way free. “Stop,” Grantaire orders, trying to find the bedroom before Enjolras makes him fall. “Stop, I’m not going to do anything to you. I’m going to get you in bed, and then I’m going to leave, I swear. Jesus.”
Enjolras stops. “You don’t have to leave.”
Grantaire locates the room and eases them sideways through the door. “Good, ‘cause I have no fucking idea where my car is.”
“How did you get here?” Enjolras lifts his head.
“Walked.” Grantaire finds the bed with his foot, hard, and swears but does not drop Enjolras. “’S not that far.”
The distance from the restaurant to his apartment is not actually that far. Enjolras has walked it before, when they first opened and everything there was new and exciting. Now, though, he thinks about how much his feet hurt and he drives.
Grantaire sets him on the bed and steps back. “’ Night.” He turns and heads for the door slowly.
Enjolras lifts his head and stares after him. “Where are you going?”
“Couch,” Grantaire says, as though it should be obvious, and points.
“You smell like a fryer.” Enjolras curls up around his pillow, unable to keep his head up one minute longer. “There is no way you’re getting dirty oil all over my couch. Take your clothes off and come here.” He’s being a dick and he knows it, but he can’t bring himself to ask Grantaire to share his bed outright.
After a moment he can hear sounds of undressing coming from the other side of his bed, and he makes a token effort to take his own clothes off. The pants are easy to kick down to the foot of the bed, but his coat is only half undone when Grantaire slides in beside him. Warm hands cover his and they fumble with the buttons together.
Enjolras falls asleep still tangled in his coat, with Grantaire’s arms holding him tight.
Enjolras wakes up to a throbbing headache and the sound of Grantaire swearing. He blinks for a moment, getting his bearings as much as he can, then rolls over. Grantaire is half-sitting up, rubbing his own head. “This is the last time I get drunk on your expensive wine.”
“Yes, it is,” Enjolras says tightly. “I don’t believe you left any for another time.”
“I did!” Grantaire protests hoarsely. “Jesus, I’ll never touch it again.” He squints over at the other side of the bed. “Water?”
Enjolras passes him the bottle from the nightstand, rummaging in the drawer for something, anything to dull the pain of the worst of the few hangovers he’s ever had. There are half a dozen bottles to choose from, the overflow from the medicine cabinet, prescriptions he takes when he remembers to, and a few over-over-the-counter offerings. The labels are small and the lids are screwed on very tightly, it seems, so Enjolras scoops them all up and deposits them in the middle of the bed.
“Yes, please,” Grantaire says, grabbing two and popping them open.
The events of the worst night of his life are coming back to Enjolras in pieces, making him groan again. He swallows the half-dozen pills Grantaire holds out to him, and then gropes for his pants, tangled in the sheets at the foot of the bed, and fishes out his phone. There are at least ten texts and half a dozen missed calls from Combeferre and Cosette and a couple numbers he doesn’t recognize. Enjolras stares at the screen, feeling completely unable to respond to any of them.
Grantaire getting out of the other side of the bed stark naked distracts him from the phone. Enjolras stares, trying to remember certain other things from the night before. “Did we…?”
“We didn’t do anything we haven’t done before,” Grantaire says shortly, ass in the air as he searches for his clothes on the floor. “Look, lend me twenty bucks for a cab and I’ll get out of your hair. You can take it of my check.”
“You’re not in my hair,” Enjolras says before he can think about it too much. The curve of Grantaire’s back is mesmerizing as he turns, the skin shockingly pale and covered with a light fur of black hair.
“Oh yeah?” It’s more a challenge than a real question, and Grantaire crosses his arms and squints at Enjolras, showing not the least bit of shame or modesty. Enjolras finds himself again at a loss for a response.
“Shower,” he says finally, because he can smell the restaurant on both of them. “Breakfast. Coffee.”
“Coffee,” Grantaire agrees, and heads toward the bathroom. Enjolras takes the opportunity to stare again, this time at straight spine and lean, muscular thighs. Grantaire hadn’t been lying about how he’d spent his time in jail.
Enjolras hears the shower curtain and the water, and wonders if he is expected to go and start breakfast while Grantaire uses up all his hot water. The pounding in his head has driven out any selflessness he might have possessed, though. It is his water after all, and his shower, and it is big enough for two. Enjolras levers himself out of bed and staggers to the bathroom, peeling off the remainder of his clothes from the night before.
He’s never taken a shower with anyone before, never wanted to, but Grantaire makes room for him, doesn’t touch but does look, discretely, and Enjolras finds himself growing flushed and hard from more than embarrassment and proximity to another naked human being. He closes his eyes as Grantaire slides past him to make room under the scalding water, which Enjolras hopes will camouflage both his blush and his embarrassment, he feels.
Enjolras lets the water pour over him for a long moment, hoping it will wash away everything, all the sinking despair and confusion, as well as the throbbing headache, and then he steps forward, eyes closed, realizing he shouldn’t hog the shower, and reaches out a hand to steady himself. Instead of the wall, his hand finds an arm, solidly corded with muscle. He slips and staggers and Grantaire catches him and holds him, and they slide together. Enjolras’ cock jumps at the touch, and he hears Grantaire groan. The sound echoes off the tile walls. Enjolras finds that he wants to hear it again. He keeps hold of Grantaire’s arm and leans into him, and Grantaire, after a moment, puts his other arm around him.
Enjolras is taller, barely, but they fit together with the water to ease the friction in more places than one. Grantaire slips a hand between them to grasp both their cocks together, and it is Enjolras’ turn to moan. The water washes over them as Grantaire arches to make room between them, just enough to stroke them both at once. Enjolras succeeds in bracing himself on the wall this time.
Grantaire groans again, and this time it turns into words. “Thank you,” he says. “For this, for everything.” He’s found the right lazy rhythm for both of them, and it is quickly driving Enjolras’ headache away. “I mean, I have friends with places, but sometimes—you can’t just go and ask.”
It takes Enjolras a moment to understand what he’s rambling about. “Yeah,” he agrees after a minute, breath hitching. He licks his lips and repeats himself when he can, because Grantaire’s hand has quickened. “Of course. Nobody should—you can, here, any—any time.” He knows he’s not making much sense himself, but he hopes that Grantaire will get it, hopes so much that he doesn’t even think twice about having offered his shower—and by extension his home—to this man.
Grantaire is the only thing keeping him from sliding down the tile now: Grantaire’s arm strong around him and Grantaire’s hand bringing him closer and closer to climax. Enjolras can hear the other man’s breathing deepen, hear his heartbeat grow more rapid, and when Grantaire mutters, “After you,” Enjolras falls.
In more ways than one, it turns out, because as Grantaire spills with him over their hands, his grip loosens and Enjolras collapses slowly against him, eyes closed. Still trembling, Grantaire catches him, and they cling to each other as the water washes away their mingled seed.
The hot water soon turns cold, though, and Grantaire slaps it off. Enjolras gets his feet under him and pushes the shower curtain aside to grab two towels from the shelf. Neither of them meets the other’s eye as they dry off. “Um,” starts Grantaire, finally.
“Coffee.” Enjolras cuts him off.
“Coffee,” Grantaire agrees.
A longish chapter for my faithful readers, with plenty of awkwardness and sexytimes!
Enjolras operates the French press while Grantaire once again makes eggs, scrambled this time, which puts them on opposite sides of the kitchen, backs to each other. It is an arrangement that suits Enjolras just fine. His head is pounding, the rest of his body is relaxed enough, but his mind is racing. He is fairly sure that he needs to sit Grantaire down and have a very serious talk about how he doesn’t sleep with his cooks and how this all should never have happened, but that would be such an enormous lie that he doesn’t think he can manage to look the other man in the eye and actually say the words.
“Are you gay?” Grantaire asks abruptly, back still turned as he plates the eggs and toast.
“I—“ It is not any of the questions Enjolras had expected, and he finds himself at a loss. “Yes? About a five and a half, I suppose.”
“Five and a half what? Inches?” Grantaire is eying his towel-clad groin speculatively, “You got more than that.”
“On the Kinsey scale,” Enjolras explains patiently, although he doesn’t feel it, and turns back to depressing the coffee plunger with painstaking slowness,
“Oh.” Grantaire still sounds like he doesn’t get it. “I’m not.” He appears to be thinking a moment. “But you have a nice cock and you’re letting me stay over.”
“Just because you’re staying here, you don’t have to…” Enjolras trails off. Is Grantaire staying, he wonders uneasily, trying to decide if he wants that, if he ever actually offered staying specifically.
“I know.” Grantaire turns back to the eggs and begins grating a chunk of near-petrified fiore sardo over them. “But you have a nice cock.”
Enjolras privately agrees with him about the organ in question. “Thank you?” He feels as though he should give a compliment in return. “Um, so do you.” He’d looked; Grantaire must have known he’d looked at it jutting proudly from a nest of black curls, rubbing slickly against his own.
“Yes, I do,” Grantaire says smugly, handing him a plate. “Are you done fucking with the coffee yet?”
They eat on the couch in silence. Enjolras turns his phone back on. There are even more messages now, and he reads and listens to them numbly. He texts Cosette and Courfeyrac back, and he is pleased to know that Combeferre has organized a deep cleaning of the entire restaurant while they are closed. Beyond that he lets the words wash over him, barely registering them or his breakfast. He thinks about Barricade when he first saw her, when she was being renovated and redecorated, so that the only thing remaining of the warehouse she used to be was the brick walls and metal gables.
Enjolras stabs his fork down to find he’s emptied his plate and starts in surprise at the clatter. Grantaire puts down his mug and stares at him. “You need a fucking TV or some weed or something. Stop thinking all the time. It’s not healthy.”
Enjolras reflects privately that if he thought more, maybe there wouldn’t have been insects in his produce for Javert to find. He finishes off his own coffee. “They’re cleaning,” he tells Grantaire, to change the subject. “I should be there.”
“Doing what? Scrubbing the walls?” Grantaire scoffs. “Executive chefs don’t scrub things.”
“The good ones do,” Enjolras says. “This one does.”
“See, this is why you need a TV.” Grantaire’s voice is rising steadily. “So you could fucking relax.”
“I relax,” Enjolras tells him mildly, not up for a shouting match at the moment. “I read.”
“Cookbooks!” Grantaire waves a hand at Enjolras’ not inconsiderable bookcase. “And Saveur, apparently.”
“And French novels.” Enjolras points to the appropriate shelf.
Grantaire rolls his eyes. “What do you do when you get home from work?”
“Sleep.” Enjolras shrugs. “See, that’s relaxing.” He’s really at a loss to understand the point of this conversation.
Grantaire sits back, crossing his arms. “Thank you. Thank you for proving my point. Jesus Christ,” he mutters. He stares at Enjolras and shakes his head when Enjolras stares back belligerently and wonders how long this will go on.
Grantaire finally leans forward to gather up their plates and stalk with them into the kitchen. Enjolras leans into the sofa and rubs his eyes. For all his defense of his habits, being able to get out of his own head sounds wonderful just now. After a moment, though, he composes himself and puts it all down to insufficient caffeine. Sighing, he picks up his their mugs and goes back to the kitchen, where Grantaire is washing the dishes with very bad grace.
