A/N Writing the barricade boys, it would seem, is both very fun and very frustrating (era-accurate dialogue is just... let's not), and it would seem that I can't do it without at least hinting at all of my stupid crack ships (Bahorel/Jehan and Joly/Combeferre, please, please, please)... let's just leave it at that. Oh, and this is movie!verse; I suppose that's worth mentioning.
You're a bottled star; the planets align, you're just like Mars
You shine in the sky, you shine in the sky
Are all the good times getting gone?
They come and go and go and come and go;
Got a lot of friends who are stars but some are just black holes
"You see, it may be easy enough to idolize France as a whole, to tell oneself and others that it's a wonderful land of freedom and promise and glory, is it not? You can carry forth all you want, of course, keep driving yourself forwards, go on and be blind; blind men move best in the dark! But the vital core of it, never forget, is that there are as many imperfections in this noble land as in England or Germany, and there always will be, there is simply no way your Republic can solve something as structural as that—which is why, of course, you're now all such fools."
Enjolras pays no regard to the loud-voiced words, amplified yet further with the unwelcome but inevitable addition of alcohol. He can feel frustration at Grantaire's unceasing cynicism biting at the back of his mind, but he ignores it, stays turned away from the small table around which the drunk and a few other flush-faced forms are clustered. He has the attention of those who matter, anyhow, the ones that aren't too far lost in the fumes of the wine-shop to pay even the palest fragment of attention to the words of actual importance that he's attempting to convey to them. It truly is exhausting, sometimes, to have nothing more than a ragtag band of students to lead into such a direly important conflict, but he takes what he gets, and some of them listen, at least—Courfeyrac, for one, has almost humored patience shining in his dark eyes, Enjolras's irritation at Grantaire's abrasive tones clearly not going unnoticed.
"Fools?" Joly exclaims, his own pitch heightened by a half-hiccup from one too many bottles of wine. "Quite a thing to hear, that is, from a man who counts himself among the ranks of our own!"
"Oh, and I'm a fool as well, of course," Grantaire laughs, the sharp thud of his bottle's collision with the tabletop causing Enjolras's turned back to flinch imperceptibly. He can feel a stare burning his shoulders. "A fool, and dead! Like the rest of you. Every last one. He's leading you to it, and you follow him like the sheep you are, but who am I to object? No one. The drunk in the corner. The drunk in the corner!"
"Enjolras," Courfeyrac murmurs, slanting a glance towards the hard-jawed leader, but his frustration has broken through, and he turns with a sharp hiss, whipping around from his sparse cluster of attendees to find his eyes immediately locked with Grantaire's.
The self-proclaimed 'drunk in the corner' is actually very nearly at the center of the room, half-risen from the table with his fingers tight around a bottleneck and his teeth glinting in a faint grin. It's far too clear that he's been entirely aware of his voice reaching Enjolras, even aiming for as much, and equally obvious from the gleam in his eyes that he's too far gone to care. Joly and Bahorel, flanking him, chortle softly at what must be a near-furious expression drawn over Enjolras's face, but he gives them no regard; they're only following along, after all. Sheep as he calls them, though with some measure more of intelligence, unfortunately siphoned away now by the wine that they're far too willing to accept after a particularly grueling day of their studies.
"Grantaire," he begins, the name forced out through his teeth.
"And here he comes now," Grantaire stage-whispers, shooting a smirk towards Bahorel, who snorts into his bottle. "Mightiest Apollo, be we mere mortals worthy of thy radiance?"
Quite intoxicated, then, if he refuses even to be steadied by Enjolras's presence, which is usually enough to silence him entirely. Enjolras draws a breath through his nose, then closes the distance between them and brings a hand down on the tabletop, causing a jolt that nearly topples Bahorel. Grantaire is unmoved.
"I've learned not to pay any regard to your acrimonious rantings on their own, but I can and will insist that you keep them to yourself and not infect the minds of my... more devoted men," he snaps, the words intentionally cut and clipped with sober precision in contrast to the bleary murmurs of the drunken bunch.
Joly blinks almost benignly, apparently unsure as to whether he's receiving a compliment. Bahorel, as it would appear, has surrendered to his laughter, face hidden in his folded arms and shoulders shaking.
