They don't tell anyone. They don't even really tell each other. Enjolras, who switches between affectionate and businesslike with a frankly indecent speed, does not seem to struggle with this (Grantaire suspects he has a hidden tap somewhere on his body that controls this facility—he hasn't yet found it, but he's been enjoying his explorations). Grantaire, on the other hand, goes around in a wild-eyed daze, half convinced it has all been a glorious delirium, half bursting to shout from the rooftops Enjolras's tongue is good for more things than talking.

He understands why Enjolraswould want to keep this—this whatever is happening between them—quiet. Grantaire is loud and drunk and embarrassing, and he is in every way inferior to the sort of person Enjolras ought to be with. Enjolras has goals, and he'd never be taken seriously again if his newfound extracurricular activities became common knowledge. It's natural that Enjolras would tell no one; it's weirder that Grantaire feels compelled to stay silent on the matter. Enjolras hasn't asked him to (as addressed, they haven't talked about it at all aside from the initial so we're doing this, yeah, and yes, right there), but for some reason he feels like hiding under the sheets whenever he thinks about talking about it.

They don't tell anyone, but that doesn't mean no one knows.

Mostly, their friends keep quiet about it too. Feuilly, as the one with the most opportunities to notice Grantaire not being at home, has probably put it together, but if so he keeps it to himself. Bahorel ends up with twenty bucks that used to belong to Courfeyrac (and another twenty from Bossuet), and although he wears a triumphant smile the rest of the night he stays tight-lipped about the circumstances of the bet. Cosette and Eponine might or might not spot a telltale bruise on Grantaire's collarbone (Enjolras is prone to his excesses too, it would seem) when they make him try on new button downs to replace the green one with the hole in the collar—either way, they smirk at him the rest of the afternoon like the Cheshire Cat bookends from his childhood bedroom.

From Grantaire's point of view, it's almost believable that none of their friends know anything.

Enjolras knows better. He's the one who throws away the glittery greeting card from Courfeyrac, and the one Combeferre pulls aside after one too many lingering glances at the artist in the corner.

"You know I support your choices," Combeferre says, "and after this we never have to address it again, but I would feel like a terrible best friend if I didn't make sure you know what you're getting into."

Enjolras almost laughs. "Do you mean that he has 'bad idea' tattooed between his shoulder blades? I know." He knows intimately. "I've seen it." As well as experienced it with a few of his other senses. "It's eyes open, okay?"

"Okay," Combeferre says. "Oh, and don't take romance advice from Courfeyrac. I'm not saying he'd sabotage you on purpose, but I'm also not saying he isn't bitter about taking the wrong month in the betting pool."

"I would never," Enjolras says, "take advice from Courfeyrac. His relationships last an average of nine days."

"Relationship?"

"What was that about a betting pool?"

A typical night for them goes like this: after whatever organizational meeting or study session is on Enjolras's schedule, Grantaire meets him at his apartment. Sometimes Enjolras has already transitioned to homework of one kind or another, and Grantaire waits with his sketch pad until he surfaces (Enjolras's TV only gets the boring channels). If Enjolras takes too long, Grantaire will come up behind him and kiss the back of his neck until he gets sufficiently distracted. Then they kiss a while, on assorted surfaces of the apartment, using various parts of their bodies and usually without a full set of clothes between them. After a few hours, Enjolras returns to his work and Grantaire gathers his clothing and lets himself out. He doesn't stay the night, and Enjolras doesn't ask him to. He doesn't know if it's an unspoken rule (all the rules are unspoken), or if it just isn't part of their routine.

They're keeping it casual. Whatever that means, they seem to be in agreement on it.

Both Enjolras and Grantaire attend Jehan's next poetry reading, which is odd enough—Enjolras hardly ever makes an appearance at arty functions, not even when Combeferre had piano recitals in undergrad, and Grantaire has been vocal about his dislike of poetry, but supporting their friends' achievements is important, and no one can bear to disappoint Jehan. They get some raised eyebrows (notably from Courfeyrac) when they sit at the front of the room (they both prefer the back because their attention can wander and they can sneak out after Jehan's pieces) because it's the only place there are two open seats next to each other.

Jehan reads a poem about gravity that is really about love, and at the end the star and its satellite acknowledge that they're glad to be locked into an eternal holding pattern. He smiles directly at their row while everyone snaps for him, which makes Grantaire snort into his pretentious hipster beer and Enjolras's ears turn bright red. Grantaire's arm, slung ever-so-casually over the back of Enjolras's chair, tenses around his shoulders; it might be an embrace.

