julien et sébastien
At the end of the evening, according to habit, Enjolras remains in the back room for some time after his friends have departed; not because he has anything particularly pressing to do there, but more, it seems, because there is nowhere he would rather be.
"Isn't it your bedtime?" Grantaire asks him. "It must take a lot out of you, working to better your fellow man's lot all the time. Sleep is good for you, even if it does involve snuggling up to Morpheus, not that I imagine you would snuggle up to anyone in particular except perhaps Lady Liberty. Besides, sitting here at this hour, you're certain not to get anything done, because I've nothing better to do than talk at you. You might want to escape while you still can," wryly, "before I start to pretend we're having a conversation."
"Heaven forfend," Enjolras says dryly. "I doubt your idea of a conversation and mine are equivalent."
"I imagine you're perfectly correct; you generally are," humoring him. "Did you want to have a conversation, of either variety, then, or are you lagging behind the merry band so that you may sit in contemplation of the map, except that I'm interrupting your holy thoughts?"
"There are other things to contemplate."
"Oh?" Grantaire studies him. "What could be more interesting, more deeply significant, than our lady France with blood on her hands, delivering herself from the cruelty of his holy majesty the bedamned king?"
Enjolras puts his hands to his temples. "Don't mock me." His voice is small and tired.
Grantaire pushes to his feet, a hand on the table for balance. "I'll leave you to your worship, then."
Enjolras turns, scowling. "If you think I'm a fool, that's your business. Do you really need to tell me so at every opportunity?"
"You might be amazed at the opportunities I haven't taken," Grantaire says, doing his best to stand upright without support.
"Oh, that's reassuring."
"I thought so. Well, goodnight, and if Liberty comes to give you tender counsels, give her my regards."
"Why do you come here at all?" Enjolras flings at him.
"For the company. Isn't that obvious?"
"It's not obvious in the least."
"Goodnight," Grantaire says, wending his way over to the door.
"Yes, walk out on me." Enjolras, sober and infuriated, is there before him. "It's one thing when someone is laughing, it's one thing when they're ignoring you, but you don't want to have to answer me, you'd rather run away."
Grantaire looks at him with hazed eyes. "It's not that," he protests. "I like to listen to the lot of you and your plans and your dreaming. That's the company I like, not this, not you questioning me when I can hardly stand."
"Whose fault is that?" Enjolras stares bitterly at him. "It amuses you, does it, to listen to all this? You find it entertaining?"
"You are infinitely interesting and edifying," Grantaire says soothingly, "and if you accomplish that by also being entertaining, what does it matter?"
"Don't patronize me, damn you." His voice breaks, and he scowls.
"Goodnight, Enjolras," Grantaire says again, and looks pointedly at the door.
"Where are you going?" coldly, without moving.
"I'm going home, m'sieur. I would suggest you do the same, but," Grantaire shrugs, "that would be patronizing."
"To sleep it off? I can't imagine why you'd bother."
Grantaire chuckles. "Because if I go to sleep here, they'll just dust around me, but then they'll charge me rent for the night at an exorbitant price, and my neck will hurt besides."
Enjolras turns away in disgust, but turns back almost at once. "Why do you do this!" desperately.
"Didn't we just have this discussion?" Grantaire asks, bemused. "I'm surprised at you, m'sieur. You usually pay better attention than this -- though I suppose that applies mostly when you are speaking to your friends, and not so much to any nonsense I happen to contribute. I am here for the wine, my friend, and to bask in the glow of idealism."
"That's not what I meant." Enjolras pushes a hand roughly through his hair. "God, you're detestable when you're drunk."
"What did you mean?" Grantaire asks, ignoring the insult.
"Does it matter?" irritably. "You won't answer me anyway."
"I answered you," Grantaire contradicts him. "It's hardly my fault if you don't like the answer."
"You don't make any damned sense."
"That's highly likely. If you would excuse me, I'll go home, get out of your way, and wait to stop being drunk before I irritate you again."
"That long?" in much too sardonic a tone.
Grantaire yawns. "At least that long."
Enjolras turns away. "Go on, then," not quite curtly enough to hold back a tremor.
"Are you all right?" Grantaire asks, tilting his head to one side. "I'll stay away longer if you would rather."
"I don't want you to stay away," quietly, without looking at him.
Grantaire laughs. "Well, that is something new. Have you grown tired of being able to hear yourself think, that when I offer to leave you in peace you tell me to return again, and soon?"
"If you would just--" Enjolras presses a hand to his eyes.
"If I would just what?"
"I-- I don't know. I don't know what I can say that will make any difference to you."
Grantaire shrugs. "I'll be back, tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that, unless you forbid me, in which case I'll stay away for a while, at least. You've time to think."
Enjolras shivers. "I wish--" he begins, and falls silent.
"Why, m'sieur, I do believe you're getting ill; your eloquence is tarnished. What do you wish?"
"Don't laugh at me." It comes out much less commanding than he would like; it is nearly a plea.
Grantaire opens the door. "Goodnight, Enjolras," for the third time.
This time there is no answer.
Grantaire leaves, closing the door behind himself carefully.
The evening chaos in Musain goes on rather longer than usual, as Courfeyrac
has just turned twenty-three and is determined to share the joy of the
occasion with everyone he knows. By the time the celebrations wind down,
it is midnight, and several of the band are very drunk indeed. Enjolras
finds it necessary to help Combeferre get the last of these down the stairs
to the street.
The evening chaos in Musain goes on rather longer than usual, as Courfeyrac has just turned twenty-three and is determined to share the joy of the occasion with everyone he knows. By the time the celebrations wind down, it is midnight, and several of the band are very drunk indeed. Enjolras finds it necessary to help Combeferre get the last of these down the stairs to the street.
When he comes back, after a significant interval, there is no one in the room except Grantaire, who is no longer making elegantly nonsensical speeches on Time, but unconscious. Enjolras sighs quietly, and lets him alone.
The other presence in the room, however, makes it difficult to concentrate. Eventually he puts down the paper he had meant to finish with hours ago, stands quietly, and crosses the room. For a moment he watches Grantaire in silence. Then, tentatively, with an almost frightened expression, he puts out a hand to stroke his hair.
Grantaire sighs at the touch, but does not wake.
Enjolras freezes for a moment, then grows bolder, running fingers softly through Grantaire's hair and across his shoulders, holding his breath.
After several moments of this, Grantaire half-opens one eye, then groans. "What have I been drinking?"
Enjolras pulls away, scarlet. "Entirely too much of it, that's all."
Grantaire buries his face in the crook of one arm. "That's an understatement."
There is a pause, while Enjolras finds control of his voice again. "You ought to go home."
Grantaire laughs bitterly. "If I were awake, that would be true."
"You're awake," sharply. "As far as you ever are."
"Must you chide me even now?" Grantaire protests, looking up at him blearily.
Enjolras hesitates, then says in an almost normal tone, "What do you expect?"
Grantaire sits up, then stretches. "And if I'm not dreaming, what then? If I'm talking to you in Le Deserted Musain --" he shakes his head "--which I suspect I am. Good morning, Enjolras. Did the staff send you to throw me out?"
"No." The flush has not yet faded from Enjolras' face, but his tone is calm. "They'll come to do it themselves, soon."
"Fair enough." Grantaire stands carefully. "Perhaps I'm not so drunk as I thought." He closes his eyes and considers this a moment.
"Anything is possible," Enjolras says in as dry a voice as he can manage, and turns away.
"I doubt that." He steps away from the table. "All right, Enjolras, I'll go home now, and stop dreaming in the middle of your war room."
Enjolras takes a deep breath. "As long as you're quiet, I don't care."
Grantaire chuckles. "Is that how it works, then?"
Enjolras shrugs, eyes on his papers.
Silence for a moment. Grantaire crosses the room and touches his shoulder lightly. "Goodnight, Enjolras."
"Goodnight," but his voice shakes, and the color rushes back to his cheeks.
"What's wrong?" Grantaire asks, softly.
Enjolras bites his lip. "Nothing."
"Did you drink something you shouldn't have? You're flushed."
"I--" He falters, staring at the tabletop. "It's nothing."
"Of course," lightly. "Nothing disturbs Monsieur Enjolras when he does not want to be disturbed -- least of all me, so I'll be going." Grantaire turns.
"No?" wistfully. "I wasn't disturbing you?"
Enjolras swallows. "No." It comes out unsteadily. "No, you weren't."
Grantaire touches his shoulder again, feather-light, experimentally. "No?"
"I said that, didn't I?" Perhaps it was meant to be impatient, but the phrase ends on a sigh.
"So you did." Grantaire's hand settles on his back.
Enjolras closes his eyes, breathing carefully. "I'm not in the habit of repeating myself."
"Then I won't ask that question again."
He nods, very slightly.
"I'm sure you'll tell me if I'm bothering you." Grantaire touches his hair.
