It's not until Jehan finds himself on the cobblestones of the walkway that he realizes he should have been paying more attention to his surroundings. He shakes his head a little to reorient himself, but only a little, because he's worried about dislodging the low-braided bun he managed to wrangle his hair into (that bun is the reason he's running so late; he's not about to fricken waste all that time and effort now is he?)
"Jehan! Jesus!" It is with palpable relief Jehan registers that the person he ran into is exactly the person he was hoping to find.
"Thanks, R," he says as Grantaire pulls him up and brushes the dust off his coat. "We have to stop meeting like this!"
"Jehan, what the hell man? I texted you half an hour ago about where you wanted to meet for lunch, you never replied…Jehan!" Jehan skids to a stop. He was hoping Grantaire would follow if he just up and took off running again, but he supposes that was too unrealistic a hope; as if Grantaire would ever be caught dead running anywhere!
"No time to explain!" Jehan gasps out, "We're gonna be late!" He jogs back the few meters to be standing in front of his friend again. Grantaire is looking less and less thrilled by the second. The Eyebrow of Extreme Skepticism and Disappointment (as Jehan refers to it) is raised as high as he has seen it in the last few weeks. But Jehan will not be deterred.
"Come on!" He grabs Grantaire by the plaid sleeve and takes off at the same collision-inducing pace.
Jehan can't remember being this happy, maybe ever. It's not as if he was particularly unhappy before he met Grantaire, he was just very solitary. He had an isolated childhood with only his grandparents for company at the cottage. He never (surprise, surprise) fit in with the other kids at school, because of his grandparents and other things too. Some of his solitude, of course, was by choice but some of it…Jehan has had friends before, but not many he wanted to stay in touch with when moving to university. He was never good at that and now too much time has passed for reaching out to be anything but more pain than it would be worth.
Before Grantaire, whole days would go by without Jehan saying anything to anyone except his grandma on the phone. It didn't bother him so much as escape his notice? Looking back on it now, it had been like there was a thin veil drawn between Jehan and everyone else he crossed paths with, shimmering and appropriately gauzy for a veil sure, but very present all the same. It had felt impenetrable until he knocked it down by knocking Grantaire down.
He and Grantaire have been hanging out for just over two weeks now, and Jehan feels his joy at being with people has been ignited. Or, maybe just the one person.
That first day at lunch cemented the fact that Grantaire is vastly more cool than Jehan is: R is an art student in his second year and he is also from around Edmonton (Jehan found out they'd frequented some of the same spoken word poetry venues back home, though Grantaire stressed he had been there under extreme duress.) They'd talked so much – words overlapping and food getting everywhere in their haste to express – Jehan was almost late for his next class and had barely eaten his salad. They had lunch the next day and the day after that, then they'd played video games that whole weekend. The sun had stung their eyes when Grantaire left on Sunday evening – they'd eaten nothing but chips and dip and hadn't truly moved from the couch in two days, so that wasn't surprising.
No, Jehan can't remember being this happy, or the last time he had a friend he liked as much as he likes Grantaire. He hadn't known how acutely lonely he was until he abruptly was no longer. Grantaire doesn't express it much, but Jehan is sure he'd been lonely too. It is why they make such a great pair.
Jehan tunes Grantaire's complaints out as he tugs them along to their destination; it is thankfully not far, because they are both already out of breath. Maybe he should look into yoga or Pilates or something, Jehan thinks, but the thought fades as they arrive at the Arts and Sciences building. Jehan lets go of Grantaire's arm – "Finally!" his friend growls with a huff – in order to hold the door open for him. Grantaire stalks through, straightening his shirt out and still grumbling.
The beat of Jehan's heart increases with each landing they reach on the stairs. They can hear the murmurings of people as they make their way down, which Jehan is relieved to note means they are not yet late. He is positive Grantaire is glaring holes through his collar, but this will be so worth it. Jehan couldn't very well not have lunch with Grantaire today, but he also couldn't miss this month's session! He might have just…forgotten to text Grantaire about it in the midst of his hair struggles.
Grantaire's finally stopped asking questions and muttering vague threats behind Jehan as they find themselves at the bottom of the stairs, which is a relief – Jehan's heartbeat is in his throat and his mouth is so dry no response would come out anyway.
The last landing of the stairs opens into a long hall with low lighting. It is clearly a multi-purpose space – locked cabinets line the far wall, and there are desks of all kinds as well as easels stacked precariously at the back. Right now, it is set up to function as a quasi cabaret theatre, complete with lounge seating, a slightly raised platform to the right of them that boasts all of two mics, and some picnic pitchers full of drinks.
Jehan tries to casually check the state of his hair in the mirror he's just tall enough to see in across the room, ignoring Grantaire scoffing beside him. "What is this place?" he asks, in a tone Jehan can't decipher. Wonder? Horror? Little bit of both? Unfortunately, Jehan never gets the chance to respond. In his stretching to see more of his hair in the mirror, he stumbles off the last two steps.
"Shit!" Jehan is preparing to meet the floor and just lie there, accepting his Very Embarrassing Fate, but Grantaire grabs hold of the back of his shirt before he can fall. It chokes him a tad, but in the end he just wobbles a little before Grantaire sets his feet down properly on the floor. Grantaire's eyebrows are arching up into his curly hairline.
"You ok, dude? You seem a little…jumpier than usual." Jehan chuckles awkwardly and waves him off, though he supposes Grantaire will figure it out soon enough (he's incredibly observant when he wants to be, damn him.) Grantaire shrugs. They weave through the mostly-full tables and chairs to find a place to sit, a place Jehan hopes has a good view of the left microphone. He's trying to take some calming breaths (he hasn't really gotten his breath back from all the running yet) but it's doing anything but working. It's not Jehan's fault though! He can't help that he's felt as if someone replaced the blood in his veins with caffeine since he woke up this morning, and he certainly can't help that every moment since has only increased the feeling.
This is just how Jehan always feels when he's about to see Courfeyrac perform.
"So." Grantaire has his arms crossed and he's leaning lazily back in his chair (he likes to look like he doesn't care.) Jehan stops jiggling his legs and tears his eyes away from the stage – both are harder to manage than he would like to admit.
Grantaire rolls his eyes. "Are you ever going to tell me what we're here to see?" he asks.
"Hmmm?" Jehan hears the words, he does, but all his senses are straining to alert him the minute the show starts. He doesn't want to miss a second he could have to admire Courfeyrac.
"Jehan!" He snaps his gaze back to Grantaire a little guiltily.
"Sorry, R. It's a, uh…" One of the musicians comes out onstage, and the feedback from them tuning their guitar makes Jehan twitch. "It's a…showcase of sorts." Grantaire fails to look impressed and Jehan is beginning to regret this. "I thought it'd be fun?" he finishes weakly. Grantaire stares at him, stares hard, for a second, but something in Jehan's manner must make him give a little.
He shakes his head. "Only for you," he mumbles, and if it were any other day, Jehan would pounce and never let him hear the end of that. As it is though…
A young man comes onstage Jehan's seen but never met; at the sight of him, Jehan sits at attention in his chair. It is not Courfeyrac, but Jehan is still electrified by the sight - he recognizes the redhead as representing the same club as Courfeyrac.
"Hello everyone…" The groups nearest the pseudo-stage quiet and begin to settle down at the announcement, but not everyone towards the back seems to hear. Jehan's heart goes out to the guy – his hair is going every which way and is fizzing in the three floodlights behind him and he has skipped a button halfway through doing up his shirt. Frazzled would be a generous descriptor. He clearly doesn't have the patience or the time to wait for the audience to listen to him so he makes them listen by letting out an ear piercing whistle.
"Jesus," Grantaire mutters, rubbing his ears. It did the job though: everyone promptly shuts up and sits down or leans against a wall. The redhead isn't fazed in the slightest.
"Thank you," he says, with a wry smile for the now-quiet crowd. He is cute, Jehan muses, in a hassled, over-achieving A-type kind of way. "And thank you for coming to this month's Arts and Sciences club showcase!" Jehan can feel Grantaire's eyes on him, boring into him, at those words. He will never hear the end of this, he is positive. His legs start jiggling under the table again.
"If this is your first time here, welcome," the redhead at the mic is saying now. "A few of my friends and I started doing this at the beginning of this year to get the news out about our club, and now look what we've become!" A few people at tables closer than Jehan and Grantaire give loud 'whoops' in response; they must be regulars, more so than Jehan is even (Jehan came for the inclusion and variety, he stayed for Courfeyrac sightings.) He can't imagine what Grantaire is thinking at this point. Actually, he can, but Jehan decides he doesn't want to imagine. That train of thought is just increasing the need to jiggle his legs.
"But enough about us, we've got a big itinerary to cover, so without further ado I give you – Brujon!" Jehan must have spent the rest of the redhead's intro lost in his thoughts. The redhead bounces offstage and Jehan sees him grab a clipboard and one of those headset mics. He must be in charge; Jehan pities him even more now (although he must know Courfeyrac, so surely that life couldn't be so bad…?)
A familiar-looking taller man steps onstage, and only then does Jehan realize the redhead meant this Brujon. He groans. Audibly. Brujon is in Jehan's Poetry Analysis class. Jehan really wishes he wasn't. He has a tendency to just reiterate what other students say, offering up their insight as his own and sounding like he's flipped through a thesaurus in search of fancy-sounding words. Jehan hates people like that.
Brujon drops the paper he'd been pulling out of his pocket and Grantaire just barely bites back a snicker.
"This should be good."
Jehan watches Brujon read some…interesting slam poetry about his basketball club of all things (how on Earth is that related to Arts and Sciences?) Grantaire spends the whole time Brujon is speaking kicking Jehan anytime he says something truly ridiculous. Must be his way of coping. Jehan, for his part, just tries to tune Brujon out, and he mostly succeeds. He watches the next three acts up after as if from a much farther distance than he is actually sitting, his way of coping perhaps. His excitement and anxiety have launched Jehan to a space far away from the performers, somewhere their words and acts (some quite good and some god awful, judging from whether Grantaire reacts or not) can't reach him. It's nice to sit there in outer space, in his own world of words and thoughts and caffeinated blood, but he distantly feels bad for not listening.
To be fair, he is usually better at paying attention to what is being showcased: he went to the floriculture and pomology club because of what he saw at this showcase! Today, however, his usual nerves and the excitement of having Grantaire here have turned Jehan into a terrible audience member. He thinks his legs are still jiggling, but he can't be sure. Gah, when is Courfeyrac going to step out?!
After the seventh or so act – an interpretive dance of sorts from the multiculturalism club that Grantaire doesn't visibly seem to mind – Jehan gives up. His head thunks onto the table in defeat as he laments the loss of his sanity for nothing. The showcase should be wrapping up relatively soon, they usually only last about half Jehan's lunch break on Thursdays, and Courfeyrac hasn't come out yet. Maybe he's not going to, Jehan thinks, and punctuates this thought with another head-thunk against the table. Maybe today will be the first day ever he doesn't perform on behalf of his club.
"Dude," Grantaire whispers (the acts must be changing over, so there is at least one more before the end.) "You alright?" Jehan groans. He wants to say no, I'm a moronic imbecile or no, but at least this table is treating my forehead kindly or maybe even why have I chosen to torment myself in this way, why? Before he decides on an answer, a guitar is strummed, accompanied by a familiar throat clear. Jehan's head whips up from the table so fast he gives himself whiplash.
Courfeyrac stands there at the left microphone, strumming his acoustic guitar. He gives the audience a sheepish smile as he makes sure the strings are in tune, like he's saying be right with you, everyone! Jehan can't help the tiny sigh that escapes; his jiggling legs have finally stopped their dance. He doesn't dare look at Grantaire, who is concerningly quiet about this new act.
The floodlights bleach the top of Courfeyrac's head a luminescent silver, the shade of which stretches down his hair before it gives way to the normal inky blackness of his curls. Grantaire's hair is also black, but Courfeyrac's hair looks softer somehow, like Grantaire got the darkest form of the night sky and Courfeyrac got the one tinged with enough navy to soften the harshness. Maybe that's just Jehan romanticizing again, and why is he even comparing the hair colours of his totally unattainable crush and his (best, but he hasn't gotten the courage to say it to R yet) friend in the first place?
He quashes the voice rising in his head as he sneaks glances from Courfeyrac to Grantaire and back again (it's hard to look away from Courfeyrac for long stretches of time.)
They both have curly hair too, but Grantaire's is shorter, the curls are tighter. Jehan thinks they might feel like a Brillo Pad if he touched them. Courfeyrac, on the other hand, looks like he at least knows what conditioner is. His hair is much longer, though not as long as Jehan's, and it falls in waves to rest just above his shoulders. He must use conditioner, Jehan thinks. Maybe something that smells like coconut or almonds… Grantaire's hair doesn't smell like anything, he doesn't think…and oh my GOD why is he doing this comparison thing again?!
Maybe because Grantaire is the first person who's cared about you the same way you care about him in a long time? the nasty brain voice sneers. Maybe because you've never had to differentiate between your crushes and your friends before?
Maybe because feelings are confusing?
He shakes his head in a visible effort to clear his thoughts – Courfeyrac must've introduced his song because he is playing the intro now. He has a thoughtful, concentrated furrow to his forehead (that Jehan is Definitely Not going to write a poem about later) as he picks his way across the strings.
Then he opens his mouth and begins to sing.
"I've lived long enough
to grow weary
of just how very cruel
this world can be.
Am I supposed to 'sit tight,'
leave well enough alone?
You say the people who fight
are not my own?"
Jehan can't sing a note to save his life, but he's always loved the way music's dips and falls can transport him places and tell stories just as well as words can.
"I've seen enough fire
witnessed enough rage.
People create barbed wire
so their hearts may disengage."
The tune of this song is simple, but Jehan feels it in his chest somehow, like the melody is reaching in to grab something from him (he isn't sure what is being reached for just yet.) Courfeyrac's voice is clear; he seems to soar or descend in pitch effortlessly.
"I can't be quiet, oh please,
for goodness sake!
Don't you see there's more
than our lives at stake?"
Jehan likes the way Courfeyrac crafts his words. Jehan's own head is full of so many words and images and wishes, half of which he doesn't know the meaning of. His poem pages end up littered with three, sometimes four, syllable words and lots of question marks. Courfeyrac's rhyme scheme isn't some sophisticated form or structure, but his words fill it out. They leave no room for questions. Jehan likes that, and he likes that the words of this pretty boy can also leave him gutless on top of his overall…prettiness. Pretty is the right word for Courfeyrac. It wouldn't be right for some of Jehan's other objects of affection – handsome or striking or regal worked in those situations – but Courfeyrac is simply pretty, damnably so. He reminds Jehan of a jewelry store. Full of carefully-crafted things you cannot touch unless you are meant to.
Jehan is so often drawn into something or someone just because of the way they shine. It is nice to like someone with depth too (or as much depth as you can get from only knowing them through performance.)
He listens as Courfeyrac continues singing the end of the chorus and notices that his voice is wavering. Is it emotion, or uncertainty? His guitar strumming starts to slow down a little, before he revamps and repeats the tagline of the chorus like a coda. He must be drawing to the end, though this is a one-verse song if that is the case.
Jehan is leaning forward as Courfeyrac sings "I've watched the flames grow higher/May this song inspire some change," and adds a little trill on the last note while striking his final chord.
"Thank you," he says into the mic, receiving the hearty applause with bright eyes. "That song is uh…not quite finished yet." He looks embarrassed by the admission. He repeats: "So, uh, thanks again!" Then he shakes his hand out and plays the intro to a song he's played at this showcase before. The notes ring out louder than Jehan would expect from an acoustic guitar. He feels them on the back of his skull.
Courfeyrac gives a 'whoop' and then he's off, playing wildly for the rest of his time onstage, all his earlier hesitation wiped away by the cheers of the audience as they recognize songs he's played for them before.
Grantaire has waited two beats after they sat down at the dinner across the street to begin speaking. The nonchalant 'so' is his first word after asking where Jehan wanted to go for lunch and Jehan telling him about this place. If Jehan hadn't been spending as much time as he could in the last few weeks in Grantaire's presence, learning to read his facial expressions, he would be very worried he'd upset Grantaire.
Unfortunately, Jehan can read many of Grantaire's miniscule facial expressions, and he can tell by the barely-perceptible smirk tugging at his friend's mouth that this is going to be…fun. There is nothing for it but to go once more unto the breach, though.
So, Jehan blithely glances around the retro dinner at all the cheesy paraphenalia before letting his gaze land back on Grantaire. The man's face hasn't moved an inch (Jehan should get him to teach him how to master that talent.)
"So, what?" he asks, keenly aware of how much they're mirroring their previous discussion.
"So. You like boys." It isn't a question. Jehan feels his face heat up – at the fact that Grantaire saw all his feelings for Courfeyrac in a heartbeat, he isn't afraid of Grantaire's reaction to the 'boy' bit – and knows Grantaire has clocked it by the eyebrow he raises in response (this particular eyebrow raise is deemed The Eyebrow of Sardonic Amusement.)
"Yeah?" Jehan replies. "I mean I guess. It's difficult for me to tell, sometimes, when I'm into people…that way…" he trails off, hoping Grantaire will give him a reprieve. No such luck. Grantaire just leans back in his chair and props his head up on his hands. Jehan can see the poem he wrote on Grantaire's wrist during their last Ancient Humor class, though only the words 'dry as my bones will be' flash by before the fabric shifts to cover them.
Jehan steals himself then. This is his friend. His only friend. And he chose to bring him to the showcase for one main reason. He looks Grantaire in the eye and tries his best to mirror his eyebrow raise (he's sure it's not nearly as sardonic though.)
"Boys?" he says, and is proud of his voice for only quavering a small amount, "I think you mean that boy." He tosses his head, even though his hair is tied up, affecting a superior, snobby air. "To answer your question, I don't have a specific label on who I like, but I know I like that boy. Very much!" Jehan crosses his arms – he's trying to be defiant. He feels he succeeds, though he knows his ears and his cheeks are on fire.
Grantaire finally cracks a smile, throwing the remains of the paper cup he's been fiddling with since he finished his drink from the showcase at Jehan. "You have good taste," he says. Jehan smiles back.
They've been munching in comfortable silence for several minutes when Grantaire looks up at Jehan over the crust of his panini (Grantaire has an intense rating scale for judging food places based on their sandwich offerings, and this has merited a coveted 8.5/10, which pleases Jehan. It is his favourite retro dinner, after all.)
"I do too."
Jehan is a little confused. "Sorry?"
Grantaire sets his panini down and begins using his knife to dissect the crumbs on his plate into even smaller portions. He doesn't look ill-at-ease, per se, he just won't meet Jehan's eyes.
"I like guys too. Well, and girls. But yeah."
Jehan nods. Once. Twice. "Ok," he says. Grantaire is still dissecting crumbs, and Jehan wishes he would stop, so he lets the first thing that comes to mind fly out his mouth. "How hot do you think Courfeyrac is then, on your weird sandwich scale?"
Grantaire looks up at him sharply. He has that look on his face, that look from the first few times Jehan met him, the look that says I can't believe you're a real person. Jehan is used to getting many variations of that look, mostly negative, but he really likes it on Grantaire. He likes that he is surprising enough as a person to break through Grantaire's mask on his feelings.
Jehan watches as Grantaire decides to let his emotions fully shine through on his face. These are the moments with him Jehan always likes the best – he can literally see the relief flood through Grantaire's black eyes and feel the tension go out of him as he drops his crumb-dissecting knife. If he could draw people, he would always be trying to draw Grantaire right after he lets the uncaring façade relax. Jehan half wants to ask him why he was so worried about judgement from his friend who is also into guys (kinda, sorta, maybe? On certain days of the week?) but the other half really wants the answer to his sandwich question to landslide into a ridiculous discussion, so he lets the opportunity pass.
Grantaire answers: "So hot," and that's all it takes to set them giggling. "Honestly, really and truly smoking," he spits out through laughter. "I watched him come out onstage and I watched your reaction and I was literally like thank Christ Jehan has good taste. I had a first year drama course with him and I could never focus on the 'drama' bit when he was onstage."
Jehan allows himself a private moment full of the image of Courfeyrac under more direct spotlights, like the ones he saw in the black box on his freshman tour of the school. In Jehan's mind, Courfeyrac is reciting Jehan's favourite sonnet, although in reality it was probably more like playing drama games.
"Was he nice?"
"Oh the nicest. Nice, loud, huggable, that's Courfeyrac."
"Ok, but the scaaaaaaaaale," Jehan pleads. He bangs his palms against the table as accompaniment for his words. "Give me a number where you think he rests on the sandwich scale, and then finish torturing me with tales of your history with the love of my life!"
Grantaire is still giggling ferociously, but he sobers enough to give the ranking the proper dedication it deserves.
"Hmmm." He looks to his left. He looks to his right. He looks up and narrows his eyes in contemplation. Jehan is biting his lip to keep from bursting into laughter and interrupting what is clearly a serious, thought-provoking request. Grantaire closes his eyes for several minutes, screwing his mouth up the entire time, and then looks back at Jehan.
"9.3," he declares.
Jehan is flabbergasted. "A 9.3?! I've never seen you rate anything so high."
"You've known me less than a month."
"Point. But you do eat a ton of sandwiches in my presence."
"Point again but," - there goes that damnable eyebrow once more. Jehan is convinced Grantaire knows how good he is at raising the brow in question, and knows how jealous Jehan is of it, and, and makes a concerted effort to do it all the more in Jehan's presence -
"Am I wrong?" Grantaire asks, biting into his sandwich while holding intense eye contact (with his eyebrow still raised) for a comically long time.
"No, of course not."
Grantaire takes another big bite of his panini. "Love of your life," he muses, chewing noisily. "Have you met him?"
"He was in my first year Lit course!" Jehan replies defensively. The defense slips away into dreamy remembrance: "He always had such original contributions to class discussions about Frankenstein…"
Jehan is pulled out of his recollections by Grantaire's continual noisy chewing.
"Ok, let me ask you this," – Jehan really wishes he would finish chewing and then talk, Jehan is clearly in the blast zone – "Have you ever spoken to him?"
"WHAT? No, who do you think I am?"
"Uh." Grantaire looks stumped by Jehan's intense reaction. "Someone who talks to the people they want to talk to?"
"Nooooooooooooooo." Jehan feels himself shaking his head very quickly. "Nuh uh, that's capable grown up stuff. I can barely keep to my composting schedule! I am NOT the person who readily talks to other people."
"You talked to me…"
"I fell onTOP of you, extraneous circumstances are the only reason - What do you think would happen if I dared to speak to someone that pretty?!"
"He might remember your name?" Grantaire offers weakly. "And want to talk to you again? And I may have low self esteem, but still, I deeply resent your implications."
Jehan knows Grantaire isn't that offended, and he also knows that implying he only talked to Grantaire because he isn't as attractive as Courfeyrac is mean, for lack of a better word, but Jehan is still feeling sick at the thought of speaking to his crush and therefore cannot muster up enough appropriate guilt.
"I'm sorry I didn't mean anything close to that I – I just can't talk to him, that's all."
Grantaire blinks. "Can't? Or won't?"
"Oh, like you can judge me on that!" Jehan scoffs. "You have exactly the same number of friends I do, last time I checked, so how many people are you going out of your way to talk to?"
"But the difference is, I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't have a single, 9.3-on-the-sandwich-scale crush waltzing around with his guitar."
"Grantaaaaaaaaaaaire - Wait!" Jehan narrows his eyes at him. "How do you know he's single?"
The bastard takes a serene bite of his panini, grinning with his mouth full, and makes Jehan fume and wait while he chews. Slowly. Jehan's legs are jiggling again.
"I mean I'm just assuming," Grantaire finally shrugs. He's studying his plate again and pursing his lips peculiarly. "Nobody who plays at a monthly club showcase is in a relationship," he says.
His shoulders are shaking and Jehan finally realizes he's trying to hold in his laughter, which is all it takes to turn Jehan into a pile of incoherent giggles.
His sides are hurting by the time he manages to choke out, "And you'd know this from your many relationships?" which does nothing to ease their mirth.
"His relationship status doesn't matter, none of that matters, R," Jehan says when they can both breathe again. The waiter behind the counter is shaking their head at the dumb university students in their booth. "Whether I can talk to him or not doesn't matter 'cause I have no clue where I'd run into him outside of the showcases. I had a class with him last year, nothing this semester."
Grantaire just rolls his eyes. "We are not done the conversation, I just have to finish my panini before we're late."
They've just finished paying at the counter – Jehan is tempted to apologize to their waiter for their rambunctious nature, but he is just anxious enough from everything today to not try – when a voice calls out from somewhere behind them.
Both R and Jehan freeze, which will be comical at a later date but is just an indication of their terrible crisis responses at the moment. And it is well and truly a crisis, because the voice cannot belong to anyone else but Courfeyrac. Jehan glances at Grantaire because there's not much else he can do.
The disbelief on Grantaire's face is slowly being replaced by something that looks dangerously close to rapture; Jehan's stomach has caught up to speed with the situation and gives a violent, rebellious twist. A disarmed, joyous Grantaire is completely at odds with his frayed plaid and ears peppered with piercings - the industrial has always been Jehan's favourite, he would get one himself if he thought he could handle the pain and commitment. Grantaire waggles his eyebrows at Jehan, then spins around to give Courfeyrac a little two-fingered salute.
"Courf, hey, good to see you man." He's doing an awfully good job at keeping his voice light and unconcerned, but Jehan can detect the mischief lurking under the casual words. He turns himself around much more slowly to see Courfeyrac waving at the two of them (well, Grantaire really) from the booth two away from where they'd been sitting.
Jehan realizes Courfeyrac has been waving them over only after Grantaire complies. Jehan's stomach does not like this addition to events.
"I thought I saw you when I was onstage, but I wasn't sure. Hard to tell with those shitty lights."
"Yeah, they were kinda aimed more into our eyes than at you. Who rigged them?"
"I don't know, Feuilly's always struggling with people to help set up. Whoever's available from the Amis usually helps him do it."
"Tell Feuilly to dm me, I know someone who might be able to help if they're not too hungover. Even then I'll bet they'd still do a better job than that shitshow."
Courfeyrac's voice warms. "Thanks, he'll appreciate that. Hey, good to see you too, Jehan!"
Jehan's head whips up in a way that makