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these things take time

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“I’m in love,” Courfeyrac announces, letting himself in. “And someone stole my waffles!”

The door closes shut behind him, rattling the living room table. Enjolras raises his eyes from his laptop, right hand still typing a sentence while the left stops midair holding a coffee mug. The couch-bed is open to contain five open books and dozens of individual sheets of paper referring to a different paper, which he’ll get to—eventually. He’s wearing a shirt he’s had on for days, and the apartment hasn’t been cleaned for longer.

Courfeyrac has his arms crossed and is looking at him expectantly.

He loves his friends more than anything, but he’s woken up with a headache already in place and he’s not even halfway through his readings. There’s an official ABC meeting today he doesn’t want to cancel, and with the unpleasant buzz of too much caffeine in his blood, he’s in a foul mood.  

“Go away,” he says.

“Go away!” repeats Courfeyrac. “I come here bearing my soul and the man says go away!”

“I’m sorry, how rude of me,” he says dryly. “Are you all right?”

“I have no waffles and I’m in love!”

“No one stole your goddamn waffles,” Enjolras snaps. “You probably ate them after we left, or Bahorel fried them, or Bossuet poured them into whatever he was mixing in your kitchen.”

Courfeyrac rolls his eyes. “Admittedly, that wasn’t the main problem I came to discuss, Enjolras.”

There’s a throbbing in his temples. “Did I mention I have a lot of work to do, which you kept me from with your little impromptu party last night? Don’t you have anything to do?”

“Did you hear nothing I said yesterday?” Courfeyrac scowls.

Enjolras shrugs. He was distracted by everything he still had—has—to do, having gone to Courfeyrac and Marius’s just to keep the former from sending any more messages, and had zoned out when Courfeyrac started describing one of his exam performances. Apparently his Shakespeare made the professor cry; someone had raised the question of whether it had been a good thing.

“So you’re done with the term,” Enjolras says.

He envies him, and everyone else who’s free to enjoy springtime in Paris, or a quiet lunch, or their beds, with petty determination.

“As a bird,” Courfeyrac chirps. “So I’m free to pursue the noble purposes of social justice and delve into the deep abysses of my soul, in order to find the real me.”

He glares. “Go find the real you somewhere far away from me.”

Courfeyrac is the picture of injured dignity. “There’s this thing called Emotional Intelligence, you know. You should Google it.”

He’s about to give a scathing reply when the door to Combeferre’s room opens, and Courfeyrac makes a sound in the back of his throat like he’s just swallowed something unexpected.

“What are you doing here?”

Combeferre raises an eyebrow. Enjolras assumes he’s too shocked by what appears to be a trick question, so he answers it himself.

“He lives here.”

“Jehan said you had an internship interview,” Courfeyrac says.

“They changed the day.” Combeferre pushes his glasses up. “When did you speak to Jehan?”

“Just now.”

“Is that when you realized you were in love?” Enjolras mocks.

Courfeyrac swivels so fast he’s surprised the sheets over the table don’t flap. He shoots Enjolras a wild, wide-eyed look, like he’s trying to silently impart something vitally important; his hands are raised, frozen in an aborted gesture.

Enjolras frowns.

“You’re in love?” Combeferre asks thinly.

Courfeyrac turns to him, grabbing the lower half of his face and stroking an imaginary beard. “Y-es,” he says, as if deciding the answer halfway through the word.

No one speaks for a moment, and Enjolras clears his throat. “Also, one of us is apparently a thief.”

Combeferre making a humming noise. “Have you… just come to this realization?”

“About the thieving or—”

Enjolras snarls.

“—love, right. Yes.”

“While you were talking to Jehan?” Combeferre asks.

Courfeyrac scrunches up his face. “Yes?” he says, like a question, then more firmly, “Yes! I was talking to Jehan and I realized I’m in love.”

Enjolras doesn’t know what’s happening or why everyone sounds so strained, but whatever he was writing before has fled to unknown recesses of his mind, so he sits back with a sigh.