Grantaire, even with by far the widest range of empty bottles lined before him, is the steadiest. He stands fully, fingertips poised on the tabletop, chin high with arrogance. A high flush climbs in his cheeks, and his eyes are starry as the cosmos. "And why would that be, then, your leadership?" he demands, practically breathless. Enjolras hesitates, his frown deepening, rather miffed by this sudden assertiveness from the man whom he can usually calm with a glance. "Not afraid, unless you're doubting, as well? Of course, it shan't matter a shade if you truly are as confident as you wish us all to believe."
It's a challenge, and one that Enjolras isn't going to turn down. He swallows slowly, fingers curling into a fist that's more frustrated than threatening. Shadows dance over Grantaire's face, his three-day stubble accentuated by the licks of yellow candle flame. He's almost startlingly close, really; Enjolras never has cause to pay much any regard to him whatsoever, but now his proximity, just across the thin, whorl-grained tabletop, brings a thousand little details into unwilling accentuation. The wine on his breath is detectable even from here, a heavy and not altogether unpleasant aroma that lingers like a cloud, and sweat stains the pale folds of his shirt, bunched around the collar of his navy waistcoat. His chest is heaving, the exertion surely caused in equal parts by inebriety and excitement, which, for Grantaire, do tend to be one and the same.
"I never doubt," Enjolras declares coldly, and the words somehow seem to dissipate the atmosphere of the cafe, sharpen the flickering warmth into something darker and stronger, iron emerging from gold.
For a breath, the room is perfectly silent, and even the amiable stirrings which previously emerged from the corner holding Bossuet and Feuilly have lapsed into a tense nothingness.
Then Grantaire, clapping a hand to Bahorel's shoulder, steps around the edge of the table, and Enjolras is surprised enough by this assertiveness to jerk slightly backwards. Every hazy eye in the room is focused on the drunk, who proves to be as unsteady on his feet as he is confident in his words. The shakiness only highlights his already clear intoxication, emphasizes just how fogged he really is. This isn't the state of tipsiness that he's usually wrapped in; he's broken down all his usual boundaries, left them shattered in his wake.
"He never doubts," Grantaire repeats loudly, gesturing expansively with a wide hand. "Did you hear that? Never doubts. You'd have to wonder, wouldn't you, whether he's even human at this point! Uncertainty doesn't touch him, oh no, not our precious noble leader..."
"Your level of intoxication is positively disgusting," Enjolras growls, his own words soft and measured. He doesn't want the attention that's being forced upon them, so he lowers the pitch of his voice, hoping at least to spare them both some sort of dignity, though honestly there's no saving the other at this point. "Go home, Grantaire. Rejoin us come morning, if your inevitable headache doesn't prevent even that much."
"Is that an order, then? Do be careful, Enjolras, we mustn't have a monarchy forming within our own numbers."
His words, even warmed with dry humor as they are, somehow stiffen the air, and even Bahorel's weak sniggers are hushed. Grantaire has gone too far in his teasing, and they both know it quite well. Everyone in the room does, shown in straightened backs and lowered heads, nervous eyes flickering rapidly between the two men, who now stand no more than a few sparse inches apart from one another. There's a creak at the back of the room that's probably Combeferre, and Enjolras lifts a hand, signifying the others that they leave him be, let him sort this out himself.
"I told you," he repeats steadily, "to go home, before you drop where you stand."
Grantaire, trembling, is like a caged animal. "Or what?" he breathes, the words plain and simple, laced over with none of the usual flowery phrasing that he's so incessantly fond of. Enjolras feels the words more than hears them, as close to his lips as they're murmured, and doesn't miss the way that Grantaire's eyes flicker down briefly, in a way that makes him want to step back. He doesn't, though, refuses to move a centimeter.
He barely feels the next sentence stir his throat. "Or I will give you ample reason to regret it."
Grantaire's tongue runs over the edge of his lower lip. His cheeks twitch slightly, then split into a suddenly broad, rather disconcerting grin, and he spins around all at once, his arms thrown wide, the slim bottle in his fingers catching and refracting the golden candlelight. "A destined martyr feels no regret!" he shouts, and is rewarded by an immediate, relieved wave of rowdy laughter, the only silence in the room emanating from Courfeyrac and Combeferre, who keep steady gazes fixed on Enjolras's fuming form.
"A destined martyr," he begins haughtily, but has no time to finish.
