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i feel filthy but i still like you

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“I waited for you,” is all Combeferre says as Grantaire steps inside his and Eponine’s shared apartment. Combeferre’s perched on the edge of the sofa, twisting the watch on his wrist as Grantaire drips water all over the ‘Fuck Off’ mat. It’s raining outside, hard and heavy, as it has been on and off all day. He can hear the sound of it on the living room window, loud enough to mask his panting, from running through the rain to the dry, then up five flights of stairs to the apartment. He’s soaked down to his skin, moisture shining on the nape of his neck, all over his hands. Inside his backpack his sketchpads are all fucking wrecked, and though he tried his best to tuck his phone into a part where it would be dry knowing today’s luck, that’s fucking ruined as well.

Grantaire’s not shaking because of the cold but he wants to pretend he is. He thinks “Fuck“ as he scrabbles to untie his boots, and “Fuck“ as he digs his fingers into the leather to help pry them off, and “Fuck“ as he toes them off to kick them into the corner of the room. Grantaire wants to be fucking calm right now, but he’s really not. He’s been reeling for months now and doesn’t know how to make it stop. So, his hands shake and he keeps his head down, eyes shielded behind the unruly mess of hair falling wetly over his face, as Combeferre’s eyes track him across the room.

Grantaire’s too stubborn and selfish to say anything like “Sorry”, so he laughs instead. “Did you just sit there like that all day?”

“For the better part of it,” Combeferre replies while Grantaire stalks into the kitchen. He needs a drink but instead he runs himself a water, fingers digging into the taps, head hung low. The shitty floorboards creak under Combeferre’s feet as he joins him, and when Grantaire looks up Combeferre is leaning a hip against the dinner table, a hand splayed over the granite.

Grantaire wants to say something but he doesn’t know what. He wants to scream, I can’t fucking do this, he wants to say, I don’t owe you anything, he wants to tell Combeferre to just go home, he wants his lips to be around a bottle, and he wants to press the words, I think I might be in love with you into Combeferre’s ear, into his mouth.

Grantaire does nothing but down his glass and shove it down on the sideboard, just for an excuse to turn his back to Combeferre, to knead his hands into the countertop.

Grantaire hears the rain, hears the washing machine cycle on, hears Combeferre repeat, “I waited for you.”

“Well, I didn’t ask you to,” Grantaire snaps, over his shoulder, dragging in a breath.

“I said I’d be there,” Combeferre responds, evenly, as Grantaire grapples with his jacket and throws it on the table. “So I waited.”

Grantaire knew he would wait, he knew it. Yet, he didn’t have the guts to call Combeferre up and tell him he couldn’t do it. He was too much of a coward to, and too much of a coward for this conversation.

“I’m not worth that shit, Combeferre,” Grantaire informs him, after a laugh, while pulling his shirt over his head. He dumps that on the table too, beside his jacket, and then glances at Combeferre over his shoulder. The fucker doesn’t even have the decency to get distracted by his bare chest, still slick with rain, just looks at Grantaire seriously, straight in the eye, for the brief second he's there.

“What shit?” Combeferre asks. “Being there for you? Helping you? You’re worth all of that, Grantaire. More than that.”

Grantaire scoffs and looks at the ceiling, digging through his backpack and throwing the sopping sketchbooks onto the draining board, thud after dull thud. “But you’d say that, wouldn’t you, Combeferre? Because you’re just so fucking nice.” Thud, thud, thud.

“I’m not trying to make you feel better.” Grantaire can hear him moving closer now, as he slowly empties the contents of his bag out onto the kitchen counter (another not-quite excuse to avoid Combeferre’s eyes). “I’m telling you the truth.”

“Well you’re wrong, I’m fucked up and not worth shit and-“

“Are you drunk right now?” Grantaire feels like he’s been stabbed. He feels staggered, the whole wind knocked out of him, all those cliches. It’s a question Combeferre needs to ask, a question Grantaire knows has been itching at the inside of Combeferre’s head since he didn’t show up for that stupid Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. After all, it’s the deal breaker.

