“Are you Grantaire?”
Grantaire sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, wishing fervently that the police had waited to knock on his door until after his second cup of coffee. “Javert, you’ve arrested me at least three times, you know damn well that I am,” he said, crossing his arms across his chest and frowning at the police inspector. “What do you want?”
A flicker of irritation crossed Javert’s face. “Fine, are you familiar with this man?” he asked, pulling out a photograph from the inside pocket of his coat and showing it to Grantaire, whose expression didn’t change. “Name of Enjolras, convicted of assaulting a police officer and disrupting the peace. Oh, and also, if sources are to be believed, your boyfriend.”
“Ex,” Grantaire corrected automatically, his eyes still lingering on the mugshot of Enjolras, who stared defiantly ahead. “Not that it’s any of your business.” He managed to tear his gaze away to frown at Javert. “Besides, Enjolras has been locked up in jail for the past three years, so I don’t see why you’re asking me any of this.”
Javert returned the photo to his pocket. “He escaped from jail last night,” he said curtly.
Grantaire could feel his heartbeat accelerate, though he forced his expression to remain neutral. “So why are you here?” he asked. “Do you think I had something to do with helping him escape?”
“Did you?” Javert asked bluntly. When Grantaire merely scowled in response Javert huffed an impatient sigh. “Do you think he’d try to contact you?”
Grantaire shrugged. “I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care.” His voice sounded oddly hollow, even to him. “I’m not getting involved with this.”
Javert looked at him evenly. “You visited him awfully frequently for someone who doesn’t care.”
“When he first got arrested, sure, but check your visitor logs. I haven’t been back in over a year.”
Grantaire’s tone was flat and dismissive, and Javert seemed to take the hint. “Fine,” Javert said, digging in his pocket and extracting a business card. “If he does contact you, here’s my card.”
Though Grantaire took the proffered card, he didn’t even glance at it before crumpling it up and throwing it toward the garbage can. “He won’t,” Grantaire said confidently, shutting the door as Javert scowled at him. Once the door was closed, Grantaire’s shoulders slumped, and he leaned against the door, his expression blank. “He won’t.”
Grantaire turned the volume all the way up on his iPod and jammed his hands in his pockets, keeping his head down as he made his way through the crowd on the sidewalk downtown. He wasn’t paying much attention, and wasn’t heading anywhere in general, so was perhaps unsurprised when he bumped into someone. “Sorry,” Grantaire grunted, reaching out to make sure the guy was ok, but whoever he had run into had already disappeared. “Asshole,” Grantaire muttered.
A phone rang, and Grantaire flinched at the ringtone. La Marseillaise — Enjolras’s old ringtone. Grantaire glanced around for the source, and it took him a moment to realize the ring seemed to be coming from his hoodie pocket. He reached in and pulled out a burner phone, the kind used by drug dealers — and fugitives.
Grantaire swiveled around, trying to see where the guy who had run into him had gone, but with all the people milling around, he didn’t see any trace of him. For a moment, he considered just tossing the phone on the ground and walking away, but the last cruel vestiges of hope forced him to open the flip phone and put it up to his ear. “Hello?” he asked.
The voice was as smooth and rich as Grantaire remembered it, and Grantaire’s knuckles turned white from how hard he was clutching the phone. “Enjolras,” Grantaire said, closing his eyes. “Where are you?”
“Meet me at the Musain in an hour,” Enjolras commanded, clearly not willing to answer any of Grantaire’s questions. “Drop the phone in the sewer.”
The call went dead, and Grantaire lowered this phone, his hand shaking. There were so many questions he had, and so many conflicting urges and desires.
But there was also only one thing he could do.
Grantaire closed the phone and turned on heel to hurry with renewed purpose in the opposite direction he had been heading, pausing only to drop the phone in between the slats of a sewer grate.
When Les Amis de l’ABC, Enjolras’s student activist/anarchist group, had met at the Musain, the building housed a few run down apartments above the grimy 24/7 diner/café. Since Les Amis’ disbanding following Enjolras’s arrest, the Musain had clearly fallen into disrepair, and Grantaire almost walked right past it, not recognizing the graffitied and boarded up building.
But once he did recognize it, he remembered that there used to be an old door around the back of the building, and sure enough, the door was barely boarded shut and took almost no effort to break open. Of course, the ease of breaking in barely mattered when Grantaire had a Bossuet-esque moment and promptly tripped and almost fell once he got inside.