"Well done," Grantaire tells Jehan afterward. "An excellent specimen."

Jehan beams. "Did you like it, really?" He turns to Enjolras with eyes shining of hope.

"It was… interesting," Enjolras grunts. His shoulders are so stiff his shirt looks like it might still be on a hanger. He stands a respectable distance from Grantaire (two feet, he estimates), but still feels electrified by the suggestion of his presence.

Grantaire chokes down something that sounds suspiciously like laughter. "I've got to get going," he coughs into his fist. "But, ah, I had a really good time."

"Thank you for coming," Jehan says, throwing his arms around Grantaire's neck. "It was so, so great of you."

"I'll walk you out," Enjolras says, making intense eye contact with him over Jehan's head. "I've got a lot of work to get done."

"I'll give you a ride," Grantaire says, with an answering glimmer in his eyes.

Jehan hugs Enjolras goodbye, and the pair of them leave. (Enjolras stays two careful steps behind all the way out, only brushing against Grantaire when he holds the door open for Enjolras to pass.)

Cosette leans forward in her seat. "Do they have any idea how obvious they are?" she asks, as Marius's fingers trace lightly over the exposed mocha skin of her back between the straps of her coral sundress.

"Not remotely," Feuilly says.

"It's impressive," Courfeyrac finishes, nodding.

Cosette shakes her head sadly. "Amateurs," she says, turning to capture Marius's mouth with her own.

"Young love," Jehan sighs.

"Hormones," Bahorel corrects, resting his elbow on Jehan's shoulder.

"Revolting," Joly scowls.

It goes on like this until Grantaire gets the cat and changes everything.

His afternoon digital editing class is cancelled, so he buys a tuna salad sandwich and takes it to the courtyard for lunch in the sunshine. He warms himself in the sun's golden glow like a lizard while his iPod plays Death Cab for his listening pleasure, and his thoughts turn to Enjolras. (These days, he thinks of little else. He isn't sure he ever did.)

The courtyard is stupidly picturesque, as has been shown in innumerable student landscapes, all flowering plants in reds and blues and yellows and a brick fountain. Grantaire snaps a picture of it with his phone and types out the caption wish you were here before hitting send. He has no fewer than five future responses planned, ranging from have you been outside yet today? to it's almost as beautiful as you to I'll rub sunscreen on your back. Can't have you getting burned, depending on the mood Enjolras seems to be in. (He doesn't want to make him too angry, but there are benefits to riling him a little, and Grantaire's looking forward to learning more about them.)

He unwraps his sandwich and pretends he isn't waiting for an answer.

When Enjolras's response comes through, the vibration knocks the phone off the bench. It clatters onto the stepping stones at his feet, and he has to hold onto his sandwich wrapper with one hand to keep it from blowing away while he reaches forward with the other to retrieve his phone. (So, really, this is all because of Enjolras.)

It's a shock, at first. Bushes aren't supposed to have faces, but this one does, a pair of wide yellow-green eyes surrounded by clouds of gray fur.

"Hello, kitty," he says, reaching out a hand.

The kitten doesn't bite him, which is about as positively as he can phrase what happens next—the answer to "was it love at first sight between you and Tito?" is always going to be "well, he didn't bite me when I tried to touch him." The cat just hisses and reaches one tiny paw to smack Grantaire's hand and its tiny body recoils backward and its ears flatten to its skull.

"Shit," Grantaire mutters, drawing his hand back. It's little but its claws are sharp; he doesn't think it's drawn blood, but he's learned a valuable lesson either way. "Okay, sorry." He retreats to the bench, keeping his eyes locked on the kitten. It doesn't run, but it stares back at him with a distinctly suspicious slant to its ears.

They sit like that for several minutes before he reaches out—as slowly as he can manage, which may still not be that slow—to put half his sandwich on the ground. He doesn't throw it—it seems counterproductive—but sets it down gently, as far away from his bench as he can (about halfway between him and the cat). "Are you hungry?" he asks. "Want some tuna?"

The answer, apparently, is yes. No sooner has he settled back on the bench than the kitten takes a few cautious steps toward the tuna. It makes a few false starts, eyes locked on Grantaire—presumably to test whether he is going to make a grab for it when it gets close. Once it is satisfied with the safety, it pads over to the sandwich and—well, devours is a word Grantaire is comfortable with in this context.

