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i never lived a year better spent in love

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“How’d you find me?” 

Enjolras takes a seat on the bench beside Grantaire and pulls the collar of his coat up against the wind. The bench creaks underneath his weight, and the wooden panels dig uncomfortably into his back as he shuffles closer, near enough to feel the warmth that radiates from him. He waits until Grantaire takes another, long drag of the cigarette before he reaches out for it, looking away as Grantaire closes his eyes. 

“It wasn’t hard,” he admits, and then after a moment’s thought says, “you’re sad.”

"That's the word, for it." Grantaire taps the stub against the metal arm after Enjolras hands it back to him before sucking in another breath of smoke, the sardonic curl of his mouth disappearing as quickly as it had come.

The darkness of the morning is beginning to fade as pale yellow rays illuminate the sky, and Enjolras watches the smoke rise from Grantaire's lips, watches the sun rise behind him, his eyelashes casting dark shadows on his cheeks. He looks divine, like this, like something ethereal. Fragile. When Grantaire catches him staring, he raises an eyebrow and holds the cigarette out, his fingers grazing Enjolras' lips. 

He throws the stub onto the ground when Enjolras pulls away, crushing it beneath his foot, and sighs, rubbing a weary hand over his face. Enjolras wants nothing more than to hold him. And Grantaire must want to be held, suddenly climbing onto his lap, resting his knees on either side of Enjolras’ hips while his feet hang off the edge of the bench.

Enjolras opens his mouth, ready to ask what Grantaire's doing, before he thinks otherwise. Instead, he cards his fingers through Grantaire's hair, runs the pads of his thumbs down the back of Grantaire's neck before he weaves his arms around his waist. “How long have you not been fine for?” 

“When was the last meeting?” Grantaire doesn’t want an answer, and Enjolras holds him tighter for that. It takes a few more minutes before Grantaire relaxes into him, the grip of his fingers on Enjolras’ jacket loosening as he presses his nose into the nape of Enjolras’ neck.

They stay like that for what seems like hours, drifting into their own thoughts with only their hold on each other grounding them, the movement of Grantaire's chest calming him better than the gentle wind could dare hope to. He isn't quite sure if he gets colder or Grantaire grows warmer, and he doesn't particularly care, content to stay outside with him for as long as he can. The sky is bluer, the birds louder, when Grantaire finally speaks, his mouth by Enjolras' jaw. 

“Can we go somewhere? Please.”

He didn’t need to ask. Enjolras came here solely to steal him away, at least for a little while, and knows what Grantaire needs better than anyone else. It’s the ‘please’ that worries him, as if Grantaire doesn’t know Enjolras will stay. As if he doesn’t know Enjolras would do anything for him.

“Anywhere.” Enjolras breathes as Grantaire takes his hand and traces a number onto his palm with the pad of his index finger. His skin is still burning from the touch when Grantaire reaches to cup the back of his neck with his other hand. 

The kiss is soft, barely there, and yet the world seems to still around them. Grantaire’s lips are cold against his still warm ones, and Enjolras gasps, mouth parting. Grantaire takes his time to lick into Enjolras’ mouth, drawing the softest moans from him. Enjolras loses himself in this, if only for a moment, loses himself in fading summer air and Grantaire. He only opens his eyes when Grantaire huffs a breath of laughter and runs his thumb along Enjolras' bottom lip. 

It’s his way of saying thank you. 

Enjolras drives. They leave Paris behind them as he travels down the A1, Grantaire’s knees bent against the dashboard and his forearm hanging out of the open window, fingers splayed as if trying to catch the wind in the palm of his hand. Houses eventually give way to open fields full of greens and yellow and purples, while the sky remains a cloudless expanse of blue above them.

Grantaire doesn’t ask where they’re going, and Enjolras doesn’t quite know. It’s not the first time they’ve escaped the city together, driving aimlessly until they find a quiet field to spend the day. Sometimes Enjolras will bring his work, and Grantaire either his art supplies or a book, and they’ll sit under the shade of large trees while the noises of the city fade into a distant memory. And then they’ll return, because they can never leave Paris for too long. 

“Sometimes.” Grantaire doesn’t turn his head to see if Enjolras is listening and continues looking out at the scenery. They’ve been travelling for an hour now; they’ve yet to say a word to one another. “I feel like I’m trapped in time. Except, like, it’s not an event or an…occasion. It’s an emotion. And sometimes it’ll be happiness, and that’s good! That’s really great and rare and really fucking good. Only, other times…” 

He trails off, and Enjolras waits for him to continue – knows he will.

Talking to Grantaire isn’t like talking to Combeferre, who’ll sit with him on the kitchen floor at three in the morning and ask Enjolras when it became their right to decide who was worthy of salvation. It isn’t like talking to Courfeyrac, who’ll lie next to Enjolras in the middle of the day and admit his fears, Enjolras’ fears, of how little change they’re capable of making in the world. They, all of his friends, expect Enjolras to answer. Grantaire doesn’t.

Grantaire speaks, and Enjolras listens.

“It’s sadness – and sure it’s important to feel sad sometimes.” Grantaire sighs, shrugging helplessly. “But when you’re stuck in sadness that’s lonely and empty, compared to inspiring or angry, it’s so hard to get out. Because you don’t want to, you want to keep feeling sorry for yourself. And then you do, because you want others to feel sorry for you too.”

Enjolras reaches over the cup holder to tangle Grantaire’s fingers with his own, but says nothing. Grantaire doesn’t startle at the sudden contact, the casual slump of his shoulders giving nothing away, but he tightens his grip on Enjolras’ hand, and that's enough for now. Enjolras’ fingers are stiff when he finally pulls away, changing gear as Grantaire nods his head towards the next exit. 

The road leads to a dead end, a small black gate stopping them from going any further. They’ve been here before, near the start of it all, and the familiarity settles deep in Enjolras’ bones. He switches the ignition off and leaves the windows open, knowing there’s no one around for miles. Tarmac has been replaced by worn, hard soil that crumbles beneath Enjolras’ feet as he steps out of the car. He slams the door shut behind him, tucking his keys into the back pocket of his jeans, and waits for Grantaire to lead the way.

They walk for several minutes, as silent as they’d been in the car, until they reach the dark forest. Grantaire stops, tilting his head back, breathing in the smell of surrounding pine trees. Enjolras trails his eyes over the curve of Grantaire's neck and watches the way the wind ruffles his curls, and wonders how someone so in love with the city could be as equally in love with the country as Grantaire is. He remembers a late night in Bécherel, with the winter winds howling and ice cracking on glass windows and lying with Grantaire, sheets the colour of wine wrapped around them, bruises the colour of lavenders and cherries on his skin, drifting off to sleep with Grantaire reciting poetry that spoke of secret woods and forgotten forests. He remembers Grantaire's excitement to return to Paris, their city, the next day, and his sadness when the countryside disappeared from view. 

He decides to leave Grantaire be, to allow him a small window of privacy away from anyone, and walks a little further away, towards the open field. He finds a comfortable spot at the top of the hill, laying back as long reeds of grass flatten beneath him, and closes his eyes as the gentle, late morning sun beats down on his skin.

Grantaire joins him half an hour later. He shrugs his jacket off and pillows it beneath Enjolras’ neck, toeing off his shoes and resting his head on Enjolras’ shoulder. Enjolras doesn’t ask him what he was doing, knows Grantaire will tell him in his own time, if at all. 

He thinks it would be easy to drift off to sleep like this, they've done it before. More often than not, it’ll be after long nights spent out with their friends, lazy evenings where it’s cheaper and easier to get a taxi to one apartment instead of two. Sometimes, it’ll be after lonely weeks without each other where Enjolras has been away on internships or Grantaire has had a hectic few weeks of work. Then, they'll wake up and share languid kisses in the shower, the hot spray of water beating down on their backs, and hands roaming the planes of each other’s body, nails tracing mountains on the maps they create in the shadows of each other’s skin. 

Enjolras wonders if one day he’ll stop denying this is the closest he’s ever felt to being in love.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Grantaire asks sleepily. They’ve been outside for a while now, the sun peaking as afternoon approaches. The chill from the morning returns in full force, but Enjolras is too comfortable to move and reach for his jumper.

“Nothing really.” Enjolras sighs, closing his eyes. “Just thinking."

Grantaire presses his nose into Enjolras' shoulder. "About?" 

"Nothing in particular," he lies, and doesn't say that he's been thinking about Grantaire. That recently, he only ever thinks about Grantaire. 

"Well," Grantaire starts when it's clear Enjolras won't say anything else. "I was thinking about how much I hated you."

Enjolras startles, and then rolls his eyes when Grantaire pokes his side.

"No, but seriously, I did. And don’t pretend you didn’t hate me either,” he breaks off to gesture vaguely between them. “It's okay though, because one day I realised maybe I didn’t hate you as much as I first thought.”

Enjolras stays quiet and lets Grantaire's words roll over him in waves, his chapped lips moving against Enjolras' skin. 

“It took a while, I admit, a few months at least. Then suddenly, I was listening to you go on about some neo-liberal extremist group like they’d wronged you personally or something and just-” Grantaire breathes, thoughtful, and Enjolras loves him like this. “I guess I believed in you.”

It’s odd to think that before, Enjolras would brush Grantaire’s compliments off, muttering about how he was wasting both their time waxing poetic with insincere words. Now, he knows despite his somewhat teasing tone that Grantaire very rarely states anything but the truth about his friends, in the same way he says that Jehan’s poetry is rare with its raw emotion, or that he doesn’t trust any hands but Joly’s to treat him.

There used to be a time Grantaire compared himself to them all, words laced with self-hatred that Enjolras unknowingly ignored. It’s only years later that he finally chooses his words carefully instead of saying what immediately comes to mind in bouts of frustration, that he waits for Grantaire to say what he needs, because sometimes he says the simplest things in the most complex manner.

So Enjolras lays still and listens, humming noncommittally under his breath. 

“I didn’t particularly want to,” he continues, nudging Enjolras with his knee. "I mean, everything about you screamed…not me. Everything you stood for was everything I gave up on, and I argued with you constantly over it. The thing is you argued back, and that scared me, more than the realisation that I believed in you.”

Enjolras eye flutter open and blue haze giving way to vibrant greens. He gets it, in an odd, unsettling way. He gets it, because Grantaire scared him too, he still does.

“You’re scary, still.” Grantaire whispers, voice suddenly quiet, a secret admission. Enjolras pulls a long blade of grass out of the ground, his fingers twirling the stem. “You’re bright and beautiful, an embodiment of fury and never ending passion. You’re ice and fire and- and you burn. And all my faith burns with you.”  

Enjolras breathes deeply as he runs the reed down Grantaire’s bare arm, pressing his lips to Grantaire’s curls. “And you don’t think you are?”

“Oh god no, I’m too much of nothing to be scary,” Grantaire replies immediately, as if the very thought has kept him up at night until he’s found a suitable answer. Enjolras can picture him in bed, covers gathered around his waist and open palms splayed on his chest as he reassures himself of his heartbeat, the moon lining his profile silver.

“How can you be too much of nothing?”

