Some Long-Forgotten God
Enjolras grimaced as he strode down the corridor toward the library, dressed in a fine, deep purple velvet suit with knee-britches, and a cravat at his throat. Why are they making me do this? he thought to himself in exasperation. His golden curls flowed freely behind him in his agitated gait. At least he had managed to resist his parents' efforts to have his hair cut. He preferred it just as it was, long and wild à la Saint Just.
When he came to the library's large double doors, he tore into the room as violently as he could manage, slamming the door behind him in frustration. There was, unfortunately, no audience to his childish display of indignation. Leave it to the artist to be late, on top of it all! Enjolras fumed internally. What a waste of time!
He plopped down dejectedly onto his favourite chaise and began to leaf through the book he found on the side table. Bored with what had turned out to be one of his mother's penny novelette's, he shifted his gaze to the window, glaring at the gorgeous summer day with envy. It wasn't as if he would have preferred to be outside. Indeed, Enjolras would probably have been happiest in a quiet room with a volume of Voltaire and a pen, planning his newest treatise. However, at present, anything seemed better than sitting for a portrait. It would be dull and wasteful, and Enjolras could not begin to think why his parents had commissioned it. It wasn't as if their estate was in any need of new portraiture (as evidenced by the multitudes of paintings lining the library walls). But they had insisted, and now Enjolras was obliged to waste two hours a day with some talentless hack for the next few weeks.
Presently, there was a polite knock at the door. "Come in," Enjolras called, settling himself down for the next two hours of tedium, whereupon a footman opened the door, and in walked a rather shabby-looking man hefting his burden of painting accoutrements. He was young – no more than 24, Enjolras would guess, but looked rather pinched, as if he had not eaten lately. In the style of the day, he was clean-shaven but for his short side-whiskers, and wore his dark curls cropped to a medium length. It seemed to Enjolras that he had dressed for the occasion – one would not wish to dismay one's employer, of course. But, with his shabby dress, casual posture, and general air of being, it seemed also that the man was quite bohemian.
Enjolras' attitude was softened somewhat. Certainly he could spare an couple of hours a day to feed a struggling artist. As the footman exited, good breeding won out at last, and he stood to greet his guest. "How do you do, Monsieur," he said, extending a hand. "I presume you will be… painting me," Enjolras finished, rather inadequately.
The man took his hand, grinning ear to ear. He seems entirely too pleased, thought Enjolras, not quite able to shake off his initial cynicism. "Oui, monsieur. Quite right. The name's Grantaire. I am at your service."
Enjolras pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows sardonically. "At my parents' service, rather, but no matter. Bienvenue, Monsieur Grantaire. Is there any setting in particular you would deem most appropriate for the portrait?" said Enjolras, with a sweeping gesture around the room.
Grantaire stepped back and glanced about the library with the practiced eye of a painter, looking for the best light and background he could find. Then his eyes alighted upon the subject of his painting, and he raked his eyes calculatingly up and down Enjolras' figure for a disconcertingly long moment. Enjolras felt his face go hot under the examination, but he did not look away. At last, Grantaire's eyes went bright in inspiration, and his lips curved into a small, approving smile. To his mild surprise, Enjolras could practically feel artistic passion radiating from this man. Grantaire nodded definitively, and set to work.
Pointing to Enjolras' chaise in front of the window, Grantaire said, "Just there will do." Enjolras obligingly walked over and sat on the chaise while he waited for Grantaire to put down his things. Grantaire set up his easel, placed his canvas upon it, and opened his paint set before pulling over one of the library's wooden stools to sit on. Before he sat, however, he glanced once more over his subject. "Would you mind reclining?" Grantaire asked experimentally. Enjolras did as he was told, and stretched out across the chaise, propping himself up with the arm. He figured he would leave this to the expert. He didn't care much for how the painting would turn out, anyway. It was for his parents.
Grantaire continued to instruct him. "No, not like that. Look more relaxed. Good." Grantaire stepped back, stroking his chin thoughtfully. After a long moment, he said, "No, something's still wrong… Why are you wearing that?"
Enjolras was rather affronted. As far as he knew, it was not the artist's job to choose what someone would wear in his own portrait. "What are you saying, sir? This is my best suit."
Grantaire waved a hand dismissively. "I'm sure it is, but this is the middle of summer. Why are you wearing velvet? And why such a dark purple? Are you in mourning?"
"And what if I am, and you have just deeply offended me?!" Enjolras said with a clipped, impatient tone.
Grantaire simply shrugged. "Why would you be having a portrait taken if you were in mourning? In any case, you must change. Your dress is completely inconsistent with the scene outside your window."
Enjolras rolled his eyes and huffed, frustrated, through his nose. This was going to be more difficult than he'd thought. "And just what would you have me wear?"
"Well…" Enjolras was once again seized by the feeling that he was being examined as Grantaire sized him up. "First of all, wear some light summer breeches. Preferably in a brown linen…if you have it." Grantaire looked as if he doubted Enjolras did not have a pair of brown summer breeches. What, with all the grandeur of the house, he was sure the lad could afford several pairs. He was correct in his assumption. "And… as for the rest… I'd prefer it if you'd just wear your shirtsleeves."
Enjolras was shocked. "And have the portrait taken half-undressed?!"
Grantaire grinned, amused, and chuckled mildly. "Silly child, you'll not be undressed. You'll look more natural. Just how often do you sit in a stuffy library on a hot summer's day wearing your best velvet suit? No, I am sure you'd not be wearing a jacket and cravat. Just the shirt will do perfectly. And you'll be more comfortable, too."