Enjolras is motionless a moment; then, cautiously, leans into the touch, his eyes still shut.
Grantaire shakes his head. "I think you lied to me."
"I must be dreaming."
"No." It's very quiet.
"All right." Grantaire takes a step to the side and stands next to him. After another moment's thought, he kisses Enjolras's cheek.
Enjolras turns to look at him then, wide-eyed, and after a moment reaches out to rest a hand against his shoulder.
Grantaire smiles at him. "When I wake up, I will either be very surprised or very disappointed."
"Then you-- you don't--"
"I don't what?" gently.
"God." Enjolras closes his eyes again. "What you must think of me."
Grantaire touches his hair. "I don't think anything bad of you."
Grantaire steps backward quickly. "I'm sorry."
"No," catching his shoulders blindly. "Please."
Grantaire takes a shuddering breath. "I should go home. It's late."
Enjolras stares at him a moment, frozen, then abruptly lets him go, turning away with a look of mingled hurt and shame. "Goodnight."
"Don't," quickly. "Please -- not here."
An uncertain glance.
"This is the wrong place to even think about -- anything." Grantaire looks away from him. "I live -- not far at all -- and I swear -- I wouldn't hurt you for the world."
Enjolras passes a hand across his face, shivering. After a pause he says, tolerably steadily, "I should... walk with you, then."
"If you like."
He nods slowly, and collects his belongings with shaking hands.
Grantaire waits, watching him and occasionally glancing at the door.
Enjolras takes a breath. "After you."
Grantaire opens the door and holds it for him, looking at the floor.
Enjolras hesitates, then goes out.
Grantaire closes the door and looks at him incredulously. "This way," he says softly, starting down the street.
Enjolras glances at him, and follows silently.
Grantaire's apartment is quite close, as he said. He unlocks the door, and looks apologetically at Enjolras. "If you want to leave, I -- I won't be hurt. It's a bit of a mess."
Enjolras does not quite meet his eyes. "It's all right."
It takes a bit of fumbling before Grantaire has a lamp lit. There are books on the end of the bed, and dirty shirts strewn across both of the chairs in the little room. He mumbles an apology and gathers them up, then drops them at the foot of the bed for want of anything better to do with them.
Enjolras stands awkwardly just inside the door, oddly shy. "I'm sorry, I--"
"Come in, if you like," Grantaire offers. "There's space, now."
He does so, darting a curious glance around the room.
"It's nothing much," Grantaire says, embarrassed, looking at the floor.
"This place. Just a place to sleep, really."
"It's all right," Enjolras says hesitantly.
"Sit down, if you want."
"Thank you," but he does not immediately move to take this advice. He hovers, instead, next to the chair.
"You can leave, if you want," hesitantly.
"All right." Grantaire sits on the bed.
Enjolras glances away. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right. Really."
Enjolras pauses a moment, then drops into a chair, depositing his belongings on the cluttered floor.
"Enjolras, I --"
He looks up swiftly, apprehensive.
"I don't mean to bother you."
Enjolras begins, "I told you--" and breaks off, blushing.
Grantaire stands. "I think you're right and I'm drunk."
"I--" Enjolras pushes to his feet a moment later. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have--"
Grantaire touches his shoulder for a fleeting moment. "It's all right. -- Anything, anything you want, is all right."
Enjolras stands very still, watching him with darkened, pleading eyes. "How can it be?"
"You always know what is best," Grantaire says softly.
He looks away, his face twisting. "Don't make fun of me. Not now."
"I'm not. -- You know what is best. I choose to ignore you because I'm a fool," wryly. "Didn't you know?"
Enjolras shakes his head mutely.
Grantaire touches his cheek. "Please."
Enjolras turns and kisses his palm, swiftly, as though afraid he might be forbidden. "I don't..."
Grantaire shivers and holds still.
Softly, "I don't understand at all."
"Neither do I."
Enjolras reaches up to touch his wrist lightly, eyes closed. His voice is not quite steady. "I shouldn't want this. You shouldn't let me ask it of you."
"You -- I don't know why you're asking this of me at all." Grantaire shakes his head. "I don't understand, but -- it may be wrong. Yes. But -- if I could do anything right, for you, I would."
Enjolras shivers. "Now you are teasing me."
"Not for a moment."
"You don't--" he hesitates, blushing again "--you don't... mind...?"
Grantaire laughs. "Not in the least."
Enjolras catches his hand in an unexpectedly firm grasp. "I shouldn't trust you," he says, half to himself. "I shouldn't believe that you won't betray me tomorrow, any more than I should believe that you won't someday turn me in for sedition--" He glances up. "But I do."
Grantaire shakes his head. "What have I done to deserve this?"
Enjolras looks down, silent.
Grantaire kisses his cheek.
Enjolras embraces him then, seemingly without transition, arms sliding around his waist, and returns the kiss timidly.
Grantaire sighs. "That -- you didn't mean to do that, surely."
Enjolras jerks away, cheeks flaming. "I'm sorry--"
"Don't be sorry." Grantaire catches his shoulder. "I don't mind. It's just -- hard to understand."
Enjolras avoids his eyes. "If you want me to-- to let you alone-- tell me."
"No. Please -- not unless you want to."
"I know what I'm doing," softly. "Or at least-- at least, I mean to do it."
"I believe you," softly.
Enjolras looks back at him, tentative.
Grantaire kisses him lightly.
He gasps faintly, hands tightening on Grantaire's shoulders.
"I'm sorry." Grantaire turns his head away.
"No. Please--" pulling him close.
"Think a moment," Grantaire protests. "Please, Enjolras. I don't want you to hate me more than you already do."
Enjolras lets him go in astonishment, staring. "I don't hate you."
Grantaire frowns. "No? You merely disdain me, pity me, perhaps -- but this is not something to do out of pity, mon ami."
"No. No. I--" Enjolras turns away, pressing his hands to his eyes. "You don't understand."
Grantaire touches his shoulder again. "Are you angry with me?"
He takes a deep breath. "No. Not now."
"What have I misunderstood now?"
"Everything." Enjolras pushes a hand through his hair. "I don't hate you. I-- on the contrary. I hate it when you, when you won't listen, when you drink too much to be worth talking to and make a fool of yourself, I-- I hate it when you laugh at me. At all of us, but-- And I am not here because I pity you!" fiercely.
"I'm never worth talking to," Grantaire says mildly, "not for you. You've better things to do than listen to my blathering, and if you don't pity me, then I'm sure I don't know what you think of me."
"Neither do I," quietly.
"Perhaps I ought to give you time and space to think, until you know."
"I've had that."
"All right." Grantaire tries to keep his voice level, but it wobbles.
"I've had time in plenty," Enjolras goes on, carefully, "and all it has taught me is that-- that I cannot stop dreaming of you at night, or wanting your company even when you make me furious, or--" he breaks off, embarrassed.
"Oh, God," softly. "Please -- don't say that."
"You -- I can't imagine that it's true."
"I don't lie," sharply. "Least of all to-- to my friends."
Grantaire laughs. "I'm not your friend."
Enjolras goes scarlet once more. "Perhaps not."
"I would like to be, but you would not want that," quietly.
"Don't you want your friends to be -- intelligent, eloquent, to believe in your ideals? I -- I can't." Grantaire shakes his head.
"I don't believe that." Enjolras turns, reaching for his hand.
Grantaire lets him take it. "I believe that you believe them, and that what you believe -- is amazing. But don't ask more of me than that, not unless you want me to lie."
Enjolras hesitates, then nods.
"You amaze me," softly.
A small, rueful laugh. "Do I?"
"Constantly." Grantaire smiles. "But especially tonight."
The blush returns full force, but he does not drop his eyes this time. "I suppose so."
Grantaire pauses a moment, then kisses him.
Enjolras shivers a little, and presses against him.
Grantaire embraces him gently, as though expecting him to bolt.
But Enjolras only leans into the kiss, returning it awkwardly, his hands knotted in Grantaire's sleeves.
Enjolras pulls back slightly after a minute, breathless, anxious.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes," quickly. "If you are."
Enjolras nods slightly, and tangles his fingers in Grantaire's hair with a wondering expression.
"You --" Grantaire shakes his head.
"What?" very softly.
"I may never think again."
"As bad as all that?"
"No," breathlessly. "As good."
Enjolras goes scarlet, and kisses him again fiercely.
Grantaire rests a hand on his shoulder, trying not to cling to him and failing.
"Oh," whispered, after a long interval. "God."
"I'm sorry," nervously.
"No. No. Don't be sorry." Enjolras frees a hand to touch his cheek. "I had no idea..."
Grantaire lowers his eyes. "You shouldn't be here."
Enjolras lets his hand fall. "I'll go if you want me to," muted.
"I don't want you to, but -- surely you don't want me."
Enjolras swallows. "You don't think so?"
Grantaire touches his cheek. "Why would you?"