“Well?” he asks. “Are you giving details or are we playing 20 questions?”

“You’re snappy today,” Courfeyrac says, a sharp edge to his voice. “Ferre, tell him he’s snappy today.”

“End of the term,” Combeferre says distractedly. “Have you told him?”

“Told who?”

“Jehan.”

“Told Jehan what?”

Combeferre pushes the bridge of his glasses up. He’s got the weary look of someone who pulled an all-nighter, which is precisely what he’s done. Enjolras knows the feeling.

“That you’re in love with him,” Combeferre clarifies.

Ah,” Courfeyrac breathes out, stretching the syllable. His mouth remains ajar. “Right. Um, no?” He crosses his arms. “What if—he doesn’t like me back?”

“You’ll know when you get rejected,” Enjolras says cheerfully.

There’s a murderous glint in Courfeyrac eyes. The next moment, he grabs the mug from Enjolras’s hand and downs it.

“What were you hoping to accomplish?” Enjolras asks as he watches Courfeyrac splutter, supposedly choking to death.

“Getting rid of—Jesus—of all your caffeine.”

He snorts. “You think I’d ever risk running out of caffeine? Amateur.”

“I think you don’t appreciate my plight,” Courfeyrac mutters. “Do you know what it’s like, Enjolras? To look at a friend of yours and suddenly realize he’s the love of your life?”

“Can’t say that I do.”

“I don’t know what I was thinking when I came to you with this,” he huffs, and starts pacing across their living room, flicking his eyes towards Combeferre every now and then.

Enjolras scowls, ignoring a familiar, uncomfortable hurt settling in his stomach. Courfeyrac is teasing, but at some level, Enjolras thinks, he probably means it. It’s a recurring joke, the fact he’s not the most socially apt person of their group; and though he knows his friends love him, he still regrets the times he loses his temper or does something none of the others would have.

You’ll never see Combeferre lose his patience, he thinks, chastised. He wonders if Courfeyrac really is in love, if he’s a bad friend for not realizing, if being—well, him—is going to drive them away one day.

“Are you going to tell him?” Combeferre is saying.

Courfeyrac stops, runs a hand through his hair. “I don’t know,” he says. “This is all so new.”

“How can you have no idea you’re in love with someone?” Enjolras blurts out, frustrated.

He doesn’t get how this works, doesn’t think he ever will. Doesn’t think he’ll ever notice when it happens, either. He only knows Marius is in love because he won’t shut up about it since first setting eyes on Cosette; he didn’t know about Joly, Bossuet and Musichetta until he saw all three of them together. And now Courfeyrac and Jehan? It’s not that he’s disinterested; it’s just that he’s not a great observer of people. He tries telling himself is not a big deal, even when it seems, sometimes, like everyone is having a conversation he’s not part of.

“It’s surprisingly easy to confuse with something else,” Courfeyrac says, voice a high-pitched whine. “I need help,” he moans.

“Maybe you should ask people who have successfully guaranteed they won’t die surrounded by cats,” Combeferre suggests, and Enjolras vaguely considers asking if that’s why he refuses to have one.

(Enjolras likes cats; despite Courfeyrac saying he might want to wait a little longer before putting that particular nail in the coffin that is his love life.)

Courfeyrac is nodding slowly. “Yes, those people. We know some of them.” He scratches his head. “Will they know what romance is, though? Joly and Bossuet are terrible, they were always an old married couple. They didn’t even have to do anything to convince Chetta they’re worth her time. And please don’t suggest Marius, those two are the worst, love at first sight and all that crap. What I need is romance, damn it!” He thinks for a moment. “Maybe I’ll just ask R.”

Enjolras scoffs. “Why would you ask Grantaire?”

Courfeyrac looks up as if he’s just witnessed him run over a small child with a truck. “I just can’t with you today.”

“Can’t what?” Enjolras asks, and is ignored.