“Well, look. I’m not exactly inspiring or- or intimidating, I’m just around, really. There when you need me, there when you don’t, but still always somewhere.” Grantaire shakes his head, cutting himself off. “What I mean to say is that to be scary, I’d have to mean something that’s more than nothing, do you get that? I’d have to be-“

“Everything.” Enjolras interrupts, moving. In a matter of seconds, Grantaire is pinned beneath him, his head where Enjolras’ had been a moment ago. Blades of grass peek through the gaps between Enjolras’ fingers while his knees dig into the soil on either side of Grantaire’s hips. “You’re everything, and that’s scarier than anything else.”

The rustling of trees grows louder, harsher, before everything quietens and the only thing Enjolras can hear is Grantaire’s breath as the world waits with him for an answer. He lifts his hand when Grantaire doesn’t speak, trails his fingers from Grantaire’s temple to his mouth, before pressing his closed lips to Grantaire’s.

They stay like that, suspended in meadowsweet and the golden rays of sunlight, with their eyes open. Then, Grantaire’s eyes flutter shut and he hums, fingers tangling themselves in Enjolras’ hair. Grantaire opens his mouth to him, breath hitching when Enjolras bites gently on his upper lip.

When Enjolras pulls away, Grantaire is smiling.

He moves back from Grantaire and they lay side-by-side, fingers intertwined in the space between them. Grantaire rubs the pad of his thumb against the inner side of Enjolras’ wrist, tracing small patterns and words onto his skin. He tries to make sense of the words but the letters lace together, the curl of an o, the strong line of an l.

There's more silence, only this time it feels weighted, heavy with words Grantire isn't saying aloud.

“What is it?” He asks, tilting his head as he feels Grantaire’s eyes on his profile, half his vision obscured by the glare of the sun.

“Do you ever wonder what we’re doing?” Grantaire’s voice wavers, and Enjolras wonders if this is what’s been troubling him.

“Right now?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Well,” Enjolras licks his lips. He’s scared of whatever they’re going to say next. “What do you want us to be doing?”

Grantaire breathes sharply. “Don’t ask me that.”

“You can’t just-“

“Enjolras, don’t.” Grantaire squeezes his hand, white nails leaving crescents between Enjolras’ knuckles. Enjolras wants to give Grantaire an answer, the right answer, but he’s not entirely sure what that is.

“I’d say we’re fucking but, you know.” Grantaire quietens, the corners of his mouth quirking up. Enjolras does. They did fuck, at the beginning of it all, and it was everything fucking could have been between them. Except then Grantaire had pleaded desperately into Enjolras’ skin for them to runaway, six months into whatever they were doing with each other, and Enjolras had stolen him to the other side of Paris without a second thought, spending the night in a bed and breakfast and holding Grantaire until he’d stopped shaking.

They haven’t fucked in a long time. 

“We’re doing this,” Grantaire gestures vaguely with his free hand, “instead.”

“Whatever this is, you mean.”

Grantaire shrugs, nods, “exactly.”

Enjolras turns his face away, looking back up to the sky, and tries to steady his breathing. A small greenfly comes to rest on his arm, and he watches it flutter against his skin before taking off into the air. He chews on his bottom lip, trying to think of what to say next, but nothing comes to mind. 

“We’re not dating.” Grantaire sobers as he speaks, resting back on his elbows.

“No, we’re not.” He pauses, curls his hand into a fist. “Earlier, you said you hated me. What do you feel now?”

“What?”

“If you don’t hate me, what do you-“

Grantaire reels as if he’s been slapped. “No, that’s not fair of you.”

They’re walking on thin ice here, Enjolras knows this, and Grantaire is stiffening up beside him as if preparing to run away. He wants to stop, to take the words back because Grantaire is obviously tried to hide something from him but-

“I don’t hate you, Grantaire, but I don't hate any of my friends." He takes a breath that lasts as long as a heartbeat, and it's still too long. "I'd have to love you for you to be anyone else. Anyone who means anything."

The silence that follows the wake of his confession is unlike before, and then Grantaire’s laughs. It’s horrible and hollow and it hurts

“Yes, I suppose you would.” Grantaire looks across at him, and Enjolras feels as if the world has been exposed raw. When he speaks again, defeat laces the lines of his face. “Take me home, would you?”

“Grantaire-“

“Home, Enjolras, please.” Grantaire refuses to look at him, and pulls just out of Enjolras’ reach when Enjolras moves to take his hand. “I think today’s been long enough.”

The trees seem to have turned away, as if embarrassed and angry all at once, and the sky appears more frightening than it did only moments earlier. A motorcycle rushes past as they head to Enjolras’ black Honda, it’s engine thundering on the otherwise silent road, and the roar of it echoes in Enjolras' ears.

The car door barely makes a sound when Grantaire closes it, curling up in his seat and turning his face away. Enjolras says nothing about the cigarette Grantaire lights, and finishes it when Grantaire falls asleep halfway through the journey back. The scenery is less beautiful somehow, and the colours of the horizon all seem to merge into a dull grey.

When they return to Paris, it’s raining.

“Grantaire.” Enjolras shakes his shoulder gently, undoing his seatbelt as he leans over to the passenger side. He’s driven them to his apartment without a second thought, and selfishly hopes that Grantaire will stay rather than make his way to other side of the city. “Wake up.”

Grantaire rubs his eyes blearily. “What?”

Enjolras sighs and walks around the car to open the door for him, standing patiently as Grantaire unfurls in his seat and stretches. He’s unsteady on his feet when he steps onto the pavement, and they both reach for each other simultaneously. Enjolras keeps his firm grip on Grantaire’s elbow long after he’s locked the car behind them.

The afternoon is turning into early evening as the sun sets pink against a violet sky, and Enjolras watches her lock their secrets into the night, a memory that they'll only be able to remember in the dusk of a summer day.

They both stand limply against the elevator wall, Grantaire curling into him as Enjolras presses absent kisses onto his head. Grantaire almost falls asleep standing, drowsy from a hard week and the sadness Enjolras saw in him earlier now replaced by something that visibly exhausts him. He tries to make as little sound as possible as he manoeuvres Grantaire onto the sofa and pulls off his shoes, where they land onto the floor with quiet thuds.

Enjolras runs his eye over the unhappy curl of Grantaire’s mouth, before he turns away. He pads around the apartment, finishing a list of small chores, before sitting at the dinner table with his paperwork.

The moon is hanging low in the sky when Enjolras finally looks up from his notes, and Grantaire is sitting down opposite him, a glass of water in his hand. They regard each other carefully before Enjolras coughs, the first to look away.

“I would have taken you to the bedroom but,” Enjolras eventually says, his voice a hoarse whisper after hours of silence. “You preferred crashing on the sofa.”

“Ah.” Grantaire nods and it seems as if he’s about to say something else, but then looks away uncertainly. Enjolras shuffles his papers and stands, Grantaire’s eyes following him as he rests his hip against the table’s edge.

“You-“

“Can I touch you?” Grantaire interrupts, brow furrowed. “I think I can, only-“

Yes,” Enjolras breathes, leaning down and ignoring the way his heart stutters because Grantaire asked. It should worry him, because Grantaire hasn’t asked for permission since Enjolras told him he could have anything, take anything of Enjolras’ and he would consent to it. Except if anything, Enjolras is selfish in the worst of ways, and right now he can't think of anything but how to keep Grantaire here. 

The first press of their lips is soft, tentative, until Grantaire makes a desperate sound and clutches Enjolras’ face with trembling hands. Enjolras wants to hold him, to pull him closer, but fears that any other touch would break him. Instead he cups Grantaire’s hands in his, Grantaire’s knuckles pressing into his palm.

Grantaire stands slowly, barely moving a breath away from him, and the angle is so much better now that they’re completely aligned. Enjolras curls his fingers into the gaps between Grantaire’s, and when they finally break away, both flushed and breathing heavily, he kisses the backs of Grantaire's knuckles.

“You,” Grantaire’s says shakily, keeps his eyes closed as Enjolras runs his hands down Grantaire’s sides. “Am I really no one, to you?”

“No,” Enjolras has never hated himself more. “You’ve never been no-one.”

 The expression on Grantaire’s face crumbles. “Then why did you-?”

“I could fall in love with you.” He says in a rush, wording his only thought for the past several hours. Grantaire’s someone Enjolras could love, someone who could be Enjolras’ everything, and it terrifies him because he wouldn’t mind.

Grantaire’s face falls as soon as the words have passed Enjolras’ lips, anger turning into anguish into fear. He pulls away so fast Enjolras doesn’t have time to tighten his grip and keep Grantaire in place.

Enjolras watches him pull his shoes on, finds that he can’t do anything but stand motionless as Grantaire runs a shaky hand through his hair. “You don’t get to say things like that to me. You can’t.” He offers no other explanation as he stumbles out of the apartment. 

There’s an awful feeling in the pit of his stomach, clawing at him, and Enjolras feels as if the world has dimmed as he makes his way to bed. He refuses to call it heartbreak.

-

The Amis meet at his apartment on Sunday. Grantaire’s absence is startlingly obvious, as it has been for the past two weeks now, and conversations continuously lull where he would usually interject and make everyone in the room laugh, the air feeling a little lighter with him around. Enjolras wonders if anyone knows that he’s the reason for Grantaire’s absence, this time.

Joly and Bossuet immediately curl towards each other on the loveseat while Bahorel, Jehan and Feuilly jump into a tangled mess on the large couch. Marius sits beneath them, cushioned on the rug and surrounded by stray pillows, his head resting on Cosette’s shoulder and his fingers carding through Eponine’s hair. Combeferre and Courfeyrac sit on the dining chairs, legs propped up on the spare seats. If Grantaire were here, he’d be sat on the floor beneath Bossuet and Joly, with Eponine’s legs on his lap.

Enjolras moves to refill the snacks, barely emptying the packets into large bowls before Bossuet and Bahorel steal them from him, running back into the living room with happy cheers. Enjolras then reaches into the fridge to pull out the beer Bahorel brought over and Jehan’s rosé wine, looking out through the small kitchen window above the sink.

Paris is bright against the dark sky. Her orange lights stand out like beacons, glowing like the sunrise in the horizon, and the footsteps of youth echo loudly in the empty night.

Everyone in Paris would seem a stranger compared to Grantaire, who knows Paris better than anyone Enjolras has ever met. Who can weave through forgotten alleys and hidden streets full of ancient riches, while tall walls coloured with graffiti will curve over him, protecting him. He’ll love her like this, especially like this.

“Enjolras?” Jehan startles him, and he turns sharply, only just stopping the bottle from falling from his hands. Jehan rolls their eyes at him fondly, and reaches into the cupboard to pull out two large wineglasses. They wink as they unscrew the cork, filling the glasses halfway before raising theirs in a silent toast.

Enjolras returns the gesture with a soft smile before he takes a hesitant sip. The wine is refreshing and crisp, the faint notes of watermelon and strawberry stronger than anything else, that soon melt away into barely-there sweetness. Jehan smiles at him over the rim over their glass, long fingers curled lightly around the stem as the bowl rests on the palm of their hand.

“It’s good, isn’t it?”

“Provence?” Enjolras asks, in return, gaze flicking to the white label.

Jehan raises a questioning eyebrow. “I didn’t think you knew your wine.”

There’s a moments pause as Jehan refills both their glasses.

“Grantaire,” Enjolras murmurs by way of explanation, and Jehan nods at him, a quiet ‘ah’ escaping their lips.