The bottle hits the ground with an earsplitting crash, and he thinks for a brief instant that Grantaire has given in to the sedative qualities of his poison, before pressure suddenly rushes in on him, a firm hand at the small of his back and the second woven through his curly locks. The world dips and swerves beneath him, his feet scrambling for purchase with sudden desperation, nearly falling but suspended by the fingers gripping the back of his shirt.
A second later, he's being kissed.
Not lightly, not gently, but harsh and fierce and hot, something that sets every cell of his body on flushed fire, suffocating and blinding, a rush of pure sensation building up underneath his skin. He would gasp if he could breathe, but it's hard enough to stop from folding to the floor, spine bent backwards as it is, blood flooding to his head and, for once, entirely vanquishing every thought previously settled in it. His precisely organized goals and intentions, before laid out so carefully throughout his mind, scatter chaotically now, leaving room for nothing in his consciousness but the frantic warmth of the other lips colliding with his.
It's strong and deep but very swift, and before he has time to so much as realize who it is holding him so aggressively and tenderly both at once, he's torn away, stumbling backwards and crashing into one of the small round tables, which stings fiercely against his tailbone. He half-falls, suspended only by his grip on the wooden surface, and can't bring himself to blink as he re-focuses on Grantaire—Grantaire, red-faced and swaying where he stands.
"A destined martyr takes every opportunity that passes to die happy," the drunken man slurs, and promptly collapses.
"You could stay here, just for one day, try at least to get a hold on things again," Combeferre suggests wryly. He's all too aware that Enjolras intends to do nothing of the sort, clear in the way that the tousle-haired man reaches for his scarlet coat as soon as his lieutenant's steady tones rouse him from his light slumber. "Nobody will mind. Prouvaire could probably use a day off, in all honesty, he has seemed... rather stressed lately."
"Prouvaire is none of my concern," Enjolras huffs, blinking impatiently to clear the last fragments of sleep from his aching eyes. Combeferre, having entered the room minutes before with the intention of at least slightly swaying the firm resolve he fully expected Enjolras to possess, watches in a way that can only be described as unimpressed, his arms folded and his mouth turned down slightly. "There is a revolution to be led, it can't be put aside for such small matters as... this."
"Small matter? He out and kissed you!"
"He was drunk."
"I believe most of us were already more than aware of that much." He's not sure why he's defending Grantaire, exactly, or pretending like last night wasn't the most absurd thing ever to happen to him, but perhaps he just wants to be able to forget. As if treating it as nothing will make it such. "I am not responsible for what he does, and there is no reason whatsoever for me to act as if I am."
"Your obstinacy is astounding."
"I'm putting the needs of the Republic before my personal preference, nothing more. Chances are that he won't even show."
"He's still there, Enjolras. No one really had the heart to move him. Or, well, the muscle."
"Quite some soldiers I'm backed by, then, if they cannot find it within their scarce power to bring one skinny drunkard out of a wine-shop." He sighs, rubbing the heel of his hand over his forehead, then shakes his head and pulls himself into a full standing position. He doesn't want to be irritated, but after the confusion of the previous evening, he really needs nothing more than a few brief minutes to himself. And yet with his key to the room and his taste for punctuality, Combeferre seems intent on keeping him from receiving just that. "I'll go in like I do every day, and they should have no reason to behave unusually. It's not any of their business, in any case."
"A bit outright to not be their business."
"I can't control him, Combeferre! I've never been able to, you know that." He wanders to the mirror on the stained wall of his small apartment room, examining his reflection with a passively critical stare. His hair is rumpled but nothing atrocious, eyes dark with sleeplessness, and a small muscle in his jaw is twitching slightly. He pretends that his gaze doesn't linger on his own lips, wondering if he's imagining the faint bruising that tinges the pale skin around them.
"All I'm suggesting is that you allow yourself a break. Give you both some time to recover."
"Putting it off will only make it harder. I have no need to talk to him; I have no need to look at him. God knows if he'll even be awake yet, you've seen how long he can sleep for."
"Like the dead," Combeferre agrees.
He takes another deep breath and turns away from the mirror to fully face his friend, who looks equally exhausted. As frustrated as he can't help but be, there's really no way to blame him for his reluctance. They're trying to achieve the same thing—normality—just have two entirely different ways of going about it. Enjolras possesses the superiority in this situation, though, and he's not going to hesitate to express it. There's no reason to show that he himself isn't backed by full confidence.
Grantaire's words sharply fly back into his mind, then—he never doubts—and accompanying them is a rather severe twist of his stomach, something quick and light and bizarrely far from unlikable. Maybe he's going insane, as well. That would explain a number of things, he thinks bitterly.