Combeferre doesn’t respond to whatever the hell just happened. “You can brainstorm at the meeting tonight,” he tells Courfeyrac.

Enjolras is astounded that Courfeyrac gets the hint. In fact, he looks almost eager to leave—which makes no sense, since he was the one to come in the first place, but he’s too tired to dwell on it.

“Great idea, I will. Thanks, Ferre.” He stops with a hand on the door. “Enjolras—always a pleasure.”

Enjolras returns to his paper with a throbbing head and some indistinct unease prickling at him. Combeferre goes back inside and Enjolras doesn’t see him for the rest of the day.

*

Enjolras is in a horrible mood, he can tell right away. It shouldn’t quicken his pulse, Grantaire thinks, seeing him stride into the meeting frowning and serious, quiet in that focused way of his that is louder than words. As soon as he does, there’s a shift in the backroom of the Musain—a hush that falls over the others; a nauseating happiness that is kindled inside him.

Granted, the silence doesn’t last. Greetings erupt, and then conversation sparks up again. Combeferre’s having a talk with Joly; Bossuet, Feuilly and Bahorel are loudly relating something around him, in a conversation he’s supposed to be part of; Marius is excitedly expounding something to a disgruntled Éponine, standing in one corner; and Jehan and Courfeyrac stand whispering in another, the latter glancing backwards every now and then. Enjolras looks over his friends and sits at his usual place. Grantaire tracks his movements with an experienced eye.

“Can we start?” Enjolras asks.

It takes another half minute or so, but eventually they are all looking at him. The beginning of meetings is always Grantaire’s favorite part of the night: he’s still buzzed from boxing with Bahorel, already on his way to, but not entirely drunk, and part of him hopes against all previous evidence that he might get something from Enjolras that is not scorn.

It doesn’t last long, but the possibility is enough to keep him going.

“We can start by discussing which of you fuckers pilfered my waffles.”

“Courf,” Enjolras groans, then closes his eyes and throws his head back.

Grantaire stares. Longing wraps around his veins, like constricting vines sticking thorns into him. He takes a long gulp of his beer—he started drinking at home, and the mix of different kinds of alcohol is settling uncomfortably in his stomach—and watches blatantly, uncaring. Until meeting Enjolras, he’d thought saying your heart skipped a beat was just an expression.

A chorus of denials is drowning out Enjolras’s voice, until Bahorel cuts through them.

“He’s trying to set us against each other,” he bellows. 

“Don’t turn this against me, where were you at one thirty last night?”

“On the stove,” pipes in Bossuet, “heating something questionable, if I remember correctly.”

“I’m surprised you can remember anything,” says Bahorel. “Weren’t you trying to prove you could mix vodka with anything and it’d taste the same?”

“The experiment was a success,” Bossuet replies. “I think. Can’t remember exactly. R?”

Eyes turn to him, and—this too is an experienced movement—he quickly transfers his from where they were focused to face his friends.

“We came to the conclusion vodka is a silly drink, and we’d no longer waste our time with it, as we’re past the age of twelve,” he says. “But I think stealing Courf’s stash for science makes you suspect number one, doesn’t it?”

A choir of oohs and ahs comes from all corners of the room, and he takes advantage of the distraction to look at Enjolras again. He looks worried, as always. There are lines in his forehead, and Grantaire wants to smooth them. While the chatter surrounds him, he lets his mind wander to all the ways he could try to accomplish that.

“Can we please focus?” Enjolras says above the din.

Grantaire hears himself speak. “You’re late. I almost feared we wouldn’t be blessed with your presence today.”

“It’s the end of the term,” Enjolras says in a clipped tone. “I’m busy. We all are.”

He doesn’t say except you, but Grantaire hears it all the same. Which is unfair, a small part of him whispers, because it’s not like Enjolras knows anything about his life.

“Actually, I’m done with work,” Courfeyrac is saying.

“Yeah, I’m finished too,” Marius adds.

“I’m not even sure which classes I’m taking,” says Bahorel.