Wordlessly, Enjolras puts the kettle back on and grinds more beans, wondering if he should get dressed and take the coffee to go once it’s done. Surely he should go over to the restaurant. Surely he’s needed for something. And he has no idea where else he might go. He also has no idea what Grantaire might do if he leaves, and the man is enough of an unknown quantity that he doesn’t want to leave it up to chance.
“Um,” Enjolras begins, planning to start with an offer of more coffee and end with some kind of overture to leave the house with him, phrasing to be determined on the fly.
“Look,” Grantaire cuts him off, turning from the sink, hands still soapy. “This is your house. I know that. And you’ve been…welcoming, so thank you. Thank you for that. God knows you had no reason to be. And I will be out of your hair just as soon as I can, all right?” He’s glaring dangerously, and the whole angry speech makes Enjolras feel strangely chagrined.
“It’s all right,” he says hastily, and suddenly he feels like it might be. “I just need you to keep coming to work, because I’m about to lose half my cooks to the new restaurant.”
“That’s bullshit,” Grantaire says and dries his hands as Enjolras pours the coffee.
Enjolras shrugs. He isn’t happy about it, but that’s not the word he would have chosen, either. “Most of them left perfectly good jobs to come work for me,” he points out. “No one’s being kicked out.”
Grantaire still looks belligerent, but Enjolras is coming to realize that this is one of his default expressions. He offers him his mug back, and the anger seems to subside into thoughtfulness. Grantaire takes a deep drink. “So everyone there cleaning, they’re on the clock, right? Not just doing it out of the goodness of their little hearts?”
Enjolras nods. “Nobody works for free. We’re not losing any people because they’re not getting their hours.” And he knows it must be costing Monsieur Valjean thousands of dollars, but he hopes that what they’ll gain in employee loyalty will be worth it.
“The old man’s crazy,” Grantaire mutters. “So you’re running, what, a five million percent labor cost right now?
Both statements are difficult for Enjolras to listen to for a number of reasons. “You’re welcome to go join them,” he points out mutinously, because it is his labor cost too, after all.
Grantaire looks tempted, and then he looks down at the towel still wrapped around his waist, matching Enjolras’ own. “I’ll lend you some clothes,” Enjolras adds hastily.
After a moment, Grantaire nods and follows him back to the bedroom. Enjolras puts his mug on the dresser and opens his closet, which is organized into roughly three-quarters chef clothes and one-quarter civilian ones. He considers stepping back and ceding the selection, but he owns several vintage French soccer jerseys that he’s rather weren’t on the table, so after a moment he just grabs a pair of jeans and a plain black shirt off the hangers and thrusts them at Grantaire. It is horribly awkward.
Grantaire must feel the same, because he takes the clothes silently, face blank as Enjolras moves to the dresser and lays out socks and underwear within reach.
“Don’t need those.” Grantaire breaks the terrible silence, looking pointedly at the boxer briefs still folded neatly on the bed as he begins to pull on the jeans.
Enjolras is torn. On the one hand he understands not wanting to wear someone else’s underwear, even if it is obviously clean and new, but on the other, he finds he cringes at the thought of Grantaire’s cock inside jeans that he, Enjolras, has worn and might wear again. He supposes that the charitable thing to do would be to just let Grantaire keep the pants, and then he’s not thinking about being charitable at all. He’s thinking about Grantaire’s cock, the thick, heavy length of it, and how it could make him forget that he doesn’t have a restaurant anymore.
After a moment Enjolras realizes that he’s been staring and looks away, but Grantaire has already noticed. “Yeah?” is all he says, though, one eyebrow raised.
Enjolras turns quickly back to his closet and grabs a pair of old khakis for himself, feeling his face grow hot.
“You don’t need those either,” says Grantaire’s voice behind him. “If you want to come over here and get on the bed.”
Enjolras lets the khakis drop.
“Not sure about the whole five and a half thing,” Grantaire continues, “but I’m pretty sure you’re a bottom. And as nice as your cock is, your ass is nicer.
Enjolras shuts the closet door very carefully and turns around. He’s never been propositioned like this, certainly not by a near stranger standing half-naked in his bedroom. His hands are shaking.
Grantaire jerks his head at the bed behind him. “Hands and knees. And do us both a favor and try to fucking relax. Don’t think about last night anymore.”
Enjolras starts to protest, wondering how he could have been that transparent, and Grantaire shrugs and starts dressing again. “If you don’t want to, never mind. But you looked like you wanted to. A man could be forgiven for thinking you did.”
“I want to,” Enjolras protests before he can stop himself, the words forced out by despair at the thought of going the whole day filled with the hollow ache of failure.
“Well, all right, then,” Grantaire says, smirking as he finally steps out of the jeans.
Sure he’s blushing, Enjolras goes to his nightstand and hands Grantaire a condom and lube from the drawer. He feels like there should be something else, so he leans in and kisses him, too, half-missing Grantaire’s mouth. It is, if possible, even more awkward than lending him clothes.
“You’re sweet when you’re not bossing people around a kitchen,” Grantaire mutters, voice heavy with sarcasm, but he pulls Enjolras in and kisses him back soundly, tongue thrusting possessively in before he pushes him onto the bed.
Trying to breathe and relax, Enjolras scrambles up into position as Grantaire rolls the condom on. The coffee’s kicked in by now, though, and he’s excited and tense and worried, waiting to have everything driven out of him.
He stiffens as he hears Grantaire come up behind him, but he keeps his head down. Saying no is one thing. He could do that, if he needed to, but talking through the sex, managing it, that’s out. And Grantaire seems to sense this, because he puts one hand on the small of Enjolras’ back, pressing him down as he tilts his hips up with the other. Enjolras arches, thrusting out, obeying the wordless command.
Grantaire sighs as he holds the position. “So sweet.” He pushes Enjolras’ knees a bit farther apart. “Stay there.” Enjolras nods and puts his head down, waiting for what he is sure will be a first brutal thrust. Wanting it but unsure if he can take it.
He holds steady, breathing shallow as Grantaire spreads him open slowly enough that Enjolras feels his blush return. He closes his eyes and tries to stop shivering.
For his part, Grantaire eyes the man almost submitting under his hands, smiles wickedly, and bends to thrust his tongue into his asshole.
Enjolras yelps into the pillow—there is no other word for it—and jerks violently, but Grantaire is still holding him firmly and so the sound tongue-fucking continues until Enjolras is scrabbling for purchase in the sheets and trying to muffle helpless, obscene noises. He has never in his life felt anything as wonderful as Grantaire’s concerted oral assault on his entrance. Of all the things he had imagined in near-panic, he would not have listed that.
“You didn’t have to do that,” he says, managing to lift his head in a daze when Grantaire has pulled back and is fumbling with the lube.
Grantaire pauses to look down at him in a patronizing way. “Hold still.” He draws his hand back and smacks him lightly, the small sound echoing through the room. Enjolras shudders, but he holds still.
“’Didn’t have to,’” Grantaire scoffs. “After all you’ve done that you didn’t have to. No, don’t, don’t fucking argue with me for once. Let me do this. Unless—” He stops and steps back, hands lifted. “I’m asking. This is me asking, and if you say no, it’s off. No questions, and I’ll fuck off.
Enjolras looks over his shoulder with great effort. “Don’t fuck off,” he says, with all the conviction he can muster. “Come here.”
Grantaire doesn’t need anymore prompting. He bends over the bed and plants his hand back at the base of Enjolras’ spine, making him tense up again, but it’s just to steady himself as he slicks the fingers of his other hand.
Grantaire prepares him slowly, working one finger in and then two, stretching him gently but persistently. It is too much and not enough both together and Enjolras pushes back, biting his lip to keep from moaning.
When Grantaire can move three fingers in and out easily and Enjolras has given up trying to be quiet, Grantaire bends over him once again, positioning himself quickly and sinking inside in one long slow slide. “Jesus Christ,” he mutters, with something like reverence.
The only thing on Enjolras’ mind just then is the first burn of penetration, never easy but always good. He shifts on the bed, adjusting so he can thrust back against Grantaire. He can’t quite manage to make himself ask for more or beg Grantaire to go harder, but Grantaire seems to understand. His fingers curl around slim hips as he pulls out and thrusts home once, twice. Enjolras has all the bedclothes within reach pulled up into a mound to bury his face in. He is not quite sobbing for breath yet, but as Grantaire finds his stride he gives up. By the time Grantaire’s panting in earnest he can only gasp, overwhelmed.
It would be easy to reach under and take himself in hand, but Grantaire is striking sparks consistently enough that Enjolras is beginning to feel that he might not have to, and then that he simply can’t. He’s not quite there yet, though, when Grantaire’s rhythm falters, the strokes becoming erratic and shallower. He groans deeply and grasps for the bed next to Enjolras, trying to steady himself.
For his part, Enjolras finally collapses into the crumpled sheets as Grantaire pulls out and rolls off to lie beside him. “Wish I’d fucked off?” he asks breathlessly, just a note of satisfaction in his voice, and Enjolras can only shake his head.
Hey, guys, I reeeeally like comments. Like, really, really a lot. Just saying.
Enjolras pushes himself up on his forearms on the bed before he’s really come back to himself completely. Breathing is easier, but his heart is still pounding and his erection hasn’t flagged. He sneaks a glance at Grantaire, who is sprawled on his back beside him, the knotted condom dangling from two languid fingers. Enjolras stretches out for the tissue box, dropping one on Grantaire’s chest, where he ignores it.
After a minute, though, he does lift his head and look over at Enjolras. “You all right?”
Enjolras thinks about saying that he’ll be fine just as long as Grantaire doesn’t drop that on his carpet, but decides that this would be rude, especially after Grantaire’s performance, which has left him sweaty and tousled and looking thoroughly fucked out. “Yeah,” he says finally. “Mostly.”
Grantaire’s eyebrows rise and then he sits up with a groan and touches Enjolras’ ass gingerly. “I’m sorry.”
Enjolras shrugs and rolls over. “Not that.” He feels sore and a bit swollen, but it’s nothing he isn’t prepared for or used to.
“Oh!” And Grantaire has leaned over and swallowed his length before Enjolras can say anything.
It’s a wonderful and overwhelming assault on his senses that leaves Enjolras clutching the bed and squirming. It is too much. He sits up with great effort and Grantaire pulls away, mouth flushed and puzzled. Enjolras shakes his head. “I can’t, not right now.”
Grantaire’s confusion grows, but he nods. “Do you want—what do you want?”
Enjolras is not quite sure himself, so his shoves the pile of bedclothes up against the headboard and leans against it, legs spread. He has never considered himself an exhibitionist, and he can’t quite look at Grantaire when he takes himself in hand, but he finds it spurs him on to know he has a watcher. He strokes himself slowly, long, easy motions on his still spit-slick cock.
Grantaire watches him with wide eyes and slightly parted lips, and after a moment Enjolras finds that he can lift his head and meet the other man’s frankly ardent gaze with one of his own. Grantaire’s eyes are brilliantly green, and in them Enjolras can see some of how the other man sees him, and it leaves him breathless. He increases the pressure on his cock slightly and closes his eyes as he feels the orgasm start to overwhelm him.
