“It’s fucking freezing ,” Grantaire complained as Combeferre opened the door of his apartment.
“Hello to you, too,” Combeferre responded, his usual calm self. “The heating’s on, come on in.”
“It better be on, yeah.” Grantaire pulled off his scarf and coat and followed Combeferre into the living room, where he settled on the couch. “Enjolras is out?”
“Yes,” Combeferre said. “How’s it going?”
“Could be better,” Grantaire muttered, hunching in on himself. “’s why I called.”
Combeferre put a hand on his shoulder for a brief moment. “One of those days?” At Grantaire’s nod, he continued, “That sucks. We can talk about it later, if you want. First, though, do you want hot chocolate?”
Combeferre disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Grantaire in the familiar living room of Combeferre’s and Enjolras’ apartment. Until a few months ago, Grantaire hadn’t ever been to the place. But he’d recently become close friends with Combeferre, and now he knew the apartment well. The living room was large and had a beautiful view of Paris. Stacks of law books and medical texts betrayed the majors of the apartment’s occupants. A red hoodie lay draped over a comfortable armchair. Grantaire looked at it longingly. He knew it was Enjolras’, and he was still cold, and the hoodie looked amazingly soft and warm. Plus it would probably smell like Enjolras…
“Should I be worried that you’ve taken to staring at clothes now?” Combeferre’s voice pulled him from his thoughts. Combeferre handed him a mug of steaming hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream and even marshmallows.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Grantaire said airily as Combeferre pushed the hoodie to the side and sat down in the armchair.
Combeferre pushed his glasses further up his nose and sipped at his mug before saying, “Sure. If you want to hug Enjolras’ sweater, I’m not stopping you, you know?”
Grantaire groaned, pulling his legs up onto the couch and curling in on himself. “Thank you for reminding me of how pathetic I am.”
“You’re not,” Combeferre said immediately. “Don’t say that about yourself.”
“It’s true,” Grantaire muttered.
“Of course it isn’t.” His voice was decisive. It was good to hear, even if it wasn’t convincing. Combeferre continued, “But you know… you could always tell Enjolras.”
“That’s a terrible idea.”
“How come?” Combeferre looked at him earnestly over the top of his glasses.
“How come?” Grantaire repeated. “I’m not so much of a masochist that I’ll go looking for rejection.”
“Who says he’d reject you?”
Grantaire snorted. “Right. Enjolras can barely stand me. If I ask him out, he’ll just laugh.”
With a sigh, Combeferre put his mug down. “That’s nonsense. You haven’t been arguing much at all lately. Besides, even when you disagree, that doesn't mean he dislikes you.”
“He tolerates me, that’s all.” Grantaire traced the rim of his mug with a finger. “Besides, he doesn’t know… you know.”
“That you’re trans?” Combeferre said quietly.
Grantaire couldn’t help but glance around nervously, even though he knew there was nobody else in the room with them. Years of being in the closet and the memories of threats and violence when strangers somehow found out had made him cautious. “Yeah,” he mumbled.
“Enjolras wouldn’t care, you know that,” Combeferre said quietly. “None of our friends would. Jehan is out, so you wouldn’t even be the only trans person, and more than half of us are queer.”
“I know.” Knowing it didn’t change much, though; he couldn’t help but picture his friends being disgusted at the fact that he was trans.
“I still think you should just ask Enjolras out,” Combeferre said, picking up his mug again.
Grantaire blew out a breath. The best way to distract Combeferre from this topic, he knew, was massive diversion. “You know, you’re one to talk,” he said.
“Oh, did you think I can’t tell you have a massive crush on Courfeyrac?”
Combeferre choked on his hot chocolate. “I don’t,” he sputtered.
His scandalised expression brought a grin to Grantaire’s face. “Hey. I recognise pining when I see it, all right? Maybe instead of telling me to ask Enjolras out, you should take your own advice.”
“Courfeyrac and I are just friends.”
“Sure,” Grantaire scoffed. He stretched out on the couch, the dejected mood that had brought him here lightening a little. “Of course you are. That’s why you’re always making googly eyes at each other. And why you go to the movies together and have dinner together. Are you sure you’re not already dating?”
“He doesn’t think of me that way,” Combeferre said with a sigh. “You know how he is, constantly flirting with everyone, but he’s never looked at me twice. Not that way. If anything, he’s less affectionate with me than with others, at least physically. It’s… It’s fine, like I said, I’m happy with what I have. We’re friends, and that’s that. And I don’t want… I just… okay, I can see why you don’t want to talk about Enjolras now,” Combeferre finished, looking flustered.
Grantaire smirked at him. “Tell me about your day, then.”
Combeferre launched into the story of how his professor had arrived to class an hour late that morning, and Grantaire felt himself relax as he listened. His own day had been awful – he’d been working on an assignment for class, but he’d had no inspiration. That had led to a gradual slide into a weird mix of listlessness and anxiety until he was ready to claw his skin off. Joly and Bossuet, his flatmates, were away for the weekend, which was what had made him call Combeferre.
It was strange how much closer they’d grown over the past months. Before then, Grantaire had considered Combeferre a friend, but they’d never spent any time with just the two of them. But in late September, Combeferre had walked in on Grantaire while he was having a panic attack. While Combeferre was attempting to calm him down, Grantaire had confessed that he was transgender, and that he was panicking because he couldn’t afford his hormones that month.
Combeferre had lent him the money he needed, and he hadn’t breathed a word to anyone. Somehow, it had prompted them to become much closer. Perhaps that was due to the fact that Grantaire was out to almost nobody – only Joly and Bossuet knew he was trans. Sharing the secret with Combeferre had led to Combeferre trusting him more as well. They’d started meeting for coffee on a somewhat regular basis. Combeferre called Grantaire when he missed his family (most of whom lived in India) and Grantaire called Combeferre when his depression threatened to overwhelm him.
Combeferre refilled their mugs with more hot chocolate. “Do you have Christmas plans yet?” he asked when he came back from the kitchen.
“Not really,” Grantaire said. “Got a call from my brother last week to tell me I’m not welcome unless I’m there as his sister. Apparently my parents have become too cowardly to make the call themselves.”
Combeferre sucked in a breath. “That sucks, man,” he said sympathetically.
“Yeah, well, not much to do about it.” That phone call was probably part of the reason this week, and today, had been pretty hard on him. Grantaire moved his mug in circles, watching the whipped cream swirl around. “How about you?”
“Staying here, too,” Combeferre said, sighing. “I can’t afford the plane ticket to India twice a year. I know it’s better to see my parents during summer break, when I don’t have to worry about school and I can go for longer, but…” He shrugged. “I wish I could go, is all.”
“If I win the lottery, I’ll get you tickets,” Grantaire promised.
“Please tell me you don’t actually play the lottery.” Combeferre’s face was a picture of horror. “That’s a terrible investment. Lotteries are the worst idea—”
“I don’t actually play the lottery,” Grantaire interrupted, grinning a little. “There’s no need to go all activist nerd on me.”
“Hey, if you’re not ready for an activist nerd, I don’t know why you came over,” Combeferre chuckled. “Are you going to Marius and Courfeyrac’s Christmas party?”
“Yeah, it’s on the twenty-sixth, right?”
Combeferre nodded, smiling fondly. “Courf is spending Christmas with his family, but of course we have to party as soon as he gets back.”
“It’s a shame the Secret Santa plan got cancelled,” Grantaire said. “I had a really good idea for a present for… um, for someone,” he amended quickly, looking away to avoid seeing Combeferre’s smirk at his slip of the tongue.
“You know there was only a one in thirteen chance you’d have been E’s Secret Santa, right?” Combeferre said, smiling. “Besides, you could still get him a present.”
“Are you getting Courfeyrac a present?” Grantaire wasn’t even trying to be subtle with the subject change anymore, but it worked.
“I don’t know,” Combeferre admitted, raking his hands through his short black hair. “I want to, but if nobody’s doing presents, it’ll just be weird. Maybe I’ll send it and not tell him it’s from me.”
Grantaire snorted. “Ha. Like that’ll ever work.”
“What do you mean?” Combeferre frowned at him.
“Courfeyrac will figure out it’s from you in, like, five seconds. You’re best friends. And whether you believe it or not, he’s probably secretly hoping he’ll get a present from you. You couldn’t be secretive about this if you tried.”
Combeferre’s eyes narrowed. “Excuse me, is that a challenge? Because I’ll have you know I can totally fool Courfeyrac if I want to.”
With a grin, Grantaire sat up a little straighter. “Sure, it’s a challenge. But then, let’s make it more challenging. How about this: you have to give Courfeyrac a gift for every day of the Twelve Days of Christmas. December twenty-fifth till January fifth. And when he figures out that it’s you, which he inevitably will, you lose the bet and you have to ask him out.”
“I have to what?” Combeferre sputtered, going pale beneath his brown skin.
“Ask him out,” Grantaire repeated patiently. “To which he’ll say yes. Trust me. Or if you don’t trust me, you’d better start thinking about some really subtle and non-Combeferrian gifts.”
Combeferre bit his lip, eyes narrowed as he thought the proposal through. “On one condition,” he said after a moment.
“You do the same.”
“I have to give Courf gifts?” Grantaire frowned. “What’s that going–”
“No, you doofus. Not Courfeyrac. Enjolras.”
It was Grantaire’s turn to sputter helplessly, but he soon realised it was far too late to back out. “Fine,” he grumbled. “He’ll never figure out they’re from me anyway, he barely knows I exist except when I argue with him.”
“If he does figure it out,” Combeferre said, for once ignoring his dejected statement, “You get to pick. Either you come out to him or you ask him out.”
“You can’t coerce me into coming out to someone,” Grantaire protested, fingers tightening around the mug he was still holding.
“That’s why you can just ask him out instead, if you want,” Combeferre interjected smoothly. “Honestly, nothing can go wrong either way, because he won’t care that you’re trans, and he’d probably go out with you, and he definitely would never be unkind about it.”
Grantaire let out a heavy sigh. “Whatever. He won’t find out it’s me,” he said determinedly.
“If you say so,” Combeferre said. “Oh, and it only counts as finding out if they confront us and know it’s us. Courfeyrac is going to ask everyone he knows whether the gifts are from them, so that won’t count.”
“Sure,” Grantaire agreed. Now that his bet had been turned against him, he was much more willing to negotiate the terms than he otherwise would have been.
“One gift every day,” Combeferre said, clearly having recovered enough to be back to his usual, methodical self. “They have to be marked as belonging to the same set. Attach notes, use the same wrapping paper, or something similar. They have to realise someone’s giving them Twelve Days of Christmas gifts.”
“And they have to figure out who it is no later than the twelfth day,” Grantaire added. “Doesn’t count if it’s a month later and he suddenly realises.”
“Agreed.” Combeferre held out his hand, and Grantaire shook it, grim looks on both their faces. “Now I’d better start planning some gifts.”
“You still have three weeks to figure it out,” Grantaire reminded him.
“Still, I’d rather—” Combeferre was interrupted by the sound of a key turning in the lock. Without missing a beat, he continued, “which is why I think I’ll file a complaint at the student helpdesk. It’s really not acceptable, and it was the third time this semester.”
“Are we having Courf over?” Enjolras called from the hallway.
Grantaire’s hands clenched into fists, but he had just managed to convince his fingers to relax again by the time Enjolras stepped into the living room.
“Oh,” he said when he found Grantaire on the couch, rather than Courfeyrac. “R. Hi.”
“Apollo,” Grantaire said. “Evening.”
Enjolras scowled at the nickname and hovered in the doorway for another moment. “Well. I’ll head to my room,” he eventually said, and disappeared down the hall.
Grantaire willed his heart to slow and pointedly did not meet Combeferre’s eyes while the sound of Enjolras’ footsteps faded and the door to his bedroom clicked shut. He tried not to think about the fact that Enjolras had seemed perfectly willing to come join the conversation when he’d thought their guest was Courfeyrac. When he’d seen Grantaire, he’d clearly just wanted to escape. “I should head home,” Grantaire said. He wished he’d gone home earlier, now, so that he wouldn’t have run into Enjolras. Then maybe he would’ve kept some of his good mood from talking to Combeferre.
Combeferre sighed. “You know you can talk to him even if you don’t lose the bet.”
“I know,” Grantaire said. “And if he showed any indication that talking to me is something he enjoys at all, maybe I would.”
Courfeyrac and Enjolras, who both majored in law, took their last exam exactly one week before Christmas. As usual, when Enjolras left the exam hall as one of the last students, Courfeyrac was waiting for him in the hallway, sitting against the wall with two cups of coffee. He pressed one into Enjolras’ hand. “Here. How did it go?”
“Okay, I think.” Enjolras pushed his blond curls out of his face as he dropped down next to him and sipped the coffee. “Wasn’t too sure about the last question. I should’ve studied chapter two more, clearly, but when I was revising that one earlier this week, the issue with that sexual harassment petition came up, and in the end I didn’t have the time. Still, I’m fairly sure I passed. What about you?”
“Yeah, it went all right,” Courfeyrac said. “More importantly, though, it’s Christmas break!”
Enjolras chuckled. “Indeed it is.”
“Want to go out for drinks tonight?”
“I still have to contact a few people about the rally next month,” Enjolras started, but Courfeyrac shook his head.
“Not a chance. We just finished our exams. You’re coming out to celebrate.”
Enjolras sighed. “Fine. Shall I bring Combeferre? He finished his last exam yesterday.”
“Definitely,” Courfeyrac said. “And maybe we should invite the others too? Christmas break is starting, we won’t see each other as much.”
“Right, because it’s not like we have a Christmas party and a New Year’s party planned,” Enjolras said, deadpan.
“Fine, fine. Just you, me, and Ferre tonight,” Courfeyrac conceded. “Anyway, does this mean you’re coming to the Christmas party? So you’re staying in town for Christmas after all?”
Enjolras sighed. “I did think about what you said. You know I’ve never missed a Christmas with my parents, and it’s like there’s no way back if I don’t go. But I just… don’t think I can do it. No matter how much I tell myself I won’t let my parents get to me, every time they say something homophobic, it makes me doubt myself.”
Courfeyrac reached out and pulled Enjolras into a hug. He was one of the few people who could do that without instantly getting pushed away. Enjolras sighed and relaxed against Courfeyrac’s shoulder. “Imagine if they knew I’m asexual as well as gay,” he said with a rueful laugh.
“Best not think about that,” Courfeyrac told him, ruffling his hair. “You’re welcome to spend Christmas with me and my family, you know. We’re right around the corner.”
Enjolras smiled. “Thanks, Courf. I think Ferre and I will manage, though. Actually, that’s another reason to stay in town. He could use the company.”
“True. Well, there will certainly be no lack of that. Almost everyone is staying here for Christmas this year,” Courfeyrac said.
“Really?” Enjolras sat up a little, and Courfeyrac pulled back his arm. Enjolras always appreciated Courfeyrac’s affectionate touches, but unlike some of their other friends, he wasn’t one to snuggle with his friend for hours. By some type of strange magic that Enjolras couldn’t hope to understand, Courfeyrac always seemed to sense these kinds of things. “Who’s staying, then?” He frowned, trying to think of what the others had mentioned during Les Amis meetings. Unfortunately, he was usually too preoccupied with the meeting’s topics to pay much attention to the chatter during breaks. “I know Marius and Cosette are staying in town, since Valjean lives nearby enough… You’re here as well of course, for the same reason. Let’s see, Jehan is visiting their sister, right?”
Courfeyrac shook his head. “Nope, sister’s coming here. I think Jehan will bring her to the party. Bossuet, Joly and Musichetta are all staying in town. Éponine as well; she’s having Gavroche over.”
“What about Bahorel?”
“He’ll be out of town,” Courfeyrac said. “Feuilly is staying here though.”
“Oh, they’re not going together?”
Courfeyrac shook his head. “I mean, they’ve only been dating for a month. It makes sense that she wouldn’t want to meet his family quite so soon. Plus she has shifts to cover, but she said she can make it to the party.”
“And Grantaire?” Enjolras asked, frowning as he tried to remember if Grantaire had said anything. He never knew quite what to think of Grantaire, other than the endless frustration of not being able to win any argument against him. Recently, they’d been arguing less than before, but Enjolras was still looking for a way to have a normal conversation with him. Regardless of any of that, though, Grantaire was part of their group.
“Staying in town,” Courfeyrac said.
“Doesn’t he have parents to visit?”
“Apparently not.” Courfeyrac shrugged helplessly. “To be honest, I don’t know much about it. You know how R is; he didn’t say anything other than that he’d be at the party.”
Enjolras nodded. “I see,” he said, not quite sure what else to say. After a moment, he got up, grabbing Courfeyrac’s empty coffee cup to dispose of along with his own. “I do want to make those phone calls about the rally before we go out,” he said. “So I’m heading off.”
“Sure,” Courfeyrac said. “I’ll text you the time and place. See you tonight.”
“Alexander!” Courfeyrac’s youngest sister came bouncing into his room early on Christmas morning. “Alexander, it’s Christmas! Come on, get up!”
“It’s early,” Courfeyrac complained, pulling the covers over his head.
“There’s presents!” His sister jumped on top of the covers. Though she was only ten and had a slight frame, her weight was enough to draw an “oomph” from Courfeyrac.
“Lucille, get off!”
“Presents!” Lucille said.
“Ugh, fine,” he grumbled, quickly rolling over and pushing Lucille down on the bed beside him. He wrapped his blanket around her so he couldn’t move. “Here, you little witch, now you can’t go get your presents.”
“Let me out, let me out,” Lucille yelled, laughing as she tried to fight her way out of the blanket cocoon. “Mum, Alex is choking me, help!”
“Alexander, Lucille, come downstairs!” their mother called. “Everyone is waiting for you!”
“Come on then, sis,” Courfeyrac said, freeing his sister from the blankets and picking her up bridal style. “Let’s go.”
“Put me down!” she shrieked, but Courfeyrac just laughed and didn’t let go until he’d carried her all the way down the stairs and into the living room. His parents and three other sisters were already in a circle around the Christmas tree, where a heap of presents was waiting for all of them.
It took an hour for everyone to unwrap all the big and small gifts they’d been given by their family members. Courfeyrac’s little sister remained curled up against him the entire time, and he caught his parents both smiling at the sight. Though Courfeyrac loved all his sisters, the youngest had a special place in his heart. In turn, she was always ecstatic to see her big brother.
“Oh, Alex,” his mother said, when all the presents were unwrapped and everyone was heading to the table to get breakfast. “This arrived for you this morning.” She handed him a small package. Tied to it was an envelope that spelled out his name and address in elegant calligraphy.
“Thanks, Mum,” he said, quickly tearing open the envelope. Inside was a Christmas card that showed a night-time scene of a village covered in snow, lights blinking from the windows. He turned over the card.
I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas with your family. I trust you’ll have received some lovely presents. However, I know you’re always disappointed Christmas is over so soon. To that end I’ll be sending you a present every day for the next twelve days.