When Grantaire finally made it back to his feet, cursing under his breath, he froze when he saw the blond man waiting for him.
He was three years older, his face was thinner, almost wan, and his blond curls were long and dull in the dim light. But Enjolras could have covered in mud and Grantaire’s heart still would have leapt just as high as it did at seeing him standing there, a small smile hovering on his face.
Wordlessly, Enjolras jerked his head towards the stairs, and Grantaire followed him up, almost tripping over a loose floorboard. “I’d ask if this building is safe, but I never really was safe with you,” Grantaire remarked, stopping awkwardly at the top of the stairs.
Enjolras snorted and took a seat in a creaky folding chair. “Fuck you,” he said genially, and shrugged. “Safe or not, it’s our spot.”
Grantaire remained standing, his arms crossed tightly in front of him, his shoulders tense. “You look good,” he offered.
Enjolras shrugged again. “Not a whole lot to do in prison besides work and keep your head down.”
“What, no prison riots to incite?”
Enjolras grinned, the smile making him look almost identical to three years prior, and Grantaire’s breath caught in his throat. “Well, that too.”
But Grantaire didn’t smile, the muscle in his jaw twitching. “So what now?” he asked, a little curt.
“Laying low,” Enjolras told him, reaching up to run a hand through his curls. “Wait for the heat to lie down.” He looked carefully at Grantaire, his expression neutral. “Did the cops come talk to you?”
“Yeah,” Grantaire said casually with a shrug. “Javert wants me to let him know if you try to contact me.”
Enjolras was silent for a long moment, his expression inscrutable. “And?” he said finally.
“You think I’d snitch?” Grantaire asked, smiling slightly for the first time. “Fuck you.”
Enjolras laughed lightly, though his smile rapidly faded. “Listen,” he said, leaning forward in the chair, his tone turning urgent. “I’m getting some cash and a new ID and heading across the border until things cool off here. I might try to find Combeferre and Courfeyrac, make some plans with them.” He hesitated, for the first time looking almost a little nervous. “You should come.”
Grantaire stared at him. “Flee the country with you?” he asked, letting out a laugh that had no humor in it. “You’re out of your goddamn mind.”
Enjolras didn’t smile, instead standing, his expression turning earnest. “I thought a lot about you inside,” he said honestly, closing the space between them and resting a hand against Grantaire’s cheek. It took everything in Grantaire to not lean into his touch, and he only just managed it, though he couldn’t tear his eyes away from Enjolras. “And I don’t know what else to do but bring you with me.”
Shaking his head, Grantaire tried to come up with an answer for that, but before he could think of one, Enjolras’s phone rang. He dug his phone out of his pocket and checked the screen before sighing and looking back at Grantaire, rubbing his thumb lightly across Grantaire’s cheekbone. “Think about it.”
He dropped his hand and turned to head back downstairs, only pausing when Grantaire called after him, “How will I find you?”
Wordlessly, Enjolras tossed his phone up at him before disappearing downstairs. Grantaire stayed rooted to the spot for a long time afterward, turning the phone over in his hands, completely and utterly torn on what he should do next.
“Oh,” Marius said, holding the door open for Grantaire. “It’s you.”
Grantaire raised an eyebrow at him. “You don’t sound surprised.”
Marius smiled slightly and stepped back, gesturing for Grantaire to come inside. “The cops came to see me as well,” he told Grantaire, leading him into the living room and hovering awkwardly. “I had just made a pot of tea. Would you like a cup?”
Grantaire laughed and ran a hand over his face. “I’d prefer whiskey, but I’ll settle for tea.” He watched as Marius bustled around in the kitchen. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m surprised the cops bothered with you.”
“Now, why would I take that the wrong way?” Marius asked, smiling, and he handed a cup of tea to Grantaire, who cautiously sipped it. “But seriously, once you’re a known associate with a felon, they tend to keep a record of you.”
Shrugging, Grantaire leaned back in his seat. “I just mean, I never would have considered you one of Enjolras’s associates.”
Marius peered over the rim of his tea cup at Grantaire. “I didn’t mean Enjolras” he said calmly. “I meant Courfeyrac. And also my father-in-law, technically.”
