FOUR - 2013
It was a dark and stormy night and Grantaire was almost giggling at how cliché it was. Lightning flickering in the distance. Clouds hanging heavy in what little light remained of the day. Rain pattering on the roof.
The smell of freshly baked pie wafted up from the kitchen, and hot chocolate, too, and Grantaire snuggled up even closer to his boyfriend.
It was bliss.
They were hiding inside a blanket fort, built from all the fluffiest materials they could find. Éponine had bought a furry red blanket in a thrift shop and she’d ended up trading it for a two-pound box of chocolates; Grantaire couldn’t have imagined a better affair. He pulled the blanket closer around them, and chuckled at Enjolras’s pleased muttering. Now, in his mother’s house, cozy and warm, not even Enjolras grumbled about the army of over-the-top Halloween decorations covering every square inch of the house.
The door creaked.
„Boys?” Enjolras’ mother called, sticking her head into the room. „I’m heading over to Pam’s. I made some apple pie and pumpkin pie, too, so you could choose. It’s in the oven.”
„I’ll bring it up,” Enjolras muttered, shushing his boyfriend and unwrapping himself from their three fluffy blankets. He wriggled out from the fort and cursed when faced with lamplight. Grantaire heard his mother scolding him jokingly, and he couldn’t help but fall back into his pillows with a sign of contentment.
And his stomach growled, despite having gobbled up a bag of cinnamon caramels barely half an hour before.
Indeed, Enjolras’ mother made the best apple pie. Probably the best pumpkin pie, too, but that Grantaire didn’t intend to find out. He could already feel the taste of the flaky, buttery crust in his mouth, the soft, tart apples complimenting the sweetness of the cinnamon, and his stomach was actively rumbling by the time he heard the soft padding of his boyfriend’s feet on the floorboards.
„Incoming pie,” Enjolras said, ducking into the blanket fort with two plates, slices of pie heaped onto both.
„If we’re eating it at this rate, your mom will be baking at the speed of twelve pies a day.”
Enjolras stopped, plate of pie only a couple of inches away from Grantaire’s outstretched arm, and grinned back at his boyfriend.
„I can still take it back to the kitchen,” he said, and almost lost his balance when Grantaire decided to make a leap for the plate of apple pie. „Though, it appears, you’re not sorry for making mother spend all day in the kitchen.”
„I’ve already told her I’d help with the dishes.” He didn’t wait for an answer. The pie looked as it always had, tender-crusted with the apples arranged into a flower shape in a way his own mother had never had the patience for. It was still warm from the oven, and rivers of melting caramel ice cream cascaded down the slices. If this wasn’t the food of the gods, Grantaire didn’t know what was. So he took a fork from Enjolras and proceeded to devour it.
And the lights flickered.
Then everything went dark.
„Oh crap,” Enjolras murmured.
„Maybe it’s a poltergeist,” said Grantaire. „We’re both going to die.”
„Shut up. I’ll go check the power. I think it’s just the storm.”
„You think. But maybe it’s not.” Enjolras sighed and probably attempted to give Grantaire’s shoulder a playful shove; whatever his intentions, he ended up knocking out one of the fort’s walls and they ended up under a heavy heap of blankets and pillows. „See? The fight for our lives has begun.”
„I’m just simply blind, okay?”
Enjolras somehow managed to free himself from the captivity of their once-fort and scramble out into the room and from there to the corridore.
„Stay safe, darling!” Grantaire cried. „And if you die-”
„I’M NOT GOING TO DIE!”
„I will follow you.”
Enjolras murmured something Grantaire couldn’t hear, and he was left alone under a pile of blankets and pillows with two and a half soggy slices of pie and melted ice cream trickling down an arm and probably onto the floor. This is going to end in a shitload of cleaning up tomorrow.
And then he got an idea.
After all, it was Halloween.
He couldn’t be sure it would work, but hey, Enjolras was one protective boyfriend, as snarky as he could sometimes be.
So Grantaire felt his way out of the fort and beneath his boyfriend’s bed. And screamed.
„Grantaire?” cried Enjolras. Then when he didn’t reply, again: „Grantaire?”
The stairs were once again creaking as Enjolras jogged up them.
