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And If You Asked Me If I Love Him

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“You’re wrong, Combeferre.”

The sound of Enjolras’ voice saying those unprecedented words stops Grantaire short outside the room. Frowning, he wonders if the two friends are having an argument. While he’s sure it happens, Grantaire has never seen or heard the two fight before.

He glances down the stairs he just came up, checking no one is following him up, before waiting outside the door to hear the rest of the conversation.

“I don’t think I am, Enjolras,” Combeferre says in response. “You’re miserable without him.”

“I’ve never been better,” Enjolras replies.

Grantaire can just see Enjolras through the gap in the doorway, and he keeps an eye on him as he stays in the shadows outside. All Grantaire wanted was to fetch his coat that he accidentally left behind. Now he’s listening to this.

“Stop lying to yourself,” Combeferre says, sounding exasperated. “Ever since you and Grantaire broke up, you’ve been quiet and mopey and, and- and pining. Just admit that you miss him!”

“I do not miss him,” Enjolras snaps.

“You do! You can’t go on denying yourself like this. Everyone can see how much he means to you! You’re lost without him and so is he-”

“Stop,” Enjolras commands. Combeferre falls silent. “Ferre, you are one of my best friends and I defer to you on everything, but you don’t know anything about this. My relationship with Grantaire was a mistake. We are not suited to one another. Grantaire is lazy and completely unmotivated. He has no ambition in life, no goals nor aspirations. He is wasteful and frivolous and a total drunk. He mocks me and everything I am at every given turn and I feel nothing for him.”

Grantaire feels dizzy with hurt, and he takes a few steps back, almost falling down the stairs. He grips the railing and takes a few deep breaths. He’s heard the saying that eavesdroppers never hear a good word about themselves but this is… too much.

Aching inside, Grantaire stumbles back down the stairs and into the main bar room of the Musain.

He knew that the relationship wasn’t real – that was the whole point – but to know that there is no chance of a real relationship is quite something else. He’d always known he wasn’t good enough for Enjolras, but recently, he’d started to hope. They’d gotten closer after their fake dating stint, even if they couldn’t let their friends know that they were closer, since in their eyes, the two of them were exes.

They’d had some nice conversations. Enjolras is one of the most frequent numbers that Grantaire texts nowadays.

It was stupid to ever hope for more.

Fuck. Grantaire feels so torn open. He’s heard similar from Enjolras before, but rarely with such vitriol. Normally, Enjolras shouts and yells, but when he tells Grantaire of his wasted potential, his voice always sinks into pity. Tonight, Enjolras spat the words of Grantaire’s worthlessness as if the very thought of Grantaire sickens him.

But how can Grantaire upset Enjolras so much? Enjolras feels nothing for Grantaire. There is only apathy there.

Grantaire could disappear tonight and Enjolras wouldn’t care. Grantaire doesn’t assist Enjolras’ revolution, but he’s also so useless that he doesn’t hinder it either. Grantaire will probably sleep through Enjolras’ revolution. It would be for the best, he thinks.

Grantaire pushes his way out of the bar, ignoring his friends calling after him in invitation to join them in their happiness.

He’s so tired.

He could convince himself that his fears his friends hate him were just the cause of his mental illness, but hearing them said out loud like that, hearing someone he trusts openly stating how much they hate him, it’s all too much.

He’s a drain on all his friends’ lives. He knows it. They must know it. They are probably relieved when he goes him, probably wish, even in secret, that he won’t come back.

Well, maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll do them all a favour and stay home for the rest of his miserable, ambitionless life.

He has to cross a bridge on his journey home and it pulls him to a stop. He leans over the stone wall and peers down at the river running below. It’s a surprisingly long way down, but the water is so shallow that he can see the rocks at the water bed. He’s never thought much about this bridge before.

He climbs up onto the wall and sits down, legs hanging over the edge.

He left his coat in the upstairs room. He’s rather cold, actually.

He can hear someone approaching, high heels clicking with every step as they come nearer to the bridge. He knows the moment they see him, steps stopping short with a sharp intake of breath. Grantaire sighs.

“Excuse me?” the stranger says, steps resuming again as they tentatively approach him. “Oh!” the stranger then says. “Grantaire! You’re Grantaire, right?”

Grantaire looks over at the woman, looking her up and down. “You’re Pontmercy’s girl, right?” he asks.

“Yes,” she says. “Well, I don’t think of myself in that way, but I suppose. I’m Cosette,” she then adds, introducing herself. “Would you come back over this side of the bridge, please?” she asks him.

Grantaire doesn’t move. “I’d rather not,” he tells her.

She’s quiet for a second. “Well, how about I join you?” she asks, and without waiting for an answer, the dainty woman puts her bags down on the ground and climbs up onto the wall too, till their legs are dangling side-by-side.

“It’s not safe,” Grantaire says. “You should go back.”

