Jehan opened his eyes blearily when he felt the thin form curl up next to him, and sighed before leaning forward and licking Grantaire’s ear in a patient but comforting sort of way, shifting to let the scrawny, dark-gray cat burrow even closer into his side and asking in a soft mew, “Do I even want to know where you’ve been?”
Grantaire was quiet for so long that Jehan thought he was just going to ignore Jehan’s question, but then he flicked his ear in an irritated sort of way and sighed, “No, probably not.”
"Enjolras is going to kill you."
Grantaire snorted derisively and set about grooming the fur on Jehan’s shoulder. “Enjolras can try.”
Even so, his blue eyes flickered uncertainly over to where the golden tabby slept curled up next Combeferre’s sandy form, and he could just see Courfeyrac’s dark fur on Enjolras’s other side. Seeing Courfeyrac next to Enjolras made Grantaire switch his gaze to Jehan, looking at him accusingly. “Why aren’t you all curled up with Courf tonight? Did you two fight again?”
Jehan’s green eyes narrowed slightly and his ginger fur bristled, though when he spoke, his voice was only a slight growl. “That, my friend, is none of your concern.”
Grantaire huffed but didn’t push him on the matter, instead peering around the alley at the rest of their friends, Les Amis de l’ABC, as Enjolras had named their rag-tag group of stray cats (though Enjolras preferred the term feral, designating their homelessness a “choice of personal freedom”, which for Enjolras, who had grown up as an indoor cat, it mostly was; some, like Grantaire, who had spent most his life on the streets and had the scars and wariness to show it, would have given their left paw for a chance at the life Enjolras had willfully abandoned, but then again, Grantaire would have gone anywhere Enjolras led, even to a bed made of tossed out newspaper in a dank Parisian alley). He saw Joly, a Mackerel tabby, and Bossuet, the once-longhaired black cat who had rather unfortunately developed alopecia and now closely resembled a Ukrainian levkoy, both curled up with the rather beautiful calico from a few streets over, Musichetta. He could see Feuilly’s ginger pelt clearly even in the dark, his flame-colored fur standing out in sharp contrast to the muted grays of the alley, but Grantaire’s eyes narrowed and he asked, “Where’s Bahorel?”
"Out looking for you, mouse-brain," growled a voice from Grantaire’s other side, and Grantaire rolled over to see Bahorel sitting and staring at him, his amber eyes unblinking as his tail swished back and forth. His black-and-white fur was mussed, and even though Grantaire knew Bahorel would never actually hurt him, he still bit back a gulp at the sight of his massive frame as he sheathed and unsheathed his claws.
Then Grantaire’s eyes narrowed and he sat up, tasting the scent that lingered on Bahorel’s fur. “Nice try,” he meowed, trying not to sound too pleased with himself, “but I can smell your she-cat friend from over here.” He settled back down next to Jehan, smiling widely. “And here I thought you might actually have been worried about me.”
Bahorel’s eyes narrowed for a moment and he padded closer to Grantaire to hiss quietly, “I am worried about you, Taire. As is everyone. You run around town as if you’re trying to get yourself locked up in the pound or killed, and one of these days you’re actually going to.”
That said, he turned tail and stalked off to plop down next to Feuilly, who shifted over without waking. Grantaire hissed and spat in disbelief, rolling over to look at Jehan, who was frowning, but whose eyes were concerned. “I am not trying to get myself killed,” Grantaire huffed, though his ears flattened against his head and his eyes were sad.
"Maybe not," Jehan meowed quietly, going back to grooming Grantaire, trying to get the fur on his shoulders to flatten, "but you do seem to be headed that way, and I think we all know why."
Grantaire followed Jehan’s gaze to see Enjolras stretching, and momentaily lost all ability to speak, his eyes hungrily drinking in the sight. Jehan laughed quietly, but there was a sadness in it, too. “You’ve been padding after Enjolras since you were kittens,” mewed Jehan, low in Grantaire’s ear, “and don’t think I don’t think it’s romantic, because I do, but I also don’t want to see you hurting the way you’ve been hurting for moons now.”
Grantaire sighed and licked Jehan between his ears, meowing, “I know, I know, it’s just…he’s so perfect, like Maahes brought to life, and I would be content to just follow in his paw prints and bask in the warmth of even his shadow because he…I…”
Now it was Jehan’s turn to say, “I know” as he nuzzled Grantaire as comfortingly as he could, managing to bring Grantaire to a rusty purr as they lay next to each other in contentment.
The contentment was short lived, as Enjolras padded over to them, nudging first Jehan, then Grantaire in a comradely way, meowing, “Time to get up. We need to be in the Jardin du Luxembourg in two hours, and I’m sure we’d all like to catch ourselves a bit of breakfast beforehand.” His nose wrinkled as he scented Grantaire, and his blue eyes narrowed at the purple stains on Grantaire’s muzzle. “You’ve been out to the Corinthe again, haven’t you?” he hissed accusingly.
Grantaire rolled onto his back, batting at Enjolras playfully with his paws the way they had done as kittens. “I was merely paying homage and offering sacrifice to Dionysus before our battle today,” he meowed sardonically, “as we cannot all honor the gods with our mere existence, Maahes. Besides, it’s not my fault that the owner of the Corinthe leaves the dregs of the wine out in a bowl.”
"He leaves them out for you, so I would say it is your fault,” growled Enjolras stiffly, looking distinctly unamused. “And is there a particular reason you’re calling me the Egyptian god of war?”
Looking delighted that Enjolras had picked up on the reference, Grantaire mewed innocently, “I just thought the lion-headed god fit you so well, ye who fights for the innocent. Besides, in addition to being protector of the innocent—” here Grantaire leaned in, practically purring “—Maahes was also devourer of the guilty, and oh, how sweetly you devour.”
Enjolras looked equally parts disgusted and confused, but hid it by swivelling his ears and meowing firmly, “Enough of that, Grantaire. We have work to do today, honest work, and I will not allow you disrupt it with this…whatever this is.” He started to leave then stopped, favoring Grantaire with a cold glare, though something questioning glinted in his eyes. “And stop calling me Maahes. I am no god.”
He turned and marched away, shoulders set, and his tail just flicked against Grantaire’s muzzle as Grantaire stared after him. Sighing longingly, Grantaire practically collapsed almost as soon as Enjolras’s back was turned. “I’m pathetic,” he moaned, laying his head down against his paws.
"You really are," Jehan agreed, though his whiskers twitched in amusement. "But c’mon, lazyfur, it’s time to face the sunshine."
"I already have," sighed Grantaire, still staring after Enjolras, but he shook himself and stood, nudging Jehan companionably as they padded off together in search of breakfast.
This chapter is more Courf/Jehan-centric.
Also, as a reminder, I always welcome feedback of any variety (both positive and negative), whether in the comments here, or, if you'd rather keep things more private, you can always send me a message on Tumblr. Thanks!
Courfeyrac stared after Grantaire and Jehan with slitted eyes, so intent on watching them that he didn’t notice Combeferre had padded to his side until he nudged him gently, causing Courfeyrac to practically leap in the air, eyes wide, landing with his claws extended. Combeferre gave him a look that was half-amused and half-concerned. “Peace, Courf,” he mewed softly, licking Courfeyrac’s shoulder comfortingly. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
The fur on Courfeyrac’s back slowly began to lie back down, and Courfeyrac nodded once, blinking his amber eyes slowly. “I’m sorry, Ferre, I just…I wasn’t paying attention.”
“No, I daresay you were paying more attention to Jehan than to me,” purred Combeferre with a laugh, wrapping his tail around his paws as he sat, staring unblinkingly at Courfeyrac, who shifted on his paws. “Do I even want to know what’s going on between you and him?”
Courfeyrac flicked his ear, embarrassed, and shrugged. “You would do well to ask Enjolras the same question regarding him and Grantaire,” he meowed, trying to deflect from Combeferre’s question.
The diversion did not work, though Combeferre’s purring laugh grew louder. “Ah, but I actually value my life, and would not risk it for something where I already know the answer.”
“And I don’t scare you?” Courfeyrac challenged, his eyes narrowing as he stretched, unsheathing his claws. “I could use you to sharpen my claws.”
“You could try,” Combeferre corrected calmly, his whiskers twitching in amusement. “I’ve been waiting for a challenge since Bahorel gave up on sparring with me.”
From the other side of the alley, where he was in the middle of grooming Feuilly, Bahorel growled, “I didn’t give up on anything, you overgrown kittypet. I could take you any day, any week.”
Combeferre smiled sweetly at him. “Bring it on.”
Enjolras spoke for the first time, standing and stretching from where he had been engrossed in conversation with Joly. “Enough. Save your animosity for the gathering today.”
Grateful for the further interruption from Combeferre’s question, Courfeyrac padded over to nudge Enjolras companionably. “Do you think Javert is going to give us trouble today?”
“I’d like to see him try,” hissed Enjolras, his tail puffing up at the thought of the police dog used by animal control to help round up stray cats in the city. “That dog doesn’t scare me.”
Combeferre frowned. “He should. You saw what he did to Mabeuf last moon.”
The cats all fell silent, remembering Mabeuf’s mangled corpse, the result of what had happened to someone trying to fight back against Javert and the tyrannical rule of animal control. Enjolras’s tail twitched and his blue eyes glowed with ferocity as he growled, “If I accomplish nothing else, I will make Javert pay for what he did to Mabeuf. Mabeuf was a good cat who gave his life for the cause, and I will never forget that.”
Then he stood, shaking his golden fur as if shaking off the conversation, his tone turning brisk. “Come. No more talk of darkness. We have hunting to do before our meeting this morning.” His eyes searched around the alley. “Where is Grantaire?”
“He left already,” Courfeyrac meowed, trying not to let amusement color his voice as he added, “with Jehan.”
Enjolras blinked, looking taken aback for a brief second before smoothly stating, “Of course. I should have figured as such when I noticed Jehan missing.”
Bahorel let out what sounded like a strangled laugh, though he quickly turned it into a cough, explaining hoarsely, “Hairball, sorry.”
Courfeyrac turned away before the look on Enjolras’s face would make him laugh as well, meowing, “I’m going to the fishmonger’s. He gets his new wares in today, and normally sets the scraps aside for me.”
Frowning, Enjolras meowed stiffly, “I said that we needed to hunt for our food. Taking food from humans only elevates the unfair dichotomy between what are perceived as friendly strays and harmful strays, and—”
“Yes, yes,” Courfeyrac mewed hastily, taking great care not to roll his eyes, though the tip of his tail twitched impatiently, “we’re heard your lecture on promoting equality within the stray community in order to push back against our oppression before, but I’m hungry, and not one to turn my nose up at mostly fresh fish.”