Provence had been their first overnight escape, one that had brought their relationship under scrutiny by all of the Amis save Jehan and Marius. Enjolras still remembers how Grantaire had come to him in the middle of the night, nearly a year ago, tracing a seven onto his palm and waiting by the door as Enjolras packed his bag.

The drive from Paris to Provence had taken eight hours, and could have lasted only a day if they’d taken turns at the wheel. Instead, Grantaire and Enjolras stopped in small villages and towns, taking country roads instead of autoroutes. It had taken them three days instead, and they’d spent the rest of the week wondering the city’s streets.

He remembers kissing Grantaire, intoxicated on the wine and the taste of Grantaire’s lips. He remembers that kissing Grantaire, drunk or sober, felt no different. The touches left him breathless either way, Grantaire’s fingers trailing across his skin and leaving fire in their wake.

“Listen,” Jehan reaches out, fingers feather light on his shoulder, and Enjolras leans into their touch. “You and Grantaire, it’s a good thing.”

He wishes it were true. “I don’t know if I can love him.”

Jehan’s fingers move to his collar, to his face, cupping Enjolras’ cheek. “How is loving him any different to what you feel now?” 

“Because I’d be better at it.”

“Oh, Enjolras.” They drop their hand, reaching up to press a chaste kiss to his cheek. Enjolras takes a shaky breath but makes no move to reply, and so they leave the conversation there. Jehan is the first to return to the living room, this time taking the wine with them with a small smile. Enjolras follows a moment later, sitting opposite Combeferre as Courfeyrac moves his feet off the chair to rest them on Enjolras’ lap.

Bottlenecks hang limply from fingers, shadows pooling above the floor, and condensation falls onto the thin rug, small spots the colour of dark wine. The sky grows darker and candles burn brighter, a lamp in the corner of the room the only other source of light. It’s when the apartment is like this, full of the laughter and gentle murmur of his friends, that Enjolras will dare to call it home.

Except the lack of Grantaire’s presence becomes more noticeable as the night goes on and Enjolras realises, not for the first time, just how much they all depend on him. Where Enjolras comes alive in the day, finding solace in the people and the sun, Grantaire survives only when he can trace tragedies in the stars, Paris laying her secrets bare for him alone to see. The pauses in conversation where he would speak become longer, and the readiness to laugh at jokes he’s not here to pass is evident.

By the time the clock strikes one am, Jehan, Feuilly and Bahorel have fallen asleep on the floor. This prompts Joly and Bossuet to leave, the promise of Muischetta waiting for them at home barely a touch more tempting than the comfort of Enjolras’ spare bedroom. Marius and Cosette part ways with Eponine soon after.

Enjolras watches Courfeyrac and Combeferre stumble into the guestroom, Courfeyrac leaning sleepily into Combeferre’s side, before he begins cleaning up. The amber light on his skin fades as he blows the candles out, but the blue hue of the moon remains, and the kitchen is basked in it’s glow as he leaves the window open.

His bedroom door closes with a quiet click, and he can barely stand upright to brush his teeth, falling into bed with a relieved sigh while his phone screen flashes on his bedside table. He must drift to sleep for a short while, because when he wakes up there are two missed calls, the last one received half an hour ago.

He quickly untangles himself from the covers, pushing his window up to climb out onto the fire escape. The cold metal railing stings the pads of his feet, and the cold air whips at his bare chest with increasing force. Enjolras’ nose is numb when Grantaire finally picks up.

Hello?” Grantaire’s voice is hoarse, and Enjolras hears people talking loudly in the background.

“You’re out,” Enjolras tries to ignore the small stab of something in his chest. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise-“

Enjolras.” Grantaire interrupts, and he doesn’t sound angry or upset like he’d done the last time they spoke. Instead, he sounds almost fond. “It’s fine.”

There’s a pause, filled with static and the sound of Grantaire’s breathing. “You called earlier. Was there anything…?”

Oh- oh no, nothing urgent. I don’t even remember what it was for.”

He’s lying, they both know it, and it hangs in the air between them. Enjolras bites the inside of his cheek raw before he speaks again. “We missed you, tonight. I- I missed you.”

Enjolras.” 

“I didn’t mean to anger you,” Enjolras continues. He needs to say this now, while Grantaire is still listening. “I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.”

Grantaire sighs, and a heavy weight settles on Enjolras’ chest. “Whatever you’re thinking, don’t. It’s fine, it’s forgotten even. There’s nothing to worry about”

“Grantaire-“

“We’re okay, Ange. We’re good.

Silence, and then, ”our next meeting, you know when it is. Show up.”

Sure thing, chief.”

Enjolras doesn’t feel any lighter when Grantaire hangs up without saying goodbye.

-

Enjolras works late that night, drowning himself in paperwork and trying hard to forget grass-stained jeans and gentle laughter lost in summer air. When he finally gets home, his body feels weighed down and there’s a headache pending behind his eyes. Combeferre and Courfeyrac are still at his apartment, and the smell of food travels from the kitchen straight to the door. His stomach gives an audible groan.

Courfeyrac tuts disapprovingly, forcibly taking Enjolras’ books from him and setting them on the kitchen counter. They huddle around him after they’ve eaten, holding his hands until his fingers stop shaking from all the caffeine he had during the day. He doesn’t expect them to stay the next day, or the day after, or even for the whole week, but they do, digging out clothes they’ve left at his apartment before.

They don’t ask him what’s wrong, he’ll tell them in his own time. He wouldn’t be surprised if they already knew. It’s how they work; one of them comes close to tipping over the edge of exhaustion, and the other two are always there to rein them back in.

It’s Sunday again when they finally leave, and Enjolras wishes for the first time since he moved out that they’d stay.

-

The Musain is silent, and Enjolras is tired. They all are, overworked and exhausted from being through back into a hectic few weeks of university. It had been disorientating at first, to find them all together and all so quiet. Except as the evening goes on, half of them sprawled on top of each other in a sleepy haze and reluctant to leave, the silence isn't as daunting as before. 

While university only started a few weeks ago, most of them are in their final year, save Joly, Jehan and Marius, which means that work has already managed to pile on top of them from seemingly nowhere. Like Combeferre and Courfeyrac, Enjolras has started working on the final stages of his dissertation, and so paperwork and assignments and timetables are all stressful within themselves. And yet, despite everything he has to do, he loves teaching the younger students more than anything. Courfeyrac does too, though that's unsurprising, and Enjolras half listens to him as he drifts in and out of sleep.

Everyone is content with listening to Courfeyrac's voice fill the room, and apart from Jehan and Combeferre's occasional interruptions, no one else says a word. Which is why all of them jump when Bahorel suddenly shouts, the loudest sound of the evening, followed quickly by Joly’s. His eyes snap to the door just in time to see Grantaire stumble over the threshold. There are dark circles under his eyes and his hair his a mess, poorly covered by his paint-stained beanie. His skin is pale and drawn, but his lips turn up in a soft smile at the sight of them all. Enjolras looks down before Grantaire notices him staring, suddenly fascinated by the article in front of him. 

He finds it harder to concentrate with Grantaire’s voice slowly coaxing their friends back to life, growing louder as they grow more responsive, gravitating towards him. It’s strange and weird and wonderful, and Enjolras didn't realised how much he missed them all being together like this until they are.

Jehan walks over to Grantaire when there’s a lull in conversation, taking a seat beside him. 

“Finally,” they murmur, tangling their hand with Grantaire's. Even now, after knowing them both for years, it's still surprising for Enjolras to see the two of them so tactile with each other. “Took you long enough to come back.”

Grantaire shrugs, hiding his pleased smile behind the rim of the mug. “I had to, didn’t I?”

“Oh?”

Enjolras doesn’t look away fast enough for Grantaire to look up and hold his gaze, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Well, Enjolras asked me to. I wasn’t going to say no.”

Jehan mutters something under their breath that makes Grantaire throw his head back and laugh. Enjolras shuffles his papers, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, continuing his work with fresh enthusiasm as the sky grows darker, and Paris nosier. The silence that falls again is much more comfortable than earlier, though that may be to do more with all of them being too tired to even try and make conversation like they were before. Feuilly is the first to yawn, head propped on his elbow, and it sets off a chain around the room until Joly is staring at everyone in exasperation.

“I know we’re all a bunch of co-dependant assholes,” Joly finally exclaims, “but this is ridiculous.” He throws his hands up when Bossuet tries to hide his yawn into Grantaire's shoulder. “That’s it, we’re going home.”

Unsurprisingly, this sets them all into motion. Papers fly everywhere as they pack their work away, coats pulled off the back of chairs and cold cups of tea and coffee knocked back with a grimace. Enjolras is one of the last to leave, Grantaire and Jehan lingering behind him with their heads bent over Jehan’s phone.

Instead of walking home, Enjolras finds himself ducking into a small alley next to the café, leaning back against the jagged stonewall. Every so often he’ll blink at the glare of bright yellow lights of a passing car, before the alley is submerged in darkness again. It's strange to think that almost a year has gone by, that summer has given way to autumn, that autumn is fading with the dark clouds to give way to ones that promise heavy snow. Strange that so much has happened, that so much has changed, and has yet to-

“Hey you.”

Enjolras has heard Grantaire speak for the past forty-five minutes, his breath hitches at the sound of his voice anyway. He clenches his hands into fists and tries to convince himself there’s no underlying tenderness.

“Hey,” Enjolras says, breath curling like smoke in the air above their heads as Grantaire walks towards him. He shivers when Grantaire raises a hand to his cheek, the goosebumps on his skin having little do with the cold. They’re close enough that Enjolras can feel the rise and fall of Grantaire’s chest, could bend down just a little, and kiss Grantaire slowly.

It’s Grantaire who moves first, who cups Enjolras’ jaw in his hand and nudges Enjolras’ cheek with his nose. The first press of their lips is soft, barely there, and Enjolras’ fingers tremble at his sides. Except then Grantaire huffs, pulling back with a small frown, and Enjolras can’t see that expression on his face again, not because of him. So he pulls Grantaire closer, wraps his arms around Grantaire’s waist as their eyes slip shut.

They pull apart only when Enjolras’ lips are bright red, swollen and oversensitive. His fingers are resting on the sliver of skin between Grantaire’s jeans and the hem of his thin sweater, and he traces a two onto the cold skin. Two, because he wants to stay in Paris but someplace where they won't be found, because three would mean going to the city borders and he doesn't want to disappear, not right now.

They've had this number system between them for years. It started when Enjolras wanted to go to a rally, one he knew wouldn't be peaceful, and had tried to sneak off without any of them knowing. Only Grantaire had caught him at the last minute. Enjolras had been ready, braced himself for the long, seemingly inevitable lecture on his foolishness and idealism.

("Give me a number."

"What?" Enjolras clenched his jaw, hands curled into fists. "Why on earth-"

Grantaire rolled his eyes, as if the answer was obvious, and Enjolras hated him for it. He noticed a bottle hanging limply from Grantaire's fingers, mouth open with a retort when he suddenly realised there was no sway in Grantaire's step, his expression unusually somber. "On a scale of one ten, how far from Paris?"

The protest was in Orléans, almost a two-hour drive away. "Five," Enjolras said, not knowing why, not even knowing he'd spoken until Grantaire nodded.