„Are you playing a joke on me?” he asked, sounding almost fearless, and Grantaire almost didn’t catch the waver in his voice as it trailed off. „Ghosts aren’t real. You’re just trying to prank me.”
But he had resolved to stay silent, lurking under the bed, and Enjolras finally decided to open the door. A flashlight was shone around the room. He called his boyfriend’s name once again, and Grantaire had to fight the urge to laugh when his tone finally descended into something akin to panic. Ah, what a dark and stormy night can do to the fearless leader!
Enjolras stepped over to the blanket fort, but of course, Grantaire wasn’t there. The flashlight was flicked around once again.
„Grantaire?” the blonde cried, and now he didn’t even bother to conceal his panic. He started pacing up and down the room, flashlight whizzing wild in every direction, and then he stepped beside the bed.
And Grantaire grabbed his leg.
If last year’s scream had been loud, then Grantaire didn’t know the words for this. Deafening, maybe? Yes, deafening. And despite the ringing his ears, he couldn’t hold back the laughter erupting from him and Enjolras was now quiet.
And was probably doing the death stare in the bed’s direction.
„Grantaire,” he said, voice threatening and definitely more terrifying than any ghost.
Grantaire emerged from beneath the bed, still grinning.
„I thought you weren’t scared of ghosts.”
„I only said that they didn’t exist.”
„So you’re scared of something that doesn’t exist?”
Enjolras pouted, but the anger was gone from his eyes. Instead he shuffled up to Grantaire and wrapped his arms around him tight.
„You scared me.”
Grantaire’s hands wandered up his boyfriend’s back, rubbing soothing circles.
„I give you carte blanche to retaliate. Anytime, any day of the year.”
„That’s the least you can do.”
And they stayed embraced for a while, just standing their beside the bed, wrapped in each other’s arms. Rain pattered on the window and thunder rolled in the distance. It was a dark and stormy night, a night of fear and horror, but to them, Halloween was now a day of love.
„I love you,” said Enjolras.
„I know,” said Grantaire, and prepared himself to be shoved.
FIVE - 2014
„I’m so glad you guys came,” said Cosette, and hugged them both.
„Hrmph,” said Enjolras, and dusted flour off his new poncho.
The Fauchelevent house seemed like a castle after the long confinement to their college dorm rooms. Enjolras would’ve been lying if he’d said he didn’t miss the joys of living comfortably; but this place was more than just comfortable. It was-
„Heaven,” said Grantaire, and toppled into an enormous heap of colourful beanbags.
In truth, they hadn’t come to sit around, but rather to bake cookies and sweet breads for the charity event Cosette’s father was organizing on Feuilly’s suggestion. The Fauchelevent kitchen, unlike the dorms armed with capricious microwaves and the occasional crockpot, was fully equipped for the task. A pan of cookies was already baking in an oven, and pie dough was rolled out into a dish. Enjolras felt delighted at the vast expanse of counter space. He sat down his four cans of pumpkin beside the sink and grinned at Cosette.
„Ready to go!”
He’d never been a cook but he’d always loved charity events. Especially if not only his friends were there to help, but he also knew the event was guaranteed to actually help those in need. The Fauchelevent foundation was the leading supporter of homeless women in the town.
Slowly the rest of the ABC filed in, too, bringing various ingredients and recipes, and Bahorel even supplied a box of colourful little pumpkins and squashes for decoration.
„Grew in grandma’s backyard. So many that she didn’t know what to do with them all.”
Grantaire snorted and Enjolras glared him down.
„So... let’s start baking?” Cosette suggested.
It soon became apparent that despite their good intentions, some people just weren’t meant for the kitchen. Bossuet found the only two rotten eggs in the entirety of the six cartons they bought, and was banished to sit in the corner to joke with Joly and Grantaire, who were on dishwashing duty. Enjolras himself, despite his enthusiasm, was revealed to have approximately zero talent for baking anything other than frozen pizza.
„Go help decorate the garden,” Cosette eventually told him. He was soon joined by Jehan.
There were already a bunch of volunteers there, setting up tents and arranging chairs, and they headed over to a group of people trying unsuccessfully to hang Halloween lights on the front porch.
