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something of a napoleon complex

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I.

Grantaire lays eyes on Enjolras the first time he bothers to show up--half an hour late--for his American History class. He hadn’t particularly wanted this elective, and had heard that the professor was notoriously lax on attendance, so it’s more than a week into the semester when he first shows his face. He walks in, and Enjolras is literally standing on his chair in the middle of the front row of seats, talking loudly. Grantaire comes in while he’s in full flow, but he catches something about the “glorification of white crime” and how Thomas Jefferson was a racist asshole who doesn’t deserve to be on American currency. Blinking, Grantaire drops into a seat in the back corner of the room and watches the back of the nameless boy with an insane golden mane as he gesticulates dramatically.

Grantaire doesn’t even notice the professor standing in the front of the room, until the man speaks up. He waits until a suitable pause in Lion Boy’s diatribe, clears his throat, and says mildly, “Thank you, Enjolras. That was most illuminating.”

Enjolras.

Grantaire knows two things immediately:
1) He is probably the kind of person Enjolras would hate; and
2) Enjolras is the kind of person who, despite being incredibly frustrating, Grantaire will probably obsess over forever. He’s always had a soft spot for people who can’t be bothered with him.

II.

Joly gets tired of Grantaire’s mooning within two weeks. He’s Joly, though, which means that his annoyance mostly just manifests itself as confiscating whatever booze Grantaire is drinking as he talks and suggesting that Grantaire maybe consider, you know, talking to him.

“I do,” Grantaire says this time, proudly. Bossuet, who’s becoming something of a permanent fixture, lets out a little cheer.

“You have conversations?” Joly asks, a crease between his brows.

 

“Uh, not...exactly.” He grins shiftily. “It’s possible that by talk, what I really meant was debate the accuracy of his viewpoints.”

“R,” says Joly, with a credible attempt at patience, “tell me you are not doing the elementary school thing where you torture the boy you like.”

“Excuse you,” Grantaire yelps, indignant. “I am not torturing him. I’m just, you know. Giving him a crash course on how the world actually works. It can’t possibly be healthy to be such an idealist.”

He doesn’t say anything about how when Enjolras is angry, his alabastor skin floods with pink. Or how he’s found out that Enjolras is all of five feet tall, even in the combat boots he wears every day, which is unfairly adorable. (He’d discovered that one because he’d moved his seat to the front row as well, two seats to the left of Enjolras’s. He’d done that, and the next time he’d pissed Enjolras off, he’d gotten up and marched right over to Grantaire to argue. Grantaire had stood, too, and found that Enjolras had come up to somewhere around the middle of his chest. Hadn’t deterred him at all, though. He’d just gotten right up in Grantaire’s space, actually stood on his tiptoes to glare at him better. Frankly, Grantaire had immediately lost track of what it was they were arguing about. Damn if Enjolras’s eyes weren’t impossibly fucking blue.)

“You know Enjolras is part of the Friends, right?” Bossuet puts in, popping a chip into his mouth and holding the bag out for Grantaire. He takes one. “You could come. Thursdays, in the Musain.” He wriggles his eyebrows ridiculously.

Grantaire snorts. “I don’t know, Boss. It’s not exactly my gig.”

“True. But I dunno. I think it does Enjolras good, having somebody disagree with him once in a while.”

And, well. Grantaire hadn’t actually needed the encouragement.

III.

Grantaire is surprised by how quickly the rest of the ABC accepts him. In addition to Joly and Bossuet, it turns out that his fencing and boxing partner, Bahorel, is part of the group. (He’s got a fresh scar through his right eyebrow, and spends part of Grantaire’s first meeting proudly telling him how he’d gotten it when the latest rally had gone wrong.) There’s also Feuilly, who it turns out is a fantastic artist and immediately recruits Grantaire to help him make posters when he sees a cartoon of Enjolras drawn on the corner of Grantaire’s cocktail napkin. (He’s drawn Enjolras as a tiny, angry chibi. It’s probably a good thing that Enjolras doesn’t see it, and Grantaire definitely won’t show it to him. He’s pretty sure that falls under the domain of Crossing the Line.) Then there’s Jehan, tall and lithe and Romantic in every sense of the word. Then there are Courfeyrac and Combeferre; they’re also in the American history class, and are close enough with Enjolras to always know when they should shift their laptops and books off the desks so he can go prowling across them like he owns the entire classroom. Grantaire’s not really sure why Marius is there, besides the fact that he’s Courfeyrac’s roommate. He’s always saying well-meaning but utterly oblivious things that usually result in some sort of huge debate. Sometimes Grantaire takes his side just to see Enjolras’s face when he does.