Grantaire smiled slightly. “You ever hear from him?”
“From my father-in-law? Well, yeah,” Marius said, grinning, and when Grantaire didn’t smile, he sighed. “No, I haven’t heard from Courfeyrac. But he wouldn’t risk it if he thought it’d put me in danger.”
Grantaire nodded slowly and took another sip of tea. “Do you ever think about what would have happened if you had gone with him when he left?”
Marius looked taken aback by the question, and he frowned, tracing an almost nervous finger along the rim of his cup. “If I had gone with Courf…” He shrugged. “My life would have been a non-stop thrill ride, I suppose — and not necessarily the good kind.” He shrugged again and drained his tea, looking at it as if he too had wished it was something stronger. “But a life on the run is no life at all.”
“What if nothing ever gives you that same thrill again?” Grantaire asked, leaning forward and searching Marius’s expression for the answers he couldn’t seem to give himself. “Is a life without that kind of a passion any life either?”
“First and foremost, I resent the implication that Cosette and I don’t have that kind of passion,” Marius said, a little sharply. “But to answer your question — yes. I think it can be.” He shook his head and leaned forward as well, his brow furrowed. “What is this about?”
Grantaire just shook his head and stood. “Nothing,” he muttered, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I shouldn’t have come.”
“Why did you?” Marius asked, a little bluntly, and when Grantaire merely stared at him, he blushed slightly and elaborated, “I mean, why didn’t you go talk to Joly and Bossuet, or Prouvaire, or anyone else? Why come to me?”
“Because I thought you might be the only one who understands,” Grantaire said. “And I’m trying to stop myself from doing something stupid.”
Marius blinked at him. “And no one else would be able to talk you out of it?”
Grantaire smiled grimly. “No, I’m afraid they’d probably talk me into it.”
A look of understanding crossed Marius’s face and he reached out to grab Grantaire’s arm and stop him from leaving. “You turned your life around,” he told Grantaire, his voice quiet. “You’ve got a career, an actual decent, non-shithole apartment. You’ve made something of yourself. And Enjolras…” He trailed off, shaking his head. “I love him and I miss him just as much as the rest of us. But he would set a match to everything you’ve built.”
The phone in Grantaire’s pocket rang and he pulled his arm out of Marius’s grip so he could dig it out of his pocket and glanced down at the screen. “I have to go,” he muttered.
“Grantaire—” Marius started, trying to stop Grantaire, but Grantaire just smiled a little sadly at him.
“Haven’t you heard, Marius?” he asked. “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
Grantaire took a final drag on his cigarette before stabbing it out against the concrete pylon of the bridge he was lingering under. He checked the time on his phone and huffed a sigh, leaning back against the concrete. Enjolras was late.
Then again, being a fugitive on the run, timeliness was probably not his biggest concern.
He wasn’t entirely sure that he was doing the right thing, meeting Enjolras again, trying to keep alive what by all accounts had died some two years past. What Marius had said had made a lot of sense — a fact Grantaire honestly had never thought would cross his mind — and Grantaire knew he was potentially throwing everything he had worked on away.
But then he saw Enjolras striding towards him, and the sight drove all thoughts besides the painful beating of his heart away.
“I knew you’d come,” Enjolras told him, crossing to him and kissing him fiercely.
It was everything Grantaire had dreamed of for the past three years, and for a moment, he allowed himself the pure, simple pleasure of kissing Enjolras again. But then he shoved him away. “What?” Enjolras asked, confused.
“Do you think my life hasn’t moved on since you were locked up?” Grantaire demanded, angrier than he should be, angrier than he probably had any right to be. And he honestly didn’t know if he was angrier with Enjolras or with himself. “Do you think I’m going to just jump back in bed with you?”
Enjolras’s eyes narrowed. “You know why I did what I did,” he told Grantaire calmly. “You supported me then, so forgive me for assuming you’d support me now. And forgive for assuming you’d be happy to see me.”
Grantaire shook his head. “You think I’m not happy to see you? I’d be fucking ecstatic — if it weren’t for the fact that you have one foot out the door. You’re leaving again, and I’m going to be left here trying to pick up the pieces just like last time. Only there’s no conjugal visits to non-extradition countries.”
“Stop,” Enjolras commanded, closing the space between them and kissing Grantaire again, softer and sweeter this time, but Grantaire still pushed him away.