There was no name, and Courfeyrac turned the card over again to see if anything revealed who had sent it. When further inspection yielded no results, he put down the card and opened the gift. Inside was a brown and yellow candy cane.
“What’s that?” Sophie, his sixteen-year-old sister, peered over his shoulder at the card and the present.
“A cinnamon candy cane,” Courfeyrac answered, still staring pensively at the handwriting on the card. He didn’t recognise it. The calligraphy was so extravagant, though, that it was clear the sender had put a lot of effort into it. Their normal handwriting could be quite different – it could be anyone. The mystery made him smile. Though it wasn’t specifically mentioned in the note, he guessed that the sender was challenging him to find out who they were. Why else would someone send him anonymous gifts?
He put the card and candy cane down and quickly sat down at the table, where the rest of his family was already waiting for him. “Let’s eat,” he said, but the question of who was sending him gifts was still plaguing his mind.
After breakfast, he told his family he was going out for a walk. As soon as he’d turned the corner, he pulled out his cell phone and called Enjolras.
“Merry Christmas, Courf,” Enjolras said by way of greeting.
“Merry Christmas,” Courfeyrac responded. “How are you and Combeferre doing?”
“We’re doing well, thanks,” Enjolras said, and Courfeyrac suppressed a chuckle at his friend’s formal choice of words. “Combeferre went to church with me this morning, then we unpacked presents. Hey, listen, though, something odd happened: I got a card from some kind of Secret Santa about the twelve days of Christmas.”
“No way,” Courfeyrac said. “That’s what I was calling about. I got a card too, and a cinnamon candy cane.”
“Mine was peppermint,” Enjolras said. “If we both got one, it must be someone we both know.”
“Did Combeferre get anything?”
“No,” Enjolras said.
“Well, that’s obvious, then,” Courfeyrac said. He smiled at the thought of Combeferre sending him and Enjolras gifts. It was just the thing for Combeferre to do – he was always so thoughtful and considerate.
“It’s not Combeferre,” Enjolras said. “I asked him when I got the card, and he swore up and down that it wasn’t him.”
“Maybe it’s one of our other friends?”
“But who?” Enjolras said.
Courfeyrac chewed on the inside of his cheek as he thought. “Jehan? It sounds like something they would do.”
“Could be,” Enjolras said. “It could be any of the Amis, though. Joly and Bossuet could’ve come up with it together. Or it could be Bahorel, he’d do something like this. Feuilly too. Éponine would do it just to mess with everyone. Cosette would do it to be nice.”
Courfeyrac laughed. “True, true. Do you think the others got gifts, too? If Combeferre didn’t, maybe it’s just us.”
“I think there’s nothing to do but wait to find out,” Enjolras said. “My card said I’d get a present every day. I suppose we’ll know more tomorrow.”
“Indeed we will,” Courfeyrac said.
“Merry belated Christmas!” Courfeyrac said when he opened the door to let Combeferre in. The moment Combeferre stepped inside, Courfeyrac threw his arms around him in a crushing hug. It only lasted a few seconds, but Combeferre felt warm and fuzzy all over by the time Courfeyrac let go of him. “I gotta dash, there are cookies in the oven. But take off your coat, come join me in the kitchen.” The next moment he was gone, and Combeferre chuckled as he watched him whirl away. Courfeyrac in party host mode was a sight to behold.
“So what can I do? And what time are the others getting here?” he asked when he was in the kitchen, pointedly ignoring the way Courfeyrac bent over to check on his cookies. Courfeyrac, as usual, looked unfairly beautiful even though he was wearing a dorky Christmas sweater. His hair was sticking up in all directions, probably because he’d been messing it up with his hands while stressing out over party preparations. Combeferre resisted the urge to walk over to him and smooth it down.
“About an hour from now,” Courfeyrac said, carefully putting a fresh batch of gingerbread cookies on the kitchen counter. “Thanks for coming over early, by the way. I’m really glad to have some help. I was totally counting on Marius – I can’t believe he’s going to be late to our own party. Anyway, it’s going to be great. We still need to do decorations. I have loads of tinsel and glitter.”
“Of course you do,” Combeferre said fondly, smiling at Courfeyrac’s talkativeness. He was usually chatty, but the frantic party preparations had clearly made it worse.
“Oh, and I have fairy lights,” Courfeyrac said, his eyes lighting up. “I got them today. From the Secret Santa person.”
Combeferre managed to find a facial expression that conveyed the appropriate amount of interest. “Oh?” he said, his voice carefully neutral.
“Yeah, isn’t it great? I love fairy lights.” Courfeyrac put the next batch of cookies in the oven. “Come on, let’s go decorate the living room while these finish up. Do you have any idea who could be giving me the gifts?”
“It has to be one of the Amis,” Combeferre said, because he was sure Courfeyrac had figured that out already. “No idea who, though. Enjolras’ gifts don’t hold too many clues either.” He didn’t like lying to Courfeyrac, but there really was no way around it in this situation.
“If you knew who it was, you’d tell me, right?” Courfeyrac said, opening the box of fairy lights that Combeferre had bought a few days before. “I mean, you’re my best friend.”
Combeferre turned quickly to the pile of other decorations so Courfeyrac wouldn’t see his grimace. “Of course I would,” he said lightly, grabbing a box of tinsel. “That’s what friends are for.”
By the time nine o’clock rolled around, Courfeyrac and Marius’ living room was full of people. Joly, Bossuet and Musichetta were piled on the couch. Jehan was braiding Cosette’s hair at the kitchen table, with Floréal and Jehan’s sister Ella looking on. Grantaire was nursing a glass of cola in a corner. Combeferre had just finished bringing in a new round of snacks when Enjolras entered, ushered in by Marius.
Combeferre saw Grantaire’s eyes immediately fix on Enjolras, and he smiled ruefully. He suspected Grantaire couldn’t wait to hear what Enjolras thought of the day’s present. Two days into the scheme, Combeferre himself was already unhealthily obsessed with finding out what Courfeyrac thought of his presents. Today, at least, there was no doubt about that: the fairy lights in all colours were strung around the room. He suppressed a smile at the sight. He was glad the present was well-received, but he couldn’t afford to be too obvious about it. He’d already lied to Courfeyrac once today.
Combeferre grabbed drinks for himself and Enjolras and beckoned him over, grabbing chairs for them both. “Hey,” Enjolras said as he sat down. “Did you have fun helping Courf out?”
“Sure,” Combeferre said. Enjolras nodded at him, looking rather thoughtful. Sometimes Combeferre was sure Enjolras saw through him, that Enjolras knew he was head over heels for Courfeyrac. Then again, Enjolras wasn’t very observant. Combeferre hoped desperately he hadn’t noticed, because if he had, Courfeyrac probably had, too.
Courfeyrac dropped down next to them a moment later, sitting cross-legged on the floor and leaning against Enjolras’ lower legs. Combeferre had to suppress a ridiculous surge of jealousy. Courfeyrac had been less affectionate with Combeferre than with others for as long as Combeferre could remember. It hadn’t bothered him until his feelings for Courfeyrac had shifted from platonic to very unplatonic.
“This party is great already,” Courfeyrac said. “And Enjolras, my mystery Santa gave me fairy lights, see? What did you get?”
Combeferre was quite curious to hear the answer to that himself. He’d asked earlier that day, but Enjolras had evaded the question, and he hadn’t wanted to press for fear he’d slip up and give something away.
“Nothing interesting,” Enjolras said, far too quickly and with a far too evasive gaze.
“Ooh,” Courfeyrac laughed, delighted. “It must be good, then. Come on, tell us.”
Enjolras pressed his lips together. “Candy,” he said curtly.
Courfeyrac shook his head, sagely sipping at his beer. “See, if you’d given that answer in the first place, I would’ve believed you.”
Enjolras sighed and said, only just loud enough for the other two to hear, “Penis-shaped candy.”
Combeferre snorted rather inelegantly. Courfeyrac choked on his beer and had a coughing fit, which eventually transformed into raucous laughter. “Oh, I like our mystery gift giver,” Courfeyrac eventually managed to say. Then he looked around the room at their friends. “Huh. That actually doesn’t narrow down the options of who it could be at all.”
“Which says quite a bit about our friends,” Combeferre added, grinning. He did his best to avoid looking at Grantaire, who had apparently given Enjolras penis-shaped candy. It was a bold move, he had to admit.
The doorbell rang, and Courfeyrac jumped up to let in the new guests. They turned out to be Feuilly, Éponine, and her brother Gavroche. The living room filled up even more, and Enjolras and Combeferre were soon pulled in different directions by their friends.
Grantaire had drunk three glasses of cola and was just starting on his fourth when Courfeyrac flopped down next to him on the couch. “R, my son,” he said. “I have reached my maximum alcohol intake for the day. Are you ready to stay sober with me while we watch our friends succumb to the power of spirits?”
“Aren’t you drinking?” Ella asked from beside Grantaire. Grantaire had talked to her for a bit earlier. But he wasn’t very good with new people, and he wasn’t feeling very sociable anyway. He’d thought her attention had moved elsewhere, but apparently Courfeyrac’s arrival had pulled her back into the conversation.
“Not more than two glasses,” Courfeyrac said.
“How come?” she asked.
“Diabetic,” Courfeyrac responded, pulling out the I have diabetes tag he always wore around his neck. "Type one. Can’t drink too much or I’ll get hypoglycemic.”
“Oh,” Ella said. “What about you, then?” She looked at Grantaire expectantly, and he sighed, trying to come up with a response that would distract her without insulting her. Ella hadn’t taken to his customary sarcasm well, and he didn’t want to hurt Jehan by insulting their sister. On the other hand, he had no desire to be as honest about his medical history as Courfeyrac was.
“R keeps me company,” Courfeyrac interjected smoothly. “Being sober alone is boring.”
Ella nodded and didn’t ask more. A moment later, she disappeared to go talk to Jehan.
“You look like you’ve been keeping an eye on everyone,” Courfeyrac said. “Who’s closest to being drunk right now?”
“Marius,” Grantaire answered immediately. He wasn’t sure how much Marius had actually had to drink, but he’d seen him waltz by earlier with rosy cheeks, giggling as he tried to convince Cosette to dance with him.
Courfeyrac chuckled. “Well, no surprise there. How are you holding up?”
“Fine,” Grantaire muttered. Parties were hard; they reminded him of his teenage days when he’d spent all his days partying and drinking and trying to pretend he was someone else. Plus, there was alcohol everywhere, which he couldn’t drink because he’d worked too hard to get sober, and also because they made for a bad combination with antidepressants.
Across the room, Enjolras laughed, throwing his head back and guffawing at something Feuilly was saying. His curls shook beautifully, and Grantaire couldn’t tear his eyes away from the smooth line of his neck and the crinkles at the corners of his eyes. It made him feel weak, that he couldn’t even look the other way.
“Earth to R,” Courfeyrac said from beside him, a smirk around his lips. “Getting distracted?”
“It’s nothing,” he said. When he glanced at Courfeyrac again, though, Courf was watching him with a shrewd expression on his face.
“Say, R,” he said after a moment, and his tone did not bode well. “Earlier in the day, I got this mystery present. Would you know anything about that?”
“Sure,” Grantaire said sarcastically, raising an eyebrow. “I’m in the business of knowing about mystery presents. Seriously, what are you on about?” He wished he could glance around and see where Combeferre was, just for some mental support in this situation. But that might give away the game. It was one thing for Courfeyrac to find out he was giving gifts to Enjolras. Courfeyrac could keep a secret. Much more importantly, Grantaire couldn’t give away the fact that Combeferre was Courfeyrac’s secret present-giver. That would ruin the bet.
“See,” Courfeyrac said, still watching him carefully, “Enjolras and I seem to have acquired some sort of secret Santa figure who is giving us gifts for the twelve days of Christmas. Now, today, Enjolras got the oddest gift – someone gave him candy penises. And I wouldn’t put that past any of our friends, really, but he also told me what was in his card yesterday, and I saw your staring just now, and all in all, if you’re the one who’s been giving us gifts, now might be a good time to admit it.”
“I haven’t given you any gifts,” he responded, glancing at Enjolras again. He was still talking to Feuilly, though they seemed to have moved on from jokes to something more serious. Enjolras looked just as beautiful when he was frowning.
“Ah,” Courfeyrac said. “But by you, do you mean Enjolras and me, or just me?”
Grantaire sighed; clearly this was hopeless. He turned to Courfeyrac, smirking a little. “What did he think of his gift?”
Courfeyrac chuckled. “I think he was rather speechless. Good choice, R. But if you’re not behind my gifts, then who is?”
Grantaire shook his head. “Sorry, I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Of course,” Courfeyrac muttered. “I’m sure I’ll figure it out.”
“Me too.” Grantaire grinned. Now that Courfeyrac knew there were different people behind his gifts and Enjolras’, Grantaire didn’t give it two days before Combeferre would give himself up. That was good. He didn’t believe for one instance that Courfeyrac was any less into Combeferre than the other way around. It could only end well if Combeferre ended up asking Courfeyrac out. Of course, the same could hardly be said for him and Enjolras. They hadn’t exchanged a word during the party. As usual, it had just been him, admiring Enjolras from afar, while Enjolras didn’t even notice him.
“Hey R,” Enjolras called from across the room.
Grantaire almost dropped his glass. “Yeah?” he said, a little shakily. Enjolras was watching him with his piercing blue eyes. It was startling and unnerving. Grantaire simultaneously wanted it to stop and to go on forever.
“Feuilly has a question,” Enjolras said.
“We were talking about French Post-impressionist painters,” Feuilly said. “Was it Pissarro who introduced pointillism?”
“Um,” Grantaire said, still taken aback. “No, that would be Seurat and Signac. Pissarro did use pointillism, though.”
“Thanks,” Feuilly said. Enjolras nodded at him, and a moment later, they were engrossed in their discussion again.
“What was that,” Grantaire muttered.
“A question?” Courfeyrac said, amusement in his voice. “People ask them sometimes, when they want to get more information.”
Grantaire shoved his elbow between Courfeyrac’s ribs, and Courf yelped. “I know what a question is,” he said, but Courfeyrac just laughed.
The weather had been wintery and cold throughout all of December, but two days after Christmas it started to snow. Early Sunday afternoon found Combeferre curled up on his and Enjolras’ couch with a fleece blanket wrapped around him and a mug of hot tea on the coffee table. He was a hundred and fifty pages into Infinite Jest. Christmas breaks were the perfect time to catch up on some reading.
His phone buzzed in his pocket. He finished the paragraph, put his book down, and took out his phone.
Courfeyrac: You (and E) home?
Combeferre: I’m home. E is having lunch with Feuilly. Want to come over?
Courfeyrac: I’ll be there in ten minutes.
The message made Combeferre smile. It took at least half an hour to get from Courfeyrac’s flat to his and Enjolras’. Courfeyrac must have headed over on impulse and only realised half-way that he didn’t actually know whether anyone was home. It had happened before, and occasionally it meant Courfeyrac had found himself in front of a locked and empty apartment.
He wondered what Courfeyrac thought of the day’s present, an album of a band he liked. Thinking of twelve different presents had been a challenging task. He’d contemplated asking Grantaire for help, but it felt like cheating. Even so, they’d arrived at nearly the same conclusion the day before: Enjolras had received a box of homemade cookies and Combeferre had given Courfeyrac a big gingerbread man.
Today, Enjolras had found a Musain coffee voucher in the mail, which had brightened him up significantly. To Combeferre’s chagrin, Enjolras seemed to have no clue who was sending him the presents. Maybe it was for the best; Combeferre felt a little guilty for possibly forcing Grantaire into confessions he didn’t want to make. Still, Combeferre really did believe that not much could go wrong. He didn’t know if Enjolras would go out with Grantaire, but he knew for a fact that Enjolras didn’t dislike Grantaire half as much as Grantaire thought. In fact, Enjolras liked Grantaire quite a bit, Combeferre could tell. Enjolras was just not the best at building up friendships, and Grantaire was too afraid to get hurt to be anything but antagonistic and sarcastic.
The doorbell rang, and Combeferre realised with a start that he hadn’t read a word since Courfeyrac’s text. Well, Infinite Jest would have to wait until next time. He put down the book and quickly folded up his blanket before heading towards the door.
Courfeyrac was beaming at him as he opened the door. “Hey,” he said. “I’m not bothering you, am I?”
“Never,” Combeferre said, pulling him into a hug. “I was just reading.”
“When aren’t you?” Courfeyrac teased, stepping back to take off his gloves, coat, and scarf. They walked to the living room, and Courfeyrac flopped down onto the couch, grabbing Infinite Jest and flipping through its pages. “Ambitious,” he said, smirking at Combeferre.
“It’s Christmas break,” Combeferre said, shrugging. He turned to head to the kitchen. “Do you want tea? And do you need to eat something?”
Courfeyrac glanced at his watch. “Oh, fuck, I do, actually. I’m not sure I brought my snacks.” Chagrined, he rummaged through his satchel.
“No worries,” Combeferre said, rummaging through a kitchen cupboard until he found the stack of granola bars he kept there. “These have the right amount of carbs, don’t they?” He tossed one of the bars to Courfeyrac, who caught it and looked at it for a second.
“You’re a saint,” he said, smiling up at Combeferre. It made Combeferre’s heart beat faster, which he tried very hard to ignore as he put the kettle on and returned to the living room with a granola bar for himself. Courfeyrac was fiddling with his insulin pump. After a moment, he clicked it back onto his belt and bit into the granola bar.
They finished their granola bars and Combeferre made tea for them both. They talked for a while about Courfeyrac’s day, then about Infinite Jest.
“Oh, by the way,” Courfeyrac said after a while, reaching over and rummaging through his bag. After a moment, he pulled out a CD – the album Combeferre had given him for that day’s present. His next words sent a thrill down Combeferre’s spine. “I know you gave me this.”
“What?” Combeferre sputtered.
Courfeyrac shook his head, grinning. “Ferre, we talked about Death Cab for Cutie less than a month ago. Do you know how often they come up during conversations? Because I can tell you, it’s not very often. And you know, I would’ve guessed it was you on the first day, if it weren’t for the fact that Enjolras got presents too, and I knew that wasn’t you. Then during the Christmas party, I realised R was giving him stuff, and someone else was behind my gifts. I wasn’t quite sure yet yesterday, but today I knew it had to be you. You’re not the best at being secretive,” he explained excitedly, smiling at Combeferre as he talked.
Combeferre’s mind was playing the sentence oh fuck on repeat, but he made an effort to smile. “Well, I tried,” he said, his voice not quite as chipper as he’d hoped.
“Not very hard,” Courfeyrac teased. He reached out and touched Combeferre’s hand for just a second. “I appreciate it, though.”
The brief touch just reminded Combeferre how much more tactile Courfeyrac was with all their other friends. There was no way he was into Combeferre, no matter what Grantaire said. He briefly considered just ignoring the terms of the bet; he really wasn’t sure he could go through with this. But he knew he couldn’t just let Grantaire down like that.