It doesn’t mean it isn’t painful.

He turns around, to finally look Combeferre in the eye.

“No,” Grantaire snarls, and even that sounds betrayed without it meaning to. “Why, do I look drunk? Do you want to test my toxicity level?” He mocks, bridging the space between them until Grantaire has Combeferre trapped in, Combeferre’s back pressed against the dining table. Grantaire hears Combeferre’s breath hitch this close and guesses it’s because Grantaire’s bitter and broken right now. He would never think it’s because Combeferre’s thoughts are fixating on Grantaire’s lips. “Do you want to smell my breath?”

“No,” Combeferre sighs, and that’s all Grantaire needs to hear. In response, Grantaire goes to take a step back but Combeferre curls his fingers around his wrist and abruptly grabs hold of Grantaire’s chin, tilting his head up so Grantaire has to look at him again. This time it’s Grantaire’s turn for his breath to hitch, imperceptibly, and bite down on his tongue at the sound. Like this, Combeferre is so close. He can feel the heat of him, radiating off him, intense at the skin of his wrist, burning at where Combeferre’s fingers rest, uneasily, against his jaw. He can smell his aftershave and the lingering scent of deodorant. Grantaire can see the slight outline of his contacts.

Combeferre drops his hands and swallows. “I’m sorry,” Combeferre murmurs, looking too ashamed for a man who just waited at Grantaire’s fucking apartment for God knows how long. “You’ve relapsed before, I-“

“Not this time.”

“- just had to make sure.”

Their words overlap, and when they’re done Combeferre just looks at him and laughs, very softly. It’s a sad sort of laugh, and Grantaire thinks /I did that/. Which doesn’t do anything for Grantaire’s mood. So, when Combeferre’s head tips forward slightly, Grantaire just meets him in the middle until their foreheads are pressed gently together.

It’s an apology he can’t give because he doesn’t know how to.

Combeferre’s breath is quiet and even, and Grantaire finds himself syncing his breaths to the sound, until their chests rise and fall together. It’s frighteningly fucking calming. Grantaire is a tangle of thoughts, and hate, and general self-loathing that suddenly goes quiet. The thoughts don’t really untangle themselves but they stop twisting into bigger knots, and it’s terrifying - the effect Combeferre has on him.

It was Combeferre who got him off the booze. He didn’t do it alone, of course, yet he was there on the nights when it was worst. He was there when Grantaire relapsed, only twice, and pulled him close when he was wild, drunk and sobbing about how he’d failed. When it happened he hadn’t even judged, just grabbed Grantaire’s hands and held them so tight, uncharacteristically harsh, and told him “So, we try again.”

For those months, Combeferre had basically moved into their apartment. Mainly, he slept on the blow-up guest bed they had. Yet, frequently, he had fallen asleep on the sofa beside Grantaire, after Grantaire was on an impulsive drive in an attempts to shake the cravings, which often involved Grantaire making Combeferre watch series after series with him on Netflix. Less often, Combeferre would crawl into bed with him - “You don’t have to”, “I want you to get some sleep” - and let Grantaire rest his head over Combeferre’s heart without comment.

Enjolras hadn’t done that, even when he’d spoken of how much he despised Grantaire’s drinking, even when Grantaire was in love with him. So, Enjolras didn’t know that in the morning Grantaire had cereal for breakfast because he was too lazy to make toast, although he preferred toast entirely. He didn’t know that Grantaire’s DVD collection was alphabetised but his bookshelves were ordered by what he wanted to read next, or that he had the tendency to throw his clothes in the same corners when he stripped off for bed that night. But Combeferre knew. Combeferre knew because he’d been there.