"I am going to get dressed, and then we will meet at the Musain. Let the others know."
"Let the others know."
He hesitates, their gazes locked for a moment. It seems almost as if he's ready to protest, to reach up and seize his share of the dominance that Enjolras knows himself to be unfairly possessing, but a second later his shoulders fall, and his chin dips in a shallow nod.
"I can only hope that your decisions are as wise as you believe them to be."
"Wisdom is something I only ever strive for," he mumbles, looking away.
Combeferre says nothing more as he leaves the room, and for that much Enjolras is grateful. He lets out a breath that he hadn't realized himself to be holding as the door clicks shut, and makes his way back to the bed, which he proceeds to drop onto rather ungracefully. For no real reason, his legs are trembling, and he runs a hand over his face again, trying to regain the control that he lost the moment Grantaire's lips—
No, he can't think about that, he can't. Doing so, it would seem, entirely vanquishes any other thought from his mind, and the simple truth is that he can't afford that sort of blankness. Focus. Focus. Idiocy is what it is, absolute idiocy, and it's that—the idea that he's been reduced to little more than an obsessive schoolgirl—that causes him to finally rise properly, clenching his teeth and moving towards his wardrobe with a steadiness that's determined and resigned both at once.
What he is absolutely not going to do is allow Grantaire's foolishness to control his own actions. He's quite beyond that, he reminds himself firmly; he has to believe as much, if he wants the others to be convinced of it, as well. He won't let something like this trip him up. He can't. Combeferre has seen him near-doubting himself—even if his words were resolute, his friend knows him well enough to tell when he's uncertain, though Enjolras has no idea as to what he's uncertain about—but there's no reason that any of the rest of them should.
He won't think about it, then. It couldn't be simpler.
Holding that in mind, he's dressed in three minutes, and pretends that he can't feel his hands shaking as he buttons up his scarlet jacket.
The first thing he hears upon entering the café is a rather alarmingly high-pitched whine, which he then immediately identifies as coming from the table seating Joly. The medic has his head in his hands, a tall glass of water set before him and Combeferre, more tired-looking than ever, perched beside him and one-handedly massaging his shoulder with a learned steadiness.
"Is everything alright?" Enjolras demands swiftly, taking care not to so much as glance towards the corner that Courfeyrac had wordlessly dragged Grantaire's prone form to the previous night. Seeing him—for he was doubtless still situated there—would merit thinking about him.
"Someone had a few too many last night," Combeferre mutters, and Joly whimpers wordlessly again.
"Hard thing to avoid, sharing company with someone like Grand R over there," Bahorel interjects, setting a bottle on the table and dropping into a chair of his own. "Head up, Joly. He's got it worse."
Enjolras instinctively stiffens at the mention of Grantaire, something which escapes none of their notice. Bahorel cocks an eyebrow, a grin tilting into existence. "Think we all know just how spent he was. A bit too vividly, even."
Combeferre whisks the bottle out from between his fingers. "For God's sake, the sun's barely up."
The reaction is nothing more severe than a slight pout. Enjolras sighs, leaving the three to their own devices and moving towards the middle of the room, still being sure to strategically avoid the darkest corner. He had, despite himself, been retaining some sort of hope that perhaps they would go along with him and behave as though nothing was out of the ordinary, but it appears now that the incident is already too deeply ingrained in the minds of his comrades for him to escape the humiliation anytime soon.
He distracts himself by scanning the room for Courfeyrac, the one whom he's sure won't bring up anything quite so distasteful, but is met by nothing; they're still filtering in, and none other than those at Joly's table linger about the café now, leaving the windows, spattered with grey mist, desolately bare. It's not the sort of day that men feel powerful or motivated—certainly nowhere near rebellious, a fact which Enjolras is uncomfortably aware of even in the pit of his own stomach. The dreary atmosphere, coupled with the hangovers expressed in Joly's headache and Bahorel's tight grimace, results in a positively depressing air, exactly the sort of day that Grantaire would normally lighten up with his boisterous attitude, though of course he can't think about that. He's just starting to think that perhaps he should have taken Combeferre's advice and called it off before it began when footsteps sound on the stairway, and he turns just in time to see Courfeyrac's eyes seeking him from the landing, a hollow-faced Jean Prouvaire lingering beside.