Enjolras thought for a moment, then conceded. He was already feeling stifled in his winter suit. He nodded at Grantaire. "Very well. I can see your point, and I can see that you have a vision. I trust your artistic expertise, and I am always willing to concede when in the wrong." Grantaire smiled at the young blond, happy he'd gotten his way. Enjolras felt he needed to add in one more comment, however. "But I am not a child, and I am not silly. I am full sixteen years old, I am going to University in the fall, and I doubt if you are ten years my senior… Monsieur."
Grantaire chuckled once more. "Very well, sir, I shall refrain from commenting on your youth in the future. I am always willing to concede when in the wrong, and you are right in saying I am less than ten years older than you are. I am two and twenty."
Enjolras flushed that his own words had been used against him, and he sharply changed the subject. "Right. I'll just go… change, then."
Grantaire smiled disarmingly at Enjolras once more, and Enjolras felt an unexplainable little flutter in his stomach. It's nothing, he thought to himself. It's just… too hot… in here.
He rose from his seat and made to leave the room, but Grantaire stopped him just as he was stepping through the door. "Wait. I'll come with you. I know exactly what I want to see, and I don't want to waste any more time on wardrobe changes."
Enjolras was too taken aback at this man's presumption to refuse, and nodded absently, exiting without waiting for Grantaire to follow. He assumed the painter would trail behind him in due course.
As he strode to his rooms, Grantaire trotting behind, Enjolras reflected on the oddity of the situation. It wasn't as if anything the painter had asked had been extremely out of the ordinary. It was just that… his requests were downright strange. Since when did painters tell their subjects – their patrons, for that matter – where to sit, how to sit, and what to wear? And it seemed to Enjolras that this… relationship, for lack of a better word, was developing at a breakneck pace. There had been very little flattery and founding out of boundaries. Rather, Grantaire had simply walked into Enjolras' library as if he'd known him all his life and begun to direct him. Wouldn't most painters at least do their subjects the courtesy of some flattery? Or to gently suggest a pose without being too abrupt? And now – now Enjolras had invited a man he'd known all of ten minutes to his rooms to watch him undress! And he was to be painted in only his shirtsleeves! Not even a waistcoat! It was as if… as if Enjolras were not the subject, but the model…
Relief rushed through the young man. It was alright, then. This man had probably had more experience with models than with paying customers, so of course he wouldn't know how to treat Enjolras. Yes, this explained everything. And Enjolras was sure that if he wanted to, he could address the shirtsleeves issue, and Grantaire would completely understand. But… did he want to address it? Surely, his parents had only wanted a plain portrait of their son but… perhaps it would not be so bad to be a painter's model. Although Enjolras would scarcely admit it, it actually rather tickled his fancy that Grantaire did not look at him as merely a subject, but as… a thing of beauty. Something worthy of art. And… he felt comfortable with Grantaire. Indeed, he'd not minded all that much when Grantaire had presumed to direct him. Enjolras could trust him. It was inexplicable, but the feeling was there, and Enjolras could not ignore it. They entered Enjolras' room.
Enjolras led Grantaire to the armoire and pulled out what he thought would be best. He had two pairs of brown summer breeches in slightly differing shades, and several different styles of shirts. Grantaire had been truthful when he'd said he knew what he was looking for, because he immediately chose the poet shirt with the lightest, airiest looking sleeves and the breeches of the richer brown, and handed them to Enjolras. Enjolras took them and, as quickly as he could manage, shimmied out of his velvet suit. Feeling it rude to face his guest, but equally as rude to ask him to leave, Enjolras turned his back to Grantaire as he undressed.
Grantaire observed. To better study the subject, of course. Yes, Grantaire knew exactly what he was doing, but he simply could not help himself. When he'd taken the job, it had only been for the money. Grantaire liked painting portraits of stuffy old bourgeoisie as much as the average person would like scrubbing horse stables on their hands and knees, but he hadn't sold a piece in a while. At this point, he was willing to give up his artistic integrity, if only to have a full stomach for a time.
Oh, how pleasantly surprised he had been when he'd discovered what an exquisite creature his subject was. Mon Dieu, even if he hadn't always preferred lads, he'd have been attracted to Enjolras. Golden curls and a luminous, flushed complexion gave him an otherworldly beauty. Grantaire would describe the boy as cherubic if he did not look so fierce. No, rather, he was angelic – the Archangel Michael sweeping down on evildoers with his flaming sword. The second he'd seen Enjolras all thoughts of a stuffy portrait had flown out the window, and he'd known he would have to paint the youth in a manner befitting his beauty. He might not be paid for the portrait now, as it certainly would not be what his employers had wished it to be, but if he were able to keep the portrait in the end, it would be well worth it.
Now, as Grantaire watched Enjolras undress from behind, he was too excited even to feel lecherous. His nerves prickled in anticipation of what was to come. He absolutely itched to caress that lovely alabaster skin and those lithe, supple muscles – if not with his fingers, then with his brush. Yes, he would recreate this godlike being on a canvas, for all the world to see. It would be his masterpiece.
Enjolras finished dressing and turned to face his painter with a sheepish grin and outstretched arms. "How do you find me?" the blond boy asked, more tentatively than he could rightly explain.