“Hey, Ferre, you still with me? I was asking if this means I’m still getting those other presents,” Courfeyrac said.
“Oh, yes, of course you will,” Combeferre said, trying to calm his nerves. “I said twelve days, didn’t I? In the note.”
“Are the rest of them any good?” Courfeyrac sounded excited, and he was grinning. He looked so happy it sent a pang through Combeferre’s chest.
“Yeah, there’s some great ones coming up,” he said. He really couldn’t concentrate on the conversation, and he knew it would be a matter of time before Courfeyrac picked up on it. He should just get this over with. Rip off the Band-Aid. Ask Courfeyrac out, get rejected, salvage what he could of their friendship. Maybe, he thought dimly, it would help him stop pining. “Courf, can I ask you something?”
“Of course,” Courfeyrac said, eyebrows knitting together.
“I…” He blew out a breath. “I was wondering if you… Will you… Will you go out with me? On a date?” The last words tumbled out in a rush. Combeferre clenched his hands into fists as he stared at his best friend.
Courfeyrac’s mouth dropped open, and for a few long seconds the room was dead silent. “I… You want to go on a date with me?” he stammered.
Combeferre dug his nails into his palm so hard he was sure he’d be leaving marks. “Yes,” he admitted. “I hope… I don’t want to… I know we’re just friends and I don’t want to ruin that, I just… I just like you a lot,” he finished helplessly, feeling like a teenager.
Courfeyrac was still staring at him. Finally, he seemed to collect himself. “Yes,” he said, still sounding rather unsure about it.
“Yes?” Combeferre repeated. “You mean…”
“I mean, yes, I would… I would love to go on a date with you,” Courfeyrac said, a smile tugging at his lips.
Combeferre let out a breathless laugh, hardly daring to believe he was hearing right. “Really? You would? I thought…”
“Thought what?” Courfeyrac said, shifting minutely closer.
He shrugged helplessly. “I thought you saw me as just a friend, I suppose.”
It was Courfeyrac’s turn to laugh. “Just a friend? Ferre, I’ve been in love with you for ever.” As soon as the words were out, he slapped a hand over his mouth. “Oh fuck, I didn’t mean to say that, we haven’t even been on a date yet,” he blurted out.
Combeferre felt like flying, but instead, he settled for grabbing Courfeyrac’s hand and pulling him closer until Courfeyrac was leaning against his side. “I love you too, you know,” he whispered.
Courfeyrac let out a shaky breath. “I really want to kiss you,” he said quietly.
Combeferre shifted to face him. “I think that can be arranged.” He raised a hand to cup Courfeyrac’s face and brought their lips together.
The kiss was soft and sweet and everything Combeferre had dreamed of for months. The last of his nerves were washed away, replaced by warmth and contentment and a rush of butterflies in his stomach. When they broke apart, he gently leaned his forehead against Courfeyrac’s.
“I’ve wanted to do that for a really long time,” he said.
“Me too,” Courfeyrac said, a little breathless. “We could’ve been doing that for months.”
“We’ll have to thank Grantaire,” Combeferre said. “He said you felt the same way about me.”
Courfeyrac’s eyes narrowed and he bit his lip in thought, which made Combeferre kiss him again. “So this was a bet,” Courfeyrac said between kisses. “The whole thing with the gifts.”
“Basically,” Combeferre admitted giddily. “Good thing, or I never would have dared.”
“Too afraid of ruining what we had?” Courfeyrac asked. At Combeferre’s nod, he continued, “Yeah, me too. I think we’ve been driving our friends ‘round the bend.”
“I don’t care,” Combeferre said, capturing Courfeyrac’s lips with his own again. “I don’t care one bit.”
For Enjolras, lunch with Feuilly was a biweekly affair. It had started when she found Les Amis despite not being in university. Enjolras had wanted to know her better, given that she was one of the first new members. He’d invited her out to lunch, and they’d both enjoyed it enough that it was now a regular occurrence, at least when they could get their schedules to match. Today, they’d almost immediately launched back into their discussion about art, which they’d abandoned during the Christmas party when they grew too tipsy to be very serious about it.
As such, it was a while before Feuilly said, “So how is your Christmas break?”
“Good,” Enjolras responded. “It’s nice to have a short while off from classes. With the rally coming up next month, there’s a lot to be arranged which I otherwise wouldn’t be able to find the time for.”
Feuilly smirked at him, her lips twitching up. “You do realise you’re supposed to be having a break,” she reminded him.
Enjolras shrugged. “I know, and I am. I took Christmas off. That’s more than you did.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I can’t take Christmas off, you know that. It’s not the same thing. I hate to see you not using the free time you’re being given.”
He nodded, pensive. Feuilly worked three jobs to keep herself and her family afloat. Her father was unemployed, her mother was on disability benefits, and there were three younger siblings to feed and clothe. Back when they’d first met, it had taken Enjolras, who was from an affluent family, a while to stop making insensitive remarks and inane assumptions about her situation, even if he never meant any harm.
“Just try and take a break sometimes, Enj,” Feuilly said. “Think about something other than Les Amis and university.”
That made Enjolras think about the other thing that had been on his mind lately. “Hey, Feuilly,” he said, “You wouldn’t happen to know who’s been sending me presents, would you?”
“Oh, I heard about that,” Feuilly said, a smile breaking out on her face. “See, that’s the kind of distraction you need.”
Enjolras narrowed his eyes at her. “Did you send them?”
She shook her head. “Enj, I have neither time nor money for that kind of thing. I applaud the idea, though. What did you get today?”
“A novel,” Enjolras responded. “It’s got to be one of the Amis, I just can’t figure out who. Combeferre insists it isn’t him, and normally I’d suspect Courfeyrac, but he’s been getting gifts as well.”
Feuilly laughed. “Maybe he’s bluffing and sending himself presents so you won’t suspect him.”
“Huh.” Enjolras looked at her thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t actually put that past him.”
“You should ask him about it,” Feuilly said. “All right, I should be off, E. I’ve got places to be. I’ll see you at the New Year’s Eve party.”
When Enjolras came home, he found his two best friends making out on the couch, which he could honestly say he did not see coming. They didn’t seem to have heard his key in the lock, so it wasn’t until he’d been standing in the door opening for a full ten seconds that they noticed him.
“Fuck, Enjolras, sorry,” Courfeyrac sputtered. He made a move as if to climb out of Combeferre’s lap, but Combeferre tightened his arms around him and kept him there.
“Is there something you wanted to tell me?” Enjolras asked, trying not to laugh at the guilty looks on their faces.
“Combeferre asked me out,” Courfeyrac said excitedly. Combeferre reached out and squeezed his hand.
“About time,” Enjolras said. He’d noticed their mutual longing stares a few months ago, and he suspected it had been going on for longer than that. Once or twice, he’d tried to bring the topic up in conversation with one or the other, but both his friends had shut it down really fast, and he’d decided not to meddle.
Courfeyrac groaned. “Ferre, we’ve been so obvious that Enjolras noticed.”
“I resent that,” Enjolras told him, sinking down in the armchair. “How did this happen?”
Combeferre smiled. “Well, I sent Courfeyrac some presents, and he found out it was me.”
“So you did send those,” Enjolras said, frowning. “You told me you didn’t!”
“No, I told you I didn’t send you gifts,” Combeferre said smugly.
It took a moment for that to make sense in Enjolras’ head. “So… someone else is behind my gifts?” he said after a moment. “Who is it?”
“I can’t tell you,” Combeferre said smugly.
“Oh, come on,” Enjolras said, but Combeferre just shook his head. “Fine,” Enjolras muttered. “Back to you, then. What happened next?”
“He asked me out,” Courfeyrac repeated, “and of course I said yes.”
Enjolras wanted to know more details, but he suspected his friends weren’t really in the mood. “Well, I’m happy for you,” he said earnestly. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
Neither of his friends protested when he disappeared to his bedroom. For a moment, he felt a pang of hurt – they normally would have insisted on spending time with the three of them. But he trusted them not to abandon him, and they deserved some time to themselves.
The annual rotation of hosting the New Year’s Eve party had landed on Enjolras and Combeferre this year. At eight pm, Bossuet knocked on the door of Grantaire’s room. “You ready to go?”
Grantaire sighed, grabbing the package that was lying on his window sill. “Ready,” he called, checking his image in the mirror one last time and straightening his jacket. He knew it was nonsensical, but he could never stop himself from worrying about his appearance when he went to any Les Amis event. Some days he worried about his untameable hair or the acne scars on his cheeks. Other days, like today, he worried about his feminine cheekbones and too-subtle jawline, wondered if people could see that they’d once been even more stereotypically feminine.
Sometimes he tried to convince himself that he wasn’t checking his appearance for anyone in particular, but he knew that wasn’t true. It was for Enjolras, who never looked at him twice.
“You’re pathetic,” he muttered as he stepped out of his bedroom.
“I heard that,” Bossuet said, looking up from his phone. He was already wearing his coat, a bag of snacks (their contribution to the party) slung over his shoulder. “And you’re not.”
“Whatever,” Grantaire said, pulling on his coat. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be negative about himself – countless therapists had told him so – but that didn’t make it any easier, especially on days when he felt dysphoric.
“Are we going?” Joly called from the living room.
“Yeah, get over here, Jollly,” Bossuet responded.
Joly appeared a moment later, putting on his coat, scarf and gloves. He grabbed his cane and gestured towards the door. “Let’s go,” he said.
They trooped out the door and began walking to the nearest bus stop, slowly so Joly could keep up. “What’s Enjolras’ present today?” Bossuet asked, eyeing the package Grantaire was holding.
“You’ll see,” Grantaire said, cheering up a little. Today’s present was one of his favourites.
“Do you think he’s any closer to figuring out it’s you?” Joly asked, frowning, as they reached the bus stop and settled down to wait for the bus. Grantaire had told them about the terms of the bet long before Christmas, and they’d even made some suggestions for presents. Because he was out to both of them, they’d heard all his regrets about agreeing to the bet and his fears of what Enjolras would say if he came out to him or asked him out.
“I don’t know,” Grantaire said. “I don’t think so. He doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to find out, if you ask me. From what I can tell, all he knows is that Combeferre knows who it is.” Combeferre had called him three days ago to tell him he’d lost the bet and asked Courfeyrac out, and that You were right, R, I can’t believe it!
So Enjolras knew Combeferre had been giving Courfeyrac presents, and he’d doubtlessly deduced that the two gift-givers were connected. Other than that, though, it had been blessedly silent on his part. All of their friends knew Grantaire was behind the gifts – some had been told, some had found out. Feuilly had texted him to say Enjolras had asked if it was her, but other than that, nobody seemed to be the target of any kind of suspicion.
He was glad, of course. He desperately wanted Enjolras to remain in the dark about his identity. And yet he found part of him hoping that Enjolras would catch him, or at least consider the possibility that he might be the culprit, though he wasn’t sure why he wanted that.
“Well, we’ll know soon enough whether he can figure it out,” Bossuet said, cutting through Grantaire’s thoughts. “You’re halfway, right?”
“Six presents done, this is the seventh,” Grantaire confirmed.
The bus turned around the corner, and they piled on. By the time they were all seated, conversation had turned to the movie Joly and Bossuet had seen with Musichetta the previous day. Grantaire let their words wash over him.
When they arrived at Enjolras and Combeferre’s apartment, Combeferre let them in. Grantaire pushed Enjolras’ present into his hands and said, “Give this to him when everyone’s here.”
“Will do,” Combeferre said, grinning. “Have I thanked you yet for starting this bet with me?”
“About half a dozen times,” Grantaire confirmed. “I’m happy for you, man.”
Combeferre smiled at him, herding everyone into the living room. Bahorel, back from his Christmas trip to his family, was on the couch with Éponine. Marius, Enjolras, and Courfeyrac were sitting near the window. Grantaire’s eyes were drawn to Enjolras as always – Enjolras was smiling at Courfeyrac and looking positively angelic. But Grantaire wasn’t given time to dwell on that.
“R!” Bahorel called as soon as Grantaire stepped in. “I’ve missed you, dude.”
The simple dude somehow cheered him up an immeasurable amount, and he plunked himself down between Bahorel and Éponine. “How’s your Christmas been?” he asked.
“Oh, you gotta listen to this,” Bahorel said, immediately launching into a detailed description of his Christmas. Éponine left for a minute and came back with beers for her and Bahorel and a soda for Grantaire. He found, to his surprise, that he didn’t even mind not drinking today. He blew out a breath, his contentment growing as Bahorel spun his elaborate tale.
More people trickled in over the next hour, until from the corner of his eye, Grantaire saw Combeferre stepping up to Enjolras with the present in his hands. Over the din, Grantaire could just make out Enjolras’ “Yes, but who?” and Combeferre’s, “Find out yourself.”
The room fell quiet, everyone’s attention drawn to Enjolras. That hadn’t quite been Grantaire’s intention, especially because everyone knew he was behind the gifts. If one of his friends gave him away, he was sure Combeferre would consider the bet lost.
“Come on, open it,” Éponine said in the sudden silence.
Enjolras looked up, startled, to find everyone watching him. After a moment’s indecision, he slid his finger underneath the piece of tape that held the wrapping paper in place and pulled it off. The paper fell away to reveal a t-shirt, and Enjolras unfolded it, his eyes flying over the words on the front. Grantaire knew what it said, of course. The white T-shirt spelled You are correct. Asexuals do reproduce by budding and soon our clones will rule the world in purple letters. He could see Enjolras smile at the fact that this was a pride shirt, and he knew the exact moment when Enjolras’ deeply anarchist mind read the rule the world part and he was torn between a frown and a smile.
“What does it say?” Jehan called from the other end of the room, where they were talking to Cosette.
Enjolras turned the shirt over so everyone could read it. Several people chuckled. Grantaire, unable to resist, said, “Your Secret Santa has excellent fashion sense.”
Éponine snorted, and Grantaire was sure he heard Joly let out a giggle that was far too high-pitched. Before anyone could comment further, Courfeyrac called, “Put it on, Enj!”
Enjolras rolled his eyes, but before Grantaire could properly brace himself, he was pulling off the shirt he was currently wearing.
Grantaire could barely suppress a whimper, because the middle of a New Year’s Eve party was a really bad time to find out that Enjolras had tattoos. He caught a glimpse of an ace-of-hearts playing card on his collar bone. His chest looked impossibly smooth. With Herculean effort, Grantaire wrenched his eyes away from Enjolras. He wasn’t sure about the protocols involved, but it seemed pretty likely that fantasising about his unreciprocated and asexual crush wasn’t good friend behaviour.
“Good show, eh?” Éponine whispered beside him.
“Fuck off,” he hissed.
Meanwhile, Enjolras had managed to put on the new shirt, which fit him perfectly. Around the room, people’s conversations were starting back up, and Grantaire breathed a sigh of relief.
“I don’t think I timed that well,” he muttered to Éponine.
“Giving him the shirt at the party? Maybe not. But he has nice abs, don’t you think?” Éponine said.
“Éponine,” he groaned.
“It’s true,” she said, grinning. “Anyway, he seems to like the shirt.” She nodded at Enjolras, who was peering down at the words on his chest.
“He likes ace pride stuff,” Grantaire said with a shrug. “I figured he’d appreciate this.”
The night passed faster than Grantaire had expected. Before he knew it, they were counting down to 2015, and then there were fireworks outside, and everyone was wishing everyone a happy new year. Even Enjolras clapped him on the back, his voice earnest when he wished him a happy 2015. It made Grantaire feel warm all over – he couldn’t even remember what he’d said in return.
After midnight, people started getting drunk in earnest. Soon, Joly and Bossuet and Musichetta were essentially piled on top of each other in a corner of the room, giggling at nothing. Éponine, Cosette, Marius and Jehan were on the couch telling embarrassing childhood stories. After listening to them for a while, Grantaire went to find himself another (non-alcoholic) drink. In the kitchen, he found Courfeyrac sitting on a chair by himself, frowning at the floor.
“You okay?” Grantaire asked as he rummaged through the fridge.
“Kinda dizzy,” Courfeyrac muttered.
That caught Grantaire’s attention, and he closed the fridge and turned to Courfeyrac. “Have you been drinking too much? How much alcohol have you had?”
Courfeyrac didn’t look up, biting his lip as he thought about the question for several long seconds. Finally, he said, “Not any… I don’t think. I wasn’t feeling well earlier, so I thought, I thought I wouldn’t risk it.”
“You haven’t had any alcohol?” Grantaire said. “Courf, you have to check your glucose, okay?”
“Probably, yeah,” Courfeyrac said distractedly.
“No, Courf, come on, focus,” Grantaire said, kneeling down in front of him and meeting his eyes. Courfeyrac’s skin was pale, drops of sweat standing out on his forehead. “Check your glucose for me.”
With trembling fingers, Courfeyrac reached for his insulin pump, fiddling with the buttons until he finally said, “It says forty-two, is that good?”
“You’re supposed to know,” Grantaire said, getting properly worried now about Courfeyrac’s distraction and vague answers. “Sit here for a bit, yeah?”
He pressed his hand to Courfeyrac’s shoulder for a moment and then dashed back to the living room. Combeferre was sitting against the wall near the door, Enjolras beside him. Though Enjolras’ face was suspiciously red, Combeferre looked mostly sober.
“What’s the lowest Courf’s blood sugar is supposed to go?” Grantaire said without preamble.
Combeferre’s forehead creased with worry immediately. “About seventy. What’s going on?”
Grantaire jerked his head toward the kitchen. “He needs to eat something right now. You got any food?”
Combeferre was already getting to his feet. He followed Grantaire to the kitchen, where Courfeyrac was still where he’d left him, staring at nothing.
“Hey, Courf,” Combeferre said, kneeling down beside him. “You’re having a hypo. I’m going to get you some sugar, all right?”
“Yeah,” Courfeyrac mumbled. Grantaire pulled up a chair next to him, gingerly patting his back as Combeferre rummaged through his cabinets until he found a jar of honey.
“Here,” he said, handing a tablespoon of the stuff to Courfeyrac. “Put this under your tongue.”
Courfeyrac did so, humming at the sweet taste. For a minute or so, Grantaire and Combeferre watched a little awkwardly.
“I’ll stay with him,” Combeferre said, when Courfeyrac had licked the spoon clean and let out a deep sigh. “It’ll be at least fifteen minutes or so before that helps enough. You should go back to the party.”
“Yeah, ‘m fine,” Courfeyrac said.
“You’re not fine,” Grantaire responded with a chuckle. “But I’ll leave you to it.” He wasn’t sure how much Courfeyrac would like a big audience, given that he wasn’t entirely himself.
“Thanks for getting me,” Combeferre said, smiling at him.
Grantaire nodded and turned, which was when he discovered that Enjolras was standing in the door opening. He must’ve been watching them for a while. It made Grantaire self-conscious, and he found a blush creeping up his cheeks. He hated blushing.
He pushed past Enjolras and into the hallway, but before he could reach the living room, Enjolras’ fingers circled his wrist.
