A/N: Happy holidays all, I hope 2019 will be kind to you! Thanks for dropping by. I'm gearing up to post the first chapter of a les miserables story I literally started writing and planning this time last year, but to warm myself back up for formatting things I wanted to finally upload this les mis one shot I wrote over the summer and never got around to editing here! (Also did this site update? Suddenly it seems to be working SO MUCH BETTER than it has been for like 2 years.)
Here's presenting an angsty Enjoltaire pre-barricade one shot, inspired by the Joni Mitchell song a case of you, with no triggers that I can think of. I made a Spotify playlist (to listen to while you read, or afterwards): user/eternaleponine/playlist/1AnqsOma6SPiTjl9rYgnKy?si=aSf1X0f8TW-JhTO_-rZjxg
A case of you
You're in my blood like holy wine,
You taste so bitter and so sweet.
Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling,
And I would still be on my feet...
It was an accident. Then again, the best things in life often are.
A man who can talk with a flame in his eyes and gunpowder in his mouth, who can ignite a room at will into a roaring, crackling fire, shouldn't find himself slipping into the background, transient. But a flame left alone, abandoned by exasperated friends who insist it has already done enough for the time being, will keep on destructively wearing itself away long into the night, pouring over maps and pamphlets as the light slowly dies, ultimately sputtering out.
Enjolras' inner light had extinguished itself, and he was sat alone in the glow of the dying hearth, drooping eyes still mulling hazily over maps of streets he'd been told were too wide for a cordon in a dim corner of the café, completely unnoticed, when Madame Houcheloup locked the doors for the night in her quiet, shuffling way.
He didn't even realize at first.
It was no rare occurrence for the place to be left with a patron still inside of a night time. The first few occasions were catalogued too far back in the old widow's mind for her to clearly recall, but Grantaire could remember her shrill accusations piercing through a morning fog when she discovered him where he had fallen the night before, crumpled behind the bar. He had grovelled for her forgiveness and scrubbed away the spilled wine and shards of glass, watched intently by the two giggling waitresses, and it had gone some way towards making her less furious the next time she discovered him of a morning. After the second time, she had resigned herself to the presence that would sometimes inhabit her café after having passed out of an evening to remain unnoticed until the following day – as long as he cleared his mess and paid his bill and smiled kindly at her girls, the drunken monsieur could redeem himself for his nightly excesses.
In her old age she could be forgiven for noticing neither the preoccupied student nor the drowsy fool who'd ended up sprawled across a couple of chairs that night.
The drunkard was balanced precariously - not that he'd been in any state for taking caution - his head on one seat, his legs on another, with the majority of his bodyweight sagging in between, nearly touching the floor as the pressure slowly pushed his chairs further apart. It was with a soft thud and a loud shout that he woke up, the chair below his head finally dropping him the couple of inches to the ground as it skidded too far away to keep him suspended any longer.
The shock of sound made the student jolt backwards, his own chair screeching against the wooden floor. It was a moment before he regained his composure to ask the groaning creature a little way away, "Are you hurt, Monsieur?" For a moment, he didn't recognize the curled up man, feared he might have been badly injured from the wild cry he released. But he shifted, and his face caught in the embers' light, and he knew him before he pushed himself almost upright to answer:
"I'm fine, Monsieur. You know I always manage to be fine." One hand held his head, but a strange smile took to Grantaire's face as he looked at Enjolras. "Or perhaps you don't, but if that is true then you should be convinced that I could not possibly become any worse." He struggled to his knees, grunting with effort. "Else you did not recognize me at all, in which case I am hurt, Enjolras, truly."
His expression said otherwise. Enjolras didn't hesitate to admit, "I didn't see it was you. It's dark, and later than I thought. I should leave."
"But Captain, I'm afraid your ship has sailed; you and I are stuck with one another tonight." At his perplexed expression, Grantaire had to grin; He had the upper hand, for once. One radiant pearl of knowledge the other did not possess amidst all his strict self-discipline. "It's gone closing time. Madame Houcheloup locks up no later than eleven, and then all left inside must remain so until morning. I'm surprised you didn't see her leave - obsessing over your little parade, I suppose, refusing to let it be." He was still on the floor. A curious choice for a man so clearly relishing the smug knowledge that he was exactly right.
Choosing to ignore the quip, he asked, "Is there no way out? I didn't mean to stay so late, I had hoped to lobby outside parliament tomorrow morning, catch the attention of some politicians before they went to work." From the brink of sleep, his hands had spurred into action, pushing his papers into a pile, readying to leave.