The wave comes up slowly and flattens him utterly before it recedes to lap slowly at the corners of his flickering consciousness. He blinks slowly, groaning a little as the world comes back into focus, and Grantaire is there leaning over him, expression guarded. Enjolras doesn’t know what he’d say if he could talk just then.
“You are so—“ Grantaire starts and then stops abruptly.
Enjolras does not wait for or want to know what he was going to say, so he leans over and reaches for the tissues again, but Grantaire is there suddenly, licking him clean with quick, wet strokes of his tongue. Enjolras freezes, and then he relaxes a little against the pile of blankets and watches, unsure of how to take it. He cannot think of anyone he’d do that for, which would make him feel guilty, but Grantaire seems so eager. It is disconcerting, to say the least.
When Grantaire finishes, he lifts his head and looks up, eyes devilishly bright under the tumble of black curls, and Enjolras cannot be still any longer. He grasps Grantaire’s hand and pulls him up to lie against his chest. It takes them a moment to get comfortable, but when they do, Grantaire’s head fits perfectly against his shoulder and Enjolras can bury his nose surreptitiously in his clean, damp hair. It is far too perfect to last.
“Thank you,” Enjolras says quietly, meaning everything.
“You have the ass of a Greek god and you taste like Gulf oysters.” Grantaire stretches, looking smug again. “Why are you thanking me?”
Enjolras has eaten any number of Gulf oysters, and he disagrees, but feels it would be impolite to say so. “Do you still want a ride to the restaurant?” He thinks he can actually manage going to Barricade now. He has been there plenty of times when the restaurant was closed. This is no different, he tells himself.
“About that.” Grantaire sits up and reaches for the discarded jeans. Enjolras climbs off the other side of the bed, moving gingerly, and begins collecting their discarded clothes from last night and stripping the sheets of the bed. “I need a favor. Another one. I don’t know where my car is, and I really, really need my car.”
“I’ll take you back to Corinth,” Enjolras says, trying to look like he’s busy with the dirty laundry and not staring at the way Grantaire’s broader chest stretches his borrowed tee shirt.
“Eponine lifted your keys.” He finds them after a minute in the pocket of last night’s pants.
“I like her even more.” Grantaire catches them and pockets them. “She’s seriously in love with your prep guy, and I’m pretty sure he’s being a dick to her.”
“Who, Marius?” Enjolras finds his own keys and both pairs of their shoes under the bed. “I don’t think he’s her type.” He doesn’t know whose type Marius might be, and he’s pretty sure Marius doesn’t, either.
“You know that,” Grantaire points out, “and I know that. But Eponine’s decided he’s wonderful.”
“She told you that?” Enjolras wonders aloud as they head out the door.
“She told me a lot of shit.” Grantaire shrugs. “She thinks you are the best chef in the world, and she told me to be nice to you.”
Enjolras is not sure what to say to this, so he busies himself unlocking his car and waiting for Grantaire to get in. They drive the few miles to the bar without speaking, though Grantaire changes the radio station five times. Enjolras realizes it’s probably best if he doesn’t get involved.
Grantaire’s Mustang is not there, but Enjolras waits in the car while he goes inside to ask. Grantaire comes back out in a few minutes looking dejected and angry, and gives Enjolras the address of a towing lot half way across the city. Enjolras programs it into his GPS and pulls out without comment.
Grantaire spends the ride in mutinous silence, staring out the window, so Enjolras puts in a worn U2 cd and thinks about what he’ll do when he gets back to the restaurant. Argue with Combeferre about the brunch menu, probably, and make family meal. He’s starving.
The lot is nearly as seedy as Corinth is, but Grantaire jumps out almost before the car has stopped moving and stomps into the tiny office. Fifteen minutes later, he emerges, one hand in his hair and the other fisted in his pocket. “Fuck it,” he says once he’s back in the car. “Forget it. Let’s go.”
“Is it here?” Enjolras picks up the GPS to check the address.
“Oh, it’s here.” Grantaire’s eyes are wild and he won’t look at Enjolras. “Do you smoke? Please say you smoke.”
Against his better judgment, Enjolras fishes a crumpled, half-empty pack out of the center console. Grantaire’s expression lifts a little. “I love you.” He takes a cigarette with shaking hands.
“I’m quitting,” Enjolras says ruefully, but he lets Grantaire light him one. “Is there something wrong with your car?”
“Fuck if I know.” Grantaire takes a long drag. “They want two hundred and fifty bucks to let me get her out.”
Enjolras is mildly shocked. He’s never been towed in his life and had no idea it cost quite so much.
“Fuck,” Grantaire says again, and rests his elbow out the window. “Fuck. When’s payday?”
“Um,” Enjolras starts, embarrassed that he doesn’t exactly know. He’s had direct deposit since they opened. The only time he thinks about his check is when Cosette pesters him about his 401(k). “Friday?”
Grantaire rolls his eyes and then runs a hand over his face. “Fuck,” he mutters again, and fumbles for another cigarette.
Enjolras is mild alarmed for the state of his upholstery, but he reaches into his back pocket with his free hand and pulls out his wallet.
“No,” Grantaire says, barely concealed panic in his voice. “Fuck, no. Not when I already owe you everything.”
“You don’t owe me everything,” Enjolras says mildly, trying not to worry as he holds out his debit card. “Go get your car.”
Grantaire stares from the card to Enjolras. “How do you know I’m not going to fuck off with your money?”
“Are you going to fuck off with my money?” Enjolras asks, trying to sound like he hadn’t been worried about that exact thing.
“No,” says Grantaire, “but if I were, I wouldn’t tell you, would I?”
Enjolras thrusts the card at him. “Take it. You need your knives.”
Grantaire twists toward him in the seat and brushes his fingers against Enjolras’ cheek. “Eponine is right,” he says quietly, and then he kisses Enjolras chastely on the lips.
Enjolras finds that he’s blushing. “It’s all right. You can pay me back.”
“With interest,” Grantaire promises. “In bed or in the kitchen or anyway you want.” And he takes the card, holding it tightly as he kisses Enjolras again, deeply this time, with one hand tangled in his hair.
“Cash works,” Enjolras says breathlessly when he pulls away, wondering at the sweetness of the kiss.
Grantaire nods and disappears back into the office again. Ten minutes later Enjolras sees him follow a disreputable looking man back into a locked lot, and a moment later the battered black Mustang pulls up beside his car.
Grantaire gets out looking painfully relieved and hands Enjolras back his card. “Thank you,” he says again, and bends down to kiss him through the window awkwardly. “Fuck. Thank you.”
“Come on,” Enjolras says, feeling the heat return to his face. “We’ve got work to do.”
Grantaire nods, and Enjolras waits for him to peel out of the lot before he follows considerably more slowly. The black car turns right where he turns left, though, and Enjolras considers following despite the GPS telling him that that’s the wrong way. As he drives back to the restaurant, though, he can’t quite shake the sinking feeling that he won’t see Grantaire there.
Sure enough, when Enjolras pulls up at the restaurant, there is no sign of the black Mustang. Enjolras sighs, pulls himself together, and goes in the kitchen door. The place is a riot of activity. People are moving shelves and, yes, scrubbing walls. Everything in the walkin and the freezer has been properly organized, and Combeferre seems to be cataloguing all of it on an inventory sheet. He puts the clipboard down, though, and comes to give Enjolras a light hug when he sees him. Enjolras accepts it, but “thank you,” is all he can manage to say.
He makes the rounds of his restaurant feeling like a ghost, and people keep out of his way. When he can’t stand it any more, he gathers up produce and chicken from the walkin that will perish if they aren’t used, taking them over to the prep station. He lays out his knives and tools like a surgeon, each perfectly aligned parallel to the next. And then he begins to peel carrots and dice onions and skin tomatoes, spreading them on pans to roast before he adds them to an enormous stock pot. The chicken is next, and he butchers each bird as though he’s prepping for service instead of just dicing the meat up to feed his employees. The aroma of soup fills the restaurant until the air is redolent of thyme and garlic instead of bleach and soap. One by one, people stop by to peer in the pot, and Enjolras tries to be gracious as they exclaim over it.
Being left alone to cook has eased the horrible knot in his heart a little, so that when Fantine arrives with fresh bread he can greet her and kiss her cheek and pass out bowls of chicken and vegetable soup to everyone. He finds he can also sit and eat it without thinking that if Grantaire were there he’d critique his knife cuts and tell him the broth needs more pepper. He can almost manage not to think about Grantaire at all.
After lunch he sits with Combeferre and Fantine at one of the banquettes, papers and laptops and half-eaten plates spread out around them, and then they do argue about the brunch menu. Fantine agrees to keep it focused on breads and pastries, along with fruit and several traditional egg offerings. Combeferre takes notes, and Enjolras tries to contribute and not think about the best omelet he’s ever had and how he’d never have been able to coerce Grantaire into duplicating it every Sunday morning.
The meeting dissolves into a mock tasting as Cosette brings rounds of mimosas and Bloody Marys and fresh juices for them to sample. It is fully dark outside by the time Enjolras gets up from the table and realizes that he’s more than a little tipsy. Cosette is the only one who seems to notice, though, and she only laughs and hugs him before he leaves.
“Give everyone a couple days off,” he tells Combeferre. “I’ll have recipes for you by then.”
“Will we be open by then?” Combeferre asks, his eyes doubtful for the first time.
“I don’t know,” Enjolras says, the only thing he can say. “But we have to be ready.” He tries to sound more optimistic than he feels.
Combeferre nods and touches him on the shoulder. “Take care.”
Enjolras passes Courfeyrac on his way out and thinks about asking if he’s heard from Grantaire, but he can’t quite manage it. It would be awkward, he tells himself. The short walk to his car lets him know how unsteady he is on his feet, and he deliberates a moment before deciding that he’s probably tasted one too many brunch cocktails to drive. Walking home is not what he had in mind after the exertions of that morning, but it’s a nice, clear night and the way is well lit. With his knives locked in the office at the restaurant, he only has his laptop bag to carry. There really isn’t a good reason not to.
He wants to be home now, though, which is patently ridiculous when he thinks about it. He has no reason to believe Grantaire will be there, not after his no-show earlier. And Enjolras would have no good reason to let him in. No reason at all, he thinks, and walks faster.
There is a little deli on the way that’s still open, and he stops in for a banh mi to eat as he walks. The first bite makes him realize how ravenously hungry he is, and the sandwich disappears in no time.
He finds himself watching the cars that pass, looking for a black Mustang, telling himself that if he ever sees Grantaire again, which is unlikely, that he will give him a piece of his mind and then fire him, even though Grantaire’s paperwork is still sitting in the office, which means he hasn’t technically been hired yet.
Thinking about what he might say while doing this keeps Enjolras occupied until he reaches his apartment, which is dark and empty and has no black Mustangs parked anywhere near it. Equal parts angry and relieved, he unlocks the door and sinks down on the couch, cradling his laptop as though some work might get done on it purely by osmosis.