“What is it, Apollo?” He turned around. Enjolras was staring at him in the dimly lit hallway.
“You really care a lot,” Enjolras said.
“About Courf.” Enjolras was frowning at him now.
“Well yes,” Grantaire said, trying fruitlessly to figure out what Enjolras was talking about.
“I like it when you do that,” Enjolras said.
“You like it when I care about Courfeyrac? Apollo, you’re not making any sense. How drunk are you, exactly?”
“I’m not drunk,” Enjolras insisted.
“Right. I know what drunk people look like,” Grantaire said.
“I’m not,” Enjolras repeated. “But that’s not… I wanted to say, you’re always pretending you don’t. Don’t care, I mean. When we talk about stuff.”
Grantaire sighed. “I care about stuff,” he said. “I just don’t think you can fix the world, is all. Can we—” He trailed off when Enjolras stepped toward him and stumbled over his own feet. Grantaire grabbed his shoulder to steady him. “Enjolras, you’re really drunk.”
“Yeah,” Enjolras admitted.
“You should sit down,” Grantaire suggested, pulling him toward the living room.
“But we were talking,” Enjolras said. “We never talk.” He sounded almost sad about it, which was completely impossible. Grantaire was definitely imagining that.
“If you want to talk, come do so when you aren’t drunk,” he said decisively, pushing Enjolras down on the couch next to Marius.
“Enjolras!” Marius said, clearly somewhere in the Happy Drunk stage. Grantaire heaved a sigh and left them to it.
With almost everyone of Les Amis staying in town for Christmas, Enjolras had decided there was no need to wait for school to pick back up before they held their new Les Amis meeting. Instead, they met on the second day of the New Year, when everyone had recovered from their hangovers. Madame Houcheloup had brought them drinks – “On the house, a New Year’s present for our most faithful customers!” – and it was a while before everyone had settled down enough for Enjolras to open the meeting.
“The sexual harassment petition has been offered to university staff a week before Christmas break,” Enjolras said once everyone had been called to order. “However, their response was apathetic. I’ve discussed this with Éponine and Musichetta, given that they were the primary organisers of the petition and that this is an issue that affects women far more than men. We were thinking it’s a good idea to organise a protest on university grounds.”
“Good plan,” Cosette said, and others around the room nodded along with her. “Do we have a date yet?”
“Either the last Saturday of January or the first Saturday of February,” Musichetta responded.
“There’s obviously a lot of work that needs to be done before then,” Enjolras said, smiling at the positive reactions the plan was getting so far. He’d already spent much of the previous week drafting plans for the protest – locations, speakers, organisations they could collaborate with. “So this meeting, the goal is to divide the work and try to locate any issues that are likely to come up.” He looked around the room. Most people were listening attentively. The only pair of eyes that wasn’t on him was Grantaire’s. Instead, Grantaire had grabbed a pen and was sketching on a coaster, head bent down so Enjolras could only see his dark curly hair.
He tried to ignore it. The past year, he’d made progress at not fighting with Grantaire. But he never knew what to do with Grantaire’s complete apathy towards all of their causes. Most of all, he didn’t understand – why was Grantaire here when he clearly didn’t believe in any of their efforts to change the world?
Musichetta asked him whether he’d been able to contact any other activist organisations, and he looked away from Grantaire to focus on the question. “I’ve called several groups,” he said, turning to Musichetta. “So far, nobody has been willing and able to cooperate – most groups have too tight of a budget to suddenly fit in another protest. It might be that I just haven’t called the right people. I’ll keep trying.”
“Grantaire, can you make flyers like you did last time?” Éponine asked.
Grantaire looked up at that, his eyes drifting past Enjolras to land on Éponine. “Sure,” he said. “What should they say? Come join us at the most useless protest ever?” He smirked as Éponine rolled her eyes.
“What do you mean, useless?” Enjolras said. Beside him, Combeferre heaved a sigh.
“Nothing, Apollo, just that sexual harassment is an unfortunate but unalterable reality and your protest is going to be as useless as your petition, which the dean, I’m sure, didn’t even bother reading.” When Grantaire finished his speech, he bent his head down again to look at his sketch.
Enjolras clenched his teeth, frustrated beyond belief at Grantaire’s eternal cynicism. “Protests can change things,” he started, but Grantaire cut him off, not even looking up this time.
“Sure, some things. Laws, maybe – rights to vote. But not sexual harassment. It’s the universal constant, the quintessential expression of male entitlement. You really think you’re going to shift a culture of sexual objectification and entitlement with one protest?”
“Easy to be complacent, isn’t it, when you’re a man and you’ve never experienced the constant sexual harassment that women go through,” Enjolras bit out.
“Enjolras,” Combeferre snapped next to him. Enjolras wasn’t sure what he’d said to upset Combeferre, who usually ignored these kinds of arguments.
Grantaire looked up, his eyes blazing. “Oh, really, Apollo? Like that’s not the case for you.”
“I’m listening to what women are saying,” Enjolras retorted. “Éponine and Musichetta…”
“Can speak for themselves,” Éponine cut him off, sounding entirely fed up. “R, I’ll come talk to you after the meeting about the flyers. We’re going to get this issue back on track now. Courfeyrac.” She turned to Courfeyrac, who glanced at Enjolras apologetically.
“Yeah, I’ve been talking to university staff,” he said. “We need permission for the protest, but I don’t think they can refuse based on the statutes.”
Enjolras tried to pay attention to what Courfeyrac was saying, but it was difficult. His argument with Grantaire had thrown him off. It had been months since they’d fought so heatedly, and he already regretted snapping at Grantaire. Still, it was as frustrating as always to see Grantaire so cynical when he was so clearly talented and knowledgeable.
Once the tasks were divided, the meeting soon dissolved into chatter. Feuilly and Bahorel went to get more drinks for everyone. Musichetta came up to Enjolras to work out some details of the things that needed to be arranged. Before he knew it, the clock had struck eleven and people were gathering their things to leave.
Enjolras put on his coat when he saw Combeferre grab his – they always went home together after meetings.
“New scarf?” someone said behind him. He turned and found Grantaire leaning against the wall, already donned up in warm winter gear himself.
Enjolras nodded, tying it around his neck. “Christmas present,” he said, smiling. The red scarf had come in the mail today to go along with the matching woollen hat he’d received the day before. Both were lumpy in places, obviously handmade, and deliciously warm. He’d spent the better part of yesterday trying to figure out which of his friends could knit. He was quite sure Joly could knit, but Joly had already told him – amid frankly insulting snickering – that he wasn’t the Secret Santa. Any of his other friends could secretly be a knitter.
“Good colour on you,” Grantaire said.
“Thanks?” he said uncertainly. Grantaire almost never came up and talked to him of his own accord. Enjolras knew he was unapproachable, but he wasn’t sure how to get closer to Grantaire when the majority of their conversations ended in a disagreement.
After the New Year’s party, he dimly remembered talking to Grantaire at some point in the hallway, but he didn’t remember what he’d said. Another reason – besides the hangover – to regret drinking as much as he had.
He wished he knew what to say now, with Grantaire still leaning against the wall just a few feet away, awkwardly scuffing his shoe against the floor. Finally, he decided to say the first thing that came to mind, which was, “Sorry for… snapping at you earlier.”
“What?” Grantaire said, gaping at him.
“I’m not repeating myself,” he bit out, an inexplicable blush rising to his cheeks. “You’re wrong about everything you said, but I shouldn’t have been so antagonistic.”
Grantaire looked at him in astonishment for a moment longer and then burst out laughing. “That’s the worst apology I’ve ever heard, but I’ll take it,” he said, grinning.
“R, are you coming?” Bossuet called from the doorway.
“Yeah,” Grantaire said. “Night, Apollo.”
“Stop calling me that,” Enjolras said, like he had a hundred times before.
“No,” Grantaire told him, smirking. Then he turned around, and the next moment he was gone.
Enjolras’ next present came the next afternoon in a little envelope, his name typed out and glued on top like every previous note he’d gotten from his mystery gift giver. None of the presents had been this small, so he tore open the envelope curiously.
It has come to my attention that you’ve been having trouble finding organisations who will collaborate with Les Amis to organise the upcoming sexual harassment protest. I’ve taken the liberty of making a few calls myself. For today’s present, you’ll find four phone numbers of people who are interested in participating: the university’s LGBTQ alliance, another university’s feminist group, and two women’s groups from the city.
P.S. Don’t bother asking them who arranged this. They won’t tell.
Below the note were, indeed, four names and phone numbers. For a full minute, Enjolras just stared at the note, trying to imagine how long it must have taken to collect those phone numbers. He’d spent hours on the phone the previous weeks, trying to find people whose ideals aligned with theirs and whose schedules lined up. He’d even spoken to two of the organisations on this list, and both times the other person had been sympathetic but unconvinced. His mystery gift giver was either astonishingly persistent or very lucky.
“What’s that?” Combeferre asked, stepping into the kitchen.
Enjolras held out the note, and Combeferre quickly scanned through it, whistling when he reached the end. “Impressive,” he said.
“Combeferre, who is sending these?” Enjolras asked, groaning when Combeferre just smirked at him.
“Find out for yourself if you’re so desperate to thank them in person,” Combeferre said.
“I’ve tried,” Enjolras grumbled. Combeferre reached out and ruffled his hair.
“Make your phone calls,” he said.
Enjolras did. When he dialled the first number, he was met by a bright voice that informed him he was talking to Mary.
“Hi, Mary, this is Enjolras,” he said.
“Oh, from Les Amis, right?” Mary said. “I’ve been told you’d call.”
“By whom?” he tried.
“Can’t say,” Mary said cheerfully. “They asked me not to tell. But they were quite convincing when they told me collaborating with you was a good idea, so I’d love to hear this protest idea of yours in more detail.”
“Well, you may have heard that we started a petition last month…” Enjolras began.
Two hours later, he had four collaborating parties for his protest, and his grand plans were beginning to seem an actual possibility. He could have cried for joy. He also could’ve cried in frustration, because he’d texted Cosette and Musichetta and Jehan, all of whom had previously sold Les Amis’ ideas with gusto, and he’d had texts back from all of them.
Cosette: Sorry Enjolras, it isn’t me. Keep looking!
Jehan: i like your santa / their ideas are solid gold / but it is not me
Regardless of who was behind the presents, though, Enjolras’ day was made.
It wasn’t often that Grantaire managed to get up early and get work done in the morning. So when he finished the painting he was working on and saw that it was only ten thirty, he couldn’t help but grin at the clock.
He decided he’d earned a break and a proper coffee. Outside, last week’s snow had melted, but it was still near freezing. He pushed his gloved hands into his pockets and made the fifteen-minute trip to the Musain.
Blond hair caught his attention as he entered. Enjolras was sitting at a table in the corner with his back to the rest of the coffeeshop, his laptop in front of him. As Grantaire watched, he tipped back his cup of coffee and swallowed the last of it, exposing his gorgeous neck and making Grantaire swallow as well. Then he turned back to his laptop screen, frowning at whatever he was looking at.
Grantaire tapped his fingers against his leg. He’d talked to Enjolras after the last Les Amis meeting, and it hadn’t been a disaster. That didn’t mean it would always go so well, though. He didn’t want to ruin his good mood by messing up in conversation with Enjolras and then beating himself up about it for the rest of the day.
On the other hand, if there was a choice between seeing Enjolras and not seeing Enjolras, there wasn’t really much of a choice.
He went up to the counter and ordered a black coffee for himself and something entirely too sweet and syrupy for Enjolras. When he got his order, he walked to Enjolras’ table and plunked the sugary beverage next to him.
Enjolras jumped, quickly turning to him and then glancing back and forth between him and the coffee.
“You look like you could use more caffeine,” Grantaire said, boldly taking the seat opposite Enjolras. It was true – he suspected Enjolras hadn’t slept much, probably busy organising the protest.
“Oh,” Enjolras said, carefully picking up his drink. “You didn’t have to.”
“I know, Apollo.”
Enjolras scowled at the nickname, but didn’t comment. “What are you doing here?”
“Ever so polite,” Grantaire said, taking a sip of his own coffee and suppressing a groan at how good it was. He rarely allowed himself the luxury of the Musain’s excellent coffee, but he’d earned this one, and he was going to enjoy it so much. “I’m here to get a coffee. Obviously. What are you doing here?”
“Working,” Enjolras said, gesturing at his laptop.
“Yes,” Enjolras responded, looking a little wary. He probably expected Grantaire to make some kind of cynical remark. Maybe Grantaire would have, normally. Now, however, he was not in the mood for an argument. Besides, he was actually quite invested in this protest. Two days ago, he’d spent an several hours making phone calls – to a friend in the university’s queer organisation, to friends of Feuilly’s in a feminist group, and to a plethora of people he didn’t even know – to convince them to work with Les Amis. He was more eager for the project to succeed than he cared to admit.
So he just nodded, wrapping his cold fingers around his coffee cup. “Any luck?”
Enjolras sat up straighter. “Actually, yes,” he said. “I’ve been talking to a few people who are collaborating with us – the person who’s been sending me gifts gave me their numbers, it’s amazing, I don’t know how they did it.”
Grantaire hid his smile behind his coffee cup. Enjolras went on, detailing the arrangements he’d made even as he kept typing. He seemed happy enough to have someone to talk to, and Grantaire was content to drink his coffee and watch the fire in Enjolras’ eyes. Eventually Enjolras switched to talking about all the things he still needed to do, which was apparently quite a lot.
Finally their cups were empty. Grantaire wished he could stick around – he couldn’t recall a time when he’d spent this long in Enjolras’ company without something going wrong – but he didn’t want to push his luck.
“What are you up to for the rest of the day?” Enjolras asked when Grantaire reached for his coat.
“Not much,” Grantaire said honestly. “How about you?”
“This’ll probably take me the rest of the week, let alone the day,” he said, sighing a little.
He frowned at that. “Are you even enjoying your Christmas break?”
“You sound like Feuilly,” Enjolras said petulantly. “I’m fine. These things need to be done.”
Grantaire pursed his lips in contemplation. He had plans for Enjolras’ present today, but plans could be altered. “Right,” he said. “Get your coat.”
“What?” Enjolras looked up at him, eyes wide.
“Come on. You’re taking the day off,” Grantaire said.
“R,” Enjolras began.
“Don’t tell me you actually want to sit inside all day staring at your laptop.”
“It’s not about what I want,” Enjolras argued.
“Fine,” Grantaire said. “How about what you need? You think Les Amis will do better at the protest if you can’t think straight because you’ve worked yourself into the ground? It’s Christmas break. You can afford to take a few hours off. Come on.”
“Come on. See it as a favour to me, I’m lonely,” Grantaire insisted, hardly knowing where he got the courage – or those words themselves. Enjolras wasn’t really likely to do him any favours.
Enjolras bit his lip. For a moment, neither of them spoke. Then Enjolras pressed a few keys and closed his laptop. “Fine,” he said with a sigh. “Where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” Grantaire said, mostly because he hadn’t expected to get this far and needed to make plans really fast. “Put on your exceedingly lumpy scarf and follow me.”
“Don’t insult my scarf,” Enjolras said seriously. “It was a gift.”
Grantaire suppressed a hysterical giggle. Enjolras put his laptop away and put his coat, scarf, and equally lumpy hat on. Grantaire’s knitting had never been the best, and the end result really did not deserve all the praise Enjolras was giving it. However, the fact that Enjolras appreciated the present so much made Grantaire feel warm all over.
He decided quickly on where to take Enjolras, and when they left the Musain he headed for the nearest bus stop. Enjolras asked again where they were going, but Grantaire just shook his head, and eventually they fell silent as they waited for the bus and then as they rode through the city.
“The zoo?” Enjolras said when Grantaire led him off the bus. He sounded surprised and a little sceptical.
“When’s the last time you’ve been to the zoo, Apollo?” Grantaire asked, grabbing Enjolras’ sleeve to pull him toward the entrance.
“Oh, I don’t know, years ago,” Enjolras said.
“Exactly,” Grantaire responded. “Zoos are great.”
The lines weren’t long, probably on account of the cold. Grantaire bought them both tickets, and soon they’d passed the entrance building and were on the first path. Enjolras’ head was bent over the map they’d been given.
“Where do you want to go first?” Grantaire said.
“The meerkats,” Enjolras said instantly.
Grantaire laughed. “Favourite animal?”
Enjolras blushed, which was adorable. “Maybe,” he grumbled. “They’re cute.”
“Come on, then.”
They walked in silence, visiting the meerkats and then the giraffes and the zebras and the lions without speaking. Their breath made clouds in the cold weather, and the zoo was quiet. Most people had chosen indoor activities for the day, and the animals were either indoors or lazing about on heated stones in the sun. Grantaire felt himself relax more and more in Enjolras’ presence. Enjolras, for his part, seemed content to wander around.
Eventually, Enjolras asked about Grantaire’s studies, and before he knew it, he was talking about art and classes and assignments, about paints and clay and new media. He expected Enjolras to get bored of it – they weren’t really friends, after all, so why would Enjolras be interested in the mundane details of his art degree? But Enjolras kept asking questions and Grantaire kept talking. They visited the rainforest habitat next, which was indoors and swelteringly hot after the cold air outside. Birds flitted by overhead, and there were colourful frogs behind glass.
Enjolras insisted on getting them lunch, and Grantaire gave in soon enough. It seemed fair, given that he’d insisted on paying for the zoo tickets. To be honest, he wasn’t sure how he was going to fit the zoo tickets – along with all the other presents – into the month’s budget. There was a reason more than half of the presents were homemade. It was worth it, though, to see the smile on Enjolras’ face when they went to see the aquarium, with its coral and bright fish.
They wandered back toward the entrance after that, stopping at whichever exhibit they passed. “Hey, look,” Grantaire said when they reached the llamas and stopped to watch them graze. “It’s you.” He gestured at one of the llamas, with a great tuft of blonde curly wool on its head.
Enjolras scowled at him, but his lips were twitching. “I hope my hair doesn’t look quite so terrible,” he said.
“It looks great,” Grantaire said automatically, regretting it immediately once the words were out. Enjolras threw him an odd look, and Grantaire scrambled for something else to say, the first thing that came to mind. “Besides, llamas are awesome. My sister loves them.”
“You have a sister?” Enjolras asked, leaning on the fence of the exhibit.
That wasn’t really a topic Grantaire wanted to discuss either, but he couldn’t think of how to avoid the question. “Yeah. She’s sixteen,” he said. He hadn’t seen his sister in two years. His parents wouldn’t let them talk to each other, and he didn’t think she liked him much after all the badmouthing his parents had undoubtedly done over the years.
“Sometimes I wish I had siblings,” Enjolras said, gazing out over the field of llamas.
“Family is overrated,” Grantaire muttered, stepping up to the fence to lean on it as well.
“Is that… why you stayed in town over Christmas?” Enjolras’ voice was quiet, tentative, as if he was afraid to voice the question.