"You'll catch them another day, then." Grantaire's disregard was cutting and sharp. He found his feet and managed to plant them firmly on the ground, rising. "Tonight you'll stay here, with me, and it will be good for you." He had a firmness in his voice that he rarely displayed. Yet he sounded immovable as he insisted, "You work too hard, it will do you some good to relax."
"I don't want any part of relaxing the way you do, R. Is there no way -"
"Would you break the kind Madame's door? Bloody your pretty hands by smashing her window?" There was no need for an answer, for it was already plainly clear that his moral compass would never allow him to do anything of the kind. The bowing of Enjolras' proud head confirmed it. "Then we are stuck, good Monsieur. Here," a bottle of wine stood on one of the tables, almost drained of its poisonous contents. Grantaire grabbed it and held it out to his companion, "Drink."
"I should rather sleep." Fasting Orestes pushed away the bottle with the back of his hand. He was entirely sober in every sense of the word, more than might be expected of a boy of twenty-two, avoiding anything that could taint his convictions or slow him down on his path. Grantaire raised it to his own mouth, but his shrug of defeat was only half-formed, and the bottle had not yet touched his lips before his arm dropped once more to return it to the spot he had taken it from. Not tonight, not now.
The student observed, perplexed. But then Grantaire turned and took a few steps away from him, and the young leader's attentions returned to his own predicament. Enjolras' palms rested flat on the table. He looked at it like he was considering it as a possible pillow for the night, examining whether it would be sturdy enough to hold him comfortably if he dropped his head onto it then and there, or whether a few hours of leaning on it would earn him the same kind of rude awakening as had stunned his companion into consciousness.
The night's potential waned with every heartbeat Enjolras spent determined to let sleep find him as soon as possible. The skeptic moved to the bar, his hands seeking his favourite antidote to ambition while his voice sought out a breezy tone that wouldn't frighten the man away with mockery or harshness. "You won't make your early morning errands, I can guarantee. You're better to sit here and try to pass something like a pleasant evening."
"Fool, evening has already come and gone."
"Then we had best make the most of the night." He found what he was looking for, a shot glass, and tipped a few drops of whiskey from the bottle he'd found into it. Resignation weighing him down, this time Enjolras did not refuse the drink when it was handed to him, but took a small, reluctant sip. Acceptance. Grantaire pulled out the opposite chair and sat down. He smiled at his friend's wince. "Excellent."
"Tolerable." Enjolras finished his drink, noting without comment where his critic had placed himself. Instead, "Do you tend to sleep on the floor or on the chairs?"
"It depends. Usually I sleep wherever I fall." A smile twitched once more at the corner of Grantaire's lips. "But you haven't fallen anywhere, so you will struggle to sleep here."
"Then I should work." His hands returned again to the pile of papers. Enjolras had yet to let the tension out of his spine.
Grantaire only chuffed, and topped up the empty glass. He couldn't sense any alcohol in his own system, as it had been hours since his last drop. Perhaps that was why he was not quite so abrasive as usual when he asked, "On what? I know you believe me an idiot, but I can see there is something amiss. Why tonight were you so preoccupied? You are always making plans and sharing ideas, but never before have you been so absorbed in them to forget yourself entirely."
Once more, Enjolras grudgingly accepted the refilled drink, taking it slowly, then slumping back into his chair with a drained sigh before he confessed, "We're planning something bigger. We don't know when, yet, and we don't know where - that's what I've been trying to decide tonight. But we need to do something to really make the government pay attention. There is a mood in the streets, it grows every day. I'm sure, if we can get it right, then now is the time to take a stand." His eyes had begun to wander skyward, as they often did when he was speaking of his plans; Harmodius, the brave symbol of democracy, had his destiny in his sights.
"A rally?" Grantaire offered, trying to make sense of it.
"Maybe. It might start that way, or as a series of coordinated strikes - we'll need numbers to pull it off, no matter which district we try to take. Get the city's workers on the streets, show the countryside's peasants we are willing to fight for them to restore the principles of fairness, and then we set up a blockade." The light that had been dimmed by sleepiness began to ignite once more, yet this time the warm, passionate glow was there only for Grantaire. He leaned forwards, drawing the cynic in, too. "We'll need a large quantity of weapons, of course, to hold the line, but it's disruption rather than violence that will be the true goal - and the thing that swings victory in our favour. When the city is brought to its knees, it's head may be close enough to the ground to actually listen. We shall take Paris street by street, Monsieur, until the king has to give in."
