Written for the Les Mis Kink Meme. Prompt: "grantaire/combeferre. well i was just thinking about how combeferre is all gentle and caring and how that would be really good for grantaire since he's a bit of a mess sometimes".
Modern college AU. Trigger warnings for depression, a mention of the alcoholism (since... well, Grantaire), and a little bit of self harm.
Grantaire doesn't turn up at lunch. A few months ago, Combeferre would assume he was just hungover and sleeping in, or maybe that he had gotten really into a piece and was still in the art studio, but since Grantaire has started to confide in him, Combeferre knows better. He eats quickly, making the excuse that he has reading to do, and slips out of the dining hall with a sandwich in his coat pocket heading straight for Grantaire's dorm.
Grantaire doesn't answer when he knocks the first time, but the second wave brings a gruff, "C'm in."
Combeferre presses the door in and sees Grantaire lying in bed. He steps over piles wrinkled clothes and crumpled papers until he reaches the edge of Grantaire's bed, then kneels down beside it.
"Hey," he says softly. "I brought you food." He pulls the sandwich, still well-formed, from his pocket. Grantaire shakes his head.
"'M not hungry," he replies. His hair looks like a bird's nest, and his eyes are a little bloodshot. Combeferre can tell it is from crying and exhaustion, not alcohol.
"Let me know if you are," Combeferre says gently. He sets the sandwich on the cramped bedside table, beside an empty bottle of rum. Grantaire doesn't look him in the eyes.
"Can you tell me what you're feeling today?" Combeferre is tentative and trying to sound non-judgmental. Grantaire buries his face in his pillow.
"Wanna throw myself off of a building," he says, muffled. Combeferre instinctively reaches out to stroke Grantaire's hair. He flinches a little but then relaxes and lets Combeferre comfort him.
"Fucking—I just—" He turns his head abruptly so he's facing Combeferre. "I fucking can't and today sucks and I just want to die and I'm a useless, worthless piece of shit and—why are you even here?" His voice cracks at the end, desperate. Combeferre gives him a small smile.
"Because I care," he replies, and then before he can debate, "and because I know you need someone today. And that's okay—you're allowed to need people." Grantaire shakes his head.
"I'm not." It's a whisper, his eyes downcast. "I—don't deserve shit and you're here being nice and caring and—" Grantaire's voice cracks again and he starts to cry, thin tears trickling down his face.
"Can I hold you?" Combeferre asks softly. He knows some days Grantaire cannot deal with being touched, but the quiet, sniffling "yes" comes today. He climbs into Grantaire's small dorm bed, over the blankets, and pulls Grantaire to him.
"I've got you," he says softly, Grantaire's head almost tucked beneath his chin. "It's okay, it's going to be all right, you can get through this." Grantaire whimpers and shakes his head. Combeferre can feel his hand fisting in his shirt, desperate.
Grantaire keeps crying, and Combeferre lets him. He holds him, occasionally murmuring little assurances, until the waves of sobs wracking Grantaire quiet down. Eventually, he pulls away to wipe his nose on the sleeve of the hoodie he's wearing.
"Sorry," he mutters.
"You don't have to be sorry," Combeferre says immediately. He strokes a floppy curl from Grantaire's face, then looks around the room. "I don't want to push you," he goes on, "but you'd probably feel better if you took a shower."
Grantaire stiffens. Combeferre can tell even that is overwhelming, so he says, "You don't even have to stand, no one will judge you for sitting and no one else is probably showering now anyway. It's just down the hall, wash up a little bit, that's all. You can do that." Grantaire looks hesitant, so Combeferre adds, "It will give me a good chance to tidy up in here. I've got no place to be this afternoon, you can take as long as you need." (It's a lie, his bio lecture started three minutes ago, but he's never missed a class this semester so he does not feel shame at skipping.)
"Okay." Grantaire's voice is rough, but it has a little bit more energy behind it. Combeferre moves first, climbing out of bed and straightening his shirt. He pulls down Grantaire's blanket without protest. It takes a few minutes, but Grantaire summons the energy to sit up and pull off his clothes. There is no shame in nakedness, not when he has bared his soul emotionally.
Combeferre hands him what smells like a clean towel and some shower things. Before Grantaire can leave, he catches sight of the fresh cuts on the back of Grantaire's right arm. He grips his forearm, right below where they start, and studies the wounds; Grantaire turns his head away. The cuts are thick and deeper than Combeferre likes to see, but they've clotted all right. There are six of them, in parallel lines, two below the elbow and four above.
"Make sure you wash these," he instructs calmly. "Do you have anything I can—"
"Under the bed, shoe box," Grantaire mutters. He pulls his arm away, but Combeferre does not protest.
"Right." Grantaire leaves. Combeferre picks up things from his floor, tossing clothes into a laundry bag and trash into the wastebasket. It doesn't take him long to clear the floor, nor to organize the projects on Grantaire's desk into orderly piles. Bottles and cans are gathered and put into an empty plastic bag so Combeferre can recycle them later. He has just pulled the shoe box from beneath Grantaire's bed when he comes back in, freshly showed and curls still plastered to his head. He flops on his bed, and Combeferre is struck with the urge to change the sheets.
"Do you have any extra sheets?" His voice is calm and firm, hoping to ground Grantaire. Grantaire shakes his head.
"Sorry," Grantaire mutters and he sounds it, like he is a terrible person for not having an extra set of clean sheets.
"Don't worry about it," Combeferre says. He sifts through the contents of the shoebox, taking care not to hurt himself on the sharp objects that float along the bottom. Combeferre is gentle as he applies antibiotic ointment and band-aids to the self inflicted wounds, trying to keep pity out of his visage. He does not want to make Grantaire feel worse.
Then again, as Combeferre dresses Grantaire, he is not sure 'any worse' is possible. Grantaire will not meet his eyes as Combeferre maneuvers him into a fresh t-shirt, boxers, and gym shorts. He also does not protest, and once Combeferre is finished, he drops back against the bed with a tired sigh. Combeferre finishes tidying; he goes to throw things out in the hall and when he comes back, Grantaire is back under his covers with his palms pressed over his eyes.
Combeferre climbs back into bed with him. He peels Grantaire's palms away, but Grantaire just squeezes his eyes shut. Combeferre pulls Grantaire over so his head is in his lap and, ignoring the wetness of those curls against his thighs, runs his fingers across Grantaire's tense forehead and through his hair, trying to soothe.
"I'm sorry," Grantaire says again in a quiet, cracking voice. "You—shouldn't have to do this. I'm—"
"Nonsense." Combeferre looks down, making sure to hold eye contact. "You shouldn't have to do this alone, and I volunteered."
"No." It's firmer, more serious. "Just—let me do this for you, please, R." Grantaire is not used to Combeferre using the nickname, and his eyes widen just a bit. He brushes a long, wet curl behind Grantaire's ear. "Let me take care of you, for today."
Grantaire swallows and gives a small nod. Combeferre smiles.
"Hold me," Grantaire whispers softly, and so Combeferre shifts and does. They lie together for a long time. Grantaire does not cry again, but when the pain builds in his chest and his mind he asks Combeferre to talk to him, to sing to him, to distract him with lists of facts and stupid anecdotes.
Combeferre does, stroking his hair and occasionally pressing kisses to his forehead, and for the first time, Grantaire realizes that he is not alone.