“My parents don’t like me much,” Grantaire confessed. He wasn’t sure why he was telling Enjolras, except that Enjolras was asking, and he’d never really been able to refuse him. “Don’t suppose I blame them.”
Enjolras abruptly turned to him. “Don’t say that,” he said fiercely.
Taken aback, Grantaire looked up to meet his eyes. He was used to Joly, Bossuet, Combeferre and even Éponine challenging his self-deprecating remarks, but not Enjolras. “Why would you care? You don’t like me much, either,” he said.
“What?” Enjolras gaped at him. “R, that’s not… that’s not true!”
“What do you mean, that’s not true,” Grantaire said, his voice climbing in pitch. “You hate it when I speak up at meetings – you’re always scowling, which makes sense because it’s not like I’m doing anything useful. You steer clear me of me after meetings. You don’t know how fast to run to your bedroom whenever I’m visiting Combeferre,” he rambled, desperately trying to keep his voice pitched low.
“Grantaire,” Enjolras breathed. “No, that’s not… I don’t get you,” he said, digging his hands into his hair. “You’re always so cynical even though you’re incredibly talented and smart, and I don’t get it. Whenever we talked about anything Les Amis-related we just end up arguing, and I’ve tried to come up with other things to talk about, like art, but I don’t know anything about that, and I don’t know how to bring it up. I’m not good with people, just with books and speeches, and I can’t figure out how to talk to you, okay? I just…” He trailed off, shaking his head. Grantaire was gaping at him. He couldn’t find the muscles to close his mouth, let alone say something. After a moment, Enjolras continued, “And I don’t hate it when you speak up. Most of the time you raise good points. It makes my arguments better.”
“What?” Grantaire said faintly.
Enjolras sighed, running a hand through his hair again. It was sticking up wildly now, and Grantaire thought dimly that it made him look even more like the llama. “You’re my friend, R,” he said with conviction.
“Yes,” Enjolras said, with all the fierceness of his dedication blazing through it. “And if your parents don’t like you, R, then they are wrong.”
Grantaire had to turn away from the intensity in Enjolras’ eyes so he wouldn’t do something ridiculous, like burst into tears. Enjolras, in a rare moment of sensitivity, once again turned back to the llamas and (consciously or unconsciously) gave him a moment to compose himself.
“Let’s keep going,” Grantaire managed to say after a moment, his voice coming out gravelly. Enjolras nodded. They walked back to the path and fell into step beside each other, neither of them speaking again as they found the exit and got on the bus back to their part of the city.
“Thanks,” Enjolras said quietly when they were almost at his stop. Grantaire still had another fifteen minutes to go on the bus.
“No problem,” Grantaire said, equally subdued.
“Hey, R?” Enjolras, already half-risen out of his seat, sat back down.
“If you ever want company,” he said, looking uncomfortable and just a little nervous, “or if you just want to talk, or something. We can. Just so you know.”
Grantaire nodded mutely, and Enjolras got up just as the bus pulled up to his stop. He raised his hand to Grantaire as he stepped off the bus, and Grantaire waved back, still completely dumbfounded at the turn his day had taken.
When he got home, he found Bossuet in the living room, watching cat videos on YouTube. Grantaire made them both tea and sat down next to his friend, and for a while they just kept clicking new videos, aww-ing at every new adorable kitten that dashed across the screen.
“How’s your day been?” Bossuet asked eventually. “I thought you were just going to go for coffee this morning, but it looks like you were out for a while.”
“I ran into Enjolras at the Musain,” Grantaire said.
Bossuet paused instead of clicking the next video. “Did you?”
“We went to the zoo,” Grantaire added, smirking at Bossuet’s astonished face.
“Tell me everything,” his friend said, and Grantaire did.
Combeferre wasn’t sure why he was nervous for his first date with Courfeyrac. They’d been friends for years; they’d gone on countless dinners; they never had a dull moment. And yet he felt his stomach twist as he found jeans, a shirt, and a sweater to wear. His phone buzzed, and he pulled it out.
Courfeyrac: So I gotta warn you I’m really nervous for some reason.
The text made Combeferre smile. He typed out a hasty response.
Combeferre: Me too. We’ll be fine. See you soon. xx
He hesitated over the “xx”, but finally pressed send without deleting them. Then he quickly finished getting dressed.
“Enjolras, I’m going,” he called.
A moment later, the door of Enjolras’ bedroom opened and he came out, smiling. “I’m sure you’ll have a good time, Ferre,” he said.
“Thanks,” Combeferre said, sighing in hopes it would calm him a little.
“You’ll be fine,” Enjolras assured him, in the voice of absolute conviction that he normally saved for speeches on social justice.
The restaurant they’d picked wasn’t far from Courfeyrac’s flat. Combeferre took a bus there and found Courfeyrac already waiting for him at the bus stop. For a moment, Combeferre wasn’t sure whether they were supposed to hug or kiss or do something else. Before he could get too worried over doing the wrong thing, though, Courfeyrac reached out and brushed his fingers along Combeferre’s cheek. “Kiss me?” he said quietly.
Combeferre smiled and leaned in to kiss him. After that, it was easy to slip his hand into Courfeyrac’s as they walked to the restaurant.
“Has Enjolras figured out Grantaire is behind those gifts yet?” Courfeyrac said once they’d settled down at a table and were waiting for their drinks and menus.
Combeferre shook his head. “I’m starting to doubt he’ll figure it out. There’s only one day left.”
Courfeyrac sighed. “Yeah, if he hasn’t found out by now, he probably won’t. R knows what he’s doing. What did he give Enjolras today?”
“He took Enjolras to the zoo,” Combeferre said, grinning as he remembered how Enjolras had come home: bewildered at the turn his day had taken, but also more mellow than he’d been in a while.
“Isn’t that really obvious?” Courfeyrac said, reaching out for his hand. Combeferre realised with a thrill that Courfeyrac was touching him more. He slipped his fingers between Courfeyrac’s and squeezed, and Courfeyrac smiled in response.
“Apparently not,” Combeferre said, “because Enjolras went straight from telling me about R to wondering why he didn’t get a present today.”
Courfeyrac laughed. “Sometimes, I can’t quite believe Enj is real,” he said. “But I hope he figures it out. That means Grantaire has to ask him out, right? Just like you.”
Combeferre nodded, though it wasn’t the whole truth. He couldn’t talk to Courfeyrac about Grantaire’s other option without outing him, though, so he held his tongue.
They got their menus and spent a while bickering about what sounded most promising. Throughout it all, Courfeyrac kept holding onto his hand, rubbing circles into the back of it, and Combeferre couldn’t stop smiling. When their food came, they shared their plates, eating mostly one-handed so they could continue to hold hands. Combeferre’s nerves had dissipated and been replaced by warmth and contentment.
Before he knew it, they were standing outside the restaurant again. “Marius isn’t home,” Courfeyrac said. “Do you… maybe want to come back to my place?”
“Yeah,” Combeferre said breathlessly. “I’d love to.”
Courfeyrac blushed, which was one of the most endearing things Combeferre had ever seen. “Come on, then,” he said, grabbing Combeferre’s hand again. Now that Combeferre knew they were heading back to his place, the skin contact felt almost electric. He was half-inclined to stop walking so they could kiss, but he reminded himself to be patient.
“What’s my present tomorrow?” Courfeyrac asked innocently as they walked.
Combeferre squeezed his hand. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
“Meanie,” Courfeyrac complained. Combeferre laughed and pulled him sideways to quickly press his lips against Courfeyrac’s hair.
“Patience is a virtue.”
“Patience is boring,” Courfeyrac said, laughing. They reached his apartment building, and he let go of Combeferre’s hand to open the door. As soon as they were inside, though, his fingers wrapped around Combeferre’s again and he dragged him up the stairs to his home. “Come on.”
“I need to kiss you right now,” Combeferre said as soon as they were in the apartment.
Courfeyrac flipped the switch for the hallway light, shrugging off his coat at the same time. When the light was on, Combeferre saw his own hunger reflected in Courfeyrac’s eyes.
“What are you waiting for, then?” Courfeyrac’s voice was breathless.
Combeferre hastily took off his coat as well and stepped closer, pushing Courfeyrac up against the door. Then he bent down and pressed their lips together.
They’d both been anticipating the kiss for long enough that it immediately turned heated. Their lips moved in synchrony, and Combeferre could barely find the time to pause for breath. Courfeyrac whined when Combeferre’s lips moved down to his jaw, then his neck. “Can I give you a hickey?” Combeferre murmured.
“Yes,” Courfeyrac gasped. “Please, yes.”
Combeferre sucked on the soft skin of his neck just over his pulse point, revelling in the ragged breaths he was drawing from Courfeyrac.
“Can we,” Courfeyrac began, then broke off with another gasp as Combeferre moved to a different place. “Can we, do you want to – stay the night? Bedroom?”
“That wasn’t a sentence,” Combeferre teased.
“Fuck you,” Courfeyrac huffed, but Combeferre could hear the smile in his voice.
“Next time,” Combeferre promised giddily. “But yes, bedroom. Staying the night. Yes.”
Courfeyrac let out another shaky breath. “Come on,” he said, pushing Combeferre backwards and through the door to his bedroom. He flicked the light on in one smooth movement and pushed Combeferre further until he stumbled against the bed and backwards, landing on the soft blankets, meticulously made with clean sheets.
“Optimistic?” Combeferre teased, gesturing at the bed.
“Realistic, looks like,” Courfeyrac said. In the brighter light of the bedroom, Combeferre could see his mussed hair, freckled cheeks, and wide eyes all the better. Tiny bruises were beginning to appear on his neck. He was gorgeous. Combeferre didn’t know what he’d done to deserve him.
“Come here,” Combeferre said, kicking off his shoes and moving further up the bed. Courfeyrac followed his example, catching Combeferre’s lips with his own as soon as he was close enough.
“Can I?” Courfeyrac asked between kisses, his hands drifting to the hem of Combeferre’s sweater.
“Yeah,” Combeferre said, his voice coming out half an octave deeper than usual. Courfeyrac’s fingers curled around his sweater and pulled it up. They had to break their kiss for a moment, but before he knew it, his sweater was halfway across the room and they were kissing again.
“Too many clothes,” Courfeyrac complained, fingers at the buttons of Combeferre’s shirt.
“It’s winter,” Combeferre reminded him, smiling. But he nodded, and Courfeyrac began to undo the buttons. His fingers were trembling, though, and Combeferre reached out a hand to stop him. “You okay?”
Courfeyrac let out a shaky breath. “Yeah. Just. Here, with you. I never thought I’d actually… It’s a little overwhelming is all.”
“Hey,” Combeferre said, cupping his face with both hands. “I love you. We don’t have to do anything, you know that, right?”
“I know,” Courfeyrac said. “I want to.”
“Me too,” Combeferre admitted. He leaned in to kiss Courfeyrac again, meanwhile undoing the buttons of his shirt himself. “There,” he said.
Courfeyrac laughed when he realised what Combeferre was doing. “Cheater,” he whispered. But his hands were more steady as he slid them down Combeferre’s neck and over his newly-exposed chest. Combeferre sucked in a startled breath when Courfeyrac’s fingers trailed across a nipple.
“Good?” Courfeyrac said.
“Cold,” Combeferre admitted, smiling a little. “But good. Definitely good.”
That seemed to give Courfeyrac more confidence, and he pulled Combeferre’s shirt all the way off, tossing it onto the ground. Then he pushed against his shoulder until Combeferre relented and lay down on his back.
Courfeyrac shifted so he was straddling him, and then leaned in and licked Combeferre’s nipple. “Courf,” Combeferre gasped, burying his hands in Courfeyrac’s hair. He was growing hard in his jeans and Courfeyrac could probably tell. “Why are you still wearing all your clothes?” he managed to say after another moment.
He felt Courfeyrac’s smile against his skin before Courfeyrac looked up and he could see it too. “I don’t know, you might want to fix that.”
Combeferre tugged on Courfeyrac’s sweater until, with some assistance, he managed to get it off. Underneath, he was wearing a shirt that said I’d rather be having sex, which startled a giggle out of Combeferre. Courfeyrac just grinned at him, leaning down to press a kiss to his forehead.
“Do you want this off, too?” Combeferre said.
“Yeah,” Courfeyrac said, sitting up a little straighter to pull the shirt off.
Combeferre reached up to run his fingers across the bare skin of Courfeyrac’s chest, drifting down and circling around the spot where his insulin pump was attached.
“Oh, fuck, I need to take that off actually,” Courfeyrac said, his blush deepening. “Or I don’t need to, but it’ll be easier. Give me a minute?”
“Of course,” Combeferre said. Courfeyrac rolled off him and sat on the edge of the bed, fiddling with the tube against his stomach. For a moment, Combeferre was unsure what to do with himself, but then he sat up on his knees behind Courfeyrac and wrapped his arms around his neck to look over his shoulder. “Okay?” he asked quietly.
“Yeah. Sorry about this,” Courfeyrac mumbled.
“Don’t be,” Combeferre said, pressing a kiss to the side of Courfeyrac’s neck. Courfeyrac tilted his head to the side for better access, and Combeferre kissed him again, sucking lightly.
“Ferre,” Courfeyrac whined. “I need to concentrate and set my alarm or I’ll forget to put it back on later.”
Combeferre relented with a smile, twirling his fingers through Courfeyrac’s hair until he put the insulin pump and its see-through tubing on the nightstand, leaving just the coin-sized white bandage beside his navel. “I’m good to go,” he said quietly.
The brief pause had taken some of the urgency out of their making out. Combeferre pulled Courfeyrac down to the bed so they were lying side by side and kissed him again, fingers drifting across Courfeyrac’s chest. Courfeyrac returned the gentle touches, and for long minutes they just kissed, lazy and content.
Eventually, Courfeyrac pushed himself up on one elbow and kissed him with more intent. After a moment, he sat up and straddled Combeferre’s thighs, leaning down to kiss his chest again.
It didn’t take long before Combeferre was hard again, his jeans growing more uncomfortable. Courfeyrac sat up a little straighter and smiled at him, fond and heated all at once. “What do you want to do?” he asked.
“I want…” Combeferre reached up to put his hands on Courfeyrac’s hips, just above the waistband of his jeans. “I want to see you. All of you.”
Courfeyrac drew in a shivering breath. “Okay,” he whispered, leaning up onto his knees and reaching for the fly of his jeans. His blush had spread all the way down his chest now. His hands were trembling again, and Combeferre reached out to brush his fingers against them.
Courfeyrac nodded, and Combeferre undid the button and zipped down his fly, trying hard to keep his breathing steady. When the zip was undone, Courfeyrac pushed his jeans and boxers down to his thighs, eyes never leaving Combeferre’s.
“You are so beautiful,” Combeferre whispered, reaching out a hand. At Courfeyrac’s hasty nod, he traced the tips of his fingers up the underside of Courfeyrac’s penis. Courfeyrac huffed out a shaky breath. When Combeferre stroked him more firmly, he threw out a hand to steady himself against Combeferre’s shoulder.
“Fuck, Ferre, do that again,” he gasped.
Combeferre wrapped his fingers around Courfeyrac and moved them up and down, drawing a high-pitched whine from Courfeyrac.
“Why… why are you still wearing… trousers?” Courfeyrac said between pants, his voice strangled.
“Because you’re on top of me,” Combeferre said, feeling strangely proud and elated at how much difficulty the normally talkative Courfeyrac was having with his words.
“Gotta fix that,” Courfeyrac mumbled. Combeferre pulled his hand back, and Courfeyrac drew in a deep, shuddering breath. He rolled off Combeferre, pulling his jeans and underwear off all the way as he did so. The sight was breath-taking, and for a moment Combeferre forgot he was supposed to be doing something as well. He remembered when Courfeyrac’s fingers ran down his stomach and to the top of his jeans. With a few clever movements, Courfeyrac had undone his fly. Combeferre lifted his hips so Courfeyrac could pull his jeans and underwear off. When he’d done so, he shoved them away until they landed beside the bed. It made Combeferre smile; they were both normally much neater but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Not when Courfeyrac’s eyes were raking up and down his body, his face alight as if he’d never seen anything more beautiful.
Courfeyrac lifted his head to meet his eyes. “Ferre,” he whispered. “Ferre, can I blow you? Please?”
He couldn’t do anything but nod, more aroused than he ever recalled being. He wasn’t going to last long if his current state was any indication.
Reaching out to his nightstand drawer, Courfeyrac quickly pulled out a condom. Moments later, he was rolling it onto Combeferre’s dick. Combeferre dug his fingers into the sheets. Then Courfeyrac was pushing his legs apart to kneel between them, his hands stroking the insides of Combeferre’s thighs.
“Come on,” Combeferre complained.
“I thought patience was a virtue,” Courfeyrac teased. He leaned in and pressed his lips to Combeferre’s cock.
“Fuck,” Combeferre hissed.
“Some other time,” Courfeyrac said, grinning.
“Stop talking.” Combeferre’s hands fluttered uselessly until Courfeyrac leaned in again, and Combeferre buried his fingers in his dark curls.
“Okay,” Courfeyrac said breathlessly. Then he bent further down and any and all of Combeferre’s thoughts flew out the window as Courfeyrac worked his tongue and lips and fingers. Within a minute, Combeferre was reduced to a babbling mess. Courfeyrac hummed every time Combeferre tugged on his hair, and he was sinfully talented at this.
His earlier prediction had been right; he wasn’t going to last long. Far too soon, the muscles in his stomach were tightening. “Courf, I’m really, really close,” he gasped out.
Courfeyrac leaned back a little bit, wrapping his fingers around Combeferre. He looked up, and their eyes met. One more firm thrust was all it took for Combeferre to arch off the bed, his orgasm tearing through him more forcefully than any in a long while.
Courfeyrac stroked his thighs, his stomach, until Combeferre’s breathing had evened a little. Then he pulled off the condom, tied it off and tossed it in the direction of his trashcan. He crawled up the bed until he was beside Combeferre.
“What about you?” Combeferre asked.
Courfeyrac brought their lips together in a heated kiss. He tasted like latex, which wasn’t altogether pleasant, but Combeferre couldn’t care less. As they kissed, Courfeyrac grabbed Combeferre’s hand and brought it to his dick, keening into Combeferre’s mouth when their fingers wrapped around it.
He grabbed Combeferre’s wrist, showing him how to move. Combeferre did as he was directed, quickly finding the movements that drew moans and gasps from Courfeyrac. Now that his own arousal was less overwhelming, he could enjoy the heady feeling of Courfeyrac trusting him in such an intimate moment, showing himself without any pretences.
“I’m close,” Courfeyrac gasped between kisses. Combeferre reached up with his free hand and rubbed Courfeyrac’s nipple, drawing a long groan from Courfeyrac. It wasn’t long before his kisses turned erratic. “Ferre,” he moaned, collapsing against Combeferre as he came. Combeferre wrapped his arms around him, and for a moment they just lay breathing together.
“I love you,” Combeferre whispered eventually.
“Wow, sappy much?” Courfeyrac mumbled, pressing a kiss to his chest. “I love you too.”