There was a breathiness to his words - had Grantaire dared to reach across and lay his hand upon the other man's heart, he would find it beating as fiercely as the drums of war. Within his own chest, however, a bitter, sweeping sorrow urged his own heart to be still, sombre. His melancholy was not feigned as he confessed, "I hope you are right, dear, brave Leader. You paint a beautiful garden with your words, and I want nothing more than to step inside."
"But?" The man's qualms had resonated in every word. Usually it might frustrate the headstrong young student, leading him to refute or ignore him, but in the private intimacy of the cafe, where the harsh words and subtle aggressions of their typical interactions couldn't seem to permeate the soft half-light, it was with gentle curiosity, not veiled scorn, that Enjolras pushed for more.
Grantaire didn't hesitate to admit it: "This utopia is nothing but fantasy."
"Why are you so convinced of that, R?" Sincerity burned in his gaze, smouldering, turning blue into black as his pupils dilated, taking in every part of the man before him. Words didn't find poor Hyacinthus immediately, so Apollo persisted. "I know your mind is that of a skeptic, but if I were able to know your heart, I am certain I would find it was that of a believer. Why not let your heart rule, then, and put your faith in us? You might find it makes you happy to allow the song of your heart to play out loud for a while, unashamed and unafraid."
Grantaire swallowed, his mouth empty. Someone unfamiliar with the hubris he so often displayed might have thought it was shame that made his head drop humbly, but the Leader couldn't believe he was capable of feeling such a thing. Eventually, he replied, "You cannot know how often I find myself completely and utterly ruled by my heart, Enjolras."
Pity must have been lurking in the shadows nearby, for it invaded Enjolras too quickly.
He asked him, "Are you alright, my friend?" It was bizarre, his tenderness; or rather, it was rare he deemed this man a deserving recipient of it. He didn't go so far as to reach out for him, but a couple of digits stretched away from the glass he still held to brush against Grantaire's knuckles.
A grimace, rather than a genuine smile, took to his face this time, and he nodded away Enjolras' concerns, "Well, Monsieur, I am well." A hesitation, then a spark of real humour as he realized, "It's just that I'm sober, that's my only trouble. Thankfully, it is not one that plagues me too often."
In spite of himself, Enjolras indulged in a chuckle. Grantaire refilled his glass for the third time, still not taking any for himself. The golden-haired Chief swirled the golden liquid before he drank, pensive. It no longer made him want to suck air through his teeth as he swallowed - This must be one of the particular displeasures a man can grow used to. He asked, "Do you drink because it makes you brave, or because it stops you feeling afraid?"
A raised eyebrow. "Many would say those constitute the same thing."
Enjolras narrowed his eyes and took a sip. "Both situations are ones where drinking gives you courage, I suppose." The student considered again his own riddle. "But I think in one case you are trying to hide from the fear that already pursues you. In the other, you are preparing yourself in advance to face any peril that might yet come."
"Or perhaps I am merely drinking because it is one of the many pleasures I enjoy for the express purpose that it keeps the banality and misery of the world at bay?" Grantaire offered. Enjolras reflected.
"Then it seems you are of the first category: running from the thing you fear."
Grantaire straightened in his seat. "While you are running towards it. You must think me a coward in comparison - no, you needn't deny it," he raised a hand against his companion's protests. "It's true, is it not, that you, with all the courage and spirit of Achilles avenging his Patroclus, are making preparations to meet the greatest threat to yourself and your cause, the thing you must fear the most, head-on?"
The spark burst suddenly into a flame. With total, illuminating conviction, he insisted, "I don't fear it."
This time Enjolras' gaze fell away from his companion's penetrating stare. He spoke, quite hesitantly. "Much like your Achilles, there is little I shall not be taking with me that should cost me anything to lose."
Grantaire inched evermore forwards. He was softly enraptured with the man as he asked, "How so?"
He would not tear his eyes away from where they remained trained on the table - it pained him too much to even think of meeting poor Patroclus' eye, as he knew precisely how hypocritical and defeated his own sombre confession made him sound. There was a strange, sudden stiffness to the air that made it difficult for him to force the words to manifest: "Everything I am, everything in my life that matters, is entirely invested in this fight for true liberty. I have no family but those comrades of mine I love as dearly as brothers, who have chosen to dedicate themselves to our cause as fervently as I have. There is no child to restrain me with guilt, and no woman but our beloved Patria has ever turned my head or whispered love into my ear. All of my hopes and all of my faith is tied up in this beautiful dream for our nation's people, there is nothing selfish left for myself. Don't you know, I have never had anything to tether me to the world outside our revolution, 'Taire. There are believers, who will stand beside me, and there is freedom, which lies ahead. But behind me are only things I will no longer have use for, or things which always evaded me anyway."