Grantaire picks at his own half while he watches the furball gobble the tuna salad from between the slices of bread. About halfway through its meal, the kitten begins purring loudly, a low rumble that reverberates in the courtyard.

Which pretty much settles it.

He crouches down as the kitten is licking juice from the lower slice of bread, which has begun to look in danger of falling apart. "Hey there," he murmurs, "want to be friends?" He holds out his hand—close to the kitten but not too close, because he's learned what might happen if he spooks it—and wiggles his fingers in what he hopes is an enticing manner.

The cat looks very judgmental. (Which reminds him of Enjolras again, but honestly what doesn't?) Its purring quiets but doesn't stop as the kitten edges forward. It stretches out its neck and sniffs, its breath a ticklish pressure on his fingertips. Then it rubs the side of its face on his hand, and—finally—licks his fingers, a darting sandpaper tongue emerging to scrape the oils from his skin.

Grantaire smiles and skritches the kitten behind its ears. The kitten not only allows this, but arches up into his hand, which an optimistic individual might take as encouragement. He's been feeling uncharacteristically optimistic lately, so he scoops the cat up and holds it to his chest. The kitten mewls pathetically and squirms a little, but doesn't make any good faith effort to escape—he'd like to think this is because it knows he's trying to help it, but probably it has more to do with the fact that the kitten weighs about two pounds and couldn't overpower him no matter how hard it tried.

He talks to the kitten all the way to the car, keeping a firm but gentle hold on it. "It's okay," he coos, stroking its soft neck. "We're going home."

If anything, the car ride is worse than the walk. The cat yowls constantly and refuses to sit still- it climbs over his backpack, legs, and dashboard before hiding under the passenger seat. As he pulls into the empty parking space he left at eleven this morning (the tenants with day jobs haven't come home to poach it yet), the kitten throws up its tuna lunch into his backseat.

This is when he realizes that he has no idea what to do with a cat.

He sets the kitten on the floor as soon as he shuts the apartment door behind him. It skitters off under the couch and he pulls out his phone.

So I think I just stole a cat from school…

Cosette calls him right away. "What the hell?" she says before he can even say hello.

"I don't even know," he says, "seriously, I just saw it and I—"

"What are you going to do with it?"

He pauses. "I think I'm keeping it."

Cosette sighs. "Okay. Well. You're going to need food and water and litter."

"Where do I get those things?" And is it okay to leave the cat alone in the apartment?

"Do I have to do everything?" She waits a beat, but he doesn't dare respond. "Call Musichetta. Her mom's a vet, so she'll know what to get you."

"Chetta's mom is a vet? I thought—"

"Oh my god, they were your friends first, why—"

"Okay, okay, I'm going to call Chetta. Thanks."

"No problem."

He doesn't call Chetta; he texts her instead. She responds in less than ninety seconds:

Musichetta (3:03:13 PM): ill b there n 25

She's there in twenty, and she has a bag full of stuff. "Where is the kitten?" she asks, setting the bag down as soon as she enters.

"Under the couch," Grantaire says. He's sitting on the floor. "I've been talking to it and it lets me pet it, but it won't come out."

Musichetta has the kitten coaxed out from under the couch within seconds; all it takes is an open can of cat food, and a cloud of gray fur is purring under her hands. "He's a boy," she says. "By the way."

"Cool," he says. "What'd you bring?"

Musichetta smiles. She opens the bag. "I have food," she says, showing him the cans, "and a litter box, a pet carrier, and a few toys for him."

"Cats play with toys?"

Chetta spares him a pitying glance. "Watch," she says, and throws a brightly-colored fuzzy mouse onto the floor.

The cat wiggles his haunches and leaps for it. Then he rolls over onto his side and kicks at it for a while. He looks ridiculous, but he gives a resentful glare when Grantaire laughs at him.

Cosette and Marius turn up within an hour; the cat and Cosette are friends at once, and there is much giggling and rubbing of bellies, but Marius seems wary of him and just looks on. Based on Joly's text messages, Marius isn't the only one who doesn't like cats.

