Actions

Work Header

dust off your highest hopes

Work Text:

Their lighting guy quits on a Thursday.

This is a problem for several reasons, the first being that opening night is the following Friday. If he had been following the schedule set forth in the production calendar, he would have had hang and focus complete, or nearly so, with Friday to program some cues before tech began on Saturday. If this had actually been where he was in his work, his quitting would have been more of an inconvenience; Combeferre knows the script as well as anyone and he’s competent enough at programming the ancient light board that they probably could have muddled through.

Of course, the lighting guy’s lack of actual progress is just one of many reasons why Enjolras engages him in a screaming row at the production meeting. When he storms out, his work is not so much “nearly complete” as “nearly begun”. The Collective’s meagre stock of lighting instruments are in the air, yes, but they’re dead hung, pointing straight to the ground and of no use to anyone. There’s the fluorescent work lights that come built into the space, but the piece they’re about to open is interactive, with actors weaving through the audience to various playing spaces, and set in a fantasy world besides. It requires a bold, inventive lighting design, and not one of them has the skill to create it.

Enjolras’ foul mood, a combination of fury over the incompetence and betrayal over the desertion and worry over how they were going to make it through this latest disaster, has in no way dissipated when rehearsal begins. Without even needing to ask, Combeferre changes the plan for the day to a run, so Enjolras can sit in various locations and scribble angrily at his notebook, instead of scene work, which would require a lot more emotional effort and probably four or five tearful arguments, judging by how this day is going. Though he wasn’t at the meeting, Courfeyrac can tell something’s up and distracts his fellow cast members with a ridiculous story, long enough for Combeferre to squeeze Enjolras’ shoulder without anyone seeing. Enjolras is, for the millionth time, fiercely grateful for his friends.

On Thursday night, about two hours after rehearsal ends, Courfeyrac texts Combeferre and Enjolras to ask them to come to the space an hour early tomorrow; he’s got someone he’d like them to meet. They’re always there an hour before rehearsal anyway, to go over the plan for the day and discuss progress and so forth, which Courfeyrac knows perfectly well. Enjolras recognizes the timing of the gesture for what it is and sleeps slightly easier than he might have otherwise done. Courfeyrac was raised in the theatre and knows almost every artist in the city—if anyone is going to suddenly materialize a lighting designer to pull them through this mess, it will be him.

Meeting Courfeyrac’s lighting designer friend is its own special kind of disaster. The kid is young, looks to be barely out of school, but Enjolras knows better than to judge by appearances. Courfeyrac makes the introductions: “Enjolras and Combeferre, this is Marius. He’s one of my housemates and didn’t tell me until last night that he studied lighting design in college,” he teases, and then, “Marius, you’ve heard of Enjolras and Combeferre of course, but here they are in the flesh, the other two founding members of the ABC Theatre Collective.”

Combeferre shakes Marius’ hand pleasantly; Enjolras does not. “Résumé,” Enjolras says simply. Marius looks nervous. “Oh, I didn’t—I, I mean, my printer’s broken, so—”

Enjolras cuts him off with a wave of his hand. “Just tell me some places you’ve worked and in what capacity.”

“Most of my design work was at school, but I’ve worked as an electrician at a few places in the area, master electrician once or twice. Um, I worked at the Fringe Festival last year?”

Enjolras nods approvingly. Maybe this will turn out okay. They’re going to need a new lighting designer for future pieces, and if this Marius lives with Courfeyrac, that means Courfeyrac can be relied upon to check up on him and make sure he’s coming to rehearsal. “Who’s your favourite playwright?” Enjolras asks, one of his standard interview questions.

Marius is starting to look a bit less nervous, even smiling now as he talks. “I—I mean, Shakespeare’s in a league of his own, of course, can’t really beat the Bard, right? But I also love Mamet, and the team behind Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is brilliant—”

“Get out,” Enjolras snarls. Marius looks terrified again, and seems to try to do just what Enjolras asks, but Courfeyrac has a tight grip on the back of his shirt and is giving Enjolras a look of mild disapproval. Ever the diplomatic, moderating influence, Combeferre excuses them for a moment and leads Enjolras aside to speak to him in an undertone. “Enjolras, we open a week from today, and we’ve got practically nothing. Marius seems competent and Courfeyrac is vouching for him, which has never steered us wrong before.” Enjolras still looks mutinous, so Combeferre continues, “If nothing else, through working with us he’ll be exposed to more diverse, contemporary work. Ignorance is not a sin, Enjolras.”

Enjolras takes several deep breaths and massages his temples for a moment, then walks back over to Courfeyrac and Marius. “You can start today, on the condition that you read something by a playwright who is not a straight white male before our next rehearsal. We’re meant to start tech tomorrow, but I understand that’s not particularly possible given the circumstances. We open on Friday. We have as many hours this weekend as we need, plus 6:30 to 10:30 every night next week. Those are the hours we have with the company; the three of us all have keys and can let you in early or stay late with you, as needed. Combeferre will get you a copy of the script, such as it is, but watching rehearsal today will probably be more useful. You’ll be paid an equal share of whatever profits we make, just like everyone else.”

Combeferre smiles, since Enjolras isn’t. “Welcome to the Collective, Marius.”

It’s actually not a disaster.

In fact, even Enjolras has to admit that it’s about the farthest thing from one. Marius watches rehearsal that night, then gets Courfeyrac to bring him in at 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday so he can work for several hours before rehearsal starts. He discusses gel colour choices with Feuilly and Bahorel, collaborates effectively with Jehan and Combeferre on his cues, and never once complains about anything.

The design he ends up with by opening night isn’t brilliant, it’s not life-altering or revolutionary for the field, but it works and it’s good, and that’s more than Enjolras thought he’d have at this time last week. If he had the money to give Marius a bonus, he would, but the promise of future employment will have to do.

At least, the promise of future employment is theoretically something he can offer. When opening comes, Enjolras is feeling his usual mix of anxiousness, anticipation, and joy to get something they’ve all worked so hard on in front of an audience for the first time. He notices Combeferre looking a little worried, which is unusual, but rationalizes that as him not having as much time as usual to master his light cues.

Enjolras doesn’t connect Combeferre’s nervousness to the fact that his cell phone number is their listed box office number until he goes out on stage to deliver the curtain speech. The audience is dispersed throughout the space, as they should be for an interactive piece like this one, but as Enjolras gives his typical talk about turning off cell phones and thanking the playwright, he counts about a dozen-odd friends and family of company members, all of whom are here thanks to the generosity of comped tickets, and—he verifies later by looking at the box office receipts—four paying members of the public.

Two of whom leave at intermission.

It’s not exactly the shining glory of Enjolras’ career. Fortunately, after the show, the cast are all distracted by their friends and family members, so Enjolras need only fake happiness long enough to deliver brief congratulations to the dressing rooms and then he can (and does) return to the house to sulk. He knows the play was good, his actors are brilliant, the technical elements (even the lighting) are far above and beyond the quality that should be expected given their respective budgets: so why such a desolate opening night?

Enjolras’ disappointment fades quickly when he’s approached by one of the paying patrons, who has apparently chosen to linger. Normally, when people come up to him after a performance, they want to either congratulate him or have a discussion about the play, and either of those things will do a great deal to cheer him up.

Instead, this guy says, “Have you ever considered doing theatre that people actually want to come see?”

Instantly, Enjolras is livid. “What, do you think we should do Thoroughly Modern Millie with yellowface, like Starport?” Starport Theatre Company is an equity house a few blocks away, one that pays crews of up-and-coming actors, designers, and technicians on the fast track to Broadway to produce a jam-packed annual season that’s always commercially successful and morally bankrupt. Enjolras has never actually seen a show there, but he hates them on principle. The other man flinches; Enjolras hopes that’s his favorite musical and he’s a season subscriber at Starport.

He recovers quickly, though. He runs a hand through his hair, and in the instant it takes to pass over his face, he’s regained his obnoxious grin. “Maybe. Whatever gets people to come, right?”

Enjolras’ frown deepens. “No, not right. The message is what’s important, even if it only reaches a few people. We refuse to compromise our integrity in the name of profit.”

“But how important can the message really be if you refuse to do things that would allow it to spread further?” the man counters.

He’s still smiling, but Enjolras’ frustration is growing. It’s far from the first time he’s heard this argument, and maybe it’s not fair to take it all out on this guy. He’s made a target out of himself, though, and Enjolras has never been good at holding back when he’s fired up.

“Look. Commercial theatre has its place; it employs lots of people and inspires burgeoning artistic talents in small Midwestern towns, things like that. But you obviously don’t understand that that’s not what we’re trying to do here,” Enjolras bites back, as coldly as possible.

The reaction Enjolras most often gets to that tone is a physical step back and an apology, but this man just raises his eyebrows and actually leans forward, just a bit. “Oh, no, I understand you perfectly. Fantasy-themed parallels to modern society. I caught the allusions to the way the system is working against social change, with welfare restrictions and lack of access to healthcare—and the mirror scene was about trapping women in their own vanity with the beauty myth that powers consumer culture, right?”

There’s intelligence in his eyes, clearly born of practice in critical analysis, and he sounds less derisive about this than he has about anything else he’s said so far, but that just serves to make Enjolras more frustrated. He can almost forgive people who are unable to understand the deeper themes in their work, but willful ignorance? “So you can see that a commercial ‘hit’ wouldn’t serve our purposes at all. What’s your point?”

Unbelievably, the guy just laughs and sticks his hands in the pockets of his hoodie. “My point is, you’re trying to change the world, and commercial theatre is trying to lure the world away from their TVs. You’re fundamentally similar in that you’re both doomed to failure.”

