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Stand (Last Line of Defense)

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***

 

Enjolras had heard people say how the familiar, unmistakable sound of the buzzer at the end of a game, ending a game, was the most beautiful sound in the world. Dreams come true. He hadn’t believed it when the very same people had said it was too, the most terrible sound.

He thought he understood now.

Maybe he didn’t agree wholly because it wasn’t really the sound of the buzzer, the terrible thing. It was the minute before, the minutes before, the desperation building up with just that sliver of hope left still, still at the very end, the very last seconds, all of it building and building and then erupting in one moment.

 

The buzzer sounded, and that was it.

 

Their entire season, another year was over. And it could have as well been the world in that moment.

 

Enjolras was frozen on the ice, the stick in his hands useless, his hands useless.T he people in the stands were cheering, loud and ecstatic and happy and Enjolras thought, at least they hadn’t lost at home.

Silence would be worse. Maybe. He didn’t know. He couldn’t stand thinking about it. He wished he could stop but it was like nothing else existed but the feeling of loss, loss, loss and defeat and his burning lungs.

 

Enjolras didn’t even notice at first when Combeferre skated up to him, only when the other man softly laid his hand on Enjolras's wrist, the small strip of skin between his glove and jersey.

“Hey,” Combeferre said, so softly Enjolras almost couldn’t hear him over the noise of the crowd. “It’s okay.”

He looked like he was about to cry. Enjolras felt like crying. He knew he shouldn’t but he felt like he could have, for days, if they let him.

Courfeyrac was there next and where Combeferre had approached Enjolras softly and cautious, Courfeyrac threw his arms around both of them, even though he was much smaller, had to stretch to get an arm around Combeferre’s shoulder, even on his skates.

“I’m so proud of you,” Enjolras heard him saying into his ear and he couldn’t help it, he crumbled into Courfeyrac’s embrace, allowed himself just a moment, just that moment to let go.

He knew there was a C on his chest for several reasons but it was nothing, just as he himself was nothing, without Courfeyrac and Combeferre by his side.

He unravelled in their tangled mess of arms and defeat, let himself come apart before he needed to straighten up, to keep his composure for the sake of the team, his team that he needed to be strong for. He did, eventually, and entangled himself reluctantly from the other mens’ arms.They shared a look and Enjolras nodded an ‘It’s okay, I’m okay’ for them that they all knew wasn’t true but had to do for the time being.

Enjolras skated over to the bench even though his legs suddenly felt like lead but the adrenaline still running through him was making him shake. He knew Courfeyrac and Combeferre were following him without having to look back. But ahead was the sight of the bench, his team, where some were standing, frozen just as he had been, staring into nothing or sitting down without moving anymore.

Enjolras tried not to count the ones who were crying.

Coach Lamarque looked just as defeated as Enjolras felt but he held stood upright like a warrior who was ready for war, not one that just lost it. Enjolras caught his eye, a moment of shared loss, then Coach nodded.

Enjolras looked at the team, his people, and hit the bench with his stick, a loud clanking sound, loud enough to be heard over the cheers, to get their attention.

 

“I’m proud of you. All of you.”

They weren’t many words but this wasn’t the time. Enjolras doubted half of them had even comprehended what he had said. He didn’t blame them.

 

“So am I,” Coach said. Then he sighed and clapped the nearest shoulder he could reach. It was Jehan, who just rocked forward a little, nothing more. “Let’s get this over with.”

 

Handshake lines were a better tradition for the team on the winning side, Enjolras thought. They were terrible otherwise, for the ones who just wanted to get out, get the cameras out of their faces to wallow in misery alone. Everyone else who just wanted to go home.

It was an endless line of shoulder claps and friendly hugs to bear from people who tried not to smile even though the happiness was all over their faces. An endless line of deep blue jerseys, of mumbles ‘good game’s.

 

Maybe in a couple of days, weeks, Enjolras would say that with all honesty because they had been, good games, exciting, all-compassing hockey, but not right then. Not anywhere close in time.

 

When it was over, they could finally all fill into the dressing room. The silence and impersonality of the visitor’s locker room pressed on Enjolras’s mind and his chest felt constricted like all the air was gone from his lungs.

He sat down heavily in his stall and took a couple of deep, deep breaths, trying to clear his head.

 

“Guys.”

 

It didn’t get more quiet in the room. Enjolras’s voice was just breaking the silence. It was impossible to say the right words but anything would do, Enjolras could see it in the eyes of his teammates. Just some words, a little relief from the feeling of having failed.

“We did good,” he said because even if they had lost, they didn’t need to be embarrassed, even if it didn’t feel like that now and even if it was going to hurt for a while, did hurt right then like a knife to the heart. The ‘not good enough’ hung unspoken in the room where it would stay for a while. “We did good, all of us.”

There was a quiet scoff somewhere to Enjolras’s right and the knife twisted a little further.

He didn’t have to turn around to know it had been Grantaire.

Enjolras was too tired, too exhausted to deal with the backup goalie right then. Or maybe he just didn’t want to see him look like he felt, frustrated and hollow. Enjolras hadn’t known him for that long, Grantaire only being part of the team regularly since early March, just two months ago. In two months Enjolras had gotten the impression that Grantaire already looked like that too often. Not only after a loss, they hadn’t had many of those in two months. (Only when it mattered.)

So Enjolras didn’t turn to look at him and just said, “Next year.” Forcefully.

There was another moment of silence.

“Next year,” Combeferre said, and then more followed, mumbled "Next year"s, the words still sounding hollow but later, later they were going to be comforting, the hope, the conviction of ‘next year’.

Enjolras didn’t hear Grantaire’s voice again and even though he hadn’t expected to, it was another stab of disappointment, another stick on the burning pile of it.

“Hey,” Courfeyrac piped up. “Evening after locker room clean-out, my place everyone. I’m not asking. Let’s get home and you can mope, I know I will. But after, don’t bring the season with you. It’s summer now.” And he smiled, just a little, but already more real than anything Enjolras could have come up with. It was the reason Courfeyrac was there, heart of the team, picking up their pieces.

 

Enjolras felt terrible, ungrateful, for only wishing he wouldn’t have to.

 

***

 

It wasn’t a raging party, a couple of days later at Courfeyrac’s house, understandably. But Enjolras had to admit, it was much less miserable than he had expected it to be.

Courfeyrac had an enormously big house for the sole purpose of filling it with people whenever the opportunity arose. Mostly it wasn’t an occasion like this, more like ‘Hey, it’s an off-day tomorrow’ or ‘You know, I really want to try out this new catering service to see if they can handle a hockey team’. It also wasn’t just the team around, people had brought their families along, kids and dogs and enough alcohol to run not one but two hockey teams into the ground, especially if one was as exhausted as theirs from too many months of playing hockey and not enough weeks of playoff hockey.

Which meant that by nine almost everyone who hadn’t gone home with their kids was somewhere on the spectrum from just tipsy to raging drunk.

Somehow it helped to lift the spirits which had probably been the purpose of the whole event.

Joly was laughing so hard, he was crying into Bossuet’s shirt and it kind of made Enjolras feel like things were going to be okay.

He had given a lot of slaps on the back and received many in return that evening and was just heading out of the kitchen, deserted in favour of the bonfire outside, when he saw someone sitting in the dark on top of the stairs to the upper floor.

Enjolras stopped at the foot of the stairs.

 

Grantaire always looked smaller, almost slender without his goalie pads, his dark, black curls sticking up in every direction without a helmet to keep them in place.

 

“Captain,” he said when Enjolras looked up at him.

Enjolras rolled his eyes on reflex.

It was the only thing he had had time to get used to around Grantaire in the short time he had been around after being called up from the minor leagues for good, their other backup goalie out with a knee injury and retiring at the end of the season.

Enjolras still didn’t really know what to do about Grantaire, why he even had the bizarre feeling of having to do something about him, an unshakable feeling that he just couldn’t get rid of, that had nothing to do with how Enjolras sometimes found himself distracted by the sarcastic curl of Grantaire’s lips or when he looked at the other man’s hands.

They were hockey players, their hands had jobs to do, especially goalie hands. But Grantaire’s hands were oddly fascinating, long fingers that looked almost delicate for all their strength and… right.

 

That had happened again.

 

Enjolras shook his head that felt a pleasant shade of numb from the alcohol, and got up the stairs to sit down next to Grantaire.

They could see the bottom of the glass front to the garden, from the top of the stairs, where everyone was gathered around the fire in the summer dusk.

Grantaire held out his bottle and Enjolras raised his so they could clink together.

 

“Sucks,” the other man said quietly.

 

Enjolras could feel his heart twisting. He took a long gulp of his beer. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Next year though.”

Grantaire’s lips twitched. “Sure.”

Enjolras would have been able to hear the sarcasm in his voice from ten miles distance. “You don’t believe that.”

It wasn’t a question exactly, he thought. Enjolras had tried to wrap his head around Grantaire’s pessimism for a while now and had never really thought about how deep it really ran.

Grantaire shrugged. “Not in my hands, is it?”

He hadn’t played for more than twenty minutes during their playoff run, just the one time they had already been down three goals, beyond salvageable. They had won the next three games. Still, Enjolras couldn’t help but be surprised when Grantaire continued. “Who even knows where I’ll be next year, right? Somewhere sunny would be nice for a change. What do you think about Cali?”

Enjolras started at him. “What ?”

He… he had to be kidding, he couldn’t- Enjolras couldn’t believe how he could be possibly thinking that their team was going to get rid of him, trade him off to California of all places when he was so… so good even if he had only played less than twenty games as a starter last season but it was enough to show that he was ready, that he might even be great.

But Grantaire simply shrugged again and took a sip from his bottle. “You never know what happens.”

Which was ridiculous.

“You know some things,” Enjolras said decidedly.

Grantaire glanced at him and the way his mouth curled up into a half-smile was at least a little more amused than sarcastic. “Okay.”

Somehow, it riled Enjolras up even more.

“Do you not want to stay?” he snapped and immediately Grantaire’s expression turned into one of honest confusion.

“What? Why wouldn’t I want that?”

“I don’t know, we just lost?” Enjolras couldn’t help but let some of the bitterness still bubbling at the surface bleed through his words.

Grantaire frowned, looking even more confused. “Yeah. In the second round of the playoffs. The second year you even made it to the playoffs. And you could have won, right? Call me cliche but those were some fucking stupid bounces, those the other way and who knows? Your line’s been great, every line really and you outplayed their defense way too easily, especially that right side, you made them look even more shitty than most of the times, I mean, the third pairing played basically five minutes because you were shredding them. They were just taking shots and they were taking lots of them. And they went in. Good for them, not for you. Alright, you lost. And it sucks. So what?”

Enjolras didn’t think he had ever heard Grantaire saying more words at once to him. Especially not some that were so… comforting. Things that Enjolras had tried to tell himself over the last couple of days and had a hard time believing. It was slightly overwhelming, hearing it all thrown back at him, but in a surprisingly good way. Even though something felt decidedly off about Grantaire’s speech. It took Enjolras a moment to realize what it was.

“We,” he said eventually, having figured it out. “Not you, we. Our team.”

Grantaire looked like he wanted to say something but closed his mouth again. Instead, he looked at Enjolras for a moment longer, his eyes more green than blue in the dark. Enjolras could never really tell which colour his eyes were. “Do you believe you can do it?”

And that was an easy question.

“Of course we can.” Enjolras did believe that, with all of his heart. They had lost, yes, and it felt terrible but they were going to win, win everything.

“No,” Grantaire shook his head. “Do you believe you can do it?”

Enjolras had gotten his first media training lesson with fourteen and people had begun saying words like ‘generational talent’ and talking about him going high in the draft, going first. And maybe for some people phrases like ‘We’re a team’ and stuff about the logo on the front being more important than the name on the back were just that, phrases that had to be said.

For Enjolras they had never been just that, he believed in his team, his family. But… he wasn’t talking to the media here.

He was talking to this strange, confusing man he didn’t really know much about but the shape of his hands or the way his voice sounded heavy with sarcasm, the tilt of his mouth when he smiled at Joly and Bossuet… And maybe Enjolras did know some things about Grantaire even if they didn’t make sense yet. He knew that he was a person whose opinion felt like it mattered an awful lot, that Enjolras wanted to be honest with him, and so he would be too.

“Yes,” he said quietly but convinced. Because he knew he was good enough, he couldn’t just not believe in himself when he knew so many people did, so many he couldn’t and he wasn’t going to disappoint. “Yes, I do.”

Grantaire looked at him for a long while, and longer. Enjolras didn’t look away. He didn’t know what the other man was looking for.

Eventually, Grantaire bit down onto his lip and looked away, down the stairs and outside.

 

“Next year,” he said.

 

Enjolras blinked. He didn’t think he could have heard that right.

“Next year?” he repeated shocked, taken aback because. He hadn’t expected Grantaire to say that, to just…

Grantaire sighed, a small sound but it ended on an even more quiet laugh that Enjolras thought might have sounded just a little bit shocked as well. “Yeah.”

 

Enjolras didn’t know what it was then, surprise, gratitude maybe, drunkenness, disappointment still fresh but hopefulness stronger suddenly, that made him lean forward.

 

Whatever it was, Grantaire must have had his own reasons to not move away when Enjolras kissed him, his own reasons to kiss back softly, slow and quiet. His lips moved with Enjolras’s and against them, pressing their mouths together, guiding, gentling Enjolras’s slightly clumsy force like a comfort, like solace.

Enjolras head was spinning.  

One of his hands was still wrapped around his bottle, the other clasped around the edge of the step. Enjolras raised it to reach out wanting - wanting to be close, to sink his fingers in Grantaire’s curls to feel if they were as soft as they looked, as Grantaire’s lips felt against his and-

 

The door downstairs opened and Enjolras flinched back at the sudden sounds streaming inside.

 

Grantaire was staring at him and Enjolras was staring back. He couldn’t help but raise his fingers to his lips.

“Oh captain, my captain!” Bahorel stumbled inside, shouting loud enough that Enjolras flinched again. “I need you to show these fuckers they’re a fucking disgrace to fucking beer pong!”

Grantaire still hadn’t moved, wasn’t looking away. Enjolras swallowed hard, his heart beating fast in his chest like it did after the end of an incredibly exhausting, electrifying shift on the ice.

“Next year?” He heard himself asking and desperately needing an answer even if he wasn’t sure what exactly it was he was asking for.

 

Grantaire licked his lips, breathed out. “Yeah.”

 

And Enjolras - Enjolras didn’t even know what they were talking about anymore, really, but it felt like the right answer. He felt light-headed, a little shaky around the edges. He thought that he should be panicking. He also thought if he could have, he would have leaned back in to keep kissing Grantaire until he couldn't breathe. That thought, in particular, was a lot. Also really impractical. 

 

Enjolras stumbled up so he wouldn't do anything stupid (more stupid?). He looked at Grantaire until he almost fell down the stairs where Bahorel could just catch him even though he himself seemed to be swaying already. “Dude, what the fuck?”

"Just had a little too much," Enjolras said which made Bahorel laugh and ruffle his hair with one of his hands. Enjolras couldn't help but smile and lead himself be herded back out into the garden. 

It was warm outside, star-bright sky.

Enjolras head felt light, he felt light-hearted in the warm night, no obligations ahead for the next weeks, months. He took a deep breath.

It was off-season. He could live with that. 

 

 

***

 

Chapter Text

***

 

Enjolras’s off-season was, despite the alleged meaning of the word, incredibly busy.

There were interviews lined up, halfway across the continent which was something he was used to anyway but travelling long distances still wasn't his most favourite way to pass time. Fortunately, most of the interviews were much more relaxed than they would have been during the regular season but still, a camera shoved in the face was never really a pleasant experience.

There was training to be done, quite a lot, at first to burn off the loss, later to prepare for not losing. Courfeyrac and by addition Combeferre sometimes managed to drag Enjolras out of his rather strict or as he liked to call it structured, Courfeyrac, daily training regime because they were all still at the earlier end of their twenties if you remembered to think about such things. For Courfeyrac that meant throwing a huge Bastille Day party that rivaled every 4th of July celebration earlier.

“We got to do it! For the pride! French pride!” he had tried to explain rather drunk on something that was definitely more endemic to Caribbean regions than French vineyards.

Combeferre’s protest of, “Actually, we’re French Canadian? The only actual French person on the team is Jehan,” had been met with the knock-down argument, “But! It’s a univers-universally accepted truth that French people are like, the sexiest people so we have to like, celebrate our roots. Our sexy roots, Ferre, come on!”

Enjolras knew what it looked like when Combeferre got flustered, his skin was dark enough not to betray the heat rising in his cheeks but his eyebrows always started twitching a little, like he couldn’t control all the muscles of his face at once. “Well, everyone who hears you out on the ice will probably rethink that opinion pretty quickly.”

“You, my friend, are a liar who lies but, because I am a nice person, I am still going to love you.”

 

Yeah, Enjolras’s friends were weird.

 

He knew that come the point they’d ever get their shit together, they were going to be disgustingly, beautifully happy. It was inevitable, it just wasn’t the right time yet. Despite all they had gone through together already, they were young, too early in their careers, unsettled in their lives, Courfeyrac still too flighty and Combeferre too serious, from time to time.

Still, Enjolras couldn't help but feel like there was something more wistful, more tender in the way they smiled at each other when they were all back together at the start of September to begin training. Or maybe it was just him, more wistful for… something.

 

It was easy, however, to get lost in other thoughts, get lost instead in the lights and sounds of the city welcoming them back.

 

The first day of training before the season, even the pre-season started was full of new and old faces whizzing across the ice of the rink that felt too small for all the people and at the same time larger than life. It was glorious, and bone-crushing exhausting after the summer.

“I’m going to die,” Courfeyrac announced once Coach Lamarque had let them off for a short break. His hair was plastered to his forehead, curls damp and dark from sweating under his helmet. He managed to look at the same time put out and absolutely elated. Enjolras couldn’t help but grin back at him.

“A tad dramatic, don’t you think?” a voice behind Enjolras said and Enjolras… froze.

Courfeyrac simply threw an arm around Grantaire even though he could hardly reach the other man’s shoulder with all the goalie pads in the way and also Courfeyrac being pretty much tiny, for a hockey player.

Grantaire endured the hug with a small, amused smile and Enjolras couldn't help but stare at him. He looked… good. Healthy, broad and golden after the summer. Their eyes met, Grantaire’s bright blue and green.

 

“Hey” Enjolras got out what might just have been the most awkward ‘Hey' Enjolras had ever said.

 

“Hey,” Grantaire said and alright, Enjolras was apparently the only one with a talent for awkward sounding greetings. Grantaire smiled, a small smile that made Enjolras feel like his face was on fire. Yeah, he really was exhausted, real on-ice training after the summer month could totally take your breath away.

Enjolras didn't have time to react to Courfeyrac’s curiously raised eyebrow before Joly and Bossuet skated up to their little assembly of people. Joly tried to jump onto Grantaire’s back which nearly ended in a couple of hockey players tumbling onto the ice because Bossuet lost an edge at the same time and Combeferre just managed to provide a steady enough barrier to stop any injuries from happening before the season had even started.

“Oh my god, we haven’t seen you in ages!” Joly grinned widely, arms still looped around Grantaire’s neck like a particularly persistent koala bear.

Grantaire rolled his eyes. “You saw me yesterday.”

Courfeyrac gasped fake offended. “They saw you yesterday?! Why didn’t I see you yesterday?!”

Joly finally slipped of Grantaire’s shoulders, when the goalie shrugged. “They helped me move some stuff, it wasn’t a big deal.”

“You’re moving here?” Combeferre asked.

Grantaire’s smile dimmed a little. “We just got some things into their spare room,” he said nodding at Joly and Bossuet. “Just for camp and pre-season, we’ll see how it goes then.”

“Well, you’re going to stay,” Enjolras said. He couldn’t help it, just like the last time, the thought too absurd to even consider. The familiarity of the words, even though it had been months since the last time, took Enjolras’s breath away for a moment.

 

Alright, he really needed to get himself under control here.

 

Luckily, Bossuet chipped in, seemingly unaware of the tension that maybe Enjolras was only imagining. “Yeah man, you’re not going anywhere. Listen to the Captain.”

Grantaire looked at him and Enjolras’s didn’t know how what his own face did, attempt a smile probably, but Grantaire’s lips curled up into that smirk that shouldn’t be as familiar as it felt, after such a long time of not getting to see it.

“Always,” he said and then Coach signalled them to get back to their drills and Joly and Bossuet dragged Grantaire away to their side of the ice. Enjolras looked after them until he remembered not to.