Jolllly (4:23:01 PM): pls tell me you didn't bring home a stray
Jolllly (4:23:12 PM):
do you even know what kind of diseases that thing might have?
Jolllly (4:24:47 PM):
youre letting m touch it arent you?
Jolllly (4:24:49 PM): damn it r we talked about this
Jolllly (4:25:00 PM): if she gets sick i will never forgive you

(Joly goes on to list all known symptoms of rabies, toxoplasmosis, and mange.)

The kitten plays with Cosette, Chetta, and Grantaire rather happily until around eight, when the door swings open to show Courfeyrac, Bahorel, Eponine and Jehan, because "Cosette said you had a kitty, hi baby!" They come bearing the gift of a shitload of booze, so it's a party now. (The cat, despite his initial shyness, doesn't seem bothered by this influx of people.)

The cat dislikes Eponine (he hisses at her the one and only time she tries to touch him, and she hisses right back), and is indifferent to Jehan (who is nonetheless enamored), but takes to Bahorel immediately (despite or perhaps because of Bahorel's disinterest in him). Courfeyrac is the favorite, though; after an hour of flirting with his fingers while he drinks a beer, the kitten climbs atop his head and curls up in his hair for a nap.

Nobody ever remembers for sure which of them names the cat. Odds are on Musichetta or Bahorel, as the only Spanish-speakers of the group, but they're a long way off of any surety. Somehow the cat picks up the name Pobrecito Gatito, which the drunker and lazier of their group shorten rather promptly to Tito.

"You know what I've just realized?" Courfeyrac's voice is almost at shout level, but Tito barely stirs in his nest.

"No," Eponine breathes into Grantaire's ear, "why don't you tell us?"

"Enjolras isn't here!" Courfeyrac announces.

"I've noticed," Grantaire says dryly. The presence or absence of Enjolras is the first thing he notices about any room.

"'S weird," Courfeyrac insists, "Isn't it?"

Bahorel cocks his head to one side. "A bit," he concedes.

"Yeah," Marius says, "I mean, you hardly ever see-"

Cosette shuts him up with a well-timed tongue in his ear. It's a comfort to Grantaire that Cosette and Marius are coated at all times in one another's saliva; it means that no matter what, even if he and Enjolras ever do progress from poorly-kept secret to common knowledge, even if he is positively gooey over the guy, even if his hands never want to be anywhere but on Enjolras's body, they will never be That Couple. (If they even are a couple.) The position of That Couple is taken.

"He should be here!" Courfeyrac may be silly and drunk and wearing a kitten as a hat, but he isn't wrong. It's weird that Grantaire hasn't heard from Enjolras since he replied to the message about the existence of a cat-welcoming party with Have fun. Grantaire doesn't know if it's the done thing, but he's pretty sure that if his… whatever Grantaire is to Enjolras… if his whatever got a new pet and was having a party, he'd want to be there and meet it.

So he calls Enjolras.

"Hello?" Enjolras answers, like it's 1997 and he doesn't know exactly who is on the line.

"Heyyyy." Grantaire is laughing, which is a sign this might not go well. (This, this is bad, it is very bad, he knows that even if he can't quite feel it—Enjolras is serious and he likes other people to be serious, Enjolras likes him serious.) "Come over."

"You're drunk." It isn't a question.

"Maaaaybe," He sing-songs.

Enjolras sighs, staticky in his ear. He can almost feel warm wet breath ghosting down the side of his face, his neck, his collarbone—"You're drunk," Enjolras says again, and it still isn't a question. (Why would it be?)

"And you're working, but I'm not judging you for it." Laughter and meowing come from the door behind him.

"You are, actually. Who's with you?"

"Nobody. I'm in the hall." He lowers his voice to a whisper to hide the whine in his voice. "Come over. Meet my cat, have fun with everyone, and afterward you can stay the night."

"Go back to your party," Enjolras says. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"But I want you." He licks his lips. "Please. I'll make you scream my name."

"I said no."

"You didn't actually," he chokes.

"I am now," Enjolras says, loud and firm but not forceful, which somehow makes it worse.

A roil of something seethes in his belly, a something a little like anger and a little like sadness and a little like the gin he's had, and it reaches up his throat to talk for him. "What, I'm not good enough to suck you off now?"

"I'm not talking to you when you're like this." His voice is steady and damnably cool (where is the heat when he needs it? tucked away somewhere inaccessible at the twist of the tap?).

"It'll be a long wait if you're holding out for sober."

"Good night, Grantaire."