This man has managed to casually smirk his way through an argument with Enjolras, which is almost unheard of. He seems to be entirely unbothered, actually, and at this fatalistic proclamation, he offers him a jaunty wave and turns on his heel to walk away.

On an ordinary night, Enjolras might have let him. He loves converting people, has devoted his theatrical career to exposing social injustices and working for change, but even he can identify a lost cause and shift his time and resources towards someone more worthwhile. There’s something about this guy, though: whether it’s just wounded pride over the near-empty opening night house, or that spark Enjolras noticed while he was correctly and concisely dissecting the themes in their production—whatever it is, Enjolras can’t stop himself from reaching out and stopping this man by grabbing his wrist.

“You’re wrong,” says Enjolras emphatically. The guy turns around, waiting to hear the rest of what Enjolras has to say, so Enjolras drops his wrist and looks him dead in the eyes. “The work we’re doing here is important, and it has not failed. We don’t do theatre for fame here, we don’t do it for commercial success, and we absolutely don’t do it for entertainment. Failure, to us, would mean not making a difference. However limited in scope, we already know we’ve achieved that much. The reason theatre has endured for thousands of years is because it, more than any other art form, uses immediacy and live, human vulnerability to confront people with important issues and force them to think. Tonight may not have been the best example, but that is the kind of theatre we believe in—the kind of theatre we need, and strive to create.

“We provide minority members of the theatre community with opportunities they are routinely and repeatedly denied elsewhere. We provide tickets to people who need to see our work. And we invite any others to pay what they can, because even the money isn’t the point. I’d rather work two thankless jobs to pay my rent and keep the Collective going by sheer force of will than direct a Tony-winning spectacle on Broadway. You couldn’t pay me enough money to work on a show like that. The audiences who see those shows—thousands of people go, every week. They laugh when they’re told to laugh and clap at the end, but they’re already thinking about what to make for dinner when they’re giving the requisite standing ovation.

“At the Collective, people walk out silent, trying to readjust their world views to account for what they’ve just seen—or they’re arguing with each other about what it meant. That’s why we do what we do: because theatre has the power to move people to emotion and then to action. Theatre—meaningful, honest, boundary-stretching theatre—can effect social change like no other form of entertainment can. And as long as we can find work that needs to be produced, we will be here, producing it and making a difference by doing so. That’s what success means to us, so don’t cheapen it by acting like the size of the audience has anything to do with the profound effect our work has on each person who walks through those doors.”

The smirk is gone, which Enjolras counts as at least a small victory. It’s obvious that something he said has made an impact, as the other man is now fixing him with a slightly unsettling, very serious stare. A few seconds after Enjolras finishes, he drops his eyes, chuckles a bit hoarsely, and says, “You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Of course I do,” Enjolras replies impatiently. “Would I be here, doing what I do, if I didn’t?”

The guy mutters something under his breath that sounds like ‘You’d be surprised’, and then he reaches into the pocket of his hoodie and pulls out his wallet. For a second, Enjolras thinks he’s going to make a donation, but instead, he withdraws a business card and hands it over.

The business card tells Enjolras that the man’s name is Grantaire, and that he’s the marketing director at Starport Theatre Company. Enjolras isn’t sure what his face does, but it makes Grantaire start laughing again.

“I’m not an enemy mole, sent to lure you to the land of actually getting paid for your work, don’t worry. I just…” he trails off, and runs a hand through his curls. “Look. I know how to get people in the door. It’s sort of the only thing I’m good at. Your main problem over here is that nobody comes to your shows. I can fix that, if you’ll let me."

Enjolras, much as he wants to believe the best in people, is suspicious. “You just said we were doomed. Do you even care about the change we’re trying to effect, here?”

Briefly, Grantaire’s expression goes serious again. “I think anybody who pours that much of their heart and soul into their work at least deserves an audience to decide if it’s good or bad.” In a flash, the seriousness vanishes, back to the easy, lazy grin. “Look—one show. You don’t have to pay me. Let me work with you, from script choice to rehearsal through the run, and if I don’t make a noticeable difference in your house counts, then I’ll crawl back to Starport and focus on my soulless, high-paying work until this art form rattles out its last, dying breaths. Or until I do, which will probably happen first at the rate I’m going.”

There’s that fatalism again, even more disturbing now that Grantaire’s directing it inward. He does seem to be relatively confident in his abilities to sell the Collective’s shows, though. Enjolras considers it for a moment. It might not work—he certainly doesn’t like this guy all that much, and he staunchly refuses to compromise on their mission statement, which includes the ideals he holds dear—but his thoughts keep circling back to the central point: what does he have to lose?

Tentatively, Enjolras extends his right hand. Grantaire’s grin doubles in size as he shakes it.

Enjolras isn’t quite sure what he’s done, looking back the next day, but a quick Google search for Grantaire’s name is somewhat reassuring. His name is connected to a string of successful theatres, each bigger and more commercial than the last, so the odds are pretty good that he can deliver on his promises. Bolstered by his findings, Enjolras agrees via text to a meeting with Grantaire where they can discuss potential scripts for the Collective’s next production.

When the meeting actually happens, it’s Tuesday, at 3 in the afternoon, in Enjolras’ apartment. That last isn’t surprising, because there’s no office at the theatre the Collective rents, and even if there were, they need every hour they can afford in the space for rehearsal and performance. The rest of the circumstances around the meeting are more than a bit unusual, however: Grantaire being available on a Tuesday afternoon (doesn’t he have a job?), him turning up in a hoodie and jeans again (doesn’t his job require dress clothes?), and despite the relatively early hour, his breath smelling slightly of whiskey.

He also has no scripts in his hands at all, which, when Enjolras asks about it, he explains by waving his hand, dropping onto Enjolras’ couch, propping his boots up on the table, and saying breezily, “I have a good memory.”

Enjolras is unsettled, and confronted once again with the suspicion that he is making a huge mistake. “Do you have any brilliant suggestions to start us off, then?”

Grantaire is jiggling his foot restlessly on Enjolras’ table, and chewing on an already-red cuticle. Enjolras’ director’s eye catalogs these mannerisms and notes how they reveal a nervous, distracted energy, despite deliberately blasé posture. It’s an interesting contradiction, but he’d rather get work done than devolve into psychoanalysis. Grantaire pulls his finger out of his mouth to say, “You’re not gonna like it.”

Enjolras waits. Grantaire sighs, and goes on, “What you should do is something with some kind of name recognition.”

He’s right; Enjolras doesn’t like it. He bristles. “Did you not absorb anything I told you about our mission, the things we’re trying to accomplish here? We exist in large part to give a voice to new playwrights, especially minority group playwrights, who are hugely underrepresented in the canon of commonly produced works.”

Grantaire doesn’t flinch; he was clearly expecting that. Instead, he stands up to talk, which somehow puts him at ease a bit more. “I know, but you’re not doing that right now, because your voice is the equivalent of a mouse squeaking in a mosh pit.” As he speaks, he paces around the room a bit, picking things up and putting them down in different places. Enjolras wants to be annoyed more than he actually is: the behavior should seem invasive, especially in a near-stranger’s home, but Enjolras lives with three other people and is well used to all his company members crashing there for various reasons. He got over being precious about his possessions a long time ago. Grantaire frowns quizzically at a small, bronze squirrel statue (Combeferre’s), sets it down on the floor under the coffee table, then shakes his head like a dog that just came in out of the rain.

“What I’m saying is—people are drawn to things they know. It’s human nature, biological imperatives towards safety in familiarity and all that. It’s about trust, you know? If you want your work to reach people, different people than your friends and family who it’s already reaching, then you have to give them something familiar to draw them in. Yeah, a few brave souls will jump off a cliff into uncharted waters, but the vast majority of us would prefer a bungee cord.”

Grantaire sits down on the window seat, pulls a knee up to his chest, and pops one of the drawstrings of his hoodie in his mouth. His next few sentences are, accordingly, slightly muffled. “There’s three major possibilities for that bungee cord, theatrically speaking,” he says, raising three fingers like this is elementary school and Enjolras needs the visual aid. “One, familiar names. Your company is talented, undoubtedly so, but none of them are famous and for the most part they work exclusively with you, so nobody’s likely to have seen them in much else. So that’s out.”

He puts down a finger. “Two, a familiar company. That’s your whole problem, and the point I’m trying to make—once you establish yourself a bit, you can take risks and do totally weird shit, because they’ll have trust in you guys, and they’ll come because it has your name on it. But you’re not there yet, which leads me to three—” He puts down another finger, spits out the drawstring, and looks a little smug. “A familiar show. If you pick something people know, it’ll be somebody’s favorite show, or they’ll have done a production of it in college or something, so they’ll come for that, and then it’s up to you to blow them away with your unconventionally brilliant adaptation.” Grantaire stands up again, spreads his arms wide, and bows.

Enjolras wants very much to wipe that smirk off his face and tear his argument to shreds, but…”You have a point,” he admits grudgingly.

It takes two more meetings before Grantaire convinces Enjolras to choose The Doctor’s Dilemma, by Shaw, as the next Collective piece. Enjolras rebels at first, opposed to the choice of a play written by a straight, white, dead man, but allows himself to be persuaded when Grantaire sends him an email full of quotes about Shaw’s thoughts on theatre as a tool for social change.

Despite his contrary attitude and somewhat slovenly appearance, Grantaire proves to be highly useful. He handles getting the performance rights and posting audition notices in addition to laying the groundwork for a publicity campaign, which is his actual job. All Enjolras has to do are the things he always does for new productions: send off absurd numbers of grant applications to secure enough funds to get them through the rehearsal period and dive headfirst into the script. He even has some free time left over to work on his latest piece for Howlround.