Grantaire watched him for a long time. He only relented when, finally, the blond dared to glance back up at him from below the tendrils hanging from his bowed head. He said at last, "I envy you, my dear. It's quite fascinating when you have so much compassion, but it is clear you are more numb than I could ever dream of being."
Marble flinched. "You sound displeased, Grantaire." The backs of his fingers pressed more insistently into the man's hand. Even then, with frustration writhing just under his skin, the alcoholic didn't draw away. Without a roomful of people to share his humanity with, the leader became more intoxicating than ever. "Poor R. What is it I have said that you find disagreeable?"
"Everything." The words were drawn out of him languorously, like an external force compelled him - he himself had no desire to confess. "I'm sorry, forgive me. That is what troubles me, though: Everything you said you've never had..."
The young leader filled the expectant silence with his own defence before his friend could elaborate, "I was speaking my truth, I did assume -"
"- Let me finish. God, for once, my dear captain," Grantaire chuckled, slow as the rest of his words, relishing in spite of everything the look of surprise on Enjolras' face at being so firmly quieted; "Before you dismiss me, I beg you to listen to the inarticulate barking of this dog. Everything you say lack, those tethers to a capacity for love and life and self outside of the great turmoil of the world, all of it is exactly what you have always been to me. I could never have dreamed of meaning the same to you, naturally, but ah... Did you know?" He waited, to no response other than all expression falling from his face. "I'd bet you didn't. Look at you, pale as a ghost - but no, no, we mustn't joke about such things. Not when you insist on having us both killed."
"I see." He did not. He took a moment just to absorb what had been said - there was much that he did not know how to respond to. He almost managed tenderness when he eventually reflected, "You needn't be so sure of my impending doom, R."
"Why not? I know you are." A knowing gleam lit his dark eyes. "Éponine told me what she told you."
Enjolras sighed, leaning back in his seat and breaking contact with his companion, shattering their moment of naked connection. Dismissive once again, he insisted, "I don't have any particular belief in the spiritual realm. And even if I did think there were a select few who could read the future, I wouldn't place my faith in the words of a destitute girl trying to make her necessary means by any means necessary."
"Then why did you pay for her service?" Grantaire challenged, signs of the adversary he usually played gathering about him. But he was not intending to mock his leader this time, only to understand him.
"The girl needs to eat." Enjolras shrugged, as though paying a girl claiming clairvoyance to read a little of his future was the most natural thing in the world when it might guarantee her enough money for a few days' food. Charity, even to those too proud to accept it unless it came disguised as a wage, was something he with all his principles excelled at.
Nonetheless, Grantaire elected to ignore his reasoning. He was quietly intense as he pressed, "I know what she told you. Don't you want to know what she told me?"
Enjolras smiled - skepticism, not indulgence. Any form of insincerity or doubt, it emerged, looked bizarre on his soft, open face. His features were crafted for devout faith, not the dubious kind of pessimism which looked so out of place as he answered, "I wouldn't believe it if you did."
"Cynic," Grantaire smirked.
Enjolras was compelled to return it. "Indeed." He nodded, finding himself compromising to indulge his friend's entertainment. He mused, "Perhaps I shall die. It's no great stretch to imagine it as a possibility. But if I do, please be certain that it will not be because of a young fortune teller's prediction, but because it has always been my destiny to lay down everything I have for the sake of the people."
The cynic tilted his head to the side. Perplexed, he summarized, "So you don't believe in reading the future, but you have no qualms about the idea of fate?"
"One makes more sense than the other. If any psychic should make such an assumption and ultimately be proven correct, it will be because fate has marked my soul so clearly as one which would willingly be sacrificed to further the cause, enough that anyone, clairvoyant or otherwise, might see it." Though his companion remained silent, Enjolras had the distinct impression he was mocking him so he stopped, and refocused himself. "Yet, I digress. You've succeeded in distracting me, Monsieur. But I wanted to say, fate has not marked you for the same thing it has me. If I should die, there is no reason that you should perish. I wouldn't want your life to be wasted all in the name of proving a point."