He's gone before Grantaire has drawn the breath he is going to use to curse at himself for being so stupid, what the hell even was that? He redials immediately, already so, so sorry, but goes straight to voicemail. He doesn't leave one (because he has enough sense to know that the answer to how much worse am I going to make this should not include recordings to be used as evidence against him).

"Well?" Bahorel asks when he returns. (Behind him, Courfeyrac is wiping blood from the claw marks on his face.)

"He's not coming," Grantaire says. His jaw hurts; he is clenching it.

He wakes up around one PM the next day with an empty bottle of gin in bed with him, and a giant glass of water and two aspirins on his bedside table with a note from Eponine: Had to run, please tell someone you're alive. I fed the cat at nine. Love you. P.S. E was asking about you. He sounded sorry for whatever it was.

Grantaire runs his hands over his face and hair. Like Enjolras has anything to be sorry for. Except maybe starting this—this thing with him—in the first place, Enjolras hasn't done anything wrong.

Tito pounces on Grantaire's feet, claws and teeth like needles through thin cotton socks. Grantaire should hate that—he's too hung over for things that are normally pleasant, let alone a feline assault—but he doesn't. He smiles instead.

Enjolras stops by his desk at the library at closing time. "When I turned my phone on this morning, I had twenty-eight messages from Jehan and Courfeyrac telling me what a great party you had," he says, with a tentative smile. "Want to tell me about it over dinner?"

So they go to Enjolras's and they have peace for a night.

Grantaire makes a stir fry and they eat it at the table like adults with one glass each of white wine (Enjolras never has more than one and Grantaire isn't sure his liver is ready for a test after last night). It isn't awkward—they laugh and talk as much as usual, which is to say a little at first and then less, because they are otherwise occupied. And that—that's great too. It's always great. They don't have to talk about the mix-up. Everything's fine. They're great.

Of course it doesn't last long.

There's a meeting at the Musain the night after that, and Grantaire arrives forty minutes late (as usual), just in time to slip in with a beer and watch Enjolras's mouth move. (Sometimes things go better if he watches instead of listens—although, again, there is a certain amount of reward in getting Enjolras ruffled, so the sarcastic interruptions do serve some purpose.) It's all about drone strikes today, which is another thing Grantaire is sure Enjolras is too small to change, not that he will ever stop trying. Combeferre has charts. It's all very official.

Afterward, Courfeyrac goes to select the evening's musical accompaniment (I Love Rock and Roll followed by the entire oeuvre of Ke$ha) as the others chat. Enjolras and Combeferre are still talking business with Joly when Bossuet twines his arms around Joly's waist and laughingly remarks upon the rash on Enjolras's jawline that looks rather like stubble burn.

Enjolras freezes. Grantaire, who is close enough to touch (but not touching, god, not touching), feels himself tense in response.

Joly saves the moment by recoiling in fear of scabies, and in the resulting ruckus everyone forgets Bossuet's remark.

Except them.

When they make their excuses and leave, Grantaire and Enjolras share a quick kiss pressed against the passenger door of Grantaire's car (10/10, would buy again, highly recommend this product and/or service, seriously who has Enjolras been practicing with, Grantaire isn't even mad about it, he won't punch any faces, he probably owes the guy a fruit basket or a nice card). Enjolras has to be convinced, a little, when they are in public, which almost makes it better (but, honestly, there is no bettering the chemical explosion of kissing Enjolras). Things are wonderful as long as they're touching. It's when they're talking instead of touching, like in the car on the way to Enjolras's, that things go horribly wrong.

"Bossuet seems to have us figured out," Grantaire says. He doesn't look away from the road—and it isn't because he's a careful driver (he isn't, although he's more cautious with Enjolras in the car than he is by himself).

Enjolras makes a noise low in his throat. It's vague and atonal enough that it might be acknowledgement, but Enjolras rarely loses his words for anything less than complete disapproval.

Grantaire risks a flicker of attention over to Enjolras. "Something to say?"

"No." It's cold, hard, and final. The only sound in the car is road noise; Grantaire has forgotten the radio he is usually never without (the hazards of frequent kissing and wandering hands), and he can't turn it on now.

It isn't fair. Enjolras gets to go on pretending it isn't happening, and he just has to be there, waiting like the idiot he has so often been accused of being. Grantaire's jaw hardens and his hands clench on the wheel (his stomach, below, gives an answering twist).