"Courfeyrac," he murmurs in undisguised relief, pacing back across the floor and reaching out a hand in greeting. "It's high time."
"Jehan feels down," is the hushed response. "I only convinced him to come with the suggestion that Joly could take a look at him."
"Joly seems incapable of even taking care of himself," Enjolras replies, maintaining the undertone. "This place is a mess." Prompted by Courfeyrac's words, he takes a closer look at Prouvaire, to see that he is indeed quite sick-looking, his skin waxy pale and almost green-tinged in the foggy light. Light shivers roll down his thin frame to piteous result, and his usually flourishing blonde hair is lank around his shadowed cheekbones.
"These men need a day off—"
"Combeferre said the same. It didn't stop me. We have a revolution to lead! We can hardly take... days off."
"...You more so than any of us," Courfeyrac continues evenly, like he was never cut off in the first place. "Nothing is going to be achieved today, not if we go on like this. Forcing activity is counterproductive if anything. Even Gavroche won't come out of his elephant."
Enjolras whisks his gaze around the room once more, taking in the sight of all of them—Bahorel is brooding, his eyes vaguely fixed on Prouvaire, while Combeferre has risen to refill Joly's water glass. There's a certain lethargy to all of their movements, and his own faint inspiration flits and dulls into nothingness, finally emerging from his lips in the form of a barely-audible groan. "Very well, then," he announces, raising his voice. "I'm calling nothing off, but anyone who doesn't find himself in possession of the energy mandated for proper effort is free to go. Go and rest, that is," he adds sourly as Bahorel immediately springs up, swinging himself around the table and towards the stairs.
Bahorel ignores him entirely, instead reaching out to wordlessly grip the edge of Prouvaire's sleeve and drag the surprised-looking blonde man after him. Their uneven footsteps echo up and through the room, which is otherwise silent save the light rain beginning to hammer the outside of the café.
"Well, that was ever so masterful of you," Combeferre comments dryly, setting the refilled glass in front of Joly, who takes an almost alarmingly large gulp. Seconds later, he's doubled over and coughing violently, the noises he's producing rather akin to those of a strangled cat. Combeferre loops an arm around his thin shoulders, raising his eyes towards the ceiling in what might be a silent prayer.
"Do take care not to drown yourself, there."
The new voice seems to freeze the very blood in Enjolras's veins. Within the space of a brief second, he finds himself gone from vaguely troubled to utterly paralyzed, breath rushing out of his mouth, something burning behind his eyes and a series of flips harassing his stomach. There's no mistaking the velvet tones that emerge from behind him, and he resists the sudden urge to follow Bahorel down the stairs, instead inhaling frantically and forcing his teeth sharply together in an attempt to console his own rapidly racing heart. His ears ring, but he presses ignorance, reminding himself how entirely ridiculous it is that he be this aggravated in the first place.
"Grantaire," he murmurs, hating his voice for its lowness, the way it scrapes his throat almost into a squeak. He turns, pretending not to notice the way that Courfeyrac twitches towards him almost defensively. The tousle-haired drunk is standing in the exact corner that Enjolras has been avoiding the entire time—well, half-standing; his knees are bent and one hand positioned flat on the wall, clearly midway through pulling himself up, but the lucidity of his eyes is sickeningly unmistakable.
"Quite the long faces you've got there," he laughs, taking in the solemn expressions that paint the still cluster of men lingering about. "I'll assume I didn't miss any devastating battles."
One or two of the students let out half-relieved, half-uneasy laughter, but Enjolras's own head is on fire. Is this it, then? he wonders fleetingly. Is Grantaire really going to proceed to behave as though things are perfectly normal, as though he didn't entirely overturn Enjolras's world with his thoughtless actions the night before? Thoughtless, because they must have been, because anything else is simply too much to consider. The only reason that he was the one to be—to be assaulted, he reminds himself firmly, is because he was presently at the center of Grantaire's attention; it could just as easily have been one of the others. After all, the gesture really had been far from affectionate. It was energy, aggression, nothing more.
"None," Combeferre promises easily.
"Though," Joly sniffs, finally straightening up fully again and wiping his streaming eyes with the handkerchief duly offered to him by Combeferre, "you must stop intoxicating yourself so severely, especially in the middle of a public café. Staying in a place like this all night, and on the floor nonetheless—"
Grantaire waves him off and starts across the room, his stride rather stiff. "It hardly matters now," he dismisses, heading straight for the bar. "Carry on, then."
