"Make room for me, you jerks!" Eponine grinned as she climbed over the rows of rowdy boys to the back of the van. They groaned jokingly as her long sundress brushed by their faces, lightly swatting the sky blue fabric out of the way in feigned disgust. She settled into the stained vinyl seat, ignoring the large tear in the back cushion, the lingering smell of dust, and anything else that might be lurking in the depths of the back row. After all, it was the group's first outing since buying the 60's VW for a shared sum of $100 on the spur of the moment, and she wasn't going to be brought down by any of the van's... quirks. When the group had bought the thing, they hadn't noticed the toy soldiers crammed in the air vents, the lingering scent of marijuana, or the tape player which was forever stuck repeating Jackson Five's "ABC." They hadn't noticed the old photos of a young couple in tie-dye and bell bottoms that had been crammed in the glove compartment and forgotten long ago. They hadn't noticed the chips in the aquamarine paint and the third row seat that bore the message "FUCK THE POLICE" in messy permanent marker. Indeed, they had not seen any of these things, but these were the little details that made them love the van all the more, for it was as messy and colorful and charming as the students who had purchased it.
Eponine felt a small flare of embarrassment as she remembered the boys pulling out their wallets in the used car lot and donating money towards the van, while she had simply blanched and retrieved the two measly dollars she had in her skirt pocket. "I-" she stuttered, looking desperately to Marius for help. He looked at her in earnest confusion for a moment, mouthing 'What?' and raising his hands slightly. All of a sudden, his facial expression shifted into one of epiphany, and he silently formed a slow and awkward 'Oh!', almost jumping in revelation and mortification. Eponine raised her eyebrows and looked at him pointedly, blushing deeper. He walked over to her, reaching into his jeans to pull out a billfold and offer her a $10 bill. As he did so, he smiled suspiciously and looked nervously at the other students, who stared at him in puzzlement.
"What are you doing?" Eponine spoke softly but with the speed of someone who feels the eyes of the group upon her. Marius looked bewildered.
"I thought you needed a bit of cash?" Now it was Marius' turn to blush, deep pink mingling with the bursts of freckles across his face. "I mean, I thought you were trying to keep it on the down low..."
"Marius, I don't want your money! I just... I can't give much to the car effort." She looked to him, silently begging him to understand. "It's okay, I won't be one of the co-owners, alright?" She tried to smile. "I just don't want you guys to go to buy the thing expecting the last few dollars from me and-"
"Marius please, just listen"
"Eponine, calm down, okay? Think of all the times you've helped me out. I mean, without you, I would never have learned to fix the hole in these jeans! I'd be walking around with my butt showing." Marius furrowed his eyebrows, realizing that his statement wasn't exactly as eloquent as he would have liked. "Um, what I meant was..."
"Marius, I still won't..."
"Eponine, you are my friend, and this car is my gift to you. Okay, part of this car is my gift to you. Not a literal part, I guess, because then you'd have to..."
Eponine sighed in defeat and reached up to give Marius a hug, interrupting his babbling.
"Jesus Christ, get a room!" Bahorel called, his booming voice shocking Eponine and Marius into reality.
"You're just bitter because nobody ever wants to touch you with a ten foot pole, let alone give you a hug." Grantaire laughed heartily. Bahorel squared his jaw and clenched his fists.
"Come here, you big dork, I'll hug you." Courfeyrac walked at Bahorel with a cockeyed smirk and open arms, wrapping his significantly taller companion in a giant, exaggerated bear hug. Bahorel pouted like a grumpy child as Courfeyrac patted his back vigorously, closing his eyes and nodding melodramatically all the while.
"Oh my god, I can't take you people anywhere." Enjolras rolled his eyes, but a smile played at his lips as he climbed down from the roof of a broken down station wagon and readjusted his dark sunglasses.
"Aw, look at Blondie, all hot and bothered." Grantaire reached out and ruffled Enjolras' hair. From beneath a now messy tangle of yellow curls, a pair of blue eyes slitted indignantly. The whole group burst into laughter, but none guffawed so loudly as Grantaire. Enjolras reddened slightly, blowing a stray bit of hair out of his face in exasperation.
Feuilly and Combeferre, who had been working on the paperwork, gathered everyone to pay and sign a few forms. As they walked into the dealership office, Eponine walked beside Marius, throwing him grateful smiles every time he looked at her. He would chuckle and run his hands uncomfortably through his hair, saying, "It's really nothing, Ponine. I swear!" And that was the thing, wasn't it? When you've grown up with money, it means nothing more to give a few dollars to a friend than it does to offer a bit of advice or moral support: money is a commodity which is not in high demand, and may as easily be given to a friend as a vending machine. For Eponine, it meant so much more. Money was so hard to come by ever since she was a child, and the thought of having it given to her out of friendship was a concept she could barely wrap her head around.