The look on Enjolras’s face could have melted steel, and it only darkened further when Combeferre muttered something in his ear before padding after Courfeyrac, telling him, “I’m coming with you.”
Courfeyrac’s eyes narrowed. “You really don’t have to.” He had little desire to continue their conversation from earlier, as Combeferre was inevitably going to try to do.
Combeferre blinked once at him. “As you say, I’m not one to turn my nose up at fresh fish.”
“Mostly fresh fish,” Courfeyrac meowed under his breath, but huffed a sigh and acquiesced, following Combeferre out of the alley, blinking owlishly against the early morning sunshine. He turned to Combeferre, eyes glittering, and growled in a friendly way, “Last one to the fishmonger’s is fox dung!”
He leapt away before Combeferre could even process what he had said, laughing when he heard Combeferre yowl, “Cheater!” at his retreating back. He drew the morning air over his scent glands, reveling in the smells of Paris, the city that seemed as much a part of him as he was of it.
Courfeyrac’s story was not so different from most of Les Amis – a house cat who had found the bizarre split between house cats and stray cats to be unfair, especially when stray cats were rounded up and imprisoned, or, worse, euthanized by animal control. He had heard Enjolras speaking at an impromptu gathering he had managed to join after slipping out of his house, and found Enjolras’s passion compelling. He had left his home permanently soon after, joining Les Amis in their quest to promote cat equality, to elevate the street cats and to end injustice against them.
Still, he had taken to life on the street better than some – the memory of Enjolras’s first failed hunting trip coming to mind – and with the addition of some of the others in their band, particularly Bahorel, an outside cat, which separated him from both the house cats and the strays, and Feuilly, who had grown up on the streets without ever knowing his parents, they all soon found street living not as difficult as they might have thought. Courfeyrac in particular found the city to his liking, and understandably so. He was just the kind of cat that humans seemed to love, stray or otherwise, and there was many a merchant who would reserve some of the best scraps for when Monsieur de Courfeyrac would come strolling by their establishment.
Enjolras disapproved, but Enjolras had also fed on the scraps Courfeyrac had brought back with him on a number of occasions, so Courfeyrac didn’t really take Enjolras’s complaints seriously. Besides, Enjolras disapproved of a lot of things, personal relationships seeming to be one of them, given the way he treated Grantaire, since even a blind cat could see the way Grantaire stared at Enjolras. Courf’s heart went out to Grantaire; he knew now all too well the way Grantaire must feel, for he felt the same for Jehan. He had thought…well, it didn’t matter what he had thought, or the way he and Jehan used to curl up together to sleep, the way that Jehan would nuzzle him gently, licking him on the cheek, the way Jehan would purr against him. None of that seemed to matter anymore.
He didn’t know what he had done to make Jehan angry with him, or distant, or whatever. He didn’t know what he made the cat, so enthralled with Romance and poetry, turn away from him. He also didn’t have any idea how to go about fixing it.
His paws knew the way to the fishmonger’s so well that he barely paid attention on the way there, caught up in his thoughts of Jehan, which was why when he drew to a halt, he was surprised to find Combeferre already waiting for him, eyes half closed, sour look on his face. “Cheater,” Combeferre told him again.
Courfeyrac rolled his eyes. “And yet you still won.” He raised his voice and yowled a greeting to the fishmonger, grinning when he was rewarded with a few choice pieces of fish. Combeferre’s eyes lit up and he licked his muzzle appreciatively, snagging a piece of fish and settling down to eating.
They ate in companionable silence, until Combeferre licked the last bits from his paws and meowed firmly, “So about you and Jehan…”
Sighing, Courfeyrac laid his head down on his paws. “What about me and Jehan?” he asked, trying to keep the whine from creeping into his voice.
“You and he seemed…I don’t know. Together. You had padded after each other for long enough. But now you’re…not.” Combeferre’s careful wording made Courfeyrac crack a slight smile, and Combeferre continued, “I just wanted to make sure that everything was ok between you two.”
Courfeyrac sighed again. “That is the question, isn’t it?” he mewed forlornly. “I don’t know, Ferre. I had thought…I don’t know. He was so affectionate, but then, I don’t know if I said or did something or what, but…I really don’t know.”
Combeferre wrapped his tail around his paws, looking bemused. “I don’t suppose you’ve thought to talk to him about it.”
“I tried!” Courfeyrac protested, sitting upright. “He brushed me off, said he had to go do something with Grantaire. Speaking of…” Courfeyrac’s expression darkened. “You don’t think…he and Grantaire…”
“You know better than that,” meowed Combeferre. “Grantaire has had eyes for Enjolras alone for almost as long as I’ve known him.”
Courfeyrac snorted. “That is true. And something will need to be done about that sooner or later.”
Frowning, Combeferre met his eyes squarely. “Maybe so, but something will also need to be done about you and Jehan, and since you two are probably not as emotionally inept as Enjolras, there may actually be something you can do. Like, for instance, actually talking to him.”
“Fine,” muttered Courfeyrac, his tail twitching agitatedly as he looked away. “I’ll talk to him. After the meeting today.”
Combeferre looked a little smug, though he still licked Courfeyrac’s shoulder comfortingly. Then he blinked up at the sun. “Speaking of the meeting, we should go. We wouldn’t want to be late. Not after at what Enjolras did last time.”
Courfeyrac purred with laughter. “Yeah, I don’t think Bahorel was able to sit down for a week after that.”
Glancing over at him, Combeferre meowed innocently, “Race you again?”
This time it was he who took off before Courfeyrac could gather his thoughts, and Courfeyrac yowled, “You’re the fucking cheater, Ferre!” before dashing after him, hoping that the run through the city was just the thing to clear his mind from thoughts of the way the sun glinted on Jehan’s ginger pelt, or the way his green eyes sparkled with laughter, or the way that more than anything Courfeyrac wanted to go back to the way things were between them.
After managing to scrounge a very satisfying breakfast (Grantaire had found half a fresh fish that had just been thrown out, and Jehan had caught himself a mouse, which explained why he looked inordinately pleased with himself), Grantaire and Jehan meandered into the Jardin du Luxembourg, surprisingly on time for once, given the fact that they saw only Enjolras pacing in front of the tunnel between the bushes that led to the small clearing they used for these type of events. His right ear swiveled in their direction as they approached, followed swiftly by his blue eyes, which looked over them both carefully. “Did you have a good breakfast?” he meowed cordially.
Grantaire nudged him companionably, knowing that Enjolras tolerated physical affection far more when they were basically alone like they were now. “Half a fish for me, a mouse for Jehan, so all in all not a bad haul,” he purred, his blue eyes slit with contentment. “What about you?”
Enjolras twitched his whiskers, making a face, and he mewed, “Well, I found a bit of stale bread…”
“Enjolras,” Grantaire chided, flicking him with his tail. “You cannot start your day on some crusty bit of bread that the humans throw away. You have to learn to scrounge and to hunt.”
The fur on Enjolras’s back started to rise, and he hissed petulantly, “I do just fine for myself, thanks.”
Grantaire’s eyes glowed with amusement, and he batted playfully at Enjolras with his paws. “I don’t know, I think you’re turning into fur and bones. You’ll never be able to outrun Javert at this rate.” Enjolras just stared at him, unblinking and clearly unamused. “C’mon, Enj, I could teach you to hunt. Just you and me, soil under our paws, nothing else going on in the world…”
For just a moment, the look on Enjolras’s face softened, and he opened his mouth to reply when his left ear turned and he suddenly stiffened. “You, teach me to hunt? Have you been in the catnip again?”
A look of hurt flashed across Grantaire’s face, replaced almost instantly by his usual sardonic gaze, and he meowed, “Well, just don’t say I didn’t offer,” before slipping past Enjolras and into the clearing, trying not to show how much effort it took to not flick Enjolras with his tail as he passed.
Once inside the clearing, however, he all but collapsed on the ground, placing his head morosely against his paws, curling in on himself. After a few moments Jehan joined him, licking his shoulder. “Combeferre and Courfeyrac showed up right as you left,” he meowed offhandedly.
Instantly Grantaire understood why Enjolras had suddenly changed his demeanor, and though he sighed a little, he also sat up and started grooming himself as if he hadn’t just been sulking. Jehan’s whiskers twitched but he mostly managed to hide his smile. They settled down together, grooming each other to pass the time as they waited for the gathering to start.
Grantaire’s eyes roved around the clearing, looking impressed at the different cats that had gathered. Most were the half-starved street cats that he was used to, their fur hanging in varying degrees of mangy, their claws half-extended as they looked around warily, crouching with their muscles tense, ready to bolt if needed. There were a few strays who looked reasonably well cared for, and there were even a few sympathetic outdoor house cats, their collars standing out just as starkly as their bright, shiny, clean fur did in this crowd.
Most of the stray cats gave them wide berth, though Bahorel and Feuilly wandered among them, making pleasant, idle conversation in low meows. When Combeferre and Courfeyrac slipped in, they joined them, prowling through the assembled cats. Grantaire’s eyes picked out Joly, Bossuet and Musichetta on the far side of the clearing with another group of cats. Jehan stirred next to him, and Grantaire shot him a look. “You can go join Courfeyrac and the others if you want,” he meowed, licking his shoulder. “I’ll be fine.”
Jehan looked over at where Courfeyrac was chatting animatedly with a group of she-cats, and his shoulders slumped visibly. “Maybe I’ll go see what Combeferre is up to,” he muttered, nudging Grantaire gently as he stood and padded away.
He had barely reached Combeferre when Enjolras strolled in, an impressive sight amongst the gathered cats, his long, golden fur shining even in the shade, and Grantaire couldn’t help the small, longing sigh as he twitched his whiskers and laid his head against his paws.
As always, Grantaire was content to hang out in the background, listening intently to all Enjolras had to say, content to listen to the rise and fall of Enjolras’s voice as it swelled to an enthusiastic yowl and simmered to a low growl. If Grantaire closed his eyes, he could imagine Enjolras as a lion, his gold fur becoming a golden mane, his yowl deepening into a true roar.
For awhile, this thought was enough to make Grantaire close his eyes in contentment, a quiet purr rumbling through his body as he ignored everyone else in the clearing. The other cats were restless, shifting uneasily during Enjolras’s speech, until one of them finally hissed, “Something’s gotta happen soon. We can’t keep living like this.”
“Hardly any food, being rounded up by animal control,” another cat added bitterly. “This isn’t living.”
Grantaire cracked one eye open, watching Enjolras for his reaction. Enjolras nodded, his eyes gleaming. “Citizens, I agree,” he meowed. “And the most important thing is that we unite, that we fight together. We are much stronger as a single whole. And we have to remember that as much as the humans are in many ways responsible for this, the true enemy is ignorance, ignorance of our condition, ignorance of how we are the same as our domestic brethren.”