They drive the rest of the way in silence. Enjolras takes a breath to break it several times, but never manages it. When they pull up outside Enjolras's building, Grantaire stops the car but doesn't cut the engine.

"Are you coming up?" Enjolras asks, voice studiously casual as he unlatches his seat belt.

Grantaire doesn't look at him. "I think I'll take a rain check, actually," he says. "Have an early morning." It's a lie and Enjolras knows it; Grantaire has nowhere to be until his shift at the library at two. He doesn't even know the meaning of the word "early."

He shrugs it off. "If you're sure." He opens the car door.

The answer from Grantaire is more laugh than sob, but it leaves behind the ache of bitterness. "You know," he says, hating himself already for not resisting, "if you're so uncomfortable with this, maybe we shouldn't be doing it."

Enjolras looks puzzled. "No, I—"

"Forget it." Grantaire's tone is clipped and businesslike (two distinctly un-Grantaire words). "I have to feed Tito. I'll call you, yeah?" He accepts Enjolras's goodbye kiss, but without any discernible enthusiasm. He just sits there, impassive, his eyes tired and sad.

Enjolras feels bad about it, but there isn't anything he can do if Grantaire insists on being in a bad mood. He gets out of the car and walks up the sidewalk to his building.

He watches out the window as Grantaire's car pulls away.

Grantaire doesn't call.

There are plenty of reasons Enjolras doesn't go to the library to pick Grantaire up. He just can't name them.

"If he isn't texting you, you are allowed to text him," Combeferre says, eminently reasonable, after Enjolras checks his messages for the ninth time in the fifteen minutes they've been planning their presentation on debt to the deans.

"No, it's fine," he says, stowing his phone. "Sorry, I'm paying attention."

Courfeyrac ruffles Enjolras's hair. "No, you're not, but it's fine. It's sweet."

Sweet.

Combeferre leans forward. "Is everything all right with you and Grantaire?"

"Yeah, it's fine." He clears his throat. "Let's get back to work. Do we want to mention employment rates before or after the figures on default?"

("You should text R," Courfeyrac says as they hug goodbye shortly before midnight.

"I'm not supposed to take advice from you," Enjolras replies.)

Grantaire doesn't call Enjolras for a lot of reasons, and most of them are pathetic self-pitying bullshit. They all boil down to this: Grantaire doesn't call Enjolras because Enjolras doesn't call Grantaire.

Tito doesn't understand the concept of moping, so Grantaire spends that very long week tossing toys for the kitten in between drinks from the bottle of wine he starts fresh each afternoon and works his way through steadily until he gets to the bottom (he always makes it to the bottom). He's still at the top of the Friday night bottle when he gets the text from Courfeyrac.

Courfeyrac (6:17:39 PM): mtg gr8 lets celebrate!

Courfeyrac's enthusiasm is tiring even over text. He doesn't feel like celebrating, but choosing to drink alone instead of with his friends is too much of a warning sign for even him to ignore. He sighs and sends back When and where?

Courfeyrac (6:22:14 PM): musain now c u SO EXCITEDDD!

It isn't a surprise Enjolras is there—it was his meeting too—except it is. Enjolras meets his eyes right away, which is—well. (Is it—could it even be possible that—did Enjolras come here looking for him?)

It is this thought more than anything else that propels him across the room.

"We should talk," he whispers hoarsely into the delicately veined shell of Enjolras's ear (a few days ago he bit that ear and the noise Enjolras made in response was simply divine). "Meet me at my place?"

Enjolras opens his mouth to answer, then shuts it and nods instead.

"Hey, R!" Courfeyrac calls.

He turns.

"Go," Enjolras says. "I can wait." He squeezes Grantaire's hand and offers a smile.

The next time Grantaire peeks over at Enjolras's corner (how strange to think of him in a corner, not center stage, not filling the whole room), he's gone, slipped out without a word.

It takes Grantaire over an hour to follow. The whole way home his stomach flutters with the momentousness of what he is about to do. He mutters to himself periodically, things like "just want to know where we stand" and "sick of being your secret" and "not that I don't think you're amazing." It's an imaginary conversation, but it could go better.

His heart thuds in his ears as he exits the elevator. He stands outside his own apartment door for an inexcusably long time, taking deep breaths and willing himself not to throw up.