Grantaire simply flashed a mouthful of pearly white teeth in glee, and beckoned Enjolras to follow him back to the library. Enjolras did, still rather befuddled at the turning of events.
When they reentered the library, Grantaire gestured Enjolras towards the chaise and asked him to recline. "No, no, lean a little more towards me. Yes, there, but don't look so taut. You ought to be comfortable, or this won't work as it should."
Enjolras obligingly relaxed into his chaise, as he would on any other day, but for that his nose was not buried in a book. At last, Grantaire seemed satisfied with Enjolras' position, and stood back to survey his work. He looked to be about to nod his head in approval when his face brightened in new inspiration. He approached Enjolras in an agitated passion, holding out his palm to indicate the boy should stay as he was.
Almost reverently, Grantaire knelt on the floor beside Enjolras' outstretched legs. "May I…?" he asked, unsure, gesturing towards Enjolras' feet.
"You may." At this point, Enjolras had ceased to be amazed by this man's eccentricities. Gently – indeed, with almost exquisite care – Grantaire removed Enjolras' shoes and stockings. Enjolras suppressed a shudder as Grantaire's delicate fingers lightly stroked his ankles in their work. Why should he affect me so? thought the golden-haired lad, blushing.
Grantaire moved to place the shoes off to the side, then seemed to think better of it, and placed them on the floor, as if Enjolras had just kicked them off his feet. Enjolras watched this man work with amazement. When Grantaire was engaged in his art, it was as if he were enveloped in an ethereal haze which rendered all that he looked upon beautiful. It was fascinating to watch, in and of itself, and Enjolras was entranced. It was only when the dark-haired man lifted his eyes, finished with his setting, that Enjolras realized he had been staring. Their eyes met for a moment, and both looked away. The spell was broken.
Grantaire gave an infectious chuckle as he looked his subject up and down. "There, now! You look like a proper heathen!"
Enjolras good-heartedly shared in the joke. "Indeed! I feel as if I should be running wild through the heather!"
As the artist took his place at last behind his easel, this image ran through his mind. He smiled to himself, still amazed that the God could allow him to bear witness to such beauty. With one last deep breath, Grantaire drank deeply of the scene before him and began to sketch.
Grantaire was very quiet as he drew, squinting his eyes to catch every minute detail. Enjolras did not interrupt him, and did not move. He felt it would have been something akin to sacrilege to do so. But the man worked quickly, and within the remaining hour of their time, he had finished his preliminary sketch. The artist made his finishing touches, dark eyes flitting rapidly between reality and his recreation, and then he seemed to deflate in relief. He smiled for the first time in an hour, and Enjolras realized that he had done nothing but stare at the man at his work in all this time. The painter was captivating as he worried over his sketch, and Enjolras felt he could never have his fill. He wondered how he had ever thought sitting for a portrait would be dull.
Presently, Grantaire spoke, clearing his throat after his long silence. "I have finished the sketch, and we are done for today, but I wondered – might I leave the chaise and your shoes where they are for the duration of this…? I would hate to have someone disturb them, for I might not be quite able to replace them."
Enjolras smiled kindly. "Absolutely, monsieur, no one shall touch our scene, nor shall they disturb us while we are working. I will let everyone know of the circumstances."
Grantaire smiled, relieved, and rose, gathering his things. Enjolras stood to let him out. Suddenly, the room felt awkward between the two. Enjolras' heart flew to his throat and his face burned. He knew not what to say. "Ahem.. I, uh. Thank you, Monsieur Grantaire. Good evening. I will see you tomorrow."
Grantaire was equally affected. "Erm, yes, of course. Good night." Then the artist touched his forehead in salute, as if tipping a hat (which was under his arm), and exited the room. Enjolras collapsed into his chaise, heart pounding, a flood of bewildering emotions swirling round his soul.
The next day was much like the first, but now they had more time to paint, the scene having already been set. Today, Grantaire was only laying the under painting, which did not require immense concentration, and therefore did not impede his ability to admire his subject.
Grantaire found, at times, that he would stare uninhibited for long stretches. He could hardly help himself – the scene he was to paint was far more beautiful than any he had painted before. There was Enjolras, his golden Archangel – nay his luminous Apollo – lying stretched and calm on a sea-foam coloured chaise, propped up on pillows, with his legs crossed at the ankles. What lovely ankles they were, too, slim and white. His feet, narrow and high-arched, were equally delicate. Oh, how glad Grantaire was that he had removed the lad's shoes!
Enjolras' complexion was something any painter would die to recreate. He looked, mused Grantaire, as if he were exuding light. As the painter's eyes lingered on the boy's smooth, pale skin, bathed in the rays of the noonday sun streaming through the windowpanes, he felt as if he had stumbled upon a surreal being. A creature from the long-forgotten wilds, or a nymph from mighty Poseidon's sea. The youth was a glory of glowing vitality.
It was during one of these prolonged staring sessions that Enjolras' voice finally punctuated the vast, otherworldly silence of the library. "Grantaire… Why did you become a painter?"
Startled out of his reverie, the dark-haired man took a moment to answer. He shrugged. "Why does anyone do anything?"
Enjolras fixed him with a look that said, clearly as if he had spoken, "That answer is insufficient."
Grantaire gave one of his winsome grins and shrugged again, folding to Enjolras' will. "I did it because I love it. I love painting. I love to capture the loveliest things in this world – to set them down for the enjoyment of generations yet to come. It is near worship for me. Worship of the good, the true, and beautiful." He turned back to his work.