"Hey, princess!" Eponine's mind snapped back into the present. She looked up to see Bossuet staring at her with equal parts disappointment and amusement.
"What's wrong?" Was she doing something embarrassing? Was she having some sort of wardrobe malfunction? She self-consciously stroked her dark hair, smoothed out her dress, and straightened the large sunflower in her hair.
Bossuet laughed. "No, chere! You look fine. It's just... Well... I think you're sitting on my sunglasses. And phone. And lunch." She jumped up to find a khaki bag with Bossuet's possessions inside. The phone's screen was shattered into a hundred pieces, and the arms had broken off the sunglasses. "Look at that!" He guffawed loudly, and all the other boys stared at him. Even a pair of dark sunglasses framed by light curls glared down from the rear view mirror. "I think they broke each other." Bossuet mused. Eponine handed him the remnants of his items, as well as the bag. Reaching deep into the outer pockets, he retrieved a flattened husk of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a plastic bag. "Ah well." He opened the bag and began to eat the squished sandwich. Eponine raised one eyebrow. "What, you want some?" She grinned and waved her hands in front of her, warding Bossuet off as he brought his sandwich closer to her face.
"Okay men. And lady." Enjolras nodded at Eponine, and some of the boys gave a little golf clap of acknowledgement in her direction. "When we get to the city, we're going first to the embassy buildings. Maybe we'll even get a chance to educate an ambassador or two on the true meaning of freedom." Enjolras said. A collective groan arose from the group. "Those are sounds of excitement, I'm sure." He turned his face sideways to scowl threateningly at them while keeping an eye on the road.
"Don't you think we should maybe, I don't know, enjoy our day off? We're not even petitioning or marching or speaking today. Would it be the worst thing in the world for us to just take in the city as we choose?" Bahorel's words were not particularly colored by anger or bitterness, but to Enjolras, they may as well have been an outright statement of mutiny.
"Actually, I'd rather see the botanical gardens than the embassy, if it's all the same to you." Marius spoke softly, sinking into his seat. The more he spoke, the more timid he became, his words shrinking into barely audible squeaks. "Cosette would love it if I came back with pictures of the flowers."
"I'll go with Marius." Eponine chimed quickly, staring directly at Enjolras. Unlike the others, she was not afraid of him. In fact, she was never nervous around any of them but Marius. When one has grown up with thieves and murderers, a boy revolutionary was nothing to fear.
The rest of the group did not seem to share Bahorel's, Eponine's, and Marius' courage, but simply mumbled their various plans for things to do in the city that did not include harassing public officials. Enjolras sighed in disgust and resignation. "Is there anyone who wants to come with me?"
"I do." Grantaire raised his fist in a show of solidarity. "Can't get rid of me that easy." He grinned and took a swig from his thermos.
Enjolras quickly glanced back in suspicion. "You? You want to come with me?"
Grantaire closed his eyes tight and beamed exaggeratedly. "I know. Try to curb your enthusiasm, Goldilocks."
Enjolras took a deep breath and tried again. "What I mean to say is... I mean, don't you have plans to drink the city dry or something?"
For a moment, Grantaire looked honestly offended, but his pout soon became overly dramatic and humorous. "Oh Harpo, you underestimate me. Ever heard of multitasking?" He reached into the pocket of his sweatshirt and retrieved a small flask. "I was a Boy Scout."
"Yeah, for like, five minutes!" Combeferre called. "The one time we went camping, you made me pitch our tent, you ate all the food in the first hour, and spent the entire weekend trying to flirt with my mom!"
"Shut up, your mom was hot." Grantaire didn't miss a beat. "The point is, I'm always prepared."
Enjolras sighed and rolled his eyes, muttering, "I do have a name, you know." Under his breath, he spat the name "Harpo" repeatedly. "I am no Marx brother."
Hasty to distract himself, Enjolras punched the radio button, immediately regretting his decision as once again "ABC" blasted through the van. "Oh. My. God!" He yelled, slamming his head against the steering wheel. The drivers around them stared in anger at the beat up VW blaring its horn. "Sorry," he grumbled, trying to calm down as the group began to sing along to the tape. "God, Joly! How can you mess up the words to this song? It's the same thing for five minutes straight." Enjolras huffed and gritted his teeth.
