Enjolras has spent pretty much the entire bus ride to the Musain trying to predict how this will go, but the thing that surprises him isn't that Combeferre isn't the first to notice, or that Joly doesn't start spouting something about infant mortality rates and immediately demand that everybody bathe in Purell. No, what startles Enjolras the most is that he manages approximately half a step through the door into the back room where they all meet before Grantaire rattles his glass down on the table in the back that he's taken for his own and drawls, "Is there something you forgot to tell us, Apollo?"
That silences the room, predictably enough. Everyone breaks off their conversations and swivels to stare at him. At him, and at the baby carrier that he's got hooked over one arm. They all stare, some of them slack-jawed. Courfeyrac grabs blindly at Combeferre's arm and smacks his shoulder urgently, like Combeferre might not have noticed.
Enjolras scowls at them all and sets the carrier down on the nearest table. The impact rouses the child inside enough that she blinks her eyes open and yawns at him, waves her little fists in protest, and then slumps back to sleep.
"Starting them a bit young now, aren't you?" Grantaire asks, sardonic, while everyone else is still speechless.
"It's a mistake," Enjolras snaps. "We'll have it sorted out soon enough, but in the meantime, I can hardly let her get lost in the system. Can we all focus, please?"
"Absolutely not," Courfeyrac says. "This is super important. Who is she? Where did she come from? And who decided to put you in charge of her?"
The rest of the others -- even Combeferre, the traitor -- nod their agreement and watch him, waiting for his answer.
"She was on the step outside the office this morning. Someone left her there, with a card with my name like this is some sort of dime novel. The girls in the office decided she looked like me and must be mine and the card didn't help, so..." He sweeps a hand out to indicate the baby and her carrier. "I'm taking care of her for a few days until we can figure out who she belongs to. Now--" He pulls a file out of his briefcase and drops it onto the table. "If we can all get back to work?"
The smack of the file on the tabletop makes the baby awake with a jerk. She fixes Enjolras with a baleful glare a moment before she sucks air into her lungs and lets loose with an inhuman wail that has all of the Amis rocking back on their heels and trading pained looks with one another.
"Christ," Enjolras mutters. He only managed to get the baby to sleep in the last five minutes of the bus ride, and he was pretty sure that had more to do with the vibrations coming up off the floorboards and a kind woman who'd then taken pity on him and come over to commiserate on the difficulties of being a single parent, than with anything Enjolras had done.
He had just been trying to figure out how to explain, No, she's not mine, I don't even know her, without the woman calling the authorities on him, when she'd reached down and given the baby a knuckle to suck on, and the baby had abruptly stopped crying and settled down, content. Enjolras had stared at the woman, and she'd grinned back at him and said, "You learn these things, after you've had a few." And he'd been too grateful, then, to correct the woman's assumptions about the baby and its parentage, and risk waking her up again.
Enjolras rocks the baby's carrier as he flips the file open and starts reviewing the issue at hand. Today, they're reviewing a case from his firm, a young man who lost his job when he was outed as trans. Enjolras and the rest of the firm had won him a sizable severance package, but he'd declined the company's offer to reinstate him in his old position when they had refused to modify their employment policy. That was where Enjolras and the Amis stepped in -- they were campaigning to bring awareness of the issue to the community, and bring enough public pressure to bear against the company to force them to reconsider.
He's barely managed to even begin briefing the rest of the group on the case, though, when the baby starts fussing again, her breath hitching and her hands balling into fists so tight they turn white. Enjolras breaks off to rock her again, and bends over the carrier to tell her, "Look, I know this is all very strange for you. But I know you're not hungry, and you don't need your diaper changed, so I'd really appreciate it if you'd just finish off your nap, all right? This is very important and you're making it difficult for us to get our work done."
She looks at him, her expression twisting up like she's just seconds away from screaming again. Enjolras pops her pacifier into her mouth and hopes it'll be enough, and when returns his attention to the group, he's startled to realize that they're all staring at him again.
"What?" he demands, and the baby spits her pacifier out and starts crying again. He sighs down at her. "Well, that wasn't very smart, now was it?" He fishes it out of the folds of her blankets and returns it to her. "Hold on to that, okay? I can't keep playing fetch with you all night."
She sucks on it twice, then spits it out and starts screaming again.
Enjolras looks helplessly at Combeferre, who's sitting nearest the front and grimacing as though ever so slightly pained. "She's being doing this all day," he says, making a futile gesture. Combeferre is looking at him a little pityingly, so Enjolras asks, "Do you know what she needs? As soon as I start talking, she cries."
Courfeyrac rolls his eyes dramatically. Combeferre just rubs his brow and frowns. "She's eaten?"
"I made her a bottle before we left the office."
"And you burped her?"
One of the dads at the office had had to do that for him, while Enjolras stood back in a panic as she yelled and yelled. But he just nods and says, "Yes, she's been burped, I don't think it's that."
"And you're sure her diaper's clean?"
"Oh, for heaven's sake." In the back, Grantaire stops snickering and puts his glass down again, hard enough that the rattle of it makes half of them jump and turn to look at him. He surges to his feet and strides toward the door at the front of the room, scowling.
Enjolras gives him the most disapproving look he can manage. Grantaire's never been the most enthusiastic member of their group, but he usually at least has better manners than to walk out in the middle of a meeting.
But Grantaire surprises him. He doesn't leave. He comes around Enjolras's table, unlocks the carrier's handle so he can fold it back, unbuckles the baby, and lifts her up into one arm. He grabs her pacifier from the carrier, tosses her blanket over his shoulder, and mutters, "Don't get me wrong, it's fun watching you squirm, but she's giving me a headache."
"Grantaire," Enjolras says, his voice strained. "R, you can't just--"
But Grantaire isn't listening. He carries the baby back with him to his table, drops down into his chair and tucks her into the crook of his arm like he was born to it. Enjolras stares at him a moment before he shakes the distraction out of his mind and turns his attention back to the file spread open before him. At least she's crying in the back of the room now, he figures, and not right there in his ear. Maybe they can get through this quickly, and adjourn early, and by the time they meet up again next week the child will be back where she belongs, with people who are actually willing and able to care for her, and then they'll all be able to get back to business and keep their focus where it belongs.
He's five minutes into his speech about the young man from work and his plan of attack against the company who fired him, before he realizes abruptly that the room is quiet. The baby is quiet. Despite himself, Enjolras looks toward the back.
Grantaire still has the baby. Somehow, miraculously, she's awake and alert and cooing happily at Grantaire as he leans over and babbles nonsense at her. She's got hold of his finger and he's using it to waggle her little fist around as he makes ridiculous faces. He's got his mouth pursed up and his eyebrows are expressive and Enjolras stares for a long moment, his whole speech about Travis and his plight and the plight of other trans individuals in their community forgotten by the sight of Grantaire coming alive for this tiny little thing who's barely even a person yet.
"Enjolras?" Combeferre prompts him. Enjolras tears his gaze away and looks at him briefly. Combeferre's frowning, his expression concerned. Enjolras means to thank him for returning his attention to where it belongs and get back to his speech, but then the baby laughs, a full-out laugh that fills the room with a bright, happy sound. Grantaire looks surprised and delighted by his own ability to amuse her, and suddenly Enjolras is staring at him, not the baby, wondering how it's possible that they've known each other since university and yet Enjolras has never known that Grantaire's face could be that eloquent. Usually his brows are fixed in what Enjolras has come to think of as his default expression but is suddenly thinking might just be perpetual irritation. Maybe he's always like this when he's at home. When he's not here. It's no secret to any of them that Grantaire's the voice of skepticism among the group (realism, he'd say, if Enjolras said that where he could hear, but Enjolras has long since learned not to do that) but Enjolras has always figured that Grantaire's presence at their meetings is proof that, in the end, he wants to be there.
He tears himself away and stares at Combeferre, trying to marshall his thoughts. "Right. I'm sorry. I--"
The baby laughs again, and they're all looking at her. Combeferre is smiling to himself, very slightly. Courfeyrac and Jehan are both beaming outright. Joly looks like he wants to count her fingers and toes and give her a full pediatric exam and Bossuet's got his hands pulled behind his back as he grins at her and Grantaire, like he's afraid his luck might be catching and doesn't want to doom her.
"Travis has a new job lined up already, right?" Combeferre asks. "With that non-profit we recommended him to?"
"Yes." Enjolras struggles to remember the names and dates and facts that he'd known by heart until five minutes earlier. "He's supposed to start this week."
"Then perhaps he might safely wait until next week?" Combeferre suggests gently. He tips his head toward the back of the room, where Grantaire is blowing raspberries against the baby's palms. "I think you've got a more pressing matter to deal with right now."
Enjolras lets his breath out slowly. Combeferre is granting him an out, and he ought to be grateful for it. He is grateful for it, but pride urges him to stay. Stubbornness makes him want to insist that this child who someone foisted upon him without even asking is not going to be granted the power to alter his plans or his life.
The baby smacks her lips and Grantaire grins at her like she just gave him the world, and Enjolras suspects that that ship has already sailed. His life has never before been one that had Grantaire's laughter in it. It is altered, irrevocably.
"Perhaps you're right," Enjolras says slowly. Grantaire glances up at him suddenly, frowning, and that at least feels right. "Is everyone agreed?"
Mostly, they nod and start to pack up their things. Joly sidles up to him and asks if he's taken her to a pediatrician yet, but Enjolras just shakes his head, his lips thin. "She's not mine," he says. "She belongs to someone, but it's not me. I just have to figure out who that is."
Joly shrugs and joins the rest as they file out, talking to one another and calling out good-nights to Enjolras and each other. Only Grantaire remains, still sitting at his place with his pint glass making condensation rings on the tabletop. The baby's on his lap, held securely with his arm across her middle, and Grantaire watches him with a guarded gaze.
"She's not a goldfish," he says as Enjolras nears. "You can't just stick her somewhere and expect her to be happy."
Enjolras just shakes his head. She's a baby, isn't she? They eat, they sleep, they cry. He's not sure what else she could need from him -- and in any case, he doesn't have room or time in his life for a baby. "I'm going to find her parents," he says. "Or her family. Somebody has to be missing her."
"Sure," Grantaire says, his voice dry as dust. "They probably left her in front of your office, with your name on a card, by accident. I bet they're putting out an Amber Alert right now."
Enjolras sighs and takes her from him. He lets her, and Enjolras is only a little surprised. Her lip starts trembling as soon as she realizes she's been parted from Grantaire. She stares after him and starts hiccuping, working herself up to full-blown tears.
"Enough of that," Enjolras tells her as he tucks her back into her carrier. "You're going to make everyone on the bus think I'm a terrible parent, if you keep that up the whole way home."
"She's a baby," Grantaire says. He drinks from his warm beer and pulls a face. "Babies cry. And when have you ever cared what other people think about you, anyway?"
Enjolras pushes the pacifier into her mouth and prays she'll sleep on the ride home. "See you next week, Grantaire."
He's nearly to the door when Grantaire calls after him, "Enjolras! Wait."
Enjolras turns back, his brows raised.
Grantaire shoves his hands into his pockets. He frowns over Enjolras's shoulder a moment, then asks all on a rush, "What's her name?"
For a moment, Enjolras doesn't speak. When he does, it's a lie. "I don't know." He knows it, but if he told the others they'd never stop laughing. And there's no point, besides. Soon enough she'll be back with her family, who love her and want her and won't hate her name for no good reason at all.
Grantaire huffs out a sharp breath. He grabs his bag from under the table and slings it over his shoulder, grabs his pint glass and downs the warm remains of his beer in one gulp. He pushes past Enjolras and out of the meeting room, muttering something beneath his breath about how he pities any pets Enjolras might have had as a child.
Enjolras looks down at the baby for a long moment. She's gumming at her pacifier with a thoughtful look like she can't decide whether to kick up another fuss or nap instead.
He sighs and picks her up, and begins the walk back to the bus stop.
The bottle settles her down for another half hour. He's in the shower, his hair full of lather, when she starts screaming again like she's going to tear the apartment down around her with the sheer power of her voice. He scrambles out without conditioner, just a towel around his hips and water sheeting off of him to find her with her face gone red as a tomato, her hands balled up and furious tears streaming down her cheeks.
The bottom drops out of his stomach. He scoops her up before he's even realized it, has her against his shoulder as he pats her back and tells her, "It's okay. Everything's fine. I'm sure you miss your parents, but I'm going to do everything I can to find them so you can go home." She keeps crying, and his nerves frazzle. He carries her into the kitchen and drinks his coffee in two quick gulps. "You can't possibly still be hungry," he says, at a loss. He remembers Combeferre at the meeting the night before, trying to help him troubleshoot while she cried. He pulls her off his shoulder and holds her out, squinting at her. "Do you need a new diaper? Is that it? You might've soiled it before I took my shower, you know. That would've been helpful."
She looks at him with brilliant blue eyes. For just a moment, her cries stop and peace descends. She blinks at him slowly, like she's only just seeing him.
Then she makes a sound like a hiccup and burps formula all over his chest and down the front of her onesie.
Enjolras sighs and decides it's time for desperate measures. He wipes them both off with baby wipes, changes the baby into a clean onesie, straps her into her carrier to keep her out of trouble while he throws a suit on, and then he gathers up all of her various necessities, shoves them in a duffel bag, and carts her, the bag, and his briefcase out the door, already somehow twenty minutes behind schedule.
They catch the train. It's rush hour, and Enjolras collapses onto a seat and can't even manage to be properly penitent when he lets the baby and their bags take up the space beside his. The baby's not crying, just chewing on the wrong side of her pacifier and watching everyone towering over her with a shrewd look, and he figures that as long as the baby's happy, everyone else can shove it.
The train ride takes him another fifteen minutes out of his way. When it pulls into the station, he levers himself out of his chair with a groan and loads himself back up with baby and bags. A few people on the train give him dirty looks as he tries to squeeze through the pack, but most shuffle out of the way, or give him quick smiles as mutters, "Excuse me, I'm sorry, excuse me, could we please get through."
Five minutes later, he's standing on the steps outside Grantaire's building, leaning heavily on the buzzer until the intercom finally crackles to life and Grantaire's voice snaps, "Holy God, what do you want?"
The baby has been mostly calm through this whole process, but Grantaire's sudden anger makes her jump. Her lip trembles and he eyes fill with tears, and before Enjolras can say a word she starts wailing, loud and angry.
There's a moment of static across the intercom. "Oh," Grantaire says. "Hold on, I'll be right down."
Enjolras sits down on the top step and lifts the baby's carrier onto his lap. He rocks her across his thighs, murmuring, "Hush, hush, it's all right, he doesn't mean anything by it, he's always like that." All his reassurances seem to do is fuel her tantrum, though. By the time the door swings open behind him, her face is bright red and she's screaming so loud that Enjolras is surprised no one's come out and demanded to know what the hell he's done to her.
Grantaire sits at Enjolras's side without a word. He's got lime green sweats on and no shirt, mismatched socks on his feet, and there's a streak of vermillion paint in his hair that matches the flecks of it underneath his nails. He unbuckles the baby and pulls her up onto his lap, sits her sideways across his leg and jiggles his heel up and down to bounce her. "Hey, there, lady," he says. "It's much too early for that, don't you think?" When her screams settle down to sniffles, he pulls her in against his chest and cradles her in the crook of his arm while his gaze slides sideways, to the carrier and the duffel bag full to bursting and the briefcase that slid down the steps and is lying haphazard across the walk because Enjolras was too busy trying to calm the baby to go and retrieve it.
He looks at Enjolras last. There's something careful and considering in his gaze. Enjolras looks down at his knees, too aware of the weight of Grantaire's attention upon him. "I have to go to work," he says, suddenly, desperately. "I didn't think to-- I don't have a babysitter lined up for her yet. Would you watch her for the day?" He risks a sidelong look at Grantaire, whose expression hasn't changed at all. "Could you?"
Unlike Enjolras and the rest of their group, Grantaire doesn't work in an office with a dress code and a boss to report to and one day out of the year where bringing your child into work with you is sanctioned. He's an artist, and he works out of his apartment, and if Enjolras had known anyone else who was likely to be home and available, he probably would be sitting on their front step right now instead.
Grantaire's still looking at him, still holding the baby. He doesn't give her back, doesn't say, God, no, she's not my kid, you figure out what to do with her. But he doesn't agree, either. Enjolras waits, his desperation growing by the second. He's had her for less than twenty-four hours, and he's already struggling. He should've called Child Services the minute Molly came into the office with the baby's carrier over her arm and a puzzled expression on her face and said, "Delivery for you."
He should have -- but he knows through tough experience how difficult it can be to get your kid back, once she's in the system. And the baby had had the card with her, giving her into his care. That wasn't abandonment, it was just a temporary custody arrangement. Somebody had loved her, at least enough to give her into his care. Enjolras can't abandon her to the system until he's sure that she'll be better off there than at home.
And besides, the girls at work had taken one look at the baby, with her grey eyes and wheat-blond hair and Enjolras's name on her card, and they'd immediately started waggling their eyebrows and suggesting that she was his, given to his care by some estranged lover. He'd scarcely spoken the words "Child Services" before they were frowning at him, clucking their tongues and exclaiming over the baby about how they didn't know how anyone could turn away someone so cute and precious.
Grantaire was right, the night before -- Enjolras doesn't much care if people form bad opinions of him, not so long as what he does sits right in his own heart. But giving this child over to the authorities and disappointing his colleagues was more than he could bear, so he'd left them their assumptions and taken charge of her. But if he doesn't get things sorted out, and soon, he'll have no choice but to conclude that even the problematic foster care system is a better place for her than in his care.
"Sure," Grantaire says at last, as easy as that. "She can help me with my latest commission. It's meant to be some awful Pollockesque piece, so I'll just let her go wild with a couple tubes of paint and call it modern art."
Sudden dread drops into Enjolras's stomach, as heavy as an anvil. He stares at Grantaire, his mind suddenly flooded with images of all the ways this could go wrong. "R." His voice is wheezy and forced. "Oil paints are toxic. You can't just--"
"Oh my God, I know." Grantaire shoves up to his feet, grabs the duffel and the empty carrier, and carries them all up the two flights of stairs to his apartment, leaving Enjolras to follow behind, not entirely sure that he isn't just trading one catastrophe for another in giving her over to him.
When he steps into Grantaire's apartment, Grantaire's on the couch with the baby on one knee and his eye fixed firmly on the coffee maker, which is just starting to hiss and spit. He's talking, and Enjolras thinks at first that Grantaire is talking to him, that he just assumed Enjolras was keeping pace behind him. But then he realizes that Grantaire is talking over his shoulder to the baby, saying, "Enjolras doesn't know how to take a joke, does he? Enjolras wouldn't know a joke if it bit him in the--"
He breaks off suddenly, and Enjolras will never know if it's because he was about to say something inappropriate, or because he's noticed that Enjolras has caught up with him, and Enjolras is staring.
Gaping is probably the better word for it. Enjolras is gaping because the sounds coming out of Grantaire's mouth are straight-up baby talk, high-pitched and overly sweet. Enjolras doesn't manage to pick his jaw up of the floor until Grantaire notices and gives him a frown, and even then all he can manage is, "Studies have shown that infants are capable of understanding much more sophisticated language than they're able to actually produce. You shouldn't talk to her like that."
Grantaire sighs and leans his head back against the edge of the couch, his throat stretched long and shadowed with stubble. "Studies have also shown that they respond more favorably to baby talk than to normal speech tones and patterns."
"That can't be proven to not be a learned bias due to environmental exposure--"
"Wow." He sighs again and gets to his feet, carries the baby with him into the kitchen. "I'm not going to argue nature versus nurture with you before I've even had my first cup of coffee." He pulls the half-full pot out from underneath the filter and pours a cup, ignoring the way the stream keeps dripping and hissing on the heating plate. "Also, not when I'm doing you a favor. Hire a babysitter and you can tell her how to speak to your heart's content."
Enjolras turns from where he's double-checking the duffel bag to make sure he brought everything the baby might need for the day. He squints his eyes at Grantaire, but he's drinking the coffee, the cup shielding half of his face from view and making his expression impossible to read. "I ought to be paying you," Enjolras says. It's an embarrassment that it didn't occur to him from the start. But Grantaire had seemed so happy to have her the night before-- "Of course I'll pay you. What's the going rate for babysitting these days? No, never mind that, teenagers work for peanuts. Tell me what rate you want and we'll work it out--"
"Apollo." Grantaire's voice is strained. He sets the mug down on the counter slowly and spends a long moment staring at Enjolras. "You're not going to pay me."
"You're doing me a service, it's only fair--"
"I'm doing you a favor." His throat works in silence for a moment. "And I'm not going to take your money, so you can just shut up about it. Now, I'm sure the office is missing you, and the baby and I have a very important date with a nap on the couch, so." He shifts her onto his hip, picks up his coffee again, and crosses the apartment to drop down onto it. Enjolras can't even tiptoe past the baby without her kicking up a fuss, but she doesn't make a peep even as Grantaire bounces on the couch springs. "You can show yourself out, right? We'll see you tonight."
It's not cruelly meant. Grantaire's words aren't harsh, they're just dragging with sleep. He's already got his feet kicked up onto the corner of his coffee table and the baby settled in the curve of his arm. She seems content, and Enjolras is already late and growing later by the minute, so he bites his tongue and settles for grabbing his briefcase and murmuring a quiet, "Thanks," over his shoulder as he sees himself out.
He makes sure Grantaire's door locks behind him, because you can never be too safe. And then he squares his shoulders and starts back to the train station, trying fill his thoughts with the details of the cases he has to work today. He's always used transit time for a bit of productivity, but today the only thoughts that stick in his mind are ones of the baby, and Grantaire, the way her little pink hand had curled over his forearm as they lay together on Grantaire's ratty couch, drifting off to sleep as though it were a bed fit for a king.
By the time he heads home it's after seven and he's exhausted, his back aching from his crappy office chair and thinking fondly of nothing so much as a quick dinner and many, many hours in bed. He nearly misses his transfer to the line that'll take him to Grantaire's, and by the time he gets there, he feels just as run-down as he had been that morning.
Grantaire lets him in after the first buzz on the intercom, but doesn't come down to meet him. Enjolras sees why when he gets up to Grantaire's floor, knocks on the door, and is answered by the low call, "It's open."
He's going to have a talk with Grantaire about safety and child endangerment and the crime statistics in this part of town, but he opens the door and steps inside to find Grantaire on the couch just where Enjolras left him. He's got his legs crossed rather than outstretched, though, and the baby is lying across his thighs, fast asleep. She's got her cheek pillowed on Grantaire's knee and a hand curled up by her mouth and Enjolras freezes, stricken by the sudden fear that he's going to disturb her. She looks so peaceful, and she always starts crying when he's around.
Grantaire twists at the waist to catch his eye. He mouths, "Hi," then takes Enjolras in with a glance that rakes him from head to feet and back again. His lips quirk. "Rough day?"
"Long," Enjolras answers in a murmur. And even that has the baby shifting on Grantaire's lap, muttering a sleepy grumble. He freezes and stares at her, bewildered.
"We got takeout for dinner," Grantaire says, gesturing with a tip of his head toward the brown paper bags on the counter behind him. "There's some pad grapow left if you want it."
Enjolras's stomach clenches hard enough that he nearly considers it. The scent of basil and spice fills Grantaire's apartment, and it smells amazing. He takes a single aborted step before he catches himself and shakes his head. "No. We need to go. I'm sure she'll sleep on the train." He's not at all sure of that, actually, but they'll manage. Grantaire won't even let Enjolras pay him, he's certainly not going to thank him by eating his leftovers.
Grantaire, thank God, relents with a shrug. He slides his arms under the baby and lifts her gingerly. She barely even stirs, just snuggles in against his chest and smacks her lips. Enjolras stares without even realizing it. He only notices it when Grantaire clears his throat in a significant manner, and Enjolras jerks his gaze up and finds him with his brows raised, his grin crooked. He jerks his chin at the counter behind him and Enjolras turns to discover that he's standing in front of the baby's carrier.
"Oh. Sorry," he mutters quickly, and reaches out. "I'll take her."
Grantaire shakes his head and sidesteps around Enjolras. "Easier this way," he says over his shoulder. "Less likely to wake her if we're not passing her around like a football."
Enjolras thinks, somewhat desperately, that it wouldn't matter because he's just going to end up waking her up anyway. He doesn't say it, though, and just stands by to watch as Grantaire eases her down into the carrier.
A sudden crinkling sound seems loud in the quiet of the apartment. Grantaire goes still, then frowns. He reaches beneath the baby and pulls out a little rectangle of paper, the envelope with Enjolras's name on it that had been left along with the baby, imploring him to take care of her.
"Well, no wonder you're so cranky in this thing," Grantaire says to her, clucking his tongue. He turns the card about and sees the scrawl of Enjolras's name, flips the card open like it's automatic reflex and glances briefly at the note inside before his attention moves on, disinterested. But then he stops, frowns, and looks back at it. Enjolras sighs pointedly as Grantaire reads the note, but he just holds up a hand to stave Enjolras off and finishes.
When he's done, he gives Enjolras a flat-lipped stare so full of scorn and disapproval that Enjolras rocks back on his heels. His brows climb his forehead, and he demands, "What?" in too loud a voice. The baby stirs and draws in two quick breaths in preparation for the tears.
"I asked you her name," Grantaire says, his words clipped and unhappy. He crosses his arms over his chest and frowns. "I don't know why you didn't just tell me."
"What?" Enjolras says again, staring at him.
Grantaire flicks the card so that it hits Enjolras in the chest and bounces away. Enjolras catches it and opens it, skims it to see if he can figure out what on earth Grantaire's talking about. Then he sees it, and he realizes.
The card is unsigned, and it says only, Please take care of Regina. I know you'll be as good to her as you were to me. Enjolras sighs and scrubs a hand over his forehead. "Regina's a terrible name," he mutters. "I can't call her that."
Grantaire looks baffled. "It's a little old-fashioned, but--"
"It's Latin." Enjolras forces the words out between his teeth. "It means queen."
"Yes," Grantaire says, and folds his arms over his chest. "I know." He watches Enjolras like he's waiting for something, like he'll stand there waiting for it all night if he has to.
Enjolras shakes his head. "It's a terrible name," he says again. "The connotations of imperialism--"
"Oh my god." Grantaire leans a hip back against the edge of his counter and wraps his fingers around the edge of it, like he's trying to hold himself back. His bare foot taps an angry rhythm against the floor. "She's not a puppy you adopted from the pound, Enjolras." He snarls it, low and furious. "You can't just change her name because it doesn't suit your sensibilities."
"Christ, I'm not going to change it."
"No." Grantaire's expression is hard, unyielding, unforgiving. He pushes away from the counter abruptly and circles around it into the kitchen. He grabs a half-empty bottle of wine from a cupboard, yanks the cork out, and drinks deeply from the mouth of the bottle. "You're just going to call her it or her or baby or hey you for the rest of her life. Jesus Christ."
"For God's sake! It's not going to be that, either. I'm going to find her mother, as soon as I have a spare minute I'm going to find her--"
"Her mother doesn't want her!" Grantaire's shouting now, shouting full-out. He slams the wine bottle down on the countertop so hard Enjolras is surprised it doesn't shatter. The noise startles the baby awake and she starts screaming right along with him. It rings through Enjolras's ears until there's no room in his skull for anything but their mutual anger. Grantaire puts his hand on Regina's head and strokes her hair, but it's the only soft thing about him. The rest of him is hard, fired to steel by his anger. His eyes are blue flame and they lick over Enjolras like brands. "She's going to have a hard enough time coming to terms with that when she's older. Now you're going to turn your back on her, too?"