He is far more tired, he feels, than the day’s activities should have left him. It is easier to open up his computer and start looking at recipes once he’s kicked off his clogs and stretched out. The procedures for everything currently on the menu at Barricade are already typed out and costed in Excel files, and from there Enjolras makes a template and begins the tedious work of compiling recipes for the brunch menu, each in its own file with procedures, ready for pricing.
It needs to be done, he tells himself, trying to remember what he paid for a case of asparagus last week. It would be easier to do at the restaurant where he has months of invoices at his disposal, as well as food and scales and minions to run and weigh things out for him, but he’s not at the restaurant and has no reason to be for the next two days. And at the end of those two days he needs to have recipes ready to prepped for brunch in preparation for their reopening, an event which he has almost succeeded in convincing himself is not only certain but imminent.
Enjolras really hopes that the simple formatting and math will put him to sleep, because sitting up all night waiting for an insistent knock on the door is patently ridiculous. And eventually, as the sun is coming up, he drifts off, the laptop still perched on his chest.
There is no knock on the door the next day, or the one after that. Enjolras spends the time sleeping and reading cookbooks and costing out recipes and resolutely not thinking about Grantaire. He has absolutely no reason to think about Grantaire, he tells himself. Grantaire has fucked, as it were, off.
On Monday, Enjolras spends a lot of time of time on the phone with Combeferre and Cosette, planning a small rollout of the brunch items for the next day. On Monday night, he receives a text from Cosette informing him that her father will not only be attending the rollout but will be bringing a few friends, which makes Enjolras break into a cold sweat.
Monsieur Valjean is friends with everyone, but most particularly with every other restaurant owner in town, as well as most of the food critics and bloggers. “How many friends?” he texts back anxiously.
“A few,” Cosette replies half an hour later. Enjolras has spent that half hour trying to not pull his hair out and feverishly updating his prep list while texting Combeferre, whose attempts at reassurance do not work. He is considering getting dressed and walking to the restaurant to start prepping right then, but it is past midnight, and he didn’t sleep a great deal the night before. Finally he sets his alarm for six AM, takes half an Ambien and goes to bed.
At three AM there is a loud knocking on the door. Enjolras rolls over and puts a pillow over his head, determined to ignore it, and sure enough, after a moment, the knocking stops, replaced by muted, scuffling noises. Enjolras tries to go back to sleep, but the scraping noises continue. Finally he drags himself up and pulls on a shirt, deciding that Grantaire has probably gotten into a fight with the building manager and that someone should call the police.
When he is halfway across the living room the door opens and there is Grantaire standing in the light from the gas station across the street. Enjolras is momentarily stunned, and this gives Grantaire enough time to stagger inside, which in turn is enough to galvanize Enjolras into speech.
“Did you- how did you? Do you have a key? Did someone give you a key?” he sputters, imagining a scenario involving Courfeyrac and a locksmith. “Where have you been?”
“You really need to relax,” Grantaire pronounces with the great care of someone trying very hard not to slur. “I am very, very drunk, and I just picked the lock on your front door. I think I need some kind of medal.”
“I think you need a bath,” Enjolras says, in the frostiest voice he can manage while both half-asleep and furious.
Grantaire steps further into the room, holding out something. He is still wearing Saturday’s borrowed clothes, which are considerably the worse for wear, as is Grantaire himself. His left eye is spectacularly blackened, and there is a scabbed cut on his forearm. He thrusts whatever is in his hand out to Enjolras, who doesn’t move, at which point Grantaire simply drops whatever it is onto the floor. It flutters.
“I brought your money,” he says, as an afterthought.
“Do you know what time it is?” Enjolras runs a hand through his hair in frustration, even though he knows from experience that this will make it stand up even more than it already is.
Grantaire looks at his wrist for a long time before he realizes that there is no watch on it. “No?”
“It’s three in the morning.” Enjolras’ voice rises half an octave. Three in the morning, and there are dirty bills all over his living room floor, and he has no faith in his ability to get Grantaire to stay.
“Oh.” Grantaire appears to be thinking hard. “I’ll just go, then.” He turns and trips over the rug. It is anything but funny.
“Did you drive here?” Enjolras asks in disbelief. “You can’t drive like this.”
Grantaire steadies himself, leaning heavily on the door jam. “If I can concentrate enough to pick a lock, I can sure as hell drive.”
Nothing in Enjolras is ready for an argument. The pit of his stomach is still filled with worry about the tasting, and the Ambien is still coursing through his veins, fogging his head and making his limbs sluggish. “You can drive into a tree or off a bridge. Then you won’t be driving anywhere.” He remembers how attached Grantaire seems to be to his car, and hopes that this line of reasoning might work.
Grantaire gives him a thumbs up and a crooked smile. “Wouldn’t that make you happy? And the world would be a better place, so everyone wins.”
“I have a tasting tomorrow morning, and no hands and no prep,” Enjolras tells him tiredly. “I could have used your help. I don’t need your death wish.”
“You know what? Fuck you.” Grantaire’s face is now a slack mask, and Enjolras can hear the angry man he first met at the shelter. “Fuck you and your pretentious food and the huge stick shoved so far up your ass it’s a miracle you can walk.”
“My food is not pretentious!” Enjolras protests, and then holds his breath waiting for Grantaire to sneer that he sounds like a girl.
“It is, and I think you know it, but it’s delicious. Just like you,” Grantaire muses.
Enjolras pinches the bridge of his nose, purposely not looking at the clock on the wall. He has no idea how to deal with this.
With great effort, Grantaire pushes himself out of the doorway and ambles across the living room. “I’m going to take a shower,” he says without looking at Enjolras. “Wouldn’t want to get your sheets dirty.”
When he can hear the water running, Enjolras lets out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. Showering would have been first on his list of requests had he convinced Grantaire to stay, but he hadn’t been looking forward to trying to talk him into it. Grantaire seems to have solved that problem himself, though, and now Enjolras has to deal with the much bigger problem of a drunk Grantaire in his bed when all he, Enjolras, wants to do is sleep.
He thinks about this problem while he shuts and locks the front door, bolting it for good measure. He tries to avoid the money on the floor as he does so, but one bill sticks to his bare foot and he has to pull it off. It is a twenty, he notices, worn but feeling real. The other bills are twenties, too, and there must be at least a dozen of them.
He leaves them on the carpet and goes to wash his hands. The shower is still running, but Grantaire has discarded his clothes outside the bathroom door. Enjolras picks them up gingerly and carries them over to the washing machine. He goes through the pockets before he drops them in and starts the water, removing a tiny bag of marijuana, two bottle caps, and a battered leather wallet. He throws away everything but the wallet, adds detergent to the churning water, and washes his hands again before he goes back to bed.
A few minutes later, Grantaire crawls in beside him, smelling faintly of soap and still damp. Enjolras goes completely, totally still while he waits to see what Grantaire will do. Grantaire doesn’t seem to know that he’s there until he rolls over toward him, and then Enjolras can see his teeth in the dark. “Thank you,” he says quietly, sounding like the shower has sobered him up considerably.
Enjolras nods, and then realizes Grantaire can’t see him. “I do not have a stick up my ass.”
“Are you sure?” Enjolras doesn’t have to see the leer to know it’s there. “Want me to check?”
“Some other time,” he says firmly, and waits for another overture, or a hand or an attempt at a kiss. None of these happen, though, and after a while he can feel himself drifting off.
“Want me to move to the couch?” Grantaire asks awkwardly, waking him up.
“I don’t want you to touch me while I’m asleep,” Enjolras mumbles.
He feels the bed shift as Grantaire gets up and misses his warmth immediately. “Touch touch,” he adds, and Grantaire pauses. “Not touch.”
“Okay,” Grantaire says slowly, drawing the word out. “I don’t know what you’re on, but I want some.”
“Not with alcohol,” Enjolras says, and then, because he is cold: “Come here.”
Grantaire curls against him, naked and smooth. “Good?” But Enjolras is already snoring softly.
Please comment. I cannot explain what a delightful frisson of joy each one causes in my heart.
The end of this story is in sight now, and I believe I know how everything will wrap up, although these characters have proven to have minds of their own.
Enjolras’ alarm is a looped recording of the ticket printer at Barricade spewing out orders, the only sound that wakes him up reliably, even if it does result in a panicked cold sweat. This morning it just makes him angry. By the time he’s slapped it off, Grantaire is sitting up too, rubbing his head and swearing. “Fuck, that thing’s horrible.”
“It works,” Enjolras says shortly, stepping to the closet on aching feet. After a minute of fumbling, he pulls out a black chef’s coat and tosses it to Grantaire. Enjolras himself has only worn red since he opened Barricade, and today is no exception. It’s an open kitchen, but he lets his cooks wear anything they want, as long as it isn’t red.
They dress in the darkness, and then Enjolras steels himself and turns on the bathroom light to wash his face and brush his teeth. He hears Grantaire stumble out of the room, and then there is thumping from the kitchen. Enjolras sighs. All he wants to do this morning, all he thinks he can do, is cook. He’d like to cook well, though, and a second pair of hands will make that much easier.
But the sounds of rummaging have gotten louder. “What did you do with my weed?” Grantaire yells. “Did you throw away my weed?” He appears in the bathroom doorway clutching the little bag. “You are a terrible person.”
Enjolras hangs up his towel and looks at Grantaire, who manages to look sleepy and belligerent at the same time. “Yes,” he says, and then, after a minute. “Marijuana makes you slow.”
“Marijuana makes me not kill anyone this morning,” Grantaire says, rolling a joint with deft fingers. “Coffee?”
“Coffee at the restaurant.” Enjolras pushes past him and gathers up his laptop. “Don’t light that in here.” He hears the match strike behind him as soon as they’re out the door, and he sighs, because the smell is going to be all over his clothes and his hair and his…. He stops abruptly, groaning, and Grantaire comes down the stairs and runs into him.
“Would you mind—“ Enjolras begins, steeling himself for mockery, and then they round the corner to the parking lot and he sees that Grantaire has parked in his spot.
“It would be my pleasure,” Grantaire says, his voice falsely bright, and he opens the passenger’s door for Enjolras with a sweeping bow.
“Thank you,” Enjolras says through gritted teeth. The car does reek of smoke, but otherwise the leather seats are worn but clean, although the small back seat is full of boxes and folded blankets. Seeing them makes Enjolras feel strangely sad until he sees Grantaire fiddling with the CD player and braces himself for heavy metal or rap or something equally horrible. The stereo, like the car, has clearly seen better days, but it crackles into life with a familiar thrumming guitar and then Bernard Sumner is singing Age of Consent.
Enjolras gapes, and when he can close his mouth and compose himself he has forgiven Grantaire his disappearance and his drugs and most of his sarcasm. Still…. “Is that my CD?” he asks suspiciously as they take a corner far too quickly.
“Nope,” Grantaire tells him, with something like genuine happiness. “You don’t have this one.” Which is true, although the album is on his iPod, listened to hundreds of times.
Enjolras pauses briefly to worry about Grantaire riffling through his CD collection, but then he’s thinking about how much he loves New Order and how Grantaire, who owns almost nothing, has their collector’s edition CD in his car. “I know, I know: I have excellent taste in music,” he’s going on, reaching back to hand Enjolras a scuffed CD wallet from behind the seat.