"Don't yell at me, my head's fuzzy. This cold medicine is a killer." Joly folded his arms over his cream polo, covering a small purple blotch where he had spilled a bit of cough syrup that morning. In truth, Joly never seemed sick: he was probably the healthiest of the group. And yet, he could never go a day without complaining about some new, imagined illness. This didn't seem to have an effect on his disposition, however, for he still laughed and sang with the group. Enjolras had learned long ago that it was useless to discuss health with Joly, for there was no convincing him that sickness was, in fact, not something one could invent.
The singing continued for the rest of the long drive. Enjolras didn't say anything, but held the steering wheel in a death grip for the duration of the ride. When they finally reached the city and found a parking spot near the center of the downtown area, the students exited the car in a wild scramble, playfully pushing and shoving as they fought to get through the car doors. Bossuet left first, falling out of the car into a face plant on the pavement. He bounced up quickly, brushing the dirt off of his knees and shorts. "Okay, who didn't see that coming?" He chuckled. The others shrugged. Bossuet was by far the unluckiest person they knew, so it was pretty much a given that anything that could go bad would assuredly happen to Bossuet. Feuilly and Prouvaire jumped out after him, checking to make sure that he was alright. True to form, Bossuet was a little messier, a little bloodier, but ultimately fine.
As everyone assembled on the pavement, they formed small groups that were headed to different destinations. Marius and Eponine said their goodbyes and started off towards the botanical gardens. Bossuet, Courfeyrac, Prouvaire, and Joly made for the garden of strange and wonderful statues that towered in front of the modern art museum. Bahorel wandered off without disclosing where exactly he was going. Feuilly and Combeferre waited for Enjolras and Grantaire to exit the van before walking to the national archives. When the group had dispersed, Grantaire turned a goofy smile on Enjolras. "Come on, Lord Frownsalot. Let's have some fun." He put an arm around Enjolras. To his surprise, Enjolras did not struggle or shrug him off. "I like your shirt, by the way." Grantaire looked down at his companion's t-shirt, which was printed with an entire passage from some long forgotten book of political theory. "You think people actually read that when you walk down the street?"
"Of course!" he replied matter-of-factly, but his expression brightened at the mention of politics. "People just need a little push towards freedom to become interested in their government, and I don't see why a message of freedom on a t-shirt can't be just that. See, look!" Enjolras exclaimed, pointing at a trio of young women walking by them on the sidewalk. The women stared at Enjolras, smiling coyly. "They're reading the shirt."
"It's not the shirt they're staring at."
Enjolras looked back at the women, who had passed by but continued to look at him. They giggled, and he realized they were now fixated on his jeans, not his shirt. He blushed deeply, made incomprehensible noises, and sped up. Grantaire laughed, staring straight at the girls and reaching around to smack Enjolras on the seat of the pants. Their eyes widened and they laughed harder.
"Why do I even bother with you?" Enjolras rolled his eyes and glanced around the street in embarrassment.
"Why does anyone?" Grantaire laughed. He pulled off his sweatshirt, removing his flask and putting it into his pants pocket. "Here, you can have this if you don't want people staring at your ass." Enjolras tied the gray sweatshirt around his waist, grimacing in distaste at its slight stench of coffee and liquor. "So where are we headed, boss?"
"Well, the Turkish embassy is about five minutes from here, so we may as well go there first."
"Wait, we have something against Turkey?" Grantaire pouted in confusion, releasing his hold of Enjolras' shoulders.
"You bet your ass we do." Enjolras grinned darkly and looked forward. As they turned a corner, more and more people appeared on the sidewalk. Grantaire pushed through the growing crowd unapologetically, straining to keep an eye on his friend. The busy business women and men stared in disgust at him, occasionally shouting and cursing. When they finally reunited in front of an imposing marble building adorned with a Turkish flag, Enjolras was already lecturing the uninterested passersby on freedom, oppression, and the coming revolution. Grantaire shrugged to himself, leaning against one of the embassy's stone columns and listening, occasionally tossing in an "Amen!" or "Yeah, what he said." They spent a few hours like this, until a man in a dark suit and sunglasses asked them to leave.
Enjolras puffed up, staring straight into the man's eyes with a burning determination. "Leave? How can we run when we are fulfilling our sacred duty to-"
"Sorry! He's just a really... excitable poly sci major. We're leaving." Grantaire put one of his hands up in surrender, gripping Enjolras in the other and walking purposefully down the street. Enjolras struggled against the tight hold on his arm, finding Grantaire surprisingly strong for someone who seemingly did nothing but drink all day.
"GRANTAIRE!" Enjolras shouted, drawing the attention of the other people on the street. His face was a portrait of anger: his nostrils flared, his cheeks reddened, and his mouth curled into a snarl. "Who's side are you on? I thought you agreed to help me today!"