"I don't know," he admits, hesitating, "but-- I--"
"Don't do this, mon ami, not when you'll only hate both of us." Grantaire lets him go very slowly.
Enjolras pales. "Don't--"
"I don't think you know what you're doing."
Hurt gives way to humiliation, and thence to resentment. "Of course you don't." He turns away abruptly. "Why would you? What do I know of anything except my own mad if charming utopian fancies?"
Grantaire sits down heavily. "That's not what I meant. Of course you know a great deal, but not -- not of this." He laughs. "What do I know of this, mon ami?"
Enjolras covers his face with his hands. "Enough, evidently." And, more coldly, letting his hands fall, "I'll leave you in peace, then."
Grantaire stands again, touching his shoulder. "I know nothing of this, except that it was -- lovely, until I spoke." He half-smiles. "Isn't that the way of all things between the two of us?"
Enjolras hesitates. "...It needn't be."
"I believe you."
Enjolras reaches up mutely to take his hand, without quite looking at him.
Grantaire pulls his hand away. "I'm sorry."
Scarcely audible, "Let me. Please...?"
Grantaire closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. "All right."
"Please." Enjolras recaptures his fingers, gently. "You don't know how I've wanted--"
After a pause, Grantaire asks, "Wanted what?"
Enjolras clutches his hand a moment, and kisses him by way of reply.
Grantaire embraces him this time without pause.
By the time Enjolras wakes the next morning, Grantaire has dressed.
He has also left and returned again with a large pitcher of water and fresh
bread. After this short excursion, he sits in a chair and pretends to read
a book with a chagrined expression.
By the time Enjolras wakes the next morning, Grantaire has dressed. He has also left and returned again with a large pitcher of water and fresh bread. After this short excursion, he sits in a chair and pretends to read a book with a chagrined expression.
Enjolras shifts a little under the covers, and sighs, then blinks at the wall.
"Good morning," Grantaire says, almost whispering.
He sits up swiftly, startled, and stares a moment. The color rushes to his face again. "Good morning," muted.
Grantaire looks steadily at his book. "Would you like me to leave?"
"It's your room, isn't it?" Enjolras looks away, rescuing his shirt from the floor.
"Yes," Grantaire concedes, "but I don't want to make you uncomfortable."
Enjolras shakes his head. "It's all right."
"If you're sure." Grantaire still doesn't glance up.
A trace of irritation creeps in. "If I weren't, I would tell you so."
"Of course you would," softly.
Enjolras bites his tongue, nearly audibly, and goes back to getting his clothes on.
"I'm sorry," Grantaire ventures after a few moments.
"Are you." And then, more gently, "What for?"
"I didn't mean to -- to cause whatever that was." Grantaire's cheeks are more ruddy than usual.
"You didn't," very low.
"I don't believe you. You're not --" he looks up for a moment, then turns his head. "You're not -- sick."
Enjolras says nothing, concentrating on his shoes.
"It must have been my fault, somehow," Grantaire protests.
"No." Enjolras stands, pale and forbidding once more. "No, it wasn't."
"It was mine," bitterly. "It won't happen again, I promise you that. Good day," and he makes for the door.
"Don't," Grantaire protests, standing. "I -- don't hate yourself, please. Not for that."
Enjolras hesitates, his hand on the latch, silent a moment. "Neither should you," he says at last.
Grantaire frowns at the floor. "I didn't mean to make you upset."
"It's not your fault," quietly.
"I don't understand."
Enjolras looks back at him. "Nor do I."
"If you're upset with me, I shan't try to keep you here," Grantaire says quietly. "I'm sorry."
Enjolras stares. "I'm not-- no."
Grantaire regards him for a moment. "I --" He looks at the floor again, and says slowly, "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?"
Grantaire closes his eyes tightly. "I'm sorry. I should -- I should let you go."
"No, I--" Enjolras reaches blindly for his hand.
"I don't understand," Grantaire protests again.
Slowly and clearly, "You have nothing to apologize for."
A long moment. "All right." He opens his eyes. "Then I'm forgiven?"
Enjolras sighs. "For what?"
"You were angry with me -- and you've every right to be angry with me, but -- but if you aren't --" Grantaire touches his shoulder.
"I wasn't," he protests, shivering a little at the contact. "I wasn't angry with you. I thought--"
"I thought you--" Enjolras breaks off, and reaches out to touch his hair hesitantly. "Do you mind?" sounding uncharacteristically shy.
"No, I --" Grantaire falters, then kisses him.
Enjolras clutches at his shoulders with a stifled gasp, and kisses him back.
Grantaire puts a hand on his lower back hesitantly.
Enjolras shudders, pressing closer.
Grantaire turns his face away, but doesn't let go. "Julien -- please."
"I--" His breath catches. "--I'm sorry."
"There's no need." Grantaire frowns and holds him carefully, as though he might break. "Truly."
Enjolras closes his eyes a moment. "No need for what?"
"Don't be sorry for that."
"I don't want to frighten you," Grantaire says softly.
"You don't." Enjolras strokes his shoulder, tentatively. "You don't frighten me."
"I want to kiss you," in a low voice, "but if I do --"
"What?" after a pause.
"I ought to let you go home," Grantaire says, letting him go.
Enjolras flushes. "I'm sorry," half-audibly, and then aloud, turning back toward the door, "Good morning, then."
"Ah, God, I am an idiot," Grantaire says, bowing his head.
Enjolras looks back at him questioningly.
"May I kiss you again, before you go?" quietly, not looking at him.
For a moment Enjolras stands very still; then, a little tremulously, reaches for him wordlessly.
Grantaire takes a step toward him and lifts a hand to brush his cheek. "Such a gift you've given me -- mon ami."
Enjolras turns to kiss his fingers, scarlet. "No."
He bites his lip. "Asked of you, rather."
"No." Grantaire touches his brow, trying to smooth away his frown. "Not that."
Enjolras closes his eyes. "...No?"
"No." Grantaire kisses him softly.
Enjolras leans into the kiss readily, embracing him.
Grantaire puts an arm around him.
Presently Enjolras says in a breathless murmur, "If I leave now--"
Grantaire sighs. "Yes?"
"Then--" His fingers caress Grantaire's hair with a kind of tentative urgency. "--oh, God."
"I can't ask you," mortified, and blushing again on account of it.
Grantaire blinks. "Ah." He touches Enjolras's cheek. "You don't need to ask me in words," he whispers.
There is a pause. "All right."
Grantaire touches his hair. "Whatever you want."
Enjolras closes his eyes. "My God," in a wondering tone.
"I --" Grantaire stops himself.
Huskily, and a little wryly, "Don't you know yet what it is you do to me?"
"No." Grantaire frowns. "Please, I don't mean to hurt you."
"You haven't," Enjolras assures him swiftly. "I promise you."
"Do you need to leave?" gently.
Enjolras hesitates. "What time is it?"
"Not just yet, then."
Grantaire considers this a moment. "I shouldn't keep you much longer."
"I don't mean to impose on you," soberly.
"You're not," Grantaire assures him. "That's hardly what I meant."
Enjolras reaches up hesitantly to touch his cheek.
Grantaire smiles at him, uncharming though his smile is.
Enjolras kisses him swiftly. "Until later, then."
"Until later --" he cuts himself off, then adds, "It will be difficult, you know."
Enjolras looks at him.
"You mustn't look at me like that," Grantaire chides him.
He blinks. "I don't understand."
Grantaire touches his lips. "Two days ago, you lectured me, and today you smile -- and the way you watch me." He shakes his head. "They will say you are in love," in a taunting tone.
Enjolras jerks away, scarlet to his ears with indignation. After a moment, "What kind of fool do you take me for?"
Grantaire looks at him calmly. "I don't accuse you of any such thing. I only know what they will say."
Enjolras meets his eyes, stung out of embarrassment. "Have they said so these past six months?"
Grantaire blinks at him, then looks at the floor. "I don't understand what you mean."
"Have they said that of me these past six months, while I've lain awake at night, while I've scarcely been able to look at you without wanting to touch you--" He breaks off, flushing.
There is silence for a moment. "Now I understand even less." Grantaire touches his face. "You are beautiful and wise, strong in ways most people aspire to but never reach. What could make you want anything to do with me? I'm ugly, and if I was ever wise I threw it away. I'm not strong enough to stand up, most nights -- please, don't say such things. I wouldn't have -- God, I'm sorry." He looks away.
"You wouldn't have done what?" Quietly.
Grantaire blushes and doesn't answer.
Enjolras looks at his hands, and says in a small, dry voice: "That is to say, you wouldn't have touched me if you'd known I wanted you to?"
"No. I --" He glances up. "I would have been more careful."
Grantaire shakes his head. "I don't know."
"Then don't worry about it."
"You should go," Grantaire reminds him.
Enjolras looks up at him with pleading eyes for a moment, then turns away for the third time.
"I will see you later."
Enjolras hesitates, then nods, and lets himself out.