Now Grantaire laughed out loud. He would often laugh at Enjolras, it was a real pleasure to tease him among their friends, if only to see the zealous defence he'd throw back in return. Only now, the two of them entirely alone and on the brink of laying themselves bare before one another, there was no humour for him, only disbelief and deep, brutal truth. "Life! What life? You should know - Achilles, your weaknesses is ignorance! - I have no life without you. When you die, the air will turn to smoke in my lungs, my heart will be pierced by the thorned crown of death on your head, and my life will expire with yours. I will fall at your feet, knelt humbly before you in death just as I should be in life, just as Hyacinthus was laid to rest at the feet of Apollo's statue, in a perpetual state of prayer for you, that you may find your way to heaven while I, repentant for my life's excesses which will weigh on my soul not quite heavily enough to have me sentenced to hell, must wander forever through the darkness of limbo, longing for a glimpse of your light." He swallowed, hard, and his his face behind his hand, thankful for the cloak provided by the dim light.
Enjolras was compelled to lower his own gaze out of respect. When Grantaire didn't speak again for a long time, he took it upon himself. Gently he reached across the table to pull away the hand he'd raised to hide the rare, unbridled passion on his face. He was able to meet those dark, smoking eyes to ask softly, "How do you know, hm? It's quite some claim. Did Éponine tell you that?"
"No. She didn't need to."
Misery taints everything it touches with it's damp, cool fingers, yet it still longs for company, that it might feel some semblance of warmth before that, too, is dissolved. The two of them found cold comfort in one another, the teenager burdened with the crippling weight of her parents' lifetime of mistakes and the skeptic who drank to forget his own.
Grantaire was ambivalent about the realm beyond. Indifferent when he saw his unlikely friend draw wealthy widows and ambitious young men into smoke-shrouded rooms with her promises of loved ones' messages or prosperity ahead. What he found he could trust, though, was the sharp wit he saw gleaming in a girl who'd borne all the pain of the world on her young shoulders, and knew far too well how to recognize it in others. He wanted to believe she had learned from an old crone the significance of the lines crisscrossing his hands, and that there was something to it when she cajoled him into drinking bitter tea and peering intently at the remaining dregs, or when she stopped mid-sentence, only to say there was something she thought she'd almost remembered but couldn't quite explain.
But mostly, he knew she was right when, lips stained from wine so that they almost resembled the soft pink petals he loved so fiercely on Enjolras, she confirmed what he'd always believed would come true.
"He's going to get himself killed, R. Maybe not quite yet, he might have some time. But he wants something that is almost impossible to take, that people have killed to protect hundreds of times over. And he won't stop - he can't, he doesn't know how. He might live his life ten times, and he will always choose this fight - freedom. It's his entire life, and this time around it's going to be the death of him."
Her friend's head rested on the rim of his drained wine bottle, but even with his eyes obscured by his dark curls she knew the defeat she would see there. Whether she could read fortunes was irrelevant; she could read people. She could read her friend just fine.
She shrugged, aiming for nonchalance, but there was such heavy sympathy in the gesture that it cancelled out entirely her intention. "He can't be stopped."
"I know that." He didn't speak again for a few minutes. Éponine had no desire to interrupt the silent sentence hanging above them. After a while, he sighed. "I have to follow him."
She nodded. "You do. God, I hope it turns - I don't know, maybe..." she sighed, leaving unsaid the empty hope of salvation. For all the people who liked to call her a charlatan, those snatches of the future she often caught hold of had never been wrong. There was resignation to her own fate as well as his when she gave him her grave advice. "Stay with him, if you can, if he'll let you. It's how it was meant to be. God, I don't want..." the empathetic words dried on her tongue - there was no use in telling her friend she would rather he not set his heart on the course she'd seen him live out in other lifetimes. He'd be no happier if he had any idea of her own plans. She could only warn, "You're going to bleed for him, Grantaire. I hope you're ready."
The cynic's gaze had drifted, his vision blurred by the fog of memory as it descended upon him, cloaking his thoughts from view. Enjolras watched him lose himself to the long-clawed demons scraping at the walls of his mind, helpless to stop as he wandered down that path of existentialism he'd seemed, for the time they'd thus far shared, to briefly depart from.
It took courage for Enjolras to attempt to pull him back. He set his hand on top of Grantaire's - the man jolted, but didn't pull away. Instead he blinked a few times. After a moment, his vision seemed to clear, replaced once again by tainted affection. But there was bitterness within him too, an almost-hidden resentment which coexisted paradoxically with the undeniable fondness he felt for his beloved Apollo. Enjolras didn't want to accuse his sometimes-friend unduly, but in that moment he had to know, had to ask him: "Why are you here?"