Cosette smiles. “Not unless you do, Grantaire,” she says. “So. What happened?”

Grantaire huffs a laugh. “Nothing that should surprise anyone. I merely had some truths confirmed for me.”

“What truths?” Cosette asks.

“That I’m utterly worthless and should stop wasting everyone’s time.”

“Now, who told you that?” Cosette asks, sounding angry, even while her voice remains gentle and soothing in order to not startle Grantaire. He knows what she’s doing. She’s going to tell him lovely things until he’s settled enough to climb back over the bridge wall with her and stand on solid ground and keep going.

“Only the love of my life,” Grantaire says. He feels a little delirious. He needs a drink. “Enjolras,” he then clarifies, when Cosette doesn’t seem to know what to say. “Enjolras told me that. Well, Enjolras told Combeferre that about me. I just happened to overhear.”

“I don’t know Enjolras very well…” Cosette begins slowly, “but I find it very hard to believe that he considers anyone utterly worthless. From what I know of the man, his whole belief system revolves around the idea that people are inherently good and can reach their full potential.”

“Not me,” Grantaire says, bitterly. “I have no ambition, no motivation, no… what was it? Oh, that’s right. I am wasteful and frivolous, and lazy and drunk.” He barks out a laugh. “Drunk,” he repeats, scornfully. “Wonder what he’d think of the fact that I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in a month now. Hell, he’d probably tell me that’s hardly something to be proud of. He’s not had a drop of alcohol his entire life!”

“I think that’s something to be proud of,” Cosette says quietly. “It took me four attempts at sobriety to reach a month.”

Grantaire’s head turns her way sharply, staring at her in shock. “You?” he asks.

She blushes and nods. “A year sober, now,” she tells him. “It still feels impossible.”

“I’m gonna get there,” he tells her, sincerely. “I’m gonna reach that year.”

“I know you are,” she replies. She smiles. “See? He’s wrong about you. You do have ambition.” Letting out a sigh, she turns where she’s sitting to look more directly at him. “Come on,” she says, “let’s get you home.”

He nods and follows her as she climbs back over the wall and waits for him to join her on the street. She picks up her bags and smiles at him. “Lead the way,” she says.

They walk together in companionable silence, and Grantaire feels more grounded with every step. The weight of Enjolras’ words are still heavy on his mind, but even the act of walking with someone that he’s certain doesn’t hate him is making it a little better.

When they reach Grantaire’s apartment, he lets them in, and Cosette comes with him without it needing to be said out loud. He needs the company, and they both know it.

Grantaire sets about making them coffee while Cosette takes a seat at the small table in the kitchen. She gratefully accepts her mug when he’s finished making it, curling her cold hands around it and holding it close to her face, breathing in the smell and the warmth.

She catches Grantaire smiling at her, and she smiles back.

“How old are you, Grantaire?” she asks him.

“Twenty-seven, soon,” he says. “And yourself?”

“Twenty-five,” she replies. “What do you do?”

“I teach ballet,” he admits.

“Oh, wow,” she says, smiling. “You must be good.”

He shrugs. “If I was good, I’d be a part of a ballet, not teaching five year olds how to plié. I always wanted to perform, but… I chose alcohol over that. So.”

She smiles, sadly. Understandingly. “I’m sorry,” she says.

He shrugs. “Me too, but don’t tell anyone that. Gotta act like I’m cool with my choices in life,” he says.

His apartment buzzer sounds before she can say anything else, and he goes to pick up the phone to see who it is. “Grantaire’s apartment,” he tells the person outside.

“Oh, good, I was worried I’d get the wrong one. It’s Enjolras,” Enjolras clarifies, for absolutely no reason. Grantaire would know that voice anywhere.

Grantaire finds himself completely at a loss to say anything. “Um. What are you doing here?” he finally manages, when Cosette starts looking worried.

“You left your coat. Your wallet and phone are in the pockets, otherwise I’d have given it back tomorrow,” Enjolras says. “May I come in?”

“One second,” Grantaire squeaks, and covers the mouthpiece up with his hand. “It’s Enjolras,” he hisses at Cosette. “He wants to come in! What do I do?”

“Let him in,” Cosette says, her face going scarily still. “I want to have a word with him about acceptable things to say about people.”

Grantaire lets out a sound of panic, but when he removes his hand from the mouthpiece it’s to say, “Sure, come on up!” and then to press the open door button. He immediately regrets it, but Enjolras is in the building now, and there’s nothing to be done about it.

“This is a bad idea,” he tells Cosette. “I might cry.”

She shrugs. “We’ll deal with it.”

He thinks he might have found a best friend tonight.

Grantaire opens the door for Enjolras when he knocks. He takes his coat off him. “Thank you for bringing it back,” he says.

“Hello, Enjolras,” Cosette says, appearing next to Grantaire in the doorway. Grantaire hadn’t even heard her get up.

“Cosette,” Enjolras greets, sounding surprised. “What are you doing here?”