Regina is screaming now, frightened and distressed, and Grantaire is staring him like everyone at work did the day she showed up. Like she's his, not some stranger's, and he's worse than the dirt beneath their feet for thinking about leaving her to those better suited to care for her. Enjolras's head throbs. He wants to scream, or maybe just pick Regina up and cry with her. He wants to take a swing at Grantaire and scream his throat raw because this is unfair. He never did anything to ask for this except, apparently, to be kind to a former client, and now there's this baby here, this person who depends upon him for absolutely everything, and the choices he makes now are going to shape the kind of person she becomes, whether she's happy and secure or a poorly-adjusted ball of neuroses, and he wasn't prepared to have that responsibility dropped on him when he showed up to work two days ago. It isn't the sort of thing that should be sprung on a person, especially unwillingly, and if he had any idea who her mother was or how to find her, he'd be sorely tempted to wring her neck.
He stares at Grantaire for a long moment, Regina screaming beside them and his heart battering against his ribcage with fury and helpless rage. Slowly, Grantaire's anger gives way to uncertainty and confusion. His brow furrows, but when his expression starts to slip towards concern, Enjolras turns away sharply and picks the baby's carrier up. "Thanks for watching her today," he says woodenly. He drags the duffel bag up over his shoulder and steps past him, toward the door. "I'll sort something else out for tomorrow."
"Enjolras--" Grantaire turns after him. There's a sigh in his voice, like Enjolras is the one being unreasonable right now. "Apollo, come on, you don't have to do that."
Enjolras just keeps walking, out of the apartment and back to the train station. He still needs dinner, and he's not sure what an appropriate bed time is for an infant of Regina's age, but at half past eight he's pretty sure she's overdue.
His foresight pays off, at least, because when he finally gets her to burp, twenty minutes on when her distress has worked its way up to genuine anger, she seems to bring up half of her bottle with it, and spits it up all over the towel.
She settles down shortly after that, and Enjolras holds her and stares at the mess and is grateful that he's not going to have to spend the rest of his life enduring the smell of dried baby formula wafting from his upholstery. He bundles the towel up and detours to the laundry room to throw it in the washer, and then he carries her back to bed and climbs underneath the covers one-handed, using his other arm to hold her securely against him all the way. Her blinks are getting slower, her eyelids growing heavy. He turns the bedside lamp off and has just a moment to hope that she'll sleep at least long enough to let his alarm wake him, before exhaustion drags him into oblivion.
His hopes go unanswered. She wakes him again before the morning comes, for no logical reason he's able to discern. He leaves her on the couch, blocked in by pillows, because his touch only seems to make her angrier right now, and sits slumped in a half-dazed stupor. It's well enough into the morning by now that he ought to just call it a loss and start getting ready, yet early enough that exhaustion weighs him down like concrete blocks, and the thought of getting up, walking into the kitchen, and making coffee sounds so exhausting he thinks it might kill him.
He manages to dig his phone out from the depths of the couch cushions and unlocks it so he can pull up his calendar and see his schedule looks like, whether he can take a personal day and just stay home with Regina. He's not sure if that's just what he needs, or if it's just going to mean another eight hours spent trying to get some sleep only to be interrupted every time his eyes close. But before he has a chance to decide, his phone brings up all the notification alerts that he missed during the course of the night. There are a few emails, a court date reminder from his calendar that makes him hiss because he can't reschedule and he sure as hell can't show up in front of the judge looking like he got run over by a semi, and about half a dozen texts from Grantaire.
He nearly leaves them unread. They came in at the middle of the night, a series of them scattered across the wee hours of the morning, and it's a safe bet that Grantaire was drunk on either anger or wine when he sent them. They're probably vitriol, just more of what Enjolras walked away from the night before, diatribes about how Regina deserves a better parent than Enjolras, even though Enjolras was never given the choice or the opportunity to prepare. But sleep deprivation has got him run-down and surly enough that he's almost in the mood for a fight, so he pulls the text screen open and scrolls back to the first of Grantaire's messages.
They start out just as he expected, a half-comprehensible mishmash of vitriol and what Enjolras can only guess is Grantaire's phone's attempts to autocorrect his more colorful language. Duck you as whole she didn't ask for this either, one reads, and that at least works a barb of guilt in under the armor of Enjolras's anger and weariness. He grimaces and keeps reading, and as the timestamps crawl toward morning, Grantaire's texts get less belligerent. The last one, sent at two-thirty in the morning, says, Fuck it, just bring her over. I'm cheaper than a babysitter and she's the only one of any of us who actually laughs at my jokes. The code for the front is 161832. I'll leave the key under the mat. The length as well as the fact that Grantaire bothered to go back and fix autocorrect's censorship tells Enjolras that he was either sobering up or calming down, by then. And the promise of handing Regina over to his care for the day, of being able to stop worrying because he knows she's in good hands, is finally enough to propel him up off the couch and into the kitchen to get the coffee maker started.
As soon as he's caffeinated, he gathers up Regina and her diaper bag, his briefcase and the baby carrier, pours the rest of the pot into a tall green thermos, and carries them all down to the train station.
It's early enough that the trains are only half full, and there's room enough for him to sprawl across several seats. The other passengers look mostly as dazed as he is, and they either nap with their heads leaning against the train car's windows or blink sleepily at their smartphones. He hooks a leg through the handles of his bags, pulls the shade of the baby carrier down to shield Regina from the car's lights, and drapes himself over the carrier's handle so there's no risk of her going anywhere.
He doesn't sleep, doesn't even try, but it's so nice to just be able to relax for a minute that he wants to ride all the way to the end of the tracks and then back again. It takes all the copious will power he has to drag himself to his feet and pick up all his bags when the train pulls into his stop.
He manages what could most charitably be described as a zombie shuffle as he carries Regina and all their things through the darkened city streets to Grantaire's building. He's got the phone in his hand and Grantaire's text pulled up on the screen, but it still takes him three tries before he manages to type the access code in correctly and the security panel beeps at him, and then the lock clangs open.
He takes the elevator up to Grantaire's floor, even though it's old and poorly maintained and all the Amis have lovingly dubbed it The Deathtrap. He's pretty sure that right now, as exhausted as he is, the greater danger to Regina would be trying to haul her and their bags up those flights of stairs without toppling over and tumbling them both all the way back down.
Grantaire's doormat is a novelty item Feuilly picked up for him in a giftshop a few years back. It says IT'S BEER O'CLOCK. YOU'RE RIGHT ON TIME, and it does, in fact, have a key tucked underneath it. Enjolras unlocks the front door and leaves it open as he carries Regina in first, and then all their bags.
The quiet creak of the floorboards makes him turn, just in time to see Grantaire come bursting out of the bedroom, wielding a wooden baseball bat and looking half mad. "Jesus!" Enjolras jumps back, out of reach of his swing, and throws a hand out to protect Regina. "R, it's me!"
Grantaire blinks owlishly. "Apollo?" He drops the end of the bat down to the floor and leans on it like it's a cane as he passes his other hand over his eyes. "Christ. Oh my God, are you okay? Did I hit you?"
"No," Enjolras says, amused. "Do you make a habit of inviting people over just to use them for batting practice?"
"No. Oh fuck. I forgot I'd said you could. It's like the middle of the night." He scrubs the heel of his hand over his forehead. "I didn't expect you to come over this early. I didn't expect you to come over at all, actually."
"It's morning," Enjolras says. "Or near enough. She couldn't sleep, and I figured, since I was up anyway--"
"You'd bring her over here so you could have company in your misery?" The words are scathing, and Enjolras grimaces, but Grantaire sounds amused more than anything else. He sounds mocking, and that's such a normal state of affairs that it nearly swamps Enjolras with relief. "You're not going into the office this early, are you?"
"No, I--" He grimaces and looks down at his hands. "Could I use your shower? Would that be all right? I've got to go to court today and I figured, if you're looking after her, I might actually be able to finish washing my hair this time."
Grantaire drops down onto one of the stools at his counter and looks at Enjolras for a long moment, blinking tiredly. He looks just like Regina does before she falls asleep, his gaze distant, his lids heavy. Enjolras frowns and wonders if he's going to fall asleep before he gives an answer, but instead Grantaire shakes his head like he's casting off his tiredness. "Sure," he says, and there's something wry in his tone that Enjolras doesn't understand. "Go ahead. Towels are under the sink." He pivots on the stool and pulls the baby carrier over to him. "Come on then, Gina, let's go sleep on the couch. Only gods and madmen should be up at this hour of the morning, and I'm not sure which one he falls under." He carries her to the couch and stretches out with her tucked into his arm. He balls a blanket up for a pillow and murmurs, his eyes already closing, "Both, maybe. Both is good."
Enjolras is frozen halfway to the hall that will lead him to the bathroom. He stops and stares at the two of them, and echoes quietly, "Gina?"
"Mm?" Grantaire rouses enough to crack one eye open. "What's that?"
"You called her Gina."
"'S a nickname, Apollo. I'm sure you know how those work." He yawns and stretches his free arm up overhead, then settles with it curled around his head like a frame. "Go take your shower, madman. We're sleeping here."
Enjolras goes. He stands under the spray with the water turned as cold as he can bear it, shivering but finally awake. He washes his hair quickly, lathers himself up with the bar of pine and cedar soap that smells like Grantaire, then steps out of the shower ten minutes later with his teeth chattering but his eyes open and no longer heavy-lidded.
Enjolras expects Grantaire to be sleeping when he comes out, only a towel slung around his hips to retrieve the dry cleaner bags he'd brought with his suit for court, but despite his protests Grantaire is upright and awake. He gives a melodramatic gasp and covers Regina's eyes with his hand. The look he shoots Enjolras is scandalized, but the corners of his mouth twitch, and laughter lurks in his eyes. "Enjolras! Have you no shame?"
"She's a baby. At this age, from this distance, she can't make out more than colors and blurry shapes anyway." He grabs his clothes as well as the thermos from the counter, and brings the latter over to offer to Grantaire.
"My vision is just fine, I'll have you know." Grantaire looks at the thermos. "What is this?"
"Payment," Enjolras says, but immediately knows it for a mistake. Grantaire's brows lower and the smile vanishes off his face. Enjolras groans and shoves the thermos into his hands. "Jesus, stop that. Fine, it's a favor, in return for the ones I already owe you. Just drink it before it goes cold, will you? I don't want it to go to waste." He leaves it with Grantaire, stomping back into the bathroom to dress. When he comes out, fully clothed and ready for work, Grantaire has put Regina into her carrier and moved to the counter, where he's sitting with Enjolras's thermos open beside him and a steaming mug in his hands.
"Apollo," he breathes when Enjolras comes out, in worshipful tones like he thinks Enjolras really is a god. "You made me coffee."
Enjolras shrugs a shoulder, discomfited by the raw emotion shining in Grantaire's gaze. "The pot was already made," he says as he gathers up his briefcase. "I couldn't have finished it on my own."
"Hush," Grantaire says, easily, cheerfully. "You made me coffee. There's no way you can talk that down into seeming to be anything less amazing than it is." He sets the mug down and comes around the counter to stand in front of Enjolras, toe to toe with him. He looks him over once and tugs at Enjolras's tie to straighten it, though it didn't need it. "You've got court today?"
Enjolras nods, but doesn't speak. If he starts talking about the case, they're just going to get into another argument about politics, and he doesn't have the time or the strength for it right now.
A faint smile pulls at Grantaire's mouth. "You're gonna knock 'em dead."
"Our defense is solid," Enjolras says. "The precedent is there. So long as we get a sympathetic judge--"
"No." Grantaire's fingers clench around the tie, holding him fast. "You're going to. I know it."
Enjolras sighs and shakes his head indulgently. "You can't know it. I can't even know it."
"I believe in you," Grantaire says, and Christ, he's looking up at Enjolras like he means it. His eyes are shining with it. There's nothing Enjolras can do but shake his head and pry open Grantaire's fist until he releases his tie.
"Thank you," he says, awkwardly, but it's the only thing he can think of to say. He sidles around Grantaire before he can grab him again. "I have to go."
He half wonders if Grantaire might protest, might grab at his clothes again and keep him there. But all Grantaire does is nod and retrieve his cup from the counter before he shuffles back to the couch and drops onto it unceremoniously. "Have fun storming the castle," he says, but ruins the homage by yawning halfway through it.
Enjolras makes it through the rest of the work week and to the weekend, but he's not entirely sure how. By Friday, days and details are starting to run together, everything colored by a haze of exhaustion that grows into a dense fog by the end of the week. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps him clinging to his sanity is the knowledge that the weekend is drawing near, that come Saturday he and Gina will be able to sleep as much as they please, and if that means spending the entire weekend alternating between taking care of her and cat naps, then he is fully prepared to make that sacrifice.
Saturday morning dawns early with Gina's cry for breakfast. Enjolras takes her out onto the balcony with her bottle and they watch the sun come up together, and for a moment he thinks that maybe this is possible. They might be able to make this work, at least until he turns up some information about the people she belongs to.
Half an hour later, she is screaming and covered in spit up and her diaper needs to be changed, Enjolras's upstairs neighbor keeps thumping on his floor demanding that they keep it quiet, and Enjolras is sitting in the middle of the living room floor surrounded by a mess of diapers and changing pads and burping clothes and baby clothes, both clean and soiled, and the coffee pot that was supposed to be his salvation is flooding the kitchen floor and the fleeting hope of possibility that the morning brought with it has been crushed under the mountain of exhaustion that has been chasing him all week and has finally, finally caught up with him. He sits in the middle of the carpet with Gina on her back in front of him, screaming herself raw, and he does the absolute only thing he can think of. He picks up his phone and he calls Grantaire.
He can't even hear if Grantaire answers or if it goes to voicemail over Gina's wailing. He just shouts over her, praying that Grantaire can hear him, that he'll be able to make out what Enjolras says. "She won't stop, I don't know what to do," he says, and his voice breaks a little. He leans his forehead in his palm and fights against the tears of helpless frustration. "Please, can I bring her over? Just for a little while. You always know what she needs, and I just need to sleep. Just for an hour. Please, R--"
The line disconnects. He pulls his phone away and stares at it, feeling like he's floundering on rough seas and he's just watched his life preserver float away on the waves. He doesn't know if Grantaire's voicemail cut him off, or if Grantaire heard and told him to fuck off and hung up, or what might have happened. He lays on his back on the thin carpet, Gina stretched out on his stomach, and he pats her back rhythmically, helplessly, because he doesn't know what else to possibly do. Tears leak out of the corners of his eyes and make his vision waver and go blurry.
Half an hour later, a pounding at the door makes him sit upright. Gina's still crying. He doesn't know how it's possible for someone so small to have so many tears inside of her, but she's still going strong. He stares at the door, wondering if it's the upstairs neighbor, come to complain, or if someone's called the police on him and they've come to take Gina away to Child Services where she belongs. He doesn't even have the energy left to fear whoever might be on the other side of the door, he just calls out, "It's open," and hopes that whoever it is, they'll know how to make a baby stop crying.
The door bursts open and Grantaire comes stumbling in, looking more than a little traumatized. His mouth moves, shaping the word, Christ, but if he voices the oath Enjolras can't hear it over Gina's crying.
Enjolras pushes up on an elbow and just stares at him desperately. Grantaire's at his side in an instant. He drops to his knees and scoops Gina up. The look he shoots Enjolras over her shoulder is half pitying, half baleful. "What did you do?" he demands.
"Nothing." Enjolras flops down and wonders how much his back will make him suffer for it if he just falls asleep right there. "Nothing right, obviously," he adds bitterly.
This time, Grantaire's look is nothing but censure. "Stop that. Children learn how to treat themselves by looking to those around them. You're not going to do her self-esteem any good by tearing yourself down." He positions Gina against his shoulder, without even a burp cloth for protection, and starts pounding on her back.
Enjolras struggles upright, alarmed. "You're going to hurt her."
"No." Grantaire looks amused for about half a second, but then his expression slips toward consternation, and then back to pity. "Jesus. You haven't been giving her little love taps all this time, have you? No wonder she's always crying with you." His hand keeps slapping down on Gina's back, a rhythmic pulse between each word. Gina keeps crying, but it doesn't seem any worse than it had been before Grantaire showed up, so Enjolras bites back his concern and lays down again.
There are cobwebs behind the ceiling fan. He's usually the sort of person who can't bear to let a mess go uncleaned for any length of time at all, but now he stares up at his ceiling and thinks with a resigned sort of detachment, Well, they're just going to have to stay there then.
About a minute after Grantaire starts pounding on her back, Gina burps, sniffles twice, and then slumps against Grantaire's shoulder like she's as exhausted by the ordeal as Enjolras is. Enjolras sits up again and stares at them both. Grantaire catches his eye and grins, and if he's a little smug, Enjolras makes no mention of it. He's earned it.
He didn't even get any spit up on his shirt. Bastard, Enjolras thinks wearily.
"That's more like it," Grantaire says, and gets to his feet while still holding her in his arms. "Where have you got her crib set up?"
Enjolras just laughs, more than a little manic. He slides backwards until he can lean back against the edge of the couch, his head tipped back to rest on the seat cushion. He gestures around, at the mess of diapers and baby wipes and onesies that have made his living room look like a Babies R Us caught in the middle of a war zone. "Do I look like I've had time to spare for a shopping trip?" He's wearing dirty pajamas, his shirt smells faintly of baby vomit, and somehow in all the drama of the morning he lost one slipper and didn't even realize it until now. "I haven't even had time to sleep, R."
That last comes out petulant, and he regrets it, but it's too late to take it back now. Grantaire stops, though, and comes to stand behind the couch, head tipped forward so he can frown down at Enjolras. Enjolras just sighs and shuts his eyes and lets him look his fill.
"Right," Grantaire says like he's come to some sort of decision. "I'm taking Gina, and I'm taking this"--Enjolras opens his eyes and lifts his head in time to see Grantaire pick up Enjolras's wallet from the counter and remove his credit card--"and we're going to go shopping. And you are going to go get some sleep." He comes back, on Enjolras's side of the couch this time, and grips his arm. Enjolras protests as Grantaire lifts him up to his feet, because he's tired and the floor was comfortable, or at least comfortable enough, and his legs feel as wobbly beneath him as a newborn colt's.
"Go," Grantaire says, firm but gentle, and gives him a little push toward the bedroom. "I'm going to need you alert enough to help me put furniture together without breaking your thumb with a hammer, so you'd better sleep."
"I will," Enjolras mumbles, and stumbles toward the hall. In the doorway, he stops and turns back, gripping onto the jamb to help him stay upright. "R... Thank you."
Grantaire ducks his head, but not fast enough to hide his smile. He shifts Gina in his arms and says, "All right, lady, are you up for an adventure? Maybe we'll get you a tattoo while we're out, just to really make Daddy's head explode."
Enjolras leaves them smiling at each other and staggers down the hall and into his room. He flops face-down on the bed and doesn't even manage to stay awake long enough to hear them leave.
He's too light a sleeper to be able to drift off again with Grantaire moving around the apartment, but he stays with his face mashed into the pillow until Grantaire's footsteps come down the hall and the bedroom door is thrown open. "Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty," Grantaire says.
Enjolras mumbles an incoherent protest into the pillow, but rolls over onto his back. The lights are off, but there's sunshine coming through the window, carrying with it that golden glow particular to the afternoon. He rubs at a spot of dried drool on his cheek and tries to scrub the sand out of his eyes.
Grantaire's footsteps bring him closer to the bed. "Feel better?" he asks, and his voice is softer, kinder.
Enjolras feels as though he's slept for a year, and could have happily continued on for another. His body feels heavy and his heady fuzzy, every nerve and neuron still clinging to the bliss of sleep. He feels as though a truck may have hit him while he slept, but this fogginess, at least, is the sort brought on by sleeping deeply and well, not by being dragged out of bed every two hours to feed a crying infant. "You're a saint," he says at length, and opens his eyes to Grantaire's quick grin.
"Good. Remember that." Grantaire comes over and starts pulling at his arm, dragging him upright. Enjolras lets him with only a minimum of grumbling. When he's upright, Grantaire gives him a quick look-over and laughs quietly. "You've been holding out on us, Apollo. I didn't know you could even get bed-head." He reaches like he's going to ruffle his hand through Enjolras's hair, or smooth out the mess that it surely is, but he hesitates halfway through the motion and lowers his hand to his side instead. "I should've known you wouldn't do anything by halves, not even this."
Enjolras pulls his fingers through his hair and shoots Grantaire a frown. "What time is it?" The light coming through the windows washes out the digital display of his alarm clock and makes it impossible to read. He pats his pockets, but his phone isn't in them. Probably lost somewhere in the mess he made of the living room, he assumes, so he looks to Grantaire for the answer.
Grantaire just raises an eyebrow. "Time for you to come help me assemble furniture," he says, and gets behind Enjolras to push him out of the bedroom and down the hall.
There are men in his living room, a pair of them with broad muscles and uniform shirts that have their names on the breast and DELIVERY SERVICE blazoned on the back. Grantaire cleaned up the mess Enjolras had left, but in its place there are half a dozen cardboard boxes of various sizes and shapes, most of them large. Enjolras pulls his arm out of Grantaire's grip and stands by the couch, trying to take them all in. "Did you max out my credit card?" he asks at last.
"Probably not," Grantaire says, and digs the card out of the back pocket of his jeans to return to Enjolras. It's warm from his body heat and Enjolras wraps his fingers around it. When he adds, "This is important, Apollo," his voice has gone soft and serious, the teasing edge that had been there a moment before suddenly gone.
It's not that he thinks it isn't, but it was hard enough not to be overwhelmed when Gina was the only new addition to his life. Now there are boxes and things to put together and he doesn't even know where he's supposed to fit all of this, once it's up and ready for use, and the sight of it all sitting there taking up all the open space in his living room makes him want to go press himself into a corner and hyperventilate a little bit.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this. She wasn't supposed to be his.
The delivery men leave the last of the boxes and then they're gone and Enjolras is left standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Grantaire looking at it all. They're going to be screwing furniture together for days.
"I don't even know where to start," Enjolras admits quietly, because it's Grantaire, and because a few hours earlier Grantaire walked in on him crying on his living room carpet, so it's not as though this admission could do any more harm to the other man's opinion of him.
Grantaire hums a little, his arms crossed over his chest and his gaze considering. Then he nods once, says, "I've got an idea," and slants a look at Enjolras. "Do you have any beer?"
Enjolras is not so grateful that he can let that pass. He pulls away and turns to almost face him. "I hardly think it's safe to try to construct furniture meant for an infant while inebriated, R."
Grantaire stares at him like he's grown a second head, and then he gives a sharp sigh that turns into a growl at the end. "Christ, Apollo," he mutters, and stomps off loud enough to wake Gina from where she's been napping in her carrier.
Enjolras thinks for a minute that he's going to just walk out and leave Enjolras with a crying baby and a living room that's even more of a disaster than it was when Grantaire found him in it. Instead, Grantaire stalks into the kitchen and rocks Gina's carrier with one hand while he fishes his phone out with another. He doesn't call anybody, but a minute later, Gina's happily sucking on her pacifier and Grantaire returns with his phone back to being a rectangular bulge in the pocket of his jeans.
"All right, most of the group's coming over," he says. "We're having an assembly party to help speed things up, and Bahorel's bringing over the beer that we're going to bribe everyone with, since apparently you're going to be a sanctimonious ass about it." He drops down cross-legged on the floor and starts pulling at the tape holding the nearest box together.
Enjolras swallows and watches him for a moment before he walks into the kitchen to get the box cutter from the junk drawer. Grantaire gives him a sideways look when Enjolras sits down beside him and starts cutting the tape, but he doesn't say anything, so Enjolras keeps his peace, too.
An hour later, just about everyone has arrived. They're not all coming over -- Combeferre's working, but promised Enjolras in a text that he'd come over after he got off if they still had anything left to put together by then, and Marius is on a date with Cosette so neither Enjolras nor Grantaire even expect him to answer Grantaire's text, much less to show up. But Bahorel's brought Coronas and Courfeyrac's in the kitchen cutting limes into wedge. Feuilly and Jehan are crowded around Gina's carrier, keeping her laughing with endless repetitions of peek-a-boo. Eponine's there, too, and she's brought Gavroche, who is looking far too interested in getting his hands on Enjolras's box cutter for anyone's liking.
They make quick work of the first few boxes. In a whirlwind, there is suddenly cardboard and plastic wrap and packing peanuts all over the place. There's a crib being assembled in one corner and a changing table going up in the middle of his kitchen, Eponine is taking charge of the construction of a dresser and keeping an eye on Gavroche as he sets about folding the new wardrobe for Gina that Grantaire brought home.
Enjolras sits out of the way of most of the action, and takes it all in, and marvels. At some point, he looks over and Grantaire is there next to him, and he can't say how long he's been there. Grantaire looks over his handiwork with a slight smile.
"I still don't know where I'm going to put all of this," Enjolras says faintly. "It's not that big an apartment."
"The crib in your room, I'm thinking." He leans forward and snaps his fingers at Gavroche, who's eyeing Gina's new collection of toys with an eager gaze. Gavroche rolls his eyes and gives Grantaire a look that seems to say that he is responsible for every dull thing in Gavroche's life, and then he grumpily goes back to folding clothes. "The dresser can go out here and masquerade as a buffet. You'll probably want the changing table near the crib, if you can make room in there for it."
Enjolras grunts, unconvinced. Grantaire glances at him sidelong. "Ep can help you with that, if you like. She's a whiz with organizing."
"Maybe," he allows.
In another two hours, the last of the furniture has been put together and everyone is sprawled out in the wreckage, sweaty and exhausted. Eponine did, in the end, help Enjolras rearrange his bedroom to make room for the crib and changing table, and Jehan did an admirable job setting the drawers up in the dining room to look like a buffet, rather than a piece of furniture from the bedroom that had somehow migrated out of place.
Enjolras wearily sets about gathering up the cardboard boxes and trying to make them stay in a pile to be taken down to the recycle later, until Grantaire reaches out from the couch as he passes and catches his arm. "It'll wait," he murmurs. He's had a beer in his hand for the past twenty minutes, but he's barely made a dent in it because he keeps tipping his head back against the couch cushion and dozing off. "Sit. You're making us all feel like slackers."
Enjolras sits, because his friends have been an immeasurable boon to him today and the last thing he wants is to make them feel as though they haven't done enough. His nap earlier has revived him enough that the mess wears on him like a pebble in a shoe, nagging and insistent. Through the combined powers of the Amis, Gina has been down for a nap for over an hour and hasn't so much as made a peep, not even when Gavroche and Grantaire's wrestling got out of hand and Gavroche crashed into Enjolras's barstools and knocked them all down like so many bowling pins. These moments of quiet feel like a gift, and it seems wrong not to spend them doing the bigger tasks of straightening up that he won't be able to once she's awake and demanding attention.
He's never been one for idleness in any form, so when Grantaire clamps a hand on his knee and holds him down without even cracking an eye open, before Enjolras has even fully registered the intent to rise and get back to work, Enjolras gives a sharp sigh to register his protest and then pulls his laptop up onto his lap.
It's a matter of moments to log into his system at work, and from there to pull up their client files. He makes a spreadsheet, starts sorting by age and gender and appointment dates. The quiet noises of the others in his apartment fade to the background as the task rises up to claim his attention. It's sometime later when he realizes with a start that Grantaire has roused and is leaning in against his side, frowning thoughtfully over his shoulder as Enjolras manipulates the data with practiced ease. Enjolras can't say for sure how long he's been watching.
"What's that?" Grantaire asks at last.
"Clients," he says. "For the last three years -- any I haven't seen in that time seems unlikely to be the sort who'd choose me to give their child to. I'm good at my job, but I doubt I'd left that good an impression."
"Don't be so sure," Grantaire says, still squinting at the program. "You're very memorable." He points at the screen. "What's that?"
"Marital status, for those whose we know. A single parent is more likely to give a child up because they can't take care of it than a married pair."
"You can't be sure--"
"No," he agrees. "That's why it's called probability. I'm not ruling them out, just trying to sort the most likely from the least, so I can focus my attentions where they're most likely to bear fruit." He filters all the married couples to the bottom of the list with a click of a button. "Also, the note with Gina said me not us."
Grantaire hums a sound that might mean anything. He settles back into his place on the couch and takes a long drink from his beer, though it's grown warm enough that even the condensation has evaporated. He gives Enjolras's computer a sidelong look as he rolls the alcohol around in his mouth. "Do you really think you'll find her parents that way?"
Enjolras gives him a sharp look. He doesn't sound hopeful about the prospect. If anything, he sounds glum.
"I don't know," he admits. "But I'm going to do everything I can." Grantaire can just go ahead and look like Enjolras is threatening to give his favorite toy to another kid. He owes this to Gina. His responsibility is to her and her well-being, not Grantaire's happiness.
They order pizza when Jehan starts complaining about being hungry. The work is done, but everyone seems happy to just spend time together, and more than happy to pass Gina around and keep her occupied, so Enjolras doesn't make any mention of kicking them out. By the time the hour's grown late enough that people start glancing at their watches and making their excuses, he's got his list into a passable order. He prints off the first twenty names to start looking into, and when he returns from the office with the sheet of paper in his hand, he's a little startled to see Grantaire still slumped on his couch. His beer is empty, but he's still got his fingers curved around the bottle like he's reluctant to give it up.
"R," Enjolras says quietly.
He pries his eyes open and slides his gaze up to meet his.
"Do you need to spend the night?" Enjolras jerks his chin to indicate the beer bottle in his hand, the half a dozen he's already drunk.
"It's not illegal to drink and ride, Apollo," Grantaire says, his words dragging with dry sarcasm.
His tone makes Enjolras frown as he lowers himself onto the edge of the couch beside him. "Public intoxication is illegal."
"Never you fear. Give me an hour and I'll be distressingly sober."
Enjolras exhales a sharp breath. "Grantaire. Do you want to stay the night?"
Grantaire straightens and twists at the waist to give him a hard look. He's got his tongue tucked into the corner of his mouth and a frankly speculative look in his eye. It makes Enjolras want to shift beneath the weight of his scrutiny, but he holds himself still and in a moment Grantaire's expression breaks, fracturing into a sharp smile. "You know, Apollo, if you want your holiday from parental responsibility to last a while longer, you could've just asked. You should know, though, I charge double my usual rate for overnighters." He slides lower on the couch, tucks his hands behind his head, and kicks his feet up into the corner of Enjolras's coffee table. His smirk is bright and sarcastic, but there's not a lot about it that's real. "Lucky for you, you've got the friends-and-family discount."
Enjolras draws a careful breath. "R..."
Grantaire rolls his eyes like he does when Enjolras has said something he thinks is overblown and melodramatic. "It's a joke, Apollo," he says, with the air of a man talking to someone who's too oblivious to be believed.
"I know that."
"I'm still not taking your money."
"I know that, too." He starts picking up empty beer bottles that the others left cluttering every horizontal surface in the apartment. He sighs as he wipes lime juice from the counter, and because its more important than a stupid point of pride, he asks without looking back over his shoulder, "Does that mean you'll stay, then?"
Grantaire huffs quiet laughter. "I think that's what I just said, isn't it?"
It is, but Enjolras isn't entirely sure that it's what he meant. And it hasn't escaped his notice that Grantaire still hasn't answered the question, not directly. He turns and meets Grantaire's gaze across the counter, and he holds it, flat and unconvinced.
Grantaire blows out air and rolls his eyes. "Yes, Christ, I'll stay. But if you expect me to break my spine sleeping on your couch, I'm going to need another beer or five."
Enjolras retrieves the last six pack from the fridge, which Bahorel must have left in anticipation of Grantaire staying longer than the rest, and brings it over to the side table. Grantaire swings upright and grabs one of the bottles, and pops the cap off without even the benefit of a bottle opener. He takes one long drink, then sets the bottle down -- on a coaster, which can be for nothing but Enjolras's sake -- and continues with a grin, "And a baby to cuddle."
Gina is in the playpen that Grantaire bought and Joly and Bossuet set up together, chewing happily on a brightly-colored teething ring. Enjolras has been hoping that she'll wear herself out and fall asleep and maybe, for the first time in a week, he'll be able to get her to bed without it being a battle. But Grantaire is an honest-to-god baby whisperer and if anyone can convince her to sleep without kicking up a fuss first, it's him. And if doing so will convince him to stay so Enjolras doesn't have to worry about him making his way home while drunk, then that's just a win all around, he figures. He scoops Gina up and grabs the fuzzy purple blanket that Grantaire picked out for her as well, and carries them both over to him.
He sits up straighter as Enjolras brings Gina near, reaches his arms out to take her and already has a smile lighting up his face. Enjolras hands her over and Grantaire settles back into the corner of the couch with Gina tucked into his arm. He hooks a finger through her teething ring and tugs lightly, and laughs like it's the most brilliant thing he's ever seen when she tugs back, then spreads her tiny palms against his broad one and shoves his hand away.
Enjolras steals one of Grantaire's beers and takes his seat at the other end of the couch. He's not a big drinker, usually, and he doesn't even really like beer, but the goofy smile on Grantaire's face makes him feel weak-kneed and unsteady, and he's pretty sure there's no way he's going to survive it without a little help. He drinks deep and swallows without even a grimace, and then, because he's never had even the sense of self-preservation that God gave a rat, he twists on the couch to face Grantaire and watch him make Gina peal with laughter by blowing raspberries on the back of her neck.
If it weren't so late, if he hadn't been so exhausted by the long day full of labor and socialization, if he'd gotten more than twelve hours of total sleep over the past week, he might have realized the danger, or at least been better prepared for it. Instead, when Grantaire turns to look at him and catches him staring, he's startled by it, and left scrambling. "It's past her bedtime," he says and the words come out rushed and harsh because of his panic.
Grantaire's expression dims several degrees, but then Gina flails with her laughter and smacks him in the face with the back of her hand, and he brightens back up again. Not all the way, but enough. Enough that the voice in the back of his head that's calling him a complete idiot settles down to a grumble instead of a roar. "She had a late nap," he says. "Let me wear her out for a little while longer. She's just going to lie in there and scream, if we try to put her to bed now."
Enjolras relents because really, his batting average is currently less than zero, so who is he to say what she needs and what she doesn't. Grantaire plays with her, playing tug of war with the teething ring and blowing on her face to make her peal with laughter, then tickling her until she screeches, and then until she's breathless. Inside of an hour, she's lying contentedly in Grantaire's arms, blinking slow, sleepy blinks up at his face. He slips the pacifier into her mouth as her eyes fall shut, and she curls one hand on the end of it and doesn't open them again.
Enjolras sits frozen, hardly daring to breathe, much less to move, for fear of doing something to disturb and wake her. Grantaire shoots him a sidelong glance that carries a crooked grin and a heaping measure of amusement with it. When ten fretful minutes have gone by and she hasn't roused again, he catches Enjolras's eye and murmurs, "Do you want to do the honors?"
Enjolras swallows hard and gives his head a quick shake. "God, no," he mutters. He'll just end up waking her up and undoing all Grantaire's progress.
Grantaire looks at him a moment without rising, and then he sighs. "You have to stop being afraid of her eventually," he says. "They're like dogs. They can smell fear."
"That is both wrong and incredibly demeaning."
Grantaire laughs like he isn't even repentant. Gina shifts in his arms and nuzzles her face against his bicep, but doesn't rouse. Enjolras's lips thin and he thinks that he could hate Grantaire for that, just a little. Enjolras can't even breathe with her in his arms without waking her up and making her scream. Grantaire could probably play full contact football with her tucked in one arm and she wouldn't even stir.
"Not exactly," Grantaire says, and Enjolras has to take a moment to remember that they're still talking about this. "It's just an exaggeration. Of course she can tell you're afraid of her. It's obvious in your body language, in the way you hold her. You're all stiff and choppy." He reaches across the space between them and pushes his knuckles against Enjolras's arm, rocking him back. "Who's going to be happy about being cradled by a statue?"
Grantaire takes Gina back into the bedroom before Enjolras can respond. Enjolras finishes cleaning up the bottles and beer-soaked lime wedges. Fifteen minutes later, when the counters are clean and the dishes soaking in hot water in the sink, and Grantaire still hasn't come out, Enjolras goes looking for him. He's got a lecture building up already in anticipation of finding Grantaire curled up asleep on Enjolras's bed and reluctant to relocate to the less-comfortable couch.
When he opens the door and leans his head in, Grantaire is on his bed, but he's not sleeping. His sitting on the mattress's edge in front of Gina's new crib, his elbows on his knees. Gina's asleep, the fuzzy purple blanket clutched against one cheek and her lips moving in her sleeping, smacking against each other and blowing bubbles.
Enjolras moves without thought, coming forward to sit on the bed's edge beside Grantaire. "Christ," he breathes. "How is it possible for so much cuteness to bottled up in such a small package?"
"I was just wondering the same thing," Grantaire murmurs without looking away from her.
They're shoulder to shoulder, sitting in silence in darkness illuminated only by the pink ladybug night light that Grantaire brought home. He'd grinned when Enjolras had walked into his bedroom earlier, seen it glowing happily in the outlet next to the crib, and grimaced before he could help himself.
Grantaire's hands are resting lightly on his knees, palms up, and at some point during their silent admiration of Gina, the one on his right has slid down the curve of his thigh to rest against the small gap of space between him and Enjolras. The backs of his knuckles brush Enjolras's thigh, a slight pressure. Enjolras stares at it, fighting the sudden knot in his throat, then forces his gaze back to Gina. She's adorable, and she's his, at least until he's able to figure out who she really belongs to. It's an incredible responsibility, and the obvious source of the mild panic that's closing up his throat. Anyone facing raising a child alone while simultaneously holding down a full time job and organizing a group like Les Amis would be foolish not to be intimidated by the task ahead of them.
Grantaire turns his hand over. The brush of his knuckles against Enjolras's thigh makes him catch his breath, but when Grantaire lays his hand on Enjolras's knee and squeezes, it all rushes out of him. "She'll be okay," he murmurs, and when Enjolras turns and finds Grantaire's gaze on him rather than the baby, he's not even surprised. Grantaire looks at him like he thinks he can make Enjolras believe it, if only he's sincere enough. "You care. That matters. The rest will sort itself out."
Enjolras gives a sharp, humorless laugh and shakes his head. "She's been sleeping in a car carrier for a week," he says.
Grantaire just keeps watching him, brows raised, like he's waiting for the punchline. When he realizes it's already been delivered, he shakes his head. His fingers squeeze around Enjolras's knee, and Enjolras's heart trips against his ribs. "It matters," he says again. And then he grins and tips his head, and the solemn mood is broken. "Besides, you've got me to smack you upside the head when you forget about the really disgustingly obvious things like a crib or a place to put her clothes. It's a match made in heaven."
Enjolras has to get up and leave, then, because the weight of Grantaire's hand on his leg is just a little too heavy, and the brightness in his voice is just a little too forced. He leaves the bedroom and locks himself in the bathroom to brush his teeth until his hands have steadied, and then he gets an extra set of sheets from the linen closet and makes the couch up into a serviceable bed. When he returns to the bedroom to get the spare pillow and tell Grantaire that the couch is ready for him, he freezes in the doorway.
Grantaire has tipped over onto his side, at some point, his face still oriented toward Gina's crib. He's still fully dressed, but he's fast asleep, his mouth slack and open and a thin trail of drool working down towards Enjolras's newly-washed sheets.
Enjolras stares at him for a moment, something complicated twisting sharp and painful beneath his breastbone. He comes around the bed, grips Grantaire's bony shoulder, and gives him a shake. "R," he sighs. "R, come on, I made the couch up for you."
Grantaire doesn't rouse, he doesn't even move. He flops beneath Enjolras's hand like a rag-doll, and when Enjolras releases him, he ends up on his back, snoring quietly up at the ceiling. Enjolras tries to wake him again, but he has never seen anyone who epitomizes the phrase sleeps like the dead more literally than Grantaire.
For a very brief moment, Enjolras considers leaving Grantaire there and taking the couch himself, but almost as soon as the thought occurs he rejects it. This is his house, his bed. He's not going to be put out of it just because Grantaire fell asleep in it.
He keeps his thoughts turned firmly away from any doubts as he pulls Grantaire's shoes off and jerks the blankets out from underneath him. When he's covered, Enjolras circles around to the other side of the bed and strips down to boxers and undershirt.
He sleeps warm and that usually means that he sleeps naked. He slides under the covers and lies stiff at the very edge of the mattress, keenly aware of the narrow strip of space between him and Grantaire. Gina's nightlight throws pink shapes across the ceiling and everything feels just a few degrees off balance. The bite of elastic at his waist and the pull of the collar of his shirt at his throat feels foreign and strange, and the emptiness gaping at his side makes his skin itch because it's wrong. Grantaire is on Enjolras's side of the bed, and habit makes Enjolras yearn to roll over onto his stomach and cast his leg down over the side, but he can't, because the edge of the bed is on the wrong side and this is all wrong.
He should just get up. He should swallow his pride, get up, and go sleep on the couch, where at least it'll make sense when it's difficult to get to sleep. Lying here, it's impossible. He stares up at the ceiling overhead, flat and featureless. It's ridiculous to sleep on the couch in his own home, but it's no less ridiculous to lie awake and unable to sleep in his own bed because things aren't the way he's used to them being. He can give Grantaire a stern lecture in the morning about good manners when imposing upon someone else's hospitality.
He's just bracing his elbows beneath him to get up and leave when Grantaire mumbles something unintelligible in his sleep, rolls over, and throws an arm and a leg over Enjolras and pins him own. Oh Jesus, Enjolras thinks in a final moment of clarity, and then his heart is racing and his pulse is sounding like a drumbeat in his own ears.
There's nothing for it, he decides. He's just going to have to resign himself to a night without sleep. It won't be his first, nor his last, and at least it's a more bearable reason to be kept up than the screams of an unhappy baby.
Enjolras has only just barely managed to get to sleep a few minutes before, but the poleaxed expression on Grantaire's face is enough to have him chuckling, rather than snarling. "What the seven hells is that?" Grantaire demands, staring at Enjolras with an open plea writ across his face. His voice is wild, bewildered.
"Three guesses," Enjolras says as he swings his legs over the side of the bed and feels blindly for his slippers. "And the first two don't count."
There is, he must admit, something nice about having the crib in here, about having the nightlight to illuminate the hazards in his way as he comes around the bed. It's so much easier to just be able to reach in and scoop Gina up, than to have to fumble in the dark with sleep-clumsy fingers to release her from her car carrier. He presses her in against his chest and whispers, "Shhhhhh," against her ear, because he doesn't have a white noise machine but everything he's been able to read online says that shushing and ambient noise work wonders for soothing fussy babies. When he turns to see what space Grantaire has left him on which to sit with her, he realizes that Grantaire is still gaping at him, still dazed. Gina's cries pause long enough for her to fill her lungs, and then start up again, and Grantaire flinches.
"Christ," he mutters. "Christ. This is what you've been putting up with for the past week?"
Enjolras raises a brow at him and gives his answer the response it deserves, which is none at all.
Grantaire moans and buries his face in his hands. "Oh my God. I take back everything I said about you to Bahorel. You're a saint. I think this is a violation of the Geneva Convention."
"We're not military prisoners," Enjolras says, dry. "And this isn't a war." Grantaire does look shellshocked, though. It's almost a relief. Grantaire always seemed to know exactly what Gina needed. Enjolras was starting to get a complex. "What did you say about me to Bahorel?"
"What?" Grantaire drops his hands and grimaces comically. "Nothing. Only good things, I promise. Your baby's crying, Enjolras, shouldn't you see to her?"
Enjolras gives him a sympathetic pat on the knee, because he may be amused by Grantaire's distress but he's not a monster, and carries Gina out to the kitchen to heat up a bottle. She clings to his shirt, tiny little fingers grabbing on tight, and cries and cries. Enjolras bounces her lightly and hums a half-remembered tune to her while the microwave whirrs behind them. It's some nonsense song from the playground at elementary school, and he can't recall most of the words, but the tune's familiar enough. It's probably his imagination, but the ferocity of Gina's cries seem to lessen when he starts humming to her. He wipes away the tears that cling to her lashes and kisses the middle of her brow, where her skin is drawn up into deep furrows and flushed red from all the crying. "There now," he says in an undertone, low enough to carry over the sound of the microwave, but only just. "Isn't that better?"
Gina hiccups and blinks at him, then starts crying again. It still feels like progress.
She quiets while she's drinking from the bottle, but as soon as its empty, she starts crying again, a different, more urgent sort of cry that Enjolras is starting to understand means she's uncomfortable because of gas and needs to be burped. He leans back against the headboard and pats her back, hard like Grantaire taught him.
Beside him, Grantaire moans piteously and covers his head with Enjolras's pillow.
"She's going to be up again in three hours," Enjolras reminds him.
"Oh my God," Grantaire whimpers into the pillow. "I'm an artist. I'm self-employed. I'm not designed for these sorts of hours."
"You could have slept on the couch," Enjolras points out. And that shuts Grantaire right up.
"I'm falling down on the job," Grantaire mumbles, his words obscured by the pillow that's still covering half of his mouth. "I'm a terrible babysitter."
"Well, you get what you pay for," Enjolras says lightly. "Go back to sleep. You're much better at your job during the daylight hours."
"Bless you," Grantaire says with feeling, and rolls over to mash his face into the mattress. "Bless you and all of your livestock."
"Okay," Enjolras says with a laugh and carries Gina out to make her another bottle.
He rather expects that, after the long night of interrupted sleep, Grantaire will stumble off back home as soon as he's upright. Instead, a few hours later, he hears the shower running, and ten minutes after that Grantaire comes out in yesterday's clothes with his skin scrubbed pink and his hair dripping. He's blinking too fast to be anything like alert, but he doesn't say anything about leaving, he just drops onto a stool by the counter, leans his head on his ams, and moans, "Coffee."
Enjolras slides a cup of it over to him, then grabs the sugar bowl from the other side of the kitchen and the carton of milk from the fridge, in case he wants it. But when he turns back with them, Grantaire's got the cup upended and is already drinking it. Enjolras watches him guzzle it, startled and bemused. When Grantaire sets the cup down and comes up for air, it's empty.
"Another?" Enjolras asks, fighting the grin that's threatening.
This time, Grantaire stops long enough to add sugar and milk both, and he spends a moment with his head bent over the mug, inhaling the steam rising off the coffee's surface before he tastes it. He drinks the second cup at a much more reasonable pace, and when that's empty, waves off Enjolras's offer of a third.
Enjolras expects that the excuses and the leaving will happen then, now that he's awake and dressed and caffeinated. But Grantaire still seems content to linger at the counter, kicking his heels against the rungs of his stool. When Gina wakes and starts crying, Grantaire holds up a hand before Enjolras can even make a move toward the bedroom.
"My turn," he says. "It's daylight, that means I'm on the clock." He slips off the stool and disappears down the hall before Enjolras can even voice a protest.
He comes out with Gina in one arm, sitting upright against his shoulder and looking just as startled to see Grantaire here as Enjolras is. When he sits her on the counter's edge, resumes his seat on the stool, and starts playing patty-cake with her, Enjolras leaves them to it and starts pulling eggs out of the fridge.
It only takes a minute before Grantaire has joined him in the kitchen, Gina propped on one hip while he leans over Enjolras's shoulder and peers into his mixing bowl. "That smells good. What are you making?"
"Pancakes," Enjolras says, gruff because he knows Grantaire is going to be pleased.
Grantaire does not disappoint. "Pancakes," he breathes, as though Enjolras had told him he was giving him the secret to eternal life, not making him breakfast. "You're making them from scratch, aren't you? Not even using Bisquick? Oh my God, I'm staying over every night."
Enjolras pauses as he's whisking the milk and eggs and vanilla together and twists to stare at Grantaire over his shoulder. Grantaire glances at him briefly before his gaze goes back to the mixing bowl, but then he does a double take and cringes back. "That's a joke, obviously," he says, his voice going harsh and abrasive, his shoulders drawing up. "Christ, Apollo, what--"
"You make your pancakes with Bisquick?" Enjolras can't keep the horror or judgment out of his voice.
The tension in Grantaire's shoulders eases and he gives a sharp sigh. "Oh. That." He rolls his eyes. "Not everything processed or pre-packaged is the devil, you know. Bisquick makes perfectly decent pancakes."
"Perfectly decent is a pretty low standard, R." Enjolras starts whisking the dry goods into the wet. "You should eat better."
Grantaire leans in past Enjolras again and sniffs the bowl. There's a lot of vanilla, and it makes the whole kitchen smell like warm, good things. "You wanna cook," he says, his voice full of awe, "and I'll eat anything you put in front of me. How do you make pancake batter smell so good? God."
"Because it's real," Enjolras says dryly. "And allow me to rephrase. You should feed yourself better." He drops butter onto the skillet and swirls it around to coat the surface.
"I'm a product of my generation, what can I say." Grantaire isn't even paying attention to Enjolras. He's staring at the sizzling butter and looking like he might start salivating right on Enjolras's shoulder. "I like greasy fatty sugary fried foods that are terrible for me."
"That's biological imperative, and a holdover from our days as hunter-gatherers, when we craved sugar and fat because they were high-caloric foods that would help us build fat stores and get us through the lean times." Enjolras starts scooping batter into the pan. The butter sizzles and sputters around the edges of the pancakes, and every breath brings to him delicious smells. "You are not a slave to your instincts, fortunately. You can choose to ignore your biological imperatives and make healthy choices for yourself."
"Says the man cooking pancakes in a lake of butter," Grantaire says. Before Enjolras can retort, he's turned his attention back to Gina, holding her up so they're at eye level and he can give her a mournful look. "Your papa is going to have you eating spinach and wheatgrass and all that healthy bullshit and never knowing the bliss that is buttercream frosting or a nice gelato on a hot day, isn't he, Little G? Never you worry, Uncle R is going to make sure to sneak you cookies and pancakes and potato chips and all that good stuff when Apollo isn't paying attention, just to make sure you don't grow up deprived."
"Grantaire," Enjolras sighs.
"What? It's a babysitter's prerogative."
"Babysitters can be fired," Enjolras points out.
"Hah." Grantaire lifts Gina up and blows raspberries on her stomach. She shrieks once, and then starts giving great, deep belly laughs that Enjolras can't help but smile at. "Just you try and keep me away."
"Fine, but you're paying for her dentist," Enjolras says before he realizes the assumption -- assumptions -- implicit in that statement, first and foremost that Gina will still be living with him by the time she's old enough for her teeth to come in and a dentist to be a necessity. He freezes with the spatula in his hand, his face flushing hot with mortification. Not just for the assumption, but because the realization that that's not what he should want for her fills him with nothing so much as dread. Gina is wholly reliant upon him to have her best interests at heart, and all he can think, when he considers continuing the search for her family, is how much he doesn't want to have to say goodbye to her.
Grantaire, much to Enjolras's relief, doesn't seemed to have noticed the mood that has suddenly stricken him. He boosts himself up onto the counter, sits Gina on his knee, and asks with narrowed, dubious eyes, "You do have syrup, right? You aren't going cook the most fabulous pancakes I've ever smelled in my life and then force me to eat them dry, are you?"
"I have real maple syrup," Enjolras says archly, grateful for the reprieve from his sudden dread. "And you're welcome to it, but if you expect me to have any of that imitation crap to slather over it, then you'll be sorely disappointed."
"Purist," Grantaire says with a laugh, like it's done kind of insult. "Fine, fine, I'll make do with your fancy genuine maple syrup. It probably costs an arm and a leg, too, doesn't it?"
Enjolras doesn't answer, because the truth is that the stuff he buys is pricey, but he's never been one to pinch pennies when it comes to these sorts of things. He believes in paying for quality, and getting what you pay for. Grantaire will just laugh at him if he says that, though. Or worse, mock and deride.
Some of it must be written on his face, though, despite himself, because Grantaire takes one look at it and then he does laugh, just as Enjolras knew he would. "Well, more power to you, then, I suppose, with your fancy lawyer's salary. Us starving artists, we get to either make do with the crappy stuff or do without."
There's a sudden note of strain to Grantaire's voice that makes Enjolras give him a sharp glance, wondering if they're talking about something more than just pancakes and syrup now. He wants to ask, wants to do or say something to make that hunted expression on Grantaire's face disappear forever. It's a delicate question, though, and before he can figure out how to phrase it, Grantaire washes it over with his usual sharp, biting smile. "Don't burn my pancakes, Apollo. I've worked up quite an appetite, sitting here being absolutely no use to you whatsoever."
Enjolras turns hurriedly back to the pan and flips the pancakes over. They aren't burned yet, not even close. They're perfect, actually, golden brown and steaming, but if Enjolras had let the conversation distract him like he'd been about to, they would have been.
In a few minutes, the pancakes are done and steaming on a plate. Enjolras divides them between the two of them while the next batch starts cooking, and they sit facing each other across the counter as they eat.
Enjolras gets the maple syrup out for Grantaire, and watches with thinly-veiled bemusement while he proceeds to drown his pancakes in it. When he offers the bottle back to Enjolras, he shakes his head. "I'm a powdered-sugar-and-lemon guy, myself."
"Really." Grantaire leans forward and watches as though fascinated while Enjolras takes his first bite and tries to pretend Grantaire's attention doesn't make his skin itch. "That's a new one to me."
When Enjolras has eaten half of his stack of pancakes, Grantaire darts forward with his fork and snags a bite that he's just cut for himself. Enjolras raps him on the knuckles with the back of his own fork, but Grantaire just grins at him, unrepentant, and sticks the bite into his mouth like it's a challenge.
A moment later, the challenge is forgotten because Grantaire's eyes are rolling back in his head and he's moaning in an absolutely obscene fashion. "Oh my God, where have you been all my life. That is so much better than syrup." He pushes his plate away and pulls Enjolras's into the center of the bar between them.
Enjolras pokes Grantaire's hand with the tines of his fork, then relents and shares now that that token protest has been made. They clear the plate between them in moments, just in time for the next batch to finish.
This time, Enjolras doesn't bother dividing it between their plates. He piles them all up on his own, squeezes lemon juice over them and dusts them with powdered sugar, then sets the plate back between them again and they both dig in. Grantaire eats faster and ends up getting more than Enjolras, but that's no less than he expects. Between the sleepless night and the unpaid babysitting, Enjolras figures he's more than earned the larger portion.
When they've both finished, Grantaire is groaning and clutching his stomach, cursing Enjolras because apparently it was his irresistible cooking that forced Grantaire to overeat. Enjolras is unapologetic and Grantaire takes Gina over to the couch to pretend to sulk. Enjolras watches him from the kitchen as he cleans up and wonders if, now that he's eaten, he'll make his excuses and head on home.
He doesn't, though. He stays and makes it seem easy, natural, like he hasn't noticed that he's been here nearly twenty-four hours straight or that he's got an apartment of his own he could go spend his Sunday in, and probably much more comfortably than here in Enjolras's home.
Enjolras thinks he ought to shoo Grantaire off, for his own sake. He thinks it's what a friend would do, but every time he gears up to say something, Gina will start whimpering and Grantaire will whisk her away to change her diaper like he's a pro at it, or she'll doze off in his arms and Enjolras will turn away with a lump in his throat and his words unspoken, because she looks so peaceful and Grantaire looks so happy to have her there, and Enjolras can't bring himself to upset either of them.
It's selfishness, though, at the root of it. Having Grantaire there to help makes everything easy, and after the nightmare of the past week, Enjolras is reluctant to give that up. An extra pair of hands to pick up the slack feels like a blessing, so Enjolras doesn't say anything to hurry Grantaire on his way, just quietly makes enough lunch for two, sets a beer down next to Grantaire's plate to sweeten the pot, and then eats his meal in silence spent trying to judge the odds that he can get Grantaire to stay past dinner.