Without relinquishing his grip, Grantaire rolled his eyes. "You've gotta pick your battles, buddy." Enjolras sighed in disgust. "You want to be thrown in jail before you've gotten a chance to start the revolution?" Grantaire let Enjolras go, and began to laugh uncontrollably.
"You think this is funny?" Enjolras spat. "You think freedom is a joke? Do you think the poor, who must sell their lives and dignity to stay in rags and leaky houses laugh?" He noticed suddenly that Grantaire was staring at his shirt. He looked down to see that a bird had defecated on his shoulder. He screamed in rage and stomped down the sidewalk, going nowhere in particular.
Grantaire ran up to him, grabbing his arms gently and bending his knees slightly to look him in the eyes. "Deep breaths." Enjolras glared at him."Okay, okay, we'll get you a new shirt. They sell them all over the place. I swear, you'll be fine." Enjolras' face softened slightly. Grantaire lowered his arms and stood up. "God, I am not drunk enough for this." He retrieved his flask from his pocket, and took a swig. "You want some?"
"What is wrong with you?" Enjolras folded his arms and continued to walk down the sidewalk in silence, followed closely by Grantaire. About halfway to the next block, Enjolras grumbled softly, "I want the drink."
"Hell yeah, you want the drink." Grantaire chuckled, handing him the flask. Enjolras tossed his head back and dress huge sip. "Uh, you might want to take it easy there." Grantaire cautiously grabbed the flask, easing it away from his friend. Blue eyes glared at him from beneath a mop of messy curls. Grantaire smiled and mussed Enjolras' hair. "You don't hold wine well, let alone liquor."
They continued until they found a stand selling t-shirts. Pulling out his wallet, Enjolras found a five dollar bill and a few stray ones. "What can I get for seven bucks?" Enjolras smiled at the uninterested woman running the stand. She responded with a lazy gesture towards a small pile of shirts, rolling her eyes and blowing a large pink bubble in his face. The boys went to inspect the tees.
They stood in silence for a few moments. "These are all women's t-shirts." Grantaire raised his eyebrows.
"I can see that, Grantaire!"
"Tell your boyfriend to calm his tits, okay?" The woman at the register looked up from her magazine and shot them both threatening looks.
"Oh honey, you don't know the half of it." Grantaire chuckled. Enjolras covered his face in his hands. He gave Grantaire his sweatshirt back before defeatedly grabbing one of the simpler t-shirts from the bottom of the stack, paying, and hurriedly storming into a nearby McDonald's to change.
"Why do you put up with him?" the woman said.
"Why does anyone?" Grantaire shrugged before trotting into the restaurant.
He entered the McDonald's, grabbing a seat by the bathroom and waiting for Enjolras to emerge. When he finally did, he wore a blue t-shirt that looked about one size too small with a large, glittering red star on it. "If you say a word, I will put arsenic in your drink at the next opportunity." Grantaire widened his eyes and put his hands up.
"I'm not saying anything." Grantaire ran a hand through his dark hair and bit his lip.
"Really?" Enjolras said skeptically.
"Really. I know better than to start that with you right now." Grantaire stood up.
"Um, thanks." Enjolras smiled wearily. "Can I borrow your sweatshirt again?"
"I can't let you do that." Grantaire spoke earnestly, shaking his head. "It was fine this morning, but it's eighty degrees out now, and I am not in the mood to haul your ass across the city when you have a heat stroke."
"Are you kidding me right now?" Enjolras was almost in hysterics.
"Well, you can wear it around your waist again, but that shirt's got to stay. Oh come on, like it's any more ridiculous than wearing an entire damn book on your chest."
"It was a passage! And you said you liked it!"
"Remember what I said about picking battles?"
Enjolras groaned and snatched the sweater, once more tying it around his hips. "Let's just find everyone else and go home."
"Aye aye, captain!" Grantaire offered a little salute and pulled out his phone, handing it to Enjolras. He couldn't help but smile a bit as he accepted the phone and dialed Feuilly's number, stepping a few feet away to talk. Grantaire gazed absent-mindedly at his companion. It occurred to him that this was one of the only times he had ever seen Enjolras as a real person: someone who could be flustered and embarrassed and uncomfortable, as opposed to a mere symbol of revolution, an embodiment of ideals. He found it oddly endearing. The little revolutionary was a real boy after all.
The phone rang once before there was an answer. "Feuilly?"
"Enjolras?" Feuilly spoke quickly and softly. "Where are you? You didn't get arrested did you?" There was a loud murmuring in the background. Feuilly forced a laugh and raised his voice, as if to convince some unseen party. "Just kidding... My friends never get arrested. We're just law abiding citizens!" The murmuring faded. "Anyway, what's going on?"