The others' gazes drop away, and, for a brief instant, Enjolras is the only one watching him. In that moment, a haunting sort of transformation occurs—the easy gaiety usually carried in Grantaire's features falls away all at once, his lips slackening and his eyelashes dipping down as the strength seeps from his shoulders. It seems, somehow, to be a massive effort to so much as lower himself into a chair, one arm thrown over the bar counter, the other settling in his lap. This, Enjolras realizes, must be his sobriety—this is who Grantaire is under the heavy waves of alcohol that he so resolutely muffles himself with, and something about it is almost painful to witness. He's come to rely on Grantaire as a sort of constant. A despicable one, given; but a constant nonetheless, and this, this sort of weakness, is more than unnerving.
"Right," he mumbles to himself, almost uncertainly. Apparently the lack of sureness is detectable, judging from the concerned tilt of Joly's eyebrows and the sharpening of Courfeyrac's stare, so he hastens to cover his slip-up, lifting his chin. "Combeferre, are the others coming?"
"Feuilly, probably. Marius if we're lucky."
"Yes, well, that's often the case with him. Lesgle?"
"Bossuet is quite absorbed in his studies," Joly interjects, "for the time being, and most likely unable to spare his time."
"Can't spare time to change the world—must be exhausting," Enjolras manages through gritted teeth. The frustration is good, though—it gives him leverage, a distraction from the presence of Grantaire, which singes insistently at the edges of his mind despite the other man's pressing casualty. "Very well. The best we can do is keep up hope that they'll show in due course, and do what we can in the meantime. Courfeyrac, a word?"
"Immediately," the dark-haired man acquiesces, and the others return to their drinks and ponderings as Enjolras leads him down the staircase, his fingers lingering on the wooden wall for support. He doesn't pause until they're halfway down, beyond earshot from any above, and even then he doesn't quite turn to face Courfeyrac, instead choosing to gaze at his own feet.
"What do I do?" he asks, softly. It's a more desperate question than he's ever given to any of the others before, and he suddenly feels very young, very vulnerable. He's not just helpless—he's puzzled, himself, has no idea how to go about the utterly confused knot of emotions that's taken root somewhere between his chest and his stomach. And he doesn't so much as know why he's turning to Courfeyrac for the help that he so desperately needs, is only aware that Combeferre is occupied by Joly, and that he can't stay quiet, it's mandatory that he find a way to quench the madness burning him apart from the inside out.
"The others are only taking a well-deserved break, they—"
"I don't mean the others."
The resulting pause is brief. "Grantaire?"
"Of course." He feels a slow burn under his skin, and turns around fully, the action causing his head to spin. "I've got no earthly idea what to do. I can't go on like this—I can't treat it as if it's nothing, because it wasn't, it—"
"You're flushed," Courfeyrac observes, sounding almost delighted. His eyes are warmer than Enjolras has seen them in quite a while, and he has no idea how to interpret it.
"The stuffy atmosphere within here is hardly my fault. It is irrelevant."
"Stuffy atmosphere, is it now, Enjolras?"
"What are you getting at?"
"Men kiss for a reason," he sighs, his voice almost humoredly patient, as though teaching Enjolras some sort of entirely fundamental lesson. "You might take it as a hint, incidentally."
"Men kiss women for a reason. Men kiss men because—" He breaks off abruptly. Men don't kiss men at all. That's rather the point that's stabbing at him so intently. And even now, just speaking of the incident, he can't help but relive it—rushing back through his mind all at once; the pressure of Grantaire's hand on his lower back, the heat of their lips touching, the sensation that shot through him—almost giddy, it had been, though mental use of the word sends a shudder through him.
"Because they care about them," Courfeyrac lays out gently, "because they matter to them, and they need a way to express it."
"Don't be absurd!"
"Don't be so flustered. It's truly nothing to grow aggravated about, you're turning it into more than it is. And probably breaking his heart, too, if you haven't reached that conclusion yourself." The words are caught somewhere between humorous and reprimanding. "He's waiting for a response, and, at this point, is likely to think that he's received one. That being the… ignoring him entirely, which is probably what he'd dread the most. I certainly would."
"What, if you'd been the one to kiss me?"
"In a wholly hypothetical manner."
"…Oh, God." And then it all comes crashing down on him at once—not just the true implications behind Grantaire's actions, which he realizes now he's been energetically denying the whole time, but also everything else; the way that Grantaire's façade had fallen into such tatters when he was no longer being watched by the others, the flicker of his gaze as he so directly avoided Enjolras's own eyes upon rising—and everything else, before. The way he'd always watched him, all the late nights in the café, the uncharacteristically quiet pensiveness that Enjolras had only ever picked up on in some absentminded corner of his own mind, but which is suddenly so vivid and obvious now. The way that he strove to impress him, and failed, of course, but still—still.
He doesn't hesitate to repeat himself.
"Now you're beginning to get it," Courfeyrac observes.
"Courfeyrac—what do I do?" It's the same question as before, and yet different now. Heavier.
"That would depend on your own thoughts, of course. Imagine him as a woman, if that's the easiest way to go about it. Will you return it, or go on disregarding it as if nothing ever happened in the first place—and probably rip the poor man apart, along the way?"
Enjolras can't quite remember what a settled stomach feels like. He doesn't want to imagine Grantaire as a woman, certainly not. If anything, that makes it harder—women are detached, uninteresting. Before last night, he's never been kissed, and never particularly had the desire to be, either. He never saw the intrigue of it all, a truth that he only ever fully admitted to himself. And yet, even now, the thought of Grantaire's touch, simultaneously rough and tender, causes a warm internal shudder, and his lungs hitch up slightly, fingers clenching in and out. Despite his best efforts—or some pathetic semblance of them—he's now falling apart before Courfeyrac far more than he ever did towards Combeferre, and it's weakness, awful repulsive weakness that causes his head to spin in such consuming self-hatred.
"Enjolras." Fingers on his wrist steady him, and he pulls in a harsh breath, almost choking. "It's perfectly alright. You're overreacting."
"It's quite easy. Go back up, when you're ready, and do what you wish. If you have no desire to reciprocate, then don't. Move along as normal. Nobody will be affected save him, and he'll overcome it eventually. In theory, at least."
"I don't want him to—to overcome it," Enjolras snaps. "I want him to be happy!"
Courfeyrac blinks, and Enjolras himself is just as stunned as his friend appears. His lips keep moving, though, words pouring forth, startling both in their content and their validity. "Have you ever looked at him, Courfeyrac, really looked at him? He's miserable. He's broken. And he hides it, he covers it up like it's the easiest thing in the world, yet it's not, it can't be. He is destroyed, and that—is that because of me? Because if so, I've been such a fool…"
"Well, you have definitely been a fool," Courfeyrac murmurs, but Enjolras isn't listening anymore. Instead, he's pushing past, stumbling up the stairs again, heart racing and thoughts fleeing his mind entirely. He only has one focus in place, and that's to reach Grantaire, to tell him, to show him that—
That he matters.
Because he does matter. Not in a way that can be neatly parceled into words, but something much more primitive and therefore more vital, something that's all golden light, something that, in its absence, leaves them all subdued and quiet, steals the glow from the candles and the music from the air and replaces it with such detestable greyness. This knowledge, finally asserted in his mind, is reaffirmed a thousand times over as he reaches the landing and his eyes instinctively find Grantaire again—the sight of the man that he'd hours ago believed himself to detest ignites something in his chest, something that's perhaps been there the whole time, waiting for a chance to be realized.
He doesn't notice or care whether Joly and Combeferre watch him as he crosses the room in a rushed stumble, whether Courfeyrac has followed him up the stairs. Everything about him is on fire, and he's both fleeing and pursuing that fire as he reaches Grantaire, reaches out and grips him by the edge of the sleeve. The eyes that turn to meet his are wide, dark, surprised, and the mouth below them parts in astonishment, as if prepared for an exclamation of confusion.
If that shock is vocalized, he doesn't hear it over the pounding in his ears. All he knows is that he's leaning forwards, and somehow his lips fall into place automatically, and it takes him an blindingly bright moment to realize that he's done it, that he's kissing him again—instinctively, Grantaire moves against him, and somehow there are hands placed lighter than cloud, one on his jaw and the other on his waist, awed, disbelieving as they tilt him in deeper. His own iron grip on Grantaire's sleeve tightens, and his free hand finds the other man's cheek, thumb ghosting over the scratchy stubble there, tracing its subtle melt into smooth skin. And it hardly matters that he tastes like wine, because that beautiful fever is back, that joyous hunger, and Enjolras doesn't think he's ever felt more alive.
He half-withdraws after a few seconds, and then the dark, starry eyes are before him, wide and glittering, and his breath seems to vanish. Grantaire's own breathing is uneven, wordless, and it suddenly strikes Enjolras that perhaps there are tears in the boundless depths of the stare across from him, gorgeously pure captivation conveyed in every shadow and plane of what he realizes all at once to be a perfectly crafted face.
The moment is precious, and even as everything within him is suddenly begging to pull in closer, to feel Grantaire again, this suspension is utter enchantment. He's shivering, but it's not the bitter chill that's been haunting him since the previous night; the very opposite, in fact, overwhelmingly warm, rocking his insides in a way that's anything but sick.
"Enjolras," Grantaire whispers.
Contained in those few syllables is everything—it's as though speaking to the God that he's never believed in, and the sound seems to strike chords in Enjolras's chest that he didn't even know to exist. It seems that he's never truly heard his name spoken before now. The suddenness is overwhelming, and his head is suddenly enveloped by a rush of prickling dizziness, so that only his hand, swiftly thrust out to seek purchase on the bar counter, stops him from folding to his knees.
"That—that's your answer, then," he gets out clumsily, unable to tear his eyes away from Grantaire's blissfully blank face. He hears Courfeyrac's chuckle from behind him, the first noise to pierce through the veil that seems to have fully surrounded them, and he blinks, quite suddenly surfacing into reality with a sensation that resembles breaking the surface of cold water to find a crisp wind awaiting him. He straightens up, and heat flows to his previously pale face suddenly enough for a pang of a headache to whip by the back of his skull. He doesn't turn, not yet, but instead moves his gaze downwards, almost ashamed.
"…Answer?" Grantaire repeats, still in that trembling way of unadulterated enthrallment. "I… am going to curse myself with this, but I can't seem to recall asking a question."
"Last night," Enjolras gets out, mechanically, "you—"
His face is wholly impassive.
"…You don't remember."
"It was—it was late," Grantaire hastens, "and several bottles had—"
"You absolute bloody drunken idiot, you don't even remember," he gets out, and shakes his head slowly, not quite able to close his mouth. All the time he'd been concerned—no, more than concerned, he'd been terrified after what Courfeyrac said, shamelessly so, and though the intensity of the emotion could doubtlessly be owed to his lack of sleep and his own obsessive nature, that didn't decrease its impact whatsoever.
Grantaire doesn't remember, and that means that, to him, Enjolras has just done the exact same thing that he had the previous night, this time without the petty excuse of alcohol.
Which doesn't even begin to negate the response he received.
"I—" he begins stupidly, then straightens his back, whirls back around to the rest of the room. The other three are staring, of course—Joly looks stricken, Combeferre thoughtful, and Courfeyrac utterly delighted. Enjolras realizes suddenly that one of his hands is still wound in the fabric of Grantaire's sleeve, and yet he can't quite force himself to remove it.
"Good on you," Courfeyrac declares, tipping his head in what might be congratulations. "Can't say it was short in coming."
Enjolras has nothing to say to that, and neither, apparently, does Grantaire—for once, the two of them, so often rendering each other silent, are mutually wordless. He feels the other stirring beside him, though, can hear and sense his breathing, and something about that causes electricity to spark all through his veins, creeping up towards his face, and, before he can help it, he's smiling. Not broadly; in fact, it's barely more than a slight turn-up at the corners of his lips, curving into the flush that still flames under his cheeks. Innocent in a way that Enjolras never is, and he's suddenly very thankful to Courfeyrac—for the prompting, encouragement; whatever exactly it was that he'd done to drive this odd new sensation into existence.
Courfeyrac's eyebrows arch, but it's Combeferre who speaks up. Combeferre, the one who had so intently emphasized the indecency of Grantaire's actions, who had tried to persuade Enjolras to cancel the meeting that he was equally devoted to for the sole purpose of dignity retention, who had insisted to Enjolras's exhausted ears that Grantaire must be no less than utterly insane.
"Don't look at us like that," he scolds. "We're not the ones who need to see it."
And Enjolras is turning once more, his head ducked with helpless abashment, because he's vulnerable right now, because this is a side to himself that even he doesn't know and he's just as unconfident about it as he has been about everything else today.
Grantaire's ensuing grin, illuminating his whole face like a lightning strike, couldn't be a more perfect reassurance.