"Five, alright." And then he turned, a smirk falling in to place, and threw a "call me if you need help, princess." over his shoulder before walking away.)

It became a common habit after that, something that never needed explaining or deciphering, and yet they would always know where to find each other. And then they'd fucked, and they hadn't needed to say another word.

Enjolras doesn’t realise he’s holding his breath until Grantaire hums, and kisses him again.

They walk along quiet streets and alleys with their hands clasped between them. Enjolras pulls Grantaire close to him as they turn corners, both of them stumbling into brief kisses before Grantaire pulls back with a flush high on his cheeks, eyes shining a little more with each touch. It’s hard to remember this means nothing to them when Grantaire looks up at Enjolras like that, that these stolen nights are temporary and whatever they had is coming to an end.

The hotel they find is somewhere on the other side of the Seine. Grantaire orders them a bottle of wine while Enjolras opens the balcony doors, thin veils dancing in the wind. They sit cross-legged on top of clean white sheets, and watch foreign films on the small television. The first is a horror film, where Grantaire spends more time laughing than he does yelping in fear, though he continually swears he knew what was coming. They move closer when they watch a comedy, and Enjolras muffles his laughter in Grantaire’s shoulder as Grantaire improvises dialogue for scenes he can’t translate.

By the end of the film, Grantaire is leaning back against the pillows and Enjolras’ head is pillowed in his lap.

“Are we okay?” Enjolras asks, his eyes focused on the white veils that curl up in the air which each gust of cold air.

Grantaire laughs softly, and his fingers pull at one of Enjolras’ curls. “What does okay even mean for us?”

It’s a good question, and Enjolras isn’t sure how to answer. He sighs, shuffles until the curves of Grantaire’s calves slot easily against the curve of his back.

“We were okay a few weeks ago,” he says eventually. “We’ve been okay before.”

“I suppose we have,” Grantaire murmurs.

“We have.” Enjolras repeats reverently, and reaches out with gentle fingers to trace the curve of Grantaire’s jaw. Grantaire smiles at him, but there’s something sad about it, and Enjolras pulls his head down until he can feel Grantaire’s warm breath against his mouth.

“We missed you,” Enjolras whispers, his bottom lip moving against Grantaire’s top one when he speaks.

Grantaire smiles, and he’s beautiful. “I know.”

missed you.” Enjolras then says, this time louder, because Grantaire needs to hear it, he needs Grantaire to believe it.

“I know that, too.” Grantaire’s voice is soft, teasing, and he places a gentle kiss to Enjolras lips. “You’re all hopeless without me.”

Enjolras’ eyes flutter shut, but he doesn’t stop speaking, not yet. “You know everything, seems like.”

“I know you.” Grantaire confesses, and he presses their mouths together firmly before Enjolras can reply, before Enjolras can open his eyes and see what he looks like as he says it.

They kiss languidly, slowly, until Grantaire’s body aches at the angle and Enjolras’ shoulders sag with exhaustion. They shrug out of their clothes, tired and weary and warm. They curl towards each other clad simply in their boxers, the balcony doors still open as they cocoon themselves under the thick blanket. Grantaire’s curls tickle Enjolras’ chin, and his lips are chapped against Enjolras’ clavicle. He’s the first to fall asleep.

Enjolras finds that he can’t. Stolen autumn nights together, runaway summer days and the time that flies in winter and sprint amounts to nothing and everything. He realises that in between everything, work and friends and the family that he's created with the Amis, Grantaire is one of the only people he trusts to keep him grounded. It's different to the way Combeferre and Courfeyrac support him - there's comradery there, a brotherhood between them that's separate from any other relationships they share. With Grantaire, it was something gradual, unexpected and sudden in all the ways his friendship with Combeferre and Courfeyrac hadn't been. And suddenly, a thought that has been blossoming in the back of his mind for the past six months blooms, and as he lies with his legs trapped under Grantaire's, sleep edging towards him, he realises that he loves Grantaire.

He loves Grantaire, and there's no can or can't about it.

“For fuck’s sake,” Grantaire grumbles, voice hoarse, and everything in Enjolras' body screams for him. Not trusting himself to speak for fear of voicing his thought aloud, he hums questioningly, hoping Grantaire won’t notice his shaking hands. “I can hear you thinking in my sleep, shut up already.”

Enjolras huffs, pressing a hard kiss to Grantaire's curls, before he finally closes his eyes. It’s late morning when he opens them again.

He stretches, arms above his head and back arching off the sheets, and blinks sleepily. The room is slightly chilly, the doors having been left open all night long, and he immediately recoils when a particularly cold gust of wind rushes into the room. Sighing, Enjolras rubs his hands over his eyes, wiping the sleep away, and looks around. Grantaire’s stood by the balcony doors, profile obscured by one of the white curtains, and his phone is clutched tightly in his hands as he types frantically. The pinch of his mouth that Enjolras last saw months ago has returned, and he’s fully dressed.

That’s when Enjolras realises something’s wrong, and the ‘I love you’ ready to tumble from his lips stays trapped under his tongue as Grantaire turns around.

“You’re awake.” Grantaire says with false cheer, but when Enjolras nods slowly his façade melts away, and he hunches his shoulders as if shielding himself from something, from Enjolras. “I wasn’t sure when you’d wake.”

"You're dressed." Enjolras says, allows confusion to show on his face. Grantaire takes a hesitant step towards him, fingers twitching as he drops his phone into his pocket. “How long have you been up?” Enjolras finally asks, his voice raspy and his throat dry.

“Half an hour, something like that.”

Enjolras finally stands. “Oh.” 

He searches around for his clothes, feels Grantaire’s eyes following his movements as he pulls on his jeans, then his sweater, his socks. 

“Enjolras, I…” Grantaire trails off, takes a shaky breath and Enjolras sits on the edge of the bed. The silence between them is awful, and it feels worse now, here with Grantaire, than it did in the few weeks he disappeared.

"You're leaving," he states, doesn't bother phrasing it as a question. Grantaire's eyes flicker from him, jaw clenching, and Enjolras feels ice in his veins. "And you're not coming back."

“I have a date, and,” Grantaire's voice begins to waver, Enjolras' hands start to shake. "I think it would be the best, for us."

There are cars honking at each other on the other side of the city and a couple fighting in the park on the other side of the street. And he’s sat in a hotel room on a cobbled street somewhere in Paris, learning how to love a person trying to leave.

"We can't keep pretending."

"Right." He isn't quite sure where he finds the strength to speak, "this was all pretending, then."

"You know that's not what I- what I mean to say is," Grantaire stutters, straightening his shoulders as if he's trying to reassure them both. "We're getting nowhere."

"You won't let us get anywhere," Enjolras snaps, and then flinches when Grantaire moves back. "I hope it goes well.” He says when it's clear there's nothing left to say, and then he stands, and carries a weight on his shoulders that hadn't been there before.

The thought of Courfeyrac waiting for him the only thing that carries him towards the metro, the knowledge that Combeferre will remain a solid presence beside him the only thing that keeps him upright. As he walks towards the river, the morning sun beating down on his back, he manages to convince himself that his eyes sting because of the cold air, that it has nothing to do with heartbreak.

They bump into each other in a small coffee shop off campus on Saturday. Grantaire’s face is flushed from the sudden cold, and his smile is tight around the edges when he sits opposite Enjolras. 

Eventually, Enjolras looks away from his laptop screen and steeples his hands on the tabletop, resisting the urge to reach across and hold Grantaire’s. They haven’t done that before, they don’t need to start now.

“How did you- how did it go?” He asks, doesn’t need to clarify what he means, Grantaire will know. Perhaps that makes everything worse.

“We had dinner, watched a film. It was all very generic.” Grantaire murmurs, and Enjolras finds himself leaning forward to hear him. “He’s incredibly smart and well traveled. We didn’t argue about a single thing.”

Enjolras swallows hard and leans back, notices his hands are shaking as he closes the lid of his laptop. “That’s great, I’m happy for you.”

Grantaire laughs, but it’s strained. “Thanks.”

Enjolras breathes out and shakes his head, standing up to leave. He wants to squeeze Grantaire’s shoulder reassuringly as he passes, to let him know that they’re still okay, that nothing’s change. But Enjolras has never been in the habit of lying.

He pulls on his coat and rushes past Grantaire, doesn’t register what Grantaire says to him until he’s halfway down the street. “I’ll see you around, Ange.”

-

Combeferre sits beside him on the couch, shoulders brushing and legs tangled on the coffee table. Their work and assignments are piled by their feet, completed and backed-up on several different platforms as well as two copies on paper. Courfeyrac’s staying late at the university, filling in a spare lecture slot for the first years who missed an essential lecture for the Gender, Sexuality and Law module earlier in the week.

“Are we talking about it?” Combeferre asks, and when Enjolras opens his mouth to ask what ‘it’ is, Combeferre shakes his head. “I’ll take that as a no.”

“How could you possibly know what I was about to say?”

Combeferre looks at him from the corner of his eye, an eyebrow arched impressively as he takes a long sip of his tea. Enjolras concedes to his point.

“Touché.” He sighs, and then, “I don’t know if there’s anything to talk about. And if there is, I’m not quite sure how I’d start.”

“Well,” Combeferre says, resting his mug on his thigh, “are you happy?”

Enjolras pauses, shakes his head. “I don’t think so.”

“Then that’s what you need to focus on. There’s no need for fancy explanations or drawn out emotions that keep you up at night, they’ll come to you in time.” He takes another sip, shrugs his shoulders. “You’re unhappy, make it better.”

“I don’t have what I need to make it better, ‘Ferre.”

“You have things that can help,” Combeferre says, and Enjolras looks up at him with pursed lips. “You have me, you have our friends. You have him, too, though it’s different to before.”

“Is it that easy though?” He asks, biting the inside of his cheek. “If it were Courfeyrac, would you say the same thing?”

“Of course it’s not easy, but yes, I would.” he replies immediately, snaking his arm around Enjolras’ shoulders and pressing a kiss to his temple. “I did, remember, before things fell into place. You’ll get there, too.”

Combeferre had gone through the same thing, dealing with, what he believed at the time were, unrequited feelings for Courfeyrac with graceful ease that Enjolras found hard to understand. Except Combeferre has always been the more rational of three of them, the more patient, and Enjolras isn’t sure he’ll be able to wait in the same way.

He’s broken from his thoughts when there’s a sudden rap against the door, followed again by two more. Combeferre frowns as he gets up, obviously not expecting anyone over, and if it were Courfeyrac, he’d use his key.

“Coming!” Combeferre shouts as he walks into the hallway. Enjolras hears him open the door, but whoever it is and whatever they’re saying is muffled through the wall. “-Thanks for coming by, though.”

He looks up at the sound of Combeferre’s voice and notices Feuilly following close behind.

“Chief,” Feuilly grins, pausing his conversation with Combeferre to stride forward and wrap Enjolras in a hug. Enjolras startles at the contact before relaxing into the embrace, gripping tightly at Feuilly’s shoulders before he steps back. “How’re you doing?”

“I’m well, I’m well.” He replies, shuffling towards the centre of the couch as Feuilly takes a seat beside him. “And you?”

“I’m pretty good thanks, yeah. I just left Jehan and Bahorel at home to come drop off some books I found at the market, thought Ferre might find them interesting is all.”