Except, Grantaire had got sober and that had changed. Combeferre had gone back to his own apartment, their friends had said their congratulations about being clean for so long (including Enjolras) and Grantaire missed him. He ached for the mornings of him, Eponine and Combeferre bickering over a TV show while shovelling down breakfast. He missed all the little things, and all the bigger things he’d learnt about Combeferre’s habits.

Combeferre had been the one who had suggested he try going to AA meetings for extra support. Only, he couldn’t do it.

They’re silent for a while, breathing together, then Combeferre says, “Where were you?”

Grantaire shrugs. “I walked, sketched, drew.” He doesn’t say, I couldn’t do it, because he knows that Combeferre knows this. It’s exactly why Combeferre doesn’t say, “Why weren’t you there?”, only, “I waited”.

Combeferre hums, in understanding, before raising a hand and cupping it against Grantaire’s cheek. The movement makes Grantaire ache more, makes him want to press up flush against Combeferre and kiss him until he stays. Combeferre’s thumb sweeps gently over his skin, rubbing comfortingly against his jaw, and Grantaire squeezes his eyes shut.

“You are worth it, you know,” Combeferre backtracks, gently, ever so gently, the words resting privately between them. Grantaire desperately wants to say “No, I’m really fucking not”, except Combeferre’s thumb is now brushing the edge of his mouth, tracing carefully along his lower lip, and he doesn’t dare say anything, because then Combeferre might stop.

Then, the gentle pressure of Combeferre’s forehead against his is gone, and Grantaire’s thoughts are a scramble again, not wanting Combeferre to go. But, his thumb is still against his mouth, gently running over the seam of his lips, and Grantaire doesn’t know what this means. Only, Combeferre’s mouth is suddenly pressed against his cheekbone, kissing his jaw, his chin, beneath his ear, and Grantaire roughly shoves him away, scalded all over.

“I don’t need a pity fuck,” he tells him, shaking, as Combeferre leans back on the table, staring back at him.

Combeferre grabs Grantaire’s hand before he runs, before he does something stupid. “It wasn’t pity,” Combeferre replies, head tipping forward slightly, as if looking for the words. After a moment he finally decides on, “I want you.”

Grantaire stares at him, incredulous.

Why the fuck would Combeferre want Grantaire? Grantaire the recovering alcoholic, who makes a mess, and paints at 3am because the nightmares are back. Grantaire is a fuck up and not good enough for anyone.

Meanwhile… Combeferre is Combeferre. Not quite-perfect but insanely perfect Combeferre, who wears his square glasses when he wakes up in the morning, squinting at everything with bed hair, dressed in old ratty fun run t-shirts. Combeferre who reads the paper in the morning, and takes his coffee black, and happily reads whatever novel he’s working on beside Grantaire as he watches TV. Combeferre who has a university education and is a doctor. Combeferre who dragged himself back to Grantaire after long shifts, and tried his best to stay awake as Grantaire rambled. Non-patronising, kind hearted, calm, collected, wickedly sarcastic, darkly humoured Combeferre.

How could he want Grantaire? He’s a better match for Enjolras, who has intelligence, or Jehan, who has his kindness, or Joly, who shares not only his love of the sciences but a profession, or Bahorel, who has his strength of character. Any of their friends would be a better fit than Grantaire. Any of their friends would deserve Combeferre.

So, Grantaire doesn’t believe him, just laughs, a little bewildered and asks, “You want me?”

“Yes,” Combeferre says, still holding his hand. Grantaire’s grip has gone limp in Combeferre’s own, just as his expression had become skeptical.

“How?”

How?“ Combeferre echoes measuredly, his expression mirroring how Grantaire feels - disbelieving, a frown etched carefully between his eyebrows.

Grantaire pulls his hand away, throwing his arms in the air. “How?” he repeats, voice edging on a shout. “Why?”

A look of realisation comes over Combeferre’s face, and Grantaire takes a step back from it as Combeferre takes a step forward. “You don’t believe me,” he confirms, slowly.

Grantaire hears himself laugh again as he shakes his head. “Of course I don’t fucking believe you.”

“So you don’t trust me?”

“What?”

“So you don’t trust me?” Combeferre repeats, crossing over to Grantaire and standing back in front of him. Grantaire drags in a breath, already realising what he’s doing, but still not being able to stop himself from thinking, No, you could never want me. Yet, Combeferre’s in front of him, trying to prove he does.

“Of course I do,” Grantaire admits, sullenly.

Combeferre smiles, perceptively, because by now they’ve mapped one another out. Maybe not a full-scale atlas; they don’t know the names of all of the roads, or the little short cuts, or the hidden pot holes, but they know one another enough. Combeferre especially - Combeferre can gauge Grantaire as much as Eponine can, as much as Jehan can. He sees his cynicism, and is set on ripping it out, or at least coaxing it away from it’s den.

“Then trust me when I say I want you,” Combeferre’s fingers touch his chest, tentatively pressing his fingertips over his heart, while the others trail up his side, running over his rib-cage. For a second, Grantaire forgets to breathe. “Do you want me?” Combeferre asks and Grantaire breaks out into laughter, ridiculously unbelievably happy laughter because what the fuck.

“Yes,” Grantaire says, rolling his eyes up to the ceiling. “Yes,” He repeats.

In the end, that’s all the permission Combeferre needs to kiss him.

Grantaire hasn’t kissed anyone since that time he drunkenly kissed Jehan at a Christmas party, under some fake mistletoe. Kissing Combeferre back, fingers sliding into the hair at the nape of his neck, Grantaire really hopes it doesn’t show. Except Combeferre is making these interesting little noises against his mouth which suggests if Grantaire is kissing atrociously, Combeferre doesn’t seem to mind. Actually, Combeferre seems preoccupied, hands sliding up the length of his damp chest in a way which is damned near infuriating, making Grantaire buck helplessly into his hands, gasping against his lips as his fingers drag over a tentative spot and teases it with his fingers. Like Combeferre’s trying to test the right pressure to draw out a whimper, the right movement to have him biting down on Combeferre’s bottom lip.

He feels like he’s burning up, out of control with it. He’s already half-hard and wanting. More than he possibly thought he could need this, but Combeferre’s knee is sliding between Grantaire’s legs and Grantaire’s hard already and - “Fuck, you like being in control don’t you?” Because Grantaire just can’t stop his fucking mouth.

Combeferre’s smile is filthy, and Grantaire knows he won’t be able to see him any other way after this, with his hair wrecked by Grantaire’s fingers, and his mouth flushed, Grantaire’s hand shoved under his shirt and Combeferre’s hands splayed possessively over Grantaire’s hips. God knows how he’ll ever be able to look Combeferre in the eye again once he’s finally out of his clothes.

“Not always,” Combeferre murmurs and the subtext there, the slow shy of a promise, makes Grantaire moan, makes him steal the words right out of Combeferre’s mouth and kiss him breathless, rubbing himself up against Combeferre’s thigh.

“Not tonight,” Grantaire breathes out, nipping Combeferre’s bottom lip after breaking the kiss. He sees the flare in Combeferre’s eyes, the sharp stab of realisation. He feels Combeferre curl a hand around his shoulder and tug him sharply backward.

Still, Combeferre is a gentleman, so he does politely ask, “Bedroom?” while dragging Grantaire in the general direction of it.

Grantaire nods, and shoves his hands beneath Combeferre’s shirt to pull it off over his head as Combeferre struggles with his belt. They bite into one another’s mouths, kiss until it hurts, until they’re stumbling backward into the bedroom, hands all over one another, and not bothering to close the door behind them (Eponine can deal with that if she gets back home anytime soon).