Enjolras was silent for a while, pondering. "But, how does one become a painter?
"I studied, of course. As a child, my tutor taught me how to draw, and I showed a propensity for it. My parents disapproved. I ought to have been a lawyer, or a doctor, or something else of use. Not a painter. No, there is no such thing as practicality in art. So, when I was sixteen, just your age, I should say, I ran away to Paris. It was rough living for a while, but I managed to earn an apprenticeship with one of the masters, and he taught me all he knew, and now I am here with you. I do not regret any moment of it. It is all worth it to have a chance to truly appreciate the beauty in the world."
"Hm. I would not suppose, given the state of things, that there is much beauty to be found."
Grantaire cocked his head, incredulous. "Whatever do you mean?"
Enjolras moved as if to lean forward, but then seemed to remember he was obliged to hold a pose. He continued passionately, but from where he sat. "Haven't you seen the state of the land? France is drowning in poverty. Women, children – good, hardworking, law-abiding people – are dying on the streets in spite of all of their efforts to live on! And the King, in all his pomp and circumstance, turns a blind eye! Something has to be done!"
Grantaire raised his eyebrows, surprised, and dabbed at his canvas for a moment before speaking. "I am surprised at you! Who would have thought some spoiled bourgeois brat would know the ways of the world?"
"Do not judge me by my birth, as I would not judge you by yours!" Enjolras snapped. "I love my country, and I will change it for the better! I will! A revolution is coming!"
Grantaire did not reply as Enjolras would have wished. Instead, he was silent for a long while, working. "You really think the people will rise in revolution, kid? Not a chance."
Enjolras was grave. "We will. We will burn the monarchy to the ground, and a republic will be born from its ashes."
"God, I hope you're right." Grantaire swigged from his hip flask, and continued his task.
Grantaire came late the next day, and he looked rather bedraggled. Enjolras had been waiting for him on the sea-foam chase, reading. The blond looked up as the painter entered, and his eyes squinted in scrutiny. "You're late… Have you been drinking?" the boy asked with distaste.
Grantaire ignored the comment. "What are you reading, there?"
Enjolras seemed to accept that the man was not going to answer his question, so dropped the subject. "Rousseau's The Social Contract. I was looking for an exact quote to add to the treatise I'm co-authoring with my friend, Combeferre."
Grantaire raised an eyebrow. "And who, exactly, are you expecting will publish your seditious rag?"
"It's not sedition! It's free speech! Government should only exist by the consent of the governed!"
"If you say so, kid." Grantaire sipped from his flask and set about his work, propping up his easel and unwrapping the unfinished canvas.
Enjolras' eyes alighted on Grantaire's ever-present bottle of alcohol. "You have been drinking!" he said accusatorily. Enjolras highly disapproved of any vice which altered the natural state of man.
Grantaire was more than miffed by Enjolras' judgmental, egalitarian comment. "And what is it to you, you little bourgeois brat?! I drink to forget my troubles. I doubt if you've ever had any troubles to forget!"
Enjolras, embittered by the slight to his ideals, as well as the poignant jab at his undesired social status, flew headlong into the argument. "Do not belittle any man's troubles, for each man's is proportional to his situation in life! At least I am working towards lessening the rift between the haves and have-nots. What are you doing to change the state you are in?! Drinking may help you forget, but it will never cause any significant change! Why not funnel your rage and despair into a productive cause?"
"You know nothing about me! How dare you presume?!"
"We shan't ever have a republic if all the anger in the land is drowned in drink!" cried Enjolras in a passion, practically glowing with the force of his argument.
Grantaire was in awe. Here was his Archangel, streaking flaming from the heavens. It was… exhilarating to argue with Enjolras. And, although Grantaire knew he could never get the upper hand against this divine being, he would surely try his best.
"The reason 'we shan't ever have a republic' is because no one is going to rise up and fight next to pretty rich boys without a care in the world. People aren't willing to risk everything they have only for further strife and hardship. Give it up, kid, it's a hopeless cause."
The look Enjolras gave him was unexpected. Grantaire had presumed his blond angel would have continued to swing his flaming sword, but he simply looked wounded. He sank into the chaise, looking away from Grantaire. Silence pressed in about them, and the painter felt a tug of regret over what he'd said. Then, quietly, as Enjolras took his usual pose on the chaise, he uttered gravely, "For the wretched of the earth, there is a flame that never dies. There is always hope." Grantaire was at a loss for a response. He took another swig from his hip flask, and painted in silence.
The next few days passed uneventfully. Enjolras sat for Grantaire, seemingly at ease, and they talked of nothings. Neither mentioned their argument, and it seemed as if Enjolras had overcome his disdain for Grantaire's cynicism. But the painter could not be satisfied, knowing that the object of his everlasting admiration still bore him some ill will. So, in the best way he knew how, Grantaire tried to be friendly with Enjolras and make amends. And, as everyone knows, the thing one loves speaking about most is oneself.
"Monsieur Enjolras?" Grantaire began some minutes into painting one day.
Enjolras raised an eyebrow. "Hm?"
"May I ask you…? How did you come to be so fervently Republican? That is, having been raised… as you are…"
"You refer to the evident irony in comparing my circumstances in life to my political leanings." It was not a question. Enjolras was familiar with this sort of reaction.
Grantaire nodded, somewhat sheepishly. He did not know where Enjolras' boundaries lay, and wished to tread lightly for fear of upsetting him. He could not have his Apollo angry with him any longer.