Once they make a decision, the text meetings begin in earnest. Combeferre’s official title is stage manager, but he wears many hats, including box office manager, Enjolras wrangler, and dramaturg. That last is the role he takes in these meetings; his history degree means he’s more than qualified to offer context and references faster and more accurately than anyone can Google. Courfeyrac is there, too—actors normally wouldn’t be included, but he has more theatre experience than everyone else in the room combined, and he, Enjolras, and Combeferre learned long ago that they all do their best work as a trio.

As a recent addition, Grantaire holds his own surprisingly well. The preplay process mostly involves Enjolras and Grantaire bickering furiously until one of them hits on something brilliant in an attempt to undercut the other, while Combeferre and Courfeyrac exchange smug looks. When Enjolras expresses a desire to update some of the dated references, it’s Grantaire who hits on the idea of swapping tuberculosis for ebola. When Grantaire points out that a mostly male cast violates the Collective’s mission statement, Enjolras tears through the script to suggest the roles best suited for a gender change. Auditions are the same way: Courfeyrac is naturally not present for casting discussions, so Combeferre is left on his own to moderate the increasingly vicious arguments.

Grantaire conducts all his conversations with a flask in his hand and his feet on the table, but he’s intelligent and insightful, and even Enjolras must grudgingly admit (to himself, never to Grantaire) that he’s impressed. If Grantaire’s ideas were coming from anyone else in the Collective, Enjolras would be even more excited and enthused, but despite the work they’re doing, he and Grantaire still have a relationship that is adversarial at best. Their collaboration is proving extremely effective, but also exhausting.

Naturally, Enjolras assumes that Grantaire feels the same way about this as he does. Enjolras knows he’s hard on Grantaire—he can’t help himself—but it seems to be working, and he doesn’t care if Grantaire dislikes him as long as they keep churning out good ideas, so he hasn’t seen any reason to change his behavior.

What that means, though, is there’s no explanation for why Enjolras comes home after an intensely draining double shift at the call center to find Grantaire on his couch, playing with what appears to be Enjolras’ iPod. Enjolras’ first thought is that he’s confused his dates and tonight was not, in fact, his first night off since rehearsals started, but Combeferre would be the one to bring that to his attention. Then he thinks that something might have come up regarding marketing material—but why wouldn’t Grantaire just call or text him?

Before he can puzzle through any more increasingly unlikely scenarios, Grantaire notices him. “You have really terrible taste in music, you know that?” he says, waving the iPod in greeting.

The combination of his exhaustion, the jibe, and Grantaire’s presence ensure that any notion of politeness is forgotten. Instead, he snatches the iPod away with what might accurately be described as a growl and says, “Who let you in here?”

As always, when Enjolras snaps at him, Grantaire responds with a grin. “Jehan, on his way out.” Jehan is instantly added to Enjolras’ personal list of those who are First Against the Wall. He’s been on the phone with people who seem to forget that the voice on the other end is human for the past ten hours; the last thing he wants to do in his current state is deal with Grantaire.

Enjolras waits for some sort of explanation, but none is forthcoming. Grantaire has gone back to what he was apparently doing before Enjolras arrived: folding an old grocery list into an origami swan. Badly. “Why are you here, if not just to annoy me?” Enjolras demands.

Grantaire laughs. Enjolras’ temple pounds. “I came to make you go out and enjoy yourself, since you’ve been at work or rehearsal or cooped up in here with the script every night for the last week. You’re really proving my point about your stress levels, by the way—I think if you keep glaring at me your face might get stuck like that. Or you could burst a blood vessel, isn’t that a thing that happens?” Grantaire’s lopsided swan is done now; he makes it shake its head at Enjolras, like it’s disapproving of his life choices.

About three words into Grantaire’s monologue, Enjolras has ascertained that he is not here for anything important, and that means he feels no guilt over kicking him out. “Get out,” he snaps, as soon as he can get a word in edgewise. Normal people have some sort of reaction to the look of terrifying scorn Enjolras knows he is sporting, or at least wouldn’t be so rude as to violate a direct request like that, but Grantaire just turns around to face him properly, which puts his feet up on the sofa.

“No, don’t think I will. If I leave you alone, you’re going to stew like this for a while, and then have a restless night’s sleep, so you’ll be pissy with everyone at rehearsal tomorrow—and they’ll all notice, because you’re a lot of things, Enjolras, but subtle isn’t one of them. And then you’ll get into a fight, which will waste rehearsal time we don’t have to spare. So stop rejecting this idea because you heard it from me, take two of these,” Grantaire produces a bottle of medicine from thin air and tosses it to him, “and let’s go.”

Enjolras eyes the bottle suspiciously, and Grantaire rolls his eyes. “It’s from your own medicine cabinet, so it belongs to somebody in this house. I didn’t fuck with it, don’t worry—as much as I do think you could use some alternative medicine…”

The bottle appears to be Feuilly’s migraine medication, which should be safe, so Enjolras takes two. Grantaire looks cautiously hopeful about this, so Enjolras quickly adds, “This doesn’t mean I’m going out. I mean it, my head is killing me and I’m exhausted. The last thing I want to do is—”

“I didn’t want to resort to this,” Grantaire cuts him off, “but Courfeyrac and Marius sent me a selfie of them looking positively tragic at the idea of you not joining us and taking it easy for one night.” He hands his phone over to Enjolras.

The photo is truly pathetic. Marius’ default expression is a puppydog face anyway, and then there’s Courfeyrac, who makes faces to earn his living. When he looks up from the phone, Enjolras notices Grantaire’s expression is a little off; he normally plays things pretty close to the vest and covers every emotion with an obnoxious, self-satisfied smirk, but there’s something a little dejected about it now.

Enjolras sighs, clicks off the screen, and hands the phone back to Grantaire. “The guilt trip at rehearsal tomorrow will be more painful than going out for a couple of hours, won’t it?”

“I’ll make sure of it,” Grantaire confirms, irritating smile firmly back in place.

The evening actually does end up being fun. Several Collective members, plus Cosette and Eponine, who are in the cast of Dilemma but otherwise new to the group, descend on a bar that’s a common post-rehearsal haunt for them. Except for Jehan complaining about the DJ, it’s a rare chance to socialize that’s not work-related in some way. Enjolras’ shift at the restaurant the next day doesn’t start until 10:30, so he even manages to get some sleep.  

He gets great tips all through his shift (just one of the many reasons he prefers waiting tables to working the phones at the call center) and is in a much better mood than usual by the time rehearsal starts. Enjolras has vague plans to thank Grantaire for dragging him out the night before, but that’s quickly forgotten when Grantaire slouches in ten minutes late, his hood up and sunglasses on.

That’s enough to get Enjolras’ hackles up. He wonders how late Grantaire was out last night if he’s still hungover at 7 p.m., if he called in sick to his job because of his poor self-control. Enjolras says nothing, because he’s (slightly) above being that openly judgmental, but any thoughts of gratitude go right out the window. 

But then Grantaire brings it on himself. It goes like this: they’re running the first scene, and Enjolras stops them to chat with Valjean about his character, pointing out the comparisons Sir Patrick continually makes to his father and how the other characters probably remind him of generations of doctors before them who have taken the same general attitudes towards various contemporary treatments. Grantaire speaks up, which he often does when he has something useful to contribute, but this time his contribution is: “Enjolras, don’t insult the man’s intelligence by assuming he hasn’t even done that painfully obvious bit of character work.”

The tension in the room rises dramatically, but Enjolras takes a deep breath and ignores Grantaire. That doesn’t stop him, though; not five minutes later, he’s laughing openly when Enjolras gives a piece of direction that’s somewhat esoteric. “Why don’t you just tell her to be more blue?” he jeers.

At that, Combeferre calls a five minute break. He’s always been good at taking the temperature of a room and even better at reading Enjolras; no sooner are the words out of his mouth than Enjolras is dragging Grantaire into the lobby by an arm, which likely would have happened had the break been called or not.

Grantaire is still wearing his sunglasses. He shoves his hands into his pockets and obviously braces himself to be yelled at. It certainly wouldn’t be their first screaming match—but instead, Enjolras takes another deep breath, rolls his shoulders, then levels Grantaire with a very calm, if stern, expression. “Go home.”

It’s hard to tell with the sunglasses, but Enjolras would guess that Grantaire looks surprised. He opens his mouth, probably to say something provocative, but Enjolras cuts him off. “Normally when you’re being a jerk, it’s productive, but today you’re acting out and disrupting rehearsal. Go home and don’t come back until you’ve worked out whatever is making you act like a teenager in detention.”

Grantaire opens and closes his mouth twice. In their admittedly short acquaintance, Enjolras has never seen him at a loss for words; but then, that’s far from the only thing about today that seems bizarre.  Finally, he laughs—if such a bitter and broken sound can be described as a laugh—then turns on his heel and walks out.

Enjolras heads away from him, back into the rehearsal room. Combeferre greets him with raised eyebrows. “I didn’t hear any screaming.”

It’s not a question. Enjolras shrugs a shoulder and pages through his script, trying to get his brain back onto the play and off what could’ve made Grantaire behave this way.

“Would’ve just made it worse,” he answers. Combeferre nods and calls the rehearsal back to order.

Enjolras thought it might take a few days for Grantaire to calm down and come back, but when he arrives at the theatre his customary hour early, Grantaire is waiting for him outside. Combeferre immediately excuses himself to go start setting up for rehearsal, so Enjolras joins Grantaire in leaning against the brick wall. A few seconds of silence pass before Grantaire speaks.

