It’s raining. The kind of rain that lashes against the pavement so hard it almost hurts and nobody would dare to step out into it. It’s only early evening and already the sky is foreboding and dark, like it could thunder at any moment. The drains are overflowing and the water is running down the streets in rivers, shimmering under the streetlights.
Grantaire is sitting with his cheek pressed against the window. He was unbearably hot for some reason he couldn’t fathom, and the cold glass against his cheek felt wonderful. He had his sketchbook open on his lap and was twirling his pencil idly in his fingers, but the page remains blank. This kind of weather was his favourite, but it also distracted him from everything he’s trying to do. He liked watching the water pound the street, finds the sound of the water beating against the window preferable to any music. He switched off all the lights to enjoy the low lighting.
Grantaire blinked down at the sketchbook and snapped it shut with a sigh. Even without a shirt on he feels too hot, and can’t focus on anything apart from this. He looks out the window for a moment, then grabs his vest from where he’d abandoned it on the arm of the chair, shoves his feet into his favourite boots and heads out into the downpour. He considered opening all the windows to let the cool air flow into the flat, but he fancied the idea of being robbed less than the idea of being a bit warm, so he left them closed. The air outside has a bite to it, but its invigorating, so he stands in the middle of the street for a moment and takes a few deep breaths as the rain plasters his hair to his forehead, then sets off in the direction of town.
Really, he should’ve known that going for a walk might not be the best idea, because when he walks he thinks, and what he doesn’t want to do is think about Combeferre.
The feelings kind of snuck up on him, really. Combeferre had always been sweeter than any of his other friends. It was just little things, things like checking books out of the library he thought might appeal to Grantaire, or hauling him home when he was too drunk to stand. His other friends did this as well, but they did so grudgingly, dumping him on top of his bed fully dressed and making lighthearted but accurate jokes at his expense as they left him a glass of water (warm by morning) and painkillers on the side before leaving. Whenever Combeferre brought him home he’d sit Grantaire in the living room and make him drink water before he went to sleep, to try and preemptively make the hangover less vicious while he swept effectively around the flat, tidying things up and makings sure he had food in the cupboards. He’d gently coax Grantaire out of his clothes and put him into bed, wrapping him up in blankets before spending the night on the couch, bringing him blessedly cold water and breakfast in the morning. Grantaire kept insisting that he didn’t have to, but Combeferre could be stubborn when he wanted to.
He hadn’t even noticed his feelings, at first. He’d been so hung up on Enjolras; beautiful, marble Enjolras. Alas, he could only wait for him so long, and eventually the cracks began to appear in the flawless stone. Enjolras was so dedicated to helping everyone, too dedicated, and had no time for romance; let alone with the likes of Grantaire. Grantaire hadn’t been actively looking for a relationship, or for someone else to focus his feelings on, but when he and Combeferre went out for coffee and their hands brushed against each other, Grantaire’s stomach did the fluttery thing Jehan often talked about and the smile was involuntary and, well, it was unexpected.
Most people overlooked Combeferre. He seemed overlooked compared to everyone else at meetings, dull against Enjolras and Courfeyrac’s radiant beauty and Jehan’s a little too radiant wardrobe. At some point, however, Grantaire stopped overlooking him. While Enjolras was stunningly beautiful, Combeferre had more of an understated, comely beauty. His face was often graced with a thoughtful, pensive look, giving him an air of maturity and sophistication. He smiled fondly at everyone, took care of them all without discrimination, even Grantaire’s useless, drunken self. He was all soft voice and comforting touches, kind eyes shining behind his glasses. If Enjolras was a star burning himself out at an alarming rate, Combeferre was a constant soothing glow.
The feelings had come out of nowhere, but now Grantaire was trudging along in the rain, in as much despair over Combeferre as he had been over Enjolras.
He kicks at a puddle as he stomps through it, the water seeping into his boots and splashing up his jeans. He didn’t care, it wasn’t like he could get any wetter, but of course someone took issue, as people always seemed to with everything he did. He’d stopped to try and light a cigarette half under the shelter of an overhang when the umbrella appeared over his head. Combeferre was scowling from behind his scarf, standing close to Grantaire so they could both fit under the umbrella.
"You’re soaked." He says in a flat voice.
Grantaire lit his cigarette calmly. “An astute observation.”
"You are soaked and you are wearing nothing but a vest." Combeferre continues. "You are insane. Hold this." He shoves the umbrella into Grantaire’s unwilling hands and shrugs out of his coat, draping it protectively around Grantaire’s shoulders. Underneath it he’s only in a thin polo shirt, and will no doubt be freezing before too long.
"You really don’t have to." Grantaire mumbles, taking a drag on the cigarette. Combeferre takes it from his numb fingers and put its between his lips.
"I want to. You’re going to get sick if you stay out here, come on, I’ll walk you home." He links arm with Grantaire’s and steers him in the direction he just came from, blowing smoke into the air and passing the cigarette back. "What are you even doing out here?"
Grantaire shrugs. “I was stupidly hot and wanted to cool down.”
"Well, you certainly achieved that." Combeferre laughs and ruffles his soaked hair, but Grantaire is subdued. "What’s wrong?" Combeferre asks, voice dropping to the soft tone he uses when he’s trying to reassure people.