A particularly scrawny black cat let out a hiss. “I’m not the same as some soft kitty-pet.”
Meows of agreement rose through the crowd. “Let them try living on the street, and we’ll sleep in their warm beds for the night.”
Grantaire snorted derisively. “All animals are created equal,” he called, meowing across the crowd. “But some animals are more equal than others.”
All the heads in the clearing suddenly swiveled to face him, and Enjolras’s eyes narrowed. “Grantaire—” he started, jaw tight.
“Forgive my interruption, but I must agree with some of our compatriots here. Equality with circumstances as they are is unachievable. Either the housecats must join the street cats, which will never happen, or the humans need to not divide us into separate classes. Which will also never happen. They hold the power. Literally, physically, metaphorically – however you want to phrase it, the power is entirely theirs. And we can mew all day long like whiny kittens, but that doesn’t change that fact.”
Murmurs broke out amongst the crowd, and uneasy glances were exchanged. “Thank you, Grantaire,” Enjolras meowed loudly, his eyes glittering fiercely. “Thank you for pointing out exactly what our opposition will argue. Which is why, as I say, we need to fight together, for the rights of all cats. We cannot allow the differences that humans foist upon us to divide us.”
Grantaire’s whiskers twitched, because leave it Enjolras to take his criticism and try and spin it into something positive, and was about to meow another response when Feuilly, who had been on guard duty, burst into the clearing. “Javert!” he hissed, breathing heavily, his fur sticking on end. “He’s almost here!”
Silence fell on the clearing, then—“Scatter!” Enjolras yowled, fur puffed out to twice his usual size, his claws fully extended.
It was pandemonium, cats running in every direction, fleeing before Javert and the accompanying animal control officials caught up to them. From his position in the back of the clearing, near their usual entry way, Grantaire could easily have made a hasty escape, slipping away long before Javert had even scented his presence, gone without any trace, saving his tail the way he pretty much always had, but this time something was different.
This time, Enjolras stood, golden fur puffed out to twice its normal size, between Javert and the rest of the cats, allowing them time to escape. Javert was growling low in his throat, his short brown fur bristling, his yellowed fangs bared in a snarl as he pushed through the bushes. And his eyes were fixed on Enjolras.
And it was as if something was clawing at Grantaire’s chest because it hurt, it hurt to stand here and watch Enjolras, standing so tall and proud, claws extended and digging into the ground, knowing that he was about to be captured, possibly even killed. Grantaire couldn’t let that happen. Grantaire would have done anything in the world to stop that from happening.
Which was why he ended up doing the stupidest thing he had ever done in his entire, miserable life, leaping forward, launching himself at Javert, ignoring Jehan’s stifled gasp and the blaze that seemed to light up in Enjolras’s eyes as he saw him. Grantaire had eyes only for Javert, and to which part of that mangy mutt he was going to sink his claws into first.
Grantaire yowled and latched onto Javert’s shoulder with his claws, hissing as Javert bucked madly, barking and trying to throw him off. Enjolras seemed frozen, staring at Grantaire in shock, and as Grantaire raked his claws through Javert’s fur, he snarled, “Enj, go! Go!”
Enjolras’s eyes met his, pure horror contained in the luminous blue, and he hesitated for just a second more until Grantaire hissed, “Go!” Then he turned and ran, fleeing as fast as his paws could take him, and for a second, Grantaire relaxed his grip on Javert. Enjolras was safe. That was all that mattered.
With a ferocious bark, Javert shook Grantaire off, sending him flying into the ground, where he lay, mostly stunned, only able to let out a small mewl of surprise and pain. As if he had heard Grantaire’s mew, Enjolras paused for just a moment at the edge of a clearing, his head swiveling to look at Grantaire, for their eyes to meet for just a brief second more. Then Javert’s paw was planted squarely on Grantaire’s chest, pinning him to the ground, and Grantaire’s eyes rolled back in his head as he gasped for breath, and just before the world seemed to fade to black, he could feel the gloved hands of an animal control officer grab him.
The fact that Grantaire was mostly unconscious for the majority of the journey to animal control was probably a good thing, as he inevitably would have lashed out with his claws against anyone and anything he possibly could in a desperate attempt to escape. As it was, he only came just a few minutes before reaching animal control, when he realized that there was really no point in trying to escape.
Instead, he curled up in the very back of the traveling crate in which he had been shoved, trying to make himself as small as possible. When the door to the crate opened and a gloved hand reached inside, he cowered ever further, wanting to avoid the rough handling from before.
This time, though, the hand that reached in was gentle, stroking him softly with two fingers before carefully lifting him out. Instead of being confronted by the large man who had pulled him from under Javert’s paw, he instead saw a pretty blonde girl, who cradled him close to her, murmuring, “Shh, it’s ok. No one’s going to hurt you.”
Grantaire stared up at her, still wary, his blue eyes unblinking as his claws just latched into her white coat, not enough to dig into her skin and hurt her. “You’re a skinny little fellow,” she continued, rubbing him between the ears. “You look like you’ve had a rough life.”
Despite himself, Grantaire could feel that he was starting to like her, this human. Her touch was exceedingly gentle as she deposited him on the metal table in the center of the room. His claws clacked against the metal as he crouched down, curling his tail around his paws, ears pressed back against his head, torn between staying as still and possible and trying to flee.
“Poor little one,” the human murmured, tossing him a sad glance. “I know your life has not been easy, and I would take you in my arms and cuddle you if I thought that would do any good, but I’d rather you didn't claw my eyes out.”
Grantaire couldn’t help it, letting out a little mrow of laughter at that. She smiled instantly, crossing back over to pet him gently. “That was a happy little sound. Maybe you’re not as wild as they claimed you were when they caught you.” Grantaire couldn’t stop himself from nudging her hand and purring quietly. “You really are a sweet thing. I wonder why they thought you were dangerous.”
She crouched down so that her eyes were level with the table, with his eyes. “My name’s Cosette,” she told him, still petting him, kneading the fur at the back of his neck in just the way that he liked. “You’re going to need a name. How about, um, Toulouse?”
Letting out a sound like hacking a hairball, Grantaire flicked his ears dismissively. “No, that’s doesn’t work. Berlioz?” Grantaire didn’t even dignify that one with a response, turning away primly. “Clearly not. How about, um…Napoleon?”
At that, Grantaire’s fur puffed up and he hissed, claws extending. Cosette let out a peal of delighted laughter, petting his fur until it lay down flat. “Well aren’t you just the little republican?” Grantaire glared at her because he wasn’t, that was far more Enjolras’s territory than his, but Cosette was undeterred. “Fine, then until I can find a better name for you, I’m calling you R, for republican.”
The irony did not escape Grantaire, and he let out a loud meow of contentment. “R it is, then,” Cosette said, stroking his ears when someone else burst into the room.
“Ms. Fauchelevent, are you almost done with this one?” This human’s voice was impatient and unkind, and Grantaire found himself cowering against the table again. “There’s more that needs to be done.”
Cosette raised her chin just slightly. “Almost done here,” she said coolly. “I’ve just got to finish the intake exam, then I’ll put him in the holding cages.”
When the other human had huffed and left, Cosette turned back to Grantaire, kissing him lightly on top of the head. “You really are lovely,” she said, running her hands quickly over the rest of his fur to make sure that he was fine for the initial intake. “And hopefully we find someone to adopt you quickly, because I would hate if you were put down.”
“I’d adopt you myself, of course,” she continued, marking something down on her clipboard. “But my boyfriend, Marius, he’s allergic to cats, so I’m afraid it would be out of the question. But really—” she came back over to the table to scratch Grantaire under the chin, laughing at the way he closed his eyes and purred, “you are so wonderful. It’s amazing to me that you don’t have an owner. Anyone would be lucky to have you.”
With that said, and with the initial examination done, she gathered Grantaire into his arms and walked him over to the holding cages, opening it with one hand and depositing him inside, closing the door firmly. “Be a good boy, yeah?” she whispered, sticking her fingers in through the wire to pet him one last time. “We’ll find you a good home, I promise.”
Grantaire meowed after her, but as soon as she was gone, settled down to grooming himself, to getting her scent out of his fur. He was going to be in here for the long haul, he knew that, had disillusioned himself a long time ago to ever finding a permanent home and a permanent family.
Just as he had curled up, exhausted, about to take a nap, he heard a woof and shot up in fear, staring into the eyes of Javert outside his cage. “Welcome, kitty,” Javert growled, “I hope you enjoy your stay.”
Though Grantaire huddled in the back of his cage, fur sticking up in every direction, he mewed, “I’m not afraid of you, inspector Javert. There is nothing more you can do to me in here.”
“Oh no?” Javert asked, eyes glittering, showing his yellowed fangs. “I think there is plenty I can do. I know your little gang. I know that someone will come to rescue you, and I know that having two of you against your lot will mean enough of you in my grasp to capture the rest of your pathetic group.”
Grantaire almost laughed at that, though his claws scrabbled at the bottom of his cage. “They won’t come. Not for me.” His meow was honest, the starkness underlying its sincerity as he continued, “I am…not important.”
He wasn’t lying, really; he knew of half-formed rescue plans for Enjolras were ever he captured, and even Combeferre and Courfeyrac, but none from Les Amis would put their necks on the line to rescue Grantaire. He wasn’t worth it, and it was the risk they all had agreed to take, to fight for the cause (even if Grantaire’s cause came less in the idea of freedom for all cats and more in the long-haired golden tabby form of Enjolras; he would sacrifice himself all the same).
Javert just rumbled a laugh, his lip curling. “We shall see, little kitty,” he growled, his voice gravelly. “We shall see.”
Staring at him, unblinkingly, Grantaire asked, quietly, his meow barely audible, “Why do you hate us, Javert? How does the cause we fight for - freedom, equality, liberty - how does that hurt you? Why would you fight against us?”
Javert stiffened. “There was once a cat,” he started, his bark low, “a cat that I hunted for years, for the injustice that he did, and that he fled from. But he escaped, escaped justice, and I realized then that cats do not obey the same rules we do. Dogs have a code, a code of honor, a code which binds us to the humans and keeps us honorable. Cats do not obey that code. They follow only their own interests.”
A part of Grantaire wanted to argue, to follow his usual instincts of arguing every point, but his survival instincts, perhaps, took over, and he asked softly, “Is it all cats you hate, or just us street cats?”
“You misunderstand me,” Javert growled, “if you think I dislike you because you are from the street. I was born a mongrel on these streets, but I made something of myself, unlike you. What do you have to show for yourself? What do you think makes your meager existence so much better than my own?”
“You have a collar,” Grantaire whispered, with every ounce of defiance he still possessed, echoing the crux of Enjolras’s arguments. “And I…I am free.”