"We're going home. God, what? I didn't get arrested." Enjolras spoke authoritatively and deliberately. Feuilly suspected nothing of his earlier misadventures. After all, it was not abnormal for Enjolras to give an order suddenly and without explanation. Besides, the boy's unfailing conviction and faith in himself and his ideals inspired trust in the others.
"Alright, but I'm literally in the middle of a very enlightening lecture right now with a speaker who absolutely is not standing over me as we speak. There are still about fifteen minutes left. After this, we promised to meet with Courfeyrac, Bossuet, Jehan, and Joly for coffee and then try to find everyone else."
"Combeferre is still with you?"
"Um, yes." Combeferre spoke in a rushed whisper. "And I think we're wearing on our lovely lecturer's patience so let's just meet in twenty minutes at the coffee shop around the corner, alright?"
"Fine." Enjolras hung up and called Bossuet, who confirmed their plans to meet for coffee. Grantaire walked over to his companion, who handed the phone over.
"So that just leaves Pontmercy, Eponine, and Bahore-" Grantaire cocked his head and looked over Enjolras' shoulder. Enjolras turned to see the ABC parked on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. "You see that, right? I can't possibly be that drunk." They both trotted out towards the van in confusion. When they finally approached the vehicle, Bahorel's face popped up suddenly in the window. His fluffy brown hair was a mess, and his t-shirt was on backwards.
"Hey you two! Nice shirt." Bahorel smiled widely, like a small child who has been caught in some act of mischief. Enjolras folded his arms in disapproval, covering most of the glittery star on his chest and reddening slightly.
Another head popped up next to Bahorel: a woman, with the same dark, messy hair and hastily donned blouse. "Hey guys!" she beamed at them, seemingly oblivious to the boys' stunned expressions.
"Who...?" Enjolras stammered.
"I'm Katie!" The woman chirped brightly. An awkward silence hung in the air. Bahorel became very fixated on a speck of dirt on the van's window. "Okay, well, I guess I'll be going. Nice meeting you!" Katie clambered out the back and sauntered cheerfully down the sidewalk.
"We leave you for one afternoon..." Enjolras rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Did you really come here to cockblock me and make douchey faces, Stargirl?" Bahorel raised an eyebrow and stepped out of the van. Enjolras squared his jaw and glared intensely. "Okay, fine. I'm sorry. I was gonna come buy some fries and then go driving around looking for you guys, but I got a little distracted. So just calm your tits, alright?"
"I swear to God, the next person who brings up my tits gets a punch in the face." Enjolras growled menacingly, sending the other boys into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. "Morons." he grumbled, walking around the van and climbing into the driver's seat. Grantaire slid into the passenger's seat, leaving Bahorel to stretch out across the entire first row. "Bahorel, do you know where Marius and Eponine might be?" Enjolras called.
"What? No. I know they went to the gardens, but there's not a whole lot there, so they've probably moved somewhere else." Bahorel replied dutifully, dropping his earlier immaturity. As much as he loved teasing, Bahorel was ultimately comfortable with ceding authority to Enjolras.
"Can't we just call them?" Grantaire asked.
"Eponine doesn't have a phone, and Pontmercy pawned his for cash to buy some DVD's about Napoleon." Bahorel said. At this, the trio shouted "PONTMERCY," which had become a sort of verbal exclamation mark the students used whenever Pontemercy did something distinctly Pontmercy-ish, such as the time he climbed a tree to rescue a kitten, only to become stuck after reaching the highest branch, which caused the feline hop down the branches and scramble away in alarm. Or the time he sold a gold bracelet he had recently inherited for two sacks of potatoes. Unbeknownst to the group, Marius had brought a few of those potatoes with him in case someone got hungry, concealing them in a paper bag beneath the first row of seats. Apparently, nobody had ever explained to him that raw potatoes are not exactly a popular snack.
"So wait," Grantaire deadpanned. "We're just going to drive around one of the biggest cities in the country hoping Eponine and Pontmercy are just gonna happen to-"
At that moment, a man ran out in front of the van. A woman screamed and ran after him, trailing by a few dozen feet. Enjolras stopped the car immediately, and all three of them jumped out to see what had happened. When they reached the front of the car, the man they'd hit was scrambling to his feet in embarrassment. When he turned his head, they realized it was Marius. "I'm fine, I promise." he insisted, dusting off his pants. "You weren't going that fast."
Eponine finally caught up to the group, crying and hugging Marius tightly. "You idiot! You could have been killed!" she screamed, but smiled in hysterical relief. "What were you even doing?"
Marius averted her eyes. "I, um. I thought I saw a puppy in the road."
Enjolras glared judgmentally, raising an eyebrow. "Marius, I am fairly certain there was never a puppy in-"
"Yeah, it turned out to be an old diaper bag." Marius stared intently at his feet. A silence fell upon them.
"What?" Grantaire asked, with an expression that wordlessly communicated a need for a drink.
"It just looked like a puppy." Marius' voice became small and timid.
"PONTMERCY!" Bahorel bellowed, causing other pedestrians to stare and cut wide paths across the road to avoid the assembly around the van. The group laughed heartily. Even Marius giggled, uncomfortably covering his face in his hands.
When they settled down, Enjolras resumed control. "We have to meet the others in a few minutes, so let's get going." Once again, they clambered into the ABC. As Eponine slid into her seat between Marius and Bahorel, she began to snicker softly. Marius shot her a confused glance, mouthing 'What?' and raising his hands questioningly. She said nothing, but fixed her eyes on Enjolras. Marius followed her gaze, nearly choking when he realized that their fearless leader was sporting a tight t-shirt with a giant, gaudy red star in the center. Marius bit down on his finger in a vain attempt to remain quiet.
"Pontmercy?" Enjolras didn't break his concentration on the road ahead.
"Yes?" Marius struggled for breath, and made vaguely animal noises as he fought to keep a straight face.
"If you say one word about the shirt I swear to God I will dropkick you out of this van and run you over for real." Enjolras' tone left no room for comebacks or back-talk. They rode on in silence. When the van stopped at a red light, the loud squeak of rubber against pleather echoed through the air. They screamed in unison as they turned to see four figures sitting quietly in the back of the van. Three of the figures, Prouvaire, Joly, and Bossuet, screamed back, if only because it is difficult to come up with an intelligent response to a scream. Courfeyrac merely widened his eyes in shock, covering one ear and shaking his head slightly.
"How did you get in here?" Marius stammered, his voice conveying a deep sense of confusion.
"The back door doesn't really shut, and we saw the van pull up to a stoplight, so I thought we could hitch a ride." Courfeyrac smiled.
"If it makes it any better, we brought cupcakes and a balloon." Prouvaire offered, holding up a takeout box and gesturing towards the balloon wrapped around Courfeyrac's wrist.
"Do I even want to know why you have cupcakes and a balloon?" Enjolras sighed.
"You'd never believe it!" Bossuet beamed. "It's my lucky day!" At this, Enjolras, Grantaire, Eponine, Bahorel, and Marius immediately traded skeptical glances. "When we finished going through the museum, we went to the cafe. There was nobody else there, and apparently they made too many cupcakes for the day, so they just gave them to me! Can you believe that?"
"Actually, no." Grantaire pursed his lips and raised an eyebrow. "I can't. What'd you do, sell your soul for some good luck?"
"Oh, Grantaire, you're so funny." Bossuet laughed brightly. "Maybe my luck's just turning around!"
"A woman on the street gave him a free balloon, too." Joly added, pointing to the little red balloon with stars on it. "We thought we'd give it to you, because we know how much you like red."
"Also because you were really pissed this morning, but who can be mad when he's got a balloon?" Courfeyrac continued.
Enjolras glared wrathfully at him. "What was that?"
"Just kidding." Courfeyrac gave a cheeky smile and quickly hid his face behind the balloon.
"I like your shirt, Enjolras." Prouvaire stated sincerely, trying to diffuse the tension. "It's really pretty. That's a nice color on you."
"There you go!" Grantaire gave Enjolras a supportive pat on the back. "Someone likes your shirt!" Enjolras bristled, but said nothing.
When the ABC finally pulled up to the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop, the group piled out once more. As Enjolras opened the door and went to get out, his foot slipped, sending him crashing to the ground. "I AM SO FUCKING DONE!" he yelled, ignoring the disgusted looks of people on the sidewalk. He didn't even try to get up, but sat in an angry heap by the tire of the car.
Grantaire rushed over, gesturing for the rest of the group to go on in. They did so hesitantly, craning their necks to see what had happened. Grantaire knelt down beside Enjolras, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Are you all right?"
"No, I'm not." Enjolras huffed. "I'm not even close to alright. This trip was supposed to be a chance to inspire the people! But instead, almost everyone had better plans, and then we got chased off in the middle of a speech, and then I had to wander around a city covered in shit, but then I got to upgrade to wearing this awesome shirt, and then I hit a man, or at least Pontmercy, with the van, which apparaently I can't even get out of anymore without falling on my ass! I'm just tired and done. So done with everything."