“They’re very good books,” Combeferre says from the kitchen before the kettle hisses on the stove, causing Feuilly to flinch at the high-pitched sound.

“Oh?” Enjolras asks, leaning back into the cushions.

“I mean, I don’t know. They looked pretty interesting, you know?” Feuilly shrugs. “This guy was going to throw them away, said they were about traditional medicine and herbal remedies, pretty outdated stuff. It was a toss up between handing them to him or Joly, but I think they'd be safer here.”

Enjolras snorts when Feuilly winks, knowing that most delicate and fragile items are better kept away from Bossuet. They both sit up straight when Combeferre brings the tea through, Feuilly immediately taking a sip and humming, pleased.

“How can you drink that?” Combeferre asks, at the same time Enjolras says, “It hasn’t even cooled yet.” 

“Habit,” Feuilly murmurs, shrugging again, as if he’s never thought about it before. Then, “'Ferre, why are there four cups?”

Combeferre, still standing, smiles. He's leaning against the doorframe, one hand curled around his mug and the other tucked into the front pocket of his trousers. “Courf should be coming home in a minute.”

Feuilly turns to Enjolras, an eyebrow rasied. “That still doesn’t-“

“They have this weird telepathic tracking system going on,” Enjolras explains, pointing to the hall where the click of the key turning in the lock can be heard. “Ferre always makes the tea a few minutes before Courf gets home so it has time to cool down, just enough that it isn’t fully cold.”

Unsurprisingly, Courfeyrac walks through the door seconds later, bright-eyed and red-nosed, with his arms spread wide. Feuilly stands in time for Courfeyrac to pull him into a hug, moving to the loveseat just in time for Courfeyrac to fall onto Enjolras, enveloping him completely.

“Enjolras, Ange, platonic love of my life,” Courfeyrac begins, squeezing him, “my partner in crime, my better third-“

“We get it,” Combeferre says with a roll of his eyes, nothing short of adoration on his face. "You love Enjolras, we get it already."

“You're just jealous,” Courfeyrac huffs, shuffling so that he’s pressed against Enjolras’ side instead of sprawled over him, ”of the natural, passionate chemistry between myself and this beautiful angel gracing our couch."

Enjolras hums, nodding thoughtfully as he hides a smile in the kiss he presses to Courfeyrac’s forehead. “It's true.”

He meets Combeferre’s gaze over the rim of his second mug, hours after they’ve eaten dinner and Jehan has joined them. His teeth bang against the porcelain as he hides a smile at Courfeyrac’s joke, and it’s then that he realises this is what Combeferre meant. It’s not easy to let things go, or hide them, but it helps to have his friends, his family, here with him.

-

Enjolras meets Julien three weeks after everyone else. He’s exactly like Grantaire described him, kind and helpful and incredibly sincere. He has a mop of brown hair, perfectly coiffed, and faint stubble along his jaw. There’s a colourful sleeve of tattoos that runs down his right forearm, ending just above his wrist, intricately designed and detailed. Grantaire hasn’t stopped smiling since they walked into the Musain. 

The Amis have taken to him easily, welcomed him into their closer circle of friends as if he's always been one of their own. It's been a month since they’ve all been together informally, and guilt ripples through Enjolras when he realises just how much he's missed, so caught up in his own problems that he's barely had time to focus on the people who mean more than the world to him. His fingers tap restlessly onto the tabletop the more he thinks about how awful he's been, and Courfeyrac rests his hand atop of Enjolras', gripping tightly.

“I-” Enjolras turns his head, his mouth pressing against Courfeyrac’s ear, and his voice barely above a whisper. “I should have been here-“

“Enjolras-“

“I mean," he frowns, nails leaving white crescents on Courfeyrac's palm, "first Grantaire disappears for weeks and then I hide from all of them-“

“It’s not your fault," Courfeyrac replies sharply, leaving no room for argument. "No one blames you, we get it.”

“Yes but,” Enjolras screws his eyes shut, runs his thumbnail over the pad of his index finger, “they keep me sane, they wanted to help me and I was so selfish thinking I had to do this alone.”

Enjolras,” he snaps, pulling away to cup Enjolras’ face with a hard grip. “That isn’t selfish of you, jesus, we know you. They all know you, they love you, and they would do anything to help you, even if it means leaving you alone for a while.”

The words only do so much to pacify him, and in moments he's standing from his place at the end of the table, taking his time to catch up with his friends, the people he knows as family. 

Bossuet, he finds out, has finally achieved complete sobriety and has been saying his five prayers religiously for just over two weeks, while Joly is as supportive of Bossuet's return to his faith as he is proud. Jehan kisses his cheek when Enjolras sits beside them, and eagerly tells him about the new course they're taking on War Poets, eyes shining as Enjolras listens in earnest. He doesn’t go to where Grantaire and Julien sit with Marius.

Julien approaches him instead. "Hey," he says, grinning as he sits on Combeferre’s recently vacated seat.

Enjolras can feel Grantaire’s eyes on the side of his face and breathes deeply, reaching over the table to shake Julien’s outstretched hand. “Julien,” Enjolras smiles, greets him like a friend. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“Likewise. I’ve heard a lot about you,” Julien grins. “Good things though, don’t worry.”

And how could Enjolras possibly begin to hate him? Julien’s passionate, invested in the same things that the Amis work hard to fight for. He’s funny, and has a sense of humour so similar to Combeferre’s that he has Enjolras snorting into his cup of coffee. More surprising than anything else is the fact that, by the end of the night, Enjolras finds he’s warmed up to Julien. He should know better by now, to trust the Amis on their judgment of people, but he's always been one of the most reserved in their group, he's had to be, and yet he recognises immediately why they've all taken to him so kindly. It's odd, that Julien is a rival to him in all the ways that he isn't, that Enjolras could see them becoming extremely close friends.

He catches himself thinking about it long after everyone has gone, sat at the back of café while Courfeyrac and Combeferre talk quietly among themselves, their eyes flickering to him every so often. Enjolras puts his papers down the fifth time he catches them staring, and sighs, waiting for them to speak.

“He thinks highly of you.” Combeferre says, eventually, voice ringing in the otherwise empty room.

Enjolras furrows his brow, the pad of his index finger running down the length of his file. “Sorry?”

“Julien.” Combeferre puts his phone on the table now that he has Enjolras' attention, turning in his seat. “He admires you.”

“Especially after tonight.” Courfeyrac adds, shuffling forward. “He’s been following our work for ages, and he’s been wanting to meet you since he realised Grantaire was one of us.”

“Oh, well that’s- okay.” He says, nodding, and then, “Is it stupid that I’m happy for him, for both of them?” He doesn't feel the need to explain what he means, and they probably wouldn't appreciate it if he tried.

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "I think it's very good of you, wanting what's best for Grantaire," he admits.

"It's strange though," Enjolras says with pursed lips, "that I want what's best for Julien, too."

"Well, you're a good person." Combeferre murmurs, squeezing his shoulder with a gentle hand. "And no one can argue that you're a good friend."

They dip into momentary silence after that, moving closer to each other until Courfeyrac's head is resting on Enjolras' shoulder, and Combeferre is sat opposite them with their legs tangled under the table.

Sometimes Enjolras thinks that he would love a relationship like the one Courfeyrac and Combeferre share, something full of a different kind of love to the one they already have, and yet they never treat it as a burden. They know what their relationship could do to the group, but their faith in each other and the decisions they made to get where they are is something Enjolras admires greatly. And yet, though Enjolras knows that the sacrifices and decision he would make for Grantaire would be all the more detrimental, he’d be prepared to make them – has been ready to for a long time.

"I do love him," he admits, when the bell of the café chimes below them. It's important that he admit it out loud, to the two people he trusts more than anyone or anything in the world, but that doesn't stop his voice from shaking. "I think this has to be love."

"Oh?" Combeferre asks, nudging Enjolras' calf with his foot. There’s a curious glint in his eye, a questioning curve to his mouth, and Enjolras nods because yes, he’s ready to talk about it.

"I've loved him for a long time," Enjolras continues, closing his eyes as Courfeyrac sighs into him. "But I've only known for a few months."

"What changed?"

“I did, I think. I just realised one day, that he knew me, and I knew him - in a way I've never known anyone." Enjolras looks down, suddenly, fiddling with the hem of his shirt.

"Except," Courfeyrac says, voice quiet. "Knowing someone is different to loving them."

Enjolras nods, and doesn't know how to express what it is that makes what he feels for Grantaire as love. "I realised I wanted to belong to him," he eventually murmurs, and lets his answer fade in the silence.

"Oh," Combeferre breathes, Courfeyrac echoing him. They both share a meaningful look, a hidden meaning passing between them which Enjolras misses entirely. They don't say anything else, though, and Enjolras shrugs his shoulders when Courfeyrac hums.

"But I guess he was never mine to start with, not that I have any right over him or, you know." He shrugs.

“Grantaire has been yours from the moment he bumped into you on campus.”

Enjolras sucks in a sharp breath, and Courfeyrac slaps a hand over his mouth as Combeferre stares resolutely down at the table. Some part of him wants to ask them, to press for more, before he realises that none of it will make a difference now. Grantaire has Julien, they're both happy, and Enjolras doesn't want to ever come between that.

So, he pays more attention to his friends and on his work, keeping a balance between the two instead of ignoring one over the other. Like before, the third Sunday night of each month is spent at his apartment, with take-out pizza or Chinese and multitudes of drinks and desserts that last them well into the night. When Feuilly's jobs become more demanding and Joly's shifts at the hospital begin lasting up to sixteen hours, when some nights where home seems too far away, he makes sure that he keeps the guest room tidy for them, and sleeps on the sofa if they both happen to show up.

He also makes sure, albeit begrudgingly, to keep himself free for Friday lunch with Cosette and Marius. He's surprised to find that their relationship has mellowed since they first met, though still full of the same affection, they're less obvious about it.

And it helps, and he feels more like himself the more his friends are around him.

He doesn't deny that he still misses Grantaire, but missing him every second of the day means that Enjolras learns to cope with it. The feeling ebbs at him gently, steadily, ever-present but not as powerful.

Then one day, in the middle of spring, he leaves his key on Combeferre’s kitchen counter and drives away. He doesn’t mean to leave Paris, to leave any of them, for too long. Only Grantaire’s no longer around to force Enjolras to take breaks from work, and the smaller Paris grows in his rear mirror the more Enjolras realises he’s needed one.

Enjolras finally arrives in Nantes, half an hour before noon, and drives aimlessly around the city before finding somewhere to park his car. He pockets his phone in his jacket, leaving everything else behind, and walks down the long, open streets. Simple white houses are separated by large gardens, and the gravelly road is lined with dried soil.

Enjolras finds a small café on the corner of the road that gives way to a large green space surrounding the Roseraie. The old woman behind the counter looks at him every so often with a fond smile, as if he reminds her of someone she knew well, and Enjolras thinks of the lady who used to run his favourite café in Bordeaux. He would go to her after school every day, and she’d spoil him with freshly baked bread or pastries before sending him away with a kiss on his cheek and the promise of something new tomorrow.

He wonders what’s happened to her now, if other children find solace in her café to avoid going home like he used to.