IV.

Enjolras is both the same and different at these meetings. The same, because he and Grantaire can’t seem to agree on much of anything--even the little, ridiculous things. The same because they argue constantly, and seem to know exactly what things to say to get as deep as possible under the other’s skin. The same because he’s still brimming over with the kind of passion Grantaire is secretly jealous of. Everything matters to him, and he’ll go to bat for all of it. And he genuinely doesn’t seem to understand how not everyone can care so strongly.

And yet, different. So very different. He’s softer, somehow. It’s at meetings that Grantaire first hears Enjolras’s laugh--and hates himself instantly for thinking it bell-like. At meetings where he sees Enjolras cry when Jehan debuts some beautiful new slam poetry. He cries unabashedly, not seeming to care who might notice; Grantaire holds his breath, screws up his courage, and puts his hand comfortingly on top of Enjolras’s. He shivers when Enjolras flips own hand over to twine their fingers together. He misses pressing warmth when the poem is over, because Enjolras is on his feet immediately, slipping through the crowd to give Jehan a hug. But later, Grantaire catches him looking; and when Grantaire looks back, uncertain, Enjolras offers him a small smile too fleeting to be noticed by anyone else. He’s seen Enjolras massaging knots out of Combeferre’s tense shoulders; seen him sit on Courfeyrac’s lap like it’s nothing when there aren’t enough chairs or someone tall is sitting in front of him. At Halloween, he sees Enjolras volunteering at the children’s hospital while dressed as a hobbit. Grantaire, dressed in his normal paint-stained jeans and a tuxedo t-shirt, laughs for at least a straight minute and tells Enjolras he’s glad to see he’s got a sense of humor. Enjolras actually snickers in response, and they pass the rest of the shift laughing and talking, and don’t argue even once.

Grantaire wonders if Enjolras considers him a friend.

V.

He gets his answer just before winter break. Grantaire hadn’t gone to the last ABC meeting of the semester, too stressed by deadlines and drained from battling some sort of cold-flu hybrid. Joly and Bossuet had intended to stay home and take care of him, but he’d shoved them out the door, insisting that he’d be shut up in his room working the whole time and he didn’t want them inhaling the paint fumes. He doesn’t even realize how much time has passed until he hears a gentle knock on his door and looks outside to see that it’s pitch black beyond his windows. “Cobing,” he manages, sniffling and setting down his brush.

But when he opens the door, Enjolras is standing on the other side, bundled up in so many layers that he can’t put his arms all the way down at his sides. He looks like he’s about twelve, and the ruddiness in his nose and cheeks does nothing to combat this. “Hi,” he says breathlessly. “I hope you don’t mind but I came back with Joly and Bossuet because I wanted to make sure you were okay.” He says all of this very fast, as though he’s nervous.

“Oh.” Grantaire blinks. “Oh. Ub. Thaks.”

Enjolras’s brow creases. “Have you been to a doctor? That congestion sounds nasty.”

“Joly’s pre-bed, that counds, right?”

“I keep telling you, no!” Joly calls from the other room, and then resolutely turns the TV back up so he can pretend he isn’t listening.

“I’ll go,” he says, because Enjolras’s disapproving-concern look sort of does things to him. “Soon. I just have to fidish this.” He flaps a hand vaguely toward the mostly-completed canvas inside.

Enjolras flinches. It’s slight, but it’s definitely there. “Oh. Right. Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

Grantaire’s eyes go wide. “I--that’s dot what--I could use a break.”

“Oh,” he repeats, but this time it’s different. “Well, I--I brought you some soup. If you want, we can watch a movie or something?”