As Enjolras unzips it and thumbs through the CDs, he finds himself agreeing grudgingly. The albums are mostly post-punk with a smattering of harder stuff. He gives up trying not to smile when he gets to the last folder. “Do you mind if I rip this?” he asks, slipping out a disc that has “Unknown Pleasure & Closer” scrawled on it in Sharpie. And when Grantaire shrugs he opens his laptop up then and there.
The CD hasn’t finished importing by the time they pull up to Barricade, but Enjolras goes to eject it regretfully. “Keep it,” Grantaire says, just as he’s closing iTunes.
“I can’t take your CD,” Enjolras says, because there’s no way he’d lend out one of his own Joy Division albums. He knows he should be getting his kitchen focus together, that they have five or six hours of hard work ahead of them that he is in no way mentally prepared for, but just then he thinks that he could sit in Grantaire’s car and listen to Peter Murphy and Ian Curtis and Siouxsie Sioux sing forever.
But Grantaire has parked and is getting out, so Enjolras shuts his laptop with a sigh. He clutches it awkwardly as Grantaire opens his trunk, which is filled with more boxes and duffels, and retrieves his knife roll. There is a crate full of vinyls that Enjolras is itching to look through, but he knows that now really isn’t the time.
He does his best to get his head together as he unlocks the restaurant’s back door, breathing steadily. “Fucking up today would be really bad, right?” Grantaire says behind him, and Enjolras rolls his eyes.
“Really, really bad,” Enjolras sighs, fumbling for the lights. He flicks them all on at once and there in the fluorescent brilliance is Grantaire, green eyes bloodshot but bright.
“Three miles to go,” he says, and kisses Enjolras softly and swiftly before jogging out onto the line.
Enjolras nearly drops his laptop as he stares after him. “There’s a soldier waiting for me,” he whispers to himself, which is the wrong lyric. He goes the opposite way back to the office, trying hard to pull himself together.
In the office, he drops into one of the chairs, connects his laptop to the printer, and starts printing out recipes and his prep list. The drone of the machine is enough to make him sleepy, and the familiar smell of paper, coffee, and shoes reminds him of all the times he caught catnaps in here in the mad months trying to get the restaurant open, often the only sleep he’d get in a day.
When the printer falls silent, though, he forces himself to collect the papers and make his way out on to the line. Grantaire has the ovens and the hoods on and is on his knees in front of the fryer swearing at faulty pilot light. He stops when Enjolras comes up behind him. “Are we frying anything today?”
“Not if I can help it.” Enjolras says, offering him a hand up.
“Thank god,” Grantaire groans, taking it. His palm is warm and callused, and Enjolras holds on a moment longer than he needs to. It takes Grantaire asking about coffee twice to get him to let go and nod.
“Yeah, coffee,” says Enjolras, thinking that maybe coffee will do the trick. He leads the way to the walk-in.
On a far back shelf is a small lexan half-full of murky brown liquid labeled “Courfeyrac’s—Do Not Touch” in large letters. Enjolras grabs a chinois and strains out two glasses while Grantaire watches him dubiously. “It hasn’t killed anyone yet,” Enjolras reassures him, putting the container back and snapping the lid back on.
Grantaire takes a sip and then keeps drinking, smiling around the rim of the glass. Enjolras finds himself smiling too as he shotguns his own coffee, icy and exponentially stronger than double-strength. Glasses empty, they stare breathlessly at each other, and Enjolras feels like he should say something inspirational, but nothing comes to mind, so he just hands Grantaire the second page of his prep list and half the sheaf of recipes.
Grantaire riffles through the pages and then leans over to peer at the ones in Enjolras’ hand, whistling softly. “No eggs Benedict, no create-your-own omelets, no fucking pancakes. The whole city’s going to be talking about you.”
“I hope so. My food may be pretentious,” he says pointedly, “but no one has ever accused me of being derivative.” He’s aware that the menu is far from being either traditionally French or American, but he hoped, blearily typing on his sofa, that his patrons and critics might see it as a reinvention, so that the enormous “Closed for Renovation” sign draped over the front door might not be completely a lie.
“So we’ve got what, four, five hours?” Grantaire asks.
Enjolras shrugs anything but carelessly. “Cosette said she’d call when they’re on their way. I’d like to have as many dishes as we can ready to present.” A few dishes for a few friends is what he’d been asked for, but Enjolras likes to underpromise and overdeliver.
Grantaire cracks his knuckles, wincing because two of them are swollen., and then he starts gathering product off the shelves, eggs and cream and butter, until his arms are so full that Enjolras has to open the door for him.
“Thank you,” he says awkwardly as Grantaire squeezes past him, because Grantaire doesn’t have to be here. Enjolras can’t even remember asking outright for his help.
“You got it, boss,” says Grantaire, not even looking back on his way out to the line. Enjolras sighs and begins gathering his own supplies.
He sets up his station on the pastry board and starts whisking together crepe batter. He begins carefully sectioning oranges into supremes next, and then he opens his mouth to ask Grantaire to go out to the bar for Grand Marnier but thinks better of it and goes to get it himself. It takes him a moment to find the liqueur, and he grabs a bottle of brandy next to it as well as a large bottle of opened house cabernet.
He hands the wine over to Grantaire, who has pans and bowls spread out from garde manger to sauté, on his way back. “For the meurette,” he says severely, when Grantaire’s eyes light up, but that doesn’t keep him from grabbing the bottle out of Enjolras’ hand, pulling the cork out with his teeth and taking a defiant swig.
Enjolras sighs for what feels like the thousandth time that morning. “Leave enough for the sauce.” Telling Grantaire not drink the wine would fail utterly, he feels, and this defeat must have shown on his face, because Grantaire turns to the range with the same defiance and pours the bottle out into a shallow pan of simmering stock. All of the bottle.
Enjolras blinks in disbelief as Grantaire slowly raises an eyebrow. “You don’t have time to babysit me, chef.” And Enjolras shakes himself out of it and goes to the back kitchen with a frown, because he really doesn’t.
And it quickly becomes clear that Grantaire doesn’t need babysitting at all, as the smells of baking quiche and searing steak float back from the line. Enjolras occupies himself rolling out the dough for gruyere biscuits and grinding and regrinding sausage. He pulls the curing pork belly from the walk-in, scrapes off the salt and spices, and gives it a quick smoke in the back oven. He soaks day-old brioche and croissants in cream and brandy and brings it up to the line to bake into bread pudding in the one of the other ovens. He does, in an exhausted but focused haze, what he loves to do.
When his phone buzzes he picks it up and speaks to Cosette warmly, and when Monsieur Valjean comes up to the line, Enjolras takes off his floury apron, wipes his hands clean and greets him politely. Grantaire has faded into the back kitchen and is calmly removing things from ovens, slicing and plating and generally staying uncharacteristically silent. This would worry Enjolras, except that he is already worried about the lines of people filing into his restaurant, people he recognizes from articles and television specials, men and women he is used to seeing in chef’s whites across a competition kitchen, and they are filling half his dining room.
Enjolras sets his jaw and tries to ignore the sudden cold sweat trickling down his back. He goes and finds Grantaire. “Ten tables,” he says quietly. “Send everything out.”
Grantaire swears in a whisper and nods. “I need more steak,” he says, almost as an afterthought. Enjolras nods and heads to the walk-in as Grantaire sprints out to the line.
Enjolras wrestles the lexan of marinating hanger steak out onto a table and grabs a house knife to start portioning it, working as fast as he can because there are a thousand other things that need his attention. And while he’s making a list of all these things in his head, the knife slips a little to the side, and what jolts Enjolras out of his planning is a horrible slicing pain and then the sight of his own blood on the cutting board beside the steak. A sizeable chunk of his left thumb is on the opposite side of the knife from the rest of his thumb.
It’s not the agony of the cut that leaves him gasping so much as the certain knowledge that his tasting is failing right now. And then Grantaire is behind him, grabbing his bloody thumb in a handful of paper towels and lifting his hand above his head, chanting “fuckfuckfuckfuck” all the while under his breath.
“Just get the food out,” Enjolras hisses under his breath, hoping no one has noticed the delay.
“Nobody wants to see me cooking,” Grantaire hisses back as he propels Enjolras toward the office and the first aid kit. “He wants to see his chef do a kickass tasting.”
“I need two hands to kick ass,” Enjolras protests illogically, wondering why he’s even bothering, as Grantaire blots the cut and then tears open a variety of bandages to plaster over it.
“You have two hands,” Grantaire tells him fiercely. “You have three and a half hands.” And by the time Enjolras has figured out what he means, Grantaire is rolling a finger cot over his thumb and sliding a glove on over that. Enjolras finds he can move his hand mostly without pain, and that the blood is not only contained but invisible.
He doesn’t even have time to thank Grantaire before the other man is dragging him back up to the line, where he has all twelve gas burners on, every single one with a sauté pan on it ready to go. Enjolras starts setting plates of quiche and baskets of biscuits up into the window, and as if by magic Cosette appears and whisks them away to the tables. His hand throbs dully as he watches Grantaire furiously ladling pooled eggs and chopped ham and mushrooms into every single saucepan into his disposal and then dancing over to the grill to throw on a dozen pieces of steak.
Enjolras manages the flattop, flipping sausage patties and bacon as Grantaire plates all his omelets and coats the empty pans with crepe batter. These plates disappear into the dining room as well, and then Grantaire is wiping his hands and passing plates to Enjolras from the salamander, searing hot, half of them ready for crepes Suzette, the others for steak and eggs. Side items go out last, and then Enjolras remembers the bread pudding, which has gotten a little crispy in the oven but is not quite burnt.
Looking out into the dining room, Enjolras can see that the tables are full of people eating and talking happily, and he begins to breathe normally again. Grantaire flicks the gas off and mutters something about more coffee, so when Monsieur Valjean comes up to shake Enjolras’ hand he is nowhere in sight. Enjolras smiles and nods and says thank you at least ten times, trying to listen politely as guest after guest tells him how delicious everything was and how they are sure that brunch at Barricade will be a smashing success once the restaurant is allowed to serve paying customers again.
Cosette presses a mimosa into his hand at some point, and he drinks it, realizing how ravenously thirsty—and hungry—he is. He swallows a second glass before he finally manages to excuse himself back to the line to fill two plates with leftover bacon and crepes and eggs Meurette and go in search of Grantaire.
He finds him in the walk-in, putting away the product they hadn’t used and working on the brandy. Enjolras holds out a plate. “It’s done,” he says, feeling the adrenaline letdown. “Come on.”
They wedge themselves into the office and dig in. While he eats, Enjolras tries to find a way to say everything that’s simmering inside his head. He is acutely aware that Grantaire just saved his reputation and his menu, and in the process saved him a great deal of blood and pain, both physical and mental. Enjolras is aware that this demands at the very least effusive thanks, but Enjolras has never been effusive around anyone except Alain Ducasse. So instead he decides to make a gesture.
He sets his plate on the desk, and he picks up Grantaire’s hand in both of his. “I’m going to need an exec sous when Combeferre leaves. Would you mind—“ But before he can finish Grantaire has closed the distance between them and is kissing him hard, filling his mouth with the taste of brandy and herbs and hope.
They kiss for what seems like hours, tongues fighting each other at first and then dueling lazily until Enjolras ends up mostly in Grantaire’s lap, with Grantaire’s hands up his coat. “Don’t start bleeding again,” says Grantaire, between a kiss and a breath, as Enjolras tries to reciprocate awkwardly.
“It’s fine,” Enjolras protests, but his thumb is still throbbing.
“Sure I don’t need to kiss it better?” Grantaire extracts a hand to catch Enjolras’ and peels the glove off. The bandages underneath are tinged with rusty red, and Grantaire doesn’t even try kissing them, just peels off one corner and peers at the wound. “Do you want me to drive you to the hospital?
“It’s not nearly that bad,” Enjolras insists. He has health insurance but has never made use of it, and he’s not about to start now.
“I don’t think you need stitches,” Grantaire admits, seeming oddly comfortable in his role of triage nurse. “It’s not clean, though.” He starts uncovering the cut slowly, but the attention is still enough that it’s bleeding sluggishly when he’s done and Enjolras is biting his lip.
Grantaire reaches up and snags an alcohol wipe from the first aid kit as comprehension dawns on Enjolras’ face. “It’s clean,” he says quickly. “My knife was clean.”
Grantaire hands him the bottle of brandy, which still has a few swallows left in it, and a roll of gauze. “You were cutting meat,” he says patiently, tearing open the wipe. “It’s not clean. If it gets infected, some doctor will make it hurt a lot more than this. Now hold still.” And he swabs the cut briskly and thoroughly, biting his own lip with concentration.
Enjolras keens and puts his head down on the nearest surface, which happens to be Grantaire’s shoulder, while Grantaire wraps his thumb in layers of gauze and tapes it up as gently as he can. When he finishes, he’s nearly as pale as Enjolras is, but he has the presence of mind to open the brandy bottle and push it towards the other man’s mouth.
For once, Enjolras drinks without protest, which makes him gasp for a different reason but seems to take his mind off the pain. He groans, which turns into a kind of agonized panting. Grantaire holds him and mumbles apologies.
“Ugh,” Enjolras says finally, and lifts the brandy bottle up to stare at it. It remains empty.
“I’ll get you the Grand Marnier,” Grantaire says quickly.
Enjolras opens his mouth to tell him not to, then thinks better of it. “You’re trying to get me drunk,” he grumbles, standing up with great effort and wobbling slightly.
“I’m trying to get both of us drunk,” Grantaire replies. “Do you have to be right all the time?”
Enjolras eyes him speculatively as they jostle out of the office. The restaurant is empty once again, but Cosette has left the dirty plates stacked neatly in the dish pit. Enjolras sighs at the sight and rolls up his sleeves.
“No fucking way, not with that hand,” Grantaire tells him, and has unbuttoned his coat in seconds. He takes it off and ducks behind the dish racks, leaving Enjolras to stare at his bare back before he collects himself and goes to gather up the leftover food and tools from the line.
Normally after service the equipment would go to the pot sink, where Gavroche would make quick work of them, but this isn’t a normal service and Gavroche is nowhere to be found, however much Enjolras wishes for him as he stacks the mixing bowls and sauté pans as far away from the china as he can. He tries not to pay too much attention to how Grantaire is running everything through the dish machine together with merry abandon.
The restaurant is finally empty and the line eerily silent as Enjolras makes one last trip out to wipe down the cutting boards and make sure all the mise en place is covered. He’s still pleased at the success of the tasting, but most of the shining happiness is gone. His bloodstream has been replaced with a corrosive cocktail of coffee, alcohol, and orange juice and he’s starting to feel it. Sleeping forever is the pinnacle of his culinary aspirations at the moment, and his bandaged thumb hurts like hell.
“You look like shit,” Grantaire says, as the dishwasher finally falls silent. He’s haggard himself, eye still blacked and arms still sporting various cuts and bruises, but there’s a manic bounce in his step.
“Just the kind of astute observation that I expect from my strong right hand,” Enjolras says, as dryly as he can manage.
“Left hand, now.” Grantaire rolls his eyes and pulls off his apron. “Too bad that’s not the hand you jerk off with.”
“Shut up,” Enjolras tells him. “Come on.” He leads the way back to dry storage, flicking the house lights off as he goes. In the dim light of the far back kitchen, he starts wrestling with the wooden pallets stacked with fifty pound bags of semolina and pastry flour.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Grantaire mutters, but he helps anyway, and between the two of them they get the top pallet down and shoved next to the bottom one. Enjolras rummages through the stacks of linens on the shelf nearby until he finds a tablecloth large enough to throw over the flour sacks and a bundle of towels soft enough for a pillow.
“If Heston Blumenthal can do it, so can we,” he offers by way of explanation, sitting down on the makeshift bed and kicking his clogs off. “At least that’s what Combeferre said. It was his idea.”
“I knew there was something going on with you two,” Grantaire says, flopping down beside him.
“We opened this restaurant,” Enjolras says sharply, wondering why the assumption annoys him. “When there was time to sleep, we slept here.”
“You going to help him open the new place?” Grantaire asks, sounding like he cares and is trying to hide it.
“Of course.” Enjolras tries to stifle a yawn. “And I need someone who can keep Barricade together when I’m not here. If you can’t do that….”
Grantaire produces the bottle of Grand Marnier as if by magic. “If you don’t trust me, don’t give me the fucking job.”
Enjolras watches him take a long swig, wondering if he’s made an enormous mistake. “I believe that you can run a kitchen,” he says, choosing his words carefully.
“No, you don’t,” Grantaire says bitterly, stretching out with one hand behind his head. “You believe I’ll fuck it up.”
Enjolras imagines he can feel an ulcer forming. “If you disappear again, I will fire you.”
“I had to take care of some things,” Grantaire says, not looking at him. “I got your money back, didn’t I?”
“I wasn’t worried about the money.” Enjolras is remembering how difficult it is to get comfortable lying on flour sacks.
“You worry about anything for yourself?” Grantaire’s voice gets rougher as more of the liqueur disappears down his throat. “Don’t know what the old man’s paying you, but it’s enough to have a massage once in a while. Your back’s all knots.”
Enjolras can feel all of them right now, but he doesn’t say anything. Grantaire snakes a hand over to rub at his shoulder. The touch is hard and heavenly, and Enjolras leans into it, and when Grantaire hits a knot directly, he moans without thinking.
“Am I going to get in trouble if I tell you what you sound like?” Grantaire’s voice is right in his ear, and the words go straight to Enjolras’ cock. He shifts, uncomfortable in more ways than one.
“No,” he says quietly, because if they’re going to argue about this it’s not going to be sexy at all.
“You need to get laid regularly,” Grantaire says, and Enjolras can smell the orange liqueur on his breath as he goes on working on one knotted muscle after another, rubbing at them relentlessly until they loosen. The pain is enough to make Enjolras shift restlessly until Grantaire’s other arm comes around him to hold him tight. “You tell me to stop, I’ll stop,” Grantaire reassures him, “but I think, I think this is the kind of pain you like.” He presses down hard enough to make Enjolras cry out. “Do you want me to fuck off?”
“God, no.” Enjolras can’t breathe without panting now. He’s curled up in as much of a fetal position as Grantaire’s grip will allow him to. The muscles in his back are releasing months of tension, enough to make him dizzy. He never wants Grantaire to stop.
Grantaire seems willing to keep patiently working away, massaging with more force than technique but making headway steadily. “D’you want me to finger you?” he asks, breathless himself and clearly drunk enough to be completely shameless now. “I can do it just like this.” He finishes working his way down Enjolras’ back, leaning in to each stroke and squeeze. Grantaire curls his hands around Enjolras’ hips and waits for him to collect himself enough to speak.
It takes a long time, since Enjolras’ whole body feels filled with a warm, wonderful throbbing. He rolls his shoulders and flexes his spine, closer to tears than he’s been in years, because it hurts but it’s better. Grantaire spoons around him and starts petting his hair, to Enjolras’ great embarrassment.
“Are you determined to fuck me in my restaurant?” he mutters, trying to sound scandalized and failing completely.
“You haven’t done it before, not even to christen the place?” Grantaire is doing his best to sound shocked and also failing.
“That’s definitely against health code.” But so is everything they’re doing right now, though any actual food is pretty well protected with layers of cloth and paper.
“Fuck health code,” Grantaire mutters, shoving a hand inside Enjolras’s pants while he fumbles on the shelves with the other. Enjolras cranes his neck and then groans when Grantaire brings down the bottle of very expensive olive oil and fumbles it open so he can coat his fingers.
The fruity, grassy smell fills the air. It’s a finishing oil, to be drizzled over a composed plate at the very last moment before it’s sent out to the table. Enjolras has always taken it upon himself to put the last touches on his food, adding a few grains of fennel pollen or flakes of truffle salt before it’s sent out. He has poured out so much of this very oil, two fingers over the bottle’s mouth to keep the stream fine and precise.
And now it seems like Grantaire is trying to finish him as he works two fingers slowly in and out of Enjolras’ ass, the fine oil easing his progress although he’s being anything but gentle. Enjolras pushes back as he feels himself being scissored open. The stretch and burn seems more intimate and acute than sex itself, perhaps because this is the main course, not merely a prelude.
Enjolras has decided that this is going to be a one course tasting menu for all involved, and is trying to get comfortable again when Grantaire finds his prostate. Enjolras shudders, cuing Grantaire to angle his strokes so that his fingertips play gently over that most magical spot.
“Yes?” Grantaire breathes in his ear, and Enjolras groans. This is Grantaire’s cue to thrust faster and add, to Enjolras’ shock, another finger. He bucks, feeling split in two, and listens for the sound of Grantaire taking his cock out, but there is only the lewd squelch of penetration and Grantaire’s small grunts of concentration.
“D’you think you can come just from this?” Grantaire mumbles, and Enjolras nods frantically, afraid that that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
“All right,” Grantaire says, sounding pleased, and seems to settle down to work. He clearly knows his business, Enjolras realizes slowly and then all at once, as his climax rises up to meet him. He’s too tired to manage it in any way at all and it simply overwhelms him.
Quietly, from just behind him, he can hear Grantaire coaxing him as he shudders, saying sweet and beautiful and perfect as though he thinks Enjolras really is all of these things. It would be difficult to listen to if Enjolras wasn’t so perfectly relaxed and exhausted.
The pallet isn’t exactly comfortable, but he has caught naps on it many times before. His body seems to feel it’s all right to do it again, just as his hand seems to know to reach up and cup Grantaire’s cheek. He closes his eyes for a moment, thinking about how much he owes Grantaire after this day. Just a moment is all it’s meant to be, but of course it isn’t, and when Enjolras wakes up, someone is shaking his shoulder, and Grantaire is swearing a blue streak.
I know there has been an enormous wait between the last chapter and this one, for which I heartily apologize. I can only hope that you are all still with me and that interest remains. Please feel free to berate me in the comments and know that I would adore you for doing so.