“Look…” He starts, then pauses and scrubs at his face. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m an asshole.” Grantaire won’t look Enjolras in the eye, instead directing his apology to his shoes. “Not, like, all the time, but at least sixty percent of it. Maybe seventy-five. I can’t help it—well, ever, really, but especially not on bad days, and yesterday was fucking bad, but that’s not—y’know, the shit just jumps into my head sometimes, and before I realize I should maybe not say that out loud, people are already staring at me like I murdered a baby in front of them.” Grantaire chances a glance at Enjolras’ face, but apparently isn’t satisfied with what he sees there, because he immediately averts his eyes again.

“I just—I’m sure you weren’t up all night crying over it or anything, because you’re you, and you know that everything I say is bullshit, but I felt like a dick anyway, so.” Grantaire clears his throat and scuffs his toe against the ground, then adds, “I can’t be like ‘It won’t happen again,’ because, you know, it’s me, and I’m an asshole, but. Next time I feel like burning everything to the ground, I’ll try to excuse myself before I make a fucking scene.” He coughs again, and mutters something under his breath that sounds a bit like ‘embarrassing as shit’. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

Enjolras studies Grantaire for a few seconds. “Good,” he says, simply, then claps him on the shoulder and starts to head inside.

Good?” Grantaire says, the disbelief clear in his tone.

Enjolras turns back around. “Yes.”

Grantaire looks a bit like he’s been hit over the head with something heavy. “You’re not gonna yell at me or tell me to fuck off or whatever? I mean, I was—”

“Yes, you were,” Enjolras interrupts. “But you apologized, and you meant it, and you told me what you were going to do to stop it from happening again. What’s there to yell about?” He’s not sure why Grantaire is so insistent that he hold a grudge over this; he’s never seen the point.

There are still traces of amazement in Grantaire’s expression, but Enjolras can see him putting his walls back up after that uncharacteristic display of vulnerability and honesty. He shakes his head, and then the lazy smirk and skeptical eyes are back. “I guess I should be an asshole all the time if that’s what it takes to make you be this nice to me.”

Objectively, it’s a dismissive little quip, but it makes Enjolras feel like everything’s back as it should be. He rolls his eyes, then shoots back “Aren’t you?” before heading inside for real this time. He pointedly does not hold the door open for Grantaire, even though he’s right behind him.

[Group Message: ABC Collective]

Courfeyrac [10:16AM]: I’M SO BORED. [6 crying emojis] Who wants to hang out???
Combeferre [10:18AM]: Who is this?
Courfeyrac [10:19AM]: [poo emoji]
Eponine [10:20AM]: not me
Bahorel [10:20AM]: work, sorry bro
Feuilly [10:22AM]: busy
Cosette [10:24AM]: I’m free!
Marius [10:25AM]: Me too!
Courfeyrac [10:26AM]: [eggplant emoji]
Marius [10:28AM]: What does that mean?
Courfeyrac [10:29AM]: Don’t worry about it [sparkly heart emoji]
Bossuet [10:32AM]: i’m at work [crying emoji]
Enjolras [10:38AM]: Courfeyrac is sitting next to me on the couch but he’s informed me that I have to reply to the group message, not just him, so: I’m available.
Jehan [10:40AM]: i’m at work too sorry!
Courfeyrac [10:43AM]: WHY ARE WE ALL ADULTS WITH JOBS, THIS IS BORING
Grantaire [10:46AM]: joly & i already have plans to go to this concert thing in the park at 12. you’re all welcome if you want. it’s free, byo-whatever & something to sit on
Courfeyrac [10:47AM]: YES. R, you’re a gentleman and a scholar!! Meet at the theatre in an hour-ish and we can walk over together!
Cosette [10:48AM]: [thumbs up emoji]

Enjolras frowns at his phone. Courfeyrac and Combeferre don’t notice; the former is trying to lure the latter away from his grading and not having much success. Enjolras is glad they’re distracted; he needs a minute to figure out what’s bothering him before he can decide if he should lie about it when asked or not.

It was a surprise to see Grantaire had plans with Joly. He’d been coming to more rehearsals than not, and Enjolras had noticed him chatting with other cast and crew members during breaks, but...Enjolras had still been thinking of Grantaire as primarily his—Friend? Acquaintance? Verbal sparring partner? Whatever they are to each other, he’s more annoyed than he should be, considering it wasn’t that long ago that he could barely even stand Grantaire. He wouldn’t exactly call this feeling jealousy, that sounds a little extreme, but he’s not sure what the right word would be. It’s going to bother him—his inability to come up with the right word, not the situation, he tells himself.

Enjolras’ ears catch the sound of his own name; he rewinds mentally and realizes Courfeyrac has told Combeferre they will send him a bunch of selfies to rub in how much fun they are having without him.

“I refuse to participate in these selfies on principle,” Enjolras chimes in, more eager for a brief distraction than he cares to admit.

The group at the concert is a motley one; Enjolras would not have assembled it in his head, but it still works. Marius and Cosette appear to be dancing on the edge of flirting (although Enjolras is aware that if he’s picking up on it, it must be painfully obvious to the others). They’re absorbed in each other, but the other four are stretched out on blankets, soaking up the sun, the music, and each other’s company. They don’t have rehearsal tonight, so Enjolras even lets himself indulge in a few glasses of wine to accompany the delicious snacks Cosette brought for everyone.

Enjolras rolls over on his side to face Grantaire. “How did you find out about this, anyway?” he asks.

Grantaire shrugs a shoulder and swirls his wine in his glass. He’s drinking from some sort of wine glass/sippy cup hybrid; it’s very him. “The drummer’s cousin’s girlfriend is a friend of a friend,” he drawls. “I’ve seen them once before, so when I found out they were opening today, I knew it’d be worth coming out. They’re pretty good, aren’t they?”

“I don’t know, I have terrible taste in music,” says Enjolras drily.

Grantaire bursts out laughing. “Was that a joke? I think that was a joke. Enjolras just made a joke!”

Joly, on Grantaire’s other side, pretends to faint with shock, though the effect is somewhat lost because he’s already mostly horizontal.

"En-joke-ras," says Courfeyrac, with the slightly dreamy expression he always wears when he comes up with a particularly bad pun. Enjolras, Grantaire, and Joly all groan in unison, and Grantaire throws a crumpled up napkin at Courfeyrac, which he ducks, so it hits Marius in the back of the head. Marius is too busy slowly inching his hand closer to Cosette's to notice.

They leave at dusk, because they ran out of snacks and drinks two acts ago, and because it's starting to get chilly. Courfeyrac is suggesting various restaurants for dinner, and Joly is vetoing most of them due to poor Yelp reviews.

When they turn the corner, Grantaire is taunting Joly by pointing out that most restaurants in the city probably have some vermin issues, it's just that some of them have been caught and some haven't—but thankfully for Joly's stomach, he's interrupted by a little group of people calling his name.

There are two women and two men, all four impeccably dressed, probably on a double date of some kind. They're all beautiful, in a Barbie-and-Ken way, and they all seem to be fairly friendly with Grantaire, which strikes Enjolras as odd, because although Grantaire is smiling at them, his posture and expression have stiffened so much that he looks like a different person than he was two minutes ago.

Courfeyrac, the king of social skills, jumps in at the first slightly awkward pause. "Going to introduce us to your friends, R?" he asks, tossing an arm around Grantaire's shoulders. Enjolras has known Courfeyrac long enough to see how he works; he’s setting Grantaire more at ease and giving these strangers some context at the same time. He somehow always knows exactly what to do in any social situation. Enjolras has been quietly envious of that skill for their entire friendship, particularly because it comes to Courfeyrac so effortlessly.

“Uh, yeah, this is Regina, Tanner, Veronica, and Wyatt. They work with me at Starport.” Suddenly, everything makes sense to Enjolras. He’s actively avoided attending any shows there, but he recognizes Regina’s face from posters around town. “And these are my friends: Courfeyrac, Joly, Enjolras, Marius, and Cosette.”

“Whoa, weird names,” says Tanner-or-Wyatt. Enjolras tries not to judge people by their appearances, but these four are so primped and polished that they don’t look entirely human. Grantaire seems much more similar to their ragtag little group (he and Marius are even wearing identical pairs of shoes today, and Enjolras is sure that neither Tanner nor Wyatt would ever be caught dead in them).

Veronica is slightly more tactful, noticing the picnic blanket under Enjolras’ arm. “Oh, did you guys just come from that concert in the park thing?” she asks. Once they nod, she and Regina exchange a look, wrinkle their noses, then lean in conspiratorially. “We stopped by there earlier today and like...honestly? It kind of sucked.”

Regina laughs. “Not kind of, it did suck. That first band, like...why, you know?”

Wyatt-or-Tanner (the other one) shrugs. “I don’t know why we even went. We’re going to the Katy Perry concert now, which is gonna be awesome. I know nobody wants to say it, but I feel like popular artists are popular for a reason, y’know? If that band were any good, they wouldn’t have to play for free in a fuckin’ park.”

Enjolras is instantly overcome with cold fury, but before he can open his mouth, Courfeyrac clamps his hand very firmly on Enjolras’ shoulder and digs in his nails. “Well! We have dinner reservations and need to get going, but it was very nice to meet you all,” he says over his shoulder, already leading Enjolras away. The rest follow—even Grantaire doesn’t stick around long enough to say a proper goodbye.

They’re a block away before Courfeyrac lets Enjolras go, and the first words out of his mouth are, “Before you yell at me, know that I dragged you away so you wouldn’t punch out some rich assholes with excellent lawyers and lose Grantaire his job and end up in jail and probably break your pretty little hand, too.”

Enjolras rolls his eyes, and Courfeyrac looks relieved. He’s still furious, which must be apparent judging by the looks on everyone’s faces: mild terror from Joly and Marius; an equal amount of fury from Cosette, who has been reigning herself in with a tight grip on Marius’ hand (Enjolras is reminded once again why he likes her); and apprehension from Grantaire, who Enjolras finally turns to. “How do you work with such assholes?” he asks.