Enjolras is as good as his word. That evening, his manner toward Grantaire
is much as usual, alternately distant and irritable, without permitting
himself so much as a conspiratorial glance.
Enjolras is as good as his word. That evening, his manner toward Grantaire is much as usual, alternately distant and irritable, without permitting himself so much as a conspiratorial glance.
Grantaire is also predictably Grantaire, although someone watching him closely enough to count glasses of wine would observe that he drinks perhaps a fourth of his usual amount. Only someone paying that sort of attention would be able to tell, however, as he still makes the same characteristic rambling speeches that he always does.
Toward nine o'clock, Enjolras bids a slightly abstracted goodnight to the last of his departing friends. For a couple of minutes after the door shuts behind them, he sits quietly, apparently absorbed in his textbook. Then, cautiously, he looks up, his eyes finding Grantaire across the empty room.
"So you've gotten rid of everyone with any sense, then, have you?" Grantaire asks him.
"Have I?" His expression is still sober, but the tone is gentle, now.
"Sparing your presence, yes, you have." Grantaire studies his face. "Did you want everyone to leave, then?"
Enjolras shrugs, very slightly. "I wanted to speak to you."
Grantaire spreads his hands. "I'm at your disposal, m'sieur."
Enjolras looks down at his book a moment. "How are you?"
"Quite all right, thank you, and you?"
Enjolras is silent, not looking up.
"How is your health, Enjolras?" Grantaire asks, pointedly.
"Fine," suddenly bitter.
"Good." Grantaire stands. "Well, good night, then."
Enjolras buries his face in his hands. "Goodnight," muffled.
Grantaire crosses the room and touches his shoulder. "Are you going to be all right?" softly.
Enjolras raises his head, and his face is childlike in its wistful solemnity. "Most likely."
"Shall I leave you alone?" Grantaire offers, but he leaves his hand on Enjolras's shoulder.
"All right." He turns, but only to pull up a chair and sit at Enjolras's table.
"I'm sorry," Enjolras ventures shyly.
"You don't need to be sorry. It's quite all right."
Enjolras extends a finger, dabbing a drop of wax from the ebbing candle on the table, and examines it. "Sometimes I am very stupid."
"Are you? I hadn't noticed."
"Yes." He hesitates. "I should have considered that--"
Grantaire blinks. "Considered what?"
"That you-- might not be nearly as interested in my company as I was in yours."
"In God's name." Grantaire stares at him. "Is that what you think, then? Have I done so badly at this charade -- or not even at the charade, but overall? Shall I write you a villanelle, shower you with gifts, and declare that I adore you in public -- no." He interrupts himself before Enjolras can. "Don't think I'm teasing you, mon ami, mon cher -- my poetry is hideous, but beyond that, what have I done to give you such a thought? Do you honestly believe I didn't spend the evening waiting for this moment -- or rather several moments from now, when we're done with this mad argument and can get on with being civil instead of melodramatic? I didn't stand and declare to Courfeyrac that I was pining to kiss you, but that does not make it false."
Enjolras goes very still, watching him wide-eyed. "I... I don't..."
Grantaire leers at him. "You don't have the first idea what you've gotten yourself into, do you?" He shakes his head slightly and goes back to looking serious. "Breathe, Julien, and don't fret about idiocies."
Enjolras looks down at his hands, shaken. After a moment he says quietly, apologetic, "I don't know your name." And, looking up again with defensive eyes, "I told you I was an idiot."
Grantaire extends his hand. "Sébastien Grantaire, m'sieur. Not that it matters particularly."
Enjolras frowns, and takes Grantaire's hand in both of his. "It does."
"All right, so it does, and now you know." He shrugs. "It doesn't matter to me. I know who I am, and so do you, even without it."
"Yes, but--" he breaks off. "I don't understand you."
"What don't you understand?"
"What you said just now..." Enjolras is blushing again. "How can you say all that, call me by name, and not care if I do the same?"
Grantaire half-smiles at him. "Egalité, indeed. You know nothing of these sorts of affairs, do you? Egalité has no place in any of them. I trust you, my friend, and I trust your republican instincts to keep you from letting me become too ridiculous, unless of course you care to emulate my madness to some degree." He takes a breath and smiles genuinely. "It does not matter, in the end, because this is fundamentally unequal. If I shower you with compliments, that's no more than your due, my lovely, eloquent Julien. You would be hard-pressed to do the same no matter whether you were inclined to or not, and so I don't regret that you won't."
Enjolras ducks his head, silenced for once. He looks, suddenly, very young.
Grantaire touches his cheek. "I'm sorry. Was that too much, then?"
Enjolras reaches up to take his hand. "It isn't that," tentatively. "I-- don't know what to say."
"You don't need to say anything," gently.
Enjolras hesitates, then kisses his fingers.
Grantaire smiles at him. "I believe I'll be going home, unless you've some better inspiration -- and if you'd like to accompany me on my way, you're welcome."
Enjolras regards him with shining, somber eyes for a moment. "Very well."
Grantaire stands and offers him a hand up.
Enjolras rises gracefully, collecting his books and belongings.
Three weeks and several sleepless nights after their first liaison,
Grantaire and Enjolras decide to go to the latter's residence on Saturday
evening. Once they arrive, however, Grantaire stands by the door. "I don't
know, mon ami -- I don't understand."
Three weeks and several sleepless nights after their first liaison, Grantaire and Enjolras decide to go to the latter's residence on Saturday evening. Once they arrive, however, Grantaire stands by the door. "I don't know, mon ami -- I don't understand."
Enjolras studies him. "What do you mean?"
"I should go." Grantaire looks at the floor.
A moment's bewildered silence. "--Why?"
"I shouldn't waste your time." Grantaire looks up. "You -- do you know how amazing you are? Why do you want me here when you could have someone beautiful and witty and full of dreams?"
"Don't say such things." Enjolras embraces him. "Never think it."
Grantaire laughs once, and doesn't return the embrace. "How should I not think what is patently obvious?"
Enjolras pulls back after a moment, watching him anxiously. "What's wrong?"
"You shouldn't ask me to be here. Don't you see that? You should have some lovely girl who will hang on your every word, whose father will love you and whose family will be all too happy to clasp you to its bosom. Not me."
He goes scarlet, and looks away. "Please don't say that," in a stifled tone.
"Why not?" Grantaire asks sharply.
"I don't want any such thing. I-- God."
"Then you are a fool."
Enjolras looks at him, stunned.
"Please, Julien," more gently, "you can't truly want this furtive madness. You could have so much more, and someone far better suited to you than me."
"Oh, don't lecture me," in sudden exasperation, "I have enough of that from everyone else! --Listen; this is foolishness, you've been drinking and it makes you melancholy. I keep telling you, you should stop. Come in and sit down."
"I have not been drinking all that much," Grantaire protests, but he looks at Enjolras and then around the room.
"Sit down," softly, but insistent.
He hesitates a moment longer, then obeys. "I meant what I said, you know."
Enjolras locks the door behind them, and comes over to sit near him, on the edge of the bed. "Hush."
Grantaire regards him for a moment. "You haven't heard a word I've said, have you?"
"Unlike you," Enjolras says without rancor, "I listen when I'm spoken to. I heard you very well, and I tell you you're talking nonsense."
Grantaire sighs. "I don't understand."
"I know what I want, Sébastien," quietly, and with assurance. "You needn't try to convince me otherwise."
Grantaire looks at the floor silently.
There is a pause. Enjolras' tone grows sharp in his turn. "If it isn't what you want, then you may as well come out and tell me so."
"This isn't right for you." Grantaire shrugs. "That doesn't mean I don't want it."
"I can look after my own well-being, thank you."
"Ah. That would be why you give treasonous speeches in public places, then?" Grantaire looks at him levelly.
"What do you want me to say to you?" Enjolras demands. "'Yes, you're right, leave here and never speak to me again--' No."
"No? I would, if you asked it of me."
"And if I ask you to stay?" more gently.
"I would do that." Grantaire glances away from him.
Enjolras stands, and comes over to rest his hands on Grantaire's shoulders. "Stay with me."
Grantaire shudders. "Julien --"
"Is that so hard? Is that so terrible?"
"No," softly. "It's not terrible at all."
Enjolras touches his hair. "Do you think I haven't thought about it? Do you think I don't know the risks?"
"I know you have. I'm sorry."
"It's all right," kissing his forehead, a little shyly still. "Only don't worry so much."
"I'll try not to," Grantaire assures him.
Enjolras complies, watching him seriously.
Grantaire touches his shoulder. "It's all right. I won't run."
Enjolras colors. "I'm sorry."
Grantaire kisses his cheek. "It's all right."
Enjolras half-smiles, and holds out an arm to him.
Grantaire embraces him.
There comes a knock at Enjolras' door one windy afternoon, promptly
answered by a cheerful "Yes, come in."