Javert snarled, saliva flying from his mouth as he bared his fangs and snapped at the cage. After a long moment he stopped, chest still heaving and breath ragged, and let out a huff. “You are caged. And you are caught. And you will be put to death as befitting your status. If you call that freedom, then you are even more blind than I would imagine.”
With that said Javert stalked away, growling low in his throat, leaving Grantaire to huddle in the back of his cage. What he had told Javert had not been a lie: he did not expect anyone to come after him, to try and rescue him. Which meant he was in for a long wait in this small, cramped cage. And whatever bravery he had showed to Javert had fled, leaving him willing to give anything to be outside under the cool night stars, the roads of Paris beneath his paws, free to go anywhere, and to do anything. Mostly, he wished for just one last glimpse of Enjolras’s golden fur, one last whiff of Enjolras’s sweet scent, and so he closed his eyes, wrapping his tail around his paws to cover his nose, and hoped for dreams of freedom and of Enjolras.
One day I will remember to update this AU in a timely fashion...
The overwhelming scent of unfamiliar cats woke Grantaire the next morning, and he cowered in the back of his cage, unused to as many cats as could be found at Animal Control. They were overwhelmingly street cats, nominally up for adoption, but most would be euthanized. Even without looking, he could tell which were up for euthanasia soon from the desperation that rolled off their fur.
Cosette brought them food, and she spent a few extra minutes petting Grantaire, who arched against her hand, purring loudly. Really, he thought as he settled down to eat the provided food, it wasn’t so terrible, captivity. Certainly not as bad as he had pictured. Of course, his attitude would probably change when his days stretched into weeks before the inevitable march down the hall to the end of any kind of captivity whatsoever.
That thought was not particularly reassuring and Grantaire sighed, curling up to rest his head against his paws. He was just about to nod off and take a nap when Cosette passed in front of his cage, carrying a familiar-looking golden tabby. Grantaire sprang to the front of his cage, pressing his nose against the mesh to try and get a better look. He deflated not even moments later, catching the glimpse of red from the handsome-looking collar around the cat’s neck, and he padded to the back of his cage and curled up again, hiding his face under his tail.
It was stupid to get his hopes up. Enjolras would never come for him. No one would ever come for him. He wasn’t worth it.
The meow was hushed but insistent, in a tone with which Grantaire was intimately familiar and without lifting his head, Grantaire muttered, “Go away, Enjolras, I’m sleeping.”
The meow sounded again, this time with a slight laugh. “Grantaire!”
Grantaire rolled over and glared at Enjolras. “I said go away. I’m trying to sleep.” It took a few seconds for his sleep-addled brain to realize what was going on and he sat bolt upright. “Enjolras!”
Enjolras purred in laughter from outside Grantaire’s cage door. “Good morning to you, too.”
Though Grantaire started to bound over to Enjolras, feeling as if the joy at seeing him must be rolling off his fur in waves, he paused halfway there, looking closely at the collar that adorned Enjolras’s neck, beginning to piece together exactly how Enjolras had ended up in here. “How did you get in here?” he asked, trying to keep the accusation out of his voice.
Cocking his head ever so slightly, Enjolras meowed, “It was simple, really. I put my old collar on, went to the rich part of town, and started caterwauling until one of them called Animal Control on me. You get treated much nicer when you’re wearing a collar, trust me. They’re currently trying to track down my owners—” he spat the word as if disgusted “—so I slipped away. And, well, here I am.”
Grantaire sat down, head reeling. Enjolras had done all that, had let himself get caught, all for…what? For him? The idea was laughable, and Grantaire felt anger rising in his chest, felt his fur begin to stand on end. “What are you doing here?” he hissed, eyes narrowed as he glared at Enjolras, ears flat against his head.
Enjolras blinked at him. “What does it look like I’m doing here? I’m here to rescue you!”
Grantaire glowered at him. “That is not how this is supposed to work, mouse-brain. I’m nothing, I’m nobody, you’re important. Why do you think I did what I did? Because it sure as hell wasn’t to get you locked up in here with me!”
Now it was Enjolras’s turn to glare. “I was the only one who still had my collar from my old life, so I was the only one who could pull off being a lost house cat and get in here. So you could be a little bit grateful, unless you want to spend the rest of your life cramped up in here!”
“That’s not the point!” Grantaire yowled. “Why would you stage a rescue forme? I know for a fact that Combeferre would’ve voted it down as too risky, and Courf would have voted for it to get on Jehan’s good side, which meansyou were the deciding vote, Maahes, so tell me - why in the world would you of all cats want to rescue me?”
Enjolras looked surprised. “You’re…you’re one of Les Amis,” he meowed, though he sounded uncertain.
Grantaire cocked his head. “Nominally, I suppose, but that also means I knew the risks when I signed up for this. And which still doesn’t answer my question.”
“Because…because I couldn’t just leave you in here!” Enjolras blurted, blue eyes wide, and for the first time in a long time Grantaire was reminded of just how young Enjolras was. “You would die if we didn’t get you out of here, and I…I couldn’t let that happen…”
Grantaire looked away. “Ah, but Maahes, you are the only thing in the world that I would die for, which would have made it worth it.”
Enjolras froze, and after a long second meowed quietly, “You mean the cause.”
“Sorry?” Grantaire asked, swiveling one ear in Enjolras’s direction.
Enjolras blinked and his whiskers twitched but he continued, “You said I was the only thing in the world worth dying for, but…but you meant the cause was the only thing worth dying for. Right?”
There was a long moment where they both just looked at each other, each completely unsure, but then Grantaire blinked and ducked his head. “Right. The cause.”
Nodding, Enjolras opened his mouth to speak again but Grantaire cut him off, shaking his head. “No, fuck that, I didn’t mean the cause. I meant you. You…” He trailed off and looked away, embarrassed. “You must know how I feel about you. After all this time…I’ve been so incredibly obvious, pathetic even, and you had to have known, to have realized…”
“Grantaire—” Enjolras meowed softly, but Grantaire ignored him.
“I mean, I know that you don’t, that you could never feel the same way about me, but don’t you understand? You are the only thing that I believe in, not the cause, not this foolish notion of equality, but you. And for you I would do anything, including sacrifice myself, just as surely as any of the Amis would for the cause, just as surely as you would for the cause.”
Enjolras just stared at him, expression unreadable. Then after a long moment he meowed softly, “I’m not worth that, Grantaire.”
Grantaire just shook his head and snorted. “Oh, but I am? Because you can’t argue that rescuing me somehow further the cause.”
“It’s not like that,” Enjolras growled, his fur beginning to puff up as well. “I was able to come in and rescue you in a way that guaranteed my own safety as well as yours, which meant it was a risk well worth taking, whereas you…you should never have taken the risk you did in the jardin yesterday. Javert could have killed you.”
Snorting again, Grantaire determinedly looked away from Enjolras, not wanting to see the emotions that splayed across his face, and after another long moment, he asked quietly, his tail twitching behind him, “Why are you able to take a risk but I’m not?”
“Because I can’t lose you!” Enjolras burst, his meow pained, and his eyes flashed with something like horror at the words that spilled out of his mouth, but he continued nonetheless. “Because the thought of you alone in here was almost more than I could bear yesterday! Ask anyone - ask Combeferre. I was completely useless knowing you were locked up in here, knowing that you could be killed and that there was nothing I could do to stop it. Nothing besides do everything in my power to free you. Because I…”
He trailed off and Grantaire crept closer to him, something strangely like hope pounding within his ribcage. “Because you what, Enjolras?” he asked quietly, for once no trace of sarcasm in his blue eyes.
Enjolras met his eyes squarely. “Because I think I love you,” he mewed, his voice soft and infinitely unsure.
That was all it took for Grantaire to practically sprint the rest of the way to his cage door, rubbing his muzzle against Enjolras’s through the wire mesh. Enjolras nuzzled him back as best he could, then he pulled away, his eyes soft. “This is stupid,” he muttered, and Grantaire recoiled slightly. Enjolras flicked his ear and purred a light laugh. “No, not that, just—”
He reached up with his paws to trigger the catch on Grantaire’s cage and the door swung open. “There,” Enjolras meowed, eyes bright. “That’s better.”
Then he and Grantaire were nuzzling each other, grooming each other, rubbing their shoulders and heads together, drinking in each other’s scent. Grantaire nuzzled him almost shyly. “I think I love you, too,” he meowed. “And don’t get me wrong, I am…I am happy you came for me, I just…I never wanted you to put yourself in harm’s way. Not for me. I really am not worth it.”
“You are to me,” Enjolras meowed simply, licking him between his ears. “Speaking of…” His ears swiveled. “You need to go, to get out of here.”
Grantaire frowned. “What about you? What’s going to happen to you when I leave?”
Enjolras flicked him lightly with his tail. “I’ll be fine. They’ll call my old owners, who will come pick me up, I’m sure, and I’ll slip out when I’m back at their house. I’ve done it before, I can do it again.”
Grantaire’s frown deepened. “That’s not a very good answer,” he noted, nosing Enjolras’s fur. “There’s a million and one things that could go wrong with that plan. What if your humans don’t come pick you up and you’re stuck in here? Or what if you’re unable to get out of their house?”
Frowning as well, Enjolras meowed, “Well, then what do you suggest?”
“Come with me,” Grantaire meowed earnestly, touching his nose to Enjolras’s. “Come with me and we’ll leave together. If I can slip out, you can slip out with me. We’ll escape together.”
Enjolras’s eyes darted around the room and he looked conflicted. “That’s not the plan,” he said, reluctantly. “There’s a much better chance that you’ll get out on your own than get out with both of us together.”
Grantaire meowed sincerely, “It’s a chance I’m willing to take. I can no more leave you in here than you could leave me.”
“Grantaire…” Enjolras sighed, nuzzling him again, and was about to say something else when a bark echoed through the room, and they both started, turning around to see Javert at the end of the hallway, fangs bared, and as he barked again, Enjolras looked over at Grantaire with wide eyes and yowled, “Run!”
Grantaire dug his claws into the ground and he faced Enjolras, determined look on his face. “Only if you run with me.”
Enjolras glanced back at Javert who was starting to cross towards them, still barking. “Fine, but we better run now!”
And with that said, they both sprinted towards the door, keenly aware of Javert hot on their trail.
One day I will remember to update this AU in a timely fashion. One day...
Jehan huddled at the front of the alley, his head on his paws. He barely even twitched his whiskers as Bahorel lay down on one side of him and Combeferre on the other. “He’ll be fine,” Bahorel told him in his deep meow, licking Jehan’s shoulder reassuringly.
"They both will be." Combeferre’s meow was grave but sincere, his expression solemn as he surveyed Jehan carefully. "There is no cat that I trust more with this than Enjolras. He will not rest until Grantaire is home safe."
The tip of Jehan’s tail twitched with something like amusement. “I know that. At least, if they don’t end up killing each other first.”