Enjolras blinks and looks up to Courfeyrac, who is grinning from ear to ear. He dimly registers Marius standing behind him, as well, probably because they ride together. Enjolras is also pretty sure that they live together, but not in the same way that Joly and Bossuet do. Marius is straight, which he will tell you at the slightest provocation.
“You know this is pretty much the definition of nepotism, don’t you?” Courfeyrac says cheerfully, stepping back now that he’s sure Enjolras is awake. He watches with evident delight as they both try to look as though there were doing something completely innocent. Enjolras feels uncomfortably sticky and oily but he tries not to let the discomfort show on his face.
Courfeyrac seems to have no doubts about what they were actually doing, because he continues to smirk at them. “I’ve always hired my friends,” Enjolras tells him with as much dignity as he can muster and a pointed look for good measure, because Courfeyrac has been his friend in the past. Enjolras finds himself hoping that he will continue to be and also that he will refrain from gossiping about the scene before him.
Grantaire gets heavily to his feet and puts himself in Courfeyrac’s personal space, two inches shorter but a lot angrier. Courfeyrac appears unfazed. “If you tell anybody about this-“ Grantaire begins.
“If you tell anybody about this, I will throw you in the steam kettle,” Enjolras says, sitting up and trying to glare. He feels a bit sore internally and very tired in spite of the nap.
“With mirepoix,” Grantaire adds, actually glaring, and Enjolras loves him.
“With mirepoix and parsley and thyme and garlic and black pepper. You will make the worst stock in the entire world.” The words make even worse sense, but stock is easy, the first thing he learned in school, the only thing he was trusted to make during his first month in France. Thinking about it makes Enjolras feel a little more himself.
Marius, who still looks utterly bewildered, blurts out, “We just came to help with the brunch tasting!”
“Little late for that, aren’t you?” Grantaire mutters, still standing and on his guard.
Courfeyrac shrugs, looking around with studied nonchalance. “Cosette texted me, but we thought we’d come anyway. Heard you two kicked ass.”
Grantaire rolls his eyes as though it was nothing, and Enjolras feels himself blushing. “But why are you—“ Marius begins in a puzzled tone, and the three other men snap at him in unison, with varying degrees of profanity. He shuts up.
“Long morning,” Grantaire says quietly, meeting Courfeyrac’s eye, and Enjolras senses that something unsaid is being communicated, though he has no idea what it is.
“Yeah,” Courfeyrac says, and yields a little ground. “They’re giving us another chance at the inspection tomorrow,” he adds, looking down at Enjolras.
“Good,” is all he can manage, with a nod as though his heart has not just turned over. They have a second chance, an appeal, and though he is numb with exhaustion and still foggy, he knows this is it, and that he will owe Monsieur Valjean so much gratitude for whatever he’s had to do to get this for them. “Everything’s got to be spotless.”
It’s Courfeyrac’s turn to roll his eyes, because except for a bit of mess from the tasting, the restaurant looks pristine. “Got it, boss.”
“I’ll just—“ Enjolras begins, standing to his feet and wincing, but Grantaire cuts him off, eyes still on Courfeyrac, and says, “I’ll just take this one home and see he gets some rest.”
Enjolras looks at him furiously, but Courfeyrac is nodding. “Yeah, um…yeah. Do that. I’ll call a couple of the guys. We’ll go over the place. Everything will be fine. You can inspect it tomorrow morning,” he offers Enjolras, who is still in disbelief that his sous chefs are doing this over his head instead of asking him what he wants done.
Grantaire slides an arm around his waist and propels him once more down the hallway. The other two stand out of the way, though Marius seems to be nearly as much in shock as is Enjolras. It takes them all the way to the parking garage for his brain to stop sputtering. “What?” he hisses. “What the hell did you do back there?”
“Pretty sure I made you come in your pants,” Grantaire says, stopping by his Mustang with a smirk. He opens the passenger door for a furious and furiously blushing Enjolras. “Bet you want to change those. Come on, get in. I’ll take you home, and then you can beat the shit out of me, or whatever.”
That is exactly what Enjolras feels like doing, but he gets inside mutinously, since no other opportunity presents itself. “I’ve got my car here,” he says, and his voice sounds petulant in his own ears. “I’ll just—“
“I’m driving you,” Grantaire says. “You can’t do it with your hand bandaged like that.” Which is so, so untrue and both of them know it. He reaches for his CDs and selects one by feel as he backs out of the parking garage. “Do you like Depeche Mode?”
Enjolras adores Depeche Mode, but of course his pride won’t let him say so, and so they ride the short distance back to his apartment in silence. When the car stops, Grantaire doesn’t hop out right away. “We don’t have to talk about…it,” he says, looking straight ahead.
Tempted for a moment to take refuge in cowardice, Enjolras hesitates. “No, it was good,” he finally decides. “We did, in fact, kick ass.”
“No, I meant—“Grantaire starts, and it is Enjolras’ turn to interrupt him. “Do you know how much work we’ve got to do in the next couple of months? Ask Combeferre if I’ve handed you a cakewalk.” He really hopes that Grantaire has a grasp on what an executive sous chef does, because he’s in for a steep learning curve anyway, although Combeferre is by far the most patient person Enjolras has ever worked with.
“I know,” Grantaire agrees, too quickly. “Yeah, of course. Not like I have anything else to do.” He reaches down and produces a pack of Parliament Lights, much the worse for wear. Enjolras takes one gratefully, wondering if that is the end of the discussion.
Grantaire lights them both up and rolls down the windows to let the smoke out. “I think,” he says matter-of-factly, still staring straight ahead, “that I’m good at giving you what you need, and you’re about to need a lot of it. Am I wrong?”
“Do you mean in the kitchen or—“ Enjolras starts, and then stops, because pretending to be obtuse is not going to get him out of this conversation. “Fine. You’re not wrong.”
Grantaire looks exactly as smug as he’d expected. “Do you mind if I take advantage of your hospitality for a little while longer? I can’t pay you, but I can cook and clean, you may have noticed.”
Unable to deny that he has noticed, Enjolras nods. He knows this is not how to start any kind of relationship, personal or professional, but they’ve tangled the two together so much already that he feels unbearably out of his depth, and the sleep-deprivation definitely isn’t helping, although the cigarette is, a little. “I still find it so hard to say what I need to say,” he begins, realizes what he’s doing, and decides to finish the lyric anyway. “But I’m quite sure that you’ll tell me just how I should feel today.”
“I think you should go the fuck to sleep,” Grantaire says, but his eyes are soft. “Come on.”
Enjolras lets him have the first shower, wondering if he’d leave if left alone, then remembers that Grantaire as much as asked to stay. He throws their clothes into the hamper and slips into the bathroom naked as soon as he hears the water turn off. Grantaire’s double-take is worth it. “Thought you’d fallen asleep out there,” he says after a moment, his voice rough with lust that’s also evident in his erection.
“Almost,” Enjolras admits, hoping he has some hot water left. Grantaire’s cock is captivating.
“Do you want me to take care of this myself or wait for you?” he asks, clearly reading the fascination for what it is.
“Wait,” Enjolras says, as firmly as he can manage, belying how seriously he’s considering dropping to his knees then and there. But Grantaire looks ripe and clean and proud, all his black hair damp and softly curling, and Enjolras feels sticky and worn. “On the—the bed.”
He rushes through his own shower, hardly noticing as he goes through the motions. He is planning how he’s going to make Grantaire come on his own terms this time, how to take him completely apart as he’s seemed so willing and able to do to Enjolras.
He hardly bothers drying off and clothes are the last thing on his mind as he trots out of the bathroom. The steaming water and the prospect of Grantaire at his mercy have given him his second wind, and he means to make the most of it.
He finds Grantaire in a comfortable nest of pillows and quilts, some obviously purloined from the linen closet. He heartily approves of the additions to his bed, messy as they are, but it’s difficult to find anything to say about them when Grantaire is lounging on top of them, lazily stroking his cock.
“That’s mine,” Enjolras says, trying to frown as he stands at the foot of the bed watching. Grantaire removes his hand slowly and wriggles a little, his eyes insouciant as Enjolras climbs into bed and takes up a position on all fours between Grantaire’s legs.
Closer inspection reveals that Grantaire’s cock is still exactly as beautiful as before, though it’s flushed darker now, the veins stark and lovely. Enjolras gives it an experimental lick and then decides to hell with that. He’s never been one for half-measures once he decides to do a thing.
Grantaire is definitely getting done today. Well done, Enjolras thinks, though the phrase makes him grimace briefly. He’s a medium-rare sort of person, himself. “What’s that look for?” Grantaire asks, sounding almost nervous.
“I hope you know your meat temps,” Enjolras mutters, apropos of nothing, and then commits himself firmly to the task at hand by licking all the way around the head of Grantaire’s cock.
Grantaire shudders and groans, but for once says nothing, and so Enjolras continues, spiraling his tongue around and down, taking it in by inches until he’s swallowed Grantaire’s cock in its entirety. During the process Grantaire finds his voice only enough to say fuck half a dozen times before all he can do is pant.
For his part, Enjolras holds his throat steady for as long as he can manage, breathing carefully through his nose while he gets used to the unfamiliar sensation. This is one of his favorite sexual acts to perform. He hasn’t done it in a long time, though, but Grantaire is clean and well-formed and most importantly, he is holding perfectly still and letting Enjolras control the action.
“Are you tasting me?” Grantaire asks hoarsely, when Enjolras has just about made up his mind to begin sucking in earnest. “I’m honored, really. I never thought, I mean, that you’d ever do this. Ever want to, really, but oh fuck, chef, I’m going to go off like a champagne cork in a minute, you know.”
Enjolras begins bobbing his head up and down just to shut Grantaire up, and it works a treat. He subsides into blissful moaning and lets Enjolras work at tasting one of the most delicious cocks he’s ever had in his mouth. The texture is sublime, he has to admit, with more than enough variety to delight his palate. He can smell his soap, meyer lemon and ginger, and clean sweat, and tastes the suggestion of things to come as he flattens his tongue to lick as firmly as he can manage each time he lifts his head.
Grantaire’s strangled gasp is the only warning he has before his mouth floods with the flavor of dry ice and baking soda and oysters. Enjolras tastes, and then he swallows, savoring the burn on his throat. There isn’t a great deal of fluid, for which he’s grateful, but he keeps his mouth working until Grantaire is limp amongst the pillows.
When he lifts his head, managing a smile with numb lips, he lets Grantaire heave himself up. Enjolras lets himself be pulled into a heartfelt embrace as Grantaire kisses his hair and his ear and his cheeks. Enjolras is sure his mouth would be next, except Grantaire starts talking, thanking him and swearing profusely. It’s entirely overwhelming.
Enjolras makes himself comfortable against Grantaire’s chest, careful of his bandaged thumb, too tired to want an orgasm of his own with any urgency. “Do you want me to return the favor?” Grantaire is asking anxiously, but his eyes are hooded and every line of his body is languid with bliss. Enjolras shakes his head and yawns while Grantaire goes on about owing him with interest.
He is still talking when Enjolras lets his eyes drift shut, certain in the knowledge that Grantaire will still be there—and probably still talking—when he wakes up.