Enjolras grinned. Helping bake was a fine prospect, but organising things? That was his speciality.
He knew the event was going to be awesome.
Enjolras wasn’t even mad that Grantaire had ended up sharpie-ing dead faces onto each and every mini-pumpkin Bahorel had brought. They actually looked quite whimsical in the spooky wonderland the garden had become.
He loaded his tray with an oversized loaf of pumpkin bread and a bunch of choc chip cookies. The guests were already gathering, and so were the donations, and Enjolras was already looking forward to the news of hearing the success of the event and all the help the homeless women will be receiving. The bread and the cookies were placed on a black-cat printed tablecloth and he was preparing to head back for another tray when Grantaire came up to him.
„Wanna head out somewhere after this is all over?”
In truth, he was a little tired after all the minor catastrophes he’d witnessed that morning; a little rest would’ve suited him just fine. But Grantaire had always taken him on the most amazing dates and so he agreed.
And almost regretted it the moment the van stopped at the cemetary.
„We’re gonna look at graves?” he asked, failing to hide the disappointment in voice.
„Maybe,” said Grantaire, and took Enjolras’ hand. He was covered in flour and food coloring and smelled vaguely of dish soap, and Enjolras supposed he didn’t look much better. This was a most curious date, though, and he supposed it didn’t quite matter anymore.
Grantaire led through a weave of graves toward the back of the cemetary, where Enjolras had never been before and where he’d never expected to ever find himself. It was a quiet corner; here lay the dead from a hundred years back, beneath crumbling stones enterwined by ivy and in the light of the moon, the place seemed almost as romantic as creepy. Enjolras shivered. Grantaire tugged at his arm.
„C’mon. We’re not there yet.”
Before long they reached the fence surrounding the cemetary, and Enjolras half expected Grantaire to climb it, but then he saw it: a little grove of trees where no graves lay, and in its centre, a stone bench from times long past.
„It’s actually quite beautiful,” he said.
„I know, I used to come here as an angsty teenager.”
„Even when I’d already moved in next door?”
„Even then. I have a drawing of you sitting on the bench. I wanted to see if it was accurate.”
„I think it were more accurate if you’d drawn yourself beside me,” said Enjolras, and sat down, pulling Grantaire down next to him. He let his head fall onto his boyfriend’s shoulder. „I’m tired,” he murmured. And indeed, in the darkness, the breeze twisting its way between the trees appeared to be a lullaby. His eyelids were growing heavy and a hand came up to caress his cheek, but he was already falling asleep.
His last memory from that day was the kiss Grantaire placed upon the top of his head.
PLUS ONE - 2015
Cold winds blew that night and the salty sea air best resembled a bunch of needles prickling his skin. Grantaire pulled his coat tighter around himself.
This was Venice: the city of art, of tourists, and of wide carts being pushed to and fro on narrow streets, and Grantaire contemplated the sense in his decision to spend half a year of his university studies in Europe, where the art was indeed stunning, but the people were quite crazy. Even now, in the dead middle of the night, when nobody but the most insane wandered the streets, chaos was afoot.
„Holy crap,” he muttered, burying himself deeper into his scarf as he listened to some neighbors scream at each other across a narrow alleyway, for causes Grantaire’s limited Italian wasn’t near sufficient to unerstand.
Yes, Italians were loud. He’d thought it a mere exaggeration before. Now he didn’t.
And unfortunately, the two opponents both lived mere feet from Grantaire’s second floor room in the youth hostel he was staying at. He climbed the stairs sighing.
His room was surprisingly large and comfortable for its price, albeit cold. He let himself fall back onto his bed, slightly dizzy from the wine he’d gotten at one of the few pubs still open, and willed himself to go to sleep; but oh, those neighbors were loud! A woman had joined them, crying for what Grantaire assumed was peace and quiet, and he wasn’t surprised that her screaming wasn’t leading to either of those two requests.
2:18 am, the clock on the bedside table read. Was going to sleep even worth it at this time? But for God’s sake, he was on vacation! Grantaire thought his head would split if the screaming didn’t stop.
He decided to call Enjolras instead.