Both Bahorel and Combeferre purred in amusement, and Bahorel licked him once more before standing and stretching. “Feuilly and I will go scrounge up some food,” he announced. “I’m sure everyone will want to stay here in case Enj and Taire get back early.”
"If they get back at all," Courfeyrac muttered from his position at the back of the alley.
Jehan’s ears flattened against his head and hissed quietly. Combeferre shot him a glance before mewing softly, “He’s just worried. We’re all worried. And Grantaire and Enjolras are both good friends of Courfeyrac’s.”
Now Jehan’s fur flattened slightly and he nodded, though he looked tired and wan. “Sometimes I forget that Courfeyrac was friends with Grantaire first.”
Combeferre snorted. “Only Courf would have noticed Grantaire half-stalking Enjolras and decided the best course of action would be befriending him and bringing him into Les Amis.”
Jehan’s smile was fond. “And only Grantaire would have paid Courfeyrac back for that by showing him all the best places in Paris. They really are quite a pair of friends, aren’t they?”
“They are,” Combeferre meowed, nodding as he looked carefully at Jehan. “Of course, there are quite a few different kinds of friendships. You and I are friends, for instance, but not the same way that Courfeyrac and Grantaire are friends, or, say, Grantaire and Enjolras are friends.”
Whiskers twitching, Jehan flicked his tail at Combeferre. “No one is friends the way that Grantaire and Enjolras are friends.”
Combeferre just looked at him without blinking. “No one?” he asked softly, his gaze sliding over to Courfeyrac.
Jehan followed his gaze and frowned. “Very funny, Ferre,” he meowed, his shoulders tensing. “But if you think that Courf and I are friends the way that Enjolras and Grantaire are friends, you’ve been in the cat nip.”
“Maybe so,” Combeferre meowed nonchalantly. “I can’t speak for how you feel, after all.”
“Oh, but you can speak for how Courf feels?” Jehan hissed, though his ears pricked up.
Combeferre shrugged and stood, shaking his sandy fur. “I never said that. I think you’d probably have to talk to him about how he felt. Just…” His tone softened as he looked from Jehan to Courfeyrac. “Just know that he’s frightened like we all are. And he’s missing his friends too. And if I’m correct, he could probably use some comfort and distraction, just as I’m sure you could.”
With that said, he padded away, leaving Jehan staring after him, his green eyes troubled. After a long moment he stood, and after only another moment of hesitation, padded over to where Courfeyrac was curled up. “Hey Courf,” Jehan murmured, sitting down next to him and wrapping his tail around his paws. “How are you holding up?”
"About as well as can be expected, I suppose," Courf meowed, pulling himself into a sitting position, his ears twitching. "How are you doing?"
Jehan snorted. “About as well as can be expected.” He looked down at his paws as if examining them closely before saying softly, “I know that we haven’t really talked much lately…”
“No, we haven’t.” There was no accusation in Courfeyrac’s voice, just a sort of quiet weariness, as if he had been over this so many times in his head that the conversation already seemed played out for him. “And I don’t know if I did something, or said something, but I’m sorry if I did and I promise whatever I did, I am sorry for it.”
Jehan’s whiskers twitched and he sighed heavily. “Would you believe me if I said it’s not you, it’s me?” he meowed wryly, his tail flicking agitatedly. “Because really, it’s…it’s complicated.”
Courfeyrac frowned. “How so?” he asked, the fur on his back starting to rise. “I had to have done something. Everything between us was going along so wonderfully, and then…then it wasn’t.”
"I know." Jehan’s answering meow was quiet and a little miserable. "And I’m sorry for just stopping things without explanation. I just thought it’d be easier for both our sakes if we didn’t get involved."
"Involved?" Courfeyrac spat, his eyes dark. "How could you say we weren’t involved? When we walked down by the Seine, I told you I loved you! How could you think we weren’t already involved?”
Jehan shook his head firmly, his claws half-extended. “That’s not—" he started heatedly before pausing and taking a deep breath. "That’s not what I mean. Once you told me that, I knew we had gone too far."
Courfeyrac’s ears were pressed flat against his head. “Why?” he hissed, eyes slitted. “Because you don’t love me back? You could have just said that, Jehan, without this entire charade.”
"But that’s just the problem," Jehan burst, his fur standing on edge. "I do love you. And that’s why we can’t do this.”
Courfeyrac froze, staring at Jehan with wide, unblinking eyes, his dark fur still bristled, and after a long moment, he unsheathed his claws and commanded, “Explain.”
Jehan flicked his ears, looking distinctly embarrassed. “It’s not necessarily an easy thing to put into words.” He looked down and took a deep breath. “You are…wonderful, truly, but…I am not exactly the easiest cat to be in a relationship with. I get moody, I get flighty, I could easily end up abandoning you because a handsome tom with silver fur catches my eye.” When he saw Courfeyrac start to protest, he added, “It’s happened before. Trust me.” Courfeyrac blinked and looked away, and after a long moment, Jehan added, “Grantaire and I…we have the opposite of problems. Grantaire is in love with one thing and one thing only, and will follow that to his death, but I…I am in love with everything and nothing and will chase love in all its forms. Including, perhaps, leaving behind those that I profess to care about.”
There was a long silence as Courfeyrac regarded Jehan carefully. Then he asked, slowly and deliberately, “So this is one of those, ‘I like you but I’m just going to end up hurting you so I’m not going to do anything about it’ things, is it?”
“Well, when you put it that way…” Jehan meowed, and Courfeyrac bared his fangs at him.
“Have I ever given you the impression that I somehow can’t take care of myself, that I’m somehow incapable of making my own decisions, or that I will somehow blindly follow you because I have feelings for you?” Courfeyrac’s voice had risen to a yowl, and though the rest of Les Amis tactfully did not turn their way, Jehan knew they could hear every word. “I love you, Jehan, and I want to try a relationship with you because you love me too and we work well together. And if you just didn’t love me back, that’d be one thing, but you saying that you do and not pursuing this because you’re afraid you’ll hurt me? That’s bullshit.” He broke off, glaring at Jehan, his fur even more ruffled than before. “And frankly, if that’s how you feel, then clearly you’re lying when you say you would follow love wherever it leads. Because right here, right now, it’s leading towards us. I’m not stupid enough to somehow think that you will always love me, or that I’ll always love you. I don’t know where this is going any more than you do, but I’m at least willing to try. So from where I’m standing, the only thing you seem to me is what I never thought I would call you: a coward.”
Jehan seemed to shrink under the onslaught of Courfeyrac’s words, though his eyes flashed dangerously when Courfeyrac called him a coward. “I am no coward,” he growled, his spine arching as he hissed at Courfeyrac. “Do you think that I did this for my own self-preservation? I’m trying not to hurt you, because above all you’re my friend!”
“You’ve got a pretty shitty way of showing it,” Courfeyrac spat, his own back arching as he stood. “If you were my friend you wouldn’t be trying to make my decisions for me.”
Jehan’s fur puffed up as he snarled, “I’m not trying to make your decisions for you! I’m trying to make it so that the decision doesn’t have to exist in the first place! Especially when I know you’re going to choose an option that’s going to end in me hurting you, and—”
What he was about to say was cut off by an unholy screech as Enjolras sprinted around the corner, his fur completely mussed and his eyes wild. His claws scrabbled for purchase against the ground as he skidded to a stop, flanks heaving. Coufeyrac and Jehan instantly sprang over to his side. “Enjolras! What happened?”
“It’s Grantaire,” Enjolras managed, breathing heavily, all of his fur standing on end. “He’s…he’s…”
“What, Enjolras?” Jehan asked, his eyes wide as well as he stared at Enjolras in growing panic.
“He’s been hit by a car. I don’t…” Enjolras’s voice cracked before he was able to whisper, “I don’t know if he’s still alive and I didn’t want to leave him but I needed to get help.”
Courfeyrac and Jehan stared at Enjolras in horror, and then they leapt into action. “I’ll find Joly,” Courfeyrac yowled, darting off to do just that, hoping that Joly would be easy to find so they could tend to Grantaire (hoping that Joly would be able to get to Grantaire in time).
Jehan ran to Enjolras’s side, his eyes blazing. “Let’s go,” he meowed in a low voice, taking off even though he had no idea where Grantaire was.
Luckily, Enjolras ran right beside him, running even faster than Jehan, running as if his entire life depended on it. Together they sprinted through the streets of Paris, paying little heed to cars and traffic as they ran.
Finally, just when Jehan thought his legs might give out from running as fast and as far as they were, Enjolras slowed, his head turning this way and that, his eyes widening with panic. “Where is he?” he yowled, nosing at the ground for any trace of Grantaire’s scent. “He should be here! I left him—”
He broke off, eyes fixing on a point across the street, and with another yowl he ran pell-mell through the cars, Jehan as close behind him as he dared, far more cognizant of the dangers the cars posed. When he finally reached the other side of the street, he found Enjolras crouched down by a smear of what looked suspiciously like blood, his eyes staring vacantly into the distance. “Enjolras? Where’s Grantaire?” Jehan asked quietly, nosing him gently.
Enjolras just turned to stare at him before whispering hollowly, “Grantaire’s gone.”
Warnings for injuries and discussion of potential injuries.
The first thing Grantaire knew was pain, pain that tore through his body in waves, pain that made him want to unsheathe his claws and scratch the eyes out of whatever was doing this to him, were it not for the fact that his entire body felt as if it was made of stone.
Then there was yelling, voices raised in anger. Human voices, one that seemed familiar, the other foreign, and angrier. Grantaire just wanted the voices to stop, for the blackness to come back so that he didn’t have any pain and didn’t have to listen to the shouting.
But then there were soft, gentle hands, hands that picked Grantaire up and cradled him, and a soft, gentle voice that whispered, “It’s ok. You’re ok. You’re safe now.”
And Grantaire slept and knew no more.
Enjolras could not be calmed or comforted, prowling around the little alley that they called home, his fur half-raised, his claws extended, and his eyes wild and full of pain. “My fault,” he murmured to himself, his whiskers twitching. “It’s all my fault.”
“Enjolras?” Combeferre meowed softly, sitting a little ways off and watching him, his own expression carefully guarded. “Enjolras, you can’t blame yourself. This wasn’t anyone’s fault.”
Rounding on him, Enjolras hissed, “This is my fault. If I had just made him go without me, if I had stuck to the plan, Javert would never have seen us. He would have escaped on his own, he would have made it out just fine and he wouldn’t have been panicking, he wouldn’t have been looking back at me, he wouldn’t—”
Enjolras bit the rest of his words off, turning away, his eyes slitted, the tip of his tail trembling as it swept agitatedly against the ground. Combeferre half-rose, tempted to press himself against Enjolras, to share his body warmth and the steady beat of his own heart, but based on the tautness of Enjolras’s shoulders, the way his claws still scraped at the ground, this would only do more harm than good.