When Enjolras wakes, it is late afternoon and the air is redolent with the smell of seafood and spices. For a single disorienting moment, he imagines that he is back at Barricade, but nothing he’s ever cooked there has smelled like this. He climbs slowly out of bed and pulls on a pair of soft gray pants as he sniffs cautiously, puzzling through the aromas with his classically-trained nose. There’s definitely shrimp, or some other kind of crustacean. Sausage, but not any kind of charcuterie Enjolras himself has ever prepared, and lemon and garlic and half a dozen other things that he cannot put a name to. It is maddening.
Without bothering to grab a shirt, he stumbles out to the kitchen, scowling at the idea that he can’t identify the food being prepared in his own personal kitchen. When he rounds the corner, he has to actively prevent his jaw from dropping. Grantaire, his hair tied up in a black bandanna, has a pot bubbling on the stove, raw shrimp spread out on brown paper beside it and a cutting board littered with corn and celery and potatoes nearby. He is humming softly to the strains of Echo and the Bunnymen playing on his phone, but he stops when he sees Enjolras.
“Look, don’t murder me,” he says, raising both hands in surrender, though one of them is holding half a lemon and the other a knife, which must be one of his own because Enjolras doesn’t recognize it.
“What are you doing?” he asks, sidestepping for the moment the issue of whether or not Grantaire will survive his unauthorized culinary foray.
“Shrimp boil,” Grantaire says, as though those two words are explanation enough for what he’s done. “You give good head. I’m making dinner,” he adds after a moment, because Enjolras is still staring.
“Where did you get all this?” he manages, still more than a little dumbfounded, because he knows for a fact that he didn’t have half the produce in the house to begin with, much less the shrimp or the bottle of white table wine sitting half empty on the counter. He can’t help his eyes flicking to his wallet, resting in the bowl by the door. Enjolras wonders if Grantaire has helped himself to it the way he’s helped himself to the kitchen.
“The fuck do you think I am?” Grantaire’s eyes follow his unmistakably. “I did not take your money. I raided your medicine cabinet.”
Enjolras wonders if he’s still asleep, because this conversation is making less and less sense the longer it goes on. He watches Grantaire put down the knife and drop the lemon into the pot on the stove, where it makes a faint splash. “Do you know how much some of that stuff is worth?” he asks, and Enjolras has to shrug. The idea has never crossed his mind. “A metric shit ton,” Grantaire offers, which helps not at all. “Look, you can’t tell me you actually use much of it. That might actually make you relax. Anyway, I only took the really dusty ones.”
“You…hocked my prescription drugs?” Enjolras asks slowly, torn between horror and further bewilderment.
A brief look of shame flashes across Grantaire’s face before it’s replaced by a mask of defiance once again. “What did you expect me to do?” he retorts, apropos of absolutely nothing.
“Not…that,” Enjolras admits, resisting the urge to investigate the bathroom immediately. He finds himself wondering exactly how poor Grantaire is and what sort of things he’s used to doing to make his way, and as he does he finds his anger fading in spite of himself.
“Fine. Sorry.” Grantaire’s tone is still mutinous, but he seems to know that an apology is in order. “I scratched your name off the labels, just so you know. What are you, anyway, some kind of hypochondriac?”
Enjolras refrains from reminding him that a hypochondriac would actually have taken the medicine instead of leaving it to gather dust, in hopes that the conversation might die. He steps over to the stove to peer into the pot still simmering there. It’s his largest Le Creuset French oven, a fiery red graduation present that he can’t remember ever having used, since it’s far to large to cook for just one in.
“Coubillion,” Grantaire says over his shoulder from where he’s picking through the shrimp at the sink. Enjolras stares uncomprehending at the orangish liquid full of celery and onion and lemon and sausage, as well as half a dozen different spices.
“Court bouillon, you mean,” Enjolras corrects, though his definition of the term is nothing like what Grantaire has concocted.
“Fuck no,” he’s quickly corrected in turn. “This actually has flavor. No poaching is going on here.” In a moment Grantaire’s looking into the pot as well, a smoky, lemony presence that Enjolras feels acutely. He finds himself wishing he’d bothered to put on a shirt.
Grantaire fishes around in the pot, tasting, and then begins straining out the used-up aromatics with a small spider, leaving the sausage. Raw potatoes replace them in the liquid, followed by ears of corn snapped quickly in two, and then the shrimp, still in their shells. Enjolras watches, mesmerized.
“Shrimp boil,” Grantaire says again, so close to his shoulder that he nearly jumps. “Do you want a beer?”
Enjolras opens his mouth to say that he doesn’t drink beer, which is mostly true, but he gives up, since Grantaire must have seen him drinking one at the bar with everyone. The frosty brown bottle of Abita cuts through any lingering haze of sleepy confusion as Enjolras clutches it. Grantaire flips the top off with a table knife, which makes Enjolras wince, and then leans against the counter next to him, their shoulders barely touching. Enjolras notices that there are tiny skulls printed on Grantaire’s bandanna and beneath it his hair is a riot of tousled black curls. “You don’t have to do all this,” he says quietly.
Grantaire shrugs as though it’s nothing at all. “I miss being able to fuck around in my own kitchen,” he says offhand, and leans over to clink his beer against the neck of the one Enjolras is still clutching for dear life. “Cheers. You have really good equipment, by the way. Probably just followed you home, I guess. Been meaning to take it back?”
Enjolras has the good grace to look chagrined, because it’s true that most of his kitchen is furnished from the restaurants he’s worked in, with a few things that he acquired in culinary school or as gifts. “Something like that. Do you know how much of Barricade I furnished out of my own pocket? I know I’ve lost three mandolins to that places, and at least that many sauté pans.”
“They just walk away on their own little legs,” Grantaire agrees. “You should know better by now.”
“I haven’t lost any knives there,” Enjolras points out, which is a miracle. It’s as good as proof that he can trust every single one of his cooks, since expensive personal knives, like the ones in his knife roll and hanging on his kitchen wall, are often popular items for theft in the average kitchen.
Wordlessly Grantaire picks up his own chef’s knife from where it’s lying by the cutting board and holds it out for inspection. It’s an old Henckels that has clearly seen love and use, and when he sights down the blade Enjolras can tell it’s so sharp and straight that he doesn’t even have to bother testing it on his thumbnail. He gives the handle back to Grantaire with a nod, sliding his hip a fraction closer as he does so. “I think we can get you new knives, if you want,” he offers, thinking that Monsieur Valjean won’t mind sweetening the pot that way, if he does approve Grantaire for exec sous at Barricade.
“Rather have the money,” Grantaire says, putting his knife away and turning to poke moodily at the simmering pot of shrimp and vegetables. “I got most of my kitchen tools out when I evacuated, and my music. Everything I could fit in my car.”
“Evacuated?” Enjolras repeats, and then kicks himself for not putting the pieces together. “Katrina?” he hazards a guess.
Grantaire nods once and then turns and spits in the sink. “Bitch.” Enjolras is mildly horrified, but he thinks better of saying anything, since it was a hurricane, after all. He reaches out and puts a tentative hand at the small of Grantaire’s back, feeling his skin warm through the thin material of his shirt.
“I’m sorry,” he says after a moment, because what else is there to say? “Have you been back since?” But he knows the answer to that before Grantaire denies it, his voice carefully casual.
Enjolras does the math quickly in his head; he’s pretty sure that was 2005. “You haven’t been—“ He starts the horrible question, and Grantaire cuts him off.
“Living out of my car all this time? No. I’ve got friends here. I couchsurfed, had some roommates, but nothing really stuck. I’m not the easiest person to live with, you may have noticed.” Grantaire doesn’t look at him as he says the words, and seems to be doing his best to sound neutral about what have must have been an ordeal
This strikes Enjolras as horribly sad and bleak, and, unable to imagine what he’d do in a similar situation, he shivers a bit in spite of himself. They’re touching, so Grantaire seems to feel it as well. “Are you cold?” He reaches over to pull a track jacket off the back of one of the kitchen chairs. It’s soft and black and painted with speckles of white. Enjolras can’t make out the design before it’s wrapped around his shoulders. The fabric smells like mingled smoke but feels clean, and Enjolras looks up, astonished at the irony that Grantaire, who has lost everything, should be offering him warmth.
“No, really,” he protests after a moment, because they’re indoors, in the warm kitchen, and the loan of the jacket is so personal and intimate he wouldn’t accept it even if he were freezing.
Grantaire stops him when he goes to shrug it off, though. “I want to see it on you.” He settles the garment straight on Enjolras’ shoulders as he reluctantly slips his arms through the sleeves.
Although he does his best to stand straight under Grantaire’s appraisal, he can’t help dropping his eyes. “I’ll make a place for you to put your things. Closet space, you know. If you want to.” He has no idea if Grantaire wants to take him up on that, but he finds he wants to offer.
“I might,” Grantaire says, his voice still carefully casual. “And when you kick me out, what happens to my things?”
Enjolras is momentarily at a loss. It’s on the tip of his tongue to declare outright that he wouldn’t kick Grantaire out, but he doubts that Grantaire would believe him. “I hope it won’t come to that,” he decides finally, lifting his eyes. “I really don’t.” He holds his hand out as a surety, but instead of taking it, Grantaire slides his hands up under the jacket and draws Enjolras to him, and kisses him like tomorrow will never come.
The kiss goes on for some time, and then Enjolras finds himself lifted bodily up onto the counter to sit, with only a minute’s pause for Grantaire to turn off the stove before he continues kissing his way down Enjolras’s chin and his neck. He holds on for dear life in the face of the erotic assault, wrapping his legs around Grantaire’s waist to pull him closer.
Grantaire is murmuring into his chest, and when the words become audible Enjolras has to laugh and gasp at the same time. “I want to fuck you right here,” Grantaire is saying. “Right—right fucking here, but if I do it now the shrimp will be overdone and the andouille will fall apart. Your first shrimp boil shouldn’t be subpar.”
“It’s fine,” Enjolras tells him over and over, giving in and hugging him until every inch of him that can be touching Grantaire is. It’s still not enough. “It’s completely fine. I doubt this will be my last shrimp boil, and the counter isn’t going anywhere.”
He can’t help imagining Grantaire making good his promise, hoisting him up and taking him right there, locked together completely. Even as they untangle themselves and eat, hardly bothering with plates and forgoing utensils entirely, he can’t take his eyes from Grantaire’s for longer than it takes to look down at the food and back up. Grantaire peels steaming shrimp with deft motions and offers them to him naked and pink. They kiss with corn in their teeth, and Enjolras can’t find it in himself to feel self-conscious. Not one single joke is made about the sausage.
They wash their hands and the dishes, jostling together for room at the sink, tipsy from the beer and the electricity running between them. It’s completely ridiculous, Enjolras thinks, his mouth still on fire from more than the spices. When they do fuck, finally, it’s in bed. Grantaire strips off his own clothes and Enjolras’s pants and settles him in his lap, where he stays, spitted firmly while Grantaire worries at his shoulder with his teeth and jerks him off with long, smooth, twisting strokes until he comes with a cry.
Enjolras falls asleep still wrapped in the paint-speckled jacket, his stomach full, his inner man utterly satisfied, the inspection to come the next day the farthest thing from his thoughts.