"Oh, come on. It's not that bad. At least you have my peerless company. I mean, who else would you want to run around a city with?" Grantaire chuckled, squeezing Enjolras' shoulder a bit. Enjolas was silent, thinking deeply for a moment.
"Why did you come with me today? I mean, why did you stay with me?"
Grantaire glanced away for a moment before looking at Enjolras. "Because you needed someone, and I didn't mind. I mean, what else do I have to do?" Grantaire grinned. "Besides, however could I manage without my fearless leader?"
Enjolras rolled his eyes, his face reddening slightly. "And I suppose the universe might disintegrate if I were allowed a few hours without your drunken commentary."
"Well, we couldn't let the universe disintegrate, my good man." Grantaire poorly mimicked a British accent. "Now come on, let's go inside." As they both stood up, Grantaire gave Enjolras a once over. "You've got some road salt in your hair, Goldilocks." Grantaire ran his hand through Enjolras' curls, thoroughly messing them up as he shook out a few pebbles.
"God, since when did you become my mother?" Enjolras laughed, walking towards the coffee shop.
"You mean your mother was a snarky drunken asshole?" Grantaire cackled, wrapping an arm around Enjolras as they went through the door.
"Are you two alright?" Combeferre strode over to them, concern flooding his expression.
"We're fine." Enjolras insisted, grinning reassuringly. "It's just been a long day."
"Oh, I know! It's already six o'clock!" Feuilly chimed in, pulling out his pocket watch and holding it up. It was a battered old thing with an ugly brass fish on the back that he'd found lying on a park bench one day and claimed for his own. No one understood why he kept it around, but keep it he did. At every opportunity, he would pull the thing out and inform everyone of the time. Combeferre gently lowered Feuilly's arm and grabbed the watch. Feuilly gaped in confusion.
"What did I tell you about the pocket watch?" Combeferre spoke slowly and pedantically.
"People don't like having things shoved in their faces," Feuilly recited, rebelliously adding, "Even if it's an effective way to encourage time management skills." Combeferre scowled slightly, but let it slide. The four of them made their way back to the table where the others sat.
"Are you guys okay?" Eponine greeted them, sliding into the booth to make room.
"Oh, we're great!" Grantaire assured her. "Enjolras just pulled a Bossuet while getting out of the van."
"So that's what that was." Bahorel laughed. "You should've seen Pontmercy's face during your little outburst." he said to Enjolras. "He turned red as a tomato and covered his ears."
"I just don't like cursing, okay?" Marius responded, a bit louder than necessary. "I mean, you had a good reason and everything. It's just..."
"You're such a dork." Eponine smiled at him, biting her lip slightly.
"Do you need some chapstick or something?" Marius asked her. She exhaled in frustration and turned away.
"So, Enjolras, what did you guys do today?" Combeferre inquired politely.
"Can we get some coffee first?" Grantaire looked at Enjolras, who seemed about ready to fall asleep where they sat.
"I'll get it." Marius got up and headed to the coffee bar. "Um, can I get two regular coffees?" He glanced over at the table as he waited for the barista to ring up his order. Enjolras was drowsily laying his head against Grantaire's shoulder. "Actually, can you put an extra shot of espresso in one of those?"
"I don't think so!" The barista looked up from the cash register. He was a middle aged man with gray hair and a piercing gaze, which was now fixated on Marius. "We don't do espresso shots for minors."
"Wh-what? I'm not a minor. I'm..." Marius stuttered.
"That's what they all say." The barista growled authoritatively. "That's what they all say. You think I haven't seen enough thirteen year olds prowling around here to know what they look like?"
"No, but... like, really! I'm not!" Marius pulled out his driver's license. "See? My name's Marius Pontmercy. I'm 20 and I go to college like three hours from here and I came here with my friends who are also of age and please just let me get my drink." The more he spoke, the more his voice shrank.
"Sorry to have upset you, Mister Pontmercy. Enjoy your drinks. That's two coffees for $6.01." Marius offered his credit card, too mortified to say anything.
As he collected the cups and left, he noticed the barista's nametag. It read: 'Welcome to Starbucks! I'm JAVERT.' "Oh yeah, I feel really welcome. Thanks for that." Marius mumbled to himself as he headed back to the table, where Grantaire was just finishing his retelling of the day's events. Enjolras, who was still in a state of almost-but-not-quite sleep on Grantaire's shoulder had lazily draped his hand over his eyes in shame, and would occasionally snort at his friend's boisterous, ridiculous account. Somehow, hearing Grantaire talk about all the crap they'd gone through all day made it seem more distant, like a bad dream that was finally over. And, although Grantaire certainly played up some aspects of their misadventures, he never came across as mean or mocking. In fact, he consistently emphasized how well Enjolras had spoken at the embassy, and how much of a trooper he'd been through the whole thing.