There comes a knock at Enjolras' door one windy afternoon, promptly answered by a cheerful "Yes, come in."
Combeferre opens the door and enters. "How are you today, Julien?"
Enjolras looks toward the door, smiling, and blinks. "Combeferre." He puts down the pen. "I'm all right. Trying to do too many things at once. And you?"
"Quite all right. May I sit down?" with a glance at his extra chair.
"Of course. I'm sorry." He runs a hand through his hair distractedly.
Combeferre sits and looks at him for a moment before speaking. "I have been wondering -- did you have some sort of discussion with Grantaire, recently?"
Enjolras stares at him a moment in what passes very well for incomprehension. "What do you mean?"
"You seem much more comfortable with his presence of late," Combeferre explains, "and you certainly haven't been criticising him as much as you normally might. I was hoping that this meant you had finally reached some sort of understanding."
Enjolras looks away, as though the subject is beneath his interest. "I don't know."
"Ah," says Combeferre, gently, "then that would be why you kissed him?"
"Last night," Combeferre says in a tone unaffected by Enjolras's bewilderment, "in Le Musain, after we'd all gone. I realized I'd left a book on the table where I'd been sitting, but when I went back for it, you were finishing a quiet discussion with him, and you kissed his cheek." He pauses. "I don't mean to imply anything, Julien, you must know that. If you are friends, now, then that pleases me."
"I should hope you didn't," severely, with cheeks crimson. Indignation, perhaps. "I don't--" He breaks off, takes a deep breath. "He seemed disposed to be reasonable, for once. Or at least reasonably coherent."
"That's good." Combeferre studies him. "So you've finally gotten through to him, have you?"
Enjolras shrugs. "I wouldn't go that far."
"No? That's a pity."
Second shrug. "I don't expect much of Grantaire." And, softening his tone with an effort, "What brings you by?"
"Curiosity on this score, and that there is a play tonight you might enjoy, if you've time to attend it."
Enjolras absorbs this with something like relief. "Possibly. What time?"
"Nine o'clock. Are you free?"
"I should think so. Yes."
Combeferre nods, then stands. "Shall I find you here then?"
Enjolras quirks a smile then, finally. "Where else would I be?"
"I don't know when you intend to dine," Combeferre says, shrugging. "In any case, I shall see you then."
"All right. Until then. --Take care, Etienne."
"And you, Julien." Combeferre opens the door and departs.
Later that evening, there is a hesitant tap on Grantaire's door which
is answered after a lengthy pause. "I don't think I locked it, did I?"
Later that evening, there is a hesitant tap on Grantaire's door which is answered after a lengthy pause. "I don't think I locked it, did I?"
Enjolras slips inside. "Evidently not. I'm sorry."
Grantaire, who is already in bed, yawns and blinks at him in the dark room. "I didn't think I'd be seeing you tonight."
"No, I know." Enjolras is uncharacteristically subdued. "I won't stay. I just-- thought I should tell you-- Combeferre came to see me this afternoon."
"You can stay if you like," softly, then, "Did he."
Enjolras stands rigidly by the cluttered desk, his face averted in the gloom. "Yes."
"About anything in particular, or was he just coming by to make sure you were still a republican?"
A pause. "He-- he came in last night. Before we left."
Grantaire considers this. "At the wrong moment, was it?"
"What did he say to you?"
Enjolras chuckles faintly. "He asked me if I had, what did he say, gotten through to you."
"I hope you didn't tell him you have." Grantaire is interrupted by a yawn. "I don't fancy being drawn into political discourses."
"No," dryly, and then, "I'll let you sleep. I just-- wanted to warn you."
"I am warned. Saints below save us all from Combeferre's tender ministrations. -- You can stay, if you like," more softly.
Enjolras hesitates. "--If you want me to."
"I don't mind your company."
"That's reassuring," still more dryly. "But I don't want to inconvenience you more than I already have."
"Combeferre will hardly walk in here," Grantaire answers in the same dry tone. "If you'd rather sleep alone, go ahead. If you want to stay, stay."
Enjolras sighs, almost inaudibly, and after a moment comes over to sit on the edge of the bed.
Grantaire smiles in the dark, then blinks. "Oh, the door's still unlocked."
"Damn." He stands again quickly and crosses the room, fumbling with it a moment.
Grantaire fluffs the pillow. "You can light a candle, if you need it."
"No, it's all right, I have it." The lock clicks, and he comes back to the bedside, quiet.
"Did you have a good evening?"
"It went well enough."
A pause. "You don't have to stay, if you don't want to."
"I do." Enjolras' hand seeks his amid the bedclothes. "If you don't mind."
Grantaire laughs once. "Mind? No. I don't mind. How could I mind this?"
"You think me an utter fool, don't you?" Wistfully.
Another pause, this one as long as three blinks and a little consideration. "No. Not at all. I think we don't understand each other half so well as we'd like to hope."
"Probably not." Enjolras kisses his fingers.
Grantaire sighs softly. "There are worse things than that."
"We should talk, at some point," Grantaire yawns, "but not, I think, tonight."
Enjolras puts out a hand to smooth his hair. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"It's all right," quietly. "I don't mind; I've compensation enough."
Enjolras takes in a swift breath, and leans down to kiss him.
The next morning, Grantaire wakes earlier than is his wont. He lies
there quietly for a while, one arm around Enjolras's waist where it was
when he woke. After a while, he lets go carefully and sits up. In the distance,
a church chimes the hour.
The next morning, Grantaire wakes earlier than is his wont. He lies there quietly for a while, one arm around Enjolras's waist where it was when he woke. After a while, he lets go carefully and sits up. In the distance, a church chimes the hour.
Enjolras sighs slightly and turns over, still half-asleep.
Grantaire touches his hair gently and whispers, "How did I come to be so lucky?"
Enjolras blinks a few times, and looks up at him with a sleepy smile. "...Hm?"
Grantaire smiles, which does not improve his appearance. "Good morning."
"Good morning." Enjolras rubs his eyes, childlike, and sits up a little.
"Did you sleep well?"
"I think so." A glint of amusement. "And you must have, too, or you wouldn't have to ask."
Grantaire nods. "Something like that, yes. It's eight o'clock. When do you need to be somewhere?"
Enjolras considers this, pushing a hand through his hair absent-mindedly. "Not for an hour, I don't think."
"Then you've time for breakfast, I should hope."
A rare, flat-out grin. "So should I."
Grantaire pauses a moment before answering. "Might I come with you, or were you going to meet someone?"
"I wasn't, no." Enjolras blinks at him. "I-- if you like."
"What are the chances of Combeferre having bad timing twice in three days?" Grantaire says cheerfully.
"Slim, I suppose." Enjolras leans over to locate his clothes. "Being the soul of tact, as he is."
Grantaire touches his shoulder lightly.
Enjolras looks up questioningly.
"You're beautiful," Grantaire explains softly. He looks away. "I'm sorry."
"Silly thing to apologize for," Enjolras mutters, gruff with embarrassment.
"I should let you get dressed." Grantaire shrugs.
Which he does, subsequently, his eyes downcast.
Grantaire attempts to do the same. He glances at Enjolras once, and after a few moments, he chuckles. "Such propriety we have."
Enjolras laughs, reflexively. "I hardly think so."
"This morning? Yes. Last night? Certainly not."
He goes red. "Yes. Well."
"Are we compensating, then?"
"It's foolish." Grantaire abandons buttoning his waistcoat and turns to face Enjolras. "What is the intimacy in this that we haven't already shared?"
"I-- suppose that's true." Enjolras does not quite meet his eyes.
Grantaire regards him for another breath, then looks away. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right," resting a hand lightly on his arm.
"No, it isn't. I've offended you. Again."
"I'm not-- I'm not offended."
Grantaire looks at him again. "No?"
"No," gently. "Truly."
"I should be more careful," half to himself.
Enjolras leans over to kiss his cheek. "You?"
Grantaire's breath catches. "Yes."
"You didn't kiss me in the cafe, when you knew better."
"Not for lack of wanting to," Grantaire says, smiling.
Enjolras colors, but smiles back at him. "Still."
"If I do anything that bothers you, you'll tell me, won't you?"
"Certainly," with lifted brows.
Grantaire nods. "I don't want to -- to bother you."
"When you do, you'll know." Enjolras reaches out to touch his cheek, rather shyly.
Grantaire kisses his fingers. "All right."
Enjolras shivers. "--We should go."
"I suppose so."
"You suppose so?"
"I've nowhere to go except breakfast with you."
"Of course not," wryly.
"I might," Grantaire says mildly, "have class. If I'd been recently."
"That thought has occasionally occurred to me."
"I'm sure it has." Grantaire tilts his head to one side. "Are you going to begin insisting that I make something of myself?"
"I would, if I thought I had any chance of success." Enjolras begins looking for his shoes.
"Ah." He doesn't pursue the matter.
After a moment, Enjolras stands briskly. "Coming?"
"Yes." Grantaire runs a hand through his hair in a token effort to make it behave.
Enjolras starts for the door, pauses, then turns back and embraces him.
Grantaire blinks, and embraces him in return. "Thank you."
"What for?" Softly.
"All of this."
"You needn't." Enjolras strokes his hair for a moment, then draws away.
Grantaire smiles. "I don't know a better way to say that -- having you here makes me happy, Julien."
Enjolras blushes, and glances down, silent.
Enjolras shakes his head. "Don't be."
"I don't know how not to be when I make you uncomfortable."
"I'm not uncomfortable. Only--"
Grantaire frowns. "What?"
"Only-- bewildered, that's all."
"You're not alone in that."
Enjolras hesitates, then kisses him.
Grantaire puts a hand on his shoulder.
After a few breathless moments, "We ought to go."
"Yes. We should."
A pause. "Are we going to?"
"You have to get to class," Grantaire says firmly.
Enjolras smiles faintly. "So I do." He pulls away, and swings the door open.
Grantaire pats his pockets and finds the key. "I'll be right behind you."
Enjolras nods slightly, and goes out.
On a chilly spring evening, nearly an hour after Grantaire was expecting
Enjolras, there comes a light knock on his door.
On a chilly spring evening, nearly an hour after Grantaire was expecting Enjolras, there comes a light knock on his door.
"Come in," Grantaire answers immediately.
Enjolras enters, looking pale and terribly tired, his fair hair in disarray. "Hello. I'm sorry--"
Grantaire is standing near the doorway. "Are you ill? Julien, you look exhausted."
Enjolras shuts the door and embraces him without hesitation, leaning against him. "I am exhausted. I'm sorry I was late. I..." He trails off.
"Shh. It's all right." Grantaire strokes his hair. "You should sleep, then -- and here, to save your walking home."
He nods, uncharacteristically docile.
"How long have you been feeling poorly?" quietly.
"I'm not ill." If it were not so muted, his tone would be amused. "It's all right."
Grantaire kisses his forehead. "What's wrong, then?"
A deep, shaky breath. "I've been talking to my father, that's all. It's... tiring."
"Oh." Grantaire blinks. "I'm sorry."
"If talking is the word. Arguing, I should say. I couldn't get away, or I wouldn't have kept you waiting."
"You needn't apologize. You were having far too much trouble as it was, without feeling guilty as well." Grantaire frowns.
Enjolras chuckles. "And you say that, never having met the man. A testament to the strength of his personality." He straightens, letting Grantaire go, but almost immediately sinks into a chair. "I wasn't feeling guilty. Only regretful."
"Ah," with a wistful smile. "I see. What can I do to compensate for your wasted time?"
Enjolras looks up at him with a small but affectionate smile, and holds out a hand to him.
Grantaire takes it and kisses his fingers gravely.
"Your company's enough," Enjolras amends, glancing away for a moment.
Grantaire shakes his head. "You must be exhausted, to value my company."
"Hush," Enjolras says mildly. "You know that's not so."
"All right," humoring him.
Enjolras frowns, but evidently hasn't the energy to press the point. He frees his hand, rubbing his eyes like a fretful child. "I am sorry."
"It's all right. Bed?"
A pause, then, "All right."
Grantaire offers him a hand up.
Enjolras takes it, pushing to his feet. "Thank you."
Grantaire kisses his cheek. "It's the least I can do."
Enjolras embraces him again, wordlessly.
"Are you going to sleep in your clothes?" Grantaire inquires mildly.
"Shall I help you with them, then?"
"Mmh. That would be kind of you." Enjolras straightens again, shrugging off his coat.
Grantaire takes the coat and hangs it over the back of the chair, then begins unbuttoning his waistcoat perfunctorily.
"Merci," in a murmur, and then, for the third time: "I'm sorry."
"There's nothing to regret." Grantaire touches his neck lightly. "It's no burden having you here, sprightly or exhausted."
"But--" Enjolras hesitates, then gives up and kisses him, intently, though without passion.
"Julien," Grantaire protests, "don't."
For the space of half a heartbeat, he looks hurt; then he turns away. "I'm sorry," he says again, courteously. "Pay no attention to me. I'm only tired."
Grantaire touches his shoulder. "Don't be upset," softly. "I -- I would rather fall asleep with you, and -- and you make it difficult."
Enjolras looks at his hands. "I--"
"It's all right. I'm sorry."
"Don't be," he says gently.
"Let me help you? I won't -- do anything untoward."
Enjolras colors, but he says steadily, "All right. Thank you."
Grantaire unbuttons his shirt helpfully. "You are beautiful, mon ami, and you are welcome to whatever I can give you."
Enjolras passes a hand across his face. "You're too kind to me," he murmurs.
Grantaire kisses his cheek. "Never."
"Yes," he persists, though faintly. "I don't know why, but you are."
"Not too kind. Kind, perhaps, but only in equal measure to what you are to me."
Enjolras shakes his head. "No."
"Your judgement is impaired. After you've slept, you'll agree with me."
"I don't think so." He sways a little, catches himself, and sits down on the edge of the bed.
Grantaire sits beside him and rubs his shoulder. "Let's not argue, tonight."
Enjolras leans into the touch. "No. I haven't the strength for another argument. --Sébastien..."
He is quiet a moment, biting his lip. "...Nothing."
Enjolras half turns to embrace him once more, sighing.
Grantaire puts an arm around his waist. "Are you sure you're all right?"
"I told you I was." He buries his face in Grantaire's shoulder for a minute.
Grantaire whispers something that may be sensible words, or may not.
"Hm?" Enjolras looks up at him fuzzily.
"Nothing. Lie down, Julien, you look like you're going to fall asleep any second."
Enjolras sighs slightly. "Only if you will."
"When I've undressed, I shall. I'm not as worn as you are." Grantaire smiles at him. "Here, mon ami, give me a bit of help."
Enjolras chuckles, and kisses his cheek before doing so.
Grantaire runs a hand across his chest. "I should lend you a nightshirt."
Enjolras shivers a bit. "If you like."
Grantaire leans over to untie his shoes. "You're intolerably charming like that."
"What do you mean?"
"I'll tell you in the morning." Grantaire sets his shoes by the end of the bed and gets up to look for some sort of garment.
Enjolras rubs his eyes again. "Ever mysterious."
"If I tell you, you won't believe me in any case." Grantaire tosses him a long shirt that has very worn elbows and several patches.
"Very well." Enjolras pulls it on.
Grantaire grins at him. "Take your shoes off, chéri."
"Oh." He complies, blushing.
Grantaire sits next to him and kisses his cheek when he's done. "Are you ready to go to sleep, then?"
"Mm," returning the kiss.
"Yes, I think so."
Grantaire leans over and blows out the candle. "Then I suppose I am, too."
Enjolras stretches out under the covers with a deep, contented sigh, and reaches out to him.
After a moment, Grantaire joins him. "Goodnight, Julien."
Another sigh. "Goodnight, mon cher," half muffled in the bedclothes and more than half asleep.
It was about this epoch that Enjolras, in view of a possible
catastrophe, instituted a kind of mysterious census.
It was about this epoch that Enjolras, in view of a possible catastrophe, instituted a kind of mysterious census.
All were present at a secret meeting at the Cafe Musain.
Enjolras said, mixing his words with a few half-enigmatical but significant metaphors:--
"It is proper that we should know where we stand and on whom we may count. If combatants are required, they must be provided. It can do no harm to have something with which to strike. Passers-by always have more chance of being gored when there are bulls on the road than when there are none. Let us, therefore, reckon a little on the herd. How many of us are there? There is no question of postponing this task until to-morrow. Revolutionists should always be hurried; progress has no time to lose. Let us mistrust the unexpected. Let us not be caught unprepared. We must go over all the seams that we have made and see whether they hold fast. This business ought to be concluded to-day. Courfeyrac, you will see the polytechnic students. It is their day to go out. To-day is Wednesday. Feuilly, you will see those of the Glaciere, will you not? Combeferre has promised me to go to Picpus. There is a perfect swarm and an excellent one there. Bahorel will visit the Estrapade. Prouvaire, the masons are growing lukewarm; you will bring us news from the lodge of the Rue de Grenelle-Saint Honore. Joly will go to Dupuytren's clinical lecture, and feel the pulse of the medical school. Bossuet will take a little turn in the court and talk with the young law licentiates. I will take charge of the Cougourde myself."
"That arranges everything," said Courfeyrac.
"What else is there?"
"A very important thing."
"What is that?" asked Courfeyrac.
"The Barriere du Maine," replied Enjolras.
Enjolras remained for a moment as though absorbed in reflection, then he resumed:--
"At the Barriere du Maine there are marble-workers, painters, and journeymen in the studios of sculptors. They are an enthusiastic family, but liable to cool off. I don't know what has been the matter with them for some time past. They are thinking of something else. They are becoming extinguished. They pass their time playing dominoes. There is urgent need that some one should go and talk with them a little, but with firmness. They meet at Richefeu's. They are to be found there between twelve and one o'clock. Those ashes must be fanned into a glow. For that errand I had counted on that abstracted Marius, who is a good fellow on the whole, but he no longer comes to us. I need some one for the Barriere du Maine. I have no one."
"What about me?" said Grantaire. "Here am I."
"You indoctrinate republicans! you warm up hearts that have grown cold in the name of principle!"
"Are you good for anything?"
"I have a vague ambition in that direction," said Grantaire.
"You do not believe in everything."
"I believe in you."
"Grantaire, will you do me a service?"
"Anything. I'll black your boots."
"Well, don't meddle with our affairs. Sleep yourself sober from your absinthe."
"You are an ingrate, Enjolras."
"You the man to go to the Barriere du Maine! You capable of it!"
"I am capable of descending the Rue de Gres, of crossing the Place Saint-Michel, of sloping through the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, of taking the Rue de Vaugirard, of passing the Carmelites, of turning into the Rue d'Assas, of reaching the Rue du Cherche-Midi, of leaving behind me the Conseil de Guerre, of pacing the Rue des Vielles Tuileries, of striding across the boulevard, of following the Chaussee du Maine, of passing the barrier, and entering Richefeu's. I am capable of that. My shoes are capable of that."
"Do you know anything of those comrades who meet at Richefeu's?"
"Not much. We only address each other as thou."
"What will you say to them?"
"I will speak to them of Robespierre, pardi! Of Danton. Of principles."
"I. But I don't receive justice. When I set about it, I am terrible. I have read Prudhomme, I know the Social Contract, I know my constitution of the year Two by heart. `The liberty of one citizen ends where the liberty of another citizen begins.' Do you take me for a brute? I have an old bank-bill of the Republic in my drawer. The Rights of Man, the sovereignty of the people, sapristi! I am even a bit of a Hebertist. I can talk the most superb twaddle for six hours by the clock, watch in hand."
"Be serious," said Enjolras.
"I am wild," replied Grantaire.
Enjolras meditated for a few moments, and made the gesture of a man who has taken a resolution.
"Grantaire," he said gravely, "I consent to try you. You shall go to the Barriere du Maine."
Grantaire lived in furnished lodgings very near the Cafe Musain. He went out, and five minutes later he returned. He had gone home to put on a Robespierre waistcoat.
"Red," said he as he entered, and he looked intently at Enjolras. Then, with the palm of his energetic hand, he laid the two scarlet points of the waistcoat across his breast.
And stepping up to Enjolras, he whispered in his ear:--
He jammed his hat on resolutely and departed.
A quarter of an hour later, the back room of the Cafe Musain was deserted. All the friends of the A B C were gone, each in his own direction, each to his own task. Enjolras, who had reserved the Cougourde of Aix for himself, was the last to leave.
Those members of the Cougourde of Aix who were in Paris then met on the plain of Issy, in one of the abandoned quarries which are so numerous in that side of Paris.
As Enjolras walked towards this place, he passed the whole situation in review in his own mind. The gravity of events was self-evident. When facts, the premonitory symptoms of latent social malady, move heavily, the slightest complication stops and entangles them. A phenomenon whence arises ruin and new births. Enjolras descried a luminous uplifting beneath the gloomy skirts of the future. Who knows? Perhaps the moment was at hand. The people were again taking possession of right, and what a fine spectacle! The revolution was again majestically taking possession of France and saying to the world: "The sequel to-morrow!" Enjolras was content. The furnace was being heated. He had at that moment a powder train of friends scattered all over Paris. He composed, in his own mind, with Combeferre's philosophical and penetrating eloquence, Feuilly's cosmopolitan enthusiasm, Courfeyrac's dash, Bahorel's smile, Jean Prouvaire's melancholy, Joly's science, Bossuet's sarcasms, a sort of electric spark which took fire nearly everywhere at once. All hands to work. Surely, the result would answer to the effort. This was well. This made him think of Grantaire.
"Hold," said he to himself, "the Barriere du Maine will not take me far out of my way. What if I were to go on as far as Richefeu's? Let us have a look at what Grantaire is about, and see how he is getting on."
One o'clock was striking from the Vaugirard steeple when Enjolras reached the Richefeu smoking-room.
He pushed open the door, entered, folded his arms, letting the door fall to and strike his shoulders, and gazed at that room filled with tables, men, and smoke.
A voice broke forth from the mist of smoke, interrupted by another voice. It was Grantaire holding a dialogue with an adversary.
Grantaire was sitting opposite another figure, at a marble Saint-Anne table, strewn with grains of bran and dotted with dominos. He was hammering the table with his fist, and this is what Enjolras heard:--
"The pig! I have no more."
"You are dead. A two."
"It's my move."
"It's your turn."
"I have made an enormous mistake."
"You are doing well."
"That makes me twenty-two." [Thoughtfully, "Twenty-two!"]
"You weren't expecting that double-six. If I had placed it at the beginning, the whole play would have been changed."
"A two again."
"One! Well, five."
"I haven't any."
"It was your play, I believe?"
"What luck he has! Ah! You are lucky! [Long revery.] Two."
"Neither five nor one. That's bad for you."
"Plague take it!"
(--Les Miserables, "Saint-Denis", Book First, Chapter VI)
When the next gathering at Musain breaks up, Enjolras departs far sooner than usual, deep in conversation with Combeferre; and though Grantaire is sitting quite near the door, he does not spare him a glance. Much the same happens on the next occasion, two days later, but this time he is in such a hurry that he forgets the book he brought with him, and is obliged to go back for it.
He passes Bossuet and Joly on their way home, and they greet him. By the time he returns to the cafe, nearly everyone is gone. Grantaire is still at the table where he had been sitting all evening. He is quite drunk, even by the high standards of intoxication that he sets for himself. When Enjolras comes back in, he stands, and says, "Julien, stay a moment," though his words are slurred and slow.
Enjolras ignores him, except for a faint wince, and crosses the room to retrieve the book from the windowsill where he left it.
"I'm sorry," Grantaire says, brokenly. He fumbles in his waistcoat pocket for a handkerchief. "Please -- I'm sorry, mon chéri. Talk to me, just for a moment."
"What is there to talk about?"
"I love you." He looks at the floor abruptly. "I -- I'm sorry."
"Stop it." Enjolras scowls at him. "Just stop it. Spare me your maudlin apologies and get out. Go sleep it off."
"Beloved," Grantaire protests. He wipes his face with his handkerchief, then swears. "I knew I wasn't good enough for you."
"Damn you." The book slams down on a tabletop. "This one thing, this one simple thing--"
Grantaire flinches. "Yes, damn me, I know. As if I weren't damned enough. -- I shan't keep you here any longer, since you're so eager to go."
"--now of all times, you can't even do that much for my sake if not for your own, and you stand there talking idiocies."
"I meant to, once I'd got into their good graces," softly. "I meant to try -- but you were upset with me -- God, Julien, as if I can think when you're angry with me -- and they wouldn't trust me, and -- and I couldn't. Please, I can't argue with you, and you hate me, I know you do, now, more than you did even before this, and I'm sorry, I meant to do better, and I couldn't, I can't think, I can't remember all the little reasons why not and I should have done better. I'm sorry."
"You had an hour, m'sieur. Even you are capable of being a little more ingratiating than that, if you care to try."
Grantaire sighs. "I love you," in a most hopeless tone. "I'm sorry."
For a moment Enjolras hesitates; then he catches up his book again and turns away.
Grantaire stumbles toward him a few steps.
"Leave me alone," in a choked voice.
He stops, wobbling a little where he stands. "I'm sorry."
"You're sorry." Enjolras turns again at the door, scowling, near tears. "I didn't ask. I knew better than to ask. You offered, and damn you, damn you, it mattered! I trusted you!"
Grantaire bows his head. "I could have -- it would have been all right. I would have remembered, before midnight, what I should say. I -- I shouldn't have offered. I should have gone on, we should have gone on as we were -- and it's my fault." He swallows. "And --"
A beat. "What?"
"I'm a fool, and I'm sorry."
Enjolras gives a faint hiss of disgust, and goes out, letting the door shut behind him with a bang.
"Julien," Grantaire protests, and follows him out, tripping over his own feet as he goes. The door slams again, as he has no time nor energy to spare for it. "Don't do this, mon ami, mon cher."
"Stop it. Do you want the world to hear you?"
"I don't care who hears me, if you're listening. What have I said that is so peculiar, yet? Talk to me, listen to me. Don't walk away from me; I was only beginning to argue." More quietly, in case there is anyone paying any attention, "You are tearing my heart out of my chest." Recklessly loud again, "Julien, mon ami, you can't leave yet. We're not done."
"Oh, but we are."