“I finally have my life together again! And I’m not going to just let you destroy it!”
Enjolras gestured around him, frustration clear. “Then what are you doing here?” he challenged.
They stared at each other for a long moment, three years of frustration and separation hanging heavily between them. Then, when the tension seemed like it was going to reach a boiling point, it was Grantaire who closed the space between them, kissing Enjolras hungrily and pushing him back against the concrete.
Enjolras panted a laugh as Grantaire fumbled at his pants. “Hell of a goodbye,” he managed, and for a moment, Grantaire froze. But then Enjolras kissed him again, and Grantaire kissed him back, all thoughts fleeing somewhere southward.
When Grantaire woke up the next day, he instinctively reached for Enjolras next to him, but remembering that Enjolras was not there, and probably never again would be jolted Grantaire awake better than any amount of caffeine could.
After showering, Grantaire decided that, counterintuitively, it was time to follow Pontmercy’s advice and talk to someone else. Joly and Bossuet’s place was closest, so he headed in that direction.
He had gotten only half a block when a nondescript silver car pulled up next to him, the passenger side window rolling down and the driver leaning over to smirk at Grantaire. It was Enjolras, but Enjolras as Grantaire had rarely seen him, especially not recently: hair cut and cleaned up. “You left without saying goodbye,” Enjolras told him.
“I don’t think I can say goodbye again,” Grantaire replied, pausing in his step and not looking over at Enjolras. “I honest to God don’t think my heart can take it.”
Enjolras tapped restlessly on the steering wheel. “Then you should know this is it,” he said. “I’m leaving. Now. And I won’t say goodbye if it’ll hurt you, but—”
Wordlessly, Grantaire turned to the car, grabbed the car door and yanked it open to slide inside. “Just shut up and drive,” he told Enjolras.
Enjolras grinned. “Absolutely.”
“What are you looking at?” Enjolras asked with a grin as they drove down a country lane. It looked identical to the past twenty odd miles or so of the middle of nowhere they were currently driving through. But even the dull scenery couldn’t dampen either man’s spirits.
“You still haven’t told me your plan,” Grantaire told him. “Or where exactly we’re going.”
Enjolras’s grin widened. “Leave the plan to me.”
Grantaire rolled his eyes and was about to retort when he spotted a police car driving towards them. “Shit,” he swore under his breath, and Enjolras’s expression tightened. He quickly propped his elbow on the open window, resting his chin against his hand and casually concealing most of his face. The police car passed without incident, and both men exhaled in unison before laughing uneasily.
“As to where we’re going,” Enjolras continued, as if they had never been interrupted, “we’re going to spend a little time on an island to start with, once we get across the border and find ourselves a ship.” He shot a glance at Grantaire. “You ever been to the beach?”
“I literally cannot imagine you on a beach,” Grantaire said, grinning. “Relaxing, not thinking about the Cause…”
Enjolras’s smile faded slightly. “I can help the Cause better from a beach than from prison,” he said quietly. “Besides, it’s what got me through jail, picturing that beach — and us.”
Without warning, he reached over and punched Grantaire in the arm, hard. “What the fuck was that for?” Grantaire asked, half-groaning and half-laughing.
“You stopped visiting me,” Enjolras said accusingly, and Grantaire’s laughter stopped.
“It was hard seeing you in there,” he said after a long moment. “Caged up like that, when all you ever wanted was—”
“To be free,” Enjolras finished softly. They sat in silence for a long moment, but it was a comfortable silence, broken only by Enjolras asking quietly, “So it wasn’t because you stopped loving me?”
Grantaire shook his head. “I honestly don’t know if there’s anything in this world that could do that.” Enjolras smiled, though his expression quickly became serious, and Grantaire glanced over at him. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“About what?” Enjolras asked, surprised. “Leaving? Why would I? Who am I leaving behind — my family?” He snorted. “Fuck my parents. They didn’t come see once when I was in jail. All I got from them was a letter from their lawyer telling me I was officially removed from their will.” He half-smiled. “You may have never stopped loving me, but I don’t think they needed much of an excuse.”
Grantaire reached over and laced his fingers with Enjolras’s. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Enjolras just shrugged and forced a laugh. “Their loss,” he said, with more bravado than he probably felt. After a moment, he asked, “Did you ever think this is where we’d wind up some day?”