Instead, he said quietly, “Grantaire would never have forgiven himself if you had been left behind. It was…it was the one thing that we didn’t account for when we made the plan for Grantaire’s rescue. Grantaire would never have followed through with the plan as it was, and we should have known that. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s all of ours.”
“Or it’s none of ours,” added Courfeyrac in a low voice from where he was curled around Jehan’s sleeping body (the ginger cat had all but fallen over with exhaustion not too long ago, and Courfeyrac had insisted that he sleep). “It was an accident. Plain and simple. The car was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or else Grantaire was. The only thing that we know for sure is that Grantaire is smart, and he is strong, and wherever he is…”
Courfeyrac trailed off, and Combeferre took over. “Wherever he is, he will get through this. And we will see him again. I believe that in my bones.”
Enjolras just stared at him with unseeing eyes, and Combeferre knew that his words had not gotten through to him. Instead, Combeferre settled back on his haunches and kept his silent vigil as Enjolras paced restlessly, haunted by the gray cat who conspicuously missing from their group.
When Grantaire woke again, he had no idea where he was, only that he was warm, and comfortable, and even blessedly pain-free. He started to stretch but stopped when pain shot through his leg and side, and meowed pitifully. He was instantly picked up by the same gentle hands from before, and was surprised to see it was Cosette, who stroked him gently between his ears. “Hey there, R,” she said softly. “It’s wonderful to see you awake, but you’re going to need to be careful with the stretching.”
She set him down lightly on the ground, and Grantaire instantly panicked when he couldn’t seem to find traction from one of his back paws, and he turned as best he could, surprised to see a cast on his hind leg. Just turning was enough to send pain shooting through his side again and he winced. “I know,” Cosette murmured. “The vet said you had some broken ribs, and while they should heal on their own, you’re going to be in pain for a bit. I have some painkillers, though, if you want them.”
Grantaire meowed in agreement, watching as Cosette stood to walk away. For the first time, he realized that he wasn’t in animal control, or anywhere that he recognized. Instead, he appeared to be in a cozy flat. He frowned slightly, remembering that Cosette had said she couldn’t have cats in her apartment, and he mewed questioningly as she returned with a white tablet in her hand. “Hmmm?” she asked, holding the tablet out for Grantaire to take from her hand. “Oh, yes, this is my apartment. I hope you don’t mind, I’ve…well, technically I’ve adopted you.”
Freezing in place, Grantaire stared at her, blue eyes wide, and she continued hurriedly, “When you were found on the side of the road, when you’d…when you’d been hit by the car, they wanted to put you down.” The blood in Grantaire’s veins seemed to run cold and he started to shake. Cosette reached out to gather him carefully into her arms. “I couldn’t let them do that, of course,” she told him, stroking him lightly. “You’re far too wonderful a cat for that, and besides, your injuries aren’t bad.”
Tentatively, unsure of himself, Grantaire reached up to nuzzle against Cosette’s cheek, and she let out a peal of delighted laughter. “You really are adorable,” she said, letting him nudge and nuzzle her cheek for a long moment before she set him down. “Even Marius thinks so. He’s at the doctor right now, getting a prescription for allergy medicine. I knew once he saw you and heard the story, he would let you stay. Of course, me giving him puppy dog eyes probably didn’t hurt…”
Her smile had turned mischievous, and Grantaire purred his approval, sitting down to look up at her as she stood again. “Since you’re going to be staying here for the foreseeable future, I have something for you,” Cosette told him, crossing into the other room and returning with something hidden in her hand. “I hope that you like it - I thought the color suited you.”
She opened her hand to show him a green collar and he stared at it, surprised. She held it closer to him, letting him scent it and nudge it, testing it carefully, and then, when he didn’t protest, she placed it around his neck. It felt odd, a weird weight where one shouldn’t necessarily be, but not in a bad way. It was more unusual than anything.
Rocking back on her heels, Cosette beamed at him, picking him up again. “Come on,” she said. “I want to show you where all your stuff is: your food dish and your water dish and your litter box and…”
As she continued to talk, Grantaire settled into her arms, his eyes half closed, feeling strangely content. For the first time in his life, he had a collar. He had a home. He had a human who loved him and valued him.
In a way, it was everything he had ever wanted.
It was also everything that Les Amis were fighting against, and he felt slightly ashamed at that thought. And in thinking of Les Amis, he had to think of the only other thing in life he had ever wanted: Enjolras.
He thought of Enjolras’s blue eyes, of Enjolras’s golden pelt, of his scent swirling around Grantaire. He thought of Enjolras telling him that he loved him, those words that he would never in a million years have expected to come from Enjolras.
He thought of the way Enjolras’s blue eyes would flash at seeing Grantaire wearing a collar, being carried around by a human, being someone’s pet when so many were still on the streets, still hungry.
He thought of Enjolras standing proudly in front of a crowd of cats, the rumble of his voice as he condemned the dichotomy between street and house cats that Grantaire now found himself fitting in. He thought of the gentle purr of Enjolras’s laugh, and wondered if he could ever laugh with Enjolras after this. He thought of never hearing that voice again, of never feeling Enjolras rub against him, purring quietly. He thought of never seeing Enjolras again.
And he knew that he would never be satisfied here, never be happy here, not without Enjolras at his side. He also knew that there was no way Cosette would let him out of the house, injured as he was. So he settled onto the cushion she had provided for his bed, prepared to wait. As long as it took, he would see Enjolras again.
He only hoped it wasn’t too late when he did.
Enjolras padded across the alley through the dim light of the early morning. He had not slept, not since it had happened, and he was sure that he looked it. Still, he couldn’t force his mind to rest enough for sleep to take him, and though he knew it was cruel of him, though he knew he shouldn’t, he padded over to where Joly lay curled up against Bossuet’s side and nudged him with his nose. “Joly?”
Joly was awake in an instant, blinking up at Enjolras. “Enjolras?” Joly asked, yawning and stretching as much as he dared without waking Bossuet. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Sitting down next to him, Enjolras looked at the ground, taking a deep breath before meowing, “Tell me again. Please.”
“Enjolras.” Joly’s meow was sad, tinged with frustration and worry, and he stood, abandoning Bossuet to come sit next to Enjolras, as close as he dared. “This isn’t healthy. This isn’t something that you should be obsessing over, not when there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Enjolras just shook his head. “Please,” he repeated.
Joly looked at him for a long moment before he sighed heavily and dropped his gaze to the ground. “When Grantaire was hit by the car,” he started, his voice low and almost detached as he stated the words he had uttered numerous times now, “he most likely suffered from broken bones. At best, a broken leg or two, probably some broken ribs. The broken ribs could have caused internal injuries, or punctured a lung. At the very least, they will restrict his breathing. He may also have suffered from internal hemorrhaging depending on the extent of his internal injuries. If he was alive when you left to get help, there’s a good chance that his internal injuries, if any, were not severe. He may have gone into shock. He would most likely be in a lot of pain.”
“The prognosis?” Enjolras whispered, not daring to look at Joly.
Flicking his tail with something between agitation and fear, Joly shook his head. “Impossible to say without knowing his injuries. He could be fine on his own with rest. He may have required a veterinarian’s attention. Or he may…” He trailed off, not wanting to say it, but Enjolras waited expectantly, and Joly sighed. “He may have died from the injuries he sustained. Especially if he was unable to get proper medical treatment.”
Enjolras nodded, his eyes closed and his whiskers trembling, and Joly could not stop himself from pressing against him, trying to comfort him the only way he knew how. “I don’t believe that, though,” Joly meowed fiercely, baring his fangs. “Grantaire’s strong, and he’s a fighter. He’s more street-savvy than you and Combeferre combined. He will survive this. He has survived this. And he will find his way back to us.”
Though Enjolras nodded again, he didn’t meet Joly’s eyes, and his ears seemed to droop slightly. “Tell me again,” he commanded softly.
Joly sighed and nudged Enjolras down onto the ground so he was at least lying down instead of sitting, and he groomed Enjolras as he repeated, once again, the possibilities of what could have happened to Grantaire. Enjolras listened with half-closed eyes, the possibilities Joly listed only half as terrible as the ones he kept envisioning in his head.
Once again I fail at consistently updating this. I can promise, however, that the last part will be up sometime next week. Scout's honor.
“Enjolras.” Combeferre’s meow was quiet but determined, and he did not look behind at the other Amis, at those who had all but nominated him for this task, knowing that he might be the only one who would be able to get through to Enjolras.
Enjolras looked up at him, his blue eyes burning as if with fever, his golden fur lank and disheveled. Though he had at least been eating and sleeping enough to keep himself alive, he had changed since Grantaire’s disappearance, no longer dedicating himself to the cause but instead mostly pacing and moping and worrying. “He’s grieving,” Joly had explained to the rest of them, about a week into this whole debacle. “He’s never experienced anything like this before and he’s mourning.”
“But Grantaire’s not dead,” Jehan had pointed out firmly, his meow almost a hiss as he stared at Joly, who did not quake under the glare.
“No, but he’s still not here. And I don’t think Enjolras has ever had to deal with something like that before.”
So Les Amis had given him space, trying to let him work out his issues and his grief until he was centered enough to get back to work, assuming he would use the cause as a crutch to help distract him from the pain. Instead, Enjolras seemed completely content to let it tear him up inside, and it was killing them to watch him almost as much as it was surely killing Enjolras.
Which was why Combeferre sat steadily in front of Enjolras, out of range of his claws but close enough to at least pretend their conversation was quiet. “This has to end,” Combeferre meowed softly. “The cause needs you. We need you. We know that you miss Grantaire — we all miss Grantaire. But he’s not here. And we are, and so is the work that needs to be done.”
Enjolras’s ear flicked dismissively. “Not until Grantaire returns.” His meow was hoarse from disuse, and a few of Les Amis shifted uncomfortably at how differently it sounded from Enjolras’s normally commanding sound.
“But that’s just the thing,” Combeferre meowed carefully, knowing he was beginning to tread on to dangerous territory, “Grantaire may never come back. Even if he is still alive — and I do believe that he is — we don’t know where he went, why he hasn’t been able to come back yet, or anything. You can’t live your life based on the hope that Grantaire might miraculously stroll back into this alley as if nothing has happened, because it’s not living, Enjolras. You’re waiting on a ghost.”
Hissing slightly, Enjolras bared his fangs at Combeferre, the fur beginning to stand up on his shoulders. “What would you have me do, pretend that everything’s ok, that it isn’t as if a part of me is missing? You want me to carry on pretending nothing happened?”
Combeferre shook his head emphatically. “Of course not. No one would expect that. But you have to do something. Work on changing the things in the world that you can change, because this is something that you can’t, and it’s killing you, and it’s killing us.”