Grantaire chuckles and holds up his flask. “You wonder why I drink?”

The morning of the first tech rehearsal is sunny and beautiful, the perfect weather for sitting inside a dark theatre all day. Courfeyrac picks up Enjolras, Combeferre, and their coffee maker just after eight. He takes one look at Enjolras’ eager, excited expression, and declares that Combeferre will be riding shotgun. “It’s freaky how much you love tech, E,” says Courfeyrac, shaking his head. “But then, I guess the hard part of your job is over now, right? Now you just sit back, watch, and criticize other people’s work?”

Enjolras is in too good a mood to even roll his eyes. He just retaliates in kind. “I would say the hard part of your job was over too, if you would ever bother to learn your lines at a reasonable pace.”

Courfeyrac gasps, and then starts off on a rant about how he’s appalled Enjolras would even suggest he would be so unprofessional as to neglect this basic task, peppering it with paraphrases of his lines to prove his point. As this is a charade they play nearly every first tech, Enjolras feels no guilt over tuning him out.

He can understand why other people don’t approach the tech process with the same level of vigor he does: for one thing, the hours are grueling, with twelve hour days as a foregone conclusion (and since no one in the Collective is union, they can work even more than that—as many as it takes to get the work done, or until they can no longer stand one another, whichever comes first). The time limit of opening is looming over all of them, and the pressure to get things right is immense. That it’s called ‘hell week’ in certain circles is more than understandable.

What Enjolras loves about it is the way it inspires everyone to do even better than their best work. The true collaboration and intense focus are a sight to behold, and the progress the production makes over the course of one work week is always, always breathtaking. That transformative magic is a large part of what drew Enjolras to the theatre in the first place. He often wonders what kind of incredible work they could produce if he could just get everyone to work at tech levels of intensity for an entire rehearsal period. When he raised this suggestion to Combeferre, though, he was reminded that it would be unlikely for anyone working in conditions like that to make it to opening night.

Enjolras is pulled out of his thoughts by their arrival at the theatre because he has to help Combeferre team-lift their impractically large coffee maker into the building. They’re the only ones in the house who drink coffee on a regular basis, but the quantities they consume make its size ideal. Once they make it inside and get the coffee maker set up on a table in the back, Enjolras surveys the theatre, already beginning to buzz with activity. Cosette is helping Bahorel finish sewing on some snaps, Valjean and Jehan are hefting a speaker into place, and to Enjolras’ slight surprise, Grantaire is holding Marius’ wobbly ladder steady and passing him lamps.

It’s true that Grantaire has been attending the majority of rehearsals, but tech is long, exhausting, and not even vaguely related to his job. Enjolras doesn’t have time to ask him about it or even to ponder it for more than a few seconds; he’s immediately swept up into the whirlwind of tech. He gives Jehan feedback on his pre-show music and listens to Feuilly’s explanation about how the terrace set will move and soothes Bahorel’s nerves over the effect Marius’ somewhat excessive use of highly saturated gel colors will undoubtedly have on the colors of his costumes, all before his first cup of coffee. Enjolras is at his best like this, leading from within the fray, but he doesn’t have room to spare another thought for Grantaire until he notices him confiscating Combeferre’s cell phone.

He gives Grantaire a perplexed look, which Grantaire answers by pressing a mug of coffee into his hand. That’s helpful, but also confusing; Enjolras is sure the theatre didn’t have any mugs in the kitchen as recently as two days ago. Before he can pull his brain out of the show enough to puzzle it out, Grantaire draws Enjolras’ attention back to the phone by waving it a little. “It’s the box office number we give out,” he explains. “Combeferre’s going to be much busier than I am today, and dealing with patrons is closer to my job description than it is to his. I’ll handle this; you go make theatre magic, or whatever it is you do that requires all that glaring and pointing.”

If it were any other day, Enjolras would take the bait; he’s found he quite enjoys arguing with Grantaire if it’s just for the sport of it. It’s tech, though, so he just nods and takes his coffee to go look at the prop portraits Feuilly made.

When Enjolras gets caught up in the world of the play, he loses track of his own basic needs, like hunger and fatigue. He’s fine to work until he collapses, but he knows how quickly a starving, exhausted cast and crew can turn a productive rehearsal into a poisonous one, so he acquiesces without a fight when Combeferre tells him it’s time to break for lunch. Still, he regrets it; they’re really on a roll, and stopping for an hour and a half so everyone can go home or disperse to various nearby restaurants will throw off their groove.

Enjolras is already frowning as Combeferre calls the break, but before he can tell them what time to be back, Grantaire emerges from the lobby. “Food’s here,” he announces.

“What?” says Bahorel. Enjolras is glad he’s not the only one who’s confused; he’s pretty sure he didn’t notice anyone slipping out to order anything. Well, Grantaire has been in and out all day on the phone, now that he thinks about it, but he had assumed (hoped) those were calls about tickets.

“Go on, help yourselves. It’s in the lobby,” Grantaire replies, cutting off further inquires.

Combeferre calmly adjusts the plans as always, telling everyone that rehearsal will resume in half an hour, now that nobody has to leave. Part of Enjolras’ brain immediately starts thinking up ways to best use the extra hour he’s just received—maybe they can get through the whole show today, then they can work problem spots before lunch tomorrow and do a dress run as early as tomorrow afternoon. Enjolras feels a little like Christmas has come early.

His scheming means he finds himself at the end of the mad rush out of the theatre to the food. He’s alone with Grantaire for a brief second—made briefer by Grantaire’s attempt to slip out unnoticed, but Enjolras calls for him to wait. His brain has reminded him that this glorious extra hour didn’t come from nowhere; apparently, it came from Grantaire.

Grantaire turns around when Enjolras calls for him. He’s got his hands in his pockets, obviously trying very hard to look casual. If Enjolras weren’t so focused on thanking him, he would be rolling his eyes. “How did you—” 

“It’s nothing,” Grantaire interrupts.

“It’s not nothing, we’ll get a whole extra hour because of this, I—”

“Really, really nothing,” he sing-songs.

Enjolras has never tried so hard to thank someone who so obviously did not want to be thanked. “I’m just trying to—”

“Look,” Grantaire says firmly, and looks Enjolras in the eye for the first time in this conversation. Enjolras crosses his arms and waits for Grantaire to continue. “I can’t sew a dress or get up there and tapdance or anything actually useful, but I wanted to do something, because—because I did, so I did this, and it is seriously not a big deal, so don’t make it into one, okay? It’s just lunch. Fuck.”

As if on cue, Combeferre’s phone rings in Grantaire’s pocket. Enjolras glares at the pocket, privately willing it to burst into flames. It doesn’t. Grantaire extracts the phone, waves goodbye to Enjolras (with a poorly-concealed look of intense relief), and answers it, walking away as he says in an extremely professional and polite tone of voice, “Good afternoon, you’ve reached the ABC Theatre Collective. How may I help you?”

Just as Enjolras thought they would, they get through the rest of the show that day. As they finish the final scene (in which Eponine’s character reveals her feelings for Cosette’s, and Cosette spurns her because she refuses to think ill of her dead husband Courfeyrac) Cosette is left alone on stage, smiling at a portrait and touching the painted cheek as gently as possible. Combeferre calls the final lights down (well, the last before curtain call), and everyone cheers.

Enjolras is euphoric, but exhausted. It’s 9 when they quit, and they voted unanimously to skip their dinner break because they were two scenes from the end at that point, so everyone half-carries each other out of the theatre, calling for food and sleep in turns. Joly and Bossuet and Bahorel and Feuilly are going for drinks, Marius and Cosette are going home (Enjolras isn’t sure if that means to their respective, separate homes, or together), but Enjolras is considering the merits of sleeping right here, at this table. It would save him the trip back in eleven hours.

At least, he considers it until Grantaire comes in to give Combeferre his phone back, at which point he forces himself to his feet again and says, “Grantaire, can I talk to you for a second?”

The sigh Grantaire utters is one of the loudest and longest Enjolras has ever heard. Combeferre laughs and excuses himself to lock up and tidy up backstage. Once he’s gone, Grantaire sits on the table, careful not to disturb Combeferre’s book. “Do we have to do this now? You look like you’re going to fall asleep where you’re standing, and if you do that, you’ll crack your head open on the way to the ground, and I am not trained in first aid.”

Enjolras is tired, too tired to play along with the confusing twists of Grantaire’s sentences, but he’s also more stubborn than he is tired. “Yes, because if we don’t, you’ll find more creative ways to avoid me tomorrow.” Grantaire looks like he has something to say to that, but then he closes his mouth, shrugs, and nods. “I just wanted to say thank you. I know you think it was nothing—” Enjolras says quickly, cutting off any potential objections, “but it really helped us stay on a roll, and we got so much done today because of what you did. It was thoughtful and a big help, so thank you.”

Grantaire looks embarrassed. He’s avoiding Enjolras’ eyes again, this time by playing with one of Combeferre’s pencils, but when he glances up and sees the expression on Enjolras’ face, he laughs. “You’re not gonna let me go until I just shut up and say ‘You’re welcome,’ are you?”

“That’s right. And that time doesn’t count, and you’re not allowed to say ‘You’re welcome, but it was nothing,’ or anything like that,” says Enjolras, staying stern.

Grantaire sets the pencil down, scrubs at his face and laughs again. “All right, all right, god. You’re welcome,” he says very deliberately, with a dramatic hand gesture. “I bought everybody lunch, and I accept your gratitude, and I’m glad it helped, or whatever. Happy?”