Another minute later, Courfeyrac carefully sat up. “We should get cleaned up,” he said, smiling down at Combeferre. “I also really want to brush my teeth.”
Combeferre chuckled, getting up as well and grabbing Courfeyrac’s hand as they walked to the bathroom. They brushed their teeth and wiped the sweat and come off their chests. Back in Courfeyrac’s bedroom, he tossed a pair of clean boxers to Combeferre and put a pair on himself.
Combeferre slid under the covers, feeling wonderfully content and just a little sleepy. He stroked Courfeyrac’s bare back as Courfeyrac sat on the edge of the bed and reattached his insulin pump.
Finally they were both in bed again. Courfeyrac turned around and shuffled closer until Combeferre got the hint and wrapped his arms around him, his chest pressed against Courfeyrac’s back. “Can you sleep like this?” Combeferre asked quietly.
“Yeah,” Courfeyrac whispered. “Night, Ferre.”
Combeferre pressed a kiss to his curls. “Night, Courf.”
The day after his impromptu zoo trip with Grantaire, Enjolras woke feeling better rested than he had in quite some time. After he’d come home, he’d spent another hour working on the protest, but he’d been distracted by memories of his day. He’d been shocked to find that Grantaire honestly seemed to believe Enjolras didn’t like him. Sure, he’d never managed to be quite as friendly with Grantaire as he wanted, but it was upsetting to know he’d failed one of his friends so badly.
At the same time, most of the day had actually been rather pleasant. To his surprise, he and Grantaire had managed to keep their conversation civil and talk about things other than activism. He’d learned more about Grantaire in the past day than in the many months before that, which made him feel a little guilty but also quite glad that there seemed to be hope still.
With all those distracting thoughts, he’d ended up calling it quits shortly after dinner. He’d watched TV with Combeferre for most of the evening, which was wonderfully relaxing. He knew he could talk to Combeferre about Grantaire, but in the end he’d decided not to. He didn’t want to break Grantaire’s confidence, and he was unsure what to make of the time they’d spent together.
As he ate breakfast, he thought about the previous day again. Suddenly, he remembered he hadn’t received a present the previous day. It was day twelve now, the last day, but he should’ve got a present yesterday and yet no package had arrived. Like he had yesterday, Enjolras tried to think of an explanation. Perhaps the package had been lost in the mail? Alternatively, his secret Santa could have simply forgotten, but Enjolras didn’t think so. From the attention and care that were put towards the other packages, the person seemed so careful and considerate that it seemed unlikely they’d simply forget.
Enjolras tried to put the thoughts out of his mind as he turned back to the work that needed to be done for the rally. For several hours, he worked hard, until around lunchtime he decided he’d had enough for a little while.
“I’m going for a walk,” he told Combeferre, who was reading on the couch.
“See you later,” Combeferre said.
Enjolras put on his coat and his new scarf and hat. He didn’t get very far, though. He stepped into the foyer of his apartment building when a very familiar face appeared around the corner, and the next moment he was face to face with Grantaire.
Grantaire was carrying a long cylindrical package in very familiar wrapping paper, with a note stuck to the top that said Enjolras. Something clicked in Enjolras’ head.
“It’s you,” he breathed.
Grantaire had halted, horror in his eyes. He clutched the present to his chest, but said nothing.
“You’ve been sending me those presents,” Enjolras said, the words not quite making sense in his head. Grantaire had sent him the Musain coffee card, the novel, the old copy of Rousseau’s Émile or On Education, the hand-knitted winter wear, and… “You gave me those phone numbers?” he asked, unable to keep the astonishment out of his voice.
“Yeah,” Grantaire admitted in a low voice, still looking mostly horror-struck.
“Why?” Enjolras asked, increasingly bewildered. “You don’t believe the protest can do any good!”
“But you do,” he answered simply.
Enjolras had no idea what to make of that. “What about yesterday?” he asked. “I didn’t get a present.”
Grantaire raised one eyebrow, apparently regaining some of his sarcasm. “Really, Apollo? Because I distinctly remember getting you a zoo ticket.”
“Oh,” Enjolras said. Grantaire shifted from one foot to the other, clearly uncomfortable. Enjolras scrambled for something to say, and ended up asking, “Why would you do all that? You didn’t have to give me presents.” It seemed incredible, especially because Grantaire had said only yesterday that he thought Enjolras didn’t even like him.
“I made a bet,” Grantaire said curtly. That didn’t sound like reasonable justification, but Enjolras wasn’t sure how to ask more.
They stood in silence for a few seconds, until Grantaire took a deep breath, stood up a little straighter and said, out of nowhere, “I’m trans.”
Enjolras stared at him for a few seconds, his mind completely blank. Finally, he said, “What?”
“Trans. Transgender. Not cis,” Grantaire said, deadpan, but Enjolras saw that his hands were trembling. He looked terrified.
Enjolras’ brain caught up then. “Oh, fuck, have I been misgendering you? Do you not want to go by he and him? I’m really sorry, I didn’t know, and I—”
“Enjolras,” Grantaire interrupted. “I go by he and him. I’m a trans guy.”
“Oh,” Enjolras said. For a moment neither of them said anything, until Enjolras remembered that he did in fact know how to properly respond to someone coming out. “Thank you? For telling me,” he said, dimly aware that he sounded ridiculously uncertain. “And… I won’t tell anyone.”
He half expected Grantaire to laugh at his uncertainty and the way he sounded like he’d memorised his response to a coming-out. Instead, though, Grantaire just nodded, still not looking quite at ease. “You don’t mind, do you?” he said after a moment.
What had he done to make Grantaire doubt him so much? Enjolras fought down a wave of guilt. First Grantaire thought he wasn’t his friend, now he thought Enjolras wouldn’t accept him because he was trans. He pushed the thoughts away – he could think about it later. “Of course I don’t mind,” he said, putting as much conviction in the words as he could. “I told you yesterday – you’re my friend.”
“Okay,” Grantaire said, letting out a shaky breath. He held out the cylindrical present, and Enjolras automatically reached out and took it. “I should… go,” Grantaire continued. He nodded brusquely at Enjolras and headed for the door of the apartment building. Just before he left, he turned and said, “Combeferre knows, by the way. That I’m trans. You can tell him I told you, if you want.”
“Okay,” Enjolras said, a little dazed.
Grantaire smiled at him, a real proper smile instead of the smirks he usually sent Enjolras’ way. It made his face light up. “Bye, Apollo,” he said, and the next moment, he was gone.
Enjolras walked back upstairs in a daze, completely forgetting that he had been planning to go for a walk.
“Back so soon?” Combeferre asked when he stepped back into the living room.
“Grantaire,” Enjolras said. Combeferre looked up from his book. “He’s been giving me the presents.”
“What makes you think that?” Combeferre said innocently.
Enjolras threw him a look and flopped down into his favourite armchair. “I ran into him in the hallway while he tried to bring my last present,” he said, setting the package in question down beside him.
“Did you talk to him?” Combeferre sat up a little straighter, putting his book to the side.
“A bit,” Enjolras said, frowning as he tried to remember exactly how the conversation had gone. “He didn’t say much about it. He…” Enjolras paused, thinking over his next words, but Grantaire had given him explicit permission to talk about this. “He came out to me.”
For a second, he thought Combeferre looked disappointed, but then the expression was gone and Combeferre just looked interested. “He did?”
“Yes,” Enjolras said, frowning at the memory. “It was a little unexpected.”
Combeferre chuckled. “I can imagine.”
A thought struck Enjolras. “Shit,” he said. “Shit, Ferre, I told him… when we argued about the harassment thing, I said he’d never had that happen to him, oh fuck.”
Combeferre shook his head. “Yes, that was insensitive,” he said honestly. “I don’t know why you two keep fighting, anyway. I don’t think he’ll blame you, though. It’s his choice not to be out to Les Amis.”
Enjolras still felt guilt churning in his stomach, but he tried to ignore it to focus on the conversation. “I think he thought I wouldn’t take it well,” he admitted. “And yesterday he said… It doesn’t matter. Ferre, do you think I’ve been too harsh to Grantaire?”
“You need to talk to Grantaire about that,” Combeferre said. “Not to me.”
“He thinks I don’t even consider him a friend,” Enjolras said, wrapping his arms around his chest.
Combeferre looked at him for a long moment. “Don’t be too harsh on yourself, either,” he said after a while, carefully choosing his words. “Grantaire often seems confident. He chooses not to show when he’s unsure of himself. It isn’t your fault if you can’t see through that. All the same, you could stand to be a little nicer.”
Enjolras nodded, taking a deep breath. “Thanks,” he mumbled. “I’m going to go to my room for a while.” He got up and took the package with him. When he got to his room, he unwrapped the cylinder, which turned out to be a rolled-up print of Liberty Leading the People. The accompanying envelope held only a short note.
This painting always reminds me of you.
Until next year, perhaps.
With a heavy sigh, Enjolras sat down on his bed. He didn’t stop staring at the note for a long time.
Grantaire collapsed face-down on the couch as soon as he came home. Joly stuck his head through the door opening a moment later. “Hey,” he said. “You all right?”
“I just came out to Enjolras?” Grantaire said into the couch cushions, the words coming out like a question.
“He found out?” Joly said excitedly, limping across the room and plunking himself down half on top of Grantaire. “Tell me about it.”
“I ran into him in the hallway when I was delivering the last present,” Grantaire said, rolling over onto his back. In the end, it had been simple bad luck that had given him away. It was a little disappointing that he hadn’t won the bet, when he’d been so close to completing the challenge. On the other hand, though, the resulting conversation with Enjolras hadn’t been a total disaster.
“Ooh, bad luck,” Joly said, wincing sympathetically. “Then what happened?”
“I think he was pretty surprised it was me,” Grantaire said, frowning. It hurt a little to think that Enjolras didn’t seem to have even considered Grantaire could be behind the gifts. It had been clear almost from the start that it was someone from Les Amis, and Grantaire was apparently literally the last person of that group that Enjolras would ever suspect. “I guess that makes sense, we’ve never really gotten along,” he continued, though those words no longer seemed like the truth. The previous day they’d spent hours in each other’s company and even talked about personal things.
“Well, we all know how oblivious Enjolras can be,” Joly said, grinning a little. “Why did you come out to him? You could’ve asked him out instead.”
Grantaire laughed. “Right. Like that was ever going to happen.”
“He might say yes,” Joly said.
“Just because we’ve managed not to kill each other doesn’t mean he actually wants to go on a date with me,” Grantaire said. Joly opened his mouth to protest, but Grantaire cut him off. “It’s fine, Joly. At least we get along. I don’t need more than that.”
Joly nodded and, thankfully, didn’t push. “So what did he say when you came out?” he asked instead.
Grantaire sat up and put his head on Joly’s shoulder. “I think he thought I was coming out as a trans woman or genderqueer or something,” he said, a little giddily. He knew his gender identity wasn’t dependent on how well his body fit people’s idea of ‘manly’, but he still couldn’t help but feel a little victorious at the fact that he’d managed to pass so completely that Enjolras hadn’t suspected a thing.
Joly wrapped an arm around him and patted his hair. “Then what?” he said.
“He said he didn’t mind and that I’m his friend,” Grantaire recalled, unable to suppress his smile at the thought.
“That’s good,” Joly said, squeezing his shoulder. “I’m happy for you. Looks like this bet worked out pretty well after all, right?”
Classes started up again a few days after the bet had ended. Though Grantaire had worked on his art over the Christmas break, he was still swamped in work almost as soon as the new semester began. It was nice to have the distraction; having too much time off always increased the risk of getting dragged down by depression. Work meant he needed to buckle down and focus, and it usually meant that by the end of the day, he felt like he’d actually accomplished something.
He spent the first week of classes working on a painting as well as a photography project. His mood stayed positive throughout most of the week, and by Thursday night he’d finished the photography assignment and was almost done with the painting.
When he woke up on Friday, he knew immediately that it wouldn’t be a good day. It was as if thick fog had descended on his thoughts. He managed to drag himself out of bed and eat breakfast. He knew he should try to go out and get some fresh air, do something with his day, but the thought of doing so seemed completely insurmountable. So instead, he gave up, went back to bed, and pulled the covers over his head.
It was at that point that he remembered there was a Les Amis meeting that night, and he was supposed to bring flyer designs – designs which he’d completely forgotten to work on in the midst of his school assignments.
“Fuck,” he whimpered. He’d just managed to be on friendly terms with Enjolras, and now he was going to ruin it. Enjolras always stressed the importance of putting Les Amis first, of completing the tasks that every person had been given, and he already thought Grantaire’s commitment was shaky at best.
He tried to think of designs, but he couldn’t concentrate. Before he knew it, it was dinner time, and he was still in bed.
Eventually he got hungry enough to drag himself to the kitchen. The apartment was empty and cold. Joly and Bossuet both had classes all Friday, and after that they always had dinner with Musichetta before the meeting.
He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t make the designs in time, and he couldn’t go to the meeting and tell Enjolras he hadn’t done it. When he’d stuffed a sandwich down his throat, he went back to his bedroom, grabbed his phone, and texted Bossuet.
Grantaire: not feeling well. staying home tonight
Bossuet: Want me to come home?
Grantaire: pls just go to the meeting
Bossuet: Ok. Text me or Joly if you need anything.
Feeling like a coward for not going, he went back to bed, grabbed his laptop, and put on his favourite series. It was difficult to concentrate on any of the episodes, but the show distracted him a little bit from the thoughts of failure. At some point he fell asleep.
When he woke, his laptop had gone into standby mode, but his phone was buzzing with an incoming call. He swiped across the screen to pick up without looking at the caller ID, and pressed speaker phone so he could lie down again. It was probably Joly or Bossuet hoping to check on him – the meeting must be on break.
“Hello?” he mumbled.
“Hey, R,” said a voice that was definitely not Joly or Bossuet.
“Enjolras?” He sat up again, dread immediately flooding him. Was Enjolras so annoyed that he wasn’t there that he’d actually called to tell him off?
“Bossuet said you weren’t feeling well,” Enjolras said. “Are you all right?”
“What?” Grantaire responded, unable to wrap his mind around the question.
Enjolras seemed to catch on to the tiredness of his voice then, and said, “Oh, shit, were you asleep? I didn’t think about the time, I just wanted to check and make sure you’re okay.”
“No, it’s, it’s fine, it’s not that late,” Grantaire said, bewildered. He looked at the clock and saw it actually was quite late; the meeting must have already ended. He had no idea what to say, but the silence on the line dragged on until he felt compelled to fill it. “I’m really sorry for missing the meeting, Enjolras, and I know I was supposed to design those flyers but I didn’t, I feel really bad,” he babbled.
“What? No, stop that,” Enjolras said. “You’re sick, of course you don’t have to be at the meeting, Grantaire. And you don’t need to worry about those flyers until you’re feeling better, all right?”
“But I’m not really sick,” Grantaire said desperately, not sure why he was saying it, except that he couldn’t stand the idea of Enjolras feeling sorry for him when he really didn’t deserve it. “It’s not like I actually have the flu or anything, I… You shouldn’t feel bad for me, it’s my own fault, I just forgot about the flyers until this morning, and I can’t get anything done today, I can’t even… I can’t even get out of bed, it’s pathetic, and I should’ve been there at the meeting and I should’ve brought those flyers because I promised, and I don’t even know why I’m telling you this,” he said, horrified to find that there were tears in his eyes. “I know you’re mad I missed the meeting, I’ll be there next time, I promise, I swear I will.”
“Grantaire,” Enjolras breathed on the other side of the line, and Grantaire flinched. What would Enjolras think of him now? It was one thing to miss a meeting because of an illness, but that wasn’t what he’d done, was it? Before he could contemplate that further, though, Enjolras was speaking again. “Grantaire, no, don’t say that,” he said quietly. “I’m not mad at you. I don’t care that you missed the meeting and I don’t care about the flyers.”
“What?” Grantaire whispered.
Enjolras took a deep breath, the sound staticky through the phone. “I said I don’t care about the flyers. I’m not angry. I just want you to feel better, okay?” Grantaire said nothing, stunned at what he was hearing. After a moment, Enjolras continued, “Listen, just… try to get some sleep, all right? Don’t worry about the designs, you can do them next week and just tell me when they’re done. Or if you can’t do them at all that’s fine too, just let me know and I’ll find someone else to do it.”
“Okay,” Grantaire whispered, wrapping his arms around himself. He couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing, but Enjolras’ words were making him feel a little better. “Sorry I’m so useless,” he couldn’t help but say.
“You’re not,” Enjolras said firmly. After a moment’s pause, he added, “I missed you at the meeting, you know.”
“No, you didn’t,” Grantaire responded at once.
“Sure I did. There was no one to point out when I was being ridiculous,” Enjolras said. “It’s boring when there’s nobody to square off with.” Grantaire let out a breathless chuckle. They fell silent for a while, but Grantaire could still hear Enjolras breathing, and it was strangely comforting not to be alone, even if Enjolras wasn’t really there.
It couldn’t last forever, though. After a little while, Enjolras said, “Is there anything else I can do?”
Grantaire shook his head, belatedly realising that Enjolras couldn’t see him. “No, it’s fine,” he said quietly.
“Are you sure?” Enjolras said. “I could come over, if you want some company.”
That offer was breathtakingly tempting, but he couldn’t accept it. What if Enjolras was only saying it out of obligation? What if he came over and they did end up arguing again? “Joly and Bossuet should be home soon,” he said. “I’ll be fine.”
“Okay,” Enjolras said. “Let me know… let me know how you’re doing, okay?”
“Yeah,” Grantaire breathed.
“Good night, Grantaire,” Enjolras said.
“Good night,” he responded.
On Sunday afternoon, Enjolras was watching the previous week’s episodes of The Daily Show when his phone buzzed. He reached for it immediately. The previous day he’d texted Grantaire to ask if he was doing any better. Every time he’d got an incoming text alert since then, he’d hoped it was Grantaire, but so far he hadn’t received a response.
He’d been shocked on Friday at the listlessness in Grantaire’s voice and the distress when he’d told Enjolras why he hadn’t been at the meeting. He’d never heard Grantaire so subdued and sad. How often had his bravado and cynicism been a mask for that kind of sadness? It made Enjolras determined to get to know Grantaire even better. He knew he’d made mistakes in the past, but he wouldn’t let himself be dragged into pointless arguments again; he wouldn’t let Grantaire believe Enjolras thought he was useless.
He unlocked his phone and saw that the message was indeed from Grantaire. Underneath Enjolras’ How are you feeling? from the previous day, there was a new text.
Grantaire: finished the flyer designs. i have a couple so you can pick the best
Enjolras spent far too much time thinking about how to respond. Should he ask how Grantaire was feeling? Or was that too invasive? Finally, he wrote an answer.
Enjolras: Great, thanks! If you want, we can meet up tonight to go over them.
Grantaire: ill come over. time?
Grantaire: see you then apollo
Enjolras: Don’t call me that.