"Wow, you had to go around the city covered in crap?" Marius said, handing out drinks to Enjolras and Grantaire, who immediately proceeded to empty the last few drops from his flask into his cup. "That sounds awful."
"Um, it was?" Enjolras replied, unsure how to respond. He glared up at Marius as he drank his coffee.
"Maybe you caught my bad luck." Bossuet proposed.
"Wait, is bad luck contagious?" Joly nervously pulled out a bottle of hand sanitizer and soaked his entire arm in it.
"Well, it sounds like you had a more interesting day than we did." Feuilly remarked.
Combeferre looked almost offended. "I thought you liked the lecture!"
"Well, I did. It's just... I mean, who wants to listen to someone talk about free speech all day?" Feuilly said nervously. "I mean, it's not the same as going out and speaking for yourself, you know? I wish we could've gone to that thing she was talking about instead."
"What thing?" Prouvaire interrupted, his eyebrows furrowed in curiosity.
"They're having a free speech celebration in the park tonight." Combeferre explained. "They're letting anyone come in and give a speech about anything. It's because today is some sort of celebration of the first amendment or something. We were going to see if you guys wanted to go, but you all seem exhausted and-"
Enjolras sat up, staring intensely into the distance with eyes ablaze. "We must go. We must spread the word of freedom to the people."
"What is he even looking at?" Bahorel followed Enjolras' gaze, only to see a few empty chairs at empty tables. Bossuet and Joly shrugged in unison.
"You never know with him." Courfeyrac whispered.
The sun had already set by the time the ABC rolled into the park. Taking a cue from the other cars present, the van pulled into the grass in front of a small stage where an elderly woman was reciting some original poems. They laid down on the ground, forming a half circle around the back of the car. There was a slight, chilling breeze.
"You can have your sweatshirt back." Enjolras began to untie the knot he'd made with it around his waist.
"No, you keep it. I'm fine." Grantaire insisted, watching as Enjolras pulled the sweater on.
"What lovely poetry!" Prouvaire sighed, looking up from the daisy chain he was slowly assembling. "Don't you think?"
"Ah, sure. It's alright." Courfeyrac replied unconvincingly. He cringed as the speaker launched into yet another poem about the love she shared with her cats.
When the poem was finished, Enjolras stood and headed over to the stage. Before he even began speaking, the crowd, which admittedly only consisted of the group huddled around the ABC and a small group of teens who appeared to be smoking pot, cheered wildly. As Enjolras launched into his speech, Grantaire filled with a sense of affection. There was always something in the way Enjolras spoke that could not only chase the fear of death out of a person, but could convince someone to die for his cause, if need be. Grantaire, who never felt sure of anything, found something deeply compelling about Enjolras' conviction.
When Enjolras had finished, the Amis stood up and cheered, as always. Grantaire greeted Enjolras with a pat on the back. "See? Your day wasn't all bad." he mused.
"I guess not. Just mostly." Enjolras smirked, putting an arm around Grantaire as they headed to the car.
"I'll drive. You take a nap in the back." Courfeyrac caught the keys as Enjolras gladly tossed them to him before climbing into the third row with Grantaire. As they drove back, Courfeyrac turned on the tape player, once more blasting "ABC" through the van. The group sang along, loudly and out of key. Even Enjolras drowsily hummed along as he flickered in and out of consciousness. When they finally returned to the university, they carefully climbed out. Yet, caution cannot prevent all accidents, and a loud thud rang out across the campus. Bossuet picked himself off the ground, laughing softly to himself. "I guess I got my luck back."
"Sorry, man." Enjolras smiled wearily, leaning on Grantaire's shoulder for support and yawning uncontrollably as they proceeded slowly inside.
"No, that's okay. I'm used to it." Bossuet stated acceptingly, trotting ahead.
As they all proceeded to their rooms, Grantaire and Enjolras moved much slower than the others, as Enjolras was almost entirely asleep by now and Grantaire had to nearly drag him to his dorm.
"I'm sorry I said it was a bad day."
"Dude, just shut up and let me get you back to your room, okay?" Grantaire feigned apathy, but couldn't help feeling rush of excitement at Enjolras' words.
"You put up with me all day, even though I was an obnoxious shit."
"You're not an obnoxious shit." Grantaire spoke seriously now.
"I just want you to know that... I really... I really l..." Enjolras had now fallen asleep in earnest. Grantaire picked him up over his shoulder, and for one brief moment, felt happier than he had in a very long time.