Grantaire deflected so fast it caught the other man off guard. "The door is locked. You with your goodness and morals are explicitly averse to breaking it." Measured, humourless. Enjolras was showing some signs of approaching the truth, and Grantaire was yet to decide whether the prospect of that was terrifying enough that he should try to push him away.
Enjolras persisted, still cupping the rough hand beneath his moon-pale palm. "No, please. Why do you come here, Grantaire? Really, when you are so afraid?"
"I'm not afraid." He didn't look it, either; disappointed, sincere, and more than a little bit exasperated, but he didn't wear fear's signature on his face.
"You feel certain we all shall die. For something you have no genuine interest in." It wasn't a question, this time, but Enjolras was perplexed, and his enquiries did surely warrant and explanation. Grantaire's particular brand of cynicism, fatalism mixed with contempt, was undeniable, and left no room for doubting exactly what he suspected the outcome of their revolutionary endeavour would be. Yet to feel no fear in the face of what he perceived to be certain death, the man must either have a spine of steel or no regard for his life at all - so Enjolras believed. Both were partially true, but both of those assumptions severely underestimated the strength of Grantaire's spirit.
The line of reasoning he instead took was to point out the error of Enjolras' words, not his inferences. "As do you, yet you boast unshakable courage. Besides, I don't know about all of you - I hope not all. You surely will, and so I will too, but - ah. You would know the feeling of course, that there is little I shall not be taking with me that should cost me anything to lose." A grave smile dared the marble man to tear apart his own words, to understand how little sense they made coming from another.
"But -" there was the beginning of a strain about him; he struggled to fight it, to prevent his confusion from spilling over and scalding the both of them. There was so much about his dear Pylades that made him question the very foundations of his life, and made him long to tear down any wall between them that he might understand the man, as well as the bearing he had on the heart beating rapidly in his own chest. He knows the revolution has consumed each part of me. There is nothing that has taken hold of him in such a way, unless, unless, unless... To mis-speak now and hurt him was the last thing he wanted. It was a plea, not a command, as he confessed, "I still don't understand why."
The desperation in his face broke something in Grantaire. "That's what hurts so much." The way he felt was not something he had gone out of his way to hide, only something the incredibly perceptive leader had been miraculously incapable of identifying. Why must it be me, inescapably me, that you can't see? "We're going in circles - that's the problem, you see, we all move in circles, we're bound to repeat forever this cyclical path of devotion and strife - and we're back to the start. You are a star, my dear: so bright, but constantly in the dark."
They were kind words, adoring, almost, but he might as well have screamed his frustrations for the way they melted out of every word. Enjolras retracted his hand, and rested his cheek on it, considering. After some time, his only conclusion was that it made a pretty metaphor. "You might make a good poet if you weren't so often drunk, Pylades."
"False," he raised a finger, not even surprised that Enjolras had missed his point. "All poets drink, because it encourages a suspension of reality: my habits would make me a God among them. But the insinuation is all wrong, Orestes, as this is my moment of greatest sobriety." He tapped the bottle, on the table between them. "It's you who has been drinking tonight, not I."
"True." He sighed - how easily his virtuous discipline had been unravelled by Grantaire. How futile it seemed to resist him now. "Fine, I will try again, if you can allow it. We only have all night."
In a heartbeat, he decided he had no fear of the leader finally understanding the meaning of all that had passed between them. Grantaire nodded, deliberate, stern. "Very well."
Concentration creased his brow as he decided out loud, "You're here because you don't fear your own death, you fear life without the rest of us. Too terrified of being alone to risk being apart from the heart of the battle to come."
Read me, if you can, and I will not try to hide. "Better."
"But it's not just because you don't want to be without us, I don't think," he mused, trying hard, harder than he'd allowed himself before, to peer into the mind of the skeptic. "You're afraid of who you are when you're alone. You don't trust yourself. You don't care for yourself."
"And if you were I, you wouldn't care for me either."
"False," he contradicted, but deigned not to elaborate further on account of the quivering in his chest. "So?"
"Close. Not right, not exactly. Closer than I'd expected you to get." He couldn't accuse him of failure for want of trying, and indeed, he was halfway to the heart of the matter. But it seemed he was intent on seeing only the symptoms, not the root, of the thing that lead him to such high devotion.
Enjolras smiled. "I think there's a compliment and an insult in there somewhere. Well, go on, then; what have I missed out? Won't you tell me why you're really here, if it's not just as I said?"
"I thought I already had." In every way but by plainly saying it, I love you, I love you.