“R handed in his final project today,” Feuilly informs.

“Really?” Éponine asks, plopping down beside him. “What was it?”

“An homage,” Feuilly answers, the corners of his eyes crinkling. Grantaire is going to smother him with his own pillow tonight.

“Well, that explains everything,” Éponine rolls her eyes, then elbows him. “So?”

He tries to glare at both of them without letting anyone else see what he’s doing. “Nothing important,” he says through gritted teeth.

Funnily enough, it is Enjolras that saves him from further prying. “Fine!” he shouts. “Since you’re all so relaxed, can we start the meeting? I have a rally in mind.”

Rallies are Enjolras’s idea of a good time; to Grantaire’s astonishment, his friends seem to agree. To be fair, he never understood where all their revolutionary fervor came from, being the last addition to the group—brought in by Bahorel, taken in by the rest—, but the first time he saw them, they were already formed into this kind of social justice brigade, organizing protests in campus, Facebooking their way to a better tomorrow.

He doesn’t mean to question their efforts, but after getting into a fight with Enjolras about fifteen minutes into the first meeting he attended, his views were made clear. None of them cares he doesn’t subscribe to their brand of activism, for which he loves them—and it’s not as if Grantaire wants them to fail (the opposite, in fact), it’s just that he doesn’t know how to look around him and be optimistic.

And yet, he loves how one word from Enjolras has them all focused. They believe in this. He loves to watch Courfeyrac start expounding ideas; to see Combeferre make those ideas feasible; to laugh as Bahorel plans how to thwart campus police; to see even Éponine chime in, quieter in her enthusiasm, but just as passionate as the rest of them.

(Of course, that’s a lie. He listens to his friends, but what he watches, always, is Enjolras, an untouchable fire lighting him up from the inside. He watches as Enjolras’s frowns smooth after hearing the others speak, and thinks, this is how you do that. This is why I can’t.)

Today, Grantaire can tell from the stiffness of his posture that he’s about to present a new idea, and is preparing to defend any opposition to it. The fact true opposition only comes from him means Enjolras, at some level, thinks about Grantaire, and it’s such a pathetic scrap of attention he should be ashamed of flinging himself after it.

“About three months from now,” Enjolras says, “it’ll be a year since the death of Mabeuf.”

Everyone is instantly alert. Mabeuf was a student killed in a series of unplanned protests that sprang up around the city the year before. Enjolras had been ecstatic, almost frenzied, believing they would turn into country-wide actions that would prompt major government changes. Grantaire remembers the time fondly; they had some of their worst arguments during the three weeks of unrest—the worst ever, perhaps, when police repression brought about the unsolved murder of one of the protesters.

“I think we need to bring this back to the fore,” Enjolras is saying now, “remind people no one was ever convicted for the crime, which is precisely the kind of thing they were fighting ag—what?”

The last question is directed at him.

“I didn’t say anything,” he protests.

“You just snorted in the middle of my sentence,” Enjolras says.

Irritation accumulated over time has turned into helpless fury. Enjolras immediately looks at him as if expects Grantaire to say something biting—as if he sees no way to escape hearing him say it. The gleam in his eyes turns into something sharp and defensive, and he’s digging his fingers into the table as if to hold himself back.

He is stunning. Grantaire would fall to his knees, beg forgiveness, crawl on the floor; there is nothing he wouldn’t do, if Enjolras said the word. If there was ever pride in him, it was crushed when he sets eyes on this man.

He needs to make it last, this focus. He can’t make Enjolras smile with talk of hope, but he’ll take scraps of his passion, in whatever form they may come. Pathetic, he thinks, but he’s long made peace with that.

“I’m just wondering,” he says slowly, leaning over the table, “why do you think anyone will give a shit. No one even remembers Mabeuf’s name outside this room, and in here only because you ranted about it for a month after he died.”

“That’s precisely why we should do this,” Enjolras answers in a carefully controlled tone. “Because people like him shouldn’t be forgotten. Because if we remind the people—”

“Then they’ll always exist in history, or in our hearts?” Grantaire scoffs; drinks some more. “Are you going to do this every year?”

“Maybe I will,” Enjolras counters angrily.

“No you won’t,” he sneers, “because no one will care. This time, you might get some people, I’ll grant you that, but soon there’ll be another news cycle, and more people killed, and then what are you going to do? Have a rally every day for someone unjustly murdered? So some more people can get murdered when it goes south?”

“So you think we should just forget anything ever happened? Just let it slide that a twenty-four-year old was murdered by Parisian police—”

“You don’t even have proof,” Grantaire says, and Enjolras eyes blaze, the argument an old one.

Grantaire knows, of course, that the poor bastard was probably beaten to death after attacking a policeman, but it’s worth it to see the last strands of self-control slip from Enjolras.

“I’m not going to get into that again, and I’m sick and tired of having the same arguments every time,” Enjolras says sharply. “This is hardly news, Grantaire—this is how you feel about every rally, about everything we do. Nothing is a good enough cause for you, because you don’t think anything can be changed.”

“And you’ve never proven me wrong,” he says.

Enjolras breathes out in frustration. “In less than three years our rallies have grown from a few dozen people to almost ten thousand. People are coming together, realizing they have a voice, and you still think it doesn’t mean anything?”

“That’s all very well,” he says, “but what have your rallies actually accomplished? Yeah, ten thousand people marching against homophobia, fantastic. Tell me, how much have the murder statistics dropped? How did those ten thousand people marching change a goddamn thing in real life?”

“So it’s better to sit back and not even acknowledge the problem? Because that will accomplish—oh, that’s right, nothing!”

Enjolras is enunciating the words clearly now, taut as violin strings. Grantaire is the bow that snaps them, drawing nothing but a broken sound from something that can make the most remarkable music.

“Why would I want to accomplish anything?” he asks. “It’ll all come back to where it started, one way or another. Things always do.”

Life is not a straight line, he wants to explain, but at the same time he doesn’t want them to know. He doesn’t want them to feel like him, but hates when reality dashes their hopes; hates when Enjolras fails, that moment when things fall short of his expectations and he looks so terribly frustrated, only to start all over again.

Enjolras heaves with exasperation. “Spare me your cynicism, Grantaire.”

But I can’t, he thinks. Come on, Apollo, don’t take this away from me too.

(Apollo—he never uses the name out loud, not since the first and only time, almost two years ago, drunkenly babbled in the middle of a rant to Éponine and Bahorel, the traitors. First time I saw him was on a rally, he vaguely remembers saying, he looked like a god, like a fucking statue—like the fucking Belvedere, I swear—so fucking beautiful. They’d laughed. He’s not sure who told who, but the others found out; some time later, Courfeyrac added Enjolras’s number on his phone with the nickname. They used to tease him about it a lot. He never thinks about why they stopped.)

There’s a hand on his forearm—Éponine, tracing soothing circles in his skin. Feuilly is tense beside him, and Jehan is biting his fingernails. Silence has fallen heavily over the room.

This is all he ever seems to offer them.

“Anything for you,” he tells Enjolras hoarsely, raising his bottle in a quiet toast.

Enjolras turns away, and Grantaire resigns himself to watching.

*

Marius has a date, Feuilly has a late shift at one of his two jobs, and Combeferre still has work to do, the only one besides him who isn’t done for the term. The others disperse after that, taking with them the tasks Enjolras has given them. Éponine, Bahorel and Jehan take turns sitting beside Grantaire, for whatever reason, then leave; not that Enjolras is paying attention. He still has some things to go through with Courfeyrac, who’s remarkably focused now. Enjolras might be passionate, but Courfeyrac’s excitement is contagious. He forgets, sometimes, how much he appreciates his friend.

“—so we’re going to need to promote this,” says Courfeyrac at last.

Enjolras nods, dead tired, the day starting to catch up with him. “Agreed. We’ll need something more than what we usually do. We’ll talk about it next meeting, all right?”

“Sure thing.” Courfeyrac’s gaze shifts to a side. “R, don’t leave! I need to talk to you.”

Enjolras doesn’t look over, so he only hears Grantaire’s reply.

“Fuck off.”

Courfeyrac laughs. “I have serious things to discuss, I’ll even drop you home—oh, where the hell is Jehan?”

“Just went downstairs,” says Grantaire.

“Right, wait here,” Courfeyrac tells him, and leaves Enjolras with a slap on the shoulder before dashing downstairs.

Enjolras remains frozen for a moment, then turns slowly.

“There’s no need for that look, now,” Grantaire says quietly. “I’m too drunk to argue.”

He’s not looking at Enjolras, but peeling the label off a bottle of beer. This annoys Enjolras for reasons he can’t quite pinpoint.

“You were just talking to Jehan,” he points out.

“That was a conversation, it’s easier. We can’t hold those.”

“You don’t even know if we can hold a conversation,” Enjolras says, and he doesn’t know why this, of all things Grantaire has said tonight, is what makes him snap completely. “It’s not like you talk to me when the others aren’t there.”

For all the time Grantaire spends trying to rouse him at meetings, he never seems to have something to say when they’re alone. Not that it happens often. Their relationship, if Enjolras can even call it that, has always been mediated by their friends. He recalls a few moments—cold words in a cold night on a balcony, during a party; an early morning at Courfeyrac’s, Grantaire sleeping his hangover away while Enjolras waited for his friend—and they are filled with silences and stilted, biting words, which leave a sour aftertaste unlike the anger he feels after their arguments.

He can’t see Grantaire’s expression, his eyes still focused on the bottle, but his voice is rough when he speaks. “I.” He clears his throat. “I didn’t think you noticed.”

There’s a sheepishness to him that’s never there when they are in a room filled with people. Take the others away, Enjolras thinks, leave them with all that free space, and they get stuck, like there’s no way to move.

“I’m not as completely oblivious as you all seem to think,” he says.

Grantaire seems to withdraw even further. “Right.”

“I’m not saying you have to,” Enjolras continues, sharper. Grantaire is not even trying to deny it, and it does not bother Enjolras at all, why would it? No one has to want to talk to him. He’s used to people not wanting him around; he was never part of a group of friends until college. “What I don’t get why it’s so—amusing to you to rile me up all the time. If all you’re looking for is an audience—”

Grantaire gives a startled laugh. “Is that what you think?”

Enjolras hesitates. He’s always wary of making assumptions; even more so when Grantaire is concerned. He knows he’s not the easiest person to deal with. People either like him or can’t stand him, and it’s easy to respond to those reactions, but Grantaire—Grantaire is hostile and mocking, Grantaire scorns his beliefs, and Grantaire stays.

“You never tried to be friends with me,” he says.

Emotions flicker past Grantaire’s face too fast to be registered, let alone interpreted. His mouth falls open as he looks up at Enjolras, then flicks his eyes away. They scan the room, wide and restless.  

“I suppose I haven’t.”

There’s a drawn-out moment of silence.

“Right,” Enjolras breaks it. “It’s not like you have to.” He’s not disappointed, there is nothing to be disappointed about, this is just them clearing up what he already knew. “You’re friends with the others, it’s not like we have to be friends. You’re still part of the group. It’s fine.”

“What, like you want to be friends?” Grantaire snorts, but when Enjolras stops to consider the question, he seems to deflate. “I—forget I said anything.”

He wonders how this conversation even started, why he’s keeping it going.

“Would that be so awful?” he shoots back. “I have friends, you know. They like me.”

“Of course they do,” Grantaire agrees. He looks distracted, like he’s only half aware of what he’s saying. “But since when are that lot the epitome of common sense?”