“You being pursued by the police and fleeing the country?” Grantaire asked dryly. “Yeah, I could’ve predicted that.”
Enjolras elbowed Grantaire in the ribs and they both laughed before Enjolras asked abruptly, “Did you ever think about me when I was in jail.”
Grantaire looked over at him, honestly surprised that he hadn’t figured it out yet. “All the fucking time,” he told him.
Enjolras smiled and lifted their clasped hands to his lips, kissing Grantaire’s knuckles. “God, I missed you,” he said simply, and Grantaire just smiled and didn’t say anything at all.
He didn’t need to.
Grantaire leaned against the side of the car at the final gas station before the border. The sun was just beginning to set and cast Enjolras in a fiery glow as he walked out of the gas station and towards him, rubbing his newly-dyed hair ruefully. In addition to the hair color change, he was wearing a suit and tie and altogether looked practically nothing like his mugshot, which was sure to be posted at the border crossing. “What do you think?” he asked, spinning around and grinning.
Grantaire half-smiled. “Almost dashing.”
“Just remember, call me Áaron, not Enjolras. And if anyone asks, we’re going on vacation.” Enjolras’s grin widened. “That’s not too far off from the truth anyway.” He started to pull Grantaire in for a kiss, but Grantaire hesitated. “What’s wrong?”
They were the hardest two words that Grantaire had ever said, and his heart broke more than he ever thought was possible just uttering them.
Enjolras stared at him. “What do you mean, you can’t?” he asked. “Grantaire, we’re one step from the finish line here.”
Grantaire just shook his head and pulled out a wad of cash he had just gotten from the ATM. “Here—” he started, but Enjolras jerked back, hurt clear on his face.
“I don’t want your money, I want—” His voice broke. “I want you to come with me.” Grantaire closed his eyes as if that would somehow hide the pain clear in Enjolras’s voice and on his face. “Don’t do this,” Enjolras whispered.
“I love you,” Grantaire told him.
“Then get in the fucking car.”
Grantaire shook his head again, trying to put into words what he had felt press against him with every mile they drove. “This — us — this isn’t me anymore,” he said finally. “This isn’t my finish line. It’s yours.”
“Why?” Enjolras asked, biting off the word like it physically pained him to ask it.
“When you went to jail, I was broken,” Grantaire told him. “And it took me a long, long time to figure out how to put myself back together again. But I did. I rebuilt myself and I rebuilt my life and — and I did it without you. I made a life for myself without you, which is something that I honest to God never thought would be possible. And losing you—” His voice broke. “Losing you was unbearable. But giving up everything that I’ve become in the last three years — it’s impossible.”
Enjolras was silent, tears dripping down his face, and Grantaire reached out for him, though he was unsurprised when Enjolras jerked away. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“So that’s it,” Enjolras said softly.
“I think it has to be.”
Enjolras just looked at him for a long moment, and Grantaire forced himself to maintain eye contact, to not turn away or try to hide himself from the pain radiating between them. Resignation settled across Enjolras’s face, and wordlessly, he closed the space between them, grabbing Grantaire by the front of his shirt and kissing him as he had never kissed him before.
Then he pushed Grantaire back, his expression growing steely. “I love you, too,” he said, followed almost immediately by, “and fuck you.”
Grantaire smiled slightly and stepped back, knowing a goodbye from Enjolras when he heard one. “Tell Combeferre and Courfeyrac I say hi,” he said.
Enjolras jerked his head in a nod and got into the car. For a moment, Enjolras and Grantaire both just stared at each other, and then Enjolras lifted his hand in a silent wave and the car pulled away. Grantaire watched until the car was out of sight, well aware of the tears coursing down in his face but making no effort to stem them.
When he finally couldn’t see Enjolras any more, he turned away, fumbling in his pocket for his phone and dialing the first number he could find. “Hey, Marius,” he said, taking a deep, shaky breath. “I need a favor. I, uh, I need someone to come pick me up.”
“Where am I?” he repeated, glancing around the gas station. “Well, it’s kind of a long story. I’ll text you the address.” His expression turned serious at Marius’s next question. “Am I ok?” he repeated, mulling the question over as if asking himself the exact same thing.
After a moment, he managed a small smile. “I think I just might be.”