Enjolras sighed, collecting his thoughts. "My father, of course, is as Royalist as one could get… But my mother… my mother knows poverty. She grew up on a farm, eldest of nine, so was essentially a mother all her life. Work is in her bones. My father married her for her beauty, and she married him for his money. You understand… It was a scandal, of course, but that's how things go. I never thought about the life she once led. Never had an inkling of what it must have been like to raise your own siblings. But, you see, when my tutor gave me a bit of political philosophy to read a few years ago – Macchiavelli, Plato, Aristotle – nothing too risqué, you understand; he was still in the employ of my father – well, my eyes were opened. I read anything I could get my hands on about the world and how real people lived. It is unjust. You know this as well as I. Probably better, as you have pointed out. My mother bought me the books I wanted with her own allowance. I think she needed me to know. It's the only thing she's ever done to spite my father. I think, now, that she was always afraid of him… she still is. It pains me to see that, even in such splendor, a soul can be imprisoned. I believe that every man is born free. It is the fault of other men that he is chained to the ground; either by poverty or by fear. Or both."
Grantaire was calm in his response, but no less emotion lay behind the speech. "You forget, though, that France has already attempted republic. It failed, just as everything else failed. We cannot possibly win. Any government we form will be fraught with corruption and sin. The people have proved that they cannot govern themselves. It will never happen."
Enjolras frowned. "You are wrong. There is always hope."
Grantaire huffed in disbelief and moved to drink from his hipflask. "How can you be so sure?"
"Because there is only so much people will take on the chin. Mark my words, the Bourbons won't last much longer."
Grantaire simply shrugged and swigged another bit of whisky.
"How can you drink like that?!" Enjolras cried at last, having been bothered by it throughout the conversation. "It's hardly past noon!"
Grantaire was hurt by Enjolras' disapproval, and guilty he had given him cause to disapprove, but he dared not show his feelings. Instead, he answered with his usual swagger. "It makes me friendlier, doesn't it? And it lessens the boredom of painting some bourgeois portrait."
"I'm sorry. I did not realize painting me was so dull," Enjolras snipped. "Perhaps you should end it now and save yourself the trouble."
Grantaire was dismayed at the direction this conversation had taken. All he had wanted was for the boy to like him, and now look where he'd gotten himself. He'd be lucky if Enjolras did not outright despise him by the time his portrait was finished. He stumbled over his words, trying to redeem himself, "I – I didn't mean you were dull. That is – you're not dull, you're fascinating and – I" Grantaire flushed red and stopped speaking before he embarrassed himself further. The whisky had loosened his tongue. "Nevermind. I'm glad to paint you, 's all."
Enjolras was surprised at the sincerity with which the older man had spoken. The speech had not been eloquent, but it gave Enjolras no small pleasure to hear that the painter found him "fascinating", and that he was glad to paint him. Briefly, he wondered why it pleased him so, but immediately shoved the thought out of his mind. Presently, he remembered his pose, and Grantaire began to work once again.
After a very long while in silence, Grantaire spoke once more. "You know… I do not think we are all that different you and I," he began, uncharacteristically timid. Enjolras raised an eyebrow skeptically, but listened with rapt attention. "You do not see the beauty in the world, but are willing to put everything on the line – your home, your family, your reputation… even your life – to make the world a more beautiful and just place. I can see the beauty in the world as it is, and wish to celebrate and accentuate its beauty, and maybe add a little bit more into the world. So, you see, we wish the same thing. We only wish to make the world a better place."
Enjolras was astounded. To think this man – whom he had thought a lazy, drunken, uneducated fool – could overcome their differences more easily than Enjolras had been able to do. Grantaire had been more open-minded and diplomatic than Enjolras would have thought him capable of and… and Enjolras truly admired him for that. Perhaps… he could get to like this man after all.
"I believe I have misjudged you, monsieur, and I am sorry for that. You are perfectly right in what you say, and I was wrong to have rejected your view on the world as invalid. It violates my own principles of freedom of thought to do so. I hope that we may become better friends."
Grantaire grinned at him. The blonde boy had that odd melting sensation in his core, which had become increasingly frequent of late. "I hope so too."
The next afternoon, Grantaire came to work humming, and far from drunk. Indeed, Enjolras noticed that the older man had not even brought his hip flask. Has he done that… for me? he dared to think.
The painter's mood proved infectious and, as they sat, Enjolras engaged Grantaire in a happy game of puns. They talked of music and art, and Grantaire promised to play his fiddle for Enjolras at a later date. The boy had no appreciation for art or music, so focused on his republic was he, but Grantaire intended to change that.
The day after, they talked of philosophy. Enjolras prattled on about Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu until Grantaire interrupted with some key theories from The Symposium. Enjolras had read this, and was able to respond in kind, but blushed to be talking of love with Grantaire. He could not fathom why.
"But how is the nature of love relevant to the state of the nation?" Enjolras asked the painter.
Grantaire smiled. "Love is relevant to everything!" Enjolras rolled his eyes, and Grantaire continued. "No, no, but in all seriousness, how are you expecting to stage a revolution without someone to fight for? What good is making France better if you don't have someone to share the new world with?"
"I want to reform the government for the good of the people. I love the people. Why need I love anyone else?"
"I think you'll find that most of your followers will not join the cause for such selfless reasons. If they fight, it will be for their wives, lovers, and children. They will not fight for the good of all people. They will fight for the good of the people they love."