He's not above plying Grantaire with home-cooked food to make it happen, either. All it takes is an offhand mention that he's got the stuff to make spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread and suddenly Grantaire's looking avid and hungry, and coming up with an excuse to go wake Gina from her nap so he can play another round of peek-a-boo with her.
For the first time in a week, Enjolras feels comfortable and in control in his own home, with meat sauce bubbling on the stove and Grantaire and Gina making each other laugh on the living room floor. He feels happy, and it's s sensation that he wants to cling to, even as he knows it won't last.
After dinner, at last, Grantaire rises with a groan to stretch out his back and give Enjolras's door a forlorn look. "I'd better head off and let you two salvage what remains of your weekend," he says. "Sorry to have stolen it all." He leans down over Gina while Enjolras is still trying to master the urge to tell him that it was the best weekend he's had in a long while. Grantaire kisses the crown of Gina's head noisily and gives her one last squeeze. "For the road," he says, and then shoves his hands in his pockets and stares at an inconspicuous bit of floor between him and Enjolras. "Thanks for all the food," he says.
Enjolras lets a hint of a smile pull at the corners of his mouth. "Thanks for all the help."
Grantaire shrugs with one shoulder and then bustles out before Enjolras can say anything else, which is just as well.
When he's gone, Enjolras drops onto the couch with Gina and props her on his knee, facing him. "Well, kid," he says. "Looks like it's just you and me."
He thinks maybe he ought to be overwhelmed by that idea. God knows, every other time it's been just the two of them, he has been. But for once, Gina's in his arms and not crying, and though Grantaire may have left, his presence is still there, written in the new dresser in the living and the new toys scattered across Enjolras's carpet, even in the onesie Gina's wearing that's got monsters in primary colors all over it because Grantaire said there was no way in hell that any kid under his care was going to be indoctrinated into the cult of society's gender norms.
Grantaire feels like a shade, still haunting the apartment even after he's gone, and Enjolras smiles as he tucks Gina in against his arm, kicks his feet up onto the coffee table, and turns on the TV to see if he can find something for them both to watch.
It feels comforting, reassuring, to have Grantaire's presence still lingering here. Like maybe Enjolras isn't entirely on his own, even when it's just the two of them in his apartment. It's nice, he thinks, and rescues a teething ring from between the couch cushions. Gina coos happily and starts sucking on it, and it's pretty much the first time since she came into his life that he hasn't felt like a complete and utter failure.
He only makes it out the door fifteen minutes later than he should have, and he spends the train ride to Grantaire's stop bouncing Gina on his knee. There's a sense of panic trying to grow within him, the usual stress over timeliness and all the work that still needs to be done today and all his responsibilities at the office, but it's hard to keep hold of them when Gina's there, hiccuping around the fist she stuffed into her mouth.
He punches in the code for Grantaire's building with Gina on his hip, then climbs the stairs to Grantaire's door and fishes the key out from under the mat. Remembering last time, and Grantaire's wild panic -- and the baseball bat he nearly swung at their heads -- Enjolras drops everything in the living room and carries Gina straight back to the bedroom.
The neon-green glow of Grantaire's alarm clock casts just enough light to see by as Enjolras picks his way across the floor to the bed. Grantaire snuffles against his pillow and begins to stir, mumbling, "Wha--?" just as Enjolras murmurs, "Someone's here to see you," and lays Gina next to him on the bed.
Grantaire rolls his head on the pillow, squinting up at Enjolras with one eye through wild curls. When he sees Gina, though, the groggy surliness disappears and a brilliant, sleepy smile breaks across his face. "Oh, hello gorgeous," he says, and pulls Gina in to press his face to her belly. She laughs and grabs on to handfuls of his sleep-tousled hair. "We're just going to sleep here a little while longer, what do you think about that?"
Enjolras leaves them to it and returns to the kitchen to finish getting ready. He starts coffee brewing in Grantaire's coffee pot because it seems the least he can do, and the only sort of repayment Grantaire will even consider accepting, and by the time it's just finishing brewing Grantaire comes stumbling out of his bedroom with Gina.
He still looks more asleep than awake, his eyes heavy-lidded and his steps shuffling. His hair is a wild tangle that looks like he dragged his hand through it to try to tame it, but that only made it worse, and he still has creases from his pillow pressed into his cheek. With Gina tucked in his arm and a sleepy smile on his face, he makes all too endearing a picture. Enjolras turns away and crouches down to rifle through his briefcase and triple check that he has everything he'll need for the day. "I'm going to leave early tonight," he says into the depths of the briefcase as he searches for the Pearson file. "So I can get back here in time to pick her up before the meeting. So don't come out swinging if you hear me come through the door a little earlier than you expected."
"What? No, don't," Grantaire says quickly, like Enjolras has startled him. Enjolras glances back at him over his shoulder and raises a brow. "There's no need to put yourself out. I'll bring her, and we can hand her off at the Musain." Then he falters and uncertainty flickers briefly across his expression. "I mean... Unless you wanted to? We could ride the train in together."
Enjolras lets out a breath and shakes his head. "No, you're right," he says, feeling stupid, and that makes him feel irritated. "I don't know what I was thinking, that's much more efficient. I'll see you both at the Musain, then." He zips the briefcase up, straightens, and smiles at them both. "Don't get into too much trouble today."
"I won't," Grantaire answers glibly. And then, with a wink, "Oh, you meant the baby, didn't you?" And sends Enjolras off to work smiling for the first time in longer than he can recall.
As before, it's Grantaire who notices him first, catching Enjolras's eye over Joly's head. "All right, playtime's over," he says. "Dad's home."
When the others groan and protest that they haven't gotten their turn with her yet or that it hasn't been long enough or that surely changing the world could wait just a few more minutes, Grantaire pulls Gina back against his chest and makes as though to fend the others off with an outstretched arm. "Back, you savages," he cries, laughing, and Gina grabs onto his arm and laughs, too.
Her laughter sounds like warmth and light and all the good things in the world, and it makes Enjolras drop his bags onto his table at the front a little too hard, the impact a little too loud. "I'm early," he says, a frown creasing up the skin between his brows. "You don't have to stop on my account."
That, it seems, is the cue for everyone to gravitate back to Grantaire and Gina, clamoring again for their turns. Grantaire laughs like he's delighted, and Gina seems to bask in the attention. Enjolras can't even find it in himself to sigh over the fact that, once again, she seems happiest around everybody in the world but him. It's too nice just to see her happy at all.
He keeps to the front of the room, organizing his papers and letting the others have their chance with her. The sound of Gina's giggles and Grantaire's voice, rising over the others as he tells stories about the things they get up to during the day while Enjolras is stuck behind his desk at work, rises over the rest of the hubbub and makes Enjolras smile to himself as he readies for the meeting, even as the thought of all those fun times that he missed out on makes him wistful. It's no wonder that Gina doesn't care for him, when the only time they get to spend together is those rough middle-of-the-night feedings that he doubts either of them enjoy.
As the clock nears the top of the hour, everyone moves to their own seats on their own, leaving only Grantaire and Gina in the back together. Grantaire's got a pencil out and what looks to be a sketch half-finished on the table before him, but he's letting Gina chew on the pencil's end and watches Enjolras, instead, with an expression that Enjolras can't make sense of. It seems to turn hard and brittle around the edges, though, when Enjolras catches him at it, so he pulls his shoulders back and addresses the Amis as a whole.
Even as he speaks, half his attention on the men in front of him and half on the agenda he's got laid out on the table, there's a part of him that's held back, focused on Gina and waiting for her to get hungry or gassy or just fussy and start crying. But she never makes a peep, and Enjolras might attribute that to Grantaire's preternatural skills with children, except that halfway through the meeting Joly slides over into the empty seat at his table and gives him an expectant look, and Grantaire hands her over without a word.
She makes the rounds throughout the room after that, from one lap to another, and Enjolras would protest if she were causing a disturbance, or if the constant change of hands seemed to be upsetting her. But she seems to love every one of the Amis just as much as they all adore her, and every one of them remains attentive throughout the meeting. Whatever his faults may be, Enjolras knows better than to mess with a good thing, so he just holds his tongue and keeps his eye on her, and marvels at the minor miracle that they all seem to be witness to tonight.
Somehow, after the meeting ends and all the rest of the Amis make their farewells and go on their way, it's once again just Enjolras and Grantaire left behind. Enjolras more than half expects Grantaire to hand Gina over, along with his responsibilities, and take his leave. But Grantaire lingers, talking about nothing in particular, and when they exhaust even that, talking about nothing at all, just giving Gina a knuckle to chew on and fussing with the fit of her onesie.
"I think she's bigger just since Saturday," he's saying as Enjolras stuffs files and papers back into his briefcase. "She's growing like a weed. I made sure to buy a size up, but these still won't fit her for very long."
Enjolras hesitates, a stack of manila folders in his hands, and watches Grantaire closely. He's solemn-faced and not looking at Enjolras, and he's holding Gina close like he's afraid maybe he'll lose her if his grasp isn't tight enough. He looks like he doesn't want to give her up, and he's just waiting in dread for the moment that Enjolras holds his arms out and takes her back.
But no, that's a ridiculous thought. Enjolras casts it off with a quick shake of his head. Grantaire gets her all day long, after all. More likely he's probably just antsy, waiting for Enjolras to take her back so he can be off the clock, but not wanting to seem unwilling. Enjolras hurries finishing packing the last of his things, then circles around the tables to the back of the room to get Gina's bag, so Grantaire doesn't have to do it.
Grantaire watches him return with a tightness at the corners of his mouth that Enjolras can't interpret. "How's the search for her family going?" he asks when Enjolras nears, and stops him in his tracks.
His heart pounds, two quick, painful beats before he squares his shoulders and admits, "It's not, really." He can't help but sigh and scrub a hand over his brow. "I keep meaning to work on it, but we're short-handed at work and I'm swamped. And then I get home and there's so much to do, there's so much that Gina needs done... I'm lucky if I manage to make it to bed instead of just passing out on the couch between one blink and the next."
Grantaire is staring at him, his face twisted up in a way that makes Enjolras's gut twist. It looks like scorn, like condemnation for all the ways that Enjolras is failing Gina. Grantaire could probably do a better job with one hand tied behind his back, it's true, and Enjolras sighs and braces himself for Grantaire's scathing retort.
When Grantaire does speak, his words are just as sharp as Enjolras expects, but what he says is, "Jesus Christ. I know I call you Apollo, but you're not actually a god, you know that, right?" He folds his arms across his chest and raises one brow in a pointed look that makes Enjolras feel pinned where he stands. "You're allowed to not be able to do everything, you know."
He's being kind, and Enjolras should be grateful. But his words just twist the knife harder, and Enjolras shakes his head fiercely. "No, that's unacceptable. She needs me, Grantaire. She's relying on me entirely. I have to come through for her, I have to. I don't have a choice. You can't just act like it's no big deal if I drop the ball, because if I do, then she's the one who suffers for it. And I can't have that. I can't do that to her."
Grantaire's expression twists again, leaves him looking thoughtful and strange. He looks at Enjolras like he's a puzzle that Grantaire just can't figure out. Enjolras steels himself for an argument, because that's how their conversations always seem to go, especially when Grantaire's got that belligerent look about him. But all Grantaire does is hand Gina over and abruptly declare, "All right, well, I'm out. See you at obscene o'clock."
Enjolras stares after him, long after the door has swung shut behind him. There was something off about Grantaire tonight and it itches at him, makes him want to pull out his phone and text Grantaire and demand to know what's wrong until Grantaire relents and confesses.
That's just self-indulgence talking, though. He has more than enough on his plate already, without adding responsibility for deciphering Grantaire's moods to it, too.
"Come on, Gina," he says, hefting her up against his shoulder so she can look back on everywhere they've been. Maybe, if the trains are on time and he's lucky again, he'll be able to get home early enough to squeeze in a few searches for Gina's family, before exhaustion or Gina's appetite interrupts him.
She's just starting to fuss when he climbs out again, so he scoops her up with the two toys she's holding on to -- a fluorescent orange stuffed elephant and a crimson blanket she likes to bury her face in and rub her cheeks against -- and carries her out to make a bottle of formula.
He's gulping down toast while feeding her her bottle when his phone buzzes, rattling loudly against the countertop. He pulls it over and leans forward to see what the alert was. It's just an email, spam from the looks of it, but there's also a notification of a text from Grantaire that must have come in during the middle of the night.
Enjolras shoves the piece of toast into his mouth and adjusts the angle of the bottle so Gina's not sucking down air, then unlocks the phone to see what Grantaire had to say that was so pressing it couldn't have waited until the morning.
He's not expecting much. Grantaire's never been the sort to hold himself in check when there's a thought pushing at him for freedom. Enjolras would chalk it up to his self-employment and the strange hours he keeps, but truth be told, he's been like this since they knew each other at uni. So he's expecting some random thought or anecdote or joke when he opens the message, but what he gets is one brusque line that says only, Don't come over in the morning.
His good mood vanishes like fog beneath the heat of the morning sun. He sits there stunned, half a piece of toast hanging out of his mouth, trying not to hold on to Gina too hard and failing because she's starting to fuss and whimper in his arms.
He feels cold. He feels like he's just been slapped in the face, like all the good things that he and Grantaire and Gina have had going between the three of them have suddenly been rendered worthless. A part of him whispers, Why, why, why?, and he itches to snatch up the phone and demand to know, or to spend his morning sitting there, running through every interaction they had the day before to try to identify where things went wrong, where he screwed up and made Grantaire decide that watching Gina was more trouble than it was worth. Had she been too much for him to handle by himself on the train? Did this have something to do with their conversation at the end of the night, when Grantaire had suddenly seemed so angry, and told him he wasn't a god, like he honestly thought Enjolras believed he was? Had he done something--
He forces himself off that train of thought with a quick shake of his head. Gina has just about finished her bottle and is starting to squirm in the way that means she's gassy and will start crying over it in a moment.
He carries her across the room and settles down with her in front of his laptop. He starts up an internet search one-handed while he burps Gina, and firmly sets from his mind the fact that it was Grantaire who taught him how to do this effectively, with heavy, forceful beats against her back.
He knows how to do this, though. He knows how to let the mantle of responsibility settle over him and strip away all thoughts but those that are necessary. He has a problem before him with a finite solution -- find daycare for Gina -- and it sharpens his focus like a laser.
He's already emailed work to let them know he'll be in late and is halfway through the highest-rated daycare services on Yelp in the area before the hour's even over. He's not having any luck, though -- of course, all the best-rated daycare services are in high demand, and booked solid, and many with a waiting list a mile long as well. Still, that only makes him more determined, more resolved. All problems have a solution. There's someone out there who will be the perfect match for them and who is looking for a new client. It's just a matter of doing the legwork until he finds them.
He picks up the phone and pins it between his shoulder and ear to call the next number when a knock at the door interrupts him. Gina jumps at the sudden noise of it, her face screwing up like she can't decide whether it's worth crying over or not.
When the knock comes again, she twists her face up in a disgruntled expression. Enjolras bites off an oath and carries her over to answer it, because sending whoever it is on their way is going to take less time than soothing Gina is, if she gets worked up into a state over it.
He jerks the door open without bothering with the peephole, a polite "We're not interested" already poised on the tip of his tongue for whatever overeager salesperson is standing on the other side. But the words die unspoken, silenced by the force of his surprise at the sight of Grantaire standing there in his hallway, a heavy-looking messenger bag dragging at his shoulder, slippers on his feet, and an enormous thermos clutched in one hand like it's the secret to eternal life. "Are you going to let me in, Apollo?" he asks, lifting his brows. "Or am I just going to have to sleep on your doorstep like a hobo?"
"What are you doing here?" Enjolras demands warily, his brows pulled down and caution already in his thoughts, tempering the sudden spike of relief that went through him at the sight of Grantaire.
"Babysitter extraordinaire, reporting for duty," he says with a salute and shoulders past Enjolras to dump his things unceremoniously on the counter. "Don't look so surprised, didn't you get my text?"
"The one saying don't come? That one?" Enjolras is furious with a swiftness that surprises even himself. He wants to snatch the scarf off of Grantaire's throat and strangle him with it. "I've already lost half the morning to trying to find a replacement because I thought you'd quit."
Grantaire raises his brows at Enjolras as he comes and plucks Gina out of his arms. "I didn't say I was quitting, did I?" He carries her over to the couch and drops down with her, head lolling back against the cushion, eyes already heavy-lidded.
"You could have been clear." Enjolras stands over him, hands balled into fists. His heart is thumping like it has been all morning, ever since he read Grantaire's text. At least there a source for it now, a reason. Before it had just been panic, pumping wildly through his veins. Now Grantaire is here, and with a source to vent it upon, Enjolras's fear transforms swiftly to white-knuckled fury. "You could have maybe been a little less thoughtless."
That gets Grantaire to open his eyes, though he only cracks them. "Yeah, sorry," he says, droll. "Terribly thoughtless of me, carting my ass all the way across town to watch your kid for free. I'm a right bastard, aren't I?"
"You didn't even tell me! Christ, what was I supposed to think?"
"I don't know, Apollo," Grantaire says in the soft tone that he only ever uses when he's absolutely livid. "Maybe something other than the worst?"
Enjolras snapped his mouth shut on a retort. Reason said that Grantaire was right, that there was no point in all this anger when everything has worked out fine in the end. But the anger remains all the same, gnawing at him. After another frozen moment staring at him, warring with himself, Enjolras turns on a heel, grabs up his briefcase, and leaves. The only sure way to keep his temper from lashing out inappropriately is to just not be there in the first place.
As he turns back in the hall to lock the door, though, he catches just a flash of Grantaire's gaze on him before the door swings shut. It's sharp with indignation and unhappiness, and that look follows him all the way in to work, and throughout his day.
He lets himself into the apartment, and enters to the sound of Gina and Grantaire both laughing together, great, deep belly laughs like whatever's just happened is the funniest damn thing in the world. It makes Enjolras smile as he sets down his briefcase.
Grantaire's on the couch with Gina, holding her on his chest with one arm across her middle as he tickles her mercilessly, and she's shrieking and laughing and kicking her heels against his stomach. Her face is red and her hands balled into pink fists and Grantaire stops when he sees Enjolras standing there watching them, but she keeps going, laughing and gulping in air and laughing some more.
"Hi," Enjolras says, and has to turn away because otherwise he's going to just stand there all night beaming helplessly at both of them.
Grantaire doesn't respond right away, and when he does, it's with just a curt, "Hey." And that kills the smile fighting to spread across Enjolras's face faster than just about anything.
He presses his palms to the cool granite countertop as Grantaire shifts and moves around with Gina behind him. He risks a glance over his shoulder, once he's certain he's mastered his expression, but Grantaire is looking down at the floor as he picks his way through a minefield of scattered toys. He looks unhappy, though, lines bracketing his mouth that Enjolras is only used to seeing there when they've been debating something at the Musain too well and too long.
It doesn't take a genius to guess that he's still unhappy about that morning. Enjolras's instinct is to press the issue, to square off with Grantaire and argue his case until he's made him understand the reason for his temper, and his distress. The fire to argue burns in him and the words are ready on his tongue -- but Enjolras pulls them back and keeps his silence, even though it makes his chest ache with the strain of repressing it. Because Grantaire will argue back, to a point, but when he's like this, when he's truly upset, he's just as liable to snap and storm away.
Usually they're at the Musain when they get like this, and that involves Grantaire retreating to his table in the back and shutting up, burying himself in his sketchbooks and sparing only dour glares for the rest of them until the meeting is over, and no matter how bad it gets he always shows up for the next one.
But this... this is not the Musain, and Enjolras is painfully aware that if he pushes Grantaire past his breaking point, he might do worse than leave. He might decide that this babysitting gig isn't worth the effort and quit, and then... Enjolras doesn't know what he'd do, if Grantaire did that. Just the thought of it sends him into the same panicked spiral that it had that morning.
"I stopped for takeout on the way home," he says instead, his back still turned. It's an effort to keep his voice light, but he does it anyway, because it's important. "Indian. Chicken tikka and samosas. You're welcome to stay, if you'd like to. There's more than enough to share."
"Thank you," Grantaire says, sudden and startled, like Enjolras's invitation surprisd the words out of him. "I mean-- Actually." He draws a breath, and Enjolras stiffens. Even with his back turned, he knows well enough what Grantaire's doing. Shifting his weight from foot to foot, getting it centered, drawing his spine up and his shoulders back. He's bracing himself, preparing for the conversation to come like a soldier methodically strapping on armor before battle.
"I'm sorry for this morning," Enjolras says swiftly, turning around, because the pain of losing Grantaire's help is worse than the damage it'll inflict on his pride. "I was upset. I didn't mean to snap at you." Grantaire just stands there staring at him, motionless and riveted. Like he's waiting for something. Enjolras releases all the air from his lungs in a sudden rush. "I shouldn't have snapped at you."
And those must be the magic words, because suddenly Grantaire's a living thing again, shifting his weight back onto his heels, a slight smile pulling at the corners of his mouth and folding creases at the corners of his eyes. "That's not what I was going to say," he says, droll and dry. "But thanks all the same."
There's something else? Christ. Enjolras steels himself. "Tell me," he says. "Just tell me." Whatever it is, he can make it right with Grantaire. He'll find a way. He has to. Gina needs him.
"You need me," Grantaire says like he's making a case, and Enjolras flinches back. He sees that movement reflect on Grantaire's face, watches as his brows lower and his lips pinch then. His hand lashes out, grabbing Enjolras's wrist and jerking him forward half a step. "Damn it, Apollo, just unbend enough to admit it, won't you? You need my help. It's good for Gina to have me here, and good for you to not have to cart you both halfway across the city in the wrong direction every morning, just to drop her off with me."
Enjolras snarls. There are some battles he can't win, and with Grantaire's fingers biting into his skin, the fight against his temper is one of them. "I know, all right? For God's sake, do you think I don't know I'm indebted to you? Everything you've done for us... I wish you'd just let me pay you so I could call it even, but you don't have to stand there and glare at me like I don't know how much I owe you."
Grantaire goes still again, his eyes focused and sharp on Enjolras in that way of his. A moment passes and his lips twitch again, but unlike before, there's a lot more bitter humor in his expression this time. "You would," he says, surprisingly gently. But there's still an edge to his words, a threat of danger. "Of course you'd rather just pay me off than accept the fact that I've done something for you and you might have to stop looking down on me because of it." Enjolras tries to speak, but Grantaire cuts him off with a swift wave of his hand. "Shut up. You're never going to find your way to what I actually have to say to you, so you may as well just bite your tongue and let me say it."
Enjolras does, and Grantaire's grin flashes, sudden and bright, like he's passed some test that Grantaire expected he'd fail. "Good." The brightness dies shortly after, though, and leaves him with his brows pinched and his mouth turned down into an uncertain shape. "What I was trying to say is, this is good for Gina. It's stable, and she needs that in her life right now. Dragging her onto the trains in rush hour isn't good for either of you." The corner of his mouth kicks up, but his eyes stay shadowed and reserved. "Also, we've both seen how you get when you can't figure out what she needs, and it'll just hurt the Amis if you get arrested for being a baby murderer. Plus, I rather like your hair, it would be a shame if Gina made you tear it all out."
"If I can't find my way to what you've got to say to me," Enjolras says, when Grantaire seems to have lost steam, "it's only because you're impossibly cryptic. What is this all about, Grantaire? What are you trying to say?"
"I should move in," he says, all on a rush.
Enjolras opens his mouth, then shuts it without making a sound. Grantaire was right. He would have never, ever thought that that was what Grantaire was leading up to. "Are you mad?" he manages at last.
Grantaire scoffs, a harsh, frustrated sound, and turns his face away sharply. "This isn't a joke, Apollo. You don't want me here, fine, just tell me, but you don't have to mock. I just-- Christ." He spins and grabs his bag off of the stool it's slumped on top of, slings it over his shoulder and spins for the door. "I offered for you, you know. It's no skin off my back either way."
"Grantaire," Enjolras says, and takes a single, aborted step after him before he masters himself. His heart thumps too hard within his chest, and he tells himself that it's because of Gina. Gina needs him. Gina likes him, and it's only because he's concerned for her welfare that he doesn't want to be the reason that Grantaire walks away from her.
He stops a few strides from the door but doesn't turn back, and Enjolras knows it's his move, his only opportunity to say something to keep Grantaire from walking out that door, and maybe just walking away completely.
Gina babbles obliviously from where they've left her, propped upright with her back against the front of the couch. Enjolras glances at her, at the way her gaze tracks Grantaire to where he's standing now, and he swallows down his pride, and his temper. "What about your apartment?" he asks.
Grantaire's shoulders rise on a swift breath and Enjolras has a moment to think that perhaps he said the wrong thing after all. But then he turns around and the tense set of his shoulders has relaxed, just a little. "I can sublet it until the lease is up. Or--" He hesitates, his brow furrowing, his whole expression flinching so briefly as to be almost impossible to catch. If Enjolras had blinked at the wrong time, he'd never have seen it. "Or until you guys don't need me anymore. Cosette's been looking for a place closer to her dad's anyway, she'd probably be thrilled to have me take the prospect of an apartment search off her hands."
"But what about your things?"
He lifts one shoulder, a quick shrug. "She's in a furnished apartment now, she'll need the furniture when she moves out. And the rest of it, I can box up and store what I'm not going to need very often."
"And your work? All your paints and canvases?"
Grantaire sighs and scratches a hand over the back of his neck. "I finished my latest commission last week. I haven't taken another one yet. There's time enough to figure the logistics of that out." He draws a deep breath. "Enjolras, are you saying you'll let me?"
"No," Enjolras says automatically, and when Grantaire's expression falls even as he shores it up and turns it to steel, Enjolras gives a quick shake of his head, irritated at how difficult words are being tonight. "No, it's not letting. I'm not doing you a favor. You're doing me one. And..." For Gina, he reminds himself, and that makes the rest of it easy. "Yes. All right." He hasn't had a roommate since freshman year, when they'd all been shoved in two-man dorm rooms. The prospect of having one now makes his chest feel tight with dread. It's going to be terrible.
But it's going to be good for Gina, so he breathes through it and keeps his protests to himself. "When do you-- Ah. When do you want to?"
If he's honest, a small, secret part of him is hoping that Grantaire will say "oh, not for a while yet, there's so many arrangements left to be made..." But Grantaire gives his head a quick shake, like a man coming awake from a dream. "Gina and I can go make a trip during the day tomorrow and start bringing some of the essentials over, if that works for you."
He seems to have it all sorted out in advance, which only leaves Enjolras to nod his helpless, somewhat stunned acceptance. It's for Gina, he reminds himself as his heart pounds too hard at the thought of Grantaire moving in there, of Grantaire living there, of waking up with him every morning.
He isn't entirely sure why the idea of it fills him with such a sense of panic, but he sets those feelings aside firmly. It's just for a little while. Just until he and Gina are able to reach a point of equilibrium. It was nice, earlier, to come home to them both, happy and enjoying each other. It won't be terrible.
"Okay," Grantaire says and smiles a little, crooked, like Enjolras has just agreed to something, though he hasn't said a word. "All right, then. You said you got dinner? I'd hate to be the reason we let it go cold."
It's a relief to have something else to focus on, something innocuous to talk about. Enjolras nods gratefully and starts pulling steaming, fragrant containers of food out from the paper to-go bag. Grantaire grabs plates and silverware and they sit on opposite sides of the counter to eat. Grantaire keeps Gina on his knee, one arm hooked around her middle, and occasionally offers her plain grains of rice from his fingertip, when she starts trying to reach for his chicken tikka like she's going to use the sauce for finger paint.
She eats the first few grains, her face screwed up and her expression thoughtful, but then starts spitting them back out, and they both laugh. It's nice, Enjolras thinks, and that same sense of panic rises right back up in him.
Stop that, he thinks sternly. It's not going to last. It's just while Gina needs him. Don't go acting like you could get used to this.
When they've both finished eating, Grantaire rinses the dishes and puts them in the dishwasher -- "Don't be absurd, Apollo, you bought, running the plates under water is the least I can do," he says when Enjolras tries to protest -- then takes Gina back to Enjolras's office.
"You weren't wrong about the paints being toxic," he says, standing in the doorway and looking the room over with a narrowed gaze, like he's already making plans for it. "I figure, if we can find room for my work in here, at least it'll be somewhere we can close the door and lock it away."
Enjolras offers to take Gina and leave him to it, because the thought of standing there watching Grantaire tear his carefully-ordered room apart and remake it into something else is more than his nerves can bear. But Grantaire just tightens his hold on her. "Nah, I'm gonna need her to help with the heavy lifting," he says, and then grins. "Besides, sun's still up. I'm still on the clock."
And so there's nothing left for Enjolras to do but to retreat to the living room, feeling put out in his own home. He pulls his laptop out of his work bag, for something to do, and pulls up the list he's been working on, of former clients who might be Gina's mother. But the work leaves him with a sick, twisting feeling in the center of his chest, and he's all too aware of the sounds of Gina burbling and laughing in the office.
In Grantaire's room, he reminds himself firmly, and wonders at how he ended up in this place, sharing his home with two house guests when he never expected to willingly take on another roommate again.
When enough time has passed that the sounds of banging and thuds are starting to come regularly from the office, and the spreadsheet is starting to swim before Enjolras's eyes and turn that tight, unpleasant feeling into something too much like nausea to be endured, Enjolras shuts his laptop with a snap and shoves it aside, and goes back to check in on what sort of havoc Grantaire is wreaking.
His office is a shambles. The desk has been moved into the middle of the room, trailing cords like vines, and stacked with wobbling towers of books as Grantaire heaves his weight against one of Enjolras's bookshelves, sliding it from one end of the room to the other. "Go on," Enjolras says from the doorway, wry. "Make yourself at home."
Grantaire startles, straightening from where he's leaning his shoulder against the bookshelf's end, and flashes Enjolras a quick grin. "Su casa es mi casa, right?" And then he goes back to throwing his weight against the heaven wooden shelf.
"It helps if you put cardboard underneath it," Enjolras says from the doorway. "There's less friction than the carpet." He drums his fingers against the jamb. "You are planning on leaving this space usable, right?"
Grantaire's smile flashes again, just as quick but this time with an extra edge. "Yes, Apollo," he says with exaggerated patience. "Have a little faith, would you?"
Enjolras turns and leaves him to it, then, because that's hard, but Grantaire will only mock him for his inflexibility if he says so. He comes back later, disgusted by his fruitless and increasingly unpleasant search for Gina's family, with a nylon drawstring bag tucked under one arm. "I've got an air mattress, if you want it," he tells Grantaire, holding it out to him in offering. "Barely used. It's just been gathering dust ever since Jehan decided we all needed to go on that camping trip together. It might be more comfortable than the couch. If you want it."
Grantaire comes over and takes it from him. There's a bright light in his eyes like maybe he's grateful, but he doesn't smile, just accepts it quietly and gives a brief nod in thanks. "You'd better take Gina while I get this set up. Those air pumps can be loud, and I wouldn't want to hurt her ears."
Enjolras takes her when Grantaire holds her out, and he almost just hitches her up against his shoulder and walks out with her. It would be easy, and pleasant, but it's been scarcely an hour since Enjolras was last in here and Grantaire has accomplished a transformation in that time. The shelves are filled with books again, everything neat and tidy, and the desk has been moved back against the wall and everything plugged in again, and somehow he's managed to clear enough space on the floor to lay out the air mattress without making the rest of it feel cramped, and Enjolras doesn't quite know how he managed to work such magic. So he hesitates, with Gina held close in his arms and the baby smell of her filling his lungs with each breath, and he surprises himself when he says, "I can pump that up, if you want to take her instead."
Grantaire raises an eyebrow at him, but otherwise he's still, waiting.
"You are still on the clock, after all." Enjolras inclines his head toward the window, and the light of the setting sun that's streaming through it. "And-- I'm not trying to get out of taking care of her. I thought you might be tired, and want to sit down for a minute. I thought you'd like to have choice."
"I'll take her," Grantaire says quietly. "And thank you. But you should really try spending some time with her when she's not crying and miserable. I think it'd do you both some good." He shifts Gina onto his hip and slides out into the hall, letting his comment hang between them.
Enjolras sets to work unpacking the air mattress, rolling it out, and getting the air pump set up. It's deafeningly loud in the small room, whirring and whining as the mattress slowly rises up and takes shape. Enjolras strains to hear over the sound of the motor, listening for the sounds of Gina crying, in case even from the other side of the apartment, the noise is too much for her. Everything sounds calm outside, though, so he sets himself to finishing up as quickly as possible.
When the mattress is full, Enjolras switches the motor off and positions it in the corner of the room, right in the space that Grantaire cleared. There's not a lot of extra space in the room anymore, but it's all functional. He wants to tell Grantaire that he did a good job, that it was impressive. But it would just make Grantaire's smile pull crooked and hone sharp, and he'd make some scathing comment implying that Enjolras must not have believed him capable of it, and Enjolras doesn't want that. He busies himself going out to the linen closet and getting sheets and blankets and making up the bed. He only has one spare pillow, but he finds it and fluffs it up for Grantaire and lays it at the head of the bed, then stands back and takes in his work with a critical eye.
It looks inviting, he decides. It looks like he's grateful, so he turns and goes out to the living room to get Grantaire and Gina and show him.
The TV is on when he comes out of the hallway, playing some animated show on what Enjolras can only assume is a children's network.
Grantaire's on the couch, stretched out on his back with Gina on his chest and they're both fast asleep while the cartoon plays cheery music in the background. The sight of them together stops Enjolras in his tracks, and makes his heart hurt with every powerful beat.
He's seen Grantaire settling down to nap with Gina before, but he's never had the opportunity to witness it like this, unnoticed and unhuried. Their faces have both gone soft and vulnerable with sleep, Gina's pudgy cheek nestled up against Grantaire's sharp-angled, stubbled one. As Enjolras watches, she sighs and butts her head up under Grantaire's chin, tucked into the soft curve of his throat. She makes smacking noises with her lips and curls her tiny hand up by her cheek, pink fingers hooking over Grantaire's collarbone. Her feet kick against Grantaire's ribs, her little fat toes bending and flexing as she dreams whatever it is that babies dream about. Enjolras hopes that whatever it is, it's something nice.
Grantaire holds her in place on his chest with one hand curved over her back, like even in sleep he's going to protect her from the world. They look like they belong together, like they've been doing this since the day she was born. They look right, and Enjolras backs out of the living room on quiet feet, and goes and sits on the edge of the air mattress in the office, trying to breathe past the sudden stone that's lodged itself deep inside his chest.
Two minutes later, he gets a response. Oh crap, have you left yet? Don't go home. We're at Ep's. Grantaire closes the message out with a smiley face that looks bashful, with a blush burning across both cheeks. A minute after that, he sends an empty message with an image attached. Enjolras opens it to discover that it's a picture of Gina, sitting on Grantaire's lap and looking at the camera with big, grey eyes that seem to plead with Enjolras for something across the distance between them. All he can see of Grantaire is his shirt behind her, the denim of his thigh cutting across one shoulder, and his strong hand wrapped across Gina's stomach, holding her close. Enjolras is so distracted by it, he scarcely even manages to remember to be irritated by the inconvenience as he disembarks at the next station and catches a train going the direction he'd just come, this time on the line that will take him closest to Éponine's place.
Unlike Grantaire's building, Éponine's doesn't have any sort of buzzer system, it's open for anyone to walk inside. Enjolras climbs the stairs up to her floor and knocks on her door. Inside, there's a muffled shout, "Oh, that must be him now. It's open, Enjolras! My hands are full so you'll have to let yourself in."
He does so, and finds the apartment full of noise and chaos. Éponine has music playing, and Grantaire is spread on his stomach across the living room rug with Gina in the curve of his arms, doing something with Gavroche that makes him holler and punch a fist into the air.
Whatever it is that's made Gavroche so happy, it's making Gina peal with laughter, waving her fists through the air and doubling over with it. Grantaire is beaming at them both like he's never had such a good time in his life, and Éponine's shouting over her shoulder from the kitchen, "Make yourself useful, won't you, and come peel some garlic for me? Grantaire says you're a wizard in the kitchen."
"Grantaire thinks anyone who's cooking with fresh ingredients is working magic," Enjolras says, but he comes all the same, and grabs a head of garlic from the strand of it that she has hanging on her kitchen wall. "How much do you want?"
"Half the head please." She glances over and gives the bulb he selected an appraising look. "Actually, that one's a little small, do a bit more than half, if you don't mind. Gav!" She turns suddenly, wooden spoon in hand and expression fierce. "Don't even think about it."
Gavroche is leaning in towards Gina, his face bright with a grin that can mean nothing but trouble. At Éponine's shout, though, he looks up at her and his expression turns eloquent with wounded indignation. "I didn't do anything!"
"You were thinking about it." She levels the spoon at him. "And I'm telling you, don't."
Gavroche relents, settling back on his heels with a mutinous expression, but Grantaire leans in and says something to him too low to be heard from the kitchen, and that cheers him up some.
Enjolras breaks the head of garlic open with the heel of his hand, then sorts through the cloves for any that are small or sprouting or soft enough that they seem questionable. He uses the flat of a knife to crush the cloves and peel the skins off, then scoops everything into a pile on the cutting board and asks Éponine if she wants him to chop or dice or make a paste out of it.
"You can just give them a rough chop," she says, so Enjolras does so, but then when he asks what else he can help with, she waves him off and tells him she's got it under control and too many cooks spoil the broth.
Enjolras wanders back out to the living room, then. Grantaire, Gina, and Gavroche are still playing together, mostly just blowing raspberries and making silly noises against one another's stomaches, but Gavroche seems delighted at having an appreciative audience, and Gina is laughing so hard tears drip down her cheeks, and Grantaire's encouraging them both with a grin so broad and so bright it seems impossible. Enjolras doesn't want to disturb any of them, so he just settles on the couch with his laptop and pulls up the spreadsheet again. The sounds of children and laughter and chaotic happiness rise up behind him as he gets to work trying to whittle the list down to something a little bit more manageable.
Éponine comes over with a bowl of stir fry that smells amazing and sets it down onto the end table beside him. "Eat up," she says, then drops down beside him on the couch with a bowl of her own and leans over, squinting at his computer screen. "Aren't you off the clock for the day?"
He shakes his head. "This isn't work. Not paid work, anyway."
"Apollo's trying to find Gina's parents," Grantaire comments from the carpet, his words droll and full of everything he doesn't say about what he thinks about that task. Enjolras gives him a sharp scowl, but Grantaire isn't paying any attention to him anyway. "You know, just in case it was an accident that they left her on his doorstep asking him to take care of her."
"That's not--" Enjolras starts, hissing, but before he can get out more than two syllables, Éponine's spinning around to stare at him, her eyes dark and her expression stony.
"Why would you do that?" she demands, her words harsh and judgmental.
"She's not mine." He curls his fingers across the keys until his hands form into fists. "She doesn't belong with me. She belongs with her family."
"Her family that abandoned her?" Éponine raises a brow and levels a look at him that he's sure could raze buildings to the ground without even trying. "That's the last place she belongs."
"She has people who care about her out there. They cared enough to decide I would do well by her, and leave her with me, instead of leaving her behind some dumpster. Maybe her mother doesn't want her, but surely someone in her family would take her in and raise her."
"Sure," Éponine says, and doesn't even bother trying to hide it when she rolls her eyes. "I'm sure her mother didn't bother asking any relatives at all for help, before she just decided to drop the baby off on a stranger's doorstep."
"I can't give her what she needs," Enjolras says fiercely. "I'd make a terrible guardian."
"No." Éponine shakes her head and leaves no room for argument in her voice. "You know who'd make a terrible guardian? Someone who doesn't want her." Her gaze slides across the room to where Gavroche is sprawled across Grantaire's middle, digging fingers into his waist as he tries to tickle him. "Trust me," she adds, quieter, but still as hard as steel. "Handing her over to unwilling parents is about the worst thing you could do to her. You don't want her to end up like us."
Enjolras has to look away, ashamed. Of course, Éponine would know. She's practically raising Gavroche by herself, after all, because their parents are such incredible pieces of work that they're less than worthless. "I'm not prepared," he says quietly, because it feels like an admission of failure.
"Neither was I," she says briskly, and sucks tamari sauce off of the tines of her fork. "Neither were her biological parents, obviously, or she wouldn't have ended up on your front step. You just do what you can. And remember to ask for help when you need it." She leans forward, into Enjolras's space, and stays there until he meets her eye. "You want what's best for her, right?"
"Of course!" Enjolras bristles. "It's why I'm doing this, why I'm--"
She cuts him off with a nod. "Time to face it, Enjolras," she says, and it's not unkind, but there's no room for compromise in her words. "You're the best she's got."
"I'm really not. If you only knew..." He shakes his head, wry and rueful. "I'm falling down on the job so thoroughly that Grantaire has had to--"
"All right, that's enough antagonizing each other, you two." Grantaire groans as he levers himself to his feet and puts himself between them. "Time for Enjolras to head home. Thanks for dinner, Ep, it was marvelous as always. But if we don't get Gina on the train now, she's going to sleep the whole ride home, and then we'll never get her down for good." He grabs up his things, and Gina's, and Enjolras's too, and ushers Enjolras toward the door with a hand planted in the middle of his back.
Enjolras cuts him a sidelong glance as they make their way down the stairs and out onto the street toward the train stop. "You haven't told her?"
Grantaire continues staring straight ahead, his face expressionless. "I don't really see how it's any of her business."
"But it's more than that. You don't want her to know."
"Ep's got strong opinions. You may have noticed." He lifts one shoulder, shrugging. "I know when to pick my battles."
Enjolras wonders what exactly it is about Grantaire moving in to help out with Gina that Éponine's likely to start a fight over, but Grantaire seems in no better mood to discuss it than she is, so he lets the matter drop, and they continue home in strained silence.
It's not until he raps his elbow against the repositioned bookshelf, stumbles, and nearly trips over Grantaire that he remembers that his office isn't his own anymore. He stands there in the dark, clutching his arm against his chest and biting off whispered oaths as the pain radiates up his arm.
"What--" Grantaire flails to wakefulness. The parted curtains let in enough light from the street
for Enjolras to see the way he pushes his hands through his hair and sits up, hunched over like a marionette with sagging strings. "Christ, Apollo, what's going on? It's the middle of the night." He rubs the heels of his hands over his eyes and then drags his fingers through his hair again, and Enjolras has a sudden, vivid image of his curls, unruly with sleep and tangling every which-way.
"I'm sorry," he breathes, feeling his way backwards carefully because the bookcase has reminded him that he no longer knows this room's layout by instinct and memory, anymore. "Fuck. I'm sorry. I didn't-- Go back to sleep." He snatches his laptop off the desk, rips out all the cords that are attached to it, and retreats out of the room and into the hallway, his heart pounding too hard for such an early hour.
Grantaire grumbles an inarticulate response and flops down onto the mattress again. As Enjolras turns away and shuts the door behind himself, he just catches a glimpse of Grantaire curling up on his side, knees pulled up to his chest as he drags the blanket over his head with a surly grunt. The memory of that dim, half-glimpsed image stays with him for the rest of the day, lurking in the back of his memory to reassert itself at the most inopportune times.
It's easy to tell when it's Grantaire's doing, because more often than not, his money has paint on it, in streaks or drops or half smudged fingerprints. Enjolras starts pulling the bills out, when he finds them, and sticking them in a drawer beside his bed, but he has no idea what to do with them. He just keeps gathering them there because he knows he can't spend Grantaire's money, no matter how much it might make him bristle or glower or snap angry comments about how he doesn't need Enjolras to take care of him, if he knew.
Enjolras just hopes that someday he'll come up with something to do with it, or will be able to convince Grantaire to take it back, and so he keeps adding to the collection.
He does what he can, then, to try to make things up to Grantaire in ways that he won't flatly refuse. He makes a full, fresh pot of coffee every morning before he leaves for work, because he knows it's something that Grantaire appreciates, and that he'd never turn down. One morning, when Gina sleeps for a full hour after Enjolras's alarm goes off, giving him time to shower and dress without the interruptions that his schedule usually allows for, Enjolras decies to use the extra time to cook breakfast for Grantaire. He decides on a frittata, because it won't take too long and it'll still be good cold if Grantaire sleeps in.
He sautés spinach and mushrooms and onions, throws in leftover cubed ham to brown and warm in the pan, then seasons everything with a liberal dosing of salt, pepper, and fresh basil torn from the plant on his windowsill. He's just poured the eggs in and is putting the pan into the oven to finish cooking when he hears shuffling steps behind him and a bewildered, sleepy, "Oh my God, what are you doing?"
He straightens and turns to find Grantaire there on the other side of the counter, looking toussled and rumpled and squinting at the dim illumination of the stove's overhead light as though he has a spotlight trained straight on him. "Making breakfast," Enjolras says, and throws bread in the toaster since they have a few minutes before the frittata is done anyway. "You don't have to get up, it'll keep until later."
"The smell woke me up," Grantaire says, in the same disbelieving tones of awe as he might have said, I woke up in the middle of the night and Santa Claus was standing over my bed, holding hands with the Easter Bunny. "I swear to God. I didn't know was actually possible outside of Folger's commercials." He moans happily when Enjolras pours a cup of coffee from the pot that's just finished brewing and sets it down in front of him. "You're an angel. And whatever you're making, it smells incredible."
Enjolras can't help the pleasure that burns in a blush across his cheeks, or the smile that stretches his mouth and refuses to be dimmed, so he turns to grab the bread out of the toaster and butter it with quick, efficient motions, his back to Grantaire. "It's just eggs," he says, gruff.
"I have made eggs before," Grantaire declares. "That is not just eggs."
"Well, it's got another five minutes in the oven." Enjolras comes out of the kitchen, scoops up Gina from where she's been mostly failing to resist the urge to go back to sleep, and drops her into Grantaire's arms. "Take it out when the timer goes off, let it sit for five so it'll finish setting up, and then you can have as much as you like. Leftovers can go in the fridge for later." He gives Gina a kiss on the center of her brow and ruffles her hair in farewell. "I might be home a little later than usual tonight, but I'll let you know if you should go ahead and eat dinner on your own."
"Bye, Apollo," Grantaire says, then takes hold of Gina's arm and waves after him, repeating the farewell in a higher register. Enjolras just leaves, before he does something stupid like beam ridiculously at them both, and turns his thoughts to work and to the long day ahead of him.
But the scent of basil clings to his hands no matter how many times he washes them, and Enjolras finds himself smiling throughout the day for absolutely no reason at all.
Enjolras just laughs, and that weekend, when he has more time to spare for cooking, he makes a herbed goat cheese and asparagus strata that has Grantaire salivating before it's even come out of the oven. "Oh my God," he groans around a mouthful of it, when it's ready to eat. "Why do we ever order takeout? This is amazing."
Enjolras just smiles to himself as he eats his own, and Grantaire lets the conversation drop because he's too busy inhaling his breakfast.
Later, he drops Gina into Enjolras's lap as he's sitting on the couch and says, "You're on duty on the weekends, right? I need to stop by my place and get my canvases and easels moved over here, and Bossuet promised to let me use his truck to move my mattress so I'm not putting yours in danger every night with all my tossing and turning."
"You're not a nanny, Grantaire," Enjolras says as he tucks Gina into his lap and props his chin on the crown of her head. "You're just helping me. You can do whatever you like, of course."
"I know," Grantaire says quietly, a crooked smile pulling at his mouth. "It doesn't hurt to check in, though."
The apartment seems preternaturally quiet without Grantaire there, and Enjolras spends a good portion of his absence marveling at how quickly and easily it became bizarre for him to be alone in his own home. He tries to get some work done, but Gina keeps grabbing at his hair and trying to pull it down to chew on, until at last he sets the laptop aside, plops her on the floor, and drags over an armful of toys for them to play with together.
They're still playing together when Grantaire returns in the afternoon, because Gina is squealing and clapping as they play together and Enjolras is pretty sure it's the first time she's ever been so delighted to be in his company, and he's not going to give up that advantage for the world.
Gina turns at the sound of the key in the door, twisting over her shoulder to look, and when Grantaire steps in with his arms loaded up with blank and half-painted canvases, she breaks into a million-watt smile and throws her hands up with such joy that she rocks right over onto her back and then just lays there, kicking and squealing with delight.
"Well, that's a welcome home I'll never get tired of," Grantaire says, and drops the canvases on the countertop to come over and say hi. There's the sound of grunts and groans and good-natured sniping from the hall behind him, and then Joly and Bossuet appear with Grantaire's bare mattress between them, and Musichetta bringing up the rear, laden down with easels of all sizes.
Grantaire helps direct them to the office while Enjolras takes half of the easels from Musichetta and helps her carry them. Between the five of them, it scarcely seems to take moments to get everything set up. Joly sets to deflating the air mattress and rolling it up, nice and tidy, while Grantaire shoves and kicks his mattress into place in the office, and Enjolras sits feeding Gina her bottle and blinks at the sudden chaos that has descended upon him. It looks like an art supply store has exploded inside his apartment, leaving blank canvases listing against the walls and folded-up easels toppling against each other in the corner and boxes of paints and graphite pencils scattered all over every horizontal surface.
When Gina's finished her bottle and been burped, Enjolras carries her with him as he moves around the living room, gathering up Grantaire's paints and sketchbooks, and carries them into the office, where Grantaire is clambering over his new mattress, struggling to get the fitted sheet to sit properly. "Can we not have these scattered all over the apartment?" he asks, leaving them in a pile on the corner of the desk.
Grantaire glances back at them and sits up on his heels, swiping the back of his wrist across his forehead. "I have to work, Apollo," he says. "That requires room. It won't all fit neatly inside a hard drive like your work does."
Enjolras breathes through the urge to say, No, this is my home and I didn't agree to have you turn it into a disaster zone, I just want things to be neat, it's not an unreasonable request. But Grantaire's here for Gina, and to a lesser extent for him, to help him out, and when he won't even let Enjolras buy him dinner every once in a while, that makes just about any request Enjolras might make feel unreasonable.
Still, he's been to Grantaire's apartment before, and he knows the state of barely-contained chaos that he chooses to live in when given the chance.
Enjolras doesn't think he can live like that, no matter how great a favor Grantaire is doing for him.
"Okay," he says, though it feels like it costs him something to make that concession. "The blank canvases and your sketchbooks and pencils can stay out there, but you should -- we should find a place to put them that Gina won't make a mess of them. Nothing toxic out there, though. She'll be dragging herself around and learning how to crawl in no time, and she already shoves everything interesting into her mouth as it is."
Grantaire nods slowly and looks around the room with a critical eye. "All right," he says. "I can make that work. Can I move things out to the living room in the evenings when she's down for the night, if I need more room?"
"If you put down a dropcloth," Enjolras says quickly.
Grantaire nods and gives him a two-fingered jaunty salute. "Then you've got yourself a deal. Now either get out or get down here with me, because I'm about to make an idiot of myself trying to wrestle this sheet into submission and if you're not going to help then I'd rather you not witness my mortification."
Enjolras retreats and gets dinner started instead, throwing together a stew that they can leave simmering on a back burner until it's a little more reasonable time to eat. By the time he's finished, Grantaire has come out and gathered up the rest of his paints and easels and taken them into the office. "That smells amazing," he says from where he's flopped on the couch, his face flushed and his hair sweaty from the day's exertions.
The corner of Enjolras's mouth kicks up. "You always say that." He adds a handful of rosemary to the stew because when he used it in the baked chicken last week Grantaire hadn't stopped raving all night. "It's going to start losing meaning if you keep it up."
"Not my fault." He drags himself up to his feet and into the kitchen to inhale deeply over the stew pot. "You're the one who keeps cooking amazing things."
It feels warm and comfortable and a little bizarre, how easy this all has been. Ninety percent of his and Grantaire's interactions, before Gina came into the picture, had been sniping and arguing and facing off against each other, hackles up and voices raised. They've never been the sort to compromise before. They've never been the sort for things to come easily. It feels good, but leaves him feeling unsettled and off-balance, like he's still waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the shouting to start.
"Come on, sweetheart," he says, scooping her up, and she clutches at his neck with her tiny little hands and sobs onto his bare shoulder like her heart is breaking. "Just give me two minutes, all right?"
The process of making a bottle for her is almost routine now. He moves through the motions automatically, and in just a few minutes he has it ready.
She drinks greedily, but keeps sniffling through the first few ounces like she's not sure she's convinced yet. Even after she's eaten and been burped and Enjolras has made sure that she doesn't need her diaper changed, she's still fussy and unhappy about something.
He curls into the armchair with her, bouncing her in his arms and patting her back, trying to soothe her. "Come on, honey," he murmurs against the crown of her head. "It's not so bad. I don't know what you want, but I bet it'll all look a little better in the morning."
That, at last, seems to soothe her just a little. Her tears slow, though they don't stop, and she sniffles and rubs her face against his chest. For a bewildered moment, he thinks that maybe reason and logic have actually worked -- but no, he thinks, it's his voice, it's him talking to her. He doesn't even have a chance to marvel over the novelty of that, of anything about him being a balm to her, rather than just making her distress worse, because as soon as he stops talking she starts working herself up to full-blown tears again.
He rambles to her for as long as he's able, but eventually his tired brain runs out of things to say. In desperation, he grabs a book off of the end table, opens it to the scrap of paper marking his place inside, and starts reading aloud to her, careful to keep his voice even and soothing.
He reads ten pages to her, until she sighs and leans more of her weight against him like she's starting to slide toward sleep. But as soon as he stops and thinks maybe he can move her to her crib, she rouses and starts crying again. She does it twice more until Enjolras gives up and just reads.
It's dark and cool and quiet, the only sound in the apartment the low cadence of his own voice, and the only light comes from the lamp burning low on the endtable. It's peaceful and calm and the world outside their own little bubble seems to have stopped its spinning, leaving just the two of them. The weight of Gina against his chest is a sweet comfort, the warm gust of her breath against his skin makes his heart clench tight in his chest, and he keeps reading, because he doesn't want the spell to break and this moment to end.
Eventually, some instinct has him glancing back over his shoulder, and he's not entirely surprised to find Grantaire standing in the doorway, leaning against the jamb and watching them with an open, startled expression on his face, and a soft smile stretching wide across it.
The sight of him standing there watching them makes something flip in Enjolras's stomach, and he stumbles over his words. Grantaire takes it as his cue, stepping forward. "Are you reading her The Rights of Man?" he asks, the corners of his mouth twitching with humor.
"It's what I had at hand."
Grantaire comes closer and lays his hand on Enjolras's shoulder. "I wasn't criticizing. I wouldn't have expected any other sort of bedtime stories from you, Apollo." And he's still smiling, through it all. It's not the grin that Enjolras is used to from him, not the sharp and mocking thing he usually wears, or at least usually wears around Enjolras. It's warm and fond and nice, and Enjolras is grateful that Gina hasn't roused even though he's stopped talking, because he can lift her up and murmur, "I'm sorry if we woke you. She wouldn't settle and nothing else was working," and carry her off to tuck her into bed, and not have to wonder why Grantaire is smiling at him like that, or what it means, or whether there's anything he can, or should, do about it.
In the evenings, it becomes commonplace to come home to discover Grantaire curled on the couch with a sketchbook and the gnawed end of a pencil between his teeth, or roughed-in white canvases propped against the entertainment center while Grantaire sits with his chin on his fist and his eyes narrowed as he stares it down. Sometimes, when Enjolras walks in on him like that, he'll jump up and push Enjolras down into his seat, still holding on to the warmth of his body, and demand, "Tell me what you think," and Enjolras will struggle to stammer out something coherent and helpful, because he learned the first time that all "It's nice" will earn him is a roll of the eyes and a muttered, "Never mind, you're hopeless."
Sometimes Grantaire will have worn-down pencil nubs stuck behind an ear -- sometimes behind both ears, like he forgot the first was there -- and more often than not, he'll have paint on him, staining his fingertips or clinging to his cuticles or swiped through his hair like some sort of rebellious teen's fashion statement.
Enjolras smiles and rubs the smear of green paint from Grantaire's cheek, the first time, and starts to make a comment about how it makes him look like he's painted up and ready for war, but the gesture makes something sharp and intent jump into Grantaire's expression, and he sucks in a quick breath like Enjolras's touch burns, and Enjolras forgets what he meant to say. After that, he resolves to just let Grantaire stay a mess, if he's going to be weird about it when Enjolras tries to help.
The thing about Grantaire is, he pretty much always resembles a tornado, Enjolras quickly discovers. He's not quite sure how he managed to remain so ignorant of that fact over the years they've known each other, except perhaps that most of their interaction has been in the Musain's back room, where there are enough people crowded together that it always feels chaotic and messy. And he's been to Grantaire's place before, of course, even before Gina, but he supposes it's easier to brush off mess in another person's home.
But now it's in his home, and Enjolras has to live with it and doesn't know how. He finally snaps when he comes home one evening, takes two steps through the door, and wrenches his ankle on one of Gina's toys that's lying abandoned and scattered in the entryway.
Grantaire hurries over, his eyes big with concern, but Enjolras shakes him off and snaps, "Would it kill you not to turn the place into a pigsty every day?", his teeth barred on a pained snarl.
Grantaire rocks back on his heels and the concern is frosted over by icy anger. "Good question," he says, but doesn't mean it. "I've got another one, if we're looking to assign blame here. Exactly how hard is it to look where you're going?"
Enjolras bites back an angry retort and limps into the bathroom for an ace bandage, instead. But from there on out, it becomes a sour point between them, and it sets Enjolras's teeth on edge every time he comes home to toys lying scattered about on the floor.
That changes the day he gets off early and walks into the sight of his living room floor transformed into a cityscape of blocks stacked three-high into skyscrapers, and Grantaire's holding Gina by the waist and making growling noises as he stomps her through the city like a tiny, pink-cheeked Godzilla.
Gina is beaming and gleefully kicking the blocks over, leaving a scene of carnage behind her that looks rather like the mess that Enjolras has been coming home to every night for the past week. The anger burning up inside his chest melts at the sight of that smile, and the thought of how much joy it's bringing her.
Grantaire stills and watched him warily as he stands in the doorway, like he thinks Enjolras is going to tell him off for playing with her. Enjolras just comes inside, sets his briefcase down on the counter, and quietly asks, "Can I play, too?"
He suspects the smile that breaks across Grantaire's face is as much relief as it is pleasure, but all he says is, "Of course," and nudges a stack of blocks over with a toe. "We're smashing the patriarchy. We could always use some more help."
And that's how Enjolras finds himself stomping through his living room like a dinosaur on a weekday night, kicking blocks over with gleeful abandon while Gina laughs and clasps like she's cheering him on. When they've all exhausted themselves, they collapse on the couch together, Gina between them, and Enjolras surveys the destruction before them and can't find it in himself to care about the mess.
After that, it's easier when he gets home to survey the toys spread out across the floor and envision Gina and Grantaire playing with them together, laughing and enjoying themselves, and it's easy to smile and pick his way through it and leave the tidying up until after she's gone to bed.
Enjolras stops and blinks at him. Pediatrician? His heart sinks a little bit. Christ, he should have taken her to see one weeks and weeks ago. He should have taken her as soon as she came into his care, but what single guy has a good pediatrician's number handy? And he was too busy just trying to survive, the first few weeks, to have a thought to spare for anything beyond the immediate necessities. "When's the appointment?"
"Tomorrow at three, but Joly said to show up early to fill out paperwork."
Enjolras presses his lips together, fighting back the urge to swear. "Tomorrow? I've got a meeting. Shit. Okay." He sets down his briefcase and drops onto the couch, his phone already out of his pocket and unlocked, flicking through his calendar with a frown as he tries to see what can be rescheduled or cancelled.
"Apollo," Grantaire says.
He gives his head a quick shake. "Just give me a minute, I can rearrange my afternoon. I think, if Joel's okay with meeting in the morning instead, I should be able to take off at lunch and--"
"Apollo," Grantaire says again, insistent. Enjolras looks up from his phone to glance at him and sees that he's smiling, a little bemused like Enjolras has done something silly but endearing. He gives a shake of his head, says, "It's just a doctor's visit. You don't need to move mountains in order to be there. I can handle it on my own."
"Of course you can," Enjolras says like it's obvious, because it is. "But I want to be there for her."
"Oh." It's barely a breath of sound, and it makes that same, warm smile spread across Grantaire's face. He sounds like he's got more to say, so Enjolras watches his face, waiting, but he just beams, his smile startled and fond and a little soft around the edges.
It makes his heart pound to be looked at like that, so Enjolras frowns and looks back at his phone. "What do you want to do for dinner?" he asks, too quick. "I've got the ingredients to make curry if you want it."
Grantaire's face brightens and soon they're embroiled in a discussion about food and dinner and the merits of Thai curry over Indian, and that strange, close moment is forgotten, and Enjolras feels at last like he can breathe again without the weight of it pressing on his chest.
Enjolras spends the morning buried in work and happy for the distraction, but as soon as he leaves for lunch, anxiety descends upon him and refuses to be unseated. He has his usual sandwich from a cafe nearby, but eats too quickly and finishes with an unsettled stomach and more time left tan he'd accounted for.
He leaves anyway, and spends the whole train ride drumming his fingers on his thigh and trying not to think of Joly's dire predictions of the sorts of things that could happen to a child who misses her regular check-ups. Gina's fine. He knows she's fine. He'd have notice, if there was something wrong with her, or Grantaire would have. The doctor will just weigh her and measure her and listen to her lungs or something, and then send them on their way with a hefty bill and an another appointment a few months down the line. There's nothing at all to be nervous about, and he knows it.
But he's nervous all the same, and when he gets off the train and walks the three blocks to the pediatrician's, it's with the sinking understanding that he's much, much too early. Grantaire and Gina aren't even there yet, but there seems little point in turning around and leaving. Where else is he supposed to go to pass the time? There's nothing around but doctor's offices and optometrists and pharmacies.
There's nothing to do but to step into the waiting room, sign the log-in sheet, inform the nurse that yes, he knows he's quite early and he's happy to wait until his appointment time, and then take the small mountain of paperwork she hands him and retreat to one of the uncomfortable seats to fill it out to the best of his ability.
It's mortifying, to say the least, to realize the number of things he doesn't know about Gina. Even her surname's a mystery, and he feels his face burn when he has to leave the "date of birth" field blank, because he couldn't even begin to guess.
A woman comes into the waiting room while he's still chewing on the end of the pen and trying to decide what to put down for "family health history". She's towing a little boy behind her who looks to be two years old or so, and she sets him to play with the office's set of blocks before she drops into a chair with a sigh, grabs a magazine at random, and then gives Enjolras a curious frown when she realizes that it's just the two of them and Enjolras, unaccompanied, in the waiting room.
She's a stranger, a woman he's not likely to ever see again, and he owes her nothing, certainly not an explanation. Still, the urge to answer the question in her eyes rises up in him, until he finds himself stammering, "My, uh, Grantaire is bringing her along, I just got here a little early."
She smiles politely and turns her attention back to her child, and Enjolras throws himself back in his chair and glowers at the picture of an anthropomorphic octopus that graces the waiting room's walls, irritated more than anything else with himself and his own uncertainty. He's better than this. He knows how to be. So why does he feel so fumbling and awkward, like a pre-pubescent boy at his first co-ed dance? This is all well out of his comfort zone, and he hates being confronted with the proof of his own fallibility.
All the magazines on the table seem targeted to mothers or families or the children they bring with them, and Enjolras can't stomach the thought of reading through lists of Five Things Every Child Should Be Able To Do Before His First Birthday. He watches the woman's toddler instead, the way he runs across the room with a rocking gait that makes Enjolras smile despite himself, the way he turns a plastic moon around and around in his hands until he's figured out how to make it fit through the crescent-shaped hole in a game board.
It sneaks up on him slowly, and soon there's a painful twist in his chest like somebody's pinched him too hard. He can barely breathe past it, because thoughts of Gina and the little girl she's already growing into are filling him up, too full for petty concerns like breath or blood. He wants to watch Gina learn how to take her first steps, and then to run like that, like nothing could stop her and she hasn't yet learned a fear of falling. Someday she's going to be able to walk and run and talk and she's going to be a real, living person with her own mind and her own thoughts, and Enjolras is swamped by the sudden uncertainty over whether he'll ever get to see her grow like that.
She's not his. He has to remember that. She can't stay with him forever, and he shouldn't want that for her, besides. But he does, and the little boy's laugh makes his heart ache and his fingers tremble.
When Grantaire arrives with Gina, they tumble into the waiting room like an avalanche, an explosion of bags and diaper bags and Gina and her favorite blankie, and Grantaire drops into the chair beside Enjolras's, says, "Oh my god, you'll never believe what happened on the train," pauses just long enough to catch his breath, and then launches into a long, intricate story whose details Enjolras loses the ability to follow thirty seconds in.
It's a nice story, though. Something about one of Gina's pacifiers rolling under a nearby seat, and their perilous adventure to retrieve it, and all sorts of eclectic characters that they met on their journey. It makes Grantaire's voice come alive as he tells the tale, and Enjolras half-shutters his eyes and smiles as he envisions it, as Grantaire's voice sets the stage and brings the events to life.
"So, long story short," Grantaire concludes with a great sigh as he throws himself back in the chair, "we got the pacifier back, and I may have gotten two very tempting marriage proposals along the way."
"I'm surprised you turned them down," Enjolras murmurs. "That chemistry teacher from Egypt sounds particularly charming."
"Oh sure." Grantaire tips his head to a teasing angle. "But who needs chemistry when you can have thinly-veiled condescension, right? None of them had your particular brand of scorn mixed with concern." He reaches over and chucks Enjolras under the chin with his knuckles, a playful touch. "How could I stay away?"
"Well, I'm glad for your restraint," Enjolras says, dry, thinking of how much more awkward it would have been for him to sit here in the pediatrician's office by himself, and have his child never show up to join him.
The little boy drops a round block that rolls over to get lost between their feet, just as the waiting room door opens and the nurse calls him and his mother back. He scrambles over to them to get it, while she stands and slings her purse over her shoulder. When Grantaire bends down to retrieve the block and hands it over to the boy, she smiles and says, "Julian, say thank you to that little girl and her nice daddies, then let's go. You can play a little more with it before we leave."
The boy stops, looks bashful, and says a very polite, "Thank you," to both of them, though Enjolras doesn't know what he did to deserve it, then scampers after his mother and disappears behind the closing door. And Enjolras sits there, realizing what the boy's mother said, realizing what she'd inferred, and his heart beats three times as fast within his chest.
Part of him wants to run after her, to yank that door open and follow her down the halls until he's made her realize the truth about him and Grantaire and Gina. The rest of him wants to sink slowly through his chair and down into the floor and maybe just die.
Grantaire leans over, rocking his shoulder against Enjolras's and drawing his attention back. "Stop freaking out," he says, low and beneath his breath.
Enjolras cuts his gaze to him. "She thought--"
"Yeah, I know. I heard." He crosses his arms over his chest and lifts a brow. His expression was open and lively before, but now there's something hard and closed-off about it. When his lips twist, it's not with mirth. "Is it that terrible a thought, then? Can't even bear the thought of someone thinking it might be the case." He huffs out a breath and presses his shoulders back into the chair's upholstery. "Guess I should've run off with that chemistry teacher while I had the chance."
"R," he says, chiding, but Grantaire doesn't look at him, doesn't give any indication that he heard him, he just slides off of the chair down to the floor, grabs the nearest toy at hand, and offers it out to Gina with a, "There you go, Little G, what do you think about that?"
Gina squeals with excitement and takes it from him, and Enjolras shuts up and lets them play. But the woman's words still circle through his head, try though he might to focus on Gina or work or anything else, and they still make his pulse pound and a clammy sweat break out across his skin. It feels like a lie, to let her go on believing that there's something between him and Grantaire that doesn't exist. It makes his skin itch.
When the nurse comes and calls them back a few minutes later, it's a relief. Grantaire helps him gather up Gina and their things, and Enjolras gives him a smile to show his gratitude, but Grantaire doesn't return it.
The pediatrician's exam rooms are labelled by color, rather than number. They're shown into the Yellow Room and told that the doctor will just be a few minutes more, and Enjolras thanks her while Grantaire lets their bags drop to the ground and then promptly has to fish a cotton ball out of Gina's mouth that she must have found hidden away under some corner somewhere. "Ew," he says dramatically, wrinkling up his nose, and it makes Gina laugh and reach her hands toward his face.
There's only one chair, which Enjolras thinks seems like an oversight for a pediatrician's office. Grantaire gives it a glance, but then settles down onto the floor with Gina in his lap. Enjolras takes the chair because it would be silly for both of them to subject themselves to sore backs unnecessarily. After a moment of watching Grantaire try to play patty-cake with Gina, he leans down and reaches out for her and catches Grantaire's eye as he asks, "My turn?" When Grantaire just arches a brow at him, his shoulders tighten. "You've had her all day, I just want the chance to spend some time with her while she's actually awake."
Grantaire relents with a shrug and a sardonic smile. "Sure," he says, and hefts her up so Enjolras can take her. "She's not my kid, after all. You can do whatever you like."
Enjolras gives him a sharp glance, but Grantaire has already pulled out his phone and lost himself in it, his expression intent and his face illuminated by the glow of the LEDs. His fingers move quickly over the screen, and Enjolras wants to lean over and see what it is he's doing, what game's he's playing. But he has Gina on his lap and that's what he wanted, and she grabs onto his shirt and stuffs a handful of it into her mouth to chew on, so he lets Grantaire do as he likes and turns his attention back to her.
The doctor, when he comes in, is older but personable, and he listens attentively while they tell him about Gina. Enjolras stumbles when the pediatrician glances at their paperwork and says, "Whoops, looks like you forgot to put her birthday in here, if you could just tell me when it is I'll fill it for you."
Grantaire gives him a sharp glance while he breaks out into a sweat and struggles to come up with any words at all. Panic chokes him, and all he can think is, Oh God, he's going to realize what I've done and have her taken away from me.
Grantaire rocks his shoulder against Enjolras's again and the meaning is clear. Stop freaking out. But Enjolras can't. His hands tighten on Gina until she frowns and starts to whimper, and he's more grateful than words could ever express when Grantaire looks at his face a moment, then squares his shoulders, turns his attention back to the doctor, and says, "Actually, she's adopted, and it was kind of an unorthodox situation. We don't know when she was born, or even really how old she is. We just knew she was in need, and we were able to provide for her."
He places his hand on Enjolras's knee. It's an intimate touch, and done to sell the lie, Enjolras thinks, and so he makes no move to dislodge it. And if a cool sweat breaks out across his skin and his pulse jackhammers even harder against his chest, then he tells himself that it's just because of the thought that he might lose Gina, that's all.
It's worth it, because the doctor only gives them a narrow-eyed look and asks a few more pointed questions, all of which Grantaire answers with ease while Enjolras sits on the plastic chair and sweats, and then they must have passed because he moves on to the examination.
She seems perfectly healthy, he says, and after another series of questions, this time about her motor development, which Grantaire also answers because he's the one who's with her every day, and who knows these things, the doctor declares her mostly likely to be about five months old, though she's a little short for that age. "That could be genetics, though," he adds with a tone that suggests it's nothing at all worth worrying about. "Or she could be a little younger than that, and just a quick learner."
He asks if they have any questions for him, and Grantaire gives Enjolras a sly, sidelong grin like he just knows that Enjolras has a list prepared, and it's a mile long.
He's not wrong, but Enjolras resolutely ignores him. It never hurt anyone to be prepared, and he didn't want to forget anything important.
The biggest question on his list, the one at the very top of it, is about Gina's crying. He tells the doctor about it, while Grantaire interjects commentary and Enjolras gives him dirty looks every time he contradicts him, then asks, "Do you think it could be colic?"
The doctor gives him a look that's sympathetic, if a little patronizing. "Babies cry," he says. "If she does it for more than three hours a day, three days a week, then bring her back to me, but if you just recently adopted her, then most likely it's just a matter of her getting used to being in a new place, and with new people. Has it improved any since you first brought her home?"
"A little, maybe," Enjolras says, and Grantaire turns to stare at him.
"You're crazy. She sleeps way better than she used to."
He sets his jaw. "She still wakes up a few times most nights."
"Yeah, and when you first brought her home she barely slept at all. Do you remember what that first night was like? Because I remember the aftermath, and it wasn't pretty. You hardly ever look half mad in the mornings anymore."
The doctor moves them on gently to the rest of Enjolras's questions, and when he's satisfied all of those, he closes the medical record and rises. "Since we don't know what vaccines she's had, if any, I'm going to give her DTaP today just to be safe. Just call the front desk if you do find her vaccination records, otherwise we'll proceed as though she hasn't had any, all right?"
Enjolras nods and Grantaire thanks him, and the doctor leaves, only for the nurse from the front desk to come in right behind him. "We're going to need to give her this shot in the thigh," she says briskly as she dons a pair of blue nitrile gloves and starts drawing medication into a syringe, "so I need one of you to lay her down on the exam table and hold her still, all right?"
Enjolras exchanges a quick glance with Grantaire. He looks grim at the thought, but as soon as he catches Enjolras's eye, he takes a deep breath and rises from his chair. "I'll do it. Good knows, you get little enough time with her as it is, Apollo. I'd hate to set back all the progress you two have made by having you be the one to hold her down while someone hurts her."
Enjolras is startled speechless, and by the time he's found his voice, Grantaire's already carried Gina over to the exam table and is keeping her from fighting being on her back by blowing raspberries on her stomach while the nurse finishes getting the shot ready.
The howl Gina lets out when the nurse injects the medication is unearthly, and Grantaire's face goes white as he struggles to hold her down. Even once she's bandaged and in his arm she keeps fighting, beating her fists against his shoulders and twisting violently until Grantaire says, "Apollo--" and he goes over to take her from him.
When she sees Enjolras, she stops fighting and leans out of Grantaire's hold, reaching for him. When he pulls her into an embrace, she throw her arms around his neck and clings to him as she sobs against his shirt. He pats her back and whispers reassurances to her, and is selfishly grateful that Grantaire didn't make him be the one she wanted to run away from.
The nurse warned them that Gina might be sore from her vaccination, and that it might make her fussy and irritable, and her prediction comes true. Enjolras and Grantaire try to keep her distracted with toys and cuddles and play, but as the evening wears on toward bed time, she becomes inconsolable, and just lies on her back and cries no matter how they try to distract her from the discomfort.
The sun's set, so Enjolras picks her up and carries her into the bedroom, to see if darkness will help her settle any. He sits with her, his back propped against the headboard, and hums quiet lullabies to her as he bounces her in his arms.
He's not sure how long he's there, only that his arms are growing sore and Gina's still crying as hard as ever, when the bedroom door creaks open and Grantaire steps inside. He hangs back, just inside the room. "Let me take her," he says quietly.
Enjolras stiffens and frowns. "No, I've got her, it's fine." He picks the pacifier up from the blankets beside him and tries to give it to her, but she just spits it back out and carries on without a hitch. "You were right back there, I don't get enough time with her."
Grantaire sighs and comes over to the side of the bed. He leans over and takes Gina from his arms, and holds him off when he protests and reaches for her. "This is not going to be a bonding moment, Apollo," he says quietly. "She's unhappy, and she's going to be like this all night, and it's just going to suck. And you have to work in the morning." He shifts her on his hip and offers a knuckle, but she doesn't want it any more than she did the pacifier. "Just let me do this, all right? You don't have to kill yourself just to prove that you're doing a good job."
Enjolras wants to fight him, wants to insist. But there's reason to Grantaire's words, and Enjolras has to admit that much. He sighs and lets Grantaire take her, and murmurs his thanks as Grantaire pads quietly out of the bedroom with her.
It's a nice thought and a nice gesture, but Enjolras doesn't sleep well. The sounds of Gina's cries keep waking him up. He tosses and turns until it's the middle of the night and he's got the pillow stuffed over his face, but to no avail. Gina is still distraught, and there's nothing that either of them seem to be able to do about it. He knows that, but he also knows that he can't stay in bed listening to her cry any longer.
The low murmur of Grantaire's voice draws him out to the living room. He's lying on the couch, feet kicked up onto its arm and Gina sniffling on his chest. His eyes are closed but he's talking, a low, soothing stream of words. Enjolras hangs back, unnoticed in the hallway, because Grantaire is telling her a story. It's nothing Enjolras recognizes, something about a princess adventurer and a den of badgers who are eating all of Mrs. Weston's turnips. When Grantaire starts weaving in the names of people they know, of members of the Amis and the friendly lady who always delivers their Indian food, Enjolras is struck by the realization that Grantaire isn't just telling Gina stories, he's making them up for her.
He leans his forehead against the wall and shuts his eyes and just listens, his fingers twitching at his side because the cadence of Grantaire's voice is soothing, and it calls to Enjolras like a siren's song, urging him to come out, to curl up at the foot of the couch and lean his head on the cushion and just let the story capture his imagination and whisk him away. It's unthinkable that Gina is still awake and still unhappy in the face of Grantaire's story-telling, because Grantaire is a wizard. Enjolras would stand there listening to him all night if he could, and wouldn't even mind the sleep deprivation in the morning.
It's empty, and it's a testament to his disorientation that he stands there and blinks at it for a moment, half expecting that Gina will suddenly appear, because it's not like babies just get lost, like car keys.
When that doesn't happen, he turns and stumbles out of the bedroom to Grantaire's room, but his bed is empty, too, and Enjolras wonders if he's still asleep, if this is one of those anxiety dreams where you dream about losing everyone important to you and it's actually a metaphor for something completely inocuous. The mystery is resolved, though, when he makes his way out to the kitchen and finds Grantaire still on the couch, Gina still on his chest, both of them sleeping like the dead. Grantaire's mouth is slack and open, his tongue tucked into the corner of his mouth, and Gina's got her face mashed so hard against his chest that she's snoring.
He picks his way to the kitchen, careful to keep quiet and keep the lights off so as not to disturb them. He thinks momentarily about rousing Grantaire with a hand on his shoulder, with a slight shake, and sending them off to his bed to get a few more hours of sleep. But they both look like they're dead to the world, and after the long night they both had, Enjolras is loathe to risk any disturbance.
He bathes rather than showers because it's quieter, and dresses quickly, then sneaks out of the house with both of them still snoring on the couch, early enough that he has time to stop by the local coffeehouse for breakfast and caffeination.
There's a physical ache in his chest as he takes the stairs down to the street, a pain that originates solely in the necessity of walking away from them, and leaving the quiet, peaceful world of home and the people in it for the much harsher reality of work and the world.
Halfway through the day, his phone buzzes, and he reaches for it unthinking, expecting a work call or another email that needs to be responded to immediately. What he gets instead is a text, with an image attached.
It's a close-up of Gina, dressed in Wonder Woman pajamas and sitting in the middle of the carpet chewing on the end of a wooden paint stirrer. Behind her Enjolras can see what looks like the curved edge of a paint can. The text says, Such a good helper! and nothing else, and it sends a bolt of cold fear through Enjolras's heart.
He texts Grantaire back immediately, demands, What are you doing?, and when that doesn't get a clear response, R, if you make me lose my security deposit, they will never find your body, I swear to God.
Relax, Apollo, Grantaire says, and then, Putting the phone away, we're about to get messy. TTYL.
Every text he sends for the rest of the day goes unanswered. Enjolras buries his hands in his hair and takes back every good, fond thing he thought about Grantaire that morning. He's going to hurt him, just as soon as he gets home. He's going to kill him.
He walks in the door ready for a battle. The place smells like paint, and it just sets him more on edge. The walls of the living room and kitchen are still a plain, flat white, much to his relief. But the paint smell must be coming from somewhere, and he has visions of gallon cans tipped over on their side soaking into his carpet, so he follows the muffled sounds of conversation that are coming from further inside the apartment.
He expects to find them in Grantaire's room, if anywhere. But Grantaire's room is also empty -- and also looks just as Enjolras left it. There's a half-finished painting on an easel in one corner of the room, and one that Grantaire had been working on a few days before finished and propped up against the wall, but he doesn't think they're the source of the smell. Grantaire's room would have reeked of it, if that were the case, and it just smells faintly of turps.
That leaves only the bathroom, which seems unlikely, and Enjolras's room. The tension in his shoulders ratchets tighter with every step as he crosses the hall and pushes his door open.
The smell of paint is stronger there, and as he both feared and expected, and Grantaire is sitting cross-legged in the middle of his bed with Gina on his lap.
"Hey," Grantaire greets him with an easy smile, like he has no idea that Enjolras has been texting him increasingly dire threats as the day wear on. Or maybe just like he doesn't care. He inclines his head toward the corner of the room. "You don't have to give yourself an aneurysm. Just take a look, and I'll paint over it if you hate it. But I was bored and wanted to stretch myself."
Enjolras turns to look where he's indicated. The back corner of the room, the little alcove where he's put Gina's crib and her changing table, has been transformed. The white walls of his room end in a trompe l'oeil trellis that arches up from the base of one wall, across the ceiling, and down the opposite. Beyond it, the white walls are gone, lost behind a painted forest scene that draws Enjolras forward unthinking.
It's gorgeous, but it's also full of whimsy. It looks like the woods from a fairytale, dense and a little foreboding. But Grantaire has painted a tiny armored princess peeking out from behind the leg of Gina's crib, and he doesn't think it's his imagination to think that she looks a great deal like Gina herself, all wheat-blonde hair and big, grey eyes.
The princess makes an appearance on the other wall, as well. This time, she's wielding an impressive sword against a company of badgers who are all wearing turnip helmets on their heads and wielding acorn-shell shields against her attack.
There are tendrils of vines snaking up the legs of the crib and changing table, a bear cub peeking out from the changing table's drawer like they've disturbed its slumber, and it all looks like something out of a storybook. It looks like the sort of nursery you'd see in a magazine spread and sigh enviously over, but realize that you'd never really be able to have it for yourself.
"I thought, even little girls need a space to call their own," Grantaire continues softly. Enjolras can feel his gaze on him, even from behind. He turns around and stares at Grantaire, a lump in his throat that he can't swallow down or speak around. "What do you think? Use your words, Apollo, you're making me nervous."
He tries, but when he does manage words, the only ones that come are a breathy, "Jesus, R."
Grantaire crosses his arms over his chest, his expression going hard and unhappy. "It's just paint," he snaps. "It can be covered over. I'll paint it over tomorrow if you hate it that much, I was just bored." He takes a half step back like Enjolras has swung at him, though he hasn't been able to move at all.
"Don't," Enjolras says suddenly.
Grantaire flinches, then blinks at him. His eyes narrow beneath a furrowed brow. "Don't what?"
"Paint it over." Enjolras swallows down the thickness choking off his throat. "Don't do that. It's incredible."
Grantaire tips his head to the side and chews on a corner of his mouth, still squinting at Enjolras like he thinks he's going to bite, or like he doesn't quite believe him. "You're not mad?"
"No. I'm really not." He was, but how can he be now, when he's seen what it was all for?
Grantaire's shoulders relax abruptly. The tension written across his face eases, and his mouth pulls into a slight, wry grin. "I don't know, Apollo. I've got a phone full of messages that would seem to suggest otherwise."
Enjolras releases his breath on a rush and gives his head a hard shake. "Do you have to be so goddamned cagey all the time? I thought I was going to come home to a disaster."
And that makes Grantaire flinch again, makes some of those walls come back up, leaving him guarded once more. But the humor stays, and at least there's that. "Have to, no," he drawls. "But it sure is fun watching you squirm."
Enjolras punches him in the arm, and Grantaire rubs it and makes a face like he's surprised by Enjolras's strength. "I can't believe you made her into a princess," he mutters.
"She likes them. You should've seen her squeal when I called her Princess G."
"Princesses are disenfranchised figureheads, and she's been conditioned to like them because that's what society thinks little girls should be." He starts out of the bedroom, because there's only so long he can look at that painting without maybe wanting to cry and the thought of that is just intolerable.
Grantaire follows him out, and though he makes indignant noises, there's a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. "She likes them," he says, trailing after Enjolras as he makes his way into the kitchen to see what sort of leftovers they've got for dinner. "And she's a princess adventurer, thank you, riding off to negotiate peace with the warring badger tribes on her country's borders, that's hardly a disenfranchised figurehead." He reaches past Enjolras and grabs a box of Chinese leftovers that Enjolras is pretty sure is his pork lo mein. "I'm not going to tell her that she can't be a scientist or an astronaut or an engineer, and I'm not going to tell her that she can't be a princess if that's what she wants, either. We're just going to have to raise her to be the best damn princess in the world, that's all."
He grabs a fork from the drawer, hops up to sit on the counter with his legs dangling, and starts digging into the lo mein without even bothering to heat it. Enjolras concedes defeat on that front and takes Grantaire's leftover chow fun for his own. He doesn't sit on the counter, though, just leans up against it next to Grantaire and pokes at the noodles inside.
"Hey." Grantaire swings his leg, knocking his foot against Enjolras's thigh. "Why the long face all of the sudden?"
Enjolras just shakes his head and stuffs noodles into his mouth so he doesn't have to admit that it's the thought of raising Gina, raising her to be anything, that's caught in his chest like a sharp-edged stone and makes him want to cry. Because they're not going to be raising Gina to be anything, neither of them. Because she's not theirs, and someday soon, somebody's going to make them give her back.
Enjolras just smiles and heads down to catch the train that will take him to Éponine's. When he arrives, it's to the same burst of noise and activity that he's long-since decided is just the norm for Éponine's home. The last time he was here, the rowdiness had overwhelmed him, but now he's able to see past it to the carefully-orchestrated dance that's making it all work. Éponine stirs browning ground beef in the kitchen while simultaneously beating Gavroche back from the hot parts of the stove and the chef's knife she left lying on the counter, and Grantaire swoops in at a spare gesture from her to herd him off, saying something low about how they'll teach him how to use those knives properly, like the chefs on TV who can chop vegetables like a whirlwind, but only if he eats all of his salad tonight. "It's taco salad, little man," Grantaire says when Gavroche pulls a face and makes barfing noises. "That hardly even counts."
And he's taking care of Gina at the same time, who's sitting up in the middle of the living room but starting to scrunch her face up in the way that means she's just about to launch into a good cry. Éponine's got a bottle in the microwave warming up and Grantaire's just trying to keep Gina from really losing it until it's ready for her to eat, and it's all Enjolras can do to stand there in the entryway and watch it all in silent awe.
There's a pain stuck deep in the center of his chest that makes him wish, just a little bit, that he'd just gone home and waited for Grantaire and Gina to return, because this... He thinks this might break him. It's painful to watch them move with such easy competence, like they've been doing it all their lives, painful the way that staring into the sun is, too bright and too good. It makes him all too aware of his own flaws and all the ways that he's inadequate. He's lucky if he can manage any one of the things that they're doing on its own, much less all of them in concert.
He moves into the apartment, scoops Gina up and sits her on his lap on the couth while Grantaire goes to get her bottle, and he wraps his arms around her stomach and buries his face in the back of her neck, where she smells like soap and baby powder, and he just holds onto her while his heart quietly breaks into two over the realization that he's not good for her. He's doing the best he can, but it's not enough. And he doesn't know how Grantaire and Éponine learned how to be such amazing caretakers, when it's not as though either of them had solid role models to learn from growing up, but he wishes they'd take pity on him and teach him some of their tricks. Because he's all she has right now, they're right about that, but he's not enough. He doesn't deserve her and he's going to fuck her up and it's going to pretty much kill him.
"Hey, come on, Apollo," Grantaire shouts from the kitchen, where he and Gavroche are setting the table. Mostly it seems to involve Gavroche trying to spell four-letter words with the silverware, and Grantaire coming along behind him and setting everything to rights. "Were you raised in a barn? We're going to eat dinner at the table like proper civilized human beings." There's a teasing light in his eyes and a grin on his face, and a braced, expectant air about him, and Enjolras knows that he's waiting for Enjolras to throw a barb right back at him, but he doesn't have it in him tonight. He just holds Gina tighter against his chest as he stands with her and crosses to the table.
Grantaire passes him the bottle while he and Éponine work on getting everything moved from the kitchen to the table, so Enjolras just sits in an empty chair and holds Gina on his lap and feeds her, and feels ten kinds of useless that that one task is all he can manage, while both of them are zipping around doing a million things at once.
Soon the food's on the table and Gina is fed and content to sit on Enjolras's lap and play with his spoon while he eats around her and tries not to drip taco sauce on her head.
"So, E," Éponine says around a mouthful of taco, and Enjolras frowns at her because no one calls him that. She props her elbows on the table and raises an eyebrow at him. "How's that search for the people who abandoned Gina going? You're not still working on that nonsense, are you?"
He sighs and scrubs a palm across his forehead. The instinct to argue with her and insist that Gina belongs with her family is so ingrained at this point that it's nearly automatic, but this time, the words stick on his tongue. That's the right thing to say and he knows it, but his heart is already aching tonight and speaking those words would be more than he's able to bear. He's scarcely able to think it without wanting to go find somewhere dark and private to maybe cry a little bit. Some day, probably some day soon, he's going to have to give Gina up, and he's suddenly not sure how he's going to survive it.
And so, the next day after work, he takes the train deeper into the city, and he comes home hours later laden down with a dozen bags from half a dozen different stores. He's braced for Grantaire's response when he gets home, for indignation that Enjolras didn't let him know he'd be late that they'd both secretly know was borne out of worry, not anger. The apartment is empty and quiet, though, and there's a note on the counter that reads, Gone out to deliver my latest commission, taking G with me. Should be home in time for dinner but don't wait if you're hungry.
He's not hungry, but there's work to be done, and he's grateful for the opportunity to do it in peace. He dumps the bags out in the living room and gets to work, adhering little rubber baby bumpers onto the corners of every counter and table, installing drawer- and door-locks in the kitchen and bathroom, making sure that every unused outlet in the house has an outlet guard in it so Gina can't shove her little fingers inside and get a shock.
Then there are toys to unwrap and books on parenting -- and books on parenting adopted children, which he threw onto his pile before he could talk himself out of it, even though what Grantaire told the pediatrician was a lie and they're not her adopted parents and she not theirs -- to be shelved, given their own prominent space on the living room shelves, right at eye level for easy access.
The living room looks like a disaster area when there's the sound of keys in the door and Grantaire carries Gina inside. "Hey, we're back, finally. You didn't wait, did you? We brought you lumpias just in case--" He stops two steps in, his gaze flitting around the apartment and a smile fighting for life across his face. "Never mind. I think you'd better tell us about your day. Did you get trapped in a Babies R Us and have to buy your way to freedom?" He fingers the corner guards on the counter and laughs like they're delightful -- or ridiculous.
"I should have done this as soon as I took her into my charge," Enjolras says, brisk in the face of Grantaire's ridicule. "Stop laughing, R, it's a safety issue."
"Definitely," he agrees, sincere enough that Enjolras can't be sure if he means it or if he's just mocking Enjolras with deadpan humor. "Only, these counters are thirty-six inches high and she not even crawling, so it's probably not a dire emergency quite yet?"
Enjolras bristles and rounds on him, braced for a fight, because he'll endure Grantaire's dry mockery of everything that's important to him, of everything the Amis do and stand for, but not this. Not Gina, or his responsibility to her.
Grantaire isn't even paying attention, though. He's moved on to the toys, most of them still lying on the living room floor because Enjolras had realized to his chagrin that he didn't have enough storage space for them and he was going to have to get creative about it. Grantaire sits down on the carpet, his legs stretched out in front of him, and laughs until all he can manage is wheezing gasps. "Oh my god," he says. "I should have guessed. You're going to be one of those dads, aren't you? The sort who kills himself trying to get her into a preschool so stuffy that they make you fucking interview for it. You're going to have her on the fast track to Harvard and never let her have any fun at all."
Enjolras would fight with him over that, too, except that Grantaire is grinning, and though his words are critical, he sounds fond, not scathing. So Enjolras only glares at him, and sits down near him to grab up one of the toys. "I don't know how you can accuse me of that when it looks like Santa's workshop in here, there's so many toys."
"Yeah, but these are enrichment toys, not real ones. It's the intellectual equivalent of trying to hide vegetables in muffins. No one's really fooled, and it isn't half as much fun."
"The first few years is the most crucial period for cognitive development, I can't let her be at a disadvantage--"
Grantaire just shakes his head and smiles at him. "You say that like there's actually a chance in hell that any child raised by you will be anything but brilliant." He meets the no-nonsense look that Enjolras shots him with a broad grin. "You read her The Rights of Man as a bedtime story, Apollo. The biggest thing she going to have to worry about is being hated for taking after her daddy and being the biggest know-it-all in school."
Enjolras thinks he would be offended by that, but Grantaire isn't even paying attention, he just grabs up one of the toys nearest him, props Gina on his thighs, and starts playing with her with it.
Enjolras just watches them, until Grantaire says, "Think fast, Apollo," and tosses it to him.
Enjolras isn't fast enough, and it hits him in the face. Grantaire's eyes go wide a moment before he leans back against the couch and roars with laughter. Gina's laughing at him too, and clapping like it's high entertainment, so Enjolras makes a silly surprised face and scoops it up to toss back to Grantaire.
They forget all about the lumpias, sitting there on the floor together making Gina giggle and screech. Enjolras catches Grantaire's eye during a moment when she's helpless with it, and they smile at each other, just a little. And it's not that Enjolras has forgotten why he was mad earlier, it's just that with Gina laughing between them and Enjolras's heart so full it aches, he can't quite understand why he thought anything was more important than this, just this.
The apartment's full of light and music and laughter, and Gina is the life of the party, passing from one pair of arms to the next and beaming at everyone so brightly that Enjolras can't help but smile in response, to the point that no less than three people give him a narrow-eyed inspection, inquire as to how much he's had to drink, and then wonder whether Grantaire might have spiked the punch.
It's all going swimmingly and Enjolras is enjoying himself and the company greatly, until it's Cosette's turn to get a little time with Gina and he wanders by the couch where they're sitting just in time to hear Cosette tell Gina, very seriously, "People will say all sorts of stupid things, but don't you listen to them. I was raised by two dads, too, and it's the best! Just, your dads in particular can sometimes be idiots, so when that happens, you come to Éponine and Musichetta and me and we'll set you straight, all right?"
Enjolras stumbles to a stop and stares at the back of Cosette's head. His chest is too tight and his pulse is pounding too hard, ringing in his ears, because the only thought he has at Cosette's words is, No, that's wrong, she's not going to be raised by two dads, Grantaire's going to leave us. And he's not sure whether it's that thought, or the realization that the thought is painful, that staggers him more.
What are they even doing? Playing house together like they're children, telling doctors that Gina's theirs and letting friends and strangers alike assume that there's more to their arrangement than just Enjolras's colossal failure at parenting solo. Grantaire's not Gina's dad, he's just a friend doing a favor, and some day he's going to realize that and decide that he'd rather go off and have a life of his own than spend it in service to Enjolras's ineptitude.
He's not sure if he makes a sound, or Cosette just senses his presence behind her, his transfixed stare boring into her, but she twists and look back over her shoulder, and smiles when she sees him standing there. "Eavesdropping, are you? I promise I'm saying only good things." She gets a thoughtful look. "Well, mostly good things."
Enjolras just shakes his head and Cosette's smile dims, leaves her frowning and looking uncertain. "I'm just kidding. You're not upset, are you?"
"No," he manages to say, but he sounds like a man walking through a dream. He feels like the cobwebs that have clouded his vision have finally been stripped away, and at last he can see things for how they really are. "Thank you, Cosette."
She lifts her brows at him. "For what?"
He just shakes his head at that, too, though what he wants to say is, For waking me up.
It would have been so much harder, if he'd come to this realization months down the line. What if he'd never had it, until the day Grantaire's patience snapped and he declared he was leaving? It would be a hundred times more difficult to sever ties then, with all those long months of history between them and with Gina growing more attached by the day. A hundred times more painful.
Now, at least, he can be ready. He can be the one to pull back first, and protect himself. He can protect Gina.
It starts on the train ride back home, when Grantaire slumps down in the seat like he's exhausted and Gina beams at him as he tickles her gently against her ribs. Enjolras watches them stonily from his own seat, thinking only of how much it's going to break her heart when he leaves.
When he can't bear it any longer, he takes Gina from him and tucks her into his arms. "She's never going to go to sleep tonight if you wind her up like that," he says, short and clipped. Grantaire pushes half upright and cracks an eye open to give Enjolras a startled look.
Enjolras turns his back, intent on finding Gina's pacifier where it's fallen down between the seat cushions. When Grantaire mutters, "Christ, who pissed in your cheerios?", Enolras ignores that, too, and when they get home, he carries Gina straight in to bed, leaving Grantaire to bring in the leftover pie.
Grantaire's putting the food away when Enjolras comes back out, or at least, he's using the pretense of putting the food away as an excuse to slam the the refrigerator and cabinet doors and to wash dishes with a furious air that seems to imply that he has a personal vendetta against Enjolras's tupperware.
Enjolras leaves him to it, because it'll just lead to a fight if he has the temerity to ask Grantaire to please try not to break his dinnerware, and this isn't something that can be fought against. It's just an inevitability that they're all going to have to learn to accept. They sooner they realize that, the better off they'll all be.
Grantaire gives him long, searching looks when Enjolras says things like "my apartment", lines bracketing the corners of his mouth. When Enjolras squares off with him and demands, "What? If you've got something to say, then say it," a last, desperate stronghold inside him hoping that Grantaire will say something, Grantaire just sighs, hands Gina off to him, and says, "Sun's going down. Time to clock in."
The first time, Enjolras stares after him. "Where are you going?"
Grantaire doesn't even look back as he leaves, just says over his shoulder, "I've got a date with a bar," and lets the door swing shut behind him.
Enjolras wakes hours later in the middle of the night to the sound of unsteady stumbling through the apartment. He comes out of his room just as Grantaire leans against the wall and grapples with the door to the office. "Are you just now getting home?" he demands.
Grantaire turns and stares at him for a long moment, then just shakes his head and disappears into the office, leaving only cold silence and the stink of alcohol behind him. Enjolras returns to his own bed, and eventually he manages to sleep again, but only fitfully.
When he comes home in the evenings now, it's most often to Grantaire sitting on a stool in front of an easel, elbows on his knees as he scowls at the canvas in front of him and makes bold sweeps across it in angry colors. More often than not there's a glass of wine beside him, and then after a week of it the glass turns into a bottle.
Enjolras gives it a long, disapproving stare when he can't hold himself back anymore, his arms crossed and his mouth tight. Grantaire just returns the stare, his gaze steady on Enjolras.
It's Grantaire who breaks first, with a sharp sigh and the crack of glass on wood as he slams the bottle down. "She's not a car, Apollo," he snarls. "I'm not going to crash her if I parent under the influence."
"Sure," Enjolras says, holding his gaze. "Because children of alcoholics never turn out maladjusted, do they?"
Grantaire rocks back violently. His face goes white, his lips bloodless, and he stares at Enjolras like he'd kill him if he had the power to do so with only his thoughts. "Screw you," he says, low and flat, and shoves Gina into his arms as he stalks out the door.
It's easy to hold onto his resolve when he remembers that it's for Gina's sake. This is just ripping off the band-aid -- sure, it hurts like fuck now, but it'll be better for all of them in the long run to just get it over with and make a clean break. It's harder to hold on to that certainty, though, when Gina starts crying as soon as Enjolras walks through the door.
It's just conditioning, he tells himself as he paces the hall with her, patting her back and trying to reassure her. Enjolras walks through the door and starts arguing with Grantaire. Gina starts crying because of the fighting. You repeat that often enough, eventually she's going to start crying as soon as Enjolras gets home, in anticipation of the shouting.
Conditioning can be unlearned, he reminds himself. It'll get better. It's what's best for her in the long run.
Grantaire is hardly to be found on the weekends. He staggers out of bed at noon, his hair a disaster and his expression so pained that he must be hungover, wrestling a shirt on over his head as he staggers to the door and mutters, "Going out, I'll be back later."
The second time it happens, Enjolras stops him with his name. Grantaire stands facing the door, his shoulders squared and tension rippling down his back. "I have that meeting with a client, remember," Enjolras says. "I need you back by four so I can get there on time."
Grantaire lets out a slow breath and brings a hand up to his head. A moment passes and then he shakes it off and straightens. "I'm not your only friend," he says. "Figure something out." And he leaves without another word, just like that. Like he doesn't care at all.
Enjolras comes home one day to discover his apartment full of good smells and Éponine holding Gina in the kitchen. Enjolras gives her a startled, "Oh, hello," and looks around for Grantaire.
"He's back in his bedroom, sleeping it off," she says. Her words are short and sharp and to-the-point, and Enjolras wonders if Grantaire's done something to piss her off, too.
"He was drinking?"
She raises an eyebrow and pins him with a look. "You say that like he's actually stopped any time over the past weeks."
Enjolras pulls a face. He'd started to suspect it, or near enough, but it was one thing to wonder and another to have it confirmed. "Christ," he says. "Well, I'm glad he at least had the foresight to call you. Thank you." He reaches out to take Gina. "I can manage it from here."
"Can you?" she demands, and Enjolras doesn't know how to answer that because suddenly she's glaring at him, and he's not sure why his parenting skills are in question at all. He reaches again for Gina, but Éponine just pulls her away.
"No, I think I'm going to keep her for a little while longer. She needs somebody in her life who hasn't completely lost her mind, and apparently that job falls to me." She carries Gina over to the couch before Enjolras can protest. "There's spaghetti on the stove, you should eat some."
It doesn't sound like an invitation. It sounds like a dismissal. He comes out later to find Éponine with her knees bent, sitting Gina on them so she's at eye level as Éponine leans in and tells her intently, "Listen, you're going to have to get used to it. They're both completely dysfunctional. But a girl needs a little straight talk in her life, so you come to me for that, all right? God knows, I'm probably the only sane one around." She pats Gina's head. "You're a good kid. They're good kids, too, they're just fucking idiots."
Enjolras shifts in the doorway. "Don't teach her how to swear."
"Fuck you," Éponine says brightly. "Go make a bottle, she's going to be hungry soon, and I'm tired of dealing with big babies crying on my shoulder."
Another week passes and Enjolras wonders just how long it's going to take this band-aid to come off and the pain to subside. He's at work one day when he comes out of a meeting to discover that he's missed a call from Grantaire. He hesitates with his finger over the return call button, but then shakes his head and stuffs his phone back into his pocket. He's probably just drinking and looking for a fight again. The day's almost over, he can wait to shout at Enjolras until he gets home.
Grantaire calls four more times in the next ten minutes, and eventually Enjolras sighs and decides that he might as well just answer and let him get it out of his system. It'll be less distracting than his phone going off every two minutes for the rest of the evening.
As soon as he connects the call Grantaire's voice comes spilling over the phone, fast and frantic. "—you leave me in charge of your kid and then you don't answer your fucking phone? God damn it, Enjolras, get your ass home right the fuck now, something's wrong with Gina."
He's moving before Grantaire has even finished his sentence, driven by the panic in his voice and the sound of Gina crying over the line, sharp and distressed in a way that he hasn't heard since her first few nights with him.
He says only "I'm on my way," and then disconnects so he can sling his bag over his shoulder and shout a hasty excuse to his coworkers as he rushes out.
He's never hated the train system so much in his life as he does while standing on the platform watching the countdown on the digital display. The next train will arrive in five minutes. In four. In three.
Every minute that passes feels like an hour. Every pounding beat of his pulse in his ears echoes with the sound of Gina's cries, of Grantaire's voice gone high and tight with alarm. Something's wrong and he's not there. It's the last, final proof of his inadequacy as Gina's guardian, but none of that matters right now. There's no time for a crisis of faith, because Gina needs him, and there is no acceptable alternative to being there for her.
At last the train arrives, and Enjolras barrels through the others crowding the platform to get onto it. But then there's nothing to do but sit and wait and fret as the carriage clatters along the tracks. Every rattle ratchets his tension higher, until his shoulders and back feel like one giant knot and his breath is coming quick and fast, like he's exerting himself just sitting still.
At last, at last, the train pulls into his station. Enjolras hurls himself through the doors the moment they open, darts up the stairs to the street two-at-a-time, and runs full tilt all the way home, his unbuttoned coat flapping behind him.
He bursts through the apartment door already bellowing Grantaire's name. He's answered with a muffled, "Finally, thank fuck," and then a louder, "We're in the bathroom."
He opens the bathroom door to a face full of hot steam and the shower running, though Grantaire is sitting on the floor with his back against the wall and Gina screaming and coughing and wheezing in his lap. Their clothes are sticky against their skin from the steam, and Grantaire's curls are plastered against his brow and his neck, and he turns his face up to Enjolras with a wild-eyed look of desperation.
"I didn't know what else to do," he says. "Bossuet's on his way over with his car but he's still five minutes out. She can hardly breathe, we have to take her to the emergency room."
"Of course we do." Enjolras drops down beside him in his suit and takes Gina from him. She sobs and hiccups and blinks tear-reddened eyes at him, then snuggles in close against his chest like he's the only source of comfort in the world. "What happened?"
"Nothing." Grantaire shakes his head wildly. "Nothing. She woke up coughing like this. Christ, Enjolras, you don't even know. It's so much better, the steam's been helping. She sounds like a seal. Joly said it was croup and to bring her in here and the steam would help her breathe but she still can't. Just listen to her." He buries his head in his arms and breathes raggedly.
"It's okay," Enjolras murmurs, and he's not sure who he's trying to reassure. "It's okay. Bossuet will be here in a minute and we'll get her to the hospital. She'll be okay. She'll be fine." She has to be. There's no other choice. His life can't be one that doesn't have Gina in it.
The rapid thump of footsteps in the apartment announces Bossuet's arrival. He opens the bathroom door and leans his head in. "Car's here," he says. "I'm parked in a red zone so let's get going." His face is drawn and he spares Gina a worried glance, but he's calm, methodical in the face of catastrophe as Enjolras can't be. He gets them all up and onto their feet, reminds them to grab a bottle for Gina because who knows how long they'll be there, shoves the diaper bag into Grantaire's hands when he turns back, blindly looking for it.
It's probably only minutes until they're in Bossuet's beat-up compact, but it feels like hours, like longer. It feels like the world is slowing its spin, like every movement Enjolras makes is done through molasses, thick and suffocating.
By the time they reach the ER, Gina's cough is back, and her wheezing is worse. Enjolras secretly hadn't believed that the steam could have been helping, because she had been so bad when he'd arrived, but now she's worse. Her cough turns from dry and miserable to rough and sharp, just like a seal's barking cry, and it makes her look up at Enjolras with wide, wet eyes, like she just knows that he holds the answer to what's happening to her.
Enjolras clutches her close and whispers reassurances against her hair while Grantaire checks them in to the ER. He tells her that she's brave, and that he's going to take care of her and that everything will be better soon, and he hopes that she believes it better than he does himself, because it feels like a lie.
They're only waiting a few minutes before a nurse in bright scrubs comes out with a little bundle of electronics. "We're just going to hook her up to the pulse oximeter and make sure she's getting enough oxygen," she says, and attaches a clip to Gina's finger.
Gina throws it off furiously and keeps right on howling. It takes both of them, Enjolras holding her tight and Grantaire leaning in to press kisses to her face and try to distract her, before the nurse is able to keep the clip on her finger long enough to get a reading.
"All right, she's a little lower than we'd like her to be," the nurse says, and Enjolras feels sick. Grantaire was right. She can't breathe. How could this have happened so quickly? She only had a little bit of a sniffle the night before, and now they're sitting in the emergency room being told that she's not getting enough oxygen and it feels like everything is spiraling out of control.
They take Gina back and give her a bed, and a doctor comes by and takes her temperature and pulse and listens to her lungs. Grantaire has to climb up on the bed with her and curl around her, peppering her with kisses and whispers just to get her to calm down enough for the doctor to be able to hear anything but crying.
He asks them questions, about when it started and how long it's been going on. Grantaire tells him about the steam and how it helped, and Enjolras tells him about how it had been just a bit of a runny nose the day before. The doctor confirms that it's croup and that they did the right thing bringing her in.
"But croup's not supposed to be like this," Grantaire says plaintively, like if he only points out the injustice of the situation everything will go back to the way it's supposed to be.
The doctor just nods like he understands, like he's confronted with distraught parents every day, so often that it's bcome commonplace. "Most infants who get croup don't ever get it this bad, but it does happen." He puts on a pair of gloves and starts drawing medication up into a syringe. "I'm going to give her a shot of epinephrine, it'll help open up her airways. And if her vitals doesn't improve, then we're going to want to keep her here over night for observation."
The thought of Gina being admitted is terrifying, but the thought of taking her home like this is worse. Enjolras nods helplessly, pathetically grateful. When the doctor gives her the injection, Gina's cries don't change at all, and Enjolras can't tell whether it's because the doctor's got a light enough touch that it didn't bother her, or if the coughing and wheezing is bad enough that the pain of the shot didn't even register.
When Gina draws her first breath that doesn't wheeze like a broken bellows, Enjolras lays his head down on the bed and nearly cries with gratitude. He's shuddering, shaking with it, and when Grantaire lays a careful hand on the back of his neck, Enjolras presses back against it gratefully. The simple comfort of human touch is so staggering in this moment that that makes him want to weep, too.
"The epinephrine helped," the doctor announces some time later. "Her vitals are much better."
"Can we take her home?" Grantaire asks.
"We'd like to keep her here and keep an eye on her tonight, just to be safe."
Grantaire's throat works in silence for a moment. Enjolras reaches out and grasps his hand, gives it a squeeze. Grantaire startles and glances at him. His eyes are wide and red-rimmed and Enjolras hasn't seen him crying at all tonight, but his eyes are so swollen and puffy Enjolras can't think of any other explanation.
He wants to send Grantaire home, to tell him not to do this to himself. That there's no point in both of them being here, distraught and put through an emotional wringer. But even as Grantaire's looking at Enjolras, he's got his hand on the bed, Gina's tiny little hand folded into his, and Enjolras can't speak the words. Enjolras couldn't leave if he were held at gunpoint. How can he expect that Grantaire would be any better capable of it?
It takes them hours to get Gina admitted and settled into a room in the pediatric wing. By that time it's the middle of the night, and neither of them have eaten, and Gina is breathing better but still distressed, still coughing hard enough to make both of them wince every time. She's settled into a crib, but she won't sleep, just keeps tossing and turning and whimpering so pitifully that Enjolras's heart can't take it.
"I'm going to go down to the cafeteria and get something to eat," Enjolras says quietly as Grantaire sits in the room's rocking chair, trying to soothe Gina to sleep. "Do you want me to bring you anything?"
"Coffee." Grantaire rubs at his eyes miserably. "A barrel of it."
"You have to eat," Enjolras says.
Grantaire's mouth thins and he shakes his head. "No appetite. I'll eat later." The when she's feeling better is unspoken, but obvious. Enjolras hesitates in the doorway, staring at Grantaire, at how his face seems drawn and pale, his eyes too big and bruised in his face. He looks like a skeleton, like he's aged twenty years over the course of the evening. When he pulls a hand through his hair and scrubs the heel of his palm against his eyes, Enjolras turns and leaves, because if he stays he's going to say or do something stupid, and he doesn't have the reserves to deal with a second catastrophe tonight.
He comes back with four cups of coffee in a cardboard tray, and a paper bag with bagels and cream cheese.
"Eat anyway," he says, and bites into one bagel as he tosses the other to Grantaire. "You're no good to her if you don't take care of herself."
"I'm barely any good to her anyway, let's be honest," Grantaire says with a sideways pull of his mouth.
"Christ," Enjolras breathes. "Shut up. Just shut up. She loves you. Can't you see that?"
He stares at Enjolras like maybe he really can't, like maybe he can't even believe it's true. And he looks so ragged, like he's going to start fraying at the edges at the slightest provocation.
Enjolras breaks his bagel in two and tosses the second half at Grantaire, too. "Eat," he says again. "Don't make me force feed you."
Grantaire makes a face at him, but he bites into the bagel and swallows it, so Enjolras drags one of the room's extra chairs over next to Grantaire and leans his shoulder against Grantaire's so he can reach over and lay his hand on Gina's back.
The night is unending. The hospital grows quiet as visitors leave and patients settle down to sleep and the only people walking the halls are doctors and nurses. Eventually, in the wee hours of the morning, Gina finally falls into a restless sleep. She's still coughing, but being able to sleep is a milestone that Enjolras didn't think they'd ever reach, and he's deliriously grateful for it. He stays where he's sitting in his chair and doesn't dare move, much less speak, for fear of waking her up and making things worse again.
Eventually, it's Grantaire who finally breaks that fearful silence. He sighs and drags both hands through his hair, like that's going to do anything to tame the mess of his curls, then gives Enjolras a bleary-eyed look. "This chair pulls out into a bed, I think," he says, hushed, barely audible. "For parents, you know. You should take it, get some sleep. I'll stay up and keep an eye on her."
Enjolras just shakes his head. The promise of sleep ought to be a relief, ought to sound like the most amazing idea he's ever heard of after so many ours without it. But all it does is make him feel vaguely ill. "I couldn't, even if I tried. You can have it."
Grantaire's smile is crooked and bitter and devoid of any true humor whatsoever. "You think I'd be able to sleep any easier?"
Enjolras sucks in a sharp breath of air. "That's not what I--"
"I know, Apollo." He doesn't sound angry, or like he's joking, or anything. He just sounds exhausted. He presses his face against the crib's rails and works a hand between them, to lie across Gina's mattress and curl protectively through hers.
"Do you want more coffee?" Enjolras asks, because if they're going to be up anyway, they might at least be able to do it without the crushing weight of exhaustion churning their stomachs.
Grantaire shakes his head without looking away from Gina. "If I drink any more, they're going to have to admit me for caffeine poisoning. And then use restraints to keep me from jittering right out of the hospital bed."
Enjolras just nods understanding and pushes himself up out of the chair with a great effort. "I'll be right back, then. If--" He risks a glance at Gina, who seems to be sleeping peacefully, aside from the occasional rasping cough. "If anything happens, text me right away, all right?"
Grantaire shakes his head and leans back from the crib, struggling to his feet. "No. Christ. You stay. You've made enough runs to the cafeteria tonight. Sit." He clasps a hand on Enjolras's shoulder and squeezes tight, increasing the weight of it until Enjolras drops back down into his chair. "I'll get it. I'll just be a minute."
Something in Enjolras, some shade of the man he normally is, wants to protest at that and fight, to insist that he can do it himself, that there's no point in Grantaire going when he's not going to get anything for himself. But he's so exhausted just the thought of walking down that long hallway to the cafeteria makes his legs hurt. And Gina's here, and sleeping, and he's not stupid enough to give up the opportunity to be with her a little while longer. So he just nods and reaches a hand up to cover the one Grantaire has on his shoulder. He gives it a squeeze as Grantaire slips it off and puts distance between them.
"Same goes, you know," he says as he backs toward the door. His gaze flits between Enjolras's face and Gina's sleeping form. "If anything--"
"I will. Of course I will."
Grantaire nods, and goes, but his gaze lingers on both of them until the hall curves and takes him out of sight.
Dawn comes much too slowly for Enjolras's tastes. But the first, faint tendrils of relief stir within him as the sun rises and light streams in through the room's window.
The hospital starts to rouse around them, patients waking and visitors arriving, bringing with them noise and the sounds of life that Enjolras finds surprisingly reassuring, after the long, lonely night.
A doctor knocks on the door and comes in. It's not the doctor who saw them in the ER the night before, but Enjolras supposes that that makes sense. This one's a woman, young and cheerful, and she smiles at them as she asks, "Are you Gina's parents?"
"Yes," Enjolras says automatically. Grantaire's only a half a beat behind him with his nod.
"I've got good news then, dads. Her vitals have been improving steadily all night and we're going to discharge her this morning. I just need one of you to sign these forms--"
Enjolras practically snatches the clipboard out of her hands. He reads it quickly while Grantaire presses in against him, straining to read over his shoulder. "Christ, Apollo, just sign it," he mutters when Enjolras is still reading the first page. "You're not signing your life away. Let's just take her home."
And that sounds wonderful enough that Enjolras swallows his instinctive protest and just signs it, half read.
The process for getting discharged is almost as tedious as the wait to be seen in the first place, but in an hour Enjolras has Gina wrapped in a blanket in his arms, and Grantaire's got the diaper bag and a prescription for prednisone that the doctor said would help keep her airways open until she's had a chance to clear the virus from her system, and they're leaving, stepping out into the morning sun.
Enjolras blinks against the light and takes Grantaire's arm to guide him toward where Bossuet's car is waiting. They'd called him to beg for another ride as soon as they'd found out that Gina was getting discharged, because Enjolras and Grantaire had exchanged a glance and seem to come to a silent agreement that the last place in the world their sick baby ought to be was in the middle of one of those public transit trains.
It all feels like a dream, foggy and half-remembered, when they let themselves back into the apartment, it feels like casting off a nightmare, and Enjolras can only hope that it stays that way.
There's just one thing left to do to make sure that things stay the way they're supposed to be. Enjolras follows Grantaire into his bedroom, where he's sitting on the edge of the bed with all the curtains closed, trying to convince Gina to sleep again even though it's daylight.
"R," he says, and his voice is strained and catches on the syllable of his name.
Grantaire glances up at him. "Just a minute, Apollo. I think she's finally winding down."
And Enjolras should leave and let him get her to sleep, he knows he should. But there's a pressure in his chest that he can't relieve, and it feels like if he doesn't do something it's going to burst. "No," he says, still standing there at the side of the bed. "She'll wait. This is important."
Grantaire looks up at him, and Enjolras can see the way he closes himself off, the walls that come up, shielding the raw emotion that's been visible on his face ever since Gina got sick. Now it's back to normal, stony and a little angry, and his voice snaps as he says, "If this is about you trying to kick me out of here then it can just wait, all right? I'm not going to leave her while she's sick."
"Kick you out?" Enjolras stares at him. He's so tired and his head is so fuzzy and nothing is making any sense at all right now. "I don't want to kick you out."
Grantaire gives a breath of bitter laughter and shakes his head. "No, that's right. You figured you'd take the coward's way, and just make me miserable until I left on my own accord, right? That way you can cheer yourself up by saying that I left, and it won't even be a lie."
"I don't want you to leave," Enjolras says, and somehow it's easy to speak the words now, when his nerves are frayed and his strength is gone. He doesn't have the wherewithal to hide how he feels behind what he needs to do any longer, and it's freeing.
"Bullshit you don't, you've been trying to push me out for weeks. I don't--" He looks down at Gina and hisses out a sharp breath of air. "Later, Apollo. All right? At least let me get her settled before you pick a fight."
"I haven't been--" He stops and presses his lips together, fighting back the instinct to shout, because if he upsets Gina and they have to soothe her, he'll never get the opportunity to say this, and it's important. "You're going to leave."
Grantaire's head snaps up and his eyes blaze. "God damn it, Enjolras, why can't you just leave well enough alone? She's sick, can't you just put up with me until--"
"You're going to leave and it's going to break her heart."
Grantaire stops mid-sentence and slowly closes his mouth and stares at Enjolras.
"And I've been-- I've been trying to make it easier. To soften the blow. To keep it from completely destroying both of us when you decide that you're tired of being a glorified babysitter all the time, just because I can't take care of my own kid. But I can't. You can't." He drops down onto the edge of the bed and curls his hands to fists in the comforter. "It's going to kill her, R, and she's already been abandoned once by the people who were supposed to love her. We can't do that to her again. We have to figure it out." He rakes a hand through his hair. "I'll, I don't know, I'll see if I can telecommute a few days a week, to take the pressure off you. I'll cut back my hours. We can look for another apartment, somewhere bigger, with a room for Gina and space for you to paint. But we can't do this, R, we can't break her heart. She's just finally gotten to the point where she's happy and not crying all the time and we can't do that to her again." Grantaire is just staring at him, his mouth a little slack. Enjolras wishes desperately that he would just say something. Even if it's an argument, at least then they can fight it out. But Grantaire is just staring at him like Enjolras is speaking in tongues, and it makes Enjolras's words come faster, more desperate. "Just tell me what you need in order to make this more bearable and I'll do it. But you have to stay. For Gina, you have to." And then he can barely speak for the fear and hope twisting into a knot in his throat. He breaks off, and manages only a quiet, strangled, "Please say something, R."
"You are so dumb," Grantaire breathes. His eyes are glazed and slow to focus, slow to move. He looks like he's drunk, but Enjolras knows for a fact that he hasn't touched a drop in at least the better part of a day. It's just the exhaustion, and he probably looks no better. But when Grantaire suddenly lists forward, Enjolras thinks he's going to pass out right there, sitting upright on his bed, and he moves forward to catch him.
Grantaire's mouth crashes against his and the world seems to tilt itself to a new angle. Enjolras holds very still, but there's a tremor running through him that he can't control. Grantaire's mouth is warm and soft and tastes of stale coffee, and when he brings his hands up to either side of his face, Enjolras makes a sound against his mouth and presses back into the kiss.
It's sleepy and sloppy and they're both clumsy with exhaustion. Eventually, when the best they can manage is to just lean against each other, breathing raggedly against each other's mouths, Grantaire pulls away and leans his forehead against Enjolras's. His fingers clench around fistfuls of Enjolras's hair. "You are the dumbest smart person I know," he says like they're finishing a conversation. "And I'm not going anywhere. Not unless you make me."
"I'm not. I won't." Enjolras wants to pull him in again. He wants to hold him back at arm's length and demand to know what that was, what it means. He wants to probe and analyze and plan, but he's so tired, and Grantaire's eyes are so red. He puts off his instinct and grabs onto a handful of Grantaire's shirt, so that when Enjolras tips over onto the bed, he pulls Grantaire down with him.
They settle Gina between them, and she's not asleep yet but she's making her way there, sighing and snuffling like she does just before she finally goes under. And it's so nice, and Enjolras thinks, Okay, just for a minute, and then we'll talk, and falls asleep the moment he shuts his eyes.
Sometime later, when the room is a bit brighter and his head a little clearer, he wakes again, this time of his own doing. Gina is still sprawled across his arm, drooling onto his sleeve, but when he cracks his eyes open, the bed is empty but for the two of them.
He draws his arm out from beneath her head gently, holding his breath all the while in the hope that he won't rouse her. She snuffles a little and starts to whimper, but he gives her one of her soft blankets and she latches onto it and goes under again. He lets his breath out in relief and creeps out, pulling the bedroom door shut behind him.
The apartment smells like coffee, and Grantaire's sitting on a stool at the counter when Enjolras comes out. "I heard you moving around, so I made you a cup," he says, and puts one down on the opposite side of the counter, like he expects Enjolras to take the seat across from him, the counter's broad expanse of marble between them.
Enjolras takes the mug and sips it on his feet. He hums with pleasure when he finds it sweetened just to his taste, and then on a whim, because it feels good and he wants to pursue that feeling, he carries it around the counter to Grantaire's side and settles down next to him.
Grantaire hesitates with his own mug halfway to his mouth and glances sidelong at him. Enjolras sets his down, then takes Grantaire's in his hands and puts it on the counter, too. And then while Grantaire is looking at him like maybe he's about to pull a really terrible prank, Enjolras leans in and presses his lips to Grantaire's.
He keeps the kiss chaste, just the warm pressure of Grantaire's lips on his own, until Grantaire sighs unsteadily into his mouth and brings his hands up to curve around the back of Enjolras's neck.
"I thought--" Grantaire's voice, when he speaks, is a mess of uncertainty. "It felt like a dream. And with the exhaustion, and emotions riding high..." He pulls away and ducks his head. "It seemed stupid to presume."
Enjolras sighs, harsh enough that the sound rattles in his throat, and pulls him in for another kiss, because he wants it. Because Grantaire's going to his head faster than wine, and he can't quite believe he spent so much time bracing for when Grantaire left, when they could have been doing this instead.
This kiss is not chaste. He licks Grantaire's mouth open and swallows his sigh, and tastes the sharp bitterness of coffee on his tongue. And when he has to breathe, he draws back just enough to lean his forehead against Grantaire's. "I'm not the only dumb smart person in this house."
Grantaire's laughter is weak and unsteady. "Yes, you are. I'm just dumb, full stop."
"Stop that." Enjolras closes his hands on Grantaire's arms and kisses him again to shut him up. He's rapidly growing addicted. "Your art's amazing. And you're brilliant with Gina."
And there's more, a hundred other ways he's incredible that Enjolras could list out for him, but Grantaire smiles like those are the best compliments Enjolras could have paid him. But then his smile falters and his expression twists with consternation. He pulls back a little -- though he wraps his fingers through Enjolras's and squeezes tight, as though Enjolras might have any thoughts of leaving -- and gives him a pained, belligerent look. "Oh my god, I hate you," he breathes. "I've been trotting on your heels for years, literally years, and when you finally look twice at me there's a baby and she's going to wake up soon and there's no time. Do you even know how many incredibly detailed fantasies I've had about you?" He stares at Enjolras like it's the most tragic thing he's ever heard.
"No," Enjolras says, and he can't help it, he grins. "But I want to find out."
"Well you never will, because we'll never have the time. You're the worst."
Enjolras laughs, and there's no choice but to guide him in and kiss him once again. This time, Grantaire makes a broken sound against his mouth and leans in, sliding off of his stool and pressing in against Enjolras like he'd try to climb up onto his if he didn't think it'd collapse beneath their weight and kill them both. His hands grip tight and frantic in Enjolras's hair and his mouth is hungry, is aggressive.
It's wonderful, and Enjolras is just about to suggest they make a start on Grantaire's list when the high-pitched sound of Gina's cries comes from the bedroom. They both freeze, and Grantaire pulls back and gives him a reproving look, like he personally walked in there and woke her up.
"The worst," he says again, then moves back and turns to go get her.
It's such a relief to have Gina mostly well and mostly cheerful again that Enjolras doesn't even mind the interruption. When Grantaire brings her out, they all sit on the floor together and play with her with one of her new toys. ("We can't have three dumb smart people in the house," Grantaire says, and where normally Enjolras would expect his tone to be dry and self-deprecating, this time he's just bright and amused and happy.)
And if they end up with Enjolras on his back on the carpet and Grantaire lying crosswise to him, his head pillowed on Enjolras's stomach as Enjolras sifts his hands through Grantaire's hair, well, he's not exactly complaining. It's another thing that feels good, that he's trying hard not to over-think and analyze to death. And if Grantaire's low hum and the cat-that-got-the-cream smile that curves his mouth is anything indication, then he likes it, too.
If the way he sighs, "Damn it, I never would have guessed you'd be so handsy, I am not prepared for this," and mutters promises of retribution like he doesn't want Gina to overhear, then maybe likes it is an understatement, and that makes Enjolras smile, too.
The afternoon is full of casual touches, like now that the distance they've always maintained between them has been breached, they can't bear to keep apart any longer. They build on each other, small pleasures that add up until his skin is humming and his lungs feel heavy and full, and every incidental brush of Grantaire's skin against his makes him shiver and want.
When Gina finally starts giving the slow, dazed blinks that mean she's ready for a nap, it's nearly evening. Enjolras takes her into the bedroom to put her down while Grantaire hovers in the doorway being obvious and distracting.
When she's settled into sleep well enough that Enjolras can ease away and tip-toe to the door, Grantaire catches him by the arm as he steps through it and shoves him back against the wall.
"You're a tease," he says mournfully. "If I'd known you were such a tease, I never would have fallen for you."
And Enjolras just smiles, because there's no other possible reaction to the words fallen for you coming out of Grantaire's mouth. "You would have."
"Because I'm dumb." He latches his mouth onto the skin beneath Enjolras's jaw and sucks a bruise there that's probably going to linger for days. Enjolras just arches against his mouth and pulls him in, fingers tight on his shoulder and his waist.
"She's only going to be down for twenty minutes if we're lucky," Enjolras says. He runs his hands through Grantaire's hair and pushes the pad of his thumb against his lips. "We have to be quick."
Grantaire's laughter is choked. He shakes his head, his eyes bright and a little wild. "That is not going to be a problem."
"We have to be quiet."
Grantaire shuts his eyes and leans his head on Enjolras's shoulder, already breathing hard. "That might be a problem."
They can't use Enjolras's bed because of Gina, so Enjolras fits his hands to Grantaire's hips and guides him backwards, down the hall and into Grantaire's room. Grantaire trips on the edge of his mattress and falls backward, and Enjolras goes down with him willingly. He clasps him close and twists on the way down so that Grantaire mostly lands on top of him, instead of the mattress on the hard floor.
The impact forces the air from his lungs. Grantaire braces himself up on his elbows above him, staring down at Enjolras like he's shocked, and Enjolras thinks it might have knocked the wind out of him, too. "This is not real," Grantaire says, shaking his head.
Enjolras pulls him down with fingers wrapped in his hair and kisses him hard, so he'll know that it is. "You're wasting time," he grumbles against Grantaire's lips.
Grantaire shivers, and the sound that comes from him is something that's neither laughter nor fear, but something that manages to be both at once. "Oh my god," he whimpers, each word gasped out in between kisses pressed to Enjolras's face, his throat, down his chest until the collar of Enjolras's shirt gets in his way. "Twenty minutes. How am I supposed to choose?"
Enjolras rolls him over and spreads him out across the bed. He kneels straddling Grantaire's hips, and rises up to look down on him. Grantaire is gasping, his hair a mess and his eyes bright with promises that Enjolras intends to make sure he keeps. His hands hover on Enjolras's waist, thumbs brushing circles over his hipbones that make Enjolras shiver and lean more weight against his hands.
He wants to see Grantaire, wants to peel his clothes off of him and get a look at all that skin underneath. But Grantaire is staring at him like he wants to eat him up, and maybe Enjolras has been the worst, just a little bit. He wants Grantaire to keep smiling, so instead of stripping him bare for his own enjoyment, Enjolras stays as he is, on his knees upright over Grantaire, and peels his shirt off over his head.
Grantaire's eyes go dark and hungry as he looks Enjolras over. His hands tighten on Enjolras's sides, until Enjolras brushes them away so he can unbutton and unzip his fly, and push his jeans and underwear down off his hips together.
"Christ." The word is an explosion that bursts out of Grantaire and galvanizes him into motion.
He's suddenly scrambling, twisting as he struggles out from beneath Enjolras. "Oh my god, you have to let me, you have to." The words come tumbling out of him in a stream, so fast and frantic they all run together. But he's kneeling in front of Enjolras and grabbing onto his hips to pull him up onto his knees as Grantaire sinks low, bending forward to breathe over Enjolras's cock, and it doesn't matter that he could barely understand what Grantaire said, because he knows.
Grantaire only gives him a moment to steel himself. He sucks in air at the quick, warm caress of Grantaire's breath over his cock, and then Grantaire's mouth is on him, swallowing him down, hot and wet and eager. Enjolras shoves his fingers into Grantaire's hair and lets his head fall back, gaping up at the ceiling overhead. Grantaire's going to kill him. The pace he sets is brutal and Enjolras's heart is going to explode right out of his chest and he's going to die.
Grantaire throws himself into what he's doing like he intends to make the most of every second that Gina allows them. His hands knead down Enjolras's thighs, then slide around to grab the backs of his legs and pull him in, swallowing him down deeper. And every time he has to pull back to take a breath, his expression twists like he's heartbroken, like being separated even for an instant is unbearable.
Something has gone wrong, and Enjolras's head is too busy spinning off into the clouds for him to put his finger on it. But this was supposed to be about Grantaire, about making him happy, and now Enjolras is about thirty seconds away from the quickest, most astounding orgasm of his life and he's not quite sure how things got out of his control so rapidly.
"Stop," he whispers, and then has to repeat it again, louder, when Grantaire shows no sign that he heard. Enjolras closes his hands on Grantaire's hair and draws him back, bends down to cover his indignant frown with his mouth and kiss it away. "Stop," he says once more. "I don't want-- It's too soon."
"You said to be quick," Grantaire points out. "And your dick, Jesus Christ." He curls his hand around Enjolras's cock while they talk and starts stroking him off, like he's an addict and he just can't help himself.
"You aren't even naked yet."
That kindles a light in Grantaire's eyes that Enjolras is never going to get tired of seeing. He scrambles back, just enough that he can strip his clothes off without elbowing Enjolras in the face.
Enjolras watches him reveal himself, and he understands a little better how things got out of his control earlier. Because as Grantaire bares his body, there is nothing in the world that Enjolras wants more than to kiss and touch and taste every inch of skin.
Grantaire's hard, when he shoves his pants off his hips and has to sit down on the bed to work his legs out of them. His cock is scarlet and it curves a little and it's fucking gorgeous. Enjolras pushes him down onto his back while he's still got one ankle caught in the leg of his jeans, and Grantaire laughs a startled protest, but the sound dies and is swallowed by a moan when Enjolras takes him in hand and starts working him with a firm grip and a demanding rhythm.
"Oh fuck," Grantaire gasps at the ceiling above them. "Oh Christ, Apollo. This is so unfair."
"I could stop," Enjolras offers, but it's a lie. He couldn't, even if he wanted to. There's a flush crawling down Grantaire's chest that's mesmerizing, and the way he twitches and gasps when Enjolras sweeps his thumb over the head of his cock is a sight that he wants to remember forever.
"Don't. Don't you dare." Grantaire's hands bite in harder at Enjolras's waist. His hips rise up off the bed, driving into Enjolras's grip. "Don't stop, I want--" But whatever it is he wants is lost, muffled against Enjolras's mouth when Grantaire drags him down for a kiss.
The angle is awkward like this. Enjolras's arm burns from the strain of holding himself up on it, so he takes his hand off of Grantaire's cock and presses down into him. When he rocks his hips and ruts against him, their skin slides together and Grantaire chokes off a moan against his mouth.
His mouth is dirty, dropping a steady stream of vulgarities in gasps and moans. But when Enjolras adjusts the angle of his hips so that their cocks slide together with every stroke, it gets even filthier.
"Oh fuck, Apollo, I want you so bad." His hands claw down Enjolras's back. It's going to leave marks, and the idea of that just makes Enjolras grin all the fiercer. "I want to fuck you until you cry. I want to bury myself in you and feel you fall apart around me. I want to work you open so slowly and so carefully that you're begging me for it by the time I'm done." His voice breaks off with an uneven moan.
"I would," Enjolras murmurs, bending down to suck at the curve of his neck. "Beg you, I mean."
Grantaire's grin is sharp and a little delirious. "You really would."
Enjolras noses up to the curve of his jaw and the soft spot behind his ear that makes him moan. He lingers there, laving his tongue over skin and catching the edge of Grantaire's earlobe between his teeth just to hear his breath hitch, and he murmurs right there where Grantaire can't help but hear, "I want to fuck you, too. You'd let me do that, won't you?" He pulls Grantaire's thigh up around his hip so he can drive against him harder, make the strokes longer.
"Yes." Grantaire sounds like he's crying. His mouth gapes open and shut again on wordless noises. "Yes, god, I want you to. Apollo."
It's rushed and frantic and glorious, and Enjolras wants to stay like this forever, with Grantaire's breath stuttering against his ear and his body shaking apart beneath him. It takes him by surprise when he comes first, his orgasm slamming into him, startling a cry from him as he comes in messy stripes across Grantaire's stomach.
And Grantaire's eyes go wide and shocked, and he drags Enjolras down into a ferocious kiss and gasps against his mouth, "Oh my god, I want to make you do that again. I want to make you do that all the time. Fucking Christ, Apollo, you're so beautiful." He hooks his legs over Enjolras's hips and locks his ankles behind him, fucking up into the mess smeared across their stomachs.
And Enjolras is rapidly discovering that there's little on this earth that he likes more than kissing Grantaire, but he breaks away and holds himself up on outstretched arms so he can watch his face, because this is even better.
He's open like this, all the walls he usually hides behind forgotten, cynicism and sarcasm stripped away, leaving only Grantaire, and Enjolras thinks that he's wrong. It's Grantaire who's beautiful, as he throws his head back and bares the strong lines of his throat, groaning like Enjolras's touch is going to kill him.
His hands are claws scoring down Enjolras's arm and across the back of his neck. His eyes shoot wide and latch onto Enjolras's as he comes with a silent shout, his mouth gaping wide like he still can't believe it's happening.
Enjolras wraps his arms around Grantaire's back and crushes him against his chest as he trembles. Grantaire holds on just as tightly, his face buried in Enjolras's throat. "God," he breathes faintly after a few moments, when the trembling's begun to ease. "God."
Enjolras just smiles and rolls them both onto their sides so he's not crushing him. He presses a soft kiss to Grantaire's slack mouth, then leans their foreheads together as they breathe into the shared space between them.
They only get a few moments like that, and they all pass in easy silence. The sweat hasn't even begun to cool on their skin when Gina starts crying from the other room. Grantaire rolls toward him, muffling a groan or a laugh or something in between the two against Enjolras's chest. "Duty calls," he says when Gina's cries get louder and there's no chance that she's going to put herself back to sleep.
Enjolras shivers when Grantaire pulls away and climbs off the mattress. He's feeling replete and listless and would have liked to stay tangled in the sheets with Grantaire into the evening, but he drags himself upright and pads naked after Grantaire into his room (their room, he thinks, it should be their room now, they can pull the mattress out of the office and give Grantaire room to set up his easels and a space to work) to get her out of her crib.
Grantaire's already got her, and he's lying back on Enjolras's bed with her sitting upright beside him. It looks so cozy and wonderful that Enjolras climbs right in with them.
Grantaire turns his head and smiles at him. He's very close and very lovely and so happy. Enjolras wants to kiss him again, so he does, and marvels at how it still feels strange and illicit and thrilling.
Grantaire rolls onto his side, propping himself up on an elbow. He catches Enjolras's eye with an expression gone suddenly serious. "There's something we need to get straight right now," he says as Gina chews on his knuckles.
Enjolras swallows back his happiness and nods, bracing for whatever it is that Grantaire has on his mind, waiting for him to throw every stupid, thoughtless thing Enjolras has done back in his face.
"I am not a babysitter," Grantaire says. "Glorified or otherwise."
Enjolras lets his breath out on a rush. "I know."
Grantaire takes his face between his hands and kisses him firmly. "We're a family."
And there's nothing Enjolras can do but smile at that, brilliantly, joyfully, and hold onto Grantaire tight enough that he'll trust he means it. "I know."