"You need to stop taking care of me like this." Grantaire mumbles, absently pulling the coat tighter around him.
"I need to do no such thing." Combeferre replies firmly. "And I shan’t."
Grantaire hides inside the coat and mumbles something that Combeferre can’t catch, even as he leans in close.
"Say that again?"
Grantaire lifts his head from inside the coat and all but shouts, “Because you’re wasting your time! It’s not like when you go to cheer Jehan up and then he’s fine once he’s done crying, or, or when you force Enjolras to actually eat and sleep for once and then he’s okay, or when you tell Joly that he does not have the flu and then he calms down. I’m not like that! I’m the useless drunk that fucks everything up, remember? I am not just going to be fine and okay just because someone makes sure I don’t choke on my own vomit every now and then! You are wasting your time and I don’t want you to because you have better things to do and are too kind and I don’t deserve you.”
Combeferre drops the umbrella and it clatters to the floor in a puddle. He takes Grantaire’s face firmly in both of his hands and gives him a look that is both stern and soft at the same time. “Don’t you give me that bullshit. I don’t believe that, you hear me Grantaire? I don’t believe that. You are thoughtful and beautiful and talented and I hate to see you put yourself down like this. You deserve everything I give you and so much more, do you understand me?”
Grantaire pauses, eyes a little wide. Combeferre just called him beautiful. Beautiful. Him. He squeaks a little, smile spreading across his face, and Combeferre’s grip on his face lessens just a bit. The skin on his hands is soft and he swipes a thumb gently over a raindrop trailing down the curve of Grantaire’s cheek. Grantaire leans into his touch, pressing their foreheads together. The umbrella is still lying crumpled on the ground and they are getting soaked, raindrops clinging to Combeferre’s eyelashes and making his thin white shirt cling to his body as Grantaire hides inside his coat, shivering.
Combeferre takes the cigarette out of his lips, now soaked, and keeps a pointless hold of it as he wraps his arms around Grantaire’s shoulders, holding the cigarette away from his curls. They hover uncertainly for a minute, breath mingling together in the cool air, until Combeferre leans forward and presses a gentle, uncertain kiss to Grantaire’s lips, as if worried he might pull away. His lips are just as soft as his hands, especially compared to Grantaire’s dry, chapped ones. Grantaire malfunctions. He can’t believe that someone like Combeferre would want to kiss him, but he is kissing him and he can’t comprehend why but he doesn’t care because it’s Combeferre and he’s kissing him and that’s all he cares about. So he kisses him back.
He snakes his arms around Combeferre’s waist to press their hips together as the other’s hands run down his arms, the cigarette all but forgotten on the floor. Grantaire makes a contented little hum and lets his mouth fall open, allowing Combeferre to slip his tongue in and explore every inch he can. They’re both freezing and shivering in the rain, so the warmth of each others mouths only makes it even better as they kiss frantically, hands roaming over every piece of skin they can find.
Combeferre pulls away to catch his breath, pressing his cheek against Grantaire’s ,fiddling with the edge of his coat, pulling it tighter around him and rubbing his arms to warm him up.
"I was supposed to be taking you home." He says wryly. "You’re going to get sick."
"No, you’re going to get sick.” Grantaire counters, pointing out Combeferre’s thin shirt, but allows himself to be led home, broken umbrella abandoned in the gutter.
Combeferre does not get sick after all, because he knows how to take care of himself, but predictably Grantaire does. Nobody hears from him for a few days, so Combeferre shows up on his doorstep, finds the spare key and lets himself in. Grantaire is sprawled on the couch under a great swathe of blankets, peeking his head out to see who’s disturbed him. His nose is red and his eyes are puffy, hair sticking up at more incomprehensible angles than usual.
"Go away." He says without any conviction. “‘M sick."
"I told you." Combeferre says fondly, in a voice that is far from accusing. He comes over to ruffle Grantaire’s hair and drops a carrier bag next to the couch. "I brought soup and orange juice. Drink." He retrieves the soup and goes in search of a bowl.
Grantaire sniffs at the orange juice and pulls a face, about to set it down until Combeferre gives him a stern look and he drinks it obediently. “I hate orange juice.” He says miserably, burrowing back into his blanket nest.
Combeferre comes over with the soup and uses his hand to waft the scent towards him. He pulls the blanket back so one eye peers out. “Eat and you’ll feel better. Promise.” Combeferre says soothingly, trying to coax Grantaire to sit up.
Eventually, he takes the bowl in both hands, letting it warm him through as Combeferre tidies up the living room, picking up discarded clothes and paintbrushes to organise them neatly. Grantaire tries not to enjoy the soup, but it’s admittedly delicious and he practically licks the bowl clean, humming when Combeferre climbs onto the couch next to him and running his hands through his hair.
"Feel better?" He asks, pressing the back of his hand to Grantaire’s forehead.
Grantaire groans in return, pulling the blankets up over his head and lying down on the couch, putting his head in Combeferre’s lap. “Don’t you dare leave,” he grumbles loudly from inside his nest.
"I wouldn’t dare leave anyone when they need me." Combeferre says softly, pulling the blankets apart until he discovers Grantaire’s hand, lacing their fingers together.
It begins to rain outside once more, drumming gently on the windows, and Grantaire brings Combeferre’s hand close to himself and whispers, “It was worth it.”