Enjolras frowned, genuinely confused. "But that does not make any sense. It is illogical to fight for only a few, and not for the many."
Grantaire was surprised. Even from his righteous archangel, he had not expected this. He could not help but laugh, and Enjolras looked affronted. "Love does not make any sense, dear boy. That is why it is so wonderful!"
"But that – that is ridiculous!"
"Nonsense! Love is the best thing on this good earth! To love another person – why, to love another person is to see the very face of God! You will see, someday."
Enjolras blushed, and pointedly ended the conversation by settling back into his pose. Grantaire set back to work before the lovely flush faded from the boy's cheeks.
In the following days, to both parties' immense surprise, Grantaire and Enjolras settled into a comfortable companionship. Grantaire had stopped drinking, and Enjolras had learned to be more accepting of the painter's views. Any disagreements became friendly debates, rather than arguments. Neither young man would rightly admit it, but they had put aside their differences for the sake of each other.
Grantaire's mood was flagging, however. As the days passed, he grew nearer and nearer to finishing his portrait, and nearer and nearer to having to leave his Apollo forever. When he thought on this fact, it saddened him more than he would care to say. He continued on, however, intent on finishing his masterpiece.
They had spent most of the afternoon in silence one day. The light had been ideal, and Grantaire had become very focused on his work. Presently, he glanced up at his beautiful subject to find that Enjolras had fallen fast asleep. Bathed in sunlight, hair glinting like gold, the boy looked like the Sun God himself. His brow was smooth, relieved of the weight of his intense ideals, and his long white neck lay bare for him as the boy's head leaned back against the arm of the chaise.
Grantaire's breath caught in his throat. Without really thinking about it, he snatched up his sketchbook from his pile of materials and dragged his stool closer to the object of his endless infatuation. In a flurry of passionate activity, Grantaire sketched the youth's supine form in graphite, and took care to shade the drawing so that it would encapsulate the glow emanating from Enjolras' light-drenched skin. As it is with any artist, Grantaire was not satisfied with the sketch, despite its surreal beauty, but he dared not remain any longer for fear the lad should awaken. Still…
Entranced by Enjolras' ethereal quality, the painter absently set aside his drawing to stare, uninhibited. He knew he should not… oh, he knew he should not… and yet he felt he must… he could not bear not to look upon this beautiful creature. Though fair and flushed, Enjolras' beauty was too fierce to be compared with Euripides' Dionysus… No, Apollo was the right god. Grantaire could imagine this striking, passionate youth drawing back a bow in defense of truth and justice. Wielding his flaming sword, wild curls flying. Those red lips… so prettily parted, gentle in sleep… but they could spit venom at anyone who dared cross him. Those high, noble cheeks… a strong jaw, worthy of a leader… Good Lord, I shall kill myself pining. Never shall I be worthy to touch him. I would be lucky to shine his shoes.
Grantaire stood slowly, perhaps intending to return to his place behind his easel. Instead, however, almost unaware of what he did, he stepped closer to sleeping boy. Closer and closer he crept, unable to tear himself away. His mind reeled. His heart pounded within his breast. Silently, he knelt beside Enjolras' vulnerable form. Grantaire could not help himself. He reached out tentatively, as if afraid the youth's purity and lightness of soul would burn his skin, and brushed a stray curl from a smooth cheek. Then, reckless with his heady risk, the painter pressed his lips to the young revolutionary's, stealing a kiss.
Startled blue eyes flew open, and Enjolras drew a sharp breath through his nose. Grantaire pulled away immediately. "I – I – "
Enjolras sat up, and Grantaire collapsed to his knees on the floor beside the chaise. The young man's eyes darted frantically about in confusion, looking to Grantaire, then around the room, wondering how long he had slept. Then, his eyes alighted upon Grantaire's sketch, which was lying on the floor a little ways away. Enjolras's searching gaze returned to the painter once more, and he absently touched a few fingers to his lips. "You… you kissed me…" he whispered, pinkening at the very thought.
Grantaire could only nod, helplessly. He could neither bring himself to move nor speak. He simply sat on the floor at the feet of his Apollo, staring up fearfully into the face of a blasphemed god.
Presently, Enjolras looked directly into Grantaire's eyes. "You… desire me?" he whispered once more, flushed and uncertain.
Grantaire gulped against the knot in his throat. "I – I do believe I love you. At least, I am sure I could pledge my undying devotion to you this very moment, and never regret my words."
Enjolras' breath quickened and he flushed further. But Grantaire noticed he had not run away. Indeed, there was no rejection in the boy's face. Only confusion. And hope. Grantaire grew bolder, he clasped one of Enjolras' hands in his own, and met those bright blue eyes. "I would worship you if you would allow it. Oh, Enjolras, if you would permit it, I would follow you to the ends of the earth!"
The youth's eyes burned clear and bright. He smiled, and Grantaire's heart soared. "You, who believe in nothing?"
"I believe in you."
Enjolras slid off the chaise to kneel on the floor beside the painter, and tentatively placed his hand over Grantaire's. The dark haired man looked up into Enjolras' eyes, bewildered. The boy looked unsure of himself, certainly, but it could not be said that he appeared displeased. Indeed, Enjolras found that he liked the idea of Grantaire… loving him. His heart hammered and his thoughts raced.