She smiles, and Grantaire knows he’s not going to like whatever she says next. “Oh, I bumped into Grantaire on his way home. We’ve just been having a lovely chat about not listening to assholes who say cruel and untrue things about him.”

Yeah. Grantaire did not like that.

Sighing, Grantaire goes to dump his coat somewhere, leaving an angry looking Cosette and a dumbfounded looking Enjolras in his doorway.

“That sounds… nice?” Enjolras offers.

“Mhm,” Cosette says.

Enjolras frowns at her. “Why am I getting the feeling that you are mad at me?” he asks her.

“Christ, stop having this conversation in my doorway,” Grantaire interrupts. “Either come in or fuck off.”

There’s an awkward little fumble as Enjolras tries to come in and shut the door while Cosette refuses to get out of his way, but eventually the three of them are standing in Grantaire’s tiny living room, each waiting for someone else to talk first.

Cosette jumps in with, “Grantaire, tell me if I’m overstepping.”

Grantaire sighs. “You’re not, it’s cool,” he says.

“Good,” she says. “Enjolras, first of all, you owe Grantaire an apology.”

Enjolras startles. “For what?” he asks, looking genuinely bewildered.

Cosette looks at Grantaire, who sighs again and sits down on his sofa. “I heard you talking to Combeferre tonight,” he admits.

Enjolras goes completely still. “Oh, fuck,” he says softly. “Oh, fuck, Grantaire, I am so sorry.”

Grantaire shrugs. “It’s whatever,” he says. “Not like I didn’t know any of it.” He chews on the inside of his cheek, determined to not cry like a fucking baby just because Enjolras doesn’t like him.

“Oh,” Enjolras says, and he’s moving forwards towards Grantaire, dropping to his knees in front of him, taking his hands in his own. “Oh, Grantaire, please, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean any of it. It was all a lie. All of it. I swear to you.”

Grantaire pulls his hands out of Enjolras’. “I- I don’t- How could it be a lie? I don’t- Why?”

“Because- Because- Shit,” Enjolras says, and he’s blushing, but he’s not moving away. “Because Combeferre knows that I’m in love with you, but I’m not supposed to be because I’m your ‘ex’, and I know that fake dating you is the closest I could ever get to you because you don’t- Fuck. That’s not important. It’s just that everything between us was fake, but he doesn’t know that, so he thinks that it would be easy for me to just tell you that I love you, and we could get back together. But we weren’t ever actually together so it’s not like that, so I had to make him think that I’m not ridiculously in love with you, and I’m sorry I said those things. They’re all wrong. You’re wonderful and you make me so happy and I love you, and I don’t think those things about you, I don’t, I swear. Please. You have to believe me. You’re amazing.”

Silence floods the room and Grantaire can’t take his eyes off Enjolras.

“Well, shit,” Cosette says, and then goes through to the kitchen.

Grantaire stares down at Enjolras, who’s still kneeling on the floor, looking up at him with desperation all over his face. “You love me?” Grantaire asks.

Enjolras nods. “Yeah,” he says, hoarsely. He clears his throat. “Yeah,” he repeats. “I love you.” He licks his lips. “I’m sorry, I- I don’t expect you to return my feelings, but you have to know-”

“Enjolras,” Grantaire interrupts. “I’ve been in love with you since the day I met you.”

Enjolras stares up at him, wide-eyed. “You have?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Grantaire says.

A look of amazed happiness spreads across Enjolras’ face. “You love me,” he says.

His smile is contagious, and Grantaire feels himself starting to smile, too. “I love you,” he says.

Enjolras surges up and throws his arms around Grantaire in a hug, holding him so tightly. Enjolras clings to him, and Grantaire wraps his arms around Enjolras’ back, returning the hug tentatively at first, and then with growing confidence.

When Enjolras pulls back he beams at Grantaire, and then notices the few tears that have started to slip down Grantaire’s face. “Oh, no,” he says, and reaches out to wipe a few away. “Don’t cry. Why are you crying?” he asks, sounding horrified.

“I’m sorry,” Grantaire says. “I’m sorry, I just- I thought you hated me, and- and- I’m sorry. I love you so much,” he gasps.

Enjolras kneels up and kisses Grantaire on the forehead. “I love you,” he tells him again. “I love you so much, Grantaire.”

Time passes quickly, and it’s a long time before they realise that Cosette snuck out at some point, but when Grantaire goes to make coffee for him and Enjolras, he finds a note stuck to the fridge that reads: Here’s my number. I’m absolutely here for you. Stay strong. Cosette x

He smiles at the note and leaves it where it is, knowing that he’s going to need that number.

When he gets back to Enjolras, he finds that he adores having a boyfriend waiting for him on the sofa with a smile and open arms. It’s everything he’s ever wanted, and though he knows that they have a lot to talk about, he’s feeling pretty confident about their future together.