 

“Well,” Courfeyrac stretched the word and smacked his lips like a seventy-year-old gossiping grandma. “That wasn’t weird at all.

Enjolras tried to shrug in a hopefully perfectly nonchalant way. “It’s been the summer, you know. Let’s just all get used to the mess again, right?”

The other man didn’t look particularly convinced, neither did Combeferre but they quickly exchanged a look that apparently meant they were going to drop the subject because Courfeyrac heaved out a dramatic sigh.

“Of course, of course. Race you, losers!”

And then he swirled around on his skates and raced down the ice. And because they were all competitive pro-athletes who couldn’t stand the thought of losing, Enjolras only smiled at Combeferre a moment, relieved and grateful, before they went after Courfeyrac.

 

Enjolras knew that they were only going to drop it for now but he would take what he could get. Some time to get things sorted out, hopefully.

 

Grantaire was in goal at one end of the ice, poking Bossuet who tried to screen him with ridiculously exaggerated movements under the eyes of Coach Lamarque who looked like he didn’t know whether he should laugh or shout at them but had a small, fondly amused smile on his face.

 

 

Enjolras couldn’t help but think, it was good to be back.

 

 

***

 

 

Enjolras hadn’t told anyone what had happened that evening at Courfeyrac’s after they were kicked out of the playoffs.

After, he had gotten spectacularly drunk to wake up cuddling Combeferre and getting drooled on by Courfeyrac because Combeferre was a sophisticated sleeper once you got him to do it while Courfeyrac was more of an unconscious multi-limped nightmare.

Enjolras had woken up with a splitting headache, gaps in his memory except for Bahorel and cliche red solo cups, sparklers and kissing Grantaire, and kissing Grantaire, and kissing Grantaire like Enjolras’s brain without any decision on his part, had selected this particular moment to get stomped into his mind, important, important, important.

 

But also, it had been summer.

 

Which meant sleeping until the afternoon for three days straight and then throwing some stuff into a backpack because he, Combeferre and Courfeyrac had booked flights to go to Europe. Feuilly had been the only one of their team who had still enough energy to tear it up at the World Championship where Canada eventually lost to those beautiful Swedish bastards in the finale. Enjolras thought that the three of them might have had a better time, or not better but good in a different way because playing hockey was always the most amazing thing to do but maybe not the most healthy when the loss had still hurt so freshly.

They had spent two weeks just sightseeing, being no one on a continent too far away from their city that anyone would care about them and it had been easy for Enjolras not to think about kissing Grantaire when he was sober enough to decide not to.

Whenever he did though, did think about it, he had kept trying to convince himself that whatever had happened, it hadn’t been the right time, a moment too complicated and loaded with confusing feelings, the loss and uncertainty, let alone that they both had probably been way too drunk.

Enjolras thought he had been doing well, convincing himself of all that.

It didn’t matter, he thought, when he sometimes didn’t realize for minutes that he was staring at nothing, his own fingers softly touching his lips.

He was fine.

It was fine.

 

***

 

So Enjolras spent the summer training until his muscles, weight and mind were ready again to take on the new season. He tried to learn cooking more than three meals and failed, tried not to think about Grantaire too much, and mostly failed but he felt good going into training camp.

Yes, he might have had a little set-back seeing Grantaire again for the first time and even though he probably had to explain some things to Combeferre and Courfeyrac, when he was home on his own after that first day back at the rink, he felt calm. Collected, settled - repressing his feelings some might say but that would just be crass. Carefully selecting his feelings, maybe.

 

***

 

A couple of days later, training camp officially started and Enjolras managed to smile at all the right moments, say the right things to people trying to talk to him, and pass and shoot the puck to the right spots.

Basically, everything was under control and if his heart sometimes felt like it tried to jump out of his chest when he looked at Grantaire, well, it was probably a matter that would resolve itself through prolonged exposure. Because apparently, they weren’t talking about it.

 

Not that Enjolras would have known what to say.

 

Grantaire didn’t try to talk to him about it, didn’t do anything but smile here and there and make the occasional sarcastic comment when Enjolras was around to hear it. It wasn’t awkward or tense and possibly, possibly it was going to be alright. It had to be. Grantaire was a surprisingly calming presence in the locker room and on the ice, unfazed by almost everything, a contrast to the varying branches of over-eagerness, too serious, too nervous, too loud, that a lot of the younger players showed. Enjolras was glad to have him there. As a player and as a person, he could appreciate that. It was the right thing, the most uncomplicated for everyone involved, to do as the Captain, as someone who had responsibility for the team.

 

They all got through the first part of training camp relatively unharmed and after a morning practice got the rest of the day, and the next one off before the first game of the pre-season.

 

Enjolras knew that Coach didn’t even consider changing anything about the line of him, Courfeyrac and Combeferre, they worked together too well to mess with the dynamic of success. They were most likely only playing some of the six preseason games since most of the time would be used to figure out the rest of the team, how the rookies fit in and the d-men pairings worked out. It was a little silly actually, not playing for points or anything that mattered, really but it was good getting back into the game they were all already aching for. Sometimes it wasn’t kind enough to just welcome them back with open arms. It was exhausting, every year, but satisfying.

Enjolras had planned to keep the evening before the last off-day just to himself, quiet and a little bit boring, but the good kind. He and Combeferre had agreed to meet for a run in the morning but other than that, there was nothing to do, no obligations for a couple of hours before the madness of the regular season kicked back in. Just a documentary he had meant to watch for a while. A beer maybe before Enjolras was going to feel bad about his diet plan.

The doorbell rang because he hadn’t attempted to cook for himself and instead ordered some Italian food, enough to freeze a couple of portions for later days, thinking ahead, because he was like, an adult. Who knew how to provide for himself mostly in the way that he managed not to starve to death.

 

When he opened the door, it… was the food.

However, the food came with a certain attachment that Enjolras had not expected, really.

 

“Move,” Montparnasse said, an absolutely heavenly smelling bag in his hand, the jacket of the impeccable three-piece suit he was wearing slung over his arm.

 

Enjolras, in pyjama pants and a worn-out t-shirt with a giant face of Nicola Tesla on it that was most likely Combeferre’s, taken aback, moved.

 

Montparnasse stepped inside tugging a small, expensive suitcase with him that looked frankly speaking ridiculous even though he somehow still managed to pull it off. He kicked off his shoes, polite asshole, and even then he didn’t flail at all but moved with a precise kind of elegance that was one of those little Montparnasse things that just happened to piss Enjolras off, on principle.

“What are you doing here?”

Enjolras wasn’t really familiar with Montparnasse schedule but it was much more likely he was supposed to be in Seattle with his team instead of at the other end of the continent.

Montparnasse looked like he was considering to ignore Enjolras but eventually seemed to graciously take pity on him. “I’m picking up a new suit.”

“In Quebec?!”

This time, the other man didn’t dignify Enjolras’s remark with a comment. He only glared and carefully folded his suit jacket over the edge of the sofa.

“Don’t you have games to play? Somewhere that isn’t… here?” Enjolras tried again because well, he still kind of felt like he should get an answer as to why Montparnasse had shown up at his flat.

They weren’t the kind of friends who just did that. They really weren’t friends at all, Enjolras thought. More of… occasionally civilized rivals, maybe.

 

It was complicated.

 

Enjolras had known Montparnasse since they were both eight, nine years old and playing against one another in their first tournaments before they had somehow ended up on the same team in Juniors and turned into two next-generation talents playing hockey together, beautifully. Differently, for sure. Too different in the end.

Enjolras wasn’t under any illusion that they had ever liked each other but they had both been thrown into the show far too early, expectations and pressure omnipresent, and maybe that’s why they could somehow stand each other, because there was an understanding there that Enjolras didn’t really think anyone else shared quite like that.

Still, he was glad that they only had to play each other twice a year because, God, Montparnasse was annoying as fuck. And good at hockey which made it difficult to win against him and Enjolras hated not winning against Montparnasse.

The other teams, for all he cared, could lose to him all they wanted.

 

“Playing in L.A. the day after tomorrow,” Montparnasse just said then, like it wasn’t a particularly exciting thing, getting to play hockey again after months. “Then back in Seattle, the Canucks after. Fucking Canucks..”

And well, Enjolras couldn’t really disagree there. “Fucking Canucks,” he mumbled and Montparnasse snorted, a little bit amused and started unboxing the food he had apparently intercepted somewhere.

“That’s my food,” Enjolras said even though he suspected resistance was futile. Montparnasse was the human version of a nasty headache, sudden, all-consuming and a bitch to get rid of.

“You’re going to eat all of that,” he asked then holding up the… fifth box.

“Yes,” Enjolras said.

Montparnasse looked at him, expressionless.

Enjolras was aware he sounded like a petulant child but whatever, it wasn’t like he could make Montparnasse think any better of him. Or cared. “Like obviously not now, I was going to save some for later.”

“You should learn how to cook, you’re twenty-two years old.”

“Do you know how to cook?”

“Of course.”

“Oh, really?”

Montparnasse didn’t rose to the bait, his lips simply twitched like he was trying to hold back a smile, probably a smug one. “Next time you and your lame ass team are coming to Seattle and we win against you, I’ll make you dinner.”

“Aww,” Enjolras said and tried to put as much sarcasm into the word as possible. He thought it was quite an impressive amount. At least it made Montparnasse mouth slide into the expected, all too familiar smirk.

“Don’t think I’ll be doing that for your sake, I just enjoy demonstrating my superior life skills. Since I have my act together… and you do not.”

“I have my act together perfectly,” Enjolras protested.

Montparnasse gave him a long, long look. There was something knowing about it, in the subtle raise of his left eyebrow, Enjolras knew this because he new Montparnasse after all, had for ages.

If asked, he would probably call Montparnasse an archnemesis, even though it might come across a little dramatic. But defeating an enemy meant knowing them and Enjolras knew Montparnasse like Montparnasse knew him as well. He knew the things the game had taken away from him, it was the same for Enjolras himself. He would never like the way Montparnasse dealt with it, the arrogance, the blatant disregard for all the principles Enjolras hoped to stand for, fairness, solidarity and sportsmanship, but nevertheless, nevertheless he was glad sometimes to have someone somewhere knowing it had taken him, both of them and who loved the game, more than anything albeit for different reasons. Maybe that, in some abstract, fucked up way, made them a team still, a different one from Enjolras’s regular team, the guys he played for and with.

 

God, Enjolras couldn’t believe he was actually kind of happy to see the bastard.

 

If Montparnasse could read any of that on Enjolras’s face, he didn’t mention it. Instead, he turned to his ridiculous little suitcase and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.

Enjolras frowned. “I have a game the day after tomorrow.” He might not even be playing but still like, it was the principle of the thing. 

“So do I,” Montparnasse said sounding bored. “And anyway, who says that’s for you.”

“You’re in my flat. You’re eating my food!”

“So the least I can do is give you some of my alcohol?”

And Enjolras knew it was a challenge but damn him if he was going to back down.

“Glasses are in the cupboard,” he snapped and pointed at the glass monstrosity that Courfeyrac had picked out because it was supposed to look ‘sleek’, whatever that meant.

Then Enjolras turned around so he didn’t have to look at Montparnasse’s smirk.

It was bad enough knowing it was there.

 

***

“So,” Montparnasse started.

 

Enjolras was drunk.

 

He maybe should have seen that coming. Actually, he had seen that coming but he hadn’t been smart enough to do something to prevent it.

His pretty spectacularly spinning mind kind of knew that usually, Parnasse starting to say a sentence didn’t end very well. But he was drunk so any alarm clocks that might have otherwise gone off didn’t show up to the party. Why would they? He had a glass of whiskey in his hand, it was the good kind of whiskey, really nice, smooth and it didn’t burn in his throat, well not anymore. It was good whiskey. He should really be drinking the good whiskey instead of just thinking about the good whiskey.

“So,” Montparnasse said and Enjolras should have known. “How about that time you called me drunk off your ass the night you got kicked out of the playoffs to talk about how you frenched your backup goalie, eh?”

 

Enjolras spat out his whiskey.

 

It wasn’t pretty probably but he was too busy not choking for a moment to care much about that.

Montparnasse merely raised an eyebrow.

“I did not! I mean, I did, no I mean-” Words, words were difficult. “I called you?” Enjolras ended on and God, he could feel how his entire face was on fire.

“Yes,” Montparnasse said, very slowly, perfectly devoid of emotion. “You did call me. You sounded very upset but I don’t know if that was because you were really fucking drunk or because you made out with what’s his name? Grantaire?”

Enjolras made a strangled noise and buried his face in his hands. He forgot that he was still holding his glass in one hand and slammed it against his forehead.

At least Montparnasse didn’t laugh.

“Did you fuck him?”

Enjolras’s head snapped up far too quickly to be good with the amount of alcohol he had in his system. “I did not!”

Montparnasse shrugged again, unfazed by Enjolras’s protest. “What? I have nearly no information here, what am I supposed to think?”

“Nothing! You don’t think anything because we’re not talking about this, you forget this ever happened!”

“Is that what you’re doing?”

“I don’t remember!”

Montparnasse’s eyebrow took on a downright disappointed tilt.

With a sigh, Enjolras explained, “Calling you. I don’t remember calling you.”

“Well, that’s not insulting at all,” the other man dead-panned.

If his limbs didn’t feel like rubber, Enjolras would have maybe considered punching him. “Get over it,” he snapped instead.

Montparnasse eyes narrowed. “Careful.”

His eyes were dark, this dark, cold grey that was almost black. If there hadn’t been the light of the living room lamp, they would have been. Like that, Montparnasse somehow looked much older than Enjolras felt even though they weren’t even three months apart in age. He looked dangerous, poised and Enjolras couldn’t help the sudden thought that he wouldn’t be able to defend himself.

Which made him think about how they never tried, only in half-fun, to kill each other out on the ice because they had been on the same team in their most emotionally unstable teenage years and they both weren't really known for fighting as part of their game. He still knew the physical viciousness of Montparnasse even though it was a rare occasion. Enjolras had once seen him break the nose of a guy with one clean, efficient punch. They had been sixteen. A couple of seconds earlier the guy had rammed Enjolras into the boards so hard he fell down and hadn’t felt any part of his body for a moment.

 

Right.

 

Enjolras sighed. “Yeah. I kissed him. I remember that.”

Montparnasse nodded and relaxed a little more into the sofa. Everyone else would have been considered slouching but he looked more like posing for a full-body portrait of him being painted. “So,” he said and this time Enjolras was prepared. “You were drunk and disappointed about losing and grabbed the closest guy to kiss because you wanted to let off some steam.”

Enjolras frowned because put like that it sounded like a really, really shitty thing to do. And also, it was the wrong because he would definitely not just kissed the guy closest to him because he had felt stupid and frustrated.

“I don’t just want to kiss anyone.”

“Ah,” Montparnasse said and… oh.

Enjolras hadn’t realized how he had never even thought about kissing someone else but Grantaire. He couldn’t even begin to try and imagine being that disappointed and hurt but kissing anyone else.

 

Well then.

It turned out Enjolras had not been prepared.

“I don’t just want to kiss anyone,” he said again but this time it meant something so much different and Enjolras really, really could have lived without knowing that.

“Really? So the only person you want to kiss is Grantaire?” Montparnasse asked drily and Enjolras glared at him.

“I don’t know! I’m having a crisis!” At least that was what he thought he felt. His mind was kind of fuzzy from the whiskey. He tried to figure out if he was feeling panicked but mostly Enjolras felt like he might puke.

Montparnasse snorted. “That’s not a crisis. That’s an epiphany. The crisis comes later.”

That sounded logical, decided Enjolras’s drunk judgement which he was maybe, definitely going to question at some later point in time. Of course, he was not going to admit that out loud, drunk or not.

“You’re welcome by the way,” Montparnasse drawled.

Enjolras frowned. “I don’t think I’m grateful,” he said slowly.

“Why not?”

And it was weird, how Montparnasse somehow always managed to ask the right questions that distracted Enjolras from wanting to punch the smug smile off his face but rather rethink his entire life. #

Well, maybe not life but at least the last couple of months.

“It’s… whatever it is,” he said and he had thought, really had been convinced he had been ready to get over it, kissing Grantaire, thinking about what it meant. But he wasn’t and he had been too stubborn to admit it. Parnasse always had been good at targeting Enjolras’s flaws. “Whatever it is, it’s ridiculous to even think it would work out. And I don’t even know him, not well. Not at all really.”

Enjolras reached for his glass and drank more.

 

It was really good whiskey.

 

After that, Montparnasse didn’t say anything else.

The silence stretched and Enjolras’s head was mostly blank, thoughts flitting away before he could fully comprehend them.

“Are you going to crash here?” he asked eventually. He didn’t know how long they had sat there, not saying anything more but his head was beginning to feel heavier and heavier.

Stretching his arms over his head, Montparnasse looked like he was making a move to stand up from the sofa. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because you’re a professional athlete? Making a shitton of money so you could totally afford to stay at a hotel for a night and not bother me?”

Montparnasse’s smile was a sharp, red line of lips. “And pass on the opportunity to make you question your life? No thanks. Actually, I’d even pass on a five-star hotel room for that.”

And well. Enjolras couldn’t even disagree because he would definitely do the same.

Sometimes he wondered if the press would have a field day if they actually knew what the two of them were to each other or if they would just give up, too confused to even try to make sense of them. Sometimes Enjolras thought about doing that too.

“Go to bed and drink some water,” he said and Montparnasse only scoffed before reaching for his suitcase and walking, surprisingly steady on his feet, into the direction of the guest bedroom without sparing Enjolras another glance.

Standing up as well, Enjolras could feel every muscle in his body trying to tug him back down and he was glad that he was already wearing comfortable clothes because he probably wouldn’t have bothered to change anymore, at that point.

 

Like this, he could easily tumble into his own bedroom and simply fall onto the bed, heavenly and soft. He was asleep as soon as he closed his eyes.

 

***

 

Enjolras woke up because the alarm of his phone was ringing.

 

He had no idea why the alarm of his phone was ringing.

His head hurt as fuck.

His head hurt because he had gotten drunk on way too much whiskey. The whiskey Montparnasse had brought.

God, he hated that guy.

The guy who was, judging by the noises outside of Enjolras’s room, still in his flat.

Dammit.

Enjolras nearly fell off the bed when he tried to roll around and stand up, miscalculating the width of his bed terribly. He just managed to get his feet under him in time and staggered up, too fast, the world was spinning. At least he wasn’t puking. He was cautiously optimistic about that.

Said optimism quickly evaporated once Enjolras opened the door of his room. The sudden light made his head hurt even more which he hadn’t thought was a possibility.

“Morning,” Montparnasse said.

He looked absolutely perfect like he had stepped right out of a fashion photo shoot with his coifed hair, wearing a definitely expensive suit and holding a cup of coffee in his hand in the middle of Enjolras’s living room.

Enjolras groaned in response and stumbled forward to immediately drop down on the sofa. He let his head drop onto the cushion because it felt like too much of an effort to hold it up.

“I set your alarm so you could say goodbye,” Montparnasse continued casually, ignorant of Enjolras’s state.

Enjolras was ready to completely ignore him and really everything else as well when there was a knock at the door.

 

Who –

 

Enjolras’s head snapped up, too quickly, way too quickly, but his reaction wasn’t fast enough and Montparnasse was already opening the door before Enjolras could stop him.

He then got a front row seat to Combeferre’s confused face. He was wearing running clothes. Right. Because they were going to meet for their morning run. Enjolras was pretty sure that running was literally the worst thing in the world, at least in that very moment.

“Morning,” Montparnasse said to Combeferre who wasn’t saying anything. “Great you’re here, make sure this one doesn’t die. I need to get going, I have a suit to pick up.” He turned around to put his cup of coffee in front of Enjolras on the coffee table and grabbed his tiny douchebag suitcase. “See you guys in January.”

Enjolras was about ready to say thank you or something that he was finally leaving when Montparnasse turned around again, right next to Combeferre, half-way out of the door.

“Oh, and Enjolras? Maybe don’t be drunk the next time you kiss someone you actually give a shit about.”

Combeferre let out a choked noise, Montparnasse turned around without another word and Enjolras buried his face in his hands.

 

Combeferre didn’t say anything.

Enjolras didn’t say anything either.

 

The silence went on until Combeferre finally cleared his throat in the way he usually did when Enjolras or Courfeyrac was being an idiot and he felt like he had to say something about that. Enjolras sometimes wished he wouldn’t know Combeferre well enough to recognize a disappointed throat clearing.