Grantaire leaned in to kiss him once more. This time Enjolras kissed back. A thousand butterflies fluttered within the boy's belly as he leaned nervously into his first real kiss. The sensations were all new. A warm, wet mouth pressed against his own, dark stubble scraped against his skin, strong fingers threaded through his hair – he sighed gently at the pleasantness of it all, and Grantaire growled in response. When the older man attempted to deepen the kiss, however, Enjolras pulled away, frightened and blushing to the ears. He stared at his hands in his lap, unable to meet Grantaire's eyes.
"Gods…" the painter said, in awe. "I should have known when I heard you'd read Plato."
If it were possible, Enjolras would have blushed further at this comment. He glanced up and chuckled nervously before averting his eyes once more. Grantaire reached out and cupped the boy's cheek, silently asking Enjolras to face him. Blue eyes met dark, and Grantaire said with a grin, "So… Socrates accepts the lowly Alcibiades at last."
Enjolras shrugged off this observation. "Don't be silly. You've misinterpreted the tale. And, if anything, I am Alcibiades, as I am the younger."
"Nay, for thou art philosopher and I mere raucous sot."
"Perhaps, but at least you've a grasp on poetry."
"Very well, a paintbrush, then."
"More like your thigh."
"Don't sauce me!"
"I'd never! You are my savior! The light of mine eye and the light of my mind."
Enjolras flashed his pearly teeth, laughing lightly; and Grantaire, unable to help himself, crushed his lips to the blond's once more. "Mmph," was Apollo's reply, and he kissed the dark-haired man a bit more confidently. Curious, despite his reservations, Enjolras allowed Grantaire to press a slick tongue into his mouth. The sensation was foreign, but not entirely unpleasant. Tingling pleasure shot through him each time Grantaire brushed the roof of his mouth. Grantaire was delighted at the small pretty sighs the action elicited. Glowing with the joy of being accepted, the painter slowly lowered the young beauty to lie beneath him on the floor.
Enjolras was surprised to find that the solid warm weight of Grantaire's body atop his own felt comforting and safe, not restrictive. In a blissful haze, Enjolras permitted Grantaire to kiss him, and permitted himself to kiss in return. With each minute that passed their exchange grew more heated. Soon, their kisses were all teeth and tongue and panting. Grantaire slid his hand up Enjolras' shirt to tweak pert nipples, and Enjolras threw his head back with a gasp. Taking advantage of Enjolras' position, Grantaire and kissed and nipped at the boy's long white throat.
Grantaire worked his way down Enjolras' beautiful neck, brushing a delicate collarbone with his lips and, patiently undoing each button on the boy's shirt, worshipping every square inch of lovely, smooth skin. Enjolras was powerless to resist, and simply lied panting beneath him, one hand fisted in Grantaire's dark curls.
"Mmm, beautiful… so beautiful…" Grantaire murmured indistinctly between kisses.
"Tell me you love me."
"God, love you so much…Want you so badly."
Enjolras pulled Grantaire to him and kissed him again, with all the ferocity of his political speeches. Grantaire felt he would melt – or burst into flames. When at last the painter pulled away, gasping for breath, he gazed down at his debauched beloved. He could not believe such beauty could ever be his. Enjolras' chest was bare, shirt open and hanging loosely about his shoulders. His pale skin glowed with the vitality of youth, marred only by Grantaire's teeth marks. Enjolras' wild ringlets glinted golden in the afternoon sun streaming in through the window. His eyes twinkled darkly with lust, pupils blown, and his lips and cheeks were scarlet. He looked as if he had been seized by some Bacchic madness. Perhaps he had been.
"I wish I could paint you like this…" Grantaire mused absently, but Enjolras had had enough of being looked at and leaned up to kiss Grantaire silent. Grantaire was only too happy to oblige. Eagerly he tugged Enjolras' shirt off his shoulders and threw it across the room but, Enjolras, suddenly aware of how bare he was, crossed his arms in front of his chest.
"Don't. You're perfect."
"But you are not nearly as naked as I am."
This was true. Grantaire immediately turned his attention towards unbuttoning his waistcoat, and Enjolras lent his help, naturally making the task more difficult. Frustrated with their fumbling efforts, Enjolras batted the older man's hands away, and finished removing the waistcoat. He then began to unbutton Grantaire's shirt. Most endearingly, Enjolras imitated what Grantaire had done to him, placing kisses on Grantaire's chest each time he undid a shirt button. Grantaire could not help but grin. His heart ached with the sweetness of the gesture, and he leaned down to kiss the youth's brow, currently furrowed in nervous concentration. Enjolras' fingers fumbled with the buttons, hands shaking and, to relieve the awkward tension, Grantaire hurriedly slipped his shirt over his head, though only half-unbuttoned, and pulled his beloved into his lap.
It was infinitely more intimate to kiss when pressed skin to skin. Enjolras' body was wracked with periodic shudders at the overwhelming sensations. Grantaire's dusting of dark chest hair brushed against his still-smooth boyish torso, creating a lovely symphony of soft caresses and coarse chafing.
Enjolras flung his arms about Grantaire's bare shoulders and began to stroke absently up and down the painter's back, much to the latter's delight; and Grantaire, who had been gnawing gently at Enjolras' pulse point, bit down at the joint of the blond's neck and shoulder, and rolled his hips upwards. Enjolras blushed feverishly to feel the older man's hardness pressing against him and pulled away slightly, embarrassed.
Grantaire was a bit dismayed at the youth's reaction, and was himself embarrassed at his blatant display of desire. He decided he must clarify things before they went any further. "Enjolras… I must know… how far are you willing to take this?"