Enjolras has a retort on the tip of his tongue but cuts himself short. This is easy, he thinks. This is what they always do. There’s a weariness to Grantaire now that Enjolras has glimpsed a few times, usually after a night of particularly hard drinking, and the part of him that longs for answers drives him back to the point.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

It’s strange to see Grantaire so still, him whom Enjolras always sees moving, drinking, joking; he who is loud and quick, funny and smart when he wants to be, cruel and precise when he doesn’t. He looks at Enjolras with an odd, cautious look in his eye, as if he suspects him of setting a trap.

“Fine,” Enjolras breathes out, when no answer is forthcoming. There’s someone bitter in his mouth, and it tinges his next words. “Glad we straightened that out.” He turns to leave.

“No,” Grantaire exhales more than says the word. It stops him in his tracks. “I mean, no. It wouldn’t be awful.” He runs a hand through black curls. “Fuck, I never thought you’d… “

This is ten times more awkward than anything they’ve ever yelled at each other, Enjolras thinks. He’s surprised it doesn’t bother him more.

“Oh,” he says. “Really?”

Whatever Grantaire’s answer might have been, it’s cut by Courfeyrac’s voice. “I’m back! Good, you’re still here, Enj. I’m dying to get your insights on romance once again.”

“I don’t want to talk romance with you,” Grantaire murmurs, getting up with a hand on the table. His words falter, as do his feet. “Is this why you kept me here?”

“Yes, I need help from a hopeless romantic,” Courfeyrac says cheerfully, and as Grantaire mutters something under his breath, Enjolras wonders how on Earth Courfeyrac came to the conclusion Grantaire is the person he needs. 

“I’m serious. Enjolras is no help at all.”

Grantaire snorts; he tries not to let it annoy him.

“And you think I’ll be any better?” Grantaire sounds bitter. “Why are you asking for advice, anyway?”

“Courfeyrac is in love with Jehan,” Enjolras offers.

Grantaire gives Courfeyrac an odd, incredulous grin. “Are you, now?”

“Bitch, I might be,” Courfeyrac mutters, making Grantaire howl with laughter.

Enjolras suddenly feels the urge to flee. He grabs his bag, makes an excuse, and basically runs past Courfeyrac.

He glances at Grantaire before he goes through the door, but Grantaire is not looking at him.

*

“What just happened?” Courfeyrac asks.

“Nothing,” Grantaire says. And, to change the subject, “What the hell is this about Jehan?”

“Hm?” Courfeyrac murmurs, and, “Ouch,” when Grantaire punches him in the arm.

“You heard Enjolras!” There’s a hysterical edge to his voice. “I’m in love. With Jehan.”

It takes five seconds of staring for Courfeyrac to crack.

“Fine! How did you know?”

“I’m sort of an expert,” he says. Courfeyrac looks vaguely sympathetic, so he quickly adds, “It’s a terrible idea, you know.”

“It’s not even an idea,” Courfeyrac says, clasping his hands as if in prayer. He’s squirming where he stands, as if he’s being ripped apart from the inside. “It just sort of happened, they just assumed and I didn’t say anything?”

“Why the hell not?”

“I don’t know, I panicked?”

“Jesus,” Grantaire mutters, laughing quietly.

“And I don’t know if I should take it back,” Courfeyrac continues, “but if I take it back I’ll have to explain, and—”

“And?” Grantaire asks, though he knows, of course.

“And I can’t. I have to be sure.”

Grantaire knows, but it doesn’t change the fact he sees the train wreck coming. “This is going to blow up in your face. Just tell him.”

Courfeyrac shuffles. “I have to make sure first, and I think I can,” he says stubbornly. “Maybe this is good. It shouldn’t be hard to get a clear sign. Right?”

“Sure,” he says, and tries to infuse some confidence into it.

“It has to,” Courfeyrac mutters.

He’s got this faraway look in his eyes, like he’s standing at the edge of some immeasurable fall, and Grantaire wonders if this is how he looks to the rest of them all the time.