He's spent more time than he would like to admit on the mental image of Enjolras and Tito curled up together. In the week he's had Tito, Enjolras hasn't been over, so it's all been up to Grantaire's imagination to picture shiny blond curls next to fluffy gray fur. And now, for the first time, his—Enjolras—is sitting on the same couch as Tito.

It isn't as adorable as he'd imagined.

The words he's been working up to since the bar (maybe longer) are gone from his mouth and his head at once. "Are you okay?"

Enjolras does not look himself. He looks puffy and red-rimmed the way he might if he had been crying constantly since Grantaire last saw him. (This is a hypothetical possibility that has never previously occurred to Grantaire, and he finds it more disturbing than he should.)

Enjolras rubs one bloodshot eye and croaks "I'm fine. It's the cat." He heaves a wheezy sigh.

"I knew you didn't like animals," Grantaire says, raising one eyebrow (Enjolras hates—and loves—that Grantaire can do that and he can't), "but I didn't realize you were catastrophically allergic to them."

Enjolras shrugs and sniffles.

Grantaire takes Enjolras's face in his hands and lifts his chin for a better look. "Oh, you look miserable." He strokes on finger down the side of Enjolras's blotchy face.

"Not so bad." He writhes out of Grantaire's grip. "Itchy, is all." He rubs at a patch of hives on his wrist.

"Do you want to go home? We can do this another time."

Enjolras shakes his head. "No. We should talk. I can handle it."

Grantaire frowns. "Okay, brief recess. You take an antihistamine and a shower. I'll take Tito somewhere else. Then we can talk."

"You don't have to get rid of it," Enjolras protests. "I'll get used to it. It's worse at first."

"You can't breathe, which isn't something you should have to get used to. Chetta or Cosette will take him." He smiles at Enjolras, a tenderness welling in his chest at the sight of him, watery-eyed and rubbing his nose. "Don't worry. I've decided. I'm not making you sick on purpose." He hesitates, but—what's the harm?—he lifts Enjolras's hand and feathers a kiss over the inflamed pink skin of his wrist.

"Claws," Enjolras murmurs between sniffles. "They always get you with the claws."

"Go," Grantaire says, stepping back (a little shakily, if he's honest) and picking Tito up. "Get clean. I'll be back before you finish the rinse."

Enjolras hears the door open as he turns off the water. He towels himself off (spending rather more time rubbing the towel on his face than usual, in hopes of quelling the maddening itch under his skin), sneezes half a dozen times (annoying), then emerges from the bathroom wearing clothes he borrowed from Grantaire's dresser. They're softer than anything he owns, and big on him—Grantaire is shorter, but he's broader, too—and he feels almost comfortable in them.

He finds Grantaire in the bedroom, changing the sheets.

"Hi," he says, leaning in the doorway.

Grantaire jumps. "Ah! Hi. Feeling better?"

He shrugs. "Tonight's probably a lost cause. Let's just aim for not any worse. Where's Tito?"

"Jehan was really excited for the chance to have a cat." Grantaire abandons the bed and comes toward him. "You're sure you wouldn't rather go home? It's cleaner there, and—"

Enjolras just looks at him.

"I have cortisone cream," Grantaire offers. "I can spend the whole night making you feel better. I have clean sheets and everything, just in case you—"

Enjolras doesn't have to say anything; Grantaire stops on his own.

"I'm fine," he says. "Shall we sit?" He takes a spot at the foot of the bed.

He expects Grantaire to leave the entire length of the bed between them, given how anxious he seems, but instead he twines himself clingily close. "I'm really sorry about the cat," he murmurs into Enjolras's neck with a kiss.

"Stop, I'm snotty and disgusting," he says.

Grantaire doesn't stop; he becomes more aggressive instead and pushes Enjolras toward the mattress.

Enjolras sighs. He sits up a little straighter and unwraps Grantaire from around him. "No. You wanted to talk."

It's true, and it isn't.

"We can talk another time." His voice is small and wobbly; he's begged Enjolras before but never like this.

"I think it's already overdue," Enjolras says, rubbing at his eyes. He sneezes.

"Did you take something for that?"

"Yes, and we have about twenty minutes before it puts me out of my senses, so if you could hurry up—why are you upset?"

"Let me get you something for your eyes first; you'll make it worse messing with them like that." A cool cloth wouldn't go amiss, but the eagerness with which Grantaire flees the room is unnecessary.

It does relieve the prickly heat in his eyelids, though. "Why are you being so nice to me? Aren't you mad at me?"