"No, you were -"
"You. You, Enjolras."
It hit him. "Me."
"You. All for you, you fool, my dear, blind idiot. Captain." Perhaps the darkness was deceiving him, or perhaps the guilt he thought he saw in Grantaire's eyes wasn't an illusion. It sounded like an apology when he insisted, "I did tell you. I have told you, every day since we met. But we move in circles and you're still even more a fool than I."
"That's true," Enjolras confirmed, more than you might have guessed, I am a fool for not seeing the very thing I was afraid to want. His heart plummeted, chipping his marble shell from within. Not a crack manifested outwardly on his fine visage, however, revealing infuriatingly little while he fixated on the fact that yes, he was an idiot beyond all measure. He sounded hollow. "I wasn't aware. I didn't realize the things you said -"
"Didn't believe there could ever be sincerity from any mouth so frequently filled with the wine, I expect; I know, I know." Grantaire hoped Enjolras missed the dampness of his eyes just as much as Enjolras hoped it wasn't truly there. He smirked, somehow, smug despite it all because he was right, he knew it, and that had to count for something, "But you overestimate the power of people who don't care while forever ignoring the will of the ones who do."
"I underestimate you, I suppose?" Softly, humbly, not scornful now because at long last he could see just how genuine the man was trying to be. How he'd wished for such a thing, in the back of his mind, where he could convince himself it was only the taunting he wanted a reprieve from, and not access to the open heart he hoped hid behind it.
But Grantaire couldn't allow himself to relent, to be kind and gentle when there was no sweetness capable of conveying the immense, bitter resentment Enjolras in all his glorious ignorance had inflicted on him. His only option was to plead with quiet anger for him to understand the hurt he caused, "You know you do. It's my fault. But you never want to see it, never; you don't even know if you can believe in me right now, even as I sit before you splitting my heart into two so that you might see it is you and only you that makes my blood run red."
Enjolras stood. Slowly, for it seemed until that moment he had never felt the pull of gravity as fiercely as he did then. There was a tempest swirling on his face, and even in the dim light his blue eyes resembled oceans in which they might both be drowned. For a heartbeat, Grantaire thought that this god, contemptful of the mere human Hyacinthus, might strike him. Then he remembered the boundless compassion of the man before him, and knew at once there was never a chance. Then he thought he must be about to walk away, placing as much distance between them as the small cafe would permit, and that idea made his stomach flip, he's afraid of me, the things he sees at last that I feel. But Enjolras made no move to leave, either. What was in fact seconds stretched out as he waited, holding his breath between his teeth, for Apollo to beg forgiveness in the only way he could think to: He leaned over until his brow rested flat against Grantaire's temple, and kissed his cheek. Eyes closed, his mouth pressed a second clumsy, slow, desperate kiss onto the parted lips, bringing with it everything that the cynic had yearned for.
But there was an uncertainty there too, a hurried urgency that spoke of death's shadow encroaching upon the both of them. It was a kiss of obligation, he feared, the culmination of a future martyr's anxieties and guilt and curiosity, not love, it could never be love. He hasn't enough heart or time left for it. And he could kiss him back, tantalize himself by indulging in such a fantasy as this, but when even a chaste first kiss tasted of despair, there could be no doubt of how this dream would reach its end.
Grantaire would not allow himself to respond.
Quite as slowly as he had descended, Enjolras withdrew back to his seat.
A man who'd spent any time learning the intricacies of his own heart would be able to instantly identify when it was breaking. For Enjolras, the only name he could think to give the feeling was pain.
"R." His gaze dropped, humiliated - it had been selfish to try and kiss him. And yet, the answer to why he had not reciprocated came suddenly, he can't let himself believe we might share something truly real because he is sure it will be lost. There were no words but, "I'm sorry."
Grantaire closed his eyes and shook his head, and when they opened again there was pity there, though it could have been aimed at either of them. "There is nothing that can be changed by you. Your eyes are blind to all but one thing, there is only room for one fight in your heart, and I know it cannot be the one to save me from myself. You believe in your fate, I know that. I don't think I would love you quite the same if you didn't."
Love, love, love. Apollo's temple walls were torn down completely, and he insisted, "I believe in you, too."
"And I you."
"I want -" a cold resolve came over him like a wave, choking him on his words. What I want matters nothing. Because you are right, Pylades, I know my path. It was neither the cynic nor his clairvoyant friend who had convinced him of it; the conviction in his own heart, the commitment that had always been part of him to his ideals, had pledged his very soul to the fight. Should anyone fall in the battle to come, he would inevitably be among them. It will be my place to sacrifice myself. It should stay mine alone. With great effort, he said, "You shouldn't be hurt because of me."