Grantaire puts a heavy hand on his shoulder. "Please," low and rough. "Don't."
Enjolras turns with a strangled sound and shoves him away, far more forcefully than the situation warrants. "Don't touch me--"
Grantaire chokes. "Beloved. Don't -- not like this."
Grantaire lets his hand drop and stares, saying nothing.
Enjolras braces one hand on the rough wall of the cafe, breathing hard. "I want none of your sweet words, m'sieur, none of your caresses--" his voice thickens "--none of your promises. None of your 'Juliens' and your pleading looks. I am going home. Alone." He straightens, slowly. "I suggest you do the same."
"I love you," Grantaire says again, then turns away. Perhaps his shoulders shake slightly as he walks toward his flat; perhaps they do not.
Enjolras stands watching, with one hand pressed to his mouth, until Grantaire has rounded the corner; then he turns on his heel and sets off in the other direction, far too quickly.
It is not yet midnight, though only those who have remembered a pocketwatch
and think to look at it know, because the tocsin is ringing. It is not
so loud that church bells are inaudible, but the sound of revolution, of
disturbance of Parisian peace, is far more than enough to drown out thoughts
of the hour. Every moment is its own struggle: the desire to rest, the
desire for food, and above these in the human part of the animal, the certainty
that after dawn, death will come, and the ever-waning hope that dawn will
rouse the citizens and bring them into the streets, ready to fight for
It is not yet midnight, though only those who have remembered a pocketwatch and think to look at it know, because the tocsin is ringing. It is not so loud that church bells are inaudible, but the sound of revolution, of disturbance of Parisian peace, is far more than enough to drown out thoughts of the hour. Every moment is its own struggle: the desire to rest, the desire for food, and above these in the human part of the animal, the certainty that after dawn, death will come, and the ever-waning hope that dawn will rouse the citizens and bring them into the streets, ready to fight for their sovereignty.
Here and there, clusters of men sit together, talking of sunny days and sweet lovers, aging grandfathers and syllabubs, things from the day before this night and its suspense. Some boys sit alone, lost in their own thoughts. One of these is Enjolras, at least, until he is approached by Grantaire, who clears his throat from a respectful but audible distance.
He looks up sharply, eyes wide in the torchlight; then relaxes somewhat, though his expression does not lighten. "What?"
"I wanted to apologize," softly, for Grantaire. "For -- for everything."
Enjolras sighs, resting his head in one hand. "A laudable impulse, I'm sure."
"Enjolras --" more quietly, "Julien. Please."
"God," Enjolras mutters.
Grantaire bites his lip. "How can I ask you to forgive me anything?"
Enjolras shrugs, not looking at him. "Why bother?"
Grantaire had been fidgetting with the buttons on his coat, but he stops now. "Because God only knows what's going to happen tomorrow, and it'd be better to face it without this -- this hate hanging over both our heads."
"I don't hate you," indifferently.
"You --" Grantaire shakes his head and approaches him, so that if he were inclined, he could put a hand on Enjolras's shoulder.
Enjolras glances at him tiredly.
Grantaire kisses his cheek.
Enjolras flushes, and stands abruptly, walking off toward the darkened Rue Mondetour without a word.
Grantaire blinks after him and hesitates a moment, then follows.
Once around the corner, the darkness is nearly complete. The street is for the moment deserted. Enjolras leans against a wall and waits for Grantaire to catch up. "Don't do that again," he says in the same flat voice.
"I'm sorry, I won't." Grantaire looks at the ground.
"I can't afford your foolishness. If anyone saw that--"
"They know I'm a fool." Grantaire shrugs.
Enjolras looks at him a moment. "And you know what you do to me."
Grantaire blinks. "I thought --" He blushes in the darkness.
"You thought anything could change that?"
"No." Enjolras folds his arms tightly, looking at the ground.
"Well, as long as it isn't intentional," dryly.
"Not -- no. I didn't mean to -- God, I'm sorry." Grantaire half-turns away.
Enjolras straightens abruptly, reaching out to catch his arm.
Grantaire hesitates and looks at him for a moment.
Softly, "Why are you here?"
Grantaire drops his gaze. "Because you are, and I promised to help you, too many weeks ago."
"God," Enjolras breathes. "You're mad."
Grantaire shrugs. "So they tell me."
"I..." Enjolras closes the small distance between them, his hand settling on Grantaire's shoulder.
"I'll leave, if you tell me to," Grantaire offers.
"Will you? No, of course you would. That would be easiest, wouldn't it?"
Grantaire shivers. "I didn't mean it like that."
Enjolras' fingers tighten on his shoulder. "Shall I tell you to go, then?"
"Not if there's anything I can do to help you here."
"And if there is, will you do it?" touching his hair lightly, it seems unconsciously.
Grantaire swallows. "Yes, of course."
"Why else am I here?"
Enjolras knots a hand in his collar. "Swear to me. Before God or the green faeries or whatever it is you hold sacred. You'll do what needs to be done."
"I will, I swear it -- by anything. I'd do anything for you -- and I won't fail, this time." Grantaire trembles.
Enjolras embraces him then, fiercely, burying a kiss in his hair.
Grantaire clings to him. "God, Julien."
"Cher," and for the first time his voice wavers. "Don't leave me now."
"I won't. I couldn't."
Enjolras stands rigid for a moment, shaking, then kisses him desperately.
Grantaire makes a small, wordless noise of desperation that, were he younger and less scruffy, someone might describe as a whimper.
Julien stumbles back against the wall, pulling Grantaire with him, tangling fingers in his hair.
"I love you," Grantaire says breathlessly, between kisses.
"I--" Julien clutches at his shoulders, fighting for self-control enough to speak. "I don't know, how can I know-- but if ever I have loved anyone, Sébastien--"
Grantaire swallows hard. "Oh, Julien --" and kisses him.
Julien yields with a stifled sob, and presses closer.
Grantaire sighs. "God, we can't do this, not now."
"Ah, God." Julien reaches up a shaking hand to touch his cheek. "Now, now you give me common sense? It's late for that."
"I --" Sébastien's resolve breaks and he buries his face in Julien's shoulder.
Julien embraces him tightly, blinking against tears. "Shhh, mon chéri--"
Sébastien looks up, grinning crookedly. "You're so beautiful, beloved."
Julien bites his lip. "Idiot," he whispers, without venom.
Sébastien kisses him again.
Julien clings to him, running a hand longingly down his spine.
Sébastien shudders. "Please, mon cher --"
A pause; then, with a shaky sigh, Julien loosens his hold. "What?"
"Hold me," very quietly, "just another moment."
Julien pulls him close without hesitation, kissing his cheek.
Sébastien hugs him tightly, and if he is not crying, it must be raining.
Julien caresses his hair. "Hush. It's all right."
"I love you," and the word catches in the middle.
"I know," soothingly.
"It's all right," kissing him lightly. "It's all right. --Sébastien--"
Julien shakes his head, leaning back to look at him. "If you want to go, there's still time."
"I want to be with you," Sébastien protests. "And if you're right, I've little to fear."
Julien looks away. "Maybe."
"You can leave, too."
"You are mad. No, I can't, even if I would."
Sébastien kisses his cheek. "No one would know, now, for some time yet."
Julien pushes him away, albeit gently. "No. You still don't understand, do you?"
"I do, love. I know you won't leave. But you can."
"Not now." He runs his hands through his hair. "You could. I-- if you want to, I won't fault you for it."
"I won't. Not without you."
Julien studies him through the gloom. "Are you certain?"
He reconsiders this during the space of a deep breath. "Yes."
Julien reaches out to him again, mutely.
Sébastien embraces him.
"I..." Julien falters, and buries his face in Sébastien's shoulder.
Sébastien strokes his hair. "It's all right."
"Forgive me," whispered.
Julien is quiet then, leaning against him, tense but still.
"Shall I let you go?"
He shakes his head, silent.
Sébastien kisses his cheek. "All right."
Julien sighs. "I wish--"
"Nothing," kissing him briefly. "I'm sorry."
"Why are you sorry?"
Sébastien kisses his cheek. "It will be all right."
Julien smiles faintly. "I hope so."
"And if it isn't --" Grantaire shrugs. "It isn't."
Enjolras glances away, and after a moment lets him go. "Neatly put."
"Enjolras?" asks another voice, and Combeferre comes around the corner. Grantaire takes a step away, and turns away as well, blushing. "Ah, there you are," Combeferre says in some relief. "We were wondering where you'd gone."
Enjolras straightens. "Yes, I'm here." He crosses to join Combeferre without a backward glance; perhaps a little pale, but not unusually so. "What is it?"
"Plans for the morning," Combeferre explains, with a puzzled glance at Grantaire. "We were wondering exactly how we ought to reinforce the leftward slope."
Enjolras takes a deep breath. "Yes, all right."
"Could you come take a look at it?" Combeferre asks.
"I'm coming," a trifle testily, and he heads out in that direction.