His tea has cooled down considerably by the time he finally raises it to his lips, but he drinks it anyway, savours the taste as it trickles down the back of his throat. Houses grow sparse and the sun falls further in the sky as he walks towards the central park, ending up under a large willow tree, it's long branches arching over him.

Grantaire had come with him to the city once before, and they’d visited the botanic gardens. They hadn’t been as beautiful as the one’s in Paris, and considerably smaller, yet neither of them had wanted to leave.

Enjolras falls asleep with bark digging into his back and the air growing cooler around him, and wakes up when the sun is beginning to set, casting its pink rays into the sky. Combeferre calls as Enjolras is sitting in the car, his voice loud over the Bluetooth while Enjolras rolls the windows down.

“I was wondering when you’d call.”

Hello,” Combeferre says, “you sound happy.”

And he is, Enjolras realises with a jolt, or somewhere close. The past few months have blurred around him, leaving him feeling disorientated from his friends, from work – he doesn’t think he’s found even a second to breathe.

But when Combeferre calls him, the wind soothing Enjolras’ skin and the bittersweet memory of home still lingering in the back of his mind, he thinks that perhaps he’d rather stay trapped in his moment for the rest of his life. He may not be happy, but this is the best he’s felt in a long time.

“I am,” Enjolras confirms. “It’s beautiful here.”

Combeferre hums, and Enjolras knows he’s smiling. “If one were to ask where you’d disappeared to…?”

“Nantes.”

Ah- and if one were to ask when you’d return?”

Enjolras grins, and turns on the engine of his car. “I’m headed back now. Hopefully I’ll be home in four hours, I don’t think traffic should be too bad.”

“Drive safe, won’t you?” Combeferre’s voice grows tinny as Enjolras turns down the main road, following directions towards the autoroute.

“I will,” Enjolras promises, and hangs up seconds after they’ve said goodbye. He’s reluctant to leave Nantes, but finds that returning to Paris is similar to the way Jehan described falling in love - there’s something existentially right about it, an overwhelming feeling of belonging settling into Enjolras’ bones the closer he gets.

-

Things fall apart when summer begins.

It’s the day of Joly’s last exam, the end of his third year at med school, and the Amis are waiting for him in the park outside campus. Bossuet is the first to spot him, shouting in delight as he runs to Joly and gathers him in a tight embrace. Their laughter rings like a symphony in the air, and Enjolras feels as if his heart has been enveloped in a gentle, glowing warmth as he sees his friends together for the first time in months. They’re exhausted, burnt out, but being together sets them all aflame.

Enjolras walks a step behind them as they make their way to a local café, smiling as he weaves easily through crowds of people rushing to work after long lunch breaks and tourists that stand in the middle of the street, struck by the reality of Paris. He grounds himself with every tap of his feet against the pavement, his shadow drifting in and out of existence as the sun hides behind tall buildings and towers over small shops and bars.

They eventually stop in front of a small Brioche Dorée, Bahorel and Jehan complaining loudly about how they missed breakfast. Combeferre leads them in with a laugh and shake of his head, Courfeyrac pushing tables closer so that they can all sit together before taking their orders to the counter. Enjolras sits at the end of the table, two seats opposite him empty for Combeferre and Courfeyrac. Joly, Bossuet and Grantaire are on the other end, laughing loudly with Bahorel and Feuilly between snippets of murmured conversation. Jehan sits to Enjolras’ left with their head pillowed on his shoulder, happily talking away to Marius about Cosette’s upcoming birthday party.

He sits back and lets their conversations roll over him, fiddling with a napkin on the table. Something must show on his face, because Courfeyrac pokes his cheek with a gentle finger and, when Enjolras looks up, his eyes are shining.

“You’re smiling,” Courfeyrac states, placing Enjolras’ warm tomato and basil wrap on the table and taking the seat directly opposite him. “Keep smiling, yeah?”

“Yes, do.” Combeferre agrees, taking the seat beside Courfeyrac and placing a quick kiss on his cheek. Courfeyrac, in turn, peppers his face with kisses until Combeferre’s bright red and he’s laughing too hard to move towards him.

The chatter continues between mouthfuls of food and refills, growing louder in the silence of the bakery while few patrons linger around as evening dawns. Orange streetlamps begin to flicker into being as the sky loses the last silvers of golden sun, the glare of light from shops and the yellow glow of candles as restaurants prepare for evenings full of lovers and runaways illuminating the street outside.

Enjolras smiles at Combeferre as he stands, running a tired hand through his curls, before heading to the counter to order another coffee. The girl behind the counter nods at him as she takes his order, and he waits by the till as she makes his drink. He takes his cup with a grateful smile and turns around, the small bell above the door to the bakery chiming, when he knocks into someone.

Firm hands come to rest on Enjolras’ shoulders as he stumbles back, familiar hands.

“It’s a good thing you got that coffee to-go,” Grantaire murmurs with a small laugh, nodding at the lid. Enjolras’ eyes crinkle as he grins, unable to do anything but smile at him. Grantaire’s fingers move down to his arms, fingers gripping his jumper gently, as he pulls back. He doesn’t go far. “Otherwise this could have been much more disastrous.”

Nearly a year has passed since they were last together, since Grantaire started dating Julien, and surely that means enough time has passed for Enjolras’ feelings to become somewhat muted. They haven’t. It’s almost wondrous, how one touch can make Enjolras’ heart beat a little faster, remind him of just how in love he is with Grantaire.

“You bumped into me,” Enjolras says with a roll of his eyes.

“Sure I did,” Grantaire drawls. He looks back pointedly at Enjolras’ coffee, held out to the side to avoid being crushed, and then up at Enjolras. “You weren’t looking at where you were going.”

“I’m holdingcoffee?” Enjolras repeats incredulously, watches a large smile break out on Grantaire’s face. He bows his head, a small huff of laughter escaping him. “I didn’t want to spill it.”

"How are you though, how have you been?" Grantaire suddenly asks, grin dropping into something gentle.

"I'm good I-," Enjolras smiles, shrugs. "Actually, I secured this job with Lamarque. He wants me to work at his firm, and, I mean haven't told anyone yet but..." He trails off, not entirely sure why he told Grantaire before he told any of the others. He doesn't bother trying to make sense of it though, too focused on the feel of Grantaire's hands cupping his neck, the bright smile on his face.

"I knew it!" Grantaire says, fingers pressing gently against his skin. "I told you that you'd get it, all those months ago, I swore it."

He had, popping his head out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist and his toothbrush tucked behind his ear. Enjolras was finishing off a phone-call with Lamarque’s PA, thanking them for his internship, the speaker on. When he’d looked up, Grantaire was grinning across at him, dimples showing.

(“You’re going to get it,” he’d said, eyes twinkling. “They’ll call you back, don’t worry.”

And Enjolras had rolled his eyes, stumbled out of bed, and pushed him back into the shower with a laugh caught in the back of his throat and a smile hidden in the curve of Grantaire’s shoulder.)

It's then, when he rests their foreheads together, laughing breathlessly, that Enjolras realises how close they are. He can feel each rise of Grantaire’s chest against his own, Grantaire’s breath warm against his cheek. Grantaire must realise it too, and he steps away from Enjolras so suddenly it's as if he’s been burnt.

Except it’s too late, and all the Amis are looking at them with varying degrees of sympathy, and when Enjolras turns his head he sees Julien stood by the door. There’s something in his eye, understanding almost, as if Enjolras has just confirmed something for him.

“Oh.” Julien finally says. He sags against the doorway, fingers gripping the wooden frame as he looks at Grantaire. “I get it now, I’ve been- no, I get it now.” He seems to take a shuddering breath, standing for a second and an eternity before he turns and disappears easily into the late night crowd.

Enjolras’ coffee nearly falls from his hands as Grantaire rushes past to follow him. The cup suddenly feels much heavier than it did a moment earlier, and he sets it down by the sugar before making his way over to the table, collapsing into his chair. Julien has caught Grantaire and Enjolras together before, but a table full of paperwork has usually separated them while they’ve worked in silence, keeping their distance. It feels different, this time.

Combeferre rests a tentative hand on Enjolras’ shoulder, his voice barely above a whisper.

“He knows.” Enjolras says, burying his face in his hands. “Julien knows, and I think maybe he’s known for a while. He has to have.”

“About?” Combeferre hedges. The rest of their friends are suspiciously silent, straining to hear his muffled voice.

“Me-“ he chokes out, “how I feel about Grantaire.”

Courfeyrac squeezes his wrists, his voice quiet. “This, him walking out here, had nothing to do with you. They’ve- they’ve been fighting for a long time.”

He knows it’s true, has almost stumbled in on their whispered arguments. That doesn’t stop Enjolras from feeling awful. “I can’t have helped.”

“Don’t be-“

“Courfeyrac, how could he not have known how very much in love I am with Grantaire?” Enjolras looks up, breathing deeply for several moments as he watches his confession sink in. They know, all of his friends know, but only Combeferre and Courfeyrac have heard him say it out loud, and he needs them all to understand.

“He told me about his date with Julien,” Enjolras continues, “and I didn’t say anything, I couldn’t.”

Courfeyrac’s brows furrow, and Combeferre’s grip on his shoulder tightens, and Enjolras can’t dare to look at anyone else, not even as the door signals someone’s entering the shop.

“I think, perhaps, sometimes loving someone isn’t enough,” Enjolras murmurs, remembering his conversation with Jehan from what seems like years ago, barely loud enough for them to hear. “Julien loves Grantaire in the way he deserves, and I don’t know if I could. And I hate that I might have taken that away from him.”

“You could have tried.”

The laughter from Grantaire’s voice is gone, and when Enjolras looks up his eyes are rimmed red and his fingers are quivering, tapping an unsteady beat into the air. Joly and Bossuet immediately stand at the sight of him, both taking small steps towards him as Enjolras rises from his seat, Courfeyrac’s hand dropping from his wrist.

“Would you have let me?” Enjolras asks coldly, his tone so much different from how he’d been moments earlier. He shoves past Grantaire, ignoring Combeferre calling out behind him, and walks briskly down the street until the rush of inner-city traffic is so loud Enjolras can’t hear himself think. He doesn’t know how long he wanders through Paris, only returning home when his city decides that she’s had enough for the night. There are several missed calls from all his friends, save Bossuet and Bahorel, but he sends a quick group text to assure them he’s okay before turning off his phone.

He walks up the stairs with his head down, fumbling for his keys, and doesn’t expect to see Julien sitting on the floor outside of his apartment, leaning back against his door. Enjolras stays where he is, nails sinking into his palm as Julien moves away. He leaves the door open as he walks into the apartment, hears Julien shut it behind him as he enters.

Julien takes a seat at the dinner table, wringing his hands as Enjolras makes two mugs of coffee.

“Why are you here?” Enjolras pours the boiling water into the two cups. “I can’t imagine you want to be.” 

“I wanted to shout at you.” Julien’s voice is subdued when he finally speaks. “Only, I realised you haven’t done anything wrong- and maybe that’s the worst thing.”

“What do you-“

“It would have been better if you and Grantaire actually did something, because it’d be so easy to blame you, then. But you wouldn’t, ever.”

“We did enough to hurt you.”

“It’s hard falling for someone when they’re in love with somebody else,” Julien whispers, ignoring him, and there are goosebumps down Enjolras’ arms because he sounds so scared, and out of all people, Julien should never sound scared. “And I feel so fucking stupid for not catching on earlier.”