“Well, sorry that my pain is inconvenient for you all,” Enjolras spat, his claws extended. “But I can’t just go back to the way things were, not if there’s a chance that he will come back.”
“And what if he’s dead?” Combeferre shot back, his own fur beginning to stick up. “What are you going to do, mope around here for the rest of your life, giving up on everything you ever believed in just because you’ve somehow deceived yourself into forgetting the very real possibility that he’s dead and gone and never coming back?”
“Would you rather I gave up my belief that the love of my life is still alive?” Enjolras yowled, just barely restraining himself from leaping at Combeferre, from raking his claws down the fur of his best friend. “That’s the only thing keeping me going, and I can’t just turn my back on that!”
Combeferre stood his ground, his eyes steely. “But if you were to look around you would remember that it’s not the only thing keeping you going, that it can’t be, because that’s not sustainable. You can’t live like this. And I’m not going to just sit here and watch you destroy yourself.”
Enjolras growled, a low, menacing sound that seemed to shake the entire alleyway. “Then go,” he spat, his eyes blazing. “Go, if you can’t stand to see me like this. I don’t need you, anyway.”
Though Combeferre nodded sharply, something flickered in his eyes, but it was quickly masked and he turned away, padding out the alley with his tail held high and his shoulders squared. When he had almost reached the end, he turned, his expression fierce. “I hope for you sake you find out sooner rather than later that Grantaire’s dead, so at least we can all stop this charade.”
Then he was gone, leaving Enjolras hissing at the empty alley. The other Amis shifted uneasily, none willing to step into the middle of what had just happened between Combeferre and Enjolras. Courfeyrac licked Jehan’s ear comfortingly. “I’m going to go after Combeferre,” he mewed softly. “Maybe you could try talking to Enjolras?”
Nodding, Jehan stood and padded over to where Enjolras still seethed. “Enj?” he asked softly, waiting for permission before coming any closer.
When the fur on Enjolras’s shoulders began to lie down, Jehan crossed to him, licking his shoulder comfortingly. Enjolras shook his head slowly. “Do you think Grantaire is dead?” he asked quietly.
“Of course I don’t,” Jehan meowed, still grooming Enjolras. “I would go crazy if I let myself believe that. There’s always hope that he’ll return, and I firmly believe that.”
Nodding slowly, Enjolras asked, his tone sharp, “So you disagree with Combeferre? You don’t think that I should just give up any hope that he returns?”
There was a long silence as Jehan contemplated his response. “No, I agree with Combeferre, because I don’t think that you returning to your life is giving up hope,” Jehan meowed carefully, his tone starkly honest. “I think that what you’re doing now is giving up hope. You’re mourning someone who may not be dead, and that is the biggest tragedy of all. By living, by returning to what you do best, you will spend every day being the cat that Grantaire would want to return to. And that’s hope in and of itself.”
Enjolras had gone very still during this little speech, the only movement being an agitated flick of the tip of his tail. When Jehan had finished, he was silent for a long moment before he bowed his head and closed his eyes. “I…I understand what you’re saying,” he mewed, his eyes narrowed. “And I think I may have been too harsh on Combeferre.”
Licking Enjolras again, Jehan told him, “I doubt he blames you. We’ve all been going through a hard time after Grantaire’s disappearance. And maybe you’re not the only one who could use a little hope.” He nudged him companionably before standing to pad back to the rest of Les Amis. “Just think about that.”
Though Enjolras did not watch Jehan go, he nodded at his words, his whiskers twitching as he thought about what he had said. The set of his shoulders became more determined as he ran over Jehan’s words in his head, thinking about everything that had happened in the past few weeks without Grantaire. Maybe it was time. Maybe living his life was the best way to get Grantaire to return to him. Even if it hurt more than having claws tear through his heart, he had to at least try.
But first, he stood and shook his fur, trying to remember when the last time was he properly bathed himself. Well, it could wait. He had an apology to make.
Grantaire woke slowly, still unused to the feeling of a soft cushion under his body or the warmth of the apartment, or even the fullness of his belly. He definitely still was not used to the warm weight of the green leather that hung around his neck, a sign of belonging to a life he had never expected.
And yet while he had never expected it, he could hardly lie and say he had never wanted it, had never dreamed of having a family who loved him the way Marius and Cosette did. Cosette was as wonderful to him as ever, and even Marius had come a long way, always willing to slip morsels of food to Grantaire under the dinner table as Grantaire wound around his legs, purring. He spent evenings curled on one of their laps, letting them pet him and stroke his ears, and spent days amusing himself with the many toys that Cosette had purchased for him.
It should have been perfect.
But the truth as always was that no matter how pleasant a warm evening in front of the fire with a full belly was, it could never compare to what Grantaire was missing. A day in the pouring rain, freezing cold with his fur plastered to his sides, his stomach aching because he wasn’t able to scrounge any food for breakfast would still be perfect if Enjolras was by his side, or standing in front of a group of cats.
He missed him.
He missed all of them, truly, the only friends he had ever really had in this world, and for a long time, the only family he had ever needed, but it didn’t compare to the constant ache of longing in his chest for Enjolras. It was enough to make this new life that he had seem completely not worth it if the price he had to pay was Enjolras.
But while he would gladly give up his new life for Enjolras, Grantaire was selfish enough to wish for Enjolras to be here in his new life. That would be the ideal situation. Of course, in order for that to happen, he couldn’t keep living like this. Something had to happen.
So he planned. He was never one of the best at formulating grand plans with Les Amis, but he knew that he had to do something, because he surely couldn’t go on living like this.
And he waited. Patience had never been one of Grantaire’s greatest strengths, or so he would have argued — other cats might have noted that spending so much time padding after the world’s most unavailable cat proved otherwise — but he knew that until at the very least his ribs healed enough to not pain him over much, there was little he could do. The cast on his paw was another matter, but he could get around fairly well despite the plaster.
Every day when he woke up, he could carefully stretch and twist and press the limits of his pain. And on that day, when he twisted to the side, the normal stab of pain was missing. Instantly, Grantaire was wide awake and on his feet. This was it; he was ready.
The moment Cosette and Marius came into the kitchen for breakfast, the plan was in motion. Grantaire ran to the door and began scratching on it, mewing pitifully. Marius, loveable boob that he was, came over to see what was wrong. “Is something outside?” he asked Grantaire, frowning, and — yes! — opened the door to check.
In a flash, Grantaire was gone, weaving between Marius’s legs and out into the stairway. “R!” Cosette called, running after him, calling to Marius, “C’mon, we can’t let him get away!”
Grantaire was considerate to the fact that the humans were not as fast on their two legs as he was on his four, even with one of his legs practically useless, so he was slow in heading down the stairs and out onto the street, ensuring that they were following him as he ran, his tail high in the air like a flag to lead the way.
To their credit, Marius and Cosette stayed close behind, never giving up and assuming he would just find his own way back, regardless of the rather ridiculous path he took them on through the city. It took him a few moments to get his bearing to where everything was again, but the feeling of the street below his paws was worth it in and of itself.
But when he could finally see the alley in front of him, he no longer cared if Cosette and Marius were close behind him. He no longer cared about anything except for the thought of getting in that alley and finding Enjolras.
As soon as he saw that radiant golden fur, bright even in the dimness of the alleyway, Grantaire let out a triumphant yowl and dashed forward to practically drape himself against Enjolras, trying to press his body against every inch of Enjolras that he could reach, licking and nuzzling him and purring as if he would never stop. “Grantaire?” Enjolras whispered, as if he could hardly dare to believe it.
In the meantime, Marius and Cosette had rounded the corner, both of them out of breath. They stopped in their tracks when they saw seven pairs of eyes staring back at them as Les Amis also froze, unsure of what to do with humans in their midst. But then Cosette laughed her lovely peal of laughter and bent to pet Bahorel. “Well, hello there, kitties,” she said. “I suppose you’re all friends of R’s?”
As if agreeing with her, Bahorel meowed loudly, and Cosette laughed again. “Apparently all of you are just as wonderful as R is. Maybe we should adopt you all like we adopted him.”
“There’s so many of them!” Marius said in a wondering voice, bending down to scratch Courfeyrac under the chin, smiling when Courfeyrac started purring loudly. “We can’t possibly adopt them all, can we?”
Cosette frowned, gathering Feuilly into her arms and giggling as he butted against her chin. “I think we have to try to do something, don’t you? I mean, R is living with us now, and it doesn’t look like those two are going to ever want to be apart again.”
She nodded towards Grantaire and Enjolras, who hadn’t moved away from each other since Grantaire had stumped into the alley. If they pressed any closer, they would be one cat instead of two.
Neither wanted to be the first to pull away from the warmth of the other, from the steady, reassuring heartbeat of the one they had missed for so long. They had so much to talk about, so much to tell the other, but in that moment, it didn’t matter at all. What only mattered was that they were here, together.
"You came back," Enjolras meowed, his breath warm against Grantaire’s ear. "You came back to me."
Grantaire closed his eyes, breathing in Enjolras’s sweet scent, feeling the golden fur brush against him, a sensation even better than he could possibly have imagined when he dreamed of this meeting. “Of course,” he told Enjolras, his meow serious. “I always will.”
A massive thank you to everyone who stuck with this particularly harebrained idea, even though I was horrible at updating it regularly!
Life in Marius and Cosette’s apartment was as different from life in the alley as possible, but all the cats took to it well. Courfeyrac and Jehan were inseparable, each normally claiming Marius and Cosette’s laps respectively, or else curling in the sun together.
Feuilly and Bahorel tended to spend most of their time in the kitchen, which surprised mostly no one, while Joly and Bossuet claimed underneath the bed as their domain. Combeferre picked the bookshelf as his, often found happily purring among the books.
Grantaire, of course, had his cushion, and not much changed with the additions of the other cats. Which is to say that he still spent most of his time alone, because there was one cat who was not taking advantage of the warmth and comfort of Marius and Cosette’s, and that cat was Enjolras.
It had been the only thing that tempered Enjolras and Grantaire’s reunion those few weeks ago. As they pulled reluctantly apart, Enjolras noticed for the first time the green leather collar around Grantaire’s neck, and he froze. “What’s that?” he meowed, staring with wide eyes.
Self-conscious, Grantaire scratched at his neck slightly, his whiskers twitching. “It’s a collar,” he mewed softly. “Cosette and Marius adopted me. It was the only way that Cosette could save me from being put down.”
“And as glad as I am that you weren’t, don’t you think it’s a bit hypocritical for someone fighting for equal rights between house and street cats to let himself be adopted?” There was a wryness to Enjolras’s tone that put Grantaire’s hackles up slightly.