Enjolras half expected Grantaire to be late, like he usually was at meetings. Instead, the doorbell rang at two minutes to eight. He ran a hand through his hair as he walked to the door, inexplicably nervous.
Grantaire looked tired and a little drawn, but he grinned when he saw Enjolras. “Hey,” he said, holding out the satchel he had slung over his shoulder. “I brought the designs.”
“Come on in, then,” Enjolras said, holding the door open for him. “Take off your coat, I’ll get you some coffee.”
When he entered the living room with two mugs of coffee – one black, one with milk and sugar – Grantaire was standing a little awkwardly near the window. “You can sit down, you know,” Enjolras said mildly, handing him his mug.
“Yeah,” Grantaire mumbled, sitting down on the couch. After a moment’s deliberation, Enjolras sat down next to him. For a while, neither of them spoke as they drank their coffee.
“So, can I see the designs?” Enjolras said after a while.
“Sure, yeah, of course,” Grantaire said, pulling a binder out of his satchel. From it he took several sheets, which he handed to Enjolras. “They’re just drafts,” he added as Enjolras leafed through them. In reality, they didn’t look much like drafts – each one looked equally well put together. All in all, it didn’t seem possible that Grantaire had made all of these in just two days, but then again, Enjolras didn’t know the first thing about art.
“These are good,” he said.
Grantaire looked at him, suspicion in his eyes. “You’re not just saying that because I had a mental breakdown on the phone last Friday?” he said, equal parts accusing and self-deprecating.
Enjolras didn’t know how to even begin to dissuade Grantaire of that idea. He settled for a curt “No”, shaking his head. He looked at the papers again and pulled one out. “I like this one best. Maybe this text could be a little bigger so it’s easier to read, is that an option?”
Grantaire nodded, grabbing a pencil from his bag. “Yeah, sure,” he said. He scribbled some lines and arrows onto the design and then gestured at the top. “I’d probably have to move this red bit up a little, would that be all right?”
“Sounds good,” Enjolras said. “We finished the program last meeting; I’ll email you what needs to go on the back of the flyers. When you’re finished with the final design, you can email it to Bahorel, he’s in charge of getting them printed.”
Grantaire nodded, sliding the sheets back into their binder and then putting it in his satchel. He picked up his mug and finished his coffee. “If that’s all, I guess I’ll be off?” he said a little hesitantly.
Enjolras bit his lip in thought. “Combeferre’s out on a date with Courfeyrac,” he said after a moment. “So it’s quiet around here… I was going to watch a movie. Do you want to… hang around for a bit?”
For a few seconds, Grantaire stared at him, his eyes narrow and his expression unreadable. Enjolras wasn’t sure what he was looking for, so he gazed back, trying not to feel like he was being submitted to some kind of test. Then Grantaire seemed to relax, his shoulders dropping a little. “Sure,” he said.
Enjolras nodded. “My DVDs are beneath the TV,” he said, gesturing in the appropriate direction. “You can pick something out, I’ll get us some hot chocolate.”
When he returned with the drinks, Grantaire was still kneeling next to his extensive DVD collection. “You have entirely too many Disney movies, Apollo,” he said, smirking as he held up The Princess and the Frog. “What are you, ten years old?”
“Empowerment of girls and women is important,” Enjolras said automatically.
“Right, and it’s not like Disney is upholding bigoted ideas.” Grantaire’s voice was dripping with sarcasm. “Case in point: What a coincidence that the first Disney movie with an African-American princess is also the first movie to so blatantly emphasise the idea of hard work being important. Funny how that message is suddenly vital when the princess is Black. Plus, Tiana might be a well-rounded character but every other person in this movie is a blatant racial stereotype and the protagonist of colour once again spends two-thirds of the movie being an animal.”
“Better to have a Black princess in a movie rife with issues than to not have a Black princess at all,” Enjolras argued back. “It’s progress.”
“Snail’s pace progress, if that,” Grantaire responded.
“Oh, just pick a movie, will you?” Enjolras huffed.
Grantaire grinned at him, and Enjolras couldn’t help but smile back at him. Grantaire hastily looked away at that, turning back to the rows of DVDs. “I realise you have a lot of actual aimed-at-adult movies here,” he said after a while, “but if you don’t mind, I’m going for The Lion King.”
That made Enjolras smile again. He grabbed the remote and turned on the TV and DVD player. “I’m game,” he said. “But you don’t get to make fun of me if I cry when Mufasa dies.”
Grantaire laughed. Enjolras had heard him do that often enough, in the back of the room at the Musain when he was talking to Joly and Bossuet, or here when he was with Combeferre. But he didn’t think he’d ever heard Grantaire laugh like that for him. It made him feel a little warmer inside.
A minute later, they were side by side on the couch, sipping their hot chocolate as the opening credits of The Lion King appeared on the screen. Neither of them actually cried when Mufasa died. Enjolras had secretly suspected Grantaire might be the kind of person to sing along with the songs (something Enjolras only did if he was very, very sure he was alone), but instead Grantaire was silent beside him throughout the movie.
When Simba was about to be reunited with Nala, Grantaire let out a quiet sigh and shifted closer to Enjolras, his head dropping until it rested on Enjolras’ shoulder. Startled, Enjolras looked sideways to find that Grantaire’s eyes had drifted shut, and he was apparently fast asleep.
A rush of affection washed over him as he looked down at Grantaire, his face peaceful in slumber. The strength of that feeling surprised him, and with startling clarity he realised just how far gone he was for Grantaire. He suddenly wanted nothing more than to lean over and press a kiss to Grantaire’s hair, or maybe wrap his arms around him and pull him close.
“Fuck,” he whispered at the lions running around on the screen. Grantaire didn’t stir. His weight against Enjolras was the only thing that kept Enjolras from jumping up and doing some cartoonish pacing-in-circles as he tried to figure out his feelings. He hadn’t been romantically attracted to anyone in years, not since some very unfortunate and unreciprocated crushes in high school.
What was he supposed to do? He had no idea if Grantaire was remotely interested in him that way.
Grantaire’s weight was beginning to give him a stitch in his side. Carefully, Enjolras manoeuvred himself so he could lean against the armrest of the couch, with Grantaire still fast asleep against him. Then he tried to think the situation through, which was hard when he could feel every breath Grantaire took, when Grantaire’s curls were tickling his neck.
For a while, he tried fruitlessly to figure out whether there was any chance that Grantaire was romantically interested in him. In the end, there was one question that seemed to jump out to him. Why had Grantaire given him those presents?
He knew why Combeferre had given Courfeyrac the presents. Combeferre had told him about his side of the bet: Courfeyrac’s discovery of his Secret Santa’s identity was what had prompted Combeferre to ask him out.
So what had Grantaire’s terms been? He certainly hadn’t asked Enjolras out. Instead… Enjolras sat up a little straighter, and Grantaire let out a deep sigh. It made Enjolras freeze until he was sure he hadn’t woken Grantaire up. When Grantaire’s breathing evening out again, Enjolras let out a relieved sigh and continued his train of thought. Instead of asking him out, Grantaire had come out to him. It had happened right after Enjolras had caught him; that couldn’t possibly be a coincidence.
And yet, something didn’t add up. Enjolras flat out did not believe that Combeferre would make someone come out for a bet. His friend wouldn’t do that, especially not to Grantaire, who had clearly been terrified to come out at all.
The more he thought about it, the more it seemed like there was something he was missing. But he doubted either Combeferre or Grantaire would tell him, and he couldn’t even be sure that whatever it was would help him decide whether Grantaire would go out with him.
On his TV screen, Simba was taking his rightful place at Pride Rock. Grantaire was still fast asleep. Maybe, Enjolras reflected, there was just no way to see if Grantaire liked him back. Maybe he’d just have to risk it.
The credits rolled across the screen, Elton John’s voice drifting through the room. Enjolras turned the volume down a little, unsure whether to wake Grantaire or not. Eventually, he decided to wait until the credits ended.
Just before they did, though, Grantaire stirred. Enjolras looked down to find that his eyes were half-open, and he lifted his head from Enjolras’ shoulder only to immediately put it back down and close his eyes again. A few seconds later, though, he seemed to realise where he was and abruptly sat up, scrambling back from Enjolras.
“Fuck, sorry,” he blurted. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you, shit, sorry!”
Enjolras wanted to reassure him, but he wasn’t sure of the best way. Finally, he settled for, “Look, if you think the Lion King is so boring that it makes you fall asleep, I don’t know if we can really be friends.”
It was the right thing to say. Grantaire stared at him for a moment, then huffed out a laugh. “I didn’t know you had a sense of humour, Apollo,” he said.
Enjolras frowned at the nickname. “Why do you call me that?” he asked.
“Because you keep telling me not to,” Grantaire said, smirking at him.
Enjolras shook his head, unable to suppress his fond smile. “No, but why did you start calling me that in the first place?”
Grantaire looked at him a little strangely. “Because… blonde curly-haired god?” he said, as though it was obvious. “Ideal of young beauty? Perfectly sculpted abs?” He raised an eyebrow, and Enjolras couldn’t for the life of him tell whether he was being sarcastic, because the idea of Grantaire actually comparing him to some type of Adonis was ridiculous.
“You’re making fun of me,” he ended up saying, the words coming out more accusing than he’d intended.
“I’m not,” Grantaire said defensively.
“Why else would you keep comparing me to a god?” Enjolras demanded.
“Because—” Grantaire threw up his hands, struggling for words. “Because, do you own a mirror, Enjolras? Because you’re hot, is why,” he said heatedly, and then immediately seemed to freeze ever so slightly. “Look, it’s just a joke,” he added, and a week ago, Enjolras would have believed him.
“Go on a date with me,” he blurted.
The surprise on Grantaire’s face was almost comical. For a long moment, he just stared at Enjolras without saying a word. “What?” he whispered finally.
“Go on a date with me,” he said again, his heart pounding in his chest. “I mean, please. Please go on a date with me,” he amended belatedly. “If you want.”
“If I want?” he repeated disbelievingly. “Well of course I want, I… Is this because I just told you you’re hot?” he asked, suddenly suspicious.
“No!” Enjolras insisted, adamantly shaking his head.
“Then why?” Grantaire demanded.
“Can’t I just want to?”
“No,” Grantaire bit back. “No you cannot just want to, why on earth would you?”
“Why on earth would I not?” Enjolras shot back. “Are we really arguing this? I want to because… because you’re… fuck, R, I’m not good at this,” he complained, looking away so he wouldn’t have to meet Grantaire’s intense gaze. He took a deep breath, and tried again. “Because you’re smart and, and great at art, and because you challenge me, and because you took me to the zoo,” he said, unable to stop once he’d got started. “And because you compared me to a llama and told me about your family, and because I like making you smile, and because when you see my Princess and the Frog DVD you don’t laugh, you just tell me how Disney fucked up again, and because… because you fell asleep on me and I just wanted to stay like that forever,” he finished, carefully looking up.
Grantaire was staring again, and to Enjolras’ consternation, there were tears in his eyes.
“I made you cry, oh shit, I really am bad at this,” he stuttered.
Grantaire shook his head, wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I just…” He took a deep breath, and then, to Enjolras’ relief, the corners of his mouth pulled up in a genuine smile. “So you’re serious?”
“Yes,” Enjolras said.
“Then yes,” Grantaire said. “Yes. Yeah. I… I would love to go on a date with you.”
“Okay,” Enjolras breathed. “Okay, okay, good, that’s, that’s good.”
“I don’t know how you’re so good at speeches and yet you just made a sentence that just consisted of the same three words over and over again,” Grantaire said.
“R,” Enjolras warned.
Grantaire laughed, his proper laugh that brought butterflies to Enjolras’ stomach. For a moment they just looked at each other. Enjolras wasn’t sure whether he was supposed to say something more; he really didn’t know how this dating thing was supposed to work. Eventually, it was Grantaire who spoke. “So um,” he said, his eyes leaving Enjolras’ to drift down to his hands. “I know you’re ace and all, and you don’t do… sex, and everything, but I just… Do you… Can we maybe hug or something?”
Enjolras smiled, fondness filling his chest so he felt like his heart was exploding. “Yeah, come here,” he said, grabbing Grantaire’s hand and pulling him closer, until Grantaire’s head was on his shoulder again. This time, Enjolras did what he’d wanted to earlier, wrapping his arm around Grantaire and leaning over to press a kiss to the top of his head. Grantaire shivered, curling up closer against him.
“This okay?” Grantaire asked quietly.
“Perfect,” Enjolras answered truthfully.
Grantaire wasn’t picking up Enjolras until seven, but he was dressed and ready to leave more than an hour earlier. Joly and Bossuet were out with Musichetta, and he paced the empty living room for a few minutes before giving up, dropping down on the threadbare couch and calling Éponine.
After three rings, Éponine’s voice came over the phone. “What’s up, R?”
He blew out a breath, already slightly calmer now that there was a familiar voice in his ear. “Not much,” he said.
“Liar. Don’t you have a date in an hour?”
He’d told Éponine two days ago. Joly and Bossuet had never outright told him that his constant worries about the date were annoying them, but he couldn’t imagine his rambles were fun to listen to for four straight days. So he’d called Éponine and told her and included her in the category of People To Ramble At. “Maybe,” he hedged. “Never mind that. What are you up to?”
Éponine indubitably saw through his blatant attempt at a subject change, but she indulged him. “Just making dinner for me and Gavroche,” she said.
“I thought Gavroche was heading back to your parents yesterday?”
Éponine made a disgusted noise. “Yeah, well, he’s told me what’s been going on at home, and I decided he’s staying with me.” She sounded firm, but also bone-weary.
Grantaire sighed, sympathetic. “How’s he holding up?”
“It’s been a while since I saw him as happy as he was when I told him he wasn’t going back,” Éponine said quietly. “I knew my parents were up to no good, but I thought they were at least treating him well. Turns out not.”
They talked for a while about how Éponine was going to fit a teenager into her already hectic life, until eventually, Éponine asked, “So are you looking forward to your date?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know,” Grantaire said, running a hand through his hair and then hastily smoothing it back down when he remembered the fifteen minutes he’d spent in front of the mirror.
“Grantaire,” Éponine said quietly. “Dates are supposed to be fun.”
“I know,” he said. “I know, and it will be, it’ll be fine. I just… I don’t know, Ép.”
“You didn’t argue at the meeting yesterday,” she said.
“No, he didn’t argue,” Grantaire responded. He’d gone to the meeting the previous day, determined not to get riled up, determined to show Enjolras he could be productive. Then Enjolras had said something asinine about the uses of peaceful protest and Grantaire hadn’t been able to stop himself.
“He didn’t mind when you called him out on his nonsense, either,” Éponine responded.
“I don’t know,” Grantaire said with a sigh.
“Well, what are your plans for the date?” she asked.
Grantaire stretched out on the couch, staring up at the ceiling. “He’s taking me to some fancy restaurant.”
“I guess so.” It didn’t feel lucky. He wasn’t sure he was dressed well enough for whatever restaurant Enjolras was taking him to, and he was sure to have never been there before. Plus, Enjolras had been taught Fancy Restaurant Etiquette as a kid, Grantaire was sure of that, but Grantaire came from a lower-middle-class family. What if he made a fool of himself?
“I can hear you worry over the phone,” Éponine told him. “You’re going to be fine.”
“Éponine, what if I mess this up?” he whined, hating the way his voice came out higher when he was anxious.
“Enjolras likes you. He isn’t going to care about one date,” she said.
“No, what if I mess all of it up?” What if Enjolras realised he’d made a huge mistake? What if those tender moments last Sunday in Enjolras’ living room had been a one-time thing and he’d never get to cuddle up to Enjolras again? He could feel his breathing speed up as he imagined it.
“Grantaire,” Éponine said, patient but firm. “You know you shouldn’t think like that.”
He did know, he just couldn’t stop. He made an effort to push the thoughts out of his mind. “I should go,” he said, glancing at the clock. If he left now, he’d be a little early, but not outrageously so. He didn’t think he could stand waiting any longer.
“All right.” Éponine sounded worried, but her voice was sincere when she continued, “Good luck, R. You’ll be fine.”
“See you, Ép.”
By the time he was standing in front of Enjolras’ door, he was closer to hyperventilating than he’d been in months. He hated himself for it. Normally he could keep his anxiety in check around Enjolras, or at least cover it up with cynicism and bad jokes. He leaned against the wall for a moment, focusing on his breathing until it was somewhat under control, and then he rang the doorbell.
Enjolras looked stunning as always, even (or especially) with his tie still undone around his neck and his hair not quite tamed. “Hey,” he said, smiling his breath-taking smile at Grantaire. “Sorry, I’m not quite ready to go yet, give me a minute? You can come on in.”
Grantaire nodded and stepped into the hallway, burying his hands in the pockets of his coat. Enjolras dashed off into his bedroom, and Grantaire took the chance to lean against the wall again because he wasn’t a hundred percent sure that his knees were capable of holding up his weight.
There was a mirror on the other side of the hallway, but he managed to convince himself not to look. He’d just seen how gorgeous Enjolras looked. It wasn’t a good idea to remind himself of how messy his hair was, how his skin wasn’t anywhere near as smooth as Enjolras’.
“Hey, are you all right?” Enjolras was standing in the doorway from his bedroom to the hallway, looking at Grantaire with a slight frown.
It took Grantaire a second too long to respond. “Fine,” he said, pushing himself away from the wall. “Are you ready to go?”
Enjolras was still frowning at him. “Are you sure?” he said, and Grantaire realised suddenly that his frown wasn’t because he was angry or annoyed – it was worry. When he didn’t answer immediately, Enjolras continued, “You… you know you can still back out, right?”
“What?” he responded, confused. “No, I’m not backing out. Let’s just go.”
“No,” Enjolras said, shaking his head ever so slightly. “No, something’s wrong, come on, tell me.”
“It’s nothing, okay?” Grantaire snapped, immediately regretting it once the words were out. He exhaled in a rush. “Just… I’m just. Nervous.”
“Oh,” Enjolras said. “It’s just me, though.”
Grantaire almost laughed at that. “That isn’t what it feels like,” he said curtly. Enjolras looked at him questioningly, but he didn’t want to elaborate on just how much he cared for Enjolras’ good opinion. Instead, he said, “Besides, it isn’t just you. It’s you plus a fancy restaurant I’ve never been to, and you know how I am, Enjolras, I’m not good with that sort of thing.” He flinched as he said it, because Enjolras had invited him, had been thoughtful and kind enough to want to take him to a proper, expensive restaurant, and here he was criticising it.
“Do you even want to go there?” Enjolras asked, still with that frown on his face and with an otherwise inscrutable expression.
“Yes!” Grantaire said emphatically. “Yes, of course I want to, Enjolras. In fact we could have been out the door five minutes ago. You asked me on a date, of course I want to go, I don’t care if I’m going to mess it up… well I do, too much, but it’s worth it, I just…” He reached up to rake a hand through his hair, realised just in time that he’d already messed up his hair more than enough, and hastily put his hand down again. “I just want this date, all right, so can we go?”