“Grantaire isn’t in love with me.” Enjolras says, voice wavering because Grantaire doesn’t, he never has, he wouldn't have ever walked away if-

“I’ve never seen anyone look at someone the way he looks at you,” Julien smiles, something akin to defeat on his face. “I think you could be amazing together, it’s so easy to see the both of you…”

Enjolras’ clenches his hands into fists, angry with himself and Grantaire, heartbroken for Julien. “Don’t do this to yourself.”

“I’m not angry at you, at either of you,” Julien sighs. “I always knew I’d never have him, I just…I never knew who I’d lose him to.”

Enjolras flinches, and opens his mouth to speak, but Julien cuts him off.

“Look, it’s-it’s not fine, not really. But just go for it, you know,” he shrugs, smiles as he tries to pass it off as a joke. “Before I try again.”  

“I wouldn’t mind losing him to you.” The words hang in the air, sink into their skin, and Julien’s smirk falls into a soft smile as if to comfort him, as if Enjolras needs it more than he does. It’s a façade, one given away by the way Julien’s hands are trembling around his drink.

“Does he know you’re here?” Enjolras asks as Julien stands up and readjusts the collar of his jacket, following him to the door.

“I left him in the middle of the street and walked away, so no, I don’t think he does.”

“You won’t be coming back, will you?”

“Would you blame me if I didn’t?”

Enjolras doesn’t have an answer to that. “We’ll miss you, you were a valuable member of the society. And are a valuable friend.”

Julien’s laughter borders on hysterical; Enjolras notices the dampness clinging to his eyelashes and looks away. He stays at the door long after Julien’s gone, his legs feeling numb when he finally moves.

-

Paris is quiet after Julien leaves. It’s as if there’s a stillness about her, and for some reason Enjolras feels that it’s more of a calm before a storm rather than the aftermath of one. He finds that he’s no energy to go anywhere, to run away or explore, none of that feels right anymore.

And when Courfeyrac walks through his door after a quiet day spent at home, Combeferre following close behind, Enjolras falls into his arms. When Courfeyrac tightens his grip, Enjolras finds he has to bite his lip to keep himself from falling apart. His face is burning and his hands are shaking and his heart is caught in his throat, and Courfeyrac is the only thing anchoring him home.

Courfeyrac doesn’t let go even when Enjolras makes a move to pull away, running a hand up and down his back, and only then does Enjolras feel the weight on his shoulders begin to lessen. He sags further into the embrace, and brings his hands to clutch tightly at Courfeyrac’s shoulders.

“It’s going to be okay,” Courfeyrac reassures him, presses his lips firmly to Enjolras’ temple. “You’re going to be alright.”

“I hate this,” Enjolras says, and screws his eyes shut when his voice cracks. “This isn’t even about me, and I hate that even more.”

Courfeyrac hushes him, and they stand until their bodies begin to tremble and Combeferre pulls them apart gently to curl up on the couch. This time, they stay for much longer than a week, and it takes Enjolras just as long to feel okay.

Everyone works hard to keep Grantaire and Enjolras apart, and where it would usually frustrate him, it now gives Enjolras peace of mind. Unlike before, the continuous chatter throughout their meetings no longer angers him, because at least then he knows there’s no opportunity for the two of them to fight.

So they go on, rebuilding and working and planning, and they hope it’ll be okay.

Early August finds Enjolras sat on the roof of his apartment complex, the wind cool against his skin and leaves burning amber beneath the golden sun. He takes his time mapping the city beneath him, eyes following the trail of the Seine like Combeferre used to trace the lifelines on his palm. He takes another drag of his cigarette, and thinks maybe Jehan would find it tragically romantic to find that they’re the brand Grantaire used to buy.

“I didn’t know you smoked.”

Speak of the devil, he thinks, but doesn’t turn around, eyes flicking up to the large clouds instead. “I don’t.”

Grantaire stays where he is, half way between Enjolras and the door. He doesn’t come forwards, doesn’t take the cigarette from Enjolras’ fingers and let smoke curl in the air above Paris.

“How are you?” He asks, because it’s the polite thing to do, and he’s not quite sure what would be the right thing to say.

“I-“ Grantaire falters, and then asks, “are you angry with me?”

“I’m not sure,” Enjolras admits, pressing the stub against the concrete edge, grey ash falling and giving way to orange. Grantaire hasn’t spoken to him in weeks, Enjolras wonders what’s changed.

“Well can you be.” Grantaire snaps, and his sudden irritation is surprising. “Fight with me, talk to me, look at me for fuck’s sake.”

He does, and finds that he has look away almost immediately.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Grantaire whispers, sounding unsure of himself for the first time since he spoke.

“I did,” Enjolras cuts sharply, before shrugging his shoulders. “And you left.”

“You never said anything after, either.”

“Because you were happy,” Enjolras answers immediately. Grantaire makes a sound, something broken and desperate.

“I was happy with you. Enjolras, if I’d have known-“

The frustration that had been gnawing at him has seeped through his bones, blossoms in his chest at Grantaire’s words.

“You knew, Grantaire. You knew, and you fucking ruined it anyway.” Enjolras growls, the stub almost burning his fingers as it falls from his hand. All of Paris, her murmuring people and flowing river and roaring engines, become suddenly soundless.

Enjolras stands, the wind carrying his voice, and looks over the edge of the roof at the busy streets below. “Do you remember when you stood here and asked me what it would feel like to fall? Asked me to draw eyes on your hands so you’d be able to see?” When he’d asked Grantaire why, Grantaire replied that life was delicate, and he wanted to see what it looked like as it broke.

They’d been trying to understand each other better, and three months later Grantaire would give up the bottle for seven months before he could look at it without shaking. But that doesn’t change the fact Enjolras found Grantaire here, above his apartment, with a joint in one hand and a bottle in the other. And for all that the memory is something forgiven and stored away, that Grantaire has changed and recovered, it still happened, the person stood here was the same person Enjolras loves. Only because Grantaire has become the person he wants to be, doesn’t mean that he enjoys testing his limits any less than he used to.

It's been years since that happened, he knows, and it’s been years since Enjolras has come up here. “What we had was fragile, didn’t you realise that? We were trying so hard, and you ruined it when you left.”

“Don’t you dare put this all on me, this isn’t my fault.” Grantaire growls, only it sounds more like a plea. “That was years ago, don’t-“

“What?” Enjolras asks, holding Grantaire’s gaze firmly. “Hold you accountable?” Grantaire’s the first to look down, and Enjolras feels his frustration begin to waver. “People don’t love each other conditionally,” he murmurs, and hears the hitch of Grantaire’s breath.

“I loved you.“ The wind picks up, and cold air whips at Enjolras’ skin, and Enjolras stills, caught in the wind and Paris and Grantaire. “But it was too late for us.”

“How can you have loved me, and it be too late?” Enjolras asks, taking a step forward, holding out his hands for Grantaire because he has nothing left to give and Grantaire is still taking from him. Grantaire covers his mouth with his sleeve, nose pressed against his coat, and doesn’t reply. “That night, in the hotel, before any of this – what was that? What have these past two years been to us anyway? Pretend?”

He’s walked past Grantaire when he finally gets something close to a reply.

“I loved you but god,” it sounds like Grantaire is trying everything to keep the tremor from his voice, and Enjolras wishes it were enough. “I was so scared.”

“You’re always scared.” Enjolras says, before the door slams shut behind him, and whatever strength he feigned seeps out from his bones as the sound echoes down the corridor.

So this is what heartbreak feels like.

-

The problem with missing someone for so long, having loved them for even longer, is that you don’t really know what to do when you lose them for a second time. Missing Grantaire is now like the crash of the Seine's waves against the riverbank when heavy rain leaves her people restless.

Enjolras feels a continuous pounding against his chest, and wants to claw at it until it disappears. The loss turns into anger, which turns into burning fury that leaves his hands shaking and his knuckles white, until the cycle repeats itself. The urge to run away is stronger than it’s ever been, and he finds that he’s finally tempted to take up Jehan’s offer, only logic wins over, and he knows he has to fight this battle by staying here.

Every time there’s a chance that he and Grantaire can meet in the middle, Enjolras will say something, or Grantaire will do something, and suddenly they’ll be miles apart. He thinks they could have made their way back to each other after Julien, they could have said sorry and continued on rocky foundations as if the word wasn’t a second away from falling from beneath them. But they’ve done that twice before, and Enjolras doesn’t think he can deal with the thought of that bridge collapsing again.

And suddenly, he’s remembering driving down the A1 and Grantaire explaining how it felt to be trapped in an emotion, agreeing with him but not completely understanding. He gets it, now.

It’s probably why, late on a Friday evening when Courfeyrac calls and asks him to join everyone for a night out, he agrees, desperate to feel something that isn’t…this.

The club is crowded when he arrives, more so than usual. The music is slow and people move against each other on the dance floor, against the walls, in tandem to the beat. The movement of the crowd, the low blue and red lights, is almost hypnotic. It’s so very different to the rush of Paris outside, where people line the street waiting to come in.

Someone catches his elbow and presses an open-mouthed kiss to his jaw before they disappear, and Enjolras wipes away the warmth with the back of his hand. He’s halfway to the bar when a girl suddenly approaches him, her eyes wild and her smile feral, and reaches for his arm. Her grip is tight as she writes a number on his forearm before she’s dragged back into the crowd, lost in a sea of mindless dancers.

Enjolras stares at the purple ink on his skin, frowning at it, before he looks back up to see if he can catch sight of anyone he knows. Montparnasse is in the back left corner, a group of teens surrounding him as he sits on the back of a chair, telling them something with his arms spread wide. He catches Enjolras looking over and winks, before tipping his head to the other side of the room. He’s in his element here, with his people in this atmosphere, and Enjolras leaves him to it.

Everyone else around him surges forward in waves, desperately trying to get into the middle of the floor where the music is loudest and it’s hard to make out one person from the other. Enjolras finds himself pulled in the same direction, barely manages to get a drink from the bar before he’s dragged into the centre of it all. It’s there, where faces blur and bodies are indistinguishable, that he finds Courfeyrac pressed against Combeferre, kissing him with their hands roaming everywhere. That he finds Jehan grinning with glitter in their hair and their shirt torn, head thrown back and looking ethereal in the silver lights. That he finds himself, suddenly, pressed chest to chest with Grantaire.

“Enjolras?” Grantaire’s breath grazes Enjolras’ mouth, and when Enjolras runs his tongue along his chapped lips, he turns his face away. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, well,“ he shakes his head, notices that Grantaire’s pupils are so dilated that his eyes look completely black. “I was, um, you know, I actually. I'm not too sure but-“

“Fuck, how much have you had to drink?” Enjolras raises the empty glass of wine, half of the drink having split on the floor, and shrugs. He bites down on his lip when he sees the corner of Grantaire’s mouth twitch. “Of course."

There are people pushing into them, forcing them closer together, as they stand motionless between the dancers. Enjolras tenses when someone presses themselves into the curve of his back, flinching at the contact. Grantaire immediately picks up on Enjolras discomfort, as he always has, and takes his hand, pulling him to the edge of the crowd.

“Come on.” Grantaire throws a smile over his shoulder as they pass the bar and walk towards the back exit, where there’s less of a crowd. Grantaire has yet to let go of his hand, and Enjolras entwines their fingers before Grantaire can take his hand away. “Better?” He asks when they finally stumble outside, closing his eyes and sighing when the cool air rolls over their skin.

“Yes,” Enjolras breathes, bumping their shoulders together. “Thank you.”

“Who comes to a club and gets wine, anyway?” Grantaire throws his hands up into the air, shaking his head. “I didn’t even know this club had wine.”

Enjolras huffs out a breath of laughter. The anxiety that’s been resting on his chest for two weeks, since they last spoke to one another on the roof of his apartment, fades into the dark shadows of the street.

Here, back in Paris and her gentle nighttime, the music muted through thick brick walls, Enjolras allows himself to take Grantaire in. His hair is a little longer than before, a little wilder, and his skin is pale from the lack of summer sun. His clothes seem a little baggier on him, but the muscles of his arms are still firm, and he holds himself tall. He’s been drinking, only Enjolras has seen Grantaire drunk and sober and through withdrawal, and knows from years of friendship that Grantaire has only had a little tonight.

“What is it?” Grantaire asks as he begins to walk, without looking to see if Enjolras is following. Enjolras does, of course, he’d follow Grantaire anywhere. “You keep looking at me, is there something on my face?”

“It’s just, I haven’t seen you in a long time.”

Grantaire slows his pace so Enjolras can catch up, and grins. There’s no malice behind it when he says, “and whose fault is that?”

“You could have-“

“If I remember correctly, you’re the one who walked out.” Grantaire stops under a lamppost and turns around, looks up at Enjolras with his smile fading to something bittersweet. “Every time.”

Enjolras’ breath catches in his throat, and he presses his nails into the palms of his hands to keep himself from reaching out. “I fear if I’d stayed, I’d do something stupid.”

“What could be more stupid than falling in love with me?” Grantaire asks, his breath ghosting in the air between them. He must be cold, without a coat to keep him warm, and there’s a pink flush rising his on his cheeks.

“Letting you go,” Enjolras replies without a moment’s hesitation, and Grantaire takes a sharp breath. They've spent just under a year trying to avoid this conversation, and now that Grantaire has brought it up, Enjolras won't let it go unfinished. “I look at you sometimes, and think maybe we can give ourselves another chance and then there are other times where I realise you never wanted me in the first place.”

Grantaire turns away from him, but Enjolras can’t let this happen, not again.

“I love you,” Enjolras says, quivering fingers pressed under Grantaire’s chin as he forces Grantaire to look at him. “And I don’t know for how much longer I can hope that you’ll love me back.” The words echo in the quiet street.

Grantaire is shaking his head, pulling away from his hand, and the smile on his face has disappeared. “You know that I-“

Enjolras can’t bear to hear the rest of that sentence. They’ve been treading on a fine line, caught between a plethora of emotions. And it snaps with Grantaire’s words.

“Do you know what it’s like,” he murmurs, strength draining from him, “to always have this need to be with you, and knowing that I can’t. To keep coming to this standstill with you, and feeling so…so stupid when it always ends the same way, as if I expected anything different.”

Grantaire looks up at him with eyes rimmed red, hands clenched into fists by his sides. Enjolras tries to ignore the frantic beating of his heart as panic rises in his chest because this could be it, this could be the moment that Grantaire turns around and says that whatever they had meant nothing, and that there’s nothing for them in the future.

But Grantaire just looks up at him, and Enjolras wonders how much he can see.

He remembers a beautiful afternoon in July, a meadow and the roar of a motorcycle engine. He wonders how many times they can end before they begin, how many times they’ll have to end before it stops hurting.

“Say something, then,” Enjolras pleads, hands falling from Grantaire’s face to hang limply by his sides. Except Grantaire doesn’t say a word, and Enjolras wants to fall apart, can barely hold himself together. More than anything, he wants this to be over. “Because… because I keep asking you to love me, and I hate myself for it, and I wish you’d just tell me.”

“I want you so badly it hurts.” Grantaire whispers when Enjolras starts to turn away, and he freezes, doing everything he can to stop himself from shaking. “I look at you sometimes and every inch of me is screaming to hold you, to touch you.”

Enjolras breathes, in and out and in and out. “Then do it.”

“But if I do, if I lose myself to you, then you’ll give yourself to me.” Grantaire says, ignoring him. “I can’t let you give yourself to me.”

That isn’t your decision to make,” Enjolras shouts, and when he turns around Grantaire has straightened. This is his defense, Enjolras realises, this is him hiding. It’s a trap, it’s another excuse for Grantaire to run away, and as always, Enjolras falls for it. “It was never your decision to make.”

“You can’t love me, Enjolras, there’s no good in that.”

“I don’t love you,” Enjolras says, and his voice is suddenly quiet, clipped. “Because something good comes from it.” He pauses, dragging a hand down his face, running it through his hair. “Jesus, Grantaire, I don’t-”

Grantaire flinches, clenching his jaw. It takes him a long while to speak. “I think this is the part where you walk away.”

And Enjolras does.

-

The next evening finds Enjolras walking alongside the Seine. The crowds are thick as he makes his way down the steps to the metro, weaving between people and throwing apologies over his shoulder when people bump into him or he someone’s bag knocks into his shoulder. There are mothers with children sitting uncomfortably on their laps, students listening to music through large headphones with books piled on their thighs and cups of coffee threatening to spill onto the floor.

He ends up at the park far away from the Musain, from anywhere his friends might be, and sits down on a bench, resting his head against the back and crossing his ankles in front of him.

The sun is hanging low in the sky, and the world is trapped in the gold, when someone drops a book onto his lap. It’s a battered copy of Le Petit Prince, and Enjolras runs his fingers along yellowed, dog-eared pages as Grantaire takes a seat beside him.

“How did you find me?” Enjolras whispers, won’t dare raise his voice.

“It wasn’t too hard,” Grantaire says, and Enjolras looks down at the novel with pursed lips. “It annoyed me that we kept seeing each other, talking as if we’d actually get somewhere, and then end up not speaking for weeks.”

Enjolras nods, tracing the title with shaking fingers. It’s been a while since Enjolras heard Grantaire speak for so long, without prompting, and he hates how desperate he is for Grantaire to go on.

“Anyway, I saw this book as I was walking home last night and I know how much it means to you. So I got it, without thinking or pausing or knowing whether I would ever be able to give it to you.”

Enjolras’ voice is hoarse, but he murmurs his thanks anyway. The book is special to him, as are the memories of summer where he would sit on his mémé’s windowsill, overlooking the garden as her voice carried him to a desert far away.

“And it occurred to me, after I bought it, that there are so many stupid little things I know about you. It’s fucking pathetic, actually, like your drink orders depending on which café we go to, or which songs you don’t mind waking up to, or your- no, that's not the point. Look, it also occurred to me that I know you better than anything I have ever known, anyone.”

“Grantaire-“ Enjolras chokes out, clenching his hand into a fist but not letting go of the book.

“I think I could move on, you know. I did, almost, with Julien I mean. I could have fallen in love with him, could see my life with him for the next year – the next five. Thing is, I couldn’t see us getting old together. Because I knew one day I’d bump into you, catch you on a street corner or something, and I’d want to give us another chance. I’d even know what parts of you had changed from the way your curls would fall.

I mean, there’s not a world in which I wouldn’t, in which I don’t, know you better than anything or anyone. Do you understand what I’m trying to say? I could move on from you, Enjolras, but I’d always find my way back.”

“You can’t say that to me if you’re not going to-“ He shakes his head, screwing his eyes shut as the wind picks up.

“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you,” Grantaire confesses, and Enjolras fingers are numb as the book falls onto the ground. “I love you.” He says, “and I have never loved anyone more than I will always love you, than I have loved you for years.”

Enjolras presses the back of his hand against his mouth, presses a hand to his chest. Grantaire waits for him, much closer than he’d been a moment ago, and slowly reaches out to take Enjolras’ hands in his. They’re both trembling.

“Is it okay if I-?“

“Please,” Enjolras whispers, and it’s all the encouragement Grantaire needs.

Their lips are soft against each other, foreign, and yet it’s as if Enjolras has finally come home. Grantaire makes a desperate, wounded noise and Enjolras kisses him harder for it, tries to stop his hands from quivering as he reaches up to cup Grantaire’s face, his jaw, his neck, running the pads of his thumb over warm skin over and over.

There are hands on his shoulders, fingers gripping onto him through the thickness of his coat and Grantaire’s touch is familiar and welcoming, grounding and quintessentially right. His lips part for Enjolras, and he tastes of oranges, and Enjolras is shaking so hard against him that he has to pull away.

Grantaire presses his nose against Enjolras’ cheek when they part, and breathes deeply. He’s smiling, Enjolras realises, unshed tears captured on the tips of his eyelashes and he’s smiling, dimples deep set in his cheeks and oh he looks beautiful, the misty haze of winter winds surrounding him like a halo.

“Is this- are we really doing this?” Enjolras asks, glancing down at the book. Grantaire follows his gaze and pulls away so he can reach down and retrieve it, resting it on the bench with a small smile. Enjolras mirrors it, and Grantaire presses a chaste kiss to his lips. Then another, chaste kisses turning into lingering ones that Enjolras melts into, and has difficulty move away from.

“Yes, and we’re doing it right this time. And man,” Grantaire grins, eyes twinkling, and Enjolras is overwhelmed with love for him, overwhelmed with how much he can show Grantaire he loves him. “We’re going to fuck this up so bad.”

A few months ago, Enjolras would have frozen at the words, panic running like ice through his veins. Over a year ago, and he would’ve shrugged and said there was nothing to fuck up. Now, he stands and rolls his eyes, holding his hand out as Grantaire stands with him. “I resent that.”

“You would,” and anything else he’s going to say is muffled into the nape of Enjolras’ neck as they wrap their arms around each other. Grantaire’s breath is warm against his skin, the tip of his nose a sharp reminder of the freezing cold, and his hands curl under Enjolras’ coat so he can warm them. They hold onto each other until the streetlamps begin to shine with orange light and their faces are flushed pink with the chilly air.

“We’ll be okay, I think.” Enjolras says, much later, murmuring the words against Grantaire’s temple. They’re wrapped in dark red sheets, clothes piled in a heap on the hardwood floor and a pile of books beside them. His hair is still damp from the shower where Grantaire’s is finally drying, and he curls his toes under Grantaire’s calves with a sigh.

Grantaire hums, and then shakes his head. “We’ve been okay before, and what we had before wasn’t exactly ideal, per say.”

“Oh?” Enjolras hides his smile into Grantaire’s curls, presses a kiss to his head.

“I mean, sure we’ll be okay,” he nods, “but also better. We’ll be better at whatever this is.”

Enjolras pulls away just enough to look down at Grantaire, the tips of their noses brushing. “This,” he gestures in the small space between them, “isn’t like before, okay? This is different, something more definitive, it can be whatever you want it to be. I-“

“Hey,” Grantaire interrupts, smile soft and incredibly bright, “I know, I get it.”

And, when Grantaire reaches just that little bit further to press their lips together, sighing happily into his mouth, Enjolras thinks the heartbreak was worth it, in the end.