Grantaire pinches himself discreetly. He doesn’t wake up, which is a pretty good indication that this is actually happening. He nods. They pick some stupid comedy that Enjolras recommends. Grantaire adds this to his list of surprising things--he’d half expected Enjolras to choose some sort of documentary or something. The soup is good, and he finds out through casual conversation that Enjolras had made it himself. “It was no big deal,” he says, blushing, when Grantaire exclaims in gratitude. He changes the subject fast, and Grantaire, not wanting to burst the happy dream bubble he’s somehow entered, doesn’t push the issue.

He starts to wonder if he’s hallucinating when Enjolras waves off concerns of catching his sickness with, “Oh, don’t worry, I got my flu shot,” and cuddles up close next to him through the duration of the movie, occasionally leaning in to whisper some piece of movie trivia so that Grantaire can feel his breath. He gives Grantaire a hug before he goes, pressing close for one endless moment.

VI.

Something has shifted between them now. There’s a sort of tension, thick and buzzing and not at all unpleasant. They hug before they part now, like they do with most of the rest of their friends. When Grantaire spots Enjolras in the library, struggling to reach a book on a high shelf, he teasingly offers to lift him so he can reach it. Enjolras turns toward him, eyes sparkling with mischief, and says, “Sure.”

When Grantaire tells the story later, Joly laughs so hard that he actually cries a little.

VII.

There’s a protest toward the end of January. It’s not the ABC’s protest, but they’re invited. Of course, Enjolras wants to go. Which means that, of course, Grantaire goes as well. It’s everything as normal--though mercifully, there are no cops--until the speeches start. Enjolras taps him on the shoulder and stands on his tiptoes to say, “R, I can’t see--can you see?”

“Yeah, I can see alright.”

Enjolras bites his lip. “You can say no.”

“...what? I can see, though.”

“No, I mean--I just. I was going to ask if I could maybe. Um. Sit on your shoulders? So I can see”

Grantaire gulps hard. “Ah. O-okay. I mean, yeah. Sure.”

Courfeyrac takes a picture of the two of them--Enjolras on Grantaire’s shoulders, fist thrust in the air and mouth opened in an approving yell, and Grantaire holding Enjolras safe, a spark in his eye he’s not sure he’s ever seen in himself before--that goes viral on buzzfeed. No one is quite sure what to make of it, but Grantaire prints it out and keeps it, hidden, near his bed.

VIII.

At the last ABC meeting before Valentine’s Day, something seems off about Enjolras--interesting, considering his many rants about how how love should never be commercialized, and how there’s something uncomfortable in the whole story of St. Valentine anyway. But on this day, he can’t seem to find his words. He stumbles repeatedly, looking to Courfeyrac or Combeferre to pick up the thread of his lost thoughts. (They do, because apparently they just know each other that scarily well.) Grantaire is too surprised by this unprecedented occurrence to even tease him about it.

When the meeting ends, he hangs back. Grantaire is talking to Bahorel, and so he doesn’t notice until Bahorel claps him hard on the shoulder and walks out. Grantaire packs the last of his things, and hears Enjolras gently clear his throat by the door. “R?”

“Hey, E,” he says. The air feels heavy again. “I thought you’d left.”

“No.” Enjolras tugs at the hem of his sweater. “I wanted to talk to you.”

“Okay. What’s up?”

“Well, I--I mean, it’s Valentine’s Day soon.”

“True.” Grantaire’s heart is pounding hard.

“I wondered if...if you had any plans.”

“You were?” His voice is breathless. “I thought that wasn’t--I mean, I’m--I don’t have any plans.”

“Do you think you might want to go get coffee with me?” He speaks quickly, barely meeting Grantaire’s eyes.

“Enjolras,” Grantaire breathes. “God, yeah, of course I do.”

Enjolras looks up, beaming. “Really?”

“I could prove it if you want,” says Grantaire, seized suddenly with a reckless daring.

Enjolras grins. “What’d you have in mind?”

And Grantaire crosses to him in two huge steps and kisses him. Enjolras rises up onto the tips of his toes, wraps his arms around Grantaire, and neither of them moves until Musichetta comes into the back room to clean up and accidentally interrupts.