Enjolras stared at him for a long moment. “We can go,” he said finally. “But we don’t have to. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable. If you want, we can stay in. Watch movies. Get takeout. It would still be a date. Would that be less…” He paused, clearly looking for the right word. “Less stressful for you?” he finished eventually.
Grantaire exhaled in a rush. “Yes,” he admitted, looking at the floor. “But you invited me. I don’t want to ruin it.”
“You’re not,” Enjolras said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He dialled a number and put the phone to his ear, his eyes on Grantaire again.
Grantaire heard the tinny sound of a greeting on the other side of the line, and then Enjolras said, “Yes, hello, I’d like to cancel a reservation.” After a brief pause, he continued, “The name is Enjolras, and the reservation was for tonight. Yes. Thanks.” A moment later, he was hanging up.
“Sorry,” Grantaire said, still unable to meet Enjolras’ eyes.
“Please don’t apologise,” Enjolras said, and Grantaire snapped his mouth shut. “There’s nothing to apologise for. I should have asked if you actually wanted to go to the restaurant.”
“I probably would have said yes,” Grantaire admitted.
Enjolras chuckled, seeming not at all upset at the radical change of plans. “Well. We’ll talk about that some other time,” he said. “Let’s order takeout. Come on, we’ll go sit in my room. You should probably take off your coat.”
Still a little overwhelmed, Grantaire did as Enjolras suggested. Enjolras unceremoniously kicked off his dress shoes as he walked to his room, and Grantaire hastily took off his shoes as well and followed him.
He’d never been to Enjolras’ room. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but he was surprised at how comfortable it was. There was a king-sized bed with a truly unbelievable number of pillows and a comforter that looked improbably soft. The floor was messy, with stacks of books and papers in various places. In the corner, there was a desk which was even worse.
“Sorry about the mess,” Enjolras said, pulling a face as he looked around the room. “I was expecting we’d go out.” He fished his laptop from under a pile of papers on his desk. “You can sit on the bed. Do you like Thai?”
“Um, sure,” Grantaire said, sitting down on the bed and carefully shuffling his way to the headboard to lean against some pillows.
A moment later, Enjolras sat down next to him with his laptop, pulling up a takeaway order page. He loosened his tie as Grantaire picked food to order, and Grantaire had to look away so he could stay focused.
“Do you want something more comfortable to wear, since we’re staying in?” Enjolras asked Grantaire, looking at his suit jacket.
And so Grantaire ended up wearing Enjolras’ hoodie – the one he’d longingly stared at, that night when he and Combeferre first made the bet – and sitting on Enjolras’ bed eating takeaway and watching the first season of Elementary. After three episodes, they’d finished the takeaway and the ice cream Enjolras still had in the freezer. Grantaire felt much better than earlier. He wasn’t quite at ease, but most of the anxiety from earlier had disappeared.
During the third episode, Enjolras had moved a little closer to him, so their upper arms were touching. Grantaire was tempted to rest his head on Enjolras’ shoulder again, like he’d done last week, but he wasn’t quite daring enough.
“Another episode?” he suggested tentatively, when the third one ended.
“We could,” Enjolras responded. “Or we could just… talk for a bit?”
“Okay,” Grantaire said, suddenly nervous again. He sat up a little straighter.
Enjolras hesitated, and then said, “Is it okay if I put my arm around you?”
“You don’t have to ask,” Grantaire said.
Enjolras raised an eyebrow. “Consent is important,” he said.
“Well, you always have my consent, trust me,” Grantaire said. Enjolras’ exasperated smile (Grantaire, that’s not how consent works, he could just about hear in his head) made him feel bold enough to shift closer and tuck himself against Enjolras’ side. As promised, Enjolras wrapped an arm around him. He pressed his lips to Grantaire’s curls, just like he had last week. Once again, the intimacy of the gesture made Grantaire shiver with happiness and contentment.
For a minute or so, they were quiet. Grantaire felt his nerves dissipate at the tangible proof that Enjolras hadn’t pushed him away yet.
“R,” Enjolras said quietly.
“I’m sorry I never noticed that you… that you have, can I say ‘mental health issues’?” Enjolras said, sounding thoroughly unsure of himself. “I don’t mean to be insensitive, I just wanted to say, I wish I’d paid more attention.”
Grantaire couldn’t help but smile. “You can call it that, yeah,” he said. “And it’s fine. I don’t blame you.”
“Could you tell me what it’s like?” Enjolras asked, his voice still low. “If you don’t want to, that’s all right. I just think it would help me understand, so maybe when I plan another date – if you want another date – I can pick something you’ll like better.”
Grantaire’s heart leapt at the thought of another date, but at the same time, he felt nerves bubble up in his throat. “You might not like what you hear, Apollo,” he warned, hiding his uncertainty behind bravado as he was so used to doing.
Enjolras sighed. “Grantaire,” he said, shifting slightly. For a moment Grantaire was afraid Enjolras would move away, but instead Enjolras said, “Come on, come sit here,” and tugged on his arm. Grantaire let Enjolras manhandle him until he was sitting between Enjolras’ legs, his back against Enjolras’ chest and Enjolras’ arms around him. It was warm and comfortable. Enjolras pressed his lips to Grantaire’s neck for a moment, and then he said, “Grantaire, I like you. A lot. That isn’t going to change just because you’re depressed.”
Grantaire took a deep breath. “Okay, well, then for starters, you’re going to have to tell me that all the time, because I won’t believe you,” he said quietly.
“I like you,” Enjolras said again, one of his hands reaching up to run through Grantaire’s hair.
Grantaire huffed out a laugh. “Not right now, shut up,” he protested. “I’m talking.”
“But I like you,” Enjolras said teasingly.
Unable to stop smiling, Grantaire tilted his head back to rest it against Enjolras’ shoulder. “Stop it,” he complained.
“All right, go on,” Enjolras said.
And Grantaire did. He talked about his depression, how it came and went – better for months sometimes, then bad again, with ups and downs every week. He talked about his anxiety and how paralysing it was, and about the dysphoria that plagued him almost every day. Behind him, Enjolras was quiet save for the occasional question, his arms tight around Grantaire. Finally, Grantaire fell silent, his voice rough from talking so much.
For a moment, neither of them spoke, and Grantaire could already feel the anxiety creeping up on him. Had he said too much and scared Enjolras off?
“I still like you,” Enjolras said, his voice warm. “In case you were wondering.”
“I was, yeah,” Grantaire admitted. Enjolras pressed another kiss to his neck, and Grantaire could feel the smile on his lips.
“And I would still like to go on another date. It can be like this, we can stay in if you want.” Enjolras, bless him, sounded uncertain now. Grantaire didn’t understand how Enjolras could doubt that Grantaire liked him when he was clearly so amazing.
“I’d love to,” Grantaire said.
“Good,” Enjolras said. “Hey, R?”
“I’d like to kiss you, if you want.”
The words sent a thrill through Grantaire. “I want,” he breathed, twisting around until he was on his knees, facing Enjolras.
Enjolras reached up to cup his cheek and gently pulled him closer until their lips met. The kiss was brief, but so sweet that it left Grantaire reeling when he pulled back.
“Good?” Enjolras asked.
“Good,” Grantaire confirmed. He leaned back in for another kiss, equally sweet but more lingering. When he pulled away again, he could still taste Enjolras on his lips.
Enjolras was smiling as Grantaire sat down again with his back against Enjolras’ chest, the way they’d been before.
“We should talk about sex,” Enjolras said, and Grantaire blinked in surprise at the suddenness of the subject change.
“What?” he said, nonplussed.
“Sex,” Enjolras repeated blithely. “I mean, you know I’m ace, but I think we should discuss what that means for us.”
“Okay,” Grantaire agreed, still a little bemused. Enjolras didn’t go on speaking, though, until Grantaire prompted, “So what about it?”
“Well,” Enjolras said. “I’m not looking for sex – and I just want to stress it’s not you, in case you’re worried about that. It’s just—”
“I know,” Grantaire interrupted. “Just you being ace.”
“Yes,” Enjolras said. “Well. I’d be fine if we never had sex. But that doesn’t mean I’m completely opposed to it. If you wanted to, I’m willing to compromise and try things. Though I have to warn you I’m rather inexperienced.”
The formality of the conversation almost made Grantaire laugh, but he managed to keep himself in check and focus on the topic at hand. “I don’t know,” he said. “I – the thought of sex mostly just makes me dysphoric.”
“Oh,” Enjolras said. “I suppose that makes sense. Well, we obviously don’t have to.”
“Maybe later, I might want to,” Grantaire said. “I mean, I suppose by now it’s not a secret that I’m really attracted to you.”
He felt Enjolras nod behind him. “We can keep talking about it,” he said. “Communication is key.”
Grantaire snorted. “You sound like a sexual health campaign.”
“Those aren’t wrong,” Enjolras argued.
“That doesn’t mean I want to hear the taglines from my, um…” Grantaire trailed off, realising with a stab of worry that he’d talked himself into a corner. He had no idea what to call Enjolras.
“Boyfriend?” Enjolras supplied. Grantaire drew in a sharp breath, and Enjolras amended, “Unless you think that’s too soon.”
“Boyfriend is fine,” Grantaire said. He grabbed Enjolras’ hand and held it tight.
EPILOGUE – SIX MONTHS LATER
“Enjolras, we’re going to be late,” Combeferre said, sticking his head around the door to Enjolras’ bedroom.
Enjolras was at his desk, furiously typing away. “I’m almost done,” he said, pausing for a moment to wave Combeferre away.
“We need to be out the door in five minutes, and I suspect you’ll want to do something about your hair,” Combeferre said.
“What?” Enjolras lifted a hand to pat his hair, which was sticking up at all angles.
“Frustrating emails?” Combeferre asked, smirking. “You know Grantaire will never let you live it down if you’re late for a date again. Besides, I want to be on time, too.”
Enjolras glanced at the bottom right corner of his computer screen. “Oh, I didn’t realise it was that late,” he said, hastily closing his programme.
“Yes, well, that’s what I’m here for,” Combeferre said mockingly. “Now will you get ready?”
“Two minutes,” Enjolras promised as he grabbed a clean button-down shirt.
They made it out the door on time, though Enjolras was still trying to pull his curls into submission as they walked down the street. It was warm and light outside, a lovely summer day.
Grantaire and Courfeyrac were both already at the restaurant. “On time for once?” Grantaire said, smirking.
“I’m not late that often,” Enjolras muttered, leaning in to press a kiss to Grantaire’s lips. “Good day?” he asked as Combeferre and Courfeyrac led the way into the restaurant and Enjolras and Grantaire followed.
“Yep,” Grantaire responded. They still rarely went out on dates – Grantaire preferred to stay in, and Enjolras didn’t mind either way. But Courfeyrac had proposed a double date to celebrate the six-month anniversary of both their relationships, and Grantaire had assured Enjolras that he didn’t mind. Still, Enjolras wanted to make sure he was on board.
“Was this double date a brilliant idea, or was it a brilliant idea?” Courfeyrac asked when they were all seated and had been given menus. Combeferre, next to Courfeyrac, grabbed his hand and squeezed it.
“Oh, brilliant beyond compare,” Grantaire mocked, grinning at him. “Hey, Ferre, tell me again when you’re leaving?”
“Next Tuesday,” Combeferre said, smiling. “I can’t wait to see everyone again. I was talking to my youngest sister on Skype the other day, and she was so excited.”
Courfeyrac heaved a sigh, and Enjolras nudged him under the table with his foot. “Cheer up, Courf.”
“I’m just going to miss you so much,” Courfeyrac said dramatically.
“You’re coming to join me in three weeks,” Combeferre reminded him, leaning over to press a quick kiss to his cheek.
“That’s three weeks too many, Ferre,” he responded, shaking his head. “Anyway, R, Enj, what are you up to this summer?”
“I need to start preparing Les Amis’ plans for this fall,” Enjolras said.
“Enjolras.” Grantaire shook his head. “For fuck’s sake, summer break just started.”
Enjolras put his menu down and turned to Grantaire. “It’s important,” he insisted.
“You’re going to keep telling me that until you drop dead from exhaustion.”
“That’s nonsense. It’s just this week; I’ll outline a plan for our food drive and contact the other university groups, and then I can have a break.”
“Right,” Grantaire snorted. “You, taking a break. Well, as long as you’re aware that you are not bringing your laptop when we go to Berlin.”
They were interrupted by laughter from across the table. Courfeyrac was snickering, and even Combeferre looked like he had a hard time containing his mirth. “Are you always like this on dates, too?” Courfeyrac asked. “I thought it was just at meetings. Combeferre, are they like this when Grantaire is over?”
“Always,” Combeferre confirmed.
“Shut up, you two,” Enjolras grumbled, but he didn’t look too put out.
Grantaire was smirking now, too, and he grabbed Enjolras’ hand beneath the table.
As Enjolras had expected, Courfeyrac took Combeferre with him to his flat after the double date. On most nights, Courfeyrac was over at their flat or Combeferre was over at his. Enjolras and Grantaire had taken it a little slower, mostly because they hadn’t been best friends for years before the start of their relationship. Perhaps, Enjolras mused, his asexuality also had something to do with it. On the other hand, he suspected he and Grantaire were as motivated to cuddle as the others were to have sex. Either way, it had only been a month or two since Enjolras had first stayed over at Grantaire’s flat. Now it wasn’t an uncommon occurrence.
“My place?” Enjolras suggested quietly when Combeferre and Courfeyrac had disappeared around the corner.
“Sure,” Grantaire said. “I have a toothbrush at yours, I may as well use it.”
Enjolras chuckled, grabbing Grantaire’s hand. The air around them was still warm, though the sun had set a while ago. “Bus or walk?” Enjolras asked.
“Let’s walk,” Grantaire said.
They didn’t speak as they made the two-mile trip back to Enjolras and Combeferre’s apartment. Neither of them minded, though. Some days, they bickered about each other’s annoying habits or Enjolras’ preoccupation with his causes or Grantaire’s cynicism. Other days they had quiet, thoughtful conversations. Now, though, they were both content to walk in silence, simply enjoying the other’s company.
When they were in Enjolras’ bedroom, Enjolras handed Grantaire a shirt to sleep in. Usually Grantaire turned his back to get changed – Enjolras had only seen the scars on his chest a handful of times. This time, however, he caught Enjolras’ eye and stayed put as he pulled off his shirt.
Enjolras smiled and stepped closer, putting his hands on Grantaire’s bare shoulders. “Can I kiss you?” he asked quietly.
“I don’t know, can you?” Grantaire responded, smirking.
Enjolras leaned in and kissed the smirk off his lips. “You’re really beautiful, you know,” he said matter-of-factly. “May I?” At Grantaire’s nod, he gently ran his hands down Grantaire’s chest, over the raised ridges a few inches below Grantaire’s nipples, and then down until they were on his hips. “Gorgeous,” he breathed.
Grantaire had closed his eyes, a smile on his lips. “Sap,” he whispered. He leaned in and found Enjolras’ mouth with his own. Then he stepped back and put on the shirt Enjolras had given him, still smiling.
A few minutes later, they were both in bed. Enjolras was on his back, with Grantaire curled up against his side, his head on Enjolras’ shoulder and their legs intertwined. They’d pulled the covers over them at first, but Enjolras had soon kicked them off again due to the heat.
“R?” he whispered after a few minutes.
“Yeah?” Grantaire whispered back.
“I love you.” He’d never said it before, though he’d been thinking about a way to say it for weeks now.
Grantaire grabbed one of Enjolras’ hands and pressed a kiss to the back of it. “I know,” he said, and Enjolras could feel him smile against his skin. The quiet confidence in Grantaire’s words made him feel warmer inside. He knew how hard it was, sometimes, for Grantaire to even think that anyone liked him.
“So much,” Enjolras added quietly, squeezing Grantaire’s hand.
“I know,” Grantaire said again, as if just saying those words was a miracle – which, in some ways, it was. “I know, Enjolras. I love you too. I’ve loved you for a long time.”
Enjolras twisted towards Grantaire a little so he could wiggle his arm underneath him and pull him closer. Grantaire pillowed his head against Enjolras’ chest, and Enjolras buried a hand in his curls, gently rubbing his fingers across Grantaire’s scalp. Grantaire let out a pleased hum and snuggled closer.
After a few minutes, he felt Grantaire’s breathing even out. Grantaire was always asleep long before Enjolras, who usually lay awake for at least half an hour before he could sleep. Sometimes, it annoyed him to have to lie still and wait for unconsciousness to overtake him. That night, however, he was content to stay right where he was.
A few miles away, Combeferre and Courfeyrac were similarly in bed together. Rather than cuddling, they were lying side by side. Sweat was still cooling on their bare chests, and it was too hot to do anything but hold hands. Combeferre half wished the lights were still on, because he knew Courfeyrac was probably flushed all the way down his chest now. It would make his freckles stand out. Courfeyrac was sometimes insecure about his freckles, but he never complained when Combeferre tried to map them all with his tongue.
“So you know how Marius is getting married?” Courfeyrac asked after a while.
Combeferre had been close to sleep, and he leaned up on one elbow to make sure he’d stay awake if they were going to talk. “It hasn’t escaped my notice,” he said dryly. Marius and Cosette were getting married in late August, right after Combeferre and Courfeyrac were returning from India. The wedding was two months away, and all the Amis had been dragged into the planning. Courfeyrac was Marius’ best man, so he was even more caught up in the wedding preparations than the others.
“Well…” Courfeyrac began, but he didn’t say anything else.
“Well what?” Combeferre prompted after a few seconds.
“Well, he… he’s moving out.”
That instantly gave Combeferre a pretty good idea where this was headed. He smiled and said, “Yes, I imagine he’ll go and live somewhere with Cosette. You’ll have to get a new flatmate.”
“Yes,” Courfeyrac said, sounding apprehensive now. “About that.”
“Yes?” Combeferre moved a little closer to his boyfriend, so their upper arms were almost touching. He could feel the heat radiating off Courfeyrac’s skin.
“I was wondering if you maybe wanted to move in with me,” Courfeyrac said in a rush.
Combeferre leaned in even more and pressed a kiss to Courfeyrac’s cheek. “Do you think I can leave Enjolras all by himself?” he said. “He might die of starvation if I’m not there to remind him to eat, you know.”
Courfeyrac snickered, but said, “I’m serious.”
“I know,” Combeferre said. “I’d love to.”
“Of course I would.”
Courfeyrac rolled over and kissed him enthusiastically. “It’s going to be great,” he promised when they pulled away. Combeferre would’ve loved to keep him close if it hadn’t been so warm. After a moment, Courfeyrac continued, “Maybe we can convince Enjolras to get Grantaire to move in with him when you move out.”
“I don’t think that’ll take much convincing,” Combeferre answered, smiling. “I wonder if living together will make them bicker more or less.”
“They’ll be fine, though,” Courfeyrac said confidently.
“They will,” Combeferre agreed. He grabbed Courfeyrac’s hand again and laced their fingers together. “And so will we.”