He shook his head and meowed honestly, “You know that I was never particularly involved in the cause, Enj. I have and always will support you, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised by my…defection, if you wish to call it that.”
Though Grantaire had clearly meant it as a joke, Enjolras’s expression soured, and his tail flicked irritatedly from side to side. “I just can’t believe you,” he spat.
Grantaire sat back on his haunches, a little confused by the sudden, vitriolic shift in Enjolras’s attitude. “What can’t you believe?” he asked.
Enjolras shook his head, his eyes blazing. “I thought you were dead, but instead I found out you’ve been living in the lap of luxury while your friends starve in the streets!”
Staring at Enjolras with growing anger, Grantaire yowled, “You thought I was dead and instead of being excited that I’m alive, you’re angry at the means by which I was saved!”
Enjolras stared at him with narrowed eyes, the fur on his shoulders rising. “I thought you might have changed,” he hissed. “I thought you might have realized from what happened to you that the cause is worth fighting for, so that it does not happen to another cat.”
Grantaire shook his head, suddenly deflating.”I did change,” he meowed quietly. “I learned that not all humans are bad, nor all housecats.” He paused, his whiskers drooping as he added, “And I thought you might just care about me more than your cause. Evidently, I was wrong.”
With that said, he turned and walked away from Enjolras, stumping his way over to Cosette, who picked him up, looking concernedly from Enjolras to Grantaire. Enjolras just shook his head and ran off, darting between Marius and Cosette without so much as looking at Grantaire, who buried his face against Cosette’s shoulder.
Since that day, though the rest of the cats had acknowledged the benefits of a life lived at least partially indoors, especially one that protected them from the harsher aspects of street life while still allowing them their freedom — Marius and Cosette chose to microchip the cats instead of using collars, though Grantaire kept his (mostly as a snub to Enjolras) — Enjolras had remained stubborn. And Grantaire, even more stubborn than Enjolras, had refused to talk to him.
Now, it was two weeks into the tense arrangement that left everyone involved thoroughly miserable, including and especially Enjolras and Grantaire. Today, though, something was happening that was at least stirring up the complacency of all the cats: Cosette’s father was visiting for the first time since the cats had moved in.
“Hm.” Valjean stared impassively around the room, a small frown furrowing his brow. He turned to Marius, who seemed to tremble slightly, his hand stilling on Courfeyrac’s back. “I thought you didn’t like cats.”
Marius glanced from Valjean to Cosette and tried to smile. “Uh, no. I mean, I have nothing against cats. They’re sort of awesome and furry, but see, that’s the problem, because, uh, fur, you know, and—” Courfeyrac rolled his eyes and extended his claws so that they were just touching Marius’s skin, and it was enough to stop his rambling. “I’m allergic to cats,” Marius said, slightly calmer, and added with a sickeningly cute look at Cosette, “But Cosette wanted to bring R home and I could never say no to her.”
Valjean nodded slightly, though he didn’t look convinced. Instead, he asked Cosette, “Does this mean I’m not getting any grandchildren any time soon?”
Cosette turned bright red as Feuilly let out a meow that sounded suspiciously like a laugh. If possible, Marius’s face was even redder than Cosette’s, and he stammered, “Sir, we…that is…we’re not even married yet, and…”
“Relax!” Valjean boomed, clapping Marius on the shoulder so hard that Marius almost pushed Courfeyrac out of his lap. “It was a joke, my boy. I like cats well enough.” He bent and scooped Jehan off the floor, smiling when the little cat purred against his cheek. “And for now, the only grandchildren I want in this apartment are grandkitties, understood?”
“Yes sir,” Marius said meekly as Cosette dissolved into a fit of laughter.
Meanwhile, Grantaire had slipped away, preferring not to be a part of the festivities. Instead, he sat moodily by the window leading to the fire escape, cracked as it always was to allow the cats to come and go as they pleased. Combeferre padded up next to him, licking his shoulder comfortingly. “Go talk to him,” Combeferre meowed quietly.
Grantaire’s ears swiveled, and he snorted lightly. “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about,” he mewed primly.
Combeferre shook his head. “Of course you do,” he said, his meow impatient. “You’re missing Enjolras. An idiot could see that.” He leaned in, his meow turning conspiratory. “If it helps, he misses you too. Maybe even more than he did when he thought you were dead. He loves you, Grantaire, he’s just…He’s stubborn.”
“Oh, really,” Grantaire meowed wryly. “I never could have guessed.”
Rolling his eyes, Combeferre nudged him. “Go talk to him,” he commanded. “You’ll both feel better afterwards. I promise.”
Though Grantaire considered continuing to pretend like he didn’t know what Combeferre was talking about, it was a nice day out, and at the very least, he could do with a stroll. “Fine,” he sighed, wriggling through the opening and heading to the Jardin du Luxembourg, figuring Enjolras would probably be hanging out somewhere nearby. He was correct, and when he saw Enjolras lounging in a bit of sun in the garden, he paused in his step, his tail raising in the pure rush of joy at seeing Enjolras.
Even after all this time, the stupid golden cat just did things to Grantaire.
Still, he was not above playing aloof, and so casually padded past where Enjolras was napping, making sure to cross upwind of him so that Enjolras could catch his scent. As soon as he did, Enjolras sat bolt upright, eyes wide as he stared around. “Grantaire?”
Grantaire knew that he was sunk as much as he had always been, and he crossed to Enjolras, just barely managing to resist rubbing against Enjolras and nudging him. Instead, he sat down a good foot away from him, wrapping his tail around his paws primly as he stared down his nose at Enjolras. “Hello,” he meowed coolly.
Enjolras mimicked his stance, but his tail flicked behind him. “How are things with the humans?”
“Quite good, actually.” Grantaire’s whiskers twitched as he asked, “How are things on the street?”
For a moment, Enjolras looked like he was about to retort with some snappy comeback, but instead, he meowed sincerely, “It can be a bit lonely. Without you…and everyone.”
Grantaire cocked his head. “Right,” he meowed. “Everyone.”
Hissing slightly, Enjolras asked, “Are you really going to make me say it?” When Grantaire just looked at him, Enjolras sighed and meowed, “Fine. I’ve missed you. Does that make you happy?”
“Incredibly,” Grantaire meowed, on his feet in an instant to cross to Enjolras, pressing against him with a purr of contentment. “I’ve missed you, too, you stupid, stubborn cat.”
They cuddled together in silence for a moment, then Enjolras licked Grantaire’s cheek. “I really have missed you,” he mewed.
Grantaire sighed. “And if you would just come join us at Marius and Cosette’s, you wouldn’t have to do that.”
“But by living indoors with humans, I betray every standard I’ve tried to set,” Enjolras hissed hotly, his tail twitching. “It would not be fair for the other cats who face oppression from the humans because of their lives on the streets.”
“But we’re more suited to help those who need it most when we’re strong and have full bellies,” Grantaire pointed out evenly, his blue eyes staring unblinkingly at Enjolras. “Yes, there is relative comfort involved, but our comfort does not diminish the good work that we’re able to do. No more than the fact that you started as a housecat does.” He shook his head, feeling the collar on his neck move, and added hastily, “Cosette offered to get everyone microchipped instead of making them wear collars. It’s just a place to sleep at night, Enjolras.”
Enjolras looked at Grantaire for a long moment, then shook his head. “I can’t,” he meowed, a little sadly. “I love you, but…there’s far too much at stake.”
Though Grantaire felt a brief flash of disappointment, he wasn’t really surprised, and so nodded slowly. “Then where does that leave us?”
Shrugging, Enjolras mewed, “Well, I’m hoping that you’re able to use your freedom to come visit…”
“Of course,” Grantaire meowed instantly, and pressed himself against Enjolras once again, taking comfort in his heart beating steadily against him. “I’ll visit as often as I can, I promise that.”
And so, Grantaire and Enjolras spent the next few months in comfortable routine, Grantaire waking early and rubbing against Cosette and Marius and getting breakfast before slipping out the window and finding Enjolras. Some days they had official Les Amis business to attend to, meetings among street cats and other sympathetic figures (Grantaire left his collar at Cosette’s on those days), but other days it was just the two of them, running wild across Paris, spending as much time together as they could.
But every night, Grantaire would return to Cosette and Marius’s apartment, alone, leaving Enjolras in the jardin, or in an alley, or wherever he was sleeping that night. Some nights, if major things were going on, Combeferre or Courfeyrac or both joined him. Some nights, all the Amis slept outside together as they had once done. But Enjolras never joined them in the warmth of the apartment, and Grantaire got used to sleeping by the window, wishing for what would never be.
Then winter came, and with it the snow and wind and cold. Les Amis were warm and safe inside Marius and Cosette’s, but Enjolras was not, and when Grantaire finally convinced Marius to let him out, he found Enjolras huddled miserably in an alley in an attempt to find shelter from the storm. His fur was bedraggled and half-frozen, and when Grantaire approached, Enjolras could barely look at him, he was shivering so badly.
Grantaire instantly pressed against him, trying to force his warmth onto Enjolras. “You stupid cat,” Grantaire sighed, licking Enjolras’s fur to restore circulation. “You stupid, stupid cat. You could be warm and cozy right now.”
“If our brethren freezes, so too will I,” Enjolras meowed, though a shiver wracked his body mid-sentence.
“You stupid cat,” Grantaire repeated, though his meow had turned sad. “Do you know that I don’t sleep at night because I’m worried about you out here? Worried that you’ll end up in Animal Control, or dead on the side of the road? Or, now, freezing to death in some alley someplace where I won’t even be able to find you until Spring?”
Enjolras shook his head but didn’t say anything, and Grantaire sighed. “I love you,” he meowed honestly. “And I’m not asking you to give up your work on the Cause because I’m not an idiot. But for once, just for once, will you put yourself first?” When Enjolras was still silent, Grantaire added, “And if not yourself, will you do it for me? Will you please make yourself safe, if even temporarily, just for my peace of mind?”
There was a long moment where Enjolras hesitated and Grantaire held his breath, but then Enjolras shivered again, and he mewed pitifully, “Fine. But only for tonight.”
In an instant, Grantaire was pushing Enjolras towards the apartment, walking close to him to support his frail body with his far sturdier one. “Just wait til you’re inside,” Grantaire told Enjolras excitedly. “Once you’re warm, you’ll find you have so much more energy, and with a full belly, there’s no limit to what you can do.”
As it turned out, warmth and a full belly left Enjolras half asleep on Grantaire’s cushion, and with a yawn, Grantaire curled up next to him. “This works, too,” Grantaire mewed sleepily. “Work can wait til the morning.” He opened one eye and flicked his tail against Enjolras. “Goodnight. I love you.”
Without opening his eyes, Enjolras mewed, “I love you, too.”
And curled together on the cushion, they fell asleep, their muzzles just touching as they slept.