His laptop booted up within seconds, and Grantaire felt almost wide awake as he logged into Skype and clicked on his boyfriend’s name.
„Hey,” said Enjolras, a little blurry and a little surprised. „Aren’t you supposed to be asleep? It’s like 3 in the morning over there.”
„2:20,” said Grantaire. „The neighbors are arguing and there’s like three feet and a very thin wall separating me from them.”
„I just want to sleep.”
Enjolras went silent. He looked a tad tired too, circles beneath his blue eyes and eyelids heavy; he’d probably been carving pumpkins with Ferre and Courf, or maybe playing video games over at Joly’s.
„How’s it over there in the land of freedom?”
„We literally spoke like six hours ago.”
„A lot can happen in six hours. Our first meeting lasted for like half. One, tops.”
„And we argued about pumpkins all the way through.”
Now Grantaire was grinning too, unable to help it.
„We were so little then. You always wore your hair in a bun even though it wasn’t in style and you got into fights with everyone who decided to pick on you.”
„And you used to hide wine in the fridge when your parents weren’t home and call me pumpkinsexual. And you had awful slippers.”
„What’s wrong with those slippers? They were very comfortable slippers.”
„Grantaire, they were Simpsons slippers.”
„Okay, sure, they weren’t cool. But you still were pumpkinsexual.”
„I just really liked pumpkin,” said Enjolras, rolling his eyes. „I still really like pumpkin. Do they like pumpkin over there in Europe? They don’t seem to be all that much about Halloween.”
„Nah, you’d love it here. I mean, sure, not everything’s pumpkin spice, but can buy pumpkin pretty cheap. And - wait for it - they don’t even decorate. Can you imagine that? All these narrow streets and creepy alleyways, an entire city specialised on masks, plus chilly winds racing in between the houses, and they don’t even bother to hang up lights or dress up. I think it’s quite a waste.”
„So it is, thank God,” grinned Enjolras.
„Or maybe they already have monsters swimming in the canals. How cool would that be?”
Grantaire’s mind started racing, thinking of all the monsters that could possibly inhabit a city like the Serenissima.
„You know, I think Venice already has zombies. I mean, they keep all their dead on a seperate island, so there must be something going on here that we don’t know of. And vampires? Italy must be full of vampires. Sure, the garlic may be a problem, and the churches, too, but maybe that’s why they have the Carnival? So that all the vampires can gather and enjoy the sunlight without getting burned to ashes?” Enjolras burst out laughing, and Grantaire couldn’t help himself either. „I may or may not be a tad tired,” he admitted.
„No,” said Enjolras. „Keep saying dumb stuff. That’s part of why I love you.”
Grantaire felt himself overcome with love for the man from whom he was separated by an ocean.
„I’m afraid I’ve run out of ideas.”
„You never run out of ideas when you’re arguing with me.”
„But now I’m not arguing with you. It’s Halloween. Our Valentine’s day.”
Enjolras scrunched his nose.
„Both holidays are pretty over-commercialized and-”
„Oh do shut up. I wish I could kiss you now.”
„Two more months,” smiled Enjolras. „And you’ll be home.”
„I will,” said Grantaire, and imagined the street on which he’d grown up, all the flowers in their yard and all the mischief he and Joly and Bossuet had made there; the time they’d lost Joly’s cane at a fun fair and the time Enjolras and his mother had moved in next door and had immediately decorated their property with way too many pumpkins and plastic ghosts, and how the three of them had made fun of the new neighbors in Grantaire’s room. How he’d told them how cute the pumpkin-loving blonde boy had turned out to be cute. He thought he would probably marry Enjolras there in the park opposite their houses, once they graduated from college.
„What our you thinking of?”
„Our past. Our future. How I love you.”
„I love you too.”
Grantaire was silent for a few moments; and he realized, it truly was silence.
„You know, the neighbors have seemed to settled their disagreement.”
„Go get some sleep, Grantaire.”
„And next Halloween... you’re going to carve a pumpkin with me.”
„No. They stink.”
Enjolras pouted and made puppy eyes, and really, who was Grantaire to refuse that? Really, who was Grantaire to refuse Enjolras anything?
„Okay, for you. But don’t think I won’t mock you all the while.”