At that point, Combeferre grabs Grantaire by the hips, and switches them around, so when they get to the bed it’s Grantaire who lands on his back and Combeferre who’s crawling over him. He looks beautifully dishevelled as he crawls over him, hair pulled in random directions, cheeks flushed, pupils blown wide and eyes intense. Grantaire takes a moment to slide his fingers down Combeferre’s chest, down the lithe, slightly sculpted muscle and feel his stomach shudder beneath his fingers.

It doesn’t last though. Grantaire soon finds himself distracted by Combeferre’s mouth, sliding down the side of his neck, biting at his collarbone and back looking for those carefully discovered pressure points to swirl his tongue over. He hisses at the bloom of heat at the point on his hip, down lower, across his abdomen, mouth just above the hem of his jeans. He fists his hands in Combeferre’s hair instead, tight and needy because Grantaire’s so fucking hard and Combeferre’s in front of him, teasing him until Grantaire is swearing through his teeth.

It’s when Combeferre tugs his jeans down his thighs, and presses chaste, barely there kisses to the inside of his thighs, fingertip teasing Grantaire’s boxers that Grantaire’s commentary becomes more savage. All, “fuck you, do something right fucking now or I swear to God-“. Until Combeferre’s mouthing at him through his boxers and Grantaire’s hips are rolling up into the air, back arched off the bed, one hand in Combeferre’s hair and the other ripping at the bed sheets, gasping, “Please.”

Keeps repeating the word over and over, syllables blurring together, “Please please please“ until Combeferre has his lips wrapped around his cock in a way which is unholy and Combeferre’s hands on his hips, keeping him pressed down on the bed, leaving Grantaire writhing below him.

It’s torture, Grantaire a screaming, sweating, swearing prisoner, stringing words up into barely coherent sentences that contain mainly the word “fuck” because Combeferre’s mouth is around his cock and he’s glancing up through Grantaire’s trembling, trembling thighs like he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The thought’s enough to make him come, just like that, gasping, and shuddering, and biting down on a shout.

In between his legs Grantaire can see Combeferre processing where he can spit the contents of his mouth before realising he doesn’t have any options, and so Combeferre - calm, collected, often reserved Combeferre - just swallows… and Grantaire’s brain malfunctions. “Shit,” He breathes out, reaching down to grab Combeferre by the nape of his neck and kiss him.

He seems pleased, smug even, humming contentedly into Grantaire’s mouth as Grantaire slides his hands down Combeferre’s shoulder blades, resting against his lower back. “What do you want?” Grantaire asks, pushing purposefully at Combeferre’s jeans.

“Just,” Combeferre murmurs, his nose brushing Grantaire’s shoulder as he leans over him to kick off his jeans. Below him, Grantaire does the same with the remnants of their clothing, until both have been tossed aside and they're pressed together, skin against skin. It feels so good Grantaire could spend all day like this, feeling how their bodies move against one another, feeling Combeferre’s hardness against his thigh and his hand running over his bicep. He could trace every inch of Combeferre, see how it tasted with his tongue. “Use your hand.”

Leisurely, Grantaire finds Combeferre’s mouth again, kissing him slowly as he curls his fingers around him. It’s a lot more intimate than he’d like, Combeferre arching into his touch, dragging their bodies together, more friction, softly kissing, exhaling and inhaling into one another’s mouth. But… It feels perfect, and Grantaire can’t tear his eyes away from Combeferre, who’s gasping quietly against his lips, hips bucking until he’s coming, on a sigh, a muffled cry.

They kiss again, for a while, until their breaths even out and then Combeferre pulls the covers over them, curling up contentedly by his side.

“I think I might need a bit more persuading,” Grantaire mumbles, after a moment of tracing his fingers over Combeferre’s hip.

Combeferre raises an eyebrow, in question.

“About you wanting me,” Grantaire tells him, more slyly, until Combeferre’s laughing, beaming at him in a way Grantaire has never seen Combeferre look at anything until just now. A look that Grantaire just wants to keep, or photograph, or paint, or draw.

“That can be arranged.”