"I'm not—" he halts at a harsh look from under the washcloth. "Okay, a little. I just—I've been telling myself I'm fine with this, that I'm happy to have you however I can, but I'm not. I know, it surprised me too—I didn't know I had enough self-respect for that sort of thing, but I guess I do, because—it isn't enough."

Enjolras's brow furrows. "Are we breaking up?"

"Can we break up if we aren't together?" It's desperate, and he hates that Enjolras is hearing him sound so desperate (but he is).

"Of course we're together," Enjolras says. "Aren't we?"

Grantaire shrugs.

"It's not a trick question," Enjolras says. "Are you breaking up with me?"

"I hope not," Grantaire says. If he's breaking up with Enjolras, he is not very good at it. (If Enjolras is breaking up with him, he's really jumped the gun on getting rid of the cat.) "Do you want me to?"

Enjolras shakes his head. "No."

"Good," Grantaire says. "Usually the guys who dump me aren't wearing my clothes when they do it."

"You were saying something, earlier," Enjolras says. "It might have been about to make sense."

Grantaire chews his lower lip. "You don't want our friends to know about us," he says quietly.

"Is that it?" Enjolras laughs. "Our friends already know all about it. Courfeyrac made a card, but you never get to know what it said because I don't hate myself enough to tell you." He reaches out a hand to pet Grantaire's hair. "You look so surprised. Didn't you notice? They haven't exactly been coy."

They must not have been, if Enjolras has picked up on it. "So why won't you touch me in front of them?"

"I didn't want to make you uncomfortable."

Grantaire can't keep himself from kissing Enjolras now, allergic byproducts be damned. "You fucking idiot," he growls into Enjolras's mouth, "as if."

Enjolras places a hand on Grantaire's chest and pushes him gently backward. He turns his head to the side to cough delicately for a moment. "I shouldn't do that anymore."

"No." Grantaire runs his thumb over Enjolras's lips (as swollen and red as the rest of his face, now). "Please don't."

Enjolras nods. "You're going to have to be explicit with me, when it comes to your needs. I don't know them, and I can't—you're a mystery to me. I'm learning you, but you're going to have to help. You can't just brood on what's bothering you and hope I get it right."

"Which reminds me. I owe you an apology," Grantaire says. "I shouldn't have snapped at you. And I never should have called you the other night."

"You're allowed to call me."

"Not like that."

"I knew what I was getting into when I came on to you in your kitchen," Enjolras says. "You're an asshole sometimes. That isn't news to me."

"But why would you want to be with someone who's an asshole?" It comes too close to the central question (why why why), and he wants to wipe it away from his memory.

Enjolras laughs. "I could ask you the same."

Grantaire can't suppress a smile at that. He folds himself into Enjolras's side, wrapping Enjolras's arm around him. "That goes for you, too. Needs. Like Tito. You should have said something."

"You liked it."

"I like you more," Grantaire grumbles. "I'm guessing this wasn't news to you?"

Enjolras shakes his head. "Since I was a kid." He yawns.

Grantaire cranes his neck to kiss Enjolras's temple. "Meds kicking in?"

Enjolras nods.

"Good. Sleep."

Enjolras wakes the next morning to an empty spot in the bed. He wipes the sleep-grit from his eyes and gets up, leaving the sheets a tangled mess behind him.

Grantaire sits at his desk, bent over something Enjolras can't see until he is looking right over Grantaire's shoulder.

He picks up the half-empty coffee cup from the desk and takes a sip. It tastes strongly of honey and, under that, of something alcoholic he can't quite place.

Grantaire turns to kiss him. "Yours is in the kitchen," he says smoothly, taking his mug back.

"Did you poison the rest?" He laughs.

"No, it's as vile and black as my soul," Grantaire promises. "Now go read the newspaper or something. I'm working."

Enjolras scowls to himself, but he does what he's told (and, underneath that scowl, there might be something that feels like a smile).


Notes: Thank you as ever to everyone who reads and/or discusses this fandom- I'd be lost without you. Special thanks to my friends, who are often available to answer important research questions like "I need the name of a difficult video game antagonist to beat" or, in extreme cases, read entire works to check them for suck. I'm not fully satisfied with this chapter but have been roundly informed by a magic beta fish that it's fine and I'm just being paranoid with performance anxiety. Please tell me what you did and/or did not like about this! Comments are how we learn (also I would love to be friends).