The cynic's eyebrows jumped up, as if of all the things that had been said and done, it was that which had surprised him the most. Perplexed, he replied, "You can't protect everyone."
"I should be able to protect you," Enjolras insisted. He made to touch Grantaire's hand again, before remembering he had no right to do so, yet the other man noticed, bemused. He tried to convey with the intensity of words alone, "If I should fall, it will be for the revolution. If you should fall, it will be only for me. I don't permit that to happen." There was a sting in his eyes. Grantaire's hand might have been a comfort or a challenge when he took it upon himself to take hold of Enjolras' fingers. He begged, "Please, R. Let me be."
"I don't mean to make you uncomfortable." A challenge for sure. There was comprehension in his expression now, in sharp contrast with the ignorance he feigned to remain immune to the true meaning of that request. For he'd come to learn the truth about Enjolras on that night: the man had loved him just as Grantaire fiercely adored Enjolras in return, and yet his destiny was so clearly set out that it had prevented him from even acknowledging it until he was confronted unavoidably with Grantaire's own exposed heart. And Enjolras had never been truly receptive to him, but he hadn't been a cruel muse either, just as he hadn't meant to be cruel with those kisses that promised everything they didn't have time to share. But it did seem unjustly cruel now, to deny Hyacinthus the small salvation of being able to freely follow where he would go.
"I mean it." He covered Grantaire's hand with his free one, and gently prised the cynic's grip away from his own fingers. "You are sensible, to resist the mouth of an ignorant fool. I don't want to risk you being hurt for one."
"Then don't waste your life on a pointless fight." He flinched from his own words - he knew, he'd always known what had to come first. That didn't stop the envy bubbling inside him, though, however much he might have wanted to give in graciously and submit himself to Enjolras' every wish without it ever being acknowledged.
A hardness returned. All of a sudden, they might have been at a regular meeting, since the tenderness melted away when the bold democrat Harmodius said, "It's not pointless to me, Grantaire, and that's precisely why you should stay away from the revolution."
"You don't have a revolution, you have a handful of friends and a few history books," Grantaire retorted, frustration leaking out in the tears from his eyes.
"You're not listening." White knuckles pressed into wood, missing the warmth of soft hands atop them.
"And you don't know how to care."
"Then why do you think I want to keep you as far from me as possible?" It came out harshly, harder and colder than intended, but Enjolras didn't pause long enough to soften his tone. "I don't want you anywhere near me. Not now, and not when we take to the streets. You are a danger to morale and a danger to yourself, and I do not want the waste of any apathetic man's life, even if that life is a foolish one with no purpose or meaning of its own, on my conscience."
Enjolras was breathing hard.
It was an accident. Then again, the worst things we say often are.
He blinked, tried to calm himself, why is he so calm, "Forgive -"
The scraping of the chair against the floor cut him off. "I should leave." As Grantaire stood, he pushed the bottle closer to Enjolras - he himself had still not taken a drop. "You should not follow me, it is wrong to follow a man you want nothing to do with." He made his way, watched in silence, to the door. It was only then that he displayed a little-used skill of his, pushing the pin he wore in his lapel into the lock and twisting until it clicked.
"'Taire. I spoke out of turn. I don't mean -"
Hyacinthus did not shy away from meeting his guilt-ridden gaze, even with tears invading his vision. "I will see you at tomorrow's meeting. You have been callous tonight, Apollo, no doubt because of your convictions, and I will repay you for it when the time comes that your fate is realised." He made to walk away, but the sigh from the table where he'd abandoned the man snagged on his heart, making him hesitate. "You will believe you hate me for it - good," he said, slowly, sincerely, despising himself for the love surging through his veins, "But I will follow you, Enjolras. And when I die with you, you will no longer see it as a punishment or burden, but as a sweet salvation. Your heart's reward for giving your soul to the cause. And you will permit it, dear Captain."
He left then, and didn't stop this time. Pylades left only a crack of moonlight in his wake, with nothing more that might indicate his sober revelations had shaken marble to its core. And Enjolras had never thought much of alcohol, but he reached again for the whiskey, just this once intrigued, hoping that maybe, if he left his conscience in that bottle, the poison might be kind enough to erase all of the night's words from where they'd been etched irrevocably into his memory.
I would still be on my feet.
He put his lips to the rim and tasted Grantaire's unyielding mouth.