“Yes,” says Enjolras. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to sleep right here,” he adds, and then sits back down and buries his face in his arms at the tech table. The exhaustion, his lack of sleep, and his relief that Grantaire let him apologize are making him feel a bit slap-happy, so he even gives a great snore, for dramatic effect.

“Oh no you don’t,” he hears Grantaire say. Grantaire shoves at his arm, but Enjolras remains still and snores again. “Don’t make me play dirty, Enjolras,” Grantaire warns, but Enjolras only gives another snore in response. Grantaire sighs exaggeratedly once more, then calls at the top of his voice, “Combeferre! Enjolras is going to drool on your book!”

Enjolras’ first indication that Dilemma may be different from their previous shows is that he gets three requests for interviews before the show even opens. He’s been interviewed a few times before, but only after people have seen the show. Also, everyone who’s interviewed him in the past had never heard of the Collective, and Enjolras has to repeat their origin story and mission statement and future goals for the upteenth time—he does love talking about those things, but he’s grown frustrated with the way the repetition clearly shows no one is listening.

That’s not true this time. All three interviewers have done their research or been briefed by someone because they ask incisive questions about the script choice, the changes they’ve made, even the design elements. The third is with a local news station’s weekly Arts Beat segment, which Enjolras knows for a fact usually features much larger shows. When he asks Grantaire about it, he just shrugs and says, “She called me, actually—we’ve got quite a buzz on social media. Have you tried searching for the Collective on Twitter?”

In fact, Enjolras hasn’t. He has a Facebook and an Instagram, but he never uses them, mostly because he couldn’t afford a smartphone even if he wanted one (which he doesn’t). Once he gets home, he pulls up Twitter and types in their name...and is amazed.

There are hundreds and hundreds of tweets. Several link to Enjolras’ first interview, where he got on his soapbox about the lack of representation of all types of minorities in every aspect of theatre—there are tons of people, not just local but national, international, who are commenting things like “THIS”, “this guy is ON POINT”, “all my followers within 100 miles YOU HAVE TO GO”. Enjolras is not a complete luddite; he traces the majority of the retweets back to a certain Broadway star who tweeted a link to the article with the comment, “This is the kind of theatre we should all be supporting.”

Enjolras doesn’t care about the fame aspect, but he does care about the increased recognition accompanying it. His hands are shaking, just a little, about what this could possibly mean. He wants to call Combeferre to ask about the box office numbers, but Combeferre has always staunchly refused to tell him. He calls Grantaire.

As soon as Grantaire answers, Enjolras skips the pleasantries and goes straight to: “What’s the house like for opening?”

Grantaire pauses. “Combeferre told me not to tell you.”

Grantaire.”

Another pause, longer. Finally, Grantaire sighs, and in a slightly smug voice, says, “Sold out.”

Enjolras exhales so sharply it feels like the air has been punched out of his lungs. He’s smiling so widely it hurts; he sets the laptop on the coffee table and leans back against the couch. “And the next night?”

“Sold out.”

“The next one?”

“There’s a waiting list, Enjolras. I had to call the fire marshal today to figure out how many overflow seats I could legally add.”

Enjolras makes a noise of elation that sounds like the unholy offspring of a yell, an exhalation, and the hunting call of a bird of prey. He feels happier than he ever remembers feeling. Grantaire openly laughs at him.

“Right, I’m going to hang up so you can do a victory dance around your living room, or sacrifice a child actor to St. Genesius, or whatever it is you do to celebrate. But before I do, let me just take this moment to say I told you so.”

He hangs up before Enjolras can agree.

In a word, opening is a triumph. There’s not an empty seat in the house; they end up having to turn away half the waiting list. The audience is incredibly responsive, crying and laughing and just as Enjolras hoped, they pour out of the building at the end of the night alive with discussion about the work they’ve just seen.

The cast and crew go out together and get riotously, gloriously drunk, and then come back the next day and do it all again. Everyone Enjolras knows is emailing him links to reviews: the show is deemed a “brilliant and courageous re-imagining of a classic”; “a subtly complex look at some of the most challenging issues facing society today”; a “masterpiece, plain and simple.” He prints them out and pins them to his wall.

Enjolras is not the type of person to doubt success, to get suspicious when things go too well. This means he’s completely blindsided when the papers arrive.

The timing is impeccable. He and Combeferre arrive at the theatre slightly earlier than usual, entirely by chance, and catch a courier just as he arrives with a thick, official-looking envelope. Enjolras signs for it, but waits to open it until they get inside, which turns out to be a wise choice.

Enjolras withdraws the papers from the envelope, and as he reads them, his face shutters closed. Combeferre knows Enjolras hates having people read over his shoulder, so he waits patiently, but his expression grows increasingly worried until Enjolras finally hands the papers over to him, then collapses into a chair and buries his face in his hands.

Combeferre sits down next to him once he finishes. “We can’t afford to go to court, Enjolras.”

“I know.”

“We’ve been doing well, but...and even if we did, I don’t think we really have—”

I know, Combeferre,” Enjolras shouts. Combeferre recoils slightly.

Grantaire chooses this moment to walk through the lobby door. He’s whistling a little tune underneath his breath, but stops abruptly when he sees the tableau in front of him. “What’s going on?”

Enjolras leaps to his feet. There’s cold fury rushing through his veins, searching for any outlet, and Grantaire has just made himself a target. “What’s going on?” he yells. “We’re being sued, that’s what’s going on.”

“What?”

Enjolras laughs, but it’s icy. “Apparently our recent notoriety has attracted the attention of the Shaw estate, who have a significant problem with our script changes, especially the gender swaps and the substitution of ebola for tuberculosis.”

Grantaire’s eyes widen; he looks pale. “Fuck,” he whispers.

“Fuck is right. We’ve been given a court order to cease performances immediately, and we still might get fined, up to a hundred thousand dollars.” Enjolras is gesturing furiously with the papers; he’s probably wrinkling them, but that is far from his list of top concerns at the moment.

Grantaire runs both hands through his hair. He looks wild. “Oh God, fuck, I never thought they would—”

“Would what, notice?” There it is: Grantaire has inadvertently stepped squarely into the crosshairs of Enjolras’ rage. “We’re used to producing new works here, where we can just discuss changes in an email with the playwright and everything’s fine—but you deal with copyright all the time, you told us you’d take care of all of that—if they take us to court and we get fined, that’s it, the Collective is shut down and we’re thrown into bankruptcy, and—” Enjolras cuts himself off, but only to laser-focus his anger into the cruellest thing he can think of to say. “This never would have happened if not for you.”

The next sound in the lobby is the sound of the door closing behind Grantaire.

“Hi, you’ve reached Grantaire’s voicemail. Leave a message, and I’ll call you back when I feel like it.”

“Ah—Hello, this is Enjolras. I just wanted to apologize for the way I acted yesterday. I was upset, and I took it out on you because you were there, and that wasn’t fair of me. I understood what we were getting into with the script changes and did it anyway—it’s as much my fault as yours, if not more. Call me back when you get a chance.”

The first few days after the Collective is served papers are not fun. They have to cancel all future performances of Dilemma, notify and refund all ticket holders, and write a humiliating letter to the Shaw estate essentially begging them to drop the suit. Obviously aware of the lack of equity in the Collective and its founders, they do.

The letter informing them that they aren’t going to be sued into bankruptcy is a huge weight off Enjolras’ shoulders. It was disappointing, especially in the face of such positive community feedback, to cancel a show, but with the suit dropped, it’s just a minor setback.

Besides, the attention on social media is both gratifying and reassuring. Enjolras acquiesces to Courfeyrac’s requests to make a Twitter account for the Collective, and although he doesn’t tweet from it much, he does read the replies and favorite most of the supportive ones. A few are vitriolic, as the internet always is, but most people are furious that the Shaw estate cracked down on them (even though it was perfectly within their legal rights) and are pledging to come see the Collective’s next play three or four times, no matter what it is.

That evening, Enjolras gets a phone call. Though he’s excited to be speaking to a local journalist, he admits to himself that he was disappointed when the number that came up on his screen wasn’t Grantaire’s.

[to: Grantaire

Enjolras [3:24PM]: I left you a message the other day; maybe you don’t check your voicemail?
Enjolras [3:26PM]: I’m sorry for the way I behaved last week. It wasn’t your fault, and I acted inappropriately.
Enjolras [3:40PM]: To borrow an apology tactic from you, I was an asshole.
Enjolras [4:12PM]: I hope you’re just in a meeting or something and not ignoring me.
Enjolras [5:06PM]: Call or text me back when you get a chance.
Enjolras [5:06PM]: Please.

Q: So you were forced to cancel all scheduled performances of A Doctor’s Dilemma?
Enjolras: Yes; we knew we didn’t really have a case even if we could afford to go to court, which we can’t. We’d rather spend our money on producing more theatre than on legal fees.

Q: It’s a shame, though, especially considering the incredible reviews!
Enjolras: Sure, but one of the most important aspects of theatre as an art form is its transience. We spend months putting a production together and then tear it all down in a night. This production was more abbreviated than we would have liked, but it seems like it managed to reach some people despite that, which is what really matters to us.

Q: So what’s next for the ABC Theatre Collective?
Enjolras: At the moment, we’re regrouping and trying to choose our next script. If any of your readers are playwrights looking for their break, especially those with stories to tell about the difficult questions of today’s society, those with voices who are often ignored—well, we’re soliciting all submissions. The address is on our website.

Q: That’d be quite an honor, having your first play produced by the theatre company that’s the talk of the town!
Enjolras: It’s not really about us, though. It’s about the work we did, and we’re so glad it resonated with so many people. All we hope for is that our fifteen minutes of fame lasts long enough to shine the spotlight on a few really deserving plays.

“Hi, you’ve reached Grantaire’s voicemail. Leave a message, and I’ll call you back when I feel like it.”

“I was going to tell you some good news, but then I got your voicemail again……I hope you’re not dead or something. Please call or text someone back……You’re not even listening to these, are you?”

“Hi, you’ve reached Grantaire’s voicemail. Leave a message, and I’ll call you back when I feel like it.”

“Stop being an asshole and answer your fucking phone.”

[to: Grantaire]
Enjolras [9:36PM]: Since I know you didn’t listen to that voicemail I just left, it says “Stop being an asshole and answer your fucking phone.” I mean it.

Script meetings are slightly different now that they’re receiving new works in the mail from all over the country. Writing thoughtful rejection letters almost takes longer than reading them and is at least twice as hard—Enjolras wants to produce them all. They’re definitely not all good, but he knows they could be, given time and work and consideration. Making the choice of just one play to do next is almost impossible.

Grantaire’s absence is even more conspicuous in these meetings than in the rest of Enjolras’ life. The triumvirate managed to have them without him for years, but Enjolras certainly can’t remember how. Combeferre tries to fill the gap and argue with Enjolras a bit, but his brand of devil’s advocacy doesn’t piss Enjolras off enough. With Grantaire, Enjolras would get so angry, he’d dig deep for ideas to shut him up—and find they were often his best ones. Sparring with Grantaire had helped Enjolras make up his own mind; without him, he’s lost.

There are piles of scripts all over the house, but Grantaire’s usual spot on the other end of Enjolras’ sofa is empty.

Enjolras pulls out his phone and opens his text conversation with Grantaire. It’s a string of text bubbles on the right side of the screen and no replies on the left; he’d have to scroll quite a ways to get to the last received message. He tries to be discreet about what he’s doing, but Courfeyrac notices anyway. “Enjolras,” he sighs. It’s half-reprimand, half-sympathy. Combeferre doesn’t put his script down, but he does glance at Enjolras over the top of it, a little worry in his eyes.

Before he has to deal with the indignity of responding to this onslaught of concern, Enjolras is quite literally saved by the bell. “I’ll get it,” he says quickly, then jumps off the couch, pockets his phone, and goes to answer the door.

It’s Joly, which is odd. Partially because he’s turned up unannounced, partially because he’s on his own, and partially because he looks extremely nervous. Joly is often anxious, but rarely nervous.

Still, Enjolras invites him in without question. Joly waves at Combeferre and Courfeyrac, then looks back to Enjolras. “I need to talk to you about something, Enjolras,” he announces with surprising firmness. “I’d say we should have this conversation in private, but you’d just repeat what I said to these two anyway, wouldn’t you?”

“If he didn’t, we’d beat it out of him,” says Courfeyrac cheerfully. Combeferre puts his script down and fixes Enjolras and Joly in turn with brief, searching looks.

Joly takes a deep breath and sits down on the arm of the couch near Courfeyrac. Enjolras mirrors him on the other couch; he doesn’t have to look up to know that Courfeyrac has shifted to rest his shoulder against Joly’s back, offering a subtle, steadying comfort.

“I want to talk to you about Grantaire,” Joly says, in the voice Enjolras imagines he uses to deliver bad news at the hospital.

“Have you heard from him?” Enjolras interrupts. He feels bad, because Joly has obviously rehearsed this conversation and won’t appreciate being thrown off track, but he can’t help himself. “I’ve tried calling him, texting, email—nothing.”

Contrary to Enjolras’ fears, Joly looks visibly relieved. “You have? Oh, good.” Enjolras raises an eyebrow. “I just—Combeferre told us you two got into an argument, and I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t you shutting him out."

Enjolras crosses his arms and tactfully does not say anything about having the worst assumed of him. “You didn’t answer my question,” he points out instead.

Joly sighs and trails his hand across the outline of his phone in his pocket. “I’ve done the same as you. I think everyone’s reached out in one way or another, but yeah, radio silence. I miss him, we all do, but if he’s going to ignore everybody, what can we do?”

Combeferre leans forward on the sofa and pushes up his glasses. Enjolras is struck with a glimmer of hope, because Joly has just unknowingly framed this as an unsolvable problem, which is Combeferre’s favourite thing.

“What methods have you tried?” he asks.

Enjolras looks to Joly.

“Calling him,” Joly starts.

“Texting.”

“Email.”

“Both personal and work email.”

Combeferre interrupts before they can go on. “Did you try calling him at work?”

Joly shakes his head. “I didn’t. The only number on the website is the box office one. I guess we could call them and ask to be transferred, but he works such odd hours…”

“And we already know he doesn’t reply to messages.” Enjolras runs his hand through his hair, and reminds himself that a trespassing arrest for showing up unannounced at Starport would be bad PR. “I don’t know, Combeferre, he obviously wants to be left alone, maybe—”

“I’ve never known you to give up so easily, Enjolras. I don’t think you should make that assumption without Grantaire telling you so himself, especially considering we don’t know if he’s even listening to your messages.”

Enjolras is slightly embarrassed to be on the receiving end of Combeferre’s teacher voice, but as always, Combeferre is right. Enjolras pulls out his phone.

“Already got the number for you, E,” Courfeyrac chimes in, passing over his phone. Enjolras reads the number on the screen, dials it on his own phone, then stands up to pace around the room. He always does when talking on the phone, but he would now regardless, because everyone is watching him and he feels weirdly nervous. At least, he does until his eye catches Combeferre’s squirrel statue, which is still under the coffee table where Grantaire left it months ago. It’s comforting, in a strange way.

“Good afternoon, you’ve reached the Starport Box Office! How can we help your dreams come true today?” says the overly pleasant voice on the other end. Enjolras grimaces and bites back the smart remark on the tip of his tongue.

“I’d like to be transferred to your marketing department,” he says instead, perhaps slightly colder than necessary.

His tone does not in any way impact the enthusiasm of the person on the other line. He gets a chirpy “Certainly, sir,” before he is subjected to vaguely jazzy hold music of abysmal quality.

While he waits, Enjolras entertains himself by thinking of how Jehan would weep to hear this. He’s on hold for less than a minute before a less chirpy, but still pleasant-voiced, woman answers the phone. “Good afternoon. Starport Marketing Department, how may I direct your call?”

She is not Grantaire, but she is a significant improvement. “Hello, I’d like to speak to Grantaire. Is he in at the moment?” Enjolras asks, as politely as he can.

“I’m afraid Mr. Grantaire is over at the Hilton, finishing up some last-minute preparations for the gala. You could try his cell phone, or would you like to leave a message for when he gets back to the office? Might not be until tomorrow.”

Enjolras never studied improv in high school or college. It was never a strength of his, nor was it something he particularly enjoyed. He’s not sure what compels him to try it now. “Actually, that’s why I’m calling,” he says, trying his best to sound a little sheepish. “I’m supposed to be attending the gala tonight, but I’ve misplaced my invitation and didn’t write the time down in my calendar, you know how it is.”

All his friends are looking at him like he’s lost his mind. Enjolras is not entirely sure he hasn’t. He turns away and looks out the window, to avoid losing focus, then makes his tone a bit conspiratorial. “I don’t really want to bother him for something like this, but I wasn’t sure who else to call...do you think you could help me out?”

The woman on the line laughs. “Sure, honey. It’ll be our little secret.” Enjolras punches the air, but in a very restrained and dignified fashion. “It starts at 7:30, but you know that really means 8. And remember, it’s black tie, or you won’t make it through the door.”

“Right, of course. Thank you so much,” he says with a gratitude that’s not at all an act.

“It’s no problem. You have a nice day now.”

“You too.” Enjolras hangs up the phone and turns around. Joly’s mouth is hanging open, Courfeyrac looks extremely impressed, and Combeferre is smiling slightly. “I need to borrow a tux.”

Enjolras and Courfeyrac being almost exactly the same size has never really come up before. They have very different senses of style, and they don’t live together because neither would survive that living arrangement. It’s highly convenient now, though: Combeferre is considerably taller than either of them, and Joly doesn’t own a tux (and even if he did, he’s far too short and slight). Courfeyrac runs home to get it—literally, runs, because it’s already after 6 and traffic is going to be hell—while Enjolras showers and shaves.

He can hear his friends talking outside the door as he tries the suit on.

“He’s still not on the guest list; how’s he going to get in?” Joly asks, sensibly.

“Are you kidding?” Courfeyrac scoffs. “It’s Enjolras in a tux. They’ll throw the list out the window and fall all over each other to be the first to open the door for him.”

“I need help with the tie,” Enjolras says, opening the door and coming out. Courfeyrac shakes his head and looks disgusted. “Why do you look better in my clothes than I do?” he complains, but comes over to help Enjolras anyway. “That’s so unfair.”

On the ride over, Enjolras distracts himself by idly planning how he could go about sneaking in through the kitchen, but that turns out to be unnecessary. As Courfeyrac predicted, Enjolras needs only to smile at the door staff, and he’s waved in without a question. Enjolras knows he’s good looking, but this seems a little unfair. What if he were a good-looking terrorist, or a good-looking abusive ex-partner of a staff member?

He doesn’t have time to fight that particular battle today, though: he needs to find Grantaire. The gala is in one large room, and Enjolras is not tall enough to scan over the heads of the crowd, but he does know Grantaire, so he heads straight for the bar. He spots him almost instantly, looking quite dapper in his own tux and making polite conversation with an older lady wearing her weight in ostentatious jewels.

Enjolras also knows the moment he’s spotted, because all the blood rushes out of Grantaire’s face at once. As he draws nearer, he can hear Grantaire excusing himself from his current conversation and briefly considers how ridiculous it would be to chase him through this crowd of rich, well-dressed people holding easily-spilled glasses of wine, but that isn’t necessary either. Grantaire comes up to him, still looking like he’s seen a ghost, and then stops short about two feet from Enjolras.

Enjolras opens his mouth, but Grantaire holds up a hand before he can speak. Enjolras goes quiet again. Grantaire looks him up and down for at least fifteen seconds before sighing and shaking his head. “Jesus Christ,” he mutters under his breath. “Come on, we can talk out here.”

He leads Enjolras out into the hallway, which is deserted and slightly eerie as a result. Grantaire leans against the wall and slips his hands in his pockets. His posture is casual, but his expression is that of a man condemned; Enjolras has the distinct feeling that he’s hidden his hands because they’re shaking. Grantaire hesitates before speaking, seemingly trying to choose which question to ask first. He decides on, “How did you even get in here?”

“Just walked in,” says Enjolras, shrugging a shoulder.

Grantaire rolls his eyes. “Of course you did. Obviously. Who could tell you no.”

That’s not a question. Grantaire starts to say something else, but Enjolras cuts him off, because it’s his turn. “Why have you been ignoring m—everyone?” Enjolras corrects himself at the last second.

The look on Grantaire’s face is the look one would give their dog after it ran headfirst into a wall. “Um, I don’t know, maybe because I ruined everything you guys have been working so hard on for so long? Or because I got you sued?”

Enjolras waves his hand at Grantaire to shut him up, as impatiently as possible. “If you would read any of the numerous text messages or emails I know you’ve received, or try out the radical notion of calling people back, you’d know that you didn’t. They dropped the suit, and we’re actually getting more attention now than we would have if the show hadn’t been cancelled.”

Grantaire half-smiles at that. “I have the Collective on Google Alert. I know.”

That just frustrates Enjolras more. “Then why do you still think you ruined everything?”

“Because the show was still cancelled? Because everyone still lost so much, and it was my fault? I’m sure you’ve come to apologize for being an asshole and that’s very nice of you, because you were, but that doesn’t magically absolve me of my role in this.”

Enjolras shakes his head. “It’s not just to say sorry. It is that, since apparently you don’t respond to any other form of communication anymore, but I also wanted to convince you to come back and do more work with us.”

“Why?” Grantaire sounds baffled. “Look, I’m pretty good at marketing, but you’re kind of the talk of the town right now, I doubt I could get you more coverage than you’re already getting and even if I did, you don’t need it.” His expression darkens. “If this is just guilt, or if—if Joly, or somebody, put you up to this, then—don’t worry. I’m fine. I’ll stop ignoring everybody and—”

“You don’t get it, do you,” Enjolras interrupts. “We—I—don’t just want you around because you’re good at what you do. You’re smart and thoughtful, especially when it comes to theatre, and—we’re getting all these scripts in the mail, and we’re having script meetings, only without you there, they’re—pointless is a strong word, but yeah, pointless. I can’t figure out what I think without you there to convince, Grantaire.”

Grantaire looks like he’s been hit over the head, so thrown off that he’s not even fiddling with anything, but Enjolras isn’t done. “And it’s not just that. Yes, Joly did come talk to me, but he was just going to tell me to do what I was already doing. And he told me everyone has tried to get in touch with you one way or another. Did you really think we were all just trying to get you to come back to pad out our paychecks a bit more? We want you back because we like you, and we miss you, you idiot.”

Grantaire starts to laugh. It doesn’t sound like he’s amused; more like he’s overwhelmed and this is how his body is deciding to process that. That’s fine, Enjolras can wait. He’s pretty sure he’s said everything he can to convince Grantaire at this point anyway.

It takes a little while, but when Grantaire’s laughter dies away, he exhales and looks at the ground. “Okay, okay, no more. You’ve convinced me, I’ll come back. But…”

He takes a long pause. Enjolras waits. Finally, Grantaire looks up at him, with a determined look in his eyes. “If I’m coming back, I think you should know that part of why I’m sticking around is because I have feelings for you.”

It’s Enjolras’ turn to be overwhelmed. “What,” he says, but Grantaire shakes his head tersely.

“Fuck you, shut up, I’m not done. I don’t want you to get all weird about this, and I really, really don’t want you to feel like you need to—to reciprocate or make it into this big awkward elephant in the room, even though I know it’s gonna be for a while. I just. I needed to get it out there now, so it doesn’t lurk under the surface and come out six years down the road in a giant mess where everybody ends up feeling betrayed and lied to like we live on Wisteria fucking Lane.” He runs his hand through his hair and drops his gaze. “I’m serious, though, it doesn’t need to be a thing, I’ll just deal with it, and it’ll be—”

“Can I think about it?” says Enjolras, a bit hoarsely. He knows he can be single-minded, but he’s not sure how he missed this. So many things make sense now: the reason Grantaire agreed to help them in the first place, the way he got upset when Enjolras refused to go out until he involved their friends, even how he looked at Enjolras tonight when he arrived.

Grantaire looks confused again—confused and more than a bit wary. “What do you mean, can you think about it? What do you need to think about?”

“I need to think about what that means for how I feel about you,” Enjolras says. Grantaire opens his mouth, but Enjolras cuts him off. “No, listen. I’ve been focused on the Collective and nothing else for years, I haven’t even thought about—this sort of thing, in I don’t know how long. I’m not going to lie to you and say I’ve been harboring secret feelings too, but I won’t say it would be impossible to develop them, either.” Grantaire still looks wary, so Enjolras adds, “I promise to tell you the truth, whatever I decide. Anything else would be cruel.”

Grantaire exhales. “Okay, I guess that’s fair. Just—you’re getting my hopes up, here, so I reserve the right to drop off the map for a little while when you tell me. I’ll come back, I promise.”

There’s Grantaire’s pessimism at work again, presuming a negative eventual response. Enjolras wants to argue with him about it (and he wants to pry to figure out how he developed such an outlook in the first place), but he knows that isn’t fair for him to do in this instance. He decides to lighten the mood instead; this serious conversation has gone on long enough. “As long as you don’t do it during tech, fine.”

Grantaire laughs—and there, that’s his usual lopsided, slightly sarcastic grin. “Don’t tell me during tech then, genius.”

“I won’t. I think everyone would mutiny if I scared away the person who buys us all lunch,” Enjolras quips.

“Oh, okay, that’s all I’m good for, then?” says Grantaire with a great deal of mock offense. There’s a beat, and then they both start to laugh. It feels good; it feels right. Enjolras can still feel the weight of this conversation between them, but it’s not crushing. It’s just...there, at the edge of Enjolras’ thoughts, patiently waiting for him to make a choice. Whichever one he makes, he doesn’t want to lose this.

[Epilogue]

The house is just as full as it was on opening night of Dilemma when Enjolras goes out to make the curtain speech. He thinks he should probably be nervous—it’s different, now that there’s an expectation; Enjolras was stopped outside the theatre earlier by some girls who wanted him to sign old playbills from Dilemma—but all he feels is the usual excitement for an audience to see everything they’ve been working on.

The audience is excited too. He’s met with raucous applause when he takes the stage, because they all know who he is. Enjolras has never been an actor, but in moments like this, he can understand the appeal. “Good evening!” he says with a smile, and they answer him: “Good evening!”

“Welcome to the ABC Theatre Collective’s opening night performance of Lenses, a new work by D. Angela Washington. We’re lucky enough to have her in the house with us tonight; Angela, why don’t you stand up and let these good people thank you in advance?” She does, and looks every inch a queen waving to her subjects. Angela’s play was selected out of hundreds of other scripts for its sharp, honest wit, and for its vacillation between humor and vulnerability that holds its audience responsible without putting them on the defensive. She’s been fantastic to work with, and fascinating to get to know: Enjolras has spent many nights talking with her about her experiences growing up poor as a trans woman of color, but also about her life now, which is by her account extremely happy, thanks to her loving partner and three adorable dogs.

Once the applause for Angela dies off, Enjolras continues his curtain speech. “I’d like to thank the organizations which graciously provided us with the grants necessary to fund our work: the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust. Thank you to the cast, crew, and creative team of the Collective, whose outstanding work you will be seeing shortly. And I’ve got one last very important person to thank...Grantaire, could you come up here for just a moment, please?” The look Grantaire is giving him suggests he’s going to regret this choice later, but Enjolras just returns it with an expectant look, and in front of all these people, Grantaire has no choice but to join him on stage.

“Grantaire, our marketing director, joined the Collective just before we began work on A Doctor’s Dilemma. Considering that our opening night for the production before that was attended by a very supportive audience of sixteen, I think it’s fair to say that his work is the reason most of you are with us...so if we could give him his own well-deserved round of applause?”

Enjolras considers kissing Grantaire on stage, but things are a little too new for that, and he doesn’t want to take any attention away from the work. Instead, he applauds for Grantaire along with the audience, reminds them to silence their electronic devices, then exits the stage with Grantaire in tow. They weave through the aisles to their spots: in the booth with Combeferre, so that every possible seat could be sold. Once they’re in and the house lights go down, Enjolras slides his hand into Grantaire’s hair and pulls him in for a lingering kiss.

As soon as they part, Combeferre mutes the mic on his headset and turns around. “Normally, this is the moment where I’d excuse myself, but I’m trying to run a show, so if you two could—” he turns the mic on, and without looking at the stage or his book, says, “Standby sound cue four,” then mutes it again and continues, “At least keep your hands to yourselves until intermission?” He clicks his mic back on. “Sound four go.”

Enjolras has the grace to look somewhat abashed, and he steps away from Grantaire and refocuses his gaze on the stage. Combeferre, apparently satisfied, turns back around to concentrate on his job. Grantaire is less easily shamed; though he looks back to the stage too, he stands slightly closer than is really necessary and slips his hand into Enjolras’ back pocket.

Things are new, but they’re working.