"I… it's just that I am confused. I have never felt so… so helpless. I am not in control of my body any longer, and it frightens me to feel this way. It is not that I do not want... that is – I do want to, but…"
"I understand. It is difficult to place so much trust in another. But I must say that I would never judge you for what happens between us, nor would I expect anything from you that would make you feel uncomfortable. If you would permit me only to… touch you, however, I do believe I could change your mind. I swear to you I will stop at the slightest word."
"Grantaire, I – "
" – Please do not feel obliged. I could never live with myself having made Apollo unhappy."
Enjolras raised a brow slightly at being called 'Apollo, but continued, "I was going to say, that it would be… alright – No, more than alright, I think, for you to touch me. I feel... I can trust you."
Grantaire smiled broadly and seized Enjolras about the waist, kissing him intensely. Breaking away, he peppered the youth's cheeks, nose, chin, forehead, and eyelids with sweet kisses. Enjolras could not help but smile, and affectionately nuzzle back.
"Come, let us get off the floor," said Grantaire efficiently. The painter leapt to his feet and gallantly reached down to pull Enjolras up with him. "Bed, or...?" he asked, gesturing vaguely around.
"Here," said Enjolras breathlessly, collapsing backwards onto the sea-foam coloured chaise. "I can't wait for you."
Grantaire gulped and felt blood rush his face and his cock at the implications of what his previously timid young love had said. He knelt over Enjolras and leaned down to positively ravish the blond boy's pretty red mouth.
"And we wouldn't be able to pass through the corridor unnoticed in our present state," Enjolras continued logically when he had adequate breath to speak. Grantaire, who couldn't imagine how he had allowed Enjolras such an amount of breathing room, promptly remedied his mistake.
Achingly hard now, Grantaire ground his still-clothed hips against Enjolras', eliciting a loud groan from both. Then, hurriedly, because he could not wait, Grantaire unfastened Enjolras' brown linen breeches and wrapped his fist around Enjolras' flush prick, just as beautiful as the rest of him.
Enjolras gasped as his body was wracked with shocks of pleasure. He moaned loudly when Grantaire took up rough strokes, and canted his hips into the painter's touch. "Nngahh! Grantaire, let me touch you! Ah, more, more! Please, God, please!" he begged, not quite sure what he was begging for.
Grantaire, chest heaving and damp with sweat, gave his Apollo a desperate, sloppy kiss. "Shall I thrust between your thighs, then, as the Greeks did?" he rasped out.
"Yes," breathed Enjolras shortly, and made quick work of Grantaire's trouser fastenings. Attempting to imitate Grantaire's touch, Enjolras tentatively stroked Grantaire's aching cock.
The older man drew a sharp breath at the tantalizing lightness of the youth's touch. "Oh, gods, Enjolras, don't tease me or I swear I'll cum right now." Still, his prick throbbed at the loss of Enjolras' fingers. "Turn around."
The golden youth braced himself on his elbows against the back of the chaise and pressed his thighs tightly together. He knew of such things. Grantaire tugged down both pairs of trousers and slicked himself hurriedly with spit. It would have to do. Then, nestling his head in the crook of Enjolras' neck, he pushed into the tight heat between Enjolras' legs.
Grantaire was sure he made some obscene sound but, at that moment, all that existed was Enjolras. His beautiful, glowing skin sliding sweaty against his own. Golden curls brushing against his nose. The sounds he made as Grantaire reached around his body to tug him to his completion. Everything was too hot and dry, and their skin chafed but, oh, was it good.
For Enjolras, all that existed was Grantaire. Desirous groans that fell from the man's lips as he held him safe in his arms. Sliding hot and thick between his legs, prick brushing exquisitely against Enjolras' balls. Puffs of warm air on his neck; hand hot on his cock. And everything was too quick and too embarrassing but, oh, was it good.
Together they built to the zenith of their pleasure. Enjolras spent himself first, being young; but Grantaire could not last much longer with such a beauty beneath him. Floating in utter bliss, they lied panting in a messy heap on the sea-foam coloured chaise, sharing lazy kisses. That is, until one of them thought it wise to clean up before someone found them in such a state. But, as they slowly collected themselves, their heady bond seemed to grow thicker in the air.
"Next time, my bed," said Enjolras at last, smiling in a quietly pleased way.
Grantaire looked up from putting away his paint set. It was past time for him to leave. "There will be a next time?"
Concern flashed across the blond boy's face. "Of course. That is… if you want there to be…"
Grantaire rushed to reply. "Yes, I mean, God yes – that is –" He laughed, running his fingers nervously through his hair.
Grantaire stood to leave, and they faced each other awkwardly at the door. "Enjolras?"
"You'll come to Paris this autumn?"
"Come stay with me. You don't have to tell your parents, but…"
Enjolras' face lit in genuine happiness, an emotion not often part of the young revolutionary's countenance. "Of course! I – I want to be with you! Erm, I mean, yes. Yes, that sounds good."
Grantaire smiled. "Right. See you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," the archangel said with a happy nod. Then, remembering himself, he politely ushered his guest out.
The painting, when it was finished, was the most emotionally poignant that Grantaire would ever produce. Infused with all his admiration for his golden revolutionary, it would never simply depict a beautiful heathen boy lying on a sea-foam coloured chaise. Even to the casual onlooker, it seemed as if it were a reverent tribute to some long-forgotten god.