“Enjolras,” Combeferre said, very calmly. Enjolras led out what someone, not him but probably everyone else, would describe as a pained whimper. “Did you kiss Montparnasse?”

Enjolras nearly choked on his own breath. He would have jumped up if moving wasn’t that difficult so he ended up in a half sitting position coughing his lungs out. “What?! No, oh my god, no! What the hell.”

Combeferre simply regarded him with a carefully neutral raised eyebrow.

 

Enjolras fell back onto the sofa because his life was ridiculous and his head hurt. Maybe his heart too.

 

“God, I hate that guy,” he mumbled into his hands only so he wouldn’t say something else. Something like how Montparnasse maybe, kind of had a point there. 

Dammit.


***

 

Combeferre, mercifully, didn’t press Enjolras on the subject of ill-advised drunken kisses because he was a good friend and patient to wait for Enjolras to be ready.

He also made him run three more miles than they usually did.

Enjolras somehow felt like the two things were related but he was trying the whole time to keep up with Combeferre which meant he only ever saw the back of his head, never the expression on the other man’s face, so he couldn’t really be sure about that. 

 

***

 

They won their first pre-season game. It wasn’t really a game that counted, only half of the players that would eventually make the team on the ice but still, it felt good.

It felt good and Enjolras wasn’t even playing but still, it was something, the feeling of pride and the start of the season at their fingertips.

 

Grantaire got the start and the shut-out.

 

Enjolras was in a suit up in the press box but it felt like his heart was out there on the ice, when was it not? He thought about talking to Grantaire – when did he not? – after the game when everyone was in the locker room, laughing and excited but there were so many people around that it would have felt weird to pull him aside. And after and the next days, day after day, there just wasn’t... the right moment.

Enjolras didn’t like to think he was vain but Grantaire was playing so well, so perfectly, and Enjolras didn’t want to be a distraction. Maybe it was vain to think he would have an influence on Grantaire’s mood or the way he was playing. So he didn’t talk to Grantaire and they won five of their six pre-season games and soon enough, there were three more days left until their first game of the regular season, at home against Montréal because even if people loved the rivalry between Enjolras and Parnasse, it was nothing against how everyone ate up local battles with the appetite of a bear after waking up from hibernation.

 

The season was three days away and Enjolras felt – jittery. Unbalanced. Nervous.

 

Combeferre and Courfeyrac were still leaving him alone but Enjolras noticed the increasing frequency of worried glances and knew that if he himself wasn’t going to do anything about his – admittedly – not perfect well-being, they were not going to let it slide for much longer. Most likely before the start of the regular season.

 

Which meant Enjolras had to do something.

 

He knew he could have talked to them and it felt like an asshole-thing not to but to be honest, he was feeling kind of bad about what he had done. Embarrassed. Not about kissing Grantaire, not really but about how he had been drunk and desperate and maybe, possibly taken advantage of him. And having those thoughts in his head, Enjolras knew he had to apologize.

But it turned out surprisingly difficult to get Grantaire alone.

Enjolras knew some things about what it meant that people were gravitating towards a person, he had heard it said about himself, how he was charming, charismatic, how he spoke.

Grantaire was different.

He didn’t talk a lot but when he did it was either rambling or few worded comments but he was witty and funny in a sarcastic way, dry and people liked it, liked him. Enjolras found it infuriating most of the time but he couldn’t help but listen when Grantaire talked and be impressed how he handled the attention, the media, their teammates. He wasn’t arrogant, he was actually more self-depreciating than humble which was confusing for Enjolras sometimes, the seeming lack of confidence in himself.

A lot of things about Grantaire confused Enjolras sometimes.

 

***

 

After their last practice before their first game, Coach pulled Enjolras aside to tell him who had made the final cut for the season opener. He wasn’t surprised when Coach told him about keeping Grantaire on as their backup goalie, not with how fantastic he had played.

Grantaire’s expression, however, didn’t betray any emotion when Coach told him and a couple of the other younger guys to come to his office on their way out.

Enjolras slowed down getting ready to leave, changing slowly and trying to appear deep in thought. It earned him some confused glances but eventually, people filtered out of the room and Enjolras was the last one except for the equipment guys to gather his things and leave the dressing room.

He hoped he didn’t look too suspicious, walking slowly, very slowly, through the corridors of the arena towards the parking spaces. Maybe people thought it was perfectly normal to take a detour passing Coach’s office. Maybe he was also just a little bit pathetic.

 

He made it down to the cars slowly, composing a fired-up comment on some stupid uninformed article on women’s hockey on his phone to look at least a little busy.

 

“Hey,” Grantaire said behind him and Enjolras nearly had a heart attack.

Grantaire smiled at him, a little confused, what didn’t really help to slow down the beating of Enjolras’s heart. “What are you still doing here?”

Right. Enjolras tried to think of an answer that didn’t make him sound like a weird person. “Oh, I just had to clear a quick thing with the medical staff.”

Grantaire frowned. “Are you okay?”

“What? Oh yeah, of course, everything’s fine, I’m all fine.”

“... right,” Grantaire said slowly. Enjolras tried to think of something else to say but somehow his brain drew a blank.

“Right,” Grantaire said again and oh, now he did look at Enjolras like he was a weird person. “I’m going to call an Uber so like, you don’t have to wait with me here or whatever.”

“Oh,” Enjolras said. Very creatively. “I mean, I can give you a lift?”  Better.

Grantaire was still frowning like he didn’t really understand what Enjolras was doing and to be fair, Enjolras didn’t really know what he was doing himself. Eventually, the other man seemed to relax, however, and shrugged. “Okay, sure, if you don’t mind.”

 

Enjolras didn’t mind until he was sitting with Grantaire next to him in his car which was really a close, close space for two people. Well, it was a regular sized car actually, because Enjolras didn’t really get the whole deal with expensive tiny sports cars but it was still smaller than like, a room. Or half of an ice ring.

He tried not to fidget while Grantaire was fastening his seatbelt and felt immeasurable relieved when he turned on the car and could focus on something else for a moment. It was calming, somehow, the lights of the city when Enjolras drove them away from the arena.

“Hey,” he said eventually. “Congratulations by the way.”

He could see Grantaire’s smile from the corner of his eye, a small thing as he laughed quietly sounding a little disbelieving. “You knew, right?”

“Of course. I mean, Coach told me they want to keep you here.”

“Yeah, they were really great about it,” Grantaire said and Enjolras huffed a little.

“Well, you were really great,” he said because common logic shouldn’t have been as important as personal achievement.

He saw Grantaire shrug and fiddle at the hem of his hoodie. “I was alright, I guess.”

This time, Enjolras’s huff was a little more forceful. “Come on, you were amazing. I told you, you were going to stay here.”

 

He realised too late, what he had said.

 

Grantaire’s fingers stilled. Slowly, he released the hem of his hoodie and folded his hands in his lap. “Yeah,” he said. “I remember you telling me that.” He sounded careful, perfectly neutral.

Enjolras swallowed but well, he had been waiting for the opportunity to talk. “I... I remember that too.”

 

It felt like there suddenly wasn’t enough air in the car.

 

Grantaire cleared his throat. “So, we’re talking about that now?”

And it shouldn’t have been that hard, should it? Enjolras was supposed to be like, an adult. Talking about... feelings. And stuff.

“I think we should.”

“Okay,” Grantaire said.

 

Pause.

 

Enjolras didn’t know if he was waiting to say something or actually thinking about saying something. He didn’t know what to say really, but Grantaire wasn’t saying anything either.

“I just...,” Enjolras started eventually. Not a great start. “It was the end of the season, you know, we were drunk and... not in the best place, I think.”

“I guess not,” Grantaire said. He was staring straight out of the front window, not looking at Enjolras.

Enjorlas took a deep breath. “So. I just wanted to say... I’m really sorry.”

He held his breath until Grantaire said, “Right.” Another second, Enjolras glanced over at him. Grantaire leaned back in his seat slowly. He sighed quietly and Enjolras didn’t know what kind of sound it was, relieved or disappointed or just air, let back out. “It’s fine.”

Enjolras bit down on his lip. “Are you sure?”

“Of course,” Grantaire said and the way he didn’t wait, didn’t hesitate made the weight drop off Enjolras’s shoulders. “It’s alright, don’t worry about it.”

Enjolras would have welcomed the feeling of relief if the whole conversation wouldn’t have also felt that... anticlimactic. Somehow.

It wasn’t like he had expected Grantaire to fall into his arms or whatever, no, but... something. It didn’t really felt like he had gotten any further in solving the mess inside him only that the soul-crushing guilt had lifted off of him, which was better really, but not all he had wanted to achieve.

Enjolras didn’t feel like he was any closer to understanding Grantaire, and his own feelings, and it was kind of a let-down. He didn’t like letting people down and god, he coulnd’t stand letting himself down. He felt further away from Grantaire than before even though they were sitting right next to each other in his tiny, not really tiny car and Enjolras didn’t like it. Well then. 

 

“We should be friends,” he said.

Grantaire snapped his head around to look at him. “What?”

Enjolras stared out of the front window resolutely. He could do this. “I think,” he said, “We should be friends.”

He didn’t see Grantaire’s expression but the sound of his voice carried enough disbelief to get the picture. “I... I didn’t think you even liked me that much, to be honest.”

And... Enjolras couldn’t really be surprised at that, he supposed. He hadn’t really acted like he did not like Grantaire but also not like he did, really. He had been confused, dammit, sue him.

“I haven’t even gotten to know you yet,” he said stubbornly. He thought it was a pretty good argument.

“Okay,” Grantaire said slowly and it was not a no. He didn’t sound convinced either.

“I want to,” Enjolras continued. “You’re staying. You’re my teammate.”

“Okay,” Grantaire said and this time, he did sound surer. He sounded amused, just a little, mostly disbelieving still. Enjolras was going to take it, whatever.

“Great,” Enjolras said and it made him want, need to do something, kind of angry, not really angry, he couldn’t really explain it but he decided to take it as an incentive, just run with it. "What’s your favourite colour?”

“My... favourite colour?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know, like... green?”

Grantaire sounded confused and Enjolras wanted to ask what was confusing about a question as simple as that. He also wanted to ask what kind of green, the forest kind? Forest in the winter or in the summer? The weird pistachio ice cream green or that colour of Grantaire’s eyes which was maybe blue, maybe green, Enjolras could never tell. He didn’t.

“So,” Grantaire said. “What’s your favourite colour?”

“Red,” Enjolras said immediately.

Grantaire snorted. “Of course.” There was amusement in his voice, next to the usual exasperation. He smiled a little and somehow it felt like a peace offering, a tentative careful one but Enjolras decided then and there to make the most out of it.

It felt like they could be fine.

Sure, it was early. The season hadn’t even started yet. But deep down, Enjolras knew that they could be good.


Yes. They really had the potential to make some noise this time. He smiled and he could see Grantaire's smile from the corner of his eyes.

And he couldn’t wait.

 

***

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

***

 

 

The season started and there was a nameplate over a stall down the left side of the locker room with Grantaire’s name on it.

Enjolras stared at it for a long time, too long, but no one was there to call him out on it because he made a habit of being the first in the locker room, not out of superstition or anything, he simply liked the quiet before a game. It was a different quiet to the one in his too empty, too bright apartment. It made getting into the right headspace before a game easier and somehow, somehow managed to be calming and animating at once.

He almost didn’t notice Feuilly coming in next but he only glanced at Enjolras for a second with a quirk of his eyebrow that meant he noticed but didn’t question Enjolras’s oddity. Enjolras appreciated that in a person.

Slowly, their other teammates started to trickle into the locker room and Enjolras resorted to focusing on his own stall and getting ready for the game. Right.

Courfeyrac arrived with Marius, the young guy who had impressed Coach so much during pre-season that he was getting to start in his first actual, true regular season game that night. Courfeyrac had pretty much adopted him already even though he couldn’t have been that much younger than Enjolras, or Courfeyrac himself for that matter.

Enjolras hadn’t talked to him a lot, if he was being honest Courfeyrac was much better at welcoming the young wide-eyed kids and Marius maybe wasn’t eighteen anymore but wide-eyed, he was certainly. Enjolras thought he looked a little bit like a baby deer.

A baby deer who had apparently finished college before signing with a major league club and who looked a little green around the nose, literally, under a myriad of freckles and copper-shining dark hair.

 

Enjolras felt old just looking at him.

 

He took a deep breath when they went out onto the ice, the screaming and shouting of their fans in his ears, put everything else to the side and just let himself feel.

“Woo boys, let’s give’em a show, right?” Courfeyrac shouted and Enjolras didn’t know who he meant, the fans, the other team, the world but he grinned nevertheless, wide and helpless until the puck dropped.

 

They did give them a show.

 

They beat Montréal 4:3, in a game that was chippy from the get-go, adrenaline and ecstasy and Enjolras felt amazing, having real hockey back with the fans, team surrounding him, overwhelming but in a way that he wouldn’t miss for the world.

Grantaire wasn’t playing but he was there on the bench and Enjolras didn’t know what felt more elating, when he scored to give them the lead 2:1, the crowd, the adrenaline or the open and honest smile on the other man’s face, green eyes bright, blue.

At one point Enjolras stayed on the ice on a line change and with the sudden open ice got caught on a rush 2 on 1 with Marius, the lane wide open in front and when he passed the puck, perfectly right on the tape, Marius scored, 4:3. The look of surprise on his face made Enjolras laugh out loud on the ice but even more so did the look of panic on Marius’s face after he crashed into Enjolras for a hug but then Courfeyrac and Joly and Bossuet joined them and it was only game, a game, but it was like air in Enjolras’s lungs.

 

And winning.

 

Winning on top of it was one of the best feelings in the world.

 

 

***

 

 

The team went out after because it was a truth universally acknowledged that the first win of the season had to be celebrated when there was no game the next day and luckily, practice starting only in the afternoon. Enjolras knew that some were still going to regret the amount of alcohol consumed but still, they won, the rookie scored and Courfeyrac declared it his obligation to get them drunk for reasons.

Enjolras was almost always a hard case to crack for Courfeyrac because he didn’t really like the experience of being too drunk to stay upright but he still let himself be convinced to a second and then a third beer, feeling good and loose and not immune to the exuberant mood of his teammates.

He stayed in one of the booths in their most frequently frequented club while Courfeyrac convinced the younger guys and surprisingly many of the older ones and most surprisingly Combeferre to dance. Enjolras contently drank his beer, here and there contributing to the conversation around him. He checked his phone for the scores of the other games that evening and Montparnasse’s team had won 3-0 which he was definitely going to hear about some time but he didn’t really care.

Enjolras was sitting next to Feuilly, when Grantaire dropped down next to him. He smelled a little like alcohol but mainly good and Enjolras felt easy and relaxed enough to smile at him, wide and unconcerned. Why shouldn’t he, he liked Grantaire, he liked Grantaire next to him.

“Hey,” he said and was rewarded by a small loop-sided quirk of Grantaire’s mouth that Enjolras had learned was more real than most of his smiles.

“Hey,” he said.

Feuilly raised an eyebrow, looked at Grantaire, looked at Enjolras, and stood up. “Right,” he said and then made his way in the direction of the bar. Enjolras waved even though he probably didn’t see it anymore.

Grantaire laughed quietly next to him and Enjolras liked that sound so much.

“Nice goal,” Grantaire said and Enjolras suddenly felt a little bit too warm. Maybe the third beer hadn’t been the best idea. Or fourth? But well, since it was already there.

Enjolras shrugged and drank. “It was kind of okay.” It had been a rebound from Combeferre’s shot that Enjolras had somehow managed to elevate enough in the tight space to sneak in between the other goalie’s pad and glove. He smiled at the memory of Courfeyrac jumping at him and shouting in his ear. “Thanks though.”

“Fucking filthy, that’s what it was, goalies must hate you, man,” Grantaire grinned and Enjolras couldn’t help but let out a laugh, startled and loud.

Grantaire smiled and it looked good on his face, like his face, and Enjolras welt dimly like he maybe was supposed to do something about that, not sure what but it turned into looking at the other man and smiling back.

He maybe should have said something as well, like a socially competent person, but he felt content not to until Grantaire looked away, twitching a little, like he was nervous. Enjolras didn’t know what he would have been nervous about, everything was great.

“Don’t you dance?” Enjolras suddenly asked because maybe Grantaire didn’t really want to sit next to him, just a polite thing to appease the captain of his team. Most of the younger guys were out on the dancefloor, restless, Enjolras had spotted Marius on his way to get another beer, dancing or maybe more accurately, moving eerily similar to those drunk giraffes, Enjolras had once seen in a documentary he had watched with Combeferre. Grantaire wasn’t dancing but sitting next to Enjolras.

The other man shrugged. “Nah, it’s fine. I fear a bit for my safety, to be honest.”

Well, that made sense because Enjolras also knew that Bossuet’s kind of dancing was more like 10 percent dancing and the rest of the time stepping on people’s feet or getting people’s elbows between the rips. Still, Grantaire’s answer made Enjolras feel relieved.

“You’re good here,” he said and when he said it, he realized, he didn’t only mean here, off the dancefloor, but here next to him, here generally, with their team, in their city. He hoped Grantaire knew that.

“Yeah,” Grantaire said and then quietly so Enjolras almost couldn’t hear him over the music and voices around, “Good to be here.” He drank his beer and Enjolras did too, trying to hide the smile behind his glass a little but feeling the same.

Some days, nights, it felt good to be.

 

 

***

 

 

By mid-December, they had won more games than they had lost, actually quite a lot more, and it felt good and somehow always a little surprising after losing the season before. Enjolras knew he wasn’t supposed to think like that, weigh one post-season loss against more than twenty regular season wins but he had never been the best at letting things go easily. But he had always considered himself very good at turning that into motivation to be better rather than let himself be dragged down by it.

So they won and hovered kind of securely in the top-five league-wide and Enjolras consistently racked up points and bestowed nightmares upon other team’s defensemen and goaltenders.

 

Yeah, they had a good season so far.

 

They were lucky without injuries except Courfeyrac getting the flu and being insufferable for a week and a half that he had to stay at home while the team flew down to Florida. Combeferre had left him with probably a month worth of chicken soup and Enjolras had even lent him – reluctantly but then, it was Courfeyrac so not really - all seasons of Parks and Recreation he had on DVD. That and late Skype calls had possibly prevented the worse but a sick hockey player was still no walk in the park.

Then, in an unexpectantly aggressive and high-strung game against Carolina, of all teams, Feuilly went down awkwardly against the boards fucking up his knee for at least 3 weeks.

Which meant that not only was a big part of their line-up and team injured and out for at least three weeks, but also that Enjolras was left without his firmly established seatmate on the plane. Which was terrible because Feuilly was the best possible and basically only option. (Not that Enjolras was in any way superstitious, he simply liked his routines, okay?)

Combeferre and Courfeyrac both had the tendency to fall asleep in moving vehicles which meant they fell asleep next to each other and regularly on each other and Enjolras rather not get in between that, thank you. Joly and Bossuet liked to play cards and Bossuet might somehow manage to still be the most happy person after losing five times in a row but Enjolras knew he wasn’t good at card games –

“Seriously man, you have no poker face.”

“What? Of course I do!”

“Yeah no, you’re looking way too smug, no one is going to raise, forget it.” –

So yeah, Enjolras was way too easily frustrated by stupid card games that he lost, he was a professional athlete alright, he liked winning. Bahorel usually watched movies and even though he graciously allowed people to join him, they were either weird, French artsy things that Enjolras didn’t know why but he still somehow couldn’t shake the feeling Montparnasse had something to with, or romcoms. Both usually ended with Bahorel crying and Enjolras didn’t really know what to do with crying people.

Jehan liked to knit and the clicking of the needles made Enjolras inexplicably aggressive and Marius... yeah no.

Everyone else mostly liked to be left alone and didn’t make for a very exciting seatmate.

Enjolras loved his team, dearly, and would definitely go to the ends of the earth with all of them but. He might have been a bit particular about his choice of company in this regard.

Feuilly was a perfectly fine seatmate. Calm, willing to talk about hockey, always.

But Feuilly wasn’t there, Feuilly was injured staying at home with a knee brace and crutches.

 

Enjolras stepped onto the plane and felt lost.

 

Somehow, his eyes landed on Grantaire sitting in a window seat alone, with the seat next to him empty and ... Enjolras didn’t like sitting alone on the plane.

Without questioning his decision, he let himself fall onto the seat next to Grantaire who looked up surprised but in a split-second scolded his features into a neutral expression.

“Hey,” Enjolras said which had become Enjolras’s go-to opening phrase when talking to Grantaire. Cool, calm – hopefully.

“Hey,” Grantaire said back. So good, so far.

“Do you mind if I sit here?” Maybe that should have been a question before sitting down, Enjolras thought, but well.

Grantaire shrugged. “Knock yourself out.”

 

Enjolras had always felt that to be a weird phrase considering their occupation.

 

Somehow, the conversation felt kind of awkward. Which it shouldn’t, dammit, Enjolras had decided they were friends, and they were – he thought – so it shouldn’t and he sure as hell wasn’t going to let it be.

“So,” he said, casually, “how about those Canucks?”

Grantaire stared at him, incredulous. “Seriously?”

“Yes,” Enjolras said, maybe a tiny bit annoyed because well, at least he was trying to have a conversation.

Grantaire still looked surprised but not for long. Enjolras had realized quickly that Grantaire was good at showing just the amount of emotions he seemed willing to show. Goalie composure, probably. This time, a small smile, his trademark of amused. Sometimes it reminded Enjolras of Montparnasse a little, sarcastic but without being condescending.

“Well, I think their top line is lacking on the backcheck and their defense is not exactly helping out there, they could be really good but they have communication issues, especially second and third pairing because they’ve been rotating them so frequently this season. They might be a bitch to play against when they figure themselves out and their goaltending so, better we got’em now than much later on.”

Which... was kind of exactly what Enjolras had been thinking?

They talked and they talked until the plane starts rolling, picking apart the Canucks powerplay with the occasional snide remark from Grantaire about some player he knew from the minors, or  somewhere else in the world in general.

Enjolras had launched into a half-rant, half-appreciation of that vicious little guy on the right wing, when he noticed Grantaire hadn’t said anything for a while. Instead the other man’s jaw looked much more tense than before, his hands clenching into fists. He looked like he was trying too hard to focus on Enjolras, or not at all.

“Are you alright?”

Grantaire blinked, seemingly startled. “What? Yeah, I mean...,” he hesitated. The noise of the accelerating plane sounded louder in Enjolras's ears. “I don’t really... like flying.”

He looked like it took an effort to even admit that and Enjolras said, “Oh.”

He knew he should probably say something, really, something distracting or helpful other than pointing out how unfortunate it was to not like flying when it well, came with the job. Not helpful. Most of the times, always almost, Enjolras would consider himself good with words. He was captain, he had had media training since he had been a teenager, people called him charming, wherever they got that from.

Grantaire, more than anyone, could all of sudden made all of Enjolras’s words feel inadequate. Not enough.

Enjolras reached out and closed his hand around Grantaire’s wrist where his pulse was beating under fingertips.

Grantaire’s eyes flew up to meet his and Enjolras tried to smile, a little self-consciously, a little apologetic and then continued talking hockey which, in Enjolras opinion, would always be the best distraction in the world. He might have been rambling mainly at that point but he didn’t think Grantaire minded.

At some point, they must have left the ground.

Enjolras didn’t notice and only let go of Grantaire’s wrist when the other man’s pulse slowed down to the rhythm closer to Enjolras’s heart beating loud, loud in his chest.

 

***

 

For Christmas, they filmed some sort of funny, useless – approachable as Lauren from the media department insisted on – series of little videos on their road trip before the holidays.

Enjolras wasn’t really a fan of acting and having his attempts being filmed. He generally disliked cameras but considered them a necessary evil, part of the job he loved too much to really care, and he was actually good at doing interviews. The more silly, even more staged things just made him a little awkward and lots uncomfortable.

But because Lauren and her assistant Cosette were a geniuses, he was allowed to simply stick to Courfeyrac and Combeferre which made him more relaxed since Courfeyrac was ready to take the spotlight most of the time and Combeferre was even worse than Enjolras trying to hide his smile at the centre’s antics. So. Maybe Enjolras was even having fun. Some.

He was still glad to be allowed to return to his designated seat on the plane when Courfeyrac was done demonstrating a frankly ridiculous but impressive card trick on a very confused rookie. Marius. Enjolras really had to start remembering that.

“Hey,” he said as he sat down next to Grantaire who pulled his headphones off.

“Hey,” Grantaire said. He smiled with the right corner of his mouth. “Having fun?”

Enjolras snorted. “You have a camera in your face for an hour and tell me how fun it is.”

The other man laughed a little. “Nah, I’m not interesting enough.”

And well, Enjolras begged to differ but thought better than to just say that out loud. He still had some instincts of self-preservation.

Instead, he sighed and leaned back in his seat, stretching out his legs in the space there was between the rows. “What are you doing for Christmas?” he asked, only half expecting an answer because getting answers from Grantaire was about as hard as getting pucks past him.

There really wasn’t time for most of the team to go home, visiting families, during Christmas break, they had games right before and after the holidays and it wasn’t really worth the back pain of sitting on a plane for hours just to get on the same flight the other direction again the next day.

 

Enjolras realized he didn’t even know where Grantaire was from.

 

Grantaire shrugged before he answered. “Staying in town? Don’t know. A couple of off days are nice, I guess.”

“Wait...,” Enjolras looked at him. “You’re not alone for Christmas, are you?” He didn’t know which answer would be worse because he had never even thought about Grantaire having someone at home, in the city, other than team and family but, surely someone would have mentioned it if there was a someone else, you didn’t not bring that up in a locker room. Right?

“Nah, Joly and Bossuet’ll be around sometime, probably.” Another shrug. Enjolras shouldn't have felt that relieved.

Maybe Grantaire’s shrugs happened to bring out an inordinately high amount of frustration in Enjolras or maybe there was a certain way being around Grantaire kind of made Enjolras lose his mental and verbal filter because-

“You should celebrate with us,” Enjolras said.

Grantaire raised an eyebrow.

“I mean,” Enjolras hurried to continue because that really wasn’t a thing to blurt out like that to your somewhat-close-teammate, something, hopefully-friend out of the blue. “Well, we’ll be at Courf’s place, you know, just low-key. Chilling.” Again, he should really work on the filter-thing. Enjolras didn’t remember when he had used the word ‘chilling’ or ‘chill’ the last time. Or ever.

“Isn’t it kind of rude to invite someone to another person’s house?”

“What? No, I mean, it’s Courfeyrac,” Enjolras said because Courfeyrac’s life motto was basically ‘the more the merrier’ except when it came bigots, career-threatening injuries and pickles. “Hey Courf?” he called out.

“What?” Courfeyrac called back from the front of the plane.

“How many people are coming over for Christmas?”

There was a short pause.

“Like, everyone? Everyone who’s in the city? It’s not an optional thing, Enjolras, how many times? I was going to make a super cute group text, you ruined the surprise!”

“Sorry!” Enjolras called, then turned to Grantaire, smiling. “See?”

It took a moment but then Grantaire smiled back. “Thanks, Captain,” he said.

It wasn’t a yes but neither a no and Enjolras didn’t really care because the words sounded much less sarcastic and more fond than at the beginning of the season. He liked it that way.

 

***

 

Enjolras might have miscalculated some things.

For example, he hadn’t counted on opening the door on Christmas day and Bahorel sweeping him up in a hug that took him off his feet and then kissing him square on the mouth.

Maybe he should have been counting on it but he hadn’t because he hadn’t noticed the mistletoe over the door.

“Merry Christmas, Cap,” Bahorel said and put Enjolras back down on his feet with a wide, wide grin. Enjolras was a little dazed but managed to come up with a, “You too.”

Bahorel clapped his shoulder and proceeded into the house.

Enjolras closed the door quickly.

 

He had been at Courfeyrac’s house since the day before and it looked like a dozen of Christmas elves had vomited all over the place. Enjolras had never seen that much tinsel in one room. It was kind of nice. Homely and the whole place smelled like cinnamon.

Courfeyrac had been making all the food himself and roped Enjolras and Combeferre into decorating so the house would be perfect for everyone invited. And everyone invited meant, well, basically everyone. Enjolras was only glad he hadn’t been at the door before when Cosette from PR and her dad had arrived because the man was taller and broader than any hockey player had ever met and there was a mistletoe above the door. At least that explained why Courfeyrac had kissed Cosette on the nose and then proceeded to step up on his tiptoes and do the same with her father.

The house was already full of people, the party in full swing and the first Mario Card tournament over. Enjolras hoped no one would be found dead behind the sofa because professional athletes were a competitive bunch and it certainly didn’t stop at video games.

 

So it was starting to get... a little late.

 

Enjolras was not at all nervous. He certainly wasn’t nervously hovering around in the foyer when Jehan stepped up to him with a mug in each hand.

“Good evening, Enjolras.” Jehan’s way of talking had two main attributes, undeterredly earnest and gentle. “Do you want some punch?”

The punch was a dark green and smelled like there was a lot of alcohol in it but well, it was Christmas, Enjolras supposed. “Thank you,” he said and took one of the mugs. “I didn’t know there was punch.”

“There’s three,” Jehan said seriously.

“God,” Enjolras murmured because if Courfeyrac had been a deadly sin, he would have probably been gluttony. Enjolras supposed that would have made him wrath. Not exactly thoughts for Christmas.

He was glad when Jehan looked at him and said earnestly, “To Jesus.”

 

Jehan was a weird person.

Enjolras clinked their mugs together.

 

He had been right, there was a lot of alcohol in the punch.

“You know,” Jehan said after a while when Enjolras had stopped coughing around the burn in his throat. “Grantaire and Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum are late because Bossuet burned his finger getting the pie they wanted to bring out of the oven.”

Jehan might have also been psychic.

“Okay,” Enjolras said and tried not to seem overly interested in the information. Only a little.

Jehan hummed and fortunately let him get away with it. Enjolras took another drink that was already easier to swallow down.

“I’m going to call Parnasse,” Jean announced, undeterredly earnest and gentle. “Wish him a merry Christmas. Do you think he misses the cold in Seattle?”

Enjolras had never thought about that. “I... don’t think it’s very warm in Seattle either?” he guessed.

Jehan seemingly satisfied by the answer nodded and Enjolras understood it as the end of the conversation.

He heard Jehan saying “Good evening,” into the phone, gentle and fond and Enjolras made a mental note to ask Montparnasse about what was going on there. He should probably have a talk with him. Or maybe Jehan. They were both kind of terrifying in their own way. Huh.

 

Later, after several times of ringing at the door – Enjolras was not doing the opening anymore – Joly and Bossuet finally arrived with a pie and Grantaire in tow.

Enjolras had found himself next to Feuilly and his knee brace and crutches who took one look at him and said, “Go.”

Enjolras didn’t know what he knew mainly because Enjolras himself didn’t really know what there was to know. Honestly, it felt like he didn’t really know much in the grand scheme of things, only that his fingers tingled a little and there was a seemingly endless supply of punch in Courfeyrac’s house.

He stood up, his legs felt a little tingly too, and was about to round the corner of the door into the kitchen when he almost collided with Grantaire going the other direction.

A hand gripped Enjolras’s elbow, steadying.

“Hey,” Enjolras said and Grantaire’s answering smile was there, as always but closer. Only it seemed a little tense around the corners.

“Hey,” Grantaire said and Enjolras didn’t ask him if everything was alright because ... it didn’t seem to be.

“Hey,” he said, lower than before, soft because Grantaire’s eyes were blue and green and haunted somehow. He also still hadn’t let go of Enjolras’s arm. “How are you?”

“Fine,” Grantaire answered immediately and Enjolras knew it was basically automatic. He always said that. It was rare that he continued. “Just... not the biggest fan of Christmas.”

And well, the house was basically the most Christmas, the decorations, the music, the food – Enjolras was sure Courfeyrac had had a Christmas party hat at some point.

“Oh,” he said with a sinking feeling in his stomach because he had been kind of hoping to do something nice for Grantaire, had been way too happy at the prospect of having Grantaire there when Grantaire didn’t even really like Christmas and he probably had felt like he had to come because Enjolras could be a pushy idiot when –

“Hey no,” Grantaire said at whatever Enjolras’s expression must have betrayed of his thoughts. He was better at keeping those in check when he hadn’t drunk a couple mugs of punch.

Grantaire looked torn about saying something else.

It was always like pulling teeth with him, Enjolras thought. Grantaire wasn’t quiet, he talked a lot sometimes but Enjolras felt like he never told anything. Enjolras wished he would and never really got what he wished for which was why Grantaire surprised him when he bit down on his lip, then said, “My family wasn’t... the best. And at Christmas everyone was together. It didn’t make things better.”

Enjolras blinked at him. And he knew he probably shouldn’t feel that irrationally angry about the information of three sentences, especially if he didn’t know the exact circumstances but Grantaire looked much more dejected than he would normally let on and it made something in Enjolras’s hockey-trained, tall, ‘power forward’ body want to use everything he had to protect him at all costs.

“You’re here now,” he said. “You’re...” – and it wasn’t family, not like that but somehow ... still – “Team,” Enjolras said because somehow it was the same but in a different way.

It made Grantaire laugh, short but there even though Enjolras didn’t think it was funny.

“Sure, Captain,” Grantaire smiled. “Thanks for inviting me.”

Sometimes Enjolras thought that Grantaire had, at one point, just decided not to take anything Enjolras said seriously. It was infuriating mostly, grounding at other times and right then, sad.

“I mean it.”

Grantaire’s eyes narrowed, sceptical. “Okay.”

And he was right back to being infuriating but Enjolras was trained not to let frustration get the best of him and also a little drunk and a little reckless – he was kind of sensing a theme here – enough to rest his own hand on Grantaire’s that was still somehow wrapped around his elbow.

 

“Mistletoe!” Courfeyrac crowed and Enjolras... kind of wanted to strangle him a little. He was about to make a critical point here and seriously, were there mistletoes above every fucking door now?

Grantaire looked up at the apparent mistletoe above the door.

Enjolras didn’t think about where he wanted to kiss Grantaire most, he was still thinking about the other man’s face, sad and sceptical. He remembered his own childhood Christmases, his grandmére telling him things were going to be fine, with his parents silent in the next room. To everyone’s surprise, Enjolras had never stopped believing her. Not when everyone called him a naïve boy, stupid. So gullible.

 

It’s going to be alright, mon cœur.

 

Enjolras let go of Grantaire’s arm to take his face into his hands and pressed a kiss to his forehead, firm and lingering. He could feel Grantaire’s hand drifting to his wrist, not pulling, not pushing, just there.

 

Enjolras pulled back and only then realised how he had to tilt his head down to look at Grantaire who didn’t seem small most of the time and Enjolras didn’t feel tall next to him but he actually was, taller, when they were standing so close. But his eyes were always the same when Grantaire was looking back at him and Enjolras looked at them most anyway.

 

His lips were warm, tingling a little.

 

“You beautiful soft motherfucker,” Bahorel sniffed from somewhere and then Courfeyrac said, matter-of-factly, “You’re blocking the kitchen,” and there was a lot of shoving and laughing and Enjolras got jostled away from Grantaire when Courfeyrac kissed both their cheeks leaning down from where he was perched on Bahorel’s shoulders.

The music was loud in Enjolras ears when he was shoved back into the living room with Grantaire who didn’t meet his eye but looked stunned into a smile, at what Enjolras couldn’t be sure, maybe just the ridiculousness of their teammates, but he would take it.

It felt like a too small thing to consider a Christmas miracle but one had to appreciate the little things, Enjolras knew. The forechecks in the corners, a quick pass out of the d-zone, a tipped puck that happened to go in the right direction, finesse or luck, Enjolras would take it, gratefully.

 

 

***

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

***

 

 

On the one hand, Enjolras thought, having the All-Star Weekend in your hometown was great. The city was excited, breathing hockey and he could represent his team without having to travel cross country which kind of made up for not being able to go someplace warm and quiet like literally everyone else. It made up for having to stay back alone in his empty, quiet – but not the nice kind of quiet – apartment because everyone had left town or didn’t have time that evening like Bahorel with his book club, Jehan with a friend visiting and some of the older guys finally spending some time with their families.

Really.

Enjolras was fine. It was the evening before the actual All-Star Weekend and really, it was nice having the All-Star Weekend in your hometown.  

On the other hand –

 

“I’m staying with you,” Montparnasse announced and promptly walked into the apartment like he owned it. Enjolras felt like it was a little late telling him he didn’t.

Montparnasse stormed past him briskly and into the guest bedroom, dragging two suitcases with him, much larger than the last time.

“You’re a multimillionaire,” Enjolras yelled after him when he got over his surprise. Every time. He should have learned by then.

“Yes,” Montparnasse yelled back but didn’t seem to realise the argument for what it was, namely an argument for staying anywhere else.

 

The door to the guest room fell shut with a decisive bang.

 

Enjolras fell back down onto the sofa and commiserated his own existence and stupid reluctant weakness for life-long rivals slash frenemies – and damn Montparnasse for making him use that word – until Montparnasse came back out of the room, wearing a completely different suit and still looked way too good for someone probably just coming off a plane. Or whatever he had been doing before that, how was Enjolras supposed to know.

He wasn’t even sure he wanted to know, really.

“Going somewhere?” Enjolras asked and realized that he might not even be totally disappointed if the answer was no because well. Montparnasse as an option for company was probably, maybe... better than no option. Maybe.

“Yes,” Montparnasse said. Enjolras was not disappointed. “I’m going out to dinner with Jehan.”

Huh. Yeah, Enjolras should have seen that one coming, too.

Even though he still hadn’t really been able to wrap his head around whatever that was about.

“What’s that about anyway?” he asked and realized with horror and fascination that Montparnasse was blushing.

“If you need to know,” Montparnasse said with a lot of dignity, “I happen to be able to stand Jehan’s company for an extended period of time without having the urge to stab someone with the blade of my skates.”

“That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said about anyone. How did it feel?”

Montparnasse glared at him and Enjolras supposed it was kind of his fault when he turned on his heels and walked out of the apartment as fast as he had come in. The feeling of utter satisfaction at getting one up on him was short-lived when the room fell back into silence.

The door opened again. “And anyway, at least I have a love life, we’ll talk about your non-existing one when I’m more drunk.”

“I –,” Enjolras started but Montparnasse threw the door shut before he could get another word in.

Dammit.

 

Now he was lonely and disappointed in himself. Perfect.

 

He didn’t know how much time passed until his phone made a sound at an incoming message. Enjolras basically leapt across the sofa. Maybe there was something, anything to do, he would prefer anything to stewing in self-pity.

It was a message from Joly preceded by a happy, ‘heeeyyyyyy!!!!’ asking if Enjolras, if he wasn’t too busy with ominous All-Star-obligations, could maybe stop by at Joly and Bossuet’s apartment to look after the cat because the cat sitter apparently had to leave town for a family emergency.

Enjolras wasn’t too busy.

Enjolras and cats also had a relationship that was based on – hopefully – mutual respect at best but at that point, he was willing to make sacrifices.

He didn’t bother to change out of his years-old shirt and older sweatpants for the drive over and fished the spare key out of a flowerpot – he probably had to have a talk with Joly and Bossuet about safety and trusting in the good of humankind. Even though he might have been a slightly hypocritical choice for the job.

 

Enjolras opened the door and was immediately greeted by a distant meowing from the direction of the kitchen.

 

“Bonsoir,” he called back which was followed by a cluttering sound and a distinctly un-cat-like curse.

Enjolras froze.

 

Damn trusting the good of humankind, he had no idea how to deal with trespassers or burglars or worse.

Oh God.  

 

Enjolras could only look around quickly look around for a baseball bat or whatever you used to defend yourself but of course, only found a hockey stick leaning against the door. Which had to make due, he guessed. He knew how to handle a hockey stick, at least.

 

It wasn’t a burglar that stepped out of the kitchen though. Instead, Grantaire looked at Enjolras with wide eyes and a huge orange cat in his arms.

 

“Oh,” Enjolras said. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Grantaire said.

Enjolras tried to casually lower the hockey stick. Grantaire raised an eyebrow so Enjolras wasn’t sure he really succeeded.

“Not to be rude or anything,” Grantaire said when Enjolras had put the hockey stick back where it had been leaning against the front door, “but what are you like, doing here?”

“Oh, uhm, Joly asked me if I could look after the cat?” Enjolras was aware it sounded more like a question, but he was used to having a little bit more time to get himself together before interacting with Grantaire. He told himself his heart was only beating so fast out of relief that he didn’t have to try and beat up burglars.

“Bossuet called me because he thought he had left on the coffee machine,” Grantaire said and they stared at each other for a couple more seconds while Enjolras tried not to care about the fact that he was only wearing sweatpants and one of Combeferre’s old shirts with a giant face of Nicola Tesla on it and also hadn’t brushed his hair properly for over 24 hours. Grantaire looked good.

Enjolras’s heart was still beating too fast.  

“I didn’t know you were staying here over the break,” he said. “I thought you’d be away with Joly, Bossuet and Chetta.” He tried to wrap his head around the very suspicious fact that Joly had been messaging him instead of Grantaire.

The other man shrugged as far as it was possible with a giant, content looking cat in his arms. “Didn’t want to third-wheel. Forth-wheel?”

Enjolras felt like it was redundant to point out that neither of the three would probably mind if Grantaire had tagged along. He knew how much Joly and Bossuet and, as far as Enjolras had gotten to know her, their girlfriend Musichetta adored Grantaire. Which, relatable.

Maybe Grantaire had just wanted a couple of days to himself. And of course, then had to stumble across Enjolras.

So Enjolras simply said, “Oh. Do you know where the cat food is?” Because that what he had come for, in the end.

But Grantaire simply nodded in a way that didn’t seem annoyed at Enjolras presence and lead the way into the kitchen. Enjolras had forgotten for a moment that the goalie had lived with Bossuet and Joly for some time when he had first been called up and he looked comfortable in their apartment as if he belonged there.

 

They fed the cat and Enjolras tried to discretely smooth down his hair a little which must have looked like a dandelion, as Courfeyrac liked to say, when Grantaire wasn’t looking.

From the small, amused smirk on the other man’s face, he didn’t do a very good job.

 

Enjolras kind of hated that he kind of liked that smirk directed at him, the way his stomach swooped, kind of. A little maybe.

 

Grantaire talked easily about the time he lived with Joly and Bossuet and he looked relaxed in a way that was new to Enjolras, something he supposed had to do with feeling comfortable and maybe the break, the absence of tension and stress of a hockey season, even if only for a couple of days.

Enjolras didn’t want him to stop. But still, at one point Grantaire said, “I should probably head home.” And Enjolras couldn’t really disagree because, well it was dark outside and probably late.

“Oh, yeah sure,” he said. “Did you drive here?” He knew that Grantaire had his own place now, but he still mostly came to practice with Joly and Bossuet so Enjolras wasn’t sure if he had a car or lived close by.

“Nah, I took the metro.”

“I... could give you a ride?” Enjolras asked quickly because... he was being considerate. Yes, that.

“If... you don’t mind,” Grantaire said slowly, sceptical.

Enjolras equally quickly reassured him that no, of course, he didn’t mind, at all. Just a friend giving a friend a ride home, exactly what friends did. Enjolras didn’t say that out loud but Grantaire still seemed to be convinced enough to get into the driver’s seat of Enjolras’s car after dropping a kiss on top of the cat’s – “Guy Lapurr.” “Please tell me you’re kidding.” -  head. It was way too adorable to be fair.

In the car, Enjolras glanced at the clock. It was already past nine and he realized with a start that he was basically starving. And the possibility of sitting at his apartment on his own, eating reheated pasta, was less than appealing.

“Hey, do you maybe wanna grab dinner somewhere?” He asked before he could convince himself not to.

Grantaire hid his surprise quickly. He glanced sceptically at Enjolras’s sweatpants and shirt and well, he had a point there. But Enjolras wasn’t ready to give up yet.

“Takeout?”

“Do you really need company that badly?”

“You’re good company.”

“I have to try harder then,” Grantaire said but Enjolras gladly took it as the yes it was and just rolled his eyes hoping it would distract from his probably too wide smile.

“As long as you do that while having dinner with me.”

Enjolras liked to imagine the small smile on Grantaire’s face was a genuine one.

 

 

***

 

 

They stopped at a Chinese place where nobody looked twice at them, not even at Enjolras’s attire so he could keep his sweatpants while having beer and dinner out of plastic containers, sitting on the sofa in Enjolras’s apartment with Grantaire next to him, socked feet and soft sweater and chopsticks between elegant, competent fingers.

Enjolras prayed there wasn’t a noodle or something hanging out of his mouth whenever he forgot to chew from time to time.

He blamed Grantaire’s disarmingly distracting character and soft voice as they talked about nothing and hockey for forgetting the time and, more importantly, for forgetting his house guest. Or more home invader.

 

A smiling – what? – Montparnasse opened the door. The smile slipped from his face so quickly that Enjolras must have imagined it, definitely must have imagined. He also inelegantly chocked on an errant noodle and Grantaire stopped talking mid-sentence.

 

The room fell silent except for Enjolras’s coughing sounds and Montparnasse narrowed his eyes.

 

Grantaire was the first one to collect his wits.

“Hello,” he said casually, leaning back on the sofa with his box of noodles still in his hand.

“Hello,” Montparnasse said equally casually.

“I don’t think we’ve met,” Grantaire said, “Officially.”

“We have not,” Montparnasse said. His glare – not softened but – became a little less icy when Grantaire didn’t look away. He slowly came closer until he could hold out his hand. It wasn’t a welcoming gesture, more like sticking out a knife, daring you to run the blade through your palm.

“Grantaire, I reckon?”

Grantaire shook his hand and nodded, not pretending to not know Montparnasse’s name.

“You stopped my shot in a shoutout once,” Montparnasse continued.

 

Enjolras remembered that game, Grantaire’s first game in the League, the brilliant way he had fooled Montparnasse into giving away an easy shot and winning them the game. Enjolras remembered the up and down of emotions and Grantaire, so bright, his smile.

 

“That was luck,” Montparnasse said.

“I completely agree,” Grantaire answered and Enjolras wanted to protest because a, rude and b, not true because Grantaire was brilliant and Montparnasse was an asshole.

He did say so. The last thing at least. And, “When did I even give you a key?”

Montparnasse rolled his eyes. “Please.” Then he, apparently done with the conversation, brushed past them into the guest room.

 

Enjolras took a large gulp from his beer but Grantaire’s smile just widened to a lovely curl of lips.

“He’s just as delightful as he is on the ice, I guess.”

Enjolras snorted. “So not at all? That’s about right, he’s a pest. I don’t know how he tricks people into thinking he’s charming or something.”

“Only the people who are worth the effort,” Montparnasse said from directly behind him again and Enjolras jumped about one foot up into the air, almost sloshing beer all over himself.

 

Grantaire, the fucker, didn’t even blink.

 

“Do you have anything else but beer in this hole?” Montparnasse asked and Enjolras bristled.

“Hey!”

“Oh. excuse me, do you have anything but beer in this lovely, lovely apartment that certainly does not look like the bachelor pad of a too rich, interior design inept twenty-three-year-old?”

Grantaire tried to hide his smile behind his beer and Enjolras glared at Montparnasse and mumbled, “I hate you.” Then, “there’s wine in the left cupboard over the sink.”

When Montparnasse turned around, Grantaire’s smile turned into the broadest grin, Enjolras had ever seen on his face. He couldn’t help but feel his face getting warmer. “Stop that,” he tried half-heartedly and kicked Grantaire’s leg with his feet.

Grantaire merely grabbed his feet, resting them on top of his legs so Enjolras couldn’t kick him anymore and continued smiling. “No, no, it’s amazing, the fearless captain behaving like a sixteen-year-old. You’re kind of human like that, you know?”

He sounded amused and a little surprised which didn’t make sense to Enjolras. He was a little too mortified however to think about that then and fell back onto the sofa with a groan and covered his face with his hands.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Montparnasse said from closer by and when Enjolras opened his eyes he was settling daintily on the armchair with a glass of dark red wine between his fingers.

“How was your date?” Enjolras said, saccharine sweet.

Unfazed, Montparnasse shot back, “Classier than yours.”

Enjolras couldn’t get any more red but he could feel Grantaire’s hand tighten around his ankle. He glared at Montparnasse and turned to Grantaire. “Don’t mind him, the only thing he enjoys more than playing hockey is annoying the shit out of people.”

“And I do enjoy playing hockey a lot,” Montparnasse said with a smirk.

Grantaire nodded. “Maybe you’d be better at it if you were being less annoying and played the actual game more.”

Enjolras tensed. There was a fine line when it came to chirping Montparnasse, a line that even Enjolras sometimes had trouble figuring out even if he knew the danger of crossing it since skates weren’t the only sharp things Montparnasse was brilliant at handling.

A smile to spread across Montparnasse’s face, all teeth and wine-stained lips.

Then he raised his glass and tipped it in Grantaire’s direction. “Now, that would only be half as fun then, too, wouldn’t it?”

Grantaire tipped his beer back at him and Enjolras let out a breath of air.

He caught Montparnasse’s eye and the other man nodded.

Enjolras couldn’t help but feel a warm pang in his chest at the approval.  

 

 

***

 

 

Enjolras woke up in the middle of the night feeling just on the edge of too warm, sleep hazy and with Grantaire’s arm around his waist to stop him from falling off the sofa.

And they were hockey players, body contact and personal boundaries were optional for most of them and Enjolras had stopped counting how often he had fallen asleep in a teammate’s bed, on a teammate’s shoulder. Not that any of them had hair that soft brushing against his neck or held Enjolras close and he still wanted to get closer.

And there was a different thought there.

Somehow, the realisation didn’t feel unsettling or too enormous in the darkness and Enjolras’s half-asleep mind.

It wasn’t like he hadn’t always known there was something different about Grantaire. About Enjolras and Grantaire.

Somehow, it made sense.

Somehow, Enjolras thought, it was fine. It was fine knowing, he guessed he had known for a while now. It was going to be fine.

 

Their bottles and food containers were neatly stacked on the coffee table and there was a blanket thrown over himself and Grantaire, tucked in under their legs.

 

Grantaire’s breath ghosted across Enjolras’s neck and he closed his eyes as he fell asleep again.

 

 

***

 

 

Enjolras woke up the second time, in the morning, the light shining into the living room.

Someone was talking but stopped when Enjolras stretched his legs, back, a little stiff from falling asleep on the sofa.

Grantaire and Montparnasse were standing at the kitchen island, silent when Enjolras opened his eyes and blinked at them blearily.

“Hey,” he said and yawned, couldn’t help the smile when he realised Grantaire hadn’t left.

“Hey,” the other man said. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you.”

Montparnasse snorted. “Literally.”

To Enjolras’s surprise and delight, the slightest blush rose on Grantaire’s cheeks.

“Your sofa,” he said, “I didn’t mean to fall asleep on your sofa.”

Enjolras sat up and stretched out his arms. “It’s fine, I wouldn’t have sent you home that late anyway.”

“Okay,” Grantaire said, smiling a little and looking down so that dark curls fell into his face.

Enjolras’s heart skipped a beat as the thought of his night revelation came back.

He looked at Grantaire, soft, rumpled morning Grantaire and something settled inside him. The knowledge that he wanted to see Grantaire like that all the time, not just waking up after falling asleep accidentally on a too small sofa.

He didn’t feel panic, not even now that he was awake and truly aware that he was, well, kind of head over heels for Grantaire. Instead, there was a warm, a little nervous-in-the-good-way feeling under his skin and Grantaire was still smiling.

Alright.

 

Alright.

 

“Alright,” Montparnasse said and forcefully reminded Enjolras of his existence. “Everything’s fine, everything’s great but some of us have some official obligations today.”

Grantaire snorted but Enjolras just blinked at Montparnasse.

Official...

Montparnasse sighed and lowered his wine glass. “Enjolras. All-Star-Weekend.”

 

Right.

Shit.

 

“Oh my god, what time is it?” Enjolras started and promptly got tangled up in the blanket still wrapped around his legs and proceeded to roll off the sofa and onto the floor. He was suddenly very grateful for the carpet to soften his fall and also, like, hide his face.

“Half past nine. We have about an hour before we need to leave,” Montparnasse said casually.

“I hate you,” Enjolras said into the carpet.

“Well, keeping the balance in the room, such a good captain.”

There was a yelp and Enjolras looked up to see Montparnasse glaring at Grantaire, betrayed. “You spilt my wine.”

“It’s not even noon,” Grantaire rolled his eyes. “You have to start with beer.”

“Heathens,” Montparnasse grumbled and with a lot of dignity shook some of the sloshed wine off his hand before putting his glass into the sink.

Grantaire caught Enjolras’s eye with an amused smile, small and mischievous and he was beautiful. 

“Are you staying for breakfast?”

“If you want me to.”

“Always.”

 

***

 

That afternoon, more selfies than Enjolras could count later, he was sitting on a bench between jerseys of all colours, laughter around him, his phone vibrated in his hand with a text.

It was the first in a message threat that before, Enjolras hadn’t had the stomach to start.

 

From Grantaire: hey so I bet parnasse 50 dollars youre gonna win at hardest shot so please I have a reputation to lose here

To Grantaire: A reputation as what? Trusted hockey man?

From Grantaire: more like a completely stupid believer but sure let’s go with that

 

When it was Enjolras’s turn, he ripped a slapshot towards the goal, so hard that his stick vibrated in his hands and his heart jumped in his throat.

He skated past the bench, getting clapped onto the back and the arena cheered when his score was announced, far higher than that of everyone else, he smiled at the cameras, his heart the lightest it had been in a while.

 

 

***

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

*** 

 

 

After the All-Star break, the team made it through a couple of busy days at the end of February closing out the month with two back-to-backs. Grantaire won both of his starts, one in a shutout, the other one with letting in only two goals, nothing against their own five and on the road, at that.

Feuilly had finally been healthy enough to play again for that second one and had joined the team mid-road trip which posed a bit of a dilemma for Enjolras when they boarded their plane home, with Feuilly behind him. Because Enjolras had been sitting next to Feuilly on the plane for basically his entire playing career but now, well.

 

Grantaire was sitting in his usual spot by the window with the seat next to him empty.

 

Enjolras froze.

 

Feuilly, standing behind him, snorted. “Go sit with your boy,” he said, amusement in his voice, and attempted to gently wrestle Enjolras out of the way who felt heat rushing into his cheeks.

“Shut up,” he murmured half-heartedly, then reached for Feuilly’s arm holding him back. “Is it... that obvious?” He didn’t know if he wanted to hear the answer.

Feuilly’s eyes softened and he put a hand soothingly on Enjolras’s arm in return. “No, it’s not. Honestly, I was mostly joking.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.” Feuilly smiled at him warmly. “I won’t tell anyone.”

Enjolras saw Courfeyrac from the corner of his eye noticing him and Feuilly and he knew there was a frown on his face without having to see it. Enjolras very obviously ignored him and looked at Feuilly.

“Yeah, not... not yet.” Not before he had talked to Grantaire, figured out how to talk to Grantaire. Also, maybe Courfeyrac was going to kill him before that because he hadn’t been the first one to know.

Feuilly squeezed Enjolras’s arm before letting go and turning around. “Hey Bahorel, what’re you watching?”

 

Enjolras slowly followed him, walking stoically past Courfeyrac, until he stood next to Grantaire’s row. The other man looked up at Enjolras. “Hey,” he said and Enjolras couldn’t help but smile at him.

“Hey,” he said. “Mind if I sit with you?” He hadn’t asked before but for some reason, he felt like he should, this time.

“Sure...,” Grantaire said carefully and then, when Enjolras sat down, “Feuilly is back.”

“Oh. Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve been doing well without him too but it’s not really the same –”

“You always sit next to Feuilly on the plane.”

Enjolras closed his mouth. He needed a minute to choose the right words under the sceptical scrutiny of Grantaire’s eyes but finally, he shrugged, smiled a little. “Trying something new this year. And well, it worked so far.” He took a deep breath. “Besides... I like sitting with you.”

Grantaire looked surprised at that, Enjolras was getting better at picking up on subtle reactions and he smiled encouragingly hoping it would give his words enough gravity to erase Grantaire’s scepticism.

“Oh,” Grantaire said and he seemed endearingly confused for a moment. “I guess,” he shrugged but eventually did smile back at Enjolras, the surprise turning into something pleasant and making Enjolras’s heart skip.

 

And if he was being obvious, he thought, maybe it didn’t have to be a bad thing.

 

 

***

 

 

Getting a couple of scheduled days off after an exhausting stretch of games was both a blessing and a curse. Enjolras understood how it could be nice, not worrying about a practise or a morning skate or a game for a day or two and just relax.

Enjolras... wasn’t good at relaxing. But at least this time, there were other people around, not like during the All-Star Weekend.

 

Brunch’, Courfeyrac texted him and Enjolras knew that he was going to be busy for the rest of the day.

They met in one of the little hole-in-the-wall restaurant Courfeyrac knew because the friend of someone’s girlfriend’s brother worked there, Enjolras didn’t question it.

Courfeyrac and Combeferre were already sitting at a table waiting for him and despite the cute little tables and upbeat French music, Enjolras felt like stepping into an interrogation room.

“Is this an intervention?” he joked but Courfeyrac looked at him seriously.

“No,” he said slowly and took a sip of his coffee. “We’re just having a nice chat over brunch.”

Enjolras sighed and plopped down onto the third chair at the table. “Can I at least order a croissant first?” It was an off-day, he was going to get away with eating a usually definitely too buttery desert for his diet plan.

Courfeyrac snorted. “Who do you take us for, we ordered already.”

“Of course.”

Courfeyrac took another sip of his coffee.“So,” he said, put down his cup. “Grantaire?”

“Yes,” Enjolras said, and nothing else, maybe a little petulant.

 

From the corner of his eye, he saw Combeferre trying to hide a smile.

 

“You’re not helping, you know?”

Combeferre’s smile widened. “I’m not getting involved in this, I’m here for the croissants. Courfeyrac here was just feeling neglected because you didn’t tell him about your crush.”

Enjolras blushed at Combeferre just putting it out there so casually. “It’s not a crush,” he murmured. “It’s not like were sixteen anymore.” Also, it felt like the word was wrong somehow, so insubstantial and what he felt for Grantaire wasn’t ... that. He thought.

“You like like him,” Courfeyrac said because he was an asshole and still definitely sixteen inside sometimes.

Enjolras dropped his head onto the table so maybe they wouldn’t hear it when he murmured, “I’m pretty sure I’m in love with him.”

Judging from the silence, they hadn’t, or maybe they did. Either way, Enjolras let himself feel the silence and the way the words felt new and momentous and ... exciting, just for him, in that moment.

 

Eventually, he did look up and was faced with Courfeyrac’s wide eyes.

“What,” he said, “the fuck?!”

Enjolras shrugged.

Courfeyrac threw his hands in the air. “We thought it was like, a crush, not... that, wow, that’s... wow.” He sounded incredulous and like, Enjolras could relate.

“I know,” he said. It was pretty incredible.

“So,” Combeferre said. He had taken off his glasses, slowly cleaning first one side, then the other, with the sleeve of his henley. “What do you plan on doing about that?”

And that was a good question, wasn’t it? Enjolras knew that... something was there, had been there between him and Grantaire. At least when Grantaire had kissed him back, back then – and Enjolras was feeling so stupid now, not to know then, not to treasure the moment more, their first kiss.

 

“I don’t know,” he said.

 

Courfeyrac, who seemed to have calmed down again a little, looked determined. “Well, we know he’s interested in you at least.”

Enjolras frowned. “Wait, how do you know.”

Courfeyrac frowned back at him. “I’m... pretty sure like, everyone knows? I mean, that he has a bit of a thing for you? It’s obvious?”

It felt like Enjolras’s heart was trying to do a ridiculous back-flip or something at the words. He ducked his head a little and smiled. “Huh.”

“Wait,” Courfeyrac said slowly. “You are the most oblivious person ever, how do you know?”

And if Enjolras was blushing before, his face felt like it was on fire then. “Well. Uhm. I mean, we kissed.”

Courfeyrac blinked at him. Opened his mouth, closed it again. Paused. Then, “What the fuck?!

Enjolras was glad there weren’t really a lot of people in the restaurant, but one couple and a very judgmental old lady turned to look at them still.

“Sssh,” he hissed.

Courfeyrac glared at him and Combeferre just looked like someone had taken the puck away from right under his stick or, maybe, the floor from under his feet. Enjolras felt a tiny bit accomplished before Courfeyrac hissed back at him, more quiet this time.

“When?!

“At... at your party, the end of the season.”

“That’s over half a year ago, Enjolras, what the hell?! Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Well, I didn’t know what it meant to me then!”

Combeferre cleared his throat pointedly and oh, maybe they had been getting a bit louder again there. Enjolras felt the ridiculous urge to apologize but Courfeyrac looked equally chided.

“But you know now what it means to you?” Combeferre finally asked calmly when he had Enjolras’s full attention.

“I... I know what I want it to mean, I think?” He wanted it to mean that he would get to kiss Grantaire again, laugh with him, be with him, know everything about him and learn something new every day and learn how to understand Grantaire without second-guessing himself every time at least twice. He wanted it to mean that Grantaire could be happy with him, content and safe, at home, feeling like he belonged somewhere and Enjolras wanted it to mean he could be part of that somewhere, someone.

“So,” Combeferre said gently, “Tell him that.”

And it spoke volumes for their friendship that Enjolras wasn’t sure if he had said all of that out loud or if Combeferre just knew how to read him that well. It didn’t matter, really.

“I just,” Enjolras started but he didn’t even know really what he was trying to counter with then. Was he waiting for what, the right moment? It wasn’t really Enjolras’s philosophy to wait for the right moment, circle and wait until there was the perfect open lane when there was the possibility to shoot a puck past an unsuspecting goaltender and trailing defense. He supposed he was more of a seize-the-day kind of person.

Was he scared? Yes, but he wouldn’t be anywhere near where he was that day if he hadn’t embraced and used that feeling of being scared, nervous to move forward and do whatever he was scared of anyway. And he was scared of what, being rejected? Being let down gently – or not gently?

Courfeyrac might be right when he said that Enjolras was generally a little oblivious but... he wasn’t stupid. He was a Captain of a major league hockey team, he didn’t think he would have gotten there being completely emotionally inept.

 

And with Grantaire... Enjolras knew something was there. They had been getting along better and better, meeting for dinner or talking for hours on the phone, strategy and everything else. And Enjolras wasn’t blind as well, he knew how Grantaire had looked at him after their kiss, how he looked at Enjolras sometimes and it made him feel... something. A lot.

 

“Yeah,” Enjolras said. “I should talk to him.”

Yes! Courfeyrac exclaimed. Loudly. Combeferre sighed, fond and exasperated.

“Yes,” Courfeyrac said, at an appropriate volume. “You should totally talk to him, that’s great, Enjolras. Okay, what’s the plan?”

“The... plan?”

“Duh.” Courfeyrac rolled his eyes. “The plan. How are you going to tell him, don’t you want it to be like, romantic or what, you’re just going to go up to him and ask him, ‘Hey Grantaire, I like you, like a lot, let me take you out?’”

“Well,” Enjolras said. “Yes.”

Courfeyrac stared at him while Combeferre was shaking with silent laughter. When it became clear that Enjolras wasn’t going to say something else, Courfeyrac groaned dramatically. “Alright, okay, there’s no romantic bone in your body, I see. Just, I don’t know, go get your man, I guess.”

“Thanks,” Enjolras said and couldn’t help but grin widely at Courfeyrac. Combeferre patted the other man’s arm comfortingly, lingering with his fingers wrapped gently around his wrist.

“I’m happy for you,” Combeferre said and Courfeyrac laughed, disbelieving still and delighted. “Yeah, me too.”

Enjolras didn’t have to thank them because they knew.

“Thank you,” he said anyway because sometimes he wanted to make a hundred percent sure they did.

 

 

***

 

 

So, Enjolras did have a plan.

Granted, it wasn’t a very elaborate one, not very romantic or anything – he was kind of sure that it wasn’t really Grantaire’s style if he stood in front of his apartment with a boombox or a thousand roses. Or both. But he did plan to be upfront and honest about his feelings.

So, they had a game a little later on an almost warm day at the beginning of March and a late practice the day after. Enjolras was going to ask Grantaire after the game if he could give him a ride home – very nice, very gentlemanly – and when they were there, he would tell Grantaire how much he meant to Enjolras and if he wanted to go out with him, for real, like a date, and maybe if he could kiss him, again, for real and... alright, Enjolras guessed it sounded very simple in theory but he might have been a little bit nervous.

 

Grantaire shuffled into the locker room, beanie tugged on his head to tame his curls at least a bit, still looking a little sleepy from his pre-game nap.

“Hey,” he said when he spotted Enjolras, as always the first one there, and Enjolras... didn’t.

Enjolras let out a sound that was too high to be a word and he immediately started coughing, mortified because what the hell.

Grantaire simply raised an eyebrow. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” Enjolras said quickly. “Throat’s just, a bit sore.”

Oh my God,’ Courfeyrac mouthed at him over Grantaire’s shoulder. Then he exclaimed loudly, “Don’t you dare get the flu or anything, ugh,” which practically dared Enjolras to put him in a headlock.

Courfeyrac tried to wriggle his way out from under Enjolras’s arm but not until he got close enough to Enjolras’s ear to whisper delightedly, “What the hell was that?

Before Enjolras could tell him politely to shut up, Coach Lamarque entered the room, his eyes immediately finding Enjolras and Courfeyrac and his face took on a long-suffering but fairly resigned expression.

“Boys,” he said mildly. “If you don’t mind, we have a game to play.”

“We have some ass to kick!” Bahorel added gleefully as Enjolras and Courfeyrac let go of each other and Lamarque turned away from them to Bahorel with the same disapproving frown.

“Legally,” Bahorel added.

“Good enough,” Coach said and then he started going over the strategy for the game and Enjolras focused on paying attention and putting the rest of his gear on.

When they were about to walk out onto the ice for warm-ups, he waited for Grantaire and gently tapped the goalie’s pad with his stick.

Grantaire smiled at him and it was easy, suddenly, asking, “Hey, can I give you a ride home today? I wanted to talk to you about something? Nothing... nothing bad, I promise.” He smiled back at the other man, nerves and excitement making his heart flutter.

“Alright, ominous,” Grantaire huffed, amused. “But sure, if you want.”

“Cool,” Enjolras said and maybe he was grinning a little too widely, but he also didn’t really care.

But then, first they had a hockey game to play and well, it would definitely be nicer to ask someone out after a win.

 

 

***

 

 

The game was...

The problem was, Enjolras didn’t remember, really, the game.

 

The first part yes, which was a bit of a shitshow, to be quite honest.

For some reason, they started on the wrong foot and the Senators, which should have really been just nice to beat, got a lucky bounce at the end of the first period while every puck that was shot by Enjolras’s team seemed to be married to the goal post. It wasn’t the world of a deficit though, their offense was one of the best in the league, Enjolras didn’t have like, unreasonable delusions of grandeur on that one.

They went into the second period fired up and then they were fumbling their way through the very first line change of the period, a Senators player got a breakaway and a goal and – it took about thirty seconds until their defense butchered a pass out of the zone and the puck was past their goalie again and the game was running away in front of Enjolras’s eyes.

He looked at Grantaire on the bench, hard and determined expression, and Enjolras knew even before Lamarque gave him the tap that they were putting Grantaire in net. Lamarque barked some more instructions, about how they were still in this game and Enjolras believed that every time and every time Grantaire was on the ice, so he took a deep breath and waited for his name to be called to jump from the bench onto the ice and just. Skated.

He had the puck on his stick, delayed, delayed to keep the play from being offside, then passed the puck to Courfeyrac who was streaking towards the goal with the puck perfectly meeting his way and Enjolras followed to –

 

The problem was, he didn’t remember the hit.

 

He saw Courfeyrac, the puck left his stick, he started and...

 

There should have been pain, he guessed.

 

But the next thing he knew was that he was lying on the ice, his face cold and looking at white, white, white that was spinning in front of his eyes.

 

The world was spinning.

 

Then there were people, skates and talking but everything sounded fuzzy in Enjolras’s ears until someone kneeled down next to him, turning him just a little with steady but gentle hands and he couldn’t concentrate on the voices anymore because he had to concentrate on not puking his guts out all over the ice.

The first word that reached him was his name.

“Enjolras. Enjolras, can you move?” Combeferre then. “Are you in pain?”

The moving part was debatable, Enjolras thought, but he managed to get out, “No, no, I’m fine.” He tried his best to will his body into standing up which... maybe wasn’t the best idea because the world still felt tilted but he gritted his teeth as there were steady arms holding him up left and right, Combeferre and Bossuet, he realized because they were taller.

And... they should have been playing, they had the game on the line, they shouldn’t help him stand, he was able to stand on his own, he had been standing on skates since he was three. “It’s fine, it’s –”

“Don’t you dare,” Courfeyrac hissed and oh, he was there too, looking murderous and that was the first time when Enjolras realised that... oh. He must have been hit.

“Don’t,” he tried to say because Courfeyrac looked ready to beat somebody into a pulp despite the fact that he was practically tiny – for a hockey player, that was – and Enjolras suspected he wasn’t the only one. “Don’t do anything stupid, I’m fine, I –”

He tried to put more weight on his legs and his knees buckled immediately, Combeferre and Bossuet gripping him tightly, so he wouldn’t fall and no. No.

 

Enjolras suddenly felt sick for a whole other reason.

 

Somehow, they dragged him over to the bench, he heard the medical staff talking over his head, heard the mumbled ‘Concussion protocol’ and he felt sick, just sick to his stomach.

The arena was eerily quiet when he went down the tunnel, he didn’t know how really, just one foot in front of the other until he was gently pushed down onto a chair.

“Sit down,” Dr Simplice said and Enjolras had seen enough people crying after one of the soft looking, elderly lady’s medical treatments to do as she told immediately.

“I’m fine,” he tried anyway and she simply regarded him with a single raised grey eyebrow.

“That’s good,” she said in a way that sounded like she was comforting a small child, kind but patronizing. She held something bright up in front of Enjolras’s eyes.

Enjolras blinked, he thought.

Dr Simplice frowned.

Enjolras hands were shaking, he hadn’t noticed before.

“I can go back out, I swear, I can play. I need to-“

“Enjolras,” Dr Simplice said. “I’ve been doing this job for a very long time and I know that if I asked, every single player would be out there to play but it is highly probable that you have a concussion.”

 

That word.

Enjolras felt sick again.

 

“I’m not in pain,” he tried to protest, swallowed.

Dr Simplice looked at him with something like pity in her eyes. He hated it. “Not now, you aren’t. But I’m not going to risk my patient’s health for a game that grown men play. We can’t say how severe your injury is but if you go out there now and anything happens...,” she trailed off but Enjolras knew, God, he knew.

 

He felt his eyes burning, closed them and tried to breathe.

 

 

***

 

 

Enjolras woke up later to Combeferre stroking his hair and Courfeyrac standing next to him with his things gathered in his arms. He didn’t know if he had been actually sleeping or just floating in darkness and numbness. He wasn’t wearing his jersey, pants and padding anymore. He didn’t know when he had taken them off.

“Come on,” Combeferre said quietly. “We’ll get you home.”

Enjolras eyelids felt heavy and there was a dull throbbing in his head.

“Did we win?” he murmured.

Neither Combeferre nor Courfeyrac answered but that, in itself, was answer enough.

 

Enjolras just hoped Grantaire didn’t think it was his fault.

 

 

***

 

 

Officially, Enjolras had a concussion and was out week-to-week.

 

They told him he might make it back in time for the playoffs mid-April.

If they made it, a treacherous voice said in the back of his head before it was drowned out by pain, again and again –

 

During the first week, Combeferre and Courfeyrac basically moved back in with him. It almost felt like Enjolras’s rookie-year all over again only he was sure that Courfeyrac and Combeferre were both sleeping in the same bed in the guest room instead of separately and he couldn’t watch history documentations on Netflix because his head was screwed up.

 

Time passed anyway.

 

 

***

 

 

Combeferre and Courfeyrac had left – reluctantly – for an optional practice and Enjolras had... not.

He was sitting on the sofa and staring at the black TV and felt like a parody of himself.

First he thought he was imagining the doorbell ringing – he maybe should talk to Dr Simplice – but then it rang a second time and well.

Enjolras stood up and made his way through the room slowly to open the door.

 

And. Hallucinations couldn’t be good, right?

 

“Hey,” Grantaire said.

“Hey,” Enjolras said. He had the ridiculous urge to reach out and just, touch, see if the other man was real. “Shouldn’t you be at practice?” He asked instead.

Grantaire smiled, a small smile. “Tweaked my ankle a bit last game, they gave me a maintenance day.”

Enjolras hadn’t watched any games. Courfeyrac and Combeferre had tried their best to summarize what had happened, in a nice way, he was sure.

He had missed four so far, four games and counting.

“Are you okay?” he asked and Grantaire’s face twisted into something... sad? Enjolras hoped it wasn’t pity.

“You shouldn’t be the one asking that.”

 

Enjolras bit down on his lip and didn’t say anything.

 

“Ferre and Courf have been keeping us updated,” Grantaire continued, “Coach, too, I just...,” he trailed off and there was something in Enjolras’s stomach that was not quite like sickness but really, he didn’t know the difference anymore.

“I guess I was just worried,” Grantaire said.

“Don’t be.”

Grantaire frowned and Enjolras clenched his teeth before getting out, “It’s what it is. I can’t change that now. You have to get that playoff spot without me now but you can, I know that.”

Grantaire was still frowning. “That’s not...,” he started and stopped. He looked like he wanted to say something but then the silence stretched and continued. He didn’t take his eyes away from Enjolras and whatever he saw, eventually he nodded. “Of course,” he said. “Hockey.”

“Yeah,” Enjolras said. “Hockey.”

The silence was practically unbearable.

“I’m fine,” Enjolras added, softer at the look in Grantaire’s eyes, those eyes. “Really, Grantaire, I am or... I will be.” He was kind of a mess right now. “You just... you just got to go out there and show everyone what they’re in for.”

“Of course,” Grantaire said. “Captain.”

 

Enjolras swallowed and... didn’t say anything.

 

Grantaire let out a breath that was long enough to sound shaky, just a little. “Alright,” he said, more to himself it seemed. Then, “Come back soon, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Enjolras said, his throat felt like sandpaper when he breathed out.

Grantaire nodded and made to turn around but...

“Enjolras?”

“Yeah?”

“Just... you said you wanted to talk? After that game?” There was nothing in Grantaire’s face betraying his thoughts and he was still, still sometimes just like this, a blank page for Enjolras that told him nothing.

 

Maybe he had been stupid to think, they were getting somewhere, that the moment was there. Obviously thinking that had them ending with Enjolras’s head, brain scrambled and Grantaire standing in front of his door instead of being at practise.

 

“Sorry,” Enjolras said. “I don’t remember, it probably wasn’t something important.”

Grantaire looked at him for a moment longer. Then he nodded. “Take care, Captain.”

Enjolras closed the door before he could see him leave.

 

 

***

 

 

To say he was miserable would be... an understatement, really.

Sometimes there was more pain, sometimes less but he was miserable all the times because Enjolras’s team was in the run for a playoff spot and he... couldn’t help.

And he knew, he knew they were second in their conference at the moment, they didn’t have to worry, really, except if they were to massively, massively collapse which would be his fault then, not that they would, they had a good team, great even but. But. Every win they got should have been soothing, closer to clinching that playoff spot but Enjolras was still not there. He knew it was better to get healthy, to not take the risk and he hated it, hated every second of it, every second of not being there, having nothing to do except to think and think and think and...

He came to a couple of conclusions, during.

 

The first one was that their team was good. So good. Enjolras knew that he himself was good, too, a good player but they were doing good without him, they had depth and talent and they had had that last year, too, but this year, it felt different, it felt like they could do everything if they set their mind to it and that was...

 

The second thing.

 

The second thing was that Enjolras felt like... he had kind of forgot how to really care about hockey. Which made him feel sick, again, and for some reason guilty as well. He had got lost so much in his head lately, tangled up in new, exited and Grantaire that he forgot his... purpose, he guessed. The expectations of his team, everyone who believed in him, the fans. Hockey.

He couldn’t do this anymore, couldn’t let his team down and Grantaire was part of his team.

A distraction, a stray thought, a wrong step could end up with a head in the boards and all of their hopes crashing and burning and Enjolras couldn’t bear it, not again, not this time.

Enjolras had always been bad at losing. He thought he might have forgotten that because he could have had something else but Enjolras was the captain and if he was selfishly jeopardizing the team’s success for his own happiness, then maybe he shouldn’t be.

It was an epiphany and it hurt and it hurt because he hadn’t noticed sooner and during the days and days and weeks Enjolras spent at home with nothing to do, it edged itself into every fibre of his being, that he would make it up to them, to the team, to the fans, to the spirit of hockey. To Grantaire as well.

He would be healthy and then he was going to play hockey until he couldn’t stand anymore.

 

 

***

 

 

Enjolras got cleared for the last game of the season – over a month later – and he thought they might have even let him sit out that one if it weren’t for the fact that they were still playing for the goddamn division title and home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

The other team’s game was played at the same time as theirs, miles and miles away, and they only had to win in regulation, that was all. Theoretically easy. They were playing the Sabres who were already out of the playoff picture but it felt like they were still trying to mess up everyone else’s fun, fighting tooth and nail for every foot of ice.

But Enjolras, frankly, didn’t give a shit, there was ice under his skates and Courfeyrac’s pass right onto his stick, so perfect, and the puck perfectly hitting the back of the net.

 

It was the first time Enjolras felt light in weeks and he didn’t just feel light, he felt like... flying.

 

They won the game, by a wider margin then they probably should have at the other team’s effort but they had been better and Enjolras didn’t care, he scored once, twice – he was back, just in time.

 

“Playoffs, baby!” Bahorel shouted into his ear as he nearly crushed Enjolras in a hug, then he followed Courfeyrac and Combeferre on their way to hug their goalie.

Grantaire had been on the bench for the game but when Enjolras looked at him, he seemed just as happy and Enjolras was happy, for him, for his smile until he felt a sharp, curt ache in his chest.

He looked away.

 

 

***

 

 

After the game in the locker room, it felt like Grantaire was everywhere even though there were 23 players in the room plus coaches and medical and media goddamn, but Grantaire was always in the periphery of his vision and beaming like he couldn’t escape the happiness in the room that smoothed away the lines of scepticism from his face.

Beautiful, Enjolras mind supplied before he mentally kicked himself.

He slowly followed Combeferre and Courfeyrac out of the locker room after they were done, saw how they were smiling at each other again and again like they couldn’t quite believe it and there was no one else in the world to learn how to with.

Enjolras stepped back and let them go. He waited for Grantaire who was walking with Joly and Bossuet and, at seeing Enjolras, seemed to have a quick wordless conversation with both of them that had them simply grinning at Enjolras with that post-win-happiness and leaving him and Grantaire alone in the empty hallway.

“Hey,” Grantaire said, still smiling, still happy.

Enjolras wanted so badly to say it back. He didn’t and the expression on Grantaire’s face dimmed considerably.

 

They were alone in the hallway, Enjolras felt like the whole arena had gone silent, no one else and he felt like whoever had been there had taken all the air with them.

 

“I... I did want to talk to you,” Enjolras got out. “Before...,” he gestured at his head like the other man didn’t know what he was talking about. Like he wouldn’t.

“Do you want to now?” Grantaire asked but he didn’t sound mad. He sounded careful. Enjolras wanted to hate it, the gentleness, he wanted to hate it because –

“I can’t,” he choked out.

Grantaire’s face fell before he could get control over it.

Before Enjolras could think about it, he stepped in closer, was about to reach out, his hand hovering in the air between them –

 

Enjolras dropped his hand.

 

They were standing close to each other, close enough to touch, Grantaire looking at him with wide, blue-green, bright eyes and Enjolras wanted but.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I made you think, I – I can’t. Not, not now, there’s so much on the line.”

Grantaire didn’t say anything and Enjolras felt like – like he had to say everything, somehow put it in words, the weeks of thoughts and knowledge under his skin. “We can do it, this year, as a team, I know that, I believe that with everything I have and I can’t – I have to – we need me, a hundred percent of me.”

He didn’t even know if any of that made sense but Grantaire’s expression shifted into... something. Enjolras didn’t know what. Maybe he had been a fool to ever think he did.

“It’s hockey,” Grantaire said and... yeah.

“It’s hockey,” Enjolras said and Grantaire nodded, once and he had to, had to understand, that was what they were all here for, for the game that was their purpose, that filled every inch of their being with life and ice. That had given Enjolras everything he had, a family and Grantaire too. He knew it was possible to have more but he couldn’t, not then, not with everything on the line, he had had a decision to make.

And he had.

 

He had.

 

And he knew he had no right whatsoever and still, still.

Still, he asked, “Can you... will you wait?”

“For what?” Grantaire asked, so utterly blank that the finality hit Enjolras harder than a punch. Or a head against the boards.

He should have known, Grantaire didn’t owe him anything right then, ever really. Maybe he could forgive Enjolras, at some point, for his choice because it was the best, the only thing to do for all of them.

“No, no, I’m sorry,” he said. Sorry for asking, for being cruel, he guessed, without needing to be.

“We will win this, I promise,” he said, too, because that was what mattered.

Grantaire regarded him for a long moment; Enjolras couldn’t look away.

“We will,” he said. “I believe you.”

Just like that. Like Enjolras didn’t need to hear that from him more than from anyone else.

He smiled, helpless a little but hopeful, he thought.

Grantaire’s mouth twitched but it looked more like a grimace. He nodded again and breathed in. “See you in the first round, Cap.” Breathed out, smiled a little and it looked more real now if shaky but still.

 

Enjolras watched him turn around and a part of his heart might have broken off but.

 

But.

 

It had been the right thing to do. He had done it.

Now, they had some hockey to play.

 

***

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

***

 

 

The playoffs were different.

Enjolras was used to always playing hockey but there was always something different about playoff hockey, a different energy in the locker room, in the whole building.

Enjolras felt different, too, nervous but focused, seeing plays develop in front of his eyes before falling asleep, when waking up. He was living on coffee and pre-game meals in the few days before the first round started.

Their first game was there in the blink of an eye, in their building, in front of their home crowd, everything was red and loud, so loud, Enjolras could barely hear what Coach Lamarque was saying from the bench but he didn’t need to.

 

Go out there. Play.

 

Enjolras was ready to go play his heart out because what else did he need it for.

Their line was up for the opening faceoff but before Courfeyrac skated over to his spot at centre ice, he stopped at Enjolras’s side, grabbing him by the sleeve of his jersey.

“Enjolras?”

Enjolras stared at him and hoped it conveyed him thinking, ‘what?’ and ‘Is now the time?’.

Apparently, it didn’t or Courfeyrac simply ignored it. “Promise me something?”

Now?” he did ask then and Courfeyrac raised an eyebrow impatiently. Enjolras sighed. “Yes?”

“Promise you’ll have fun. Don’t let it take that away from you.”

Enjolras was dumbfounded. “Fun?”

And Courfeyrac just looked at him and then he grinned, wide and complete. “You beautiful idiot,” he said, tapped Enjolras’s butt with his stick and skated away.

Combeferre, at the other side of the ice, was smiling just as wide next to a confused looking player of the other team.

Enjolras settled on his spot, shaking his head but smiling, too, then.

“What the fuck, man?” The guy next to him in the white away jersey said and Enjolras looked at him and then simply smirked.

The referee blew the whistle, the puck dropped, Enjolras took it away after Courfeyrac won the faceoff and they were off.

 

 

***

 

 

They won their first game by a wide margin, the second more closely but they were still up 2-0 in the series when they were getting on the plane and away from home.

Enjolras hesitated for a second when he got on the plane and he didn’t think he had ever been so torn about a freaking empty seat but they had been winning, had been winning since Christmas really and hockey players were creatures of habit and also superstitious as hell. Enjolras never thought of himself as superstitious, it was just – Grantaire looked soft and calm with a beanie tucked on his head, curls spilling out, and a hoodie that looked too big for him and Enjolras felt like burning up inside so –

He ground his teeth together and sat down next to Grantaire.

The other man looked up. He always looked so surprised.

Enjolras tried to smile at him and got a frown in return but at least Grantaire didn’t tell him to leave which...

 

It was more than Enjolras deserved, probably.

 

 

***

 

 

The third game was off to a good start, their team was dominant, getting shots and it felt like it was only a matter of time that the first goal was going to follow.

The other team’s fans were just as loud only that it wasn’t the nice kind of loud when you were playing in enemy territory. But it only felt like fuel. Spite was no insubstantial motivation.

The opposing goalie, however, was playing amazingly and the rest of the team managed to get their legs back under them in bits and pieces. It was the playoffs after all; no one was done until they were done, really, Enjolras knew the feeling.

They made it all through the game without a single goal and the time was running out.

Enjolras was on the bench when the other team got a good shift in late, pressuring offensively. One of their players was behind the net, trying to go to the front with Joly at his heels when –

 

He felt like it was happening in slow-motion, the other team’s player skating by the net, colliding full force with their goalie who looked like he had been going out to get a clearer view on the puck, Enjolras didn’t know for certain; there was just the collision and silence, suddenly.

The silence didn’t last long because in the next moment everyone was at each other’s throats, the referees trying to pull a bunch of giant, angry hockey players away from each other.

Their goalie was still down and Enjolras was looking up at the jumbotron and... he was pretty sure legs shouldn’t bend like that.

 

There were two minutes left in the regular game and Enjolras saw Coach give Grantaire a grim nod.

 

Enjorlas’s heart was beating fast for the last moments, the seconds running out and then sixty minutes were over and they were going into overtime.

The mood in the locker room was subdued during the intermission.

“We don’t know anything yet,” Coach said before anyone could ask. “But both our goalies have been amazing for us this season, so come on, get out there and get them a goddamn goal.”

 

 

***

 

 

They didn’t.

Twelve minutes into overtime, they lost, fucking one-nothing in a playoff game.

Enjolras fought down his own frustration and after talking to the media about how they couldn’t score, how they were a disappointment suddenly, he sat down next to Grantaire who had already showered, water from his wet hair dripping onto his collar.

Enjolras carefully sat down next to him. 

 

They both started speaking at the same time.

“It’s not your fault.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” Enjolras said. “Don’t you dare say that. We couldn’t score a goal to save our damn lives today and you came in and actually gave us a chance.”

“Not long enough,” Grantaire muttered under his breath and Enjolras clenched his hand where Grantaire couldn’t see.

“We had more than enough time. We had a whole game and more. It’s frustrating, yes, but blame isn’t going to cut it. It’s done now, there’s always the next game.”

A little, very little smile edged itself into the corner of Grantaire’s mouth. “Aye, aye, Captain.”

Enjolras snorted inelegantly and then he laughed, really laughed and Grantaire did too for a moment before his face fell again into a serious expression.

“I can’t be your starter, Enjolras,” he said.

And Enjolras had always been kind of indifferent to the sound of his name but he hated the way Grantaire said it then, quiet and vulnerable but at the same time Enjolras couldn't help but feel relief because he had been so afraid to have lost the privilege of hearing his name from Grantaire. He didn’t know what to feel, he only knew that Grantaire’s anxiety was there for absolutely no reason.

“Listen,” Enjolras and they were so close, their knees could have been touching if Enjolras leaned in, just a little. “We don’t know how bad it is.”

Grantaire’s eyes said that they both knew exactly how bad it was.

Enjolras sighed. “But. If you are going to be in net for us for the rest of this series, hell, for the rest of these playoffs, it’s our Cup to lose and not yours.”

Grantaire stared at him. “You believe that? Really? Because if you’re just saying this because you like, want to-“

“Stop,” Enjolras cut him off and God, he had to get it together and not reach out for Grantaire in that moment. “Of course I do. I wouldn’t lie, I-,” he stopped, frustrated that he didn’t know how to let Grantaire know how much he meant what he said. “I want to be honest with you. And you’re just- you’re so good. You have to know you’re the future here. We all do. And yes, maybe they wanted to give you some more time but seriously” – Grantaire’s eyes were wide and Enjolras smiled – “Fuck it.”

Grantaire barked out a surprised laugh. He shook his head and looked down, smiling.

Enjolras gave in, just a little, and nudged the other man’s knee with his own. “Alright?” he asked, quietly.

“I will be, I think,” Grantaire said and Enjolras wished he could have said more but he didn’t know what he was allowed to do here, to say so he took his knee away, didn’t say anything and hoped it was enough, like that.

 

 

***

 

 

They took the series in five games and Enjolras lay in his bed back at home staring at the ceiling, his heart beating ‘now, now, now’, until he fell asleep, one second to another.

 

 

***

 

 

They took the second round in six games and Goddamn, Enjolras hoped they weren’t going to continue this upward trend because his body already felt like one giant bruise, the season and playoff hockey taking their toll.

His shoulder hurt from an especially hard hit in the last game, a clean one and Enjolras was pretty sure the other guy wasn’t much better off but the difference was that Enjolras could keep playing in the Conference Finals and he would take that and a stupid hurting shoulder over losing every time.

Hell, the series took six games, Grantaire standing on his head and Bahorel breaking his freaking hand and still playing.

Enjolras couldn’t remember the last time his body felt truly relaxed, even though he was still doing yoga in between training and games with Jehan so maybe, it wasn’t his body, just his mind, that couldn’t stop.

 

 

***

 

 

The Conference Finals flew by and Enjolras felt like he was running one endless sprint and the only way to end it would be when someone did the equivalent of that cartoon scene of smacking a piece of wood against someone’s head.

No one did.

 

They marched through the games and took another series in six.

 

Enjolras couldn’t believe it, not really. In that surreal way, he knew, they were in the Finals, they were the Eastern Conference champions, they got hats and a trophy which was silver and beautiful but all he could think was how it was one step away from the Cup, the Cup, they were on series away from the Cup and God, Enjolras was so proud, so proud of his team, he could have burst with it.

“You’ve reached the Finals for the first time in your career, Enjolras, how does it feel?” One reporter asked and there were microphones all up in Enjolras’s face and for once, he didn’t care.

Let the world see.

“Incredible,” he said feeling the grin wide on his face. “Really, it’s unbelievable even though, I guess, it shouldn’t be, I believe in every single person in this room, the team is amazing and I’m just... so grateful to be a part of this.”

Another person said, “Wouldn’t you say that the impact of yours is what’s been getting this team so far?”

“Everyone has contributed in bringing our team forward, I’m just one of the people here, we all have the same goal.”

“You are leading the team in scoring though.”

Enjolras didn’t immediately answer because, well. “I haven’t been keeping track,” he admited. Why would he, scoring was great but nothing compared to winning a game at this time of the year.

A dozen of uncomprehending journalists blinked back at him.

“Huh,” one said, then cleared his throat. “So well, you’ve lost your starting goaltender but Grantaire’s been keeping up well even though he hasn’t played any long stretches of time like this. How has he and the team been handling the adjustment and what does it mean for the Finals to have to rely on your back-up?”

Enjolras stared at the guy. He kind of wanted to ask if he was kidding but that might have been unprofessional so of course, he did one better and blurted out, “He’s amazing.”

Oh God.

He rushed to continue, “I mean, it is never good to lose a player, everyone is incredibly valuable for our team, especially our goalies, both of them have been our backbone this season, they always are.” And that was better, very diplomatic, good. “And yes, Grantaire is not the one who has played the majority of the season but he’s perfect, he’s been perfect behind our team and I-, all of us know that. I’ve never once thought he was going to let us down. Every time he’s on the ice, he’s giving our team a chance to win and it’s our responsibility to make the best of it and play well for him.”

When he stopped, Enjolras realized the entire room had gone silent.

Everyone was staring at Enjolras and listening.

It was natural only, to meet Grantaire’s eyes over the microphones and heads, looking at Enjolras’s, wide and disbelieving and well, Enjolras had only said the truth. His pulse shouldn’t have been beating so harshly, he could feel it in his veins.

 

He put on his most charming smile and turned back to the media. “Any more questions?”

 

"I think that’s it,” Cosette said decisively with her best PR-voice and Enjolras would be eternally, eternally grateful for her. “Thank you all.”

 

 

***

 

 

To say everyone went a bit crazy about Enjolras’s interview would have been, well, a little bit of an understatement.

Enjolras thought there should have been more interesting things to cover with it being the Finals and all but apparently ‘Captain Gushing About Goalie Like Sixteen-Year-Old With A Crush’ sold well as a story.

The locker room though was remarkably silent about the whole matter at the next practice.

Grantaire didn’t say anything but then, he and Enjolras weren’t really talking all that much; Courfeyrac looked like he wanted to say something but didn’t and Combeferre just smiled at Enjolras sympathetically when he got lost in thought.

The rest kept quiet, too, maybe because everyone was focused on playing or maybe because they knew better than to mention it, maybe both.

 

 

***

 

 

The next morning, an unknown number called to wake Enjolras up and he was too drowsy to think anything of it, so he picked up.

“’lo?”

“You are an absolute parody of yourself, aren’t you?”

Enjolras blinked at the screen, at the number, while the voice continued, “I mean, you raved about how perfect –”

“Good morning, Parnasse.”

“– on national television!”

Enjolras sighed. “Why are you calling me from a weird phone number?”

“Burner phone,” Montparnasse said nonchalantly. 

‘What the fuck,’ Enjolras mouthed to himself but he didn’t ask. Everyone dealt with losing differently and Parnasse’s team had just lost last night in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals to the LA Kings. “I’m sorry that –”

“Shut up,” Montparnasse said but didn’t even sound that sharp, just blank. “Let me bask in your misery a little to make myself feel better and then I’ll tell you every little weakness of those stupid LA fucking Kings so you can beat the shit out of them in the Finals, deal?”

“Deal,” Enjolras said.

 

 

***

 

 

After he told Montparnasse everything, about Grantaire, about hockey, about his decision, there was a long pause at the other end of the line.

“I get it,” Montparnasse said, finally, simply.

Enjolras knew that it didn’t mean that he would have dealt with it the same way, they never dealt with their problems the same way but he knew it meant that Montparnasse understood, completely, all of it and Enjolras felt the ridiculous urge to hug him and was simply glad they were only speaking on the phone because he would have never heard the end of it.

 

 

***

 

 

Despite Montparnasse’s inside knowledge of quote ‘the stupid LA fucking Kings’, Enjolras and the team did not, exactly, beat the shit out of them.

It was a back and forth, they lost one game, they won two, lost another and it was the up and down of hockey, hockey, hockey until they lost again and suddenly they were down 3-2 in the series, in the Finals, and getting ready for an elimination game on home ice and the world felt too small for Enjolras’s anxiety.

 

Before the game, he was trying to calm down, collect his thoughts, just breathe.

 

He still couldn’t control the nervous trembling of his leg when they were about to go out onto the ice for the game, the most important one of his career, as was every next one.

He had made a motivational speech earlier, had meant every word of it even though he didn’t know how many of his teammates had actually been listening but he hoped it had brought comfort for them. It somehow hadn’t helped to comfort himself but he was the Captain, all he needed to do was help his team.

“Hey,” Grantaire said from behind him.

They were the last ones not on the ice. Enjolras didn’t remember when that had started to become a tradition as well, theirs.

 

Enjolras looked at him and... he gave in, just a little, couldn’t help but not to.

 

“Hey,” he whispered.

It was silent for a moment.

“Crazy, right?” Grantaire said quietly.

 

Everything was, being there, talking.

 

“Yeah.”

“Thanks,” Grantaire said.

Enjolras frowned. “What for?”

The other man shrugged but he sounded earnest, serious when he said, “For believing in me as a player.”

Something inside Enjolras ached because that wasn’t what he did, not just that.

“Grantaire...,” he started but he didn’t even know what he wanted to say.

Grantaire didn’t look surprised. “We’ve got this, Cap, okay?”

“We do?” Enjolras didn’t – he didn’t want it to sound like a question, it wasn’t a question but... he had never been good at holding back around Grantaire.

“We do,” Grantaire said. “We do.”

He didn’t say anything else, neither of them did.

 

 

***

 

 

They... did.

They actually did it and by ‘they’, Enjolras really meant that Enjolras had been unsuccessfully biting his teeth out on the other team’s checking line but Grantaire kept the door closed and, of all people, Marius freaking Pontmercy decided to play the game of his life, score two goals and assist on the third, closing it out.

They were going to Los Angeles, to Game Seven of the Finals.

 

They were so close, so close, Enjolras could taste it.

 

 

***

 

 

Enjolras thought, sometimes, one had to admit that life was funny. In a way that meant sometimes, life was utterly, utterly ridiculous.

 

Courfeyrac insisted that the whole team came to his house to celebrate – moderately, of course, because they had practise the day after and were flying out to Los Angeles in two.

Enjolras found himself sitting next to Marius who was flushed, high off almost-summer and still playing in almost-summer and winning in almost-summer.

“You’ve been great,” Enjolras said even though everyone already did but Marius was still all smiles and pleased at the praise.

And then, Marius started talking.

 

One thing Enjolras had learned about the rookie during the season was that he soaked up attention like a sponge.

A nice sponge, really, polite and very good at hockey but a little exhausting at times, too.

 

But ridiculously, that evening, Enjolras didn’t find it in himself to mind.

He was letting himself get carried away by the other team's mood, the excitement and hope, and he let Marius talk and talk and even, ridiculously, listened.

“I mean, it was such an amazing game, wasn’t it? Like, it’s hockey, it’s always that but holy moly, does it always feel like this? Incredible. And I don’t know if I sound stupid but, but it was super nice to play well, after the year it’s been. It’s been, well, you know...”

Enjolras did not know. He frowned and said, “You had a great year, Marius.”

“Oh,” Marius said, bright red. “Thank you. That. That means a lot coming from you even though, like, I mean, I know. No, that sounded dumb, I just mean, the year’s been bad, no, not bad, just difficult. Everything except hockey.”

Enjolras stared at the rookie. “I... I didn’t know that.”

Marius shook his head. “You know Cosette?”

Alright, change of topic but Enjolras could go with it? “Yes?”

“So, I love her so much,” Marius started and Enjolras and... Enjolras hadn't known that. He got more confused by the second. He remembered with sudden clarity why Courfeyrac was generally better at dealing with the younglings.

“And I’ve never been happier than I’ve been with her," Marius went on, "But like, she got a lot of job offers from all over this year and that’s amazing of course but I was so afraid that wherever she chose to be, I couldn’t go with her because, I mean, it would seem super ungrateful to ask for a trade or something in my first year in the League? I would follow her everywhere, I’d go, I don’t know to England, if I had to, I could play hockey in England if she wanted to go to England –”

Enjolras could only listen dumbfounded while Marius recounted the happy, part-time tragic love story of meeting his soulmate in college, getting drafted and playing hockey without any certainty of what the future had in store, every day and Enjolras... hadn’t known.

“I didn’t know that,” Enjolras said again after Marius was done, he thought.

The other man shook his head. “Of course not, it’s got nothing to do with hockey. You don’t bring that with you out on the ice.” He sounded so earnest.

Maybe Marius was only a year younger but suddenly Enjolras felt like he couldn’t have been.

“It was difficult at first,” Marius continued, “but I mean, you all do it so well, I’ve learned so much from like, Courf and Combeferre and also you and Grantaire, so –”

 

Enjolras stopped breathing for a second. “What?”

 

Marius, seemingly oblivious, nodded eagerly. “Yeah, I mean, you’re so great together and you play great hockey and I’m sure it must have been difficult with your, you know, concussion and R just suddenly being the starter in the freaking playoffs. And, I don’t know, you think you’re here to learn how to play hockey when you come to the League but you guys have been teaching me so much more, that... that not one or the other has to be more important. Like, we’re not just players, we’re people and, and I guess I didn’t know that at first when I just felt like I had to prove myself? I mean, I still do but it has nothing to do with my happiness in the rest of my life. It’s the more important thing to learn, you don’t have that figured out immediately and just seeing you together, how you do it... I’m just so glad that you’re my team.”

Marius was beaming while Enjolras felt like he had been punched in the throat and all he managed to choke out was, “You’re welcome?”

It sounded strangled but Marius didn’t seem to care.

Somehow, Enjolras managed to clap the other man’s back and excuse himself and not let on that he was having an internal breakdown.

 

He couldn’t believe Marius thought Courfeyrac and Combeferre were together, that he and Grantaire were, that they were –

 

He couldn’t believe how convinced Marius had been that Enjolras had his life even remotely figured out when he had – when he had nothing, nothing at all figured out, not like – like Marius Pontmercy, of all people.

 

Enjolras stumbled away from the garden full of people and into the kitchen where there was only Combeferre inspecting a bottle of wine obviously thinking about the merits of opening it versus practise in the morning. 

He looked up at Enjolras and immediately concern came upon his face.

 

Enjolras didn’t know what he was doing.

 

“You and Courf,” he blurted out. “Are you together?”

He had never asked the question, always wanted to leave them to figure it out in their own time, knew how complex, unique the situation was but when Marius thought –

Combeferre looked at him, put the bottle on the counter and pushed his glasses up his nose. He didn’t ask why Enjolras was asking. “Not like you're thinking about but does it matter?”

Enjolras felt hysterical laughter welling up inside him. “I don’t know, does it?”

It sounded complicated, way too complicated to be all calm and collected about it like Combeferre seemed to be.

Combeferre smiled, a small smile but it was serious. “Why should it? I spend so much of my life with him and I know I am going to spend the rest of it with him, too. I love him, he loves me, what does a year or two matter, or ten. He’ll be there and that’s all I need to know. I’m happy.”

Enjolras dropped down onto the closest chair by the kitchen table. Combeferre walked up to stand next to him and Enjolras rested his head on the other man’s hip.

“What if,” he whispered, “One of you gets traded or, or I don’t know.” He didn’t look at his friend.

“It would still be him,” Combeferre said. “And if he was at the other end of the universe.”

He was carding his fingers slowly, soothingly through Enjolras hair.

 

Enjolras closed his eyes and didn’t know what to think.

 

 

***

 

 

Enjolras had slept deep and dreamless for the first time in a long, long time, completely exhausted, physically and mentally.

He woke up in one of Courfeyrac’s guest bedrooms, desperately hoping that last night had been a dream and realizing it had not been.

He stood up and made his way to the kitchen feeling a little like a zombie and he wasn’t even hungover because no one had really been drinking much the evening before.

Courfeyrac was happily making breakfast because Combeferre, despite the whole air of being put together and accountable, was not a morning person.

A cup of coffee was put in front of Enjolras who didn’t know if he should drink it because it only meant getting more awake. He eventually did drink it and then he looked at Courfeyrac in the kitchen, bright and warm and said, “Hey Courf?”

“Hmm?”

“Are you and Ferre together?”

Courfeyrac didn’t stop smiling or flipping crepes. He seemed to contemplate his answer for a moment.

“In all the ways that matter right now,” he said eventually with a little shrug and a soft expression on his face.

“What- What does that mean?”

Courfeyrac glanced at Enjolras and whatever he saw on his face made him put the pan aside and turn towards him fully. “It means we’re both happy. We know that there are some things that could be different and time changes and they will be, we will both be there. He’s everything. And, he’s always, too.”

The certainty in his words, for some reason, made Enjolras want to cry. He sounded so earnest, so convinced and steady, Courfeyrac, who was always moving, who looked so perfectly content at that moment.

Enjolras couldn’t help it though. “But, what if one... one of you has to leave for some reason, I don’t know, gets traded or has to go somewhere else? This – it’s home, here.”

“Oh sunshine,” Courfeyrac said and suddenly Enjolras had a smaller than average hockey player somehow wrapped around himself. It stopped the trembling, a little.

“You know,” Courfeyrac said, “Maybe that’s part of life. That as you grow up, home is just... getting a little more stretched out.”

 

And Enjolras tried to wrap his head around the words, turning them over again and again and thought that until then, in Enjolras’s head, the words ‘home’ and ‘ice’ had always been pretty much the same thing.

 

 

***

 

 

After practice, that Enjolras spend trying to concentrate on the ice under his skates, the puck on his stick and not on the goalie between the pipes, he showered and then found himself in front of Coach Lamarque’s office.

He knocked and opened the door carefully.

“Oh Enjolras, come in,” Coach said, “What can I do for you?”

People, the media, liked to make a point of how strict and determined Coach Lamarque was but Enjolras had always thought there was a soft side to him, a gentleness in his eyes that came with age when the bitterness hadn’t managed to become stronger than that.

Enjolras felt like he was nineteen again, fresh-faced and unknowning. Or like he was just twenty-one, in the same office, when they had asked him to take the captaincy and he hadn’t known what to do then, too, but he had always pretended to.

He was tired of that.

“Can I talk to you about something?” he asked.

Lamarque smiled and pointed at the chair next to his desk. Enjolras had always found it a little odd that the desk stood at the wall and there was no barrier between Coach and the person coming to talk to him. He was grateful for it now. 

“Of course. What did you want to talk about?” Coach asked him and folded his hands in his lap.

Enjolras felt like the whole world, everyone around him was calm. While he couldn’t even take a breath properly.

“Game Seven,” Enjolras started, “Is that the most important day of my life?”

Coach looked at him and he seemed surprised by the question. It sounded like he was measuring his words when he said, “It is, and I’m sure you know that, the most important game of your career so far.”

And Enjolras... Enjolras knew that and he felt so stupid, so young, but he didn’t know who else he was supposed to ask, really, because everyone seemed to have figured it out but he – he hadn’t.

“Is... is that not the same thing? Coach?”

Lamarque was looking at him for a long time, it felt like, maybe because Enjolras was just desperately waiting for him to say, ‘Yes’. Yes of course.

“No,” Coach said slowly, “It is not the same.”

 

Not the same.

 

Somehow, Enjolras thought, he could feel it, his world tilting on its axis.

 

He didn’t say anything.

Coach regarded him with that softness in his eyes. He sighed. “I didn’t mean to tell you,” he said and Enjolras thought hysterically for a moment, that he didn’t mean to tell him the secret of the universe, Enjolras’s universe. “But I’m going to be retiring at the end of this season.”

 

That.

“What?”

 

Coach hummed, affirming. “Do you know why?”

How in hell was Enjolras supposed to know why? How was he supposed to know anything, really?

Lamarque didn’t seem surprised when Enjolras didn’t answer. “I’ve really had enough of hockey in my life,” he said like that wasn’t an absolutely crazy thing to say. He smiled. “It’s been at the forefront of my life for a long time now and it had its time and now, I want other things to get more time, too. There have been a lot of important moments in my life, I’ve played hockey in the League, I scored my first goal, I asked my wife to marry me and I saw our children for the first time. There is time for all of it but it’s a very demanding thing, hockey.” He chuckled. “I have all these plans made with my wife, my children and I’m looking forward to them, incredibly. But I wouldn’t have the chance to do that if all my life had been up to this point, was my career. I want to visit France; did you know that? What do you want to do?”

Enjolras knew that this time, it was a question that waited for an answer. “I... I’ve been to France. Last summer, Courfeyrac and Combeferre dragged me along. It, it was nice.”

Coach nodded and he smiled but it looked sad, almost.

“You were so young,” he said quietly and it sounded like an apology. “When we asked you to be Captain. I don’t regret choosing you, not for a moment. But you’re making me think that we gave you all that responsibility and we didn’t bother making sure you took some for yourself as well, not just for others.”

Enjolras bit down onto his lip that was trembling.

Coach Lamarque took both of Enjolras’s hands in his and leaned forward. “Promise me you will, not just when I’m gone, from now on. You are more than the weight you think is resting on your shoulders.”

Enjolras swallowed and he nodded. “Promise.”

He didn’t know if he said it out loud, but Coach nodded, too. When they stood up, he hugged Enjolras and Enjolras hugged him back and for the first time, he didn’t feel too tall, too young or too clueless. He felt like an adult, as he was held, and not terrified about it.

 

 

***

 

 

Epiphanies, Enjolras realized, only took a moment to happen if you let them but a little longer to manifest, make their way to the core, especially if you had been conditioned all your life to think differently.

So Enjolras went home, thinking about Coach and Courfeyrac and Combeferre and ridiculously, Marius Pontmercy.

 

He slept, he woke up, thinking about hockey and life and everything in between.

 

He drove to the airport and then finally, he thought about Grantaire, sitting next to Grantaire on the plane to Los Angeles; Grantaire who was unperturbed by Enjolras’s silence and the emotions raging inside him.

He got to the hotel and Enjolras thought about Grantaire, thought about himself.

He went to bed and he thought about the future, one with hockey and then, after, without hockey.

 

And after all that thinking, he still didn’t feel terrified. He felt calm.

 

It was that realization that made him turn and look at the clock, it was a little after ten and the hotel blanket felt scratchy against his skin, so he stood up, tiptoed out onto the floor and to the room that he knew was Grantaire’s.

He went to knock at the door but suddenly, he felt like the sound would be too loud in the silence of the night, so he quietly went back to his room, got his phone and send, ‘Can you open the door, please?

Enjolras expected to wait but it couldn’t have been more than twenty seconds before the door opened and then he was faced with Grantaire, rumpled hair, too big shirt and sweatpants. He was beautiful and blinked at Enjolras looking confused.

 

Enjolras let a smile take over his face. “Hey.”

 

“Hey,” Grantaire responded slowly.

They stood on a hotel floor and stared at each other.

“Did I wake you?” Enjolras asked and he didn’t know why he was whispering.

Grantaire shook his head. “No, it’s fine, I – I wasn’t sleeping yet. Do you want to come in?”

He opened the door more and Enjolras stepped inside another generic hotel room only that this one had Grantaire’s suitcase in it, clothes piling on a chair by the window, a cup of tea on the nightstand.

Grantaire looked at him and Enjolras looked back when he said, “You know when I said I wanted to talk to you –”

“Enjolras,” Grantaire said and it sounded strained and so despairing that Enjolras’s mouth fell shut.

Grantaire looked like he wanted to say something but he didn’t, only let out a frustrated huff. He sat down on the bed, pushed his hands into his hair and he stopped looking at Enjolras, he didn’t look at him. “I can’t – not tonight; you know how I feel about you and I get it, you don’t feel the same, I got it the first time and I got it the second time, so just – don’t. Not tonight.”

Despite how certain, how calm Enjolras had felt just a minute ago, his whole heart was falling at Grantaire’s words, his voice. “What?”

Grantaire didn’t look at him. “Enjolras, I can’t. Just, plea–”

And Enjolras couldn’t, couldn’t hear him beg with that voice, so hollowed out and filled with pain.

So he cut Grantaire off mid-word and said, “I’m in love with you.”

 

It was true and Enjolras couldn’t remember a reason why he hadn’t said it sooner.

 

Grantaire’s head snapped around to look at him with those wide eyes. “What?” he said, disbelieving.

Enjolras felt weirdly displaced suddenly like he was in another dimension. “You didn’t know?”

Grantaire stared at him and then he let out a laugh. At least Enjolras thought it might have been a laugh. “No, I did not – I do not know that!”

“How –,” Enjolras started, “I kissed you!”

“Yeah and then you told me you were sorry you did!"

“I didn’t!”

Grantaire looked at Enjolras like he lost his mind or they both had.

Enjolras continued, “I was sorry for taking advantage of you when you were drunk and – and vulnerable. How could you not know I’m in love with you, I asked you to wait!”

“For what?” Grantaire asked, just like the last time.

“For me!” Enjolras exclaimed, loud in the room, like a gunshot, like a puck hitting the glass full force, like careening into the boards, headfirst.

“For me,” Enjolras said, more quiet, and Grantaire looked at him and suddenly he couldn’t stand being not near from him, at the other end of the room that felt like too far away. He moved forward and just dropped down on his knees in front of Grantaire who was sitting on the bed, hands hanging uselessly at his sides. Enjolras took both of them into his own.

 

Grantaire’s fingers were trembling.

 

Enjolras brought them up to his mouth, breathing before pressing his lips to the skin over Grantaire’s knuckles.

He heard a sharp intake of breath and Enjolras looked up. He didn’t have to look up much because their eyes were almost at the same level, like this. Grantaire was leaning forward, curling into himself, towards Enjolras.

Enjolras licked his lips. “I asked you to wait for me,” he whispered. He didn’t have to be louder because they were so close. “Because I’m in love with you. Because I want you. But I thought I couldn’t want you and want hockey the same, at the same time which is messed up, I know that now. I thought I could only let one down when it has nothing to do with each other, when I should have known that one doesn’t negate the other. I want hockey, I want to win and I want to be with you. I don’t’ want to wait anymore and I don’t want you to wait anymore.”

Grantaire breathed out and Enjolras could feel his breath on his lips.

“I would have,” he said. “If I’d known, I would have waited, you don’t have to choose.”

“I know,” Enjolras said. He reached up to tuck a lock of hair behind Grantaire’s ear and it was so soft between his finger. He left his hand resting on Grantaire’s cheek. “But I do. I choose you, too." Enjolras took a deep breath while Grantaire looked at him. God, Enjolraa loved his eyes. "If that is fine with you?”

“If that’s fine with me,” Grantaire repeated under his breath like he always did when he couldn’t seem to believe the words coming out of Enjolras’s mouth. But Enjolras could see his smile because his mouth was so close to his and it reached his eyes.

“If that’s fine with me, he asks,” Grantaire said, letting the most small, genuine and disbelieving laugh and then, finally, he leaned in the rest of the way.

It was soft, tentative at first, the way Grantaire kissed him like he couldn’t quite believe he was allowed to and – and Enjolras couldn’t have that. So he sunk his hands into Grantaire’s curls and pulled him closer, kissed him the way he had wanted to ever since he had first kissed him.

 

Enjolras was startlingly aware how long it had been since he had Grantaire that close, like a person suffocating might have been aware how long they went without breathing until they take their first full breath again.

 

Their lips were pressing together and it was chaste at first until Grantaire gasped when Enjolras tightened his fingers in his hair and oh, oh. He was going to come back to later because then, finally, finally, Grantaire lifted his hands to reach out for Enjolras, to pull him in by the soft fabric of his shirt, pull him in closer and then he kissed Enjolras back, deeply, open-mouthed, again and again.

Enjolras’s head was spinning, his heart beating like it did after a long shift on the ice but all of it got lost in the heat of Grantaire’s mouth as they kissed and kissed and kissed until Enjolras didn’t think anymore.

He couldn’t help but respond to everything Grantaire did; he gasped when Grantaire tilted his head a little, turning the angle into something perfect; he moaned quietly when a hand slipped under his shirt, thumb softly stroking the sensitive skin of Enjolras’s waist.

Everything he did felt more honest than Enjolras could have said. It was overwhelming but Enjolras wouldn’t have missed a second of it.

 

At one point, they broke apart for air and Enjolras gripped the back of Grantaire’s neck tightly, didn’t want to let him go and Grantaire didn’t seem to either. They foreheads pressed together as they were gasping for breath and this, Enjolras thought wildly, this was as much distance as there should have been between them, always.

 

“Enjolras,” Grantaire said and Enjolras had always been kind of indifferent to the sound of his own name but he thought right then, like this, from Grantaire’s mouth, it might have just been the best word in the universe, so he leaned back in to taste its sound right from Grantaire’s lips.

 

 

***

 

 

“Hey,” Grantaire said when it was only them, seconds before going out onto the ice for Game Seven, the noise of the arena deafening but it didn’t matter, Enjolras knew what he wanted to say, could read it written all over Grantaire’s face.

“I’m pretty much in love with you, too.”

Enjolras looked at him and he couldn’t help but laugh, at the beautiful absurdity of the moment, and Grantaire did, too.

“Bad timing?” he asked, amused, and Enjolras just shook his head.

“I don’t care,” he said.

Grantaire smiled and Enjolras could only beam back at him, helpless to do anything else, like clear, untouched ice reflecting the light over and over and over again.

 

 

***

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

***

 

 

Enjolras had heard people say how the familiar, unmistakable sound of the buzzer at the end of a game, ending a game, was the most beautiful sound in the world. Dreams come true. He hadn’t believed it when the very same people had said it was too, the most terrible sound.


The buzzer sounded, and that was it.


***

 

 

There was a sense of deja-vu, Enjolras thought, as he was sitting outside of Courfeyrac’s house in the garden.

 

It was a lot warmer than the last time though, hot almost since it was much later in the year.

 

Bahorel was destroying everyone at beer pong with not one but two bandaged hands from surgery. Joly and Bossuet, currently the other contenders, looked horrified and impressed, respectively.

Everything was loud and buzzing, celebrating the start of the summer. They didn't have training in the morning. There was no one left to play against.

Enjolras’s glass was empty and he stood up to make his way to the kitchen but stopped halfway, at the foot of the stairs. He looked down at Grantaire who was sitting on the first step with his legs stretched out and a bottle held loosely in his hand and Enjolras sat down next to him, leaned into his side until he could bury his nose in the soft curls of the other man’s hair.

Enjolras wrapped his arm around Grantaire’s waist, resting the other on his knee, wrapping himself around him, completely.

 

It took a second but then the Grantaire relaxed back into him.

 

Enjolras smiled.

They were progress, they were learning each other every day and Enjolras was so incredibly excited about it.

Grantaire linked their fingers together, resting their hands on his knee.

 

“Hey,” Enjolras said, quietly, after a while.

“Hey,” Grantaire said back.

 

They watched the others for some time, outside and laughing, while they sat there, silently basking in each other’s company and closeness.

“What are you doing this summer?” Grantaire asked after another while, time didn’t really matter.

Enjolras sighed.

He had never made plans for the off-season ever since he had played hockey seriously, it had always felt like bad luck, planning when it was in your own hands when the summer started. That meant that he had mostly been dragged along by other people, Combeferre and Courfeyrac, really.

 

He was still getting used to wanting things other than hockey in his life.

 

Grantaire seemed to sense his hesitance and didn’t push it. He held Enjolras’s hand instead, tight in his own.

“Did you know, in 1930, a goalie got set on fire because he was carrying a box of matches in his pocket that got ignited when he was hit by the puck?” Grantaire said and then, “Also, the average person spends about 6 months of their life waiting for traffic lights to turn from red to green.”

 For everyone else, it might have appeared like random talking to fill the silence but Enjolras knew better, knew the silent offer, to chose at that moment without any expectations. 

 

Enjolras smiled into the other man’s hair. He felt like he could have burst with the seemingly endless waves of affection that made his whole being feel warm from the inside out.

 

“That’s a lot of waiting,” Enjolras said. 

Grantaire just smiled. “Crazy, right?”

“There’s lots of crazy things.”

Grantaire hummed in affirmation and then they fell silent again, and Enjolras was in love, and it was the summer. He had often felt like he could do anything, with the skates under his feet and wide ice, but never quite like this. He could do anything he wanted. It was summer.  

 

“I want to call Parnasse,” Enjolras said. “Go get dinner or something.”

“Mmh mmh,” Grantaire said.

“And, I want to move out, I think. I don’t like my apartment, it’s too quiet.”

“Mmh mmh.”

“I want to go somewhere, somewhere nice.” Enjolras took a deep breath. Grantaire must have felt it with how close they were. “And I want you to come with me.”

“Okay,” Grantaire said.

“O-okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Just... like that?”

Grantaire turned in Enjolras’s arms so he could look at him. He was smiling and he didn’t say it but his eyes were calling him an idiot, gently. “Yeah, I want to. I want you." And Enjolras was still so ecstatic, every time, to hear him say it, to hear him not being afraid to say it. It wasn’t often, not yet, but they were getting there

“The rest is - whatever," Grantaire continued, waving his hand aimlessly. He shrugged, that half-smile on his face that he did when he didn't want to seem serious. "I also want some more of Courf’s tacos maybe. It’s off-season, I want to ignore my diet plan for at least like, a week.”

 

Enjolras looked at him and thought that maybe they had both been bad at letting themselves want, in different ways.

 

“We’ll work it out,” he said.

And Grantaire looked back at him and the silent understanding in his eyes was all Enjolras needed. Still, it was good to hear it when he said, “Yeah. Okay.”

 

Enjolras kissed him then, pressed his lips to Grantaire’s softly, soft, because they were there and Enjolras thought that he was not going to stop wanting to do that anytime soon.

 

 

***

 

Chapter Text

 

 

***

 

 

Grantaire @grandR · 26.July

 

Summer. With @enjolras32

 

 

[VIDEO]

[filming of Paris skyline]

[zooming in on Eiffel Tower]

[blurry blond hair appearing in front of the camera]

 

Enjolras [talking in French]: Are you filming this?

Grantaire [off-camera, in French]: Nah, just trying to take a picture.

 

[zooming out until Enjolras’s slightly sunburned face clear to see]

 

Enjolras [glaring at the camera]: You’re totally filming this.

Grantaire: Come on, I gotta document this for prosperity.

 

[zooming out further to full view of Enjolras wearing an ‘I ♥ Paris’ shirt]

 

Grantaire: You’re gonna get one of these for Coach?

 

[Enjolras’s glaring intensifies]

 

Enjolras: *mumbling something*

Grantaire: Could you say that louder, I can’t hear you.

Enjolras: I got him a fridge magnet.

 

[Camera shaking]

[Chocked laughter off-camera]

 

Grantaire [after two seconds]: That’s cute.

Enjolras [rolling his eyes]: Yeah, yeah.

Grantaire: Really, adorable.

 

[Enjolras blushing a little, not really discernible because of sunburn]

 

Female voice [off-camera, also in French]: Oh boys, do you want me to take a picture of you two?

Grantaire: Oh yes, PLEASE.

 

[Camera shaking, being passed on to another person, off-camera]

[Grantaire stepping on-camera next to Enjolras, tanned, grinning]

[Enjolras looking sceptical but smiling a little]

 

Grantaire [poking Enjolras’s cheek]: Come on, Cap, smile for me.

Enjolras [smiling more, wrapping arm around Grantaire’s shoulder]: Okay, fine. Thank you, Madame.

Female voice [behind the camera]: Oh, for sure. You boys are vacationing? You don’t sound like you're REALLY French, you know?

 

[Enjolras looking absolutely outraged and Grantaire throwing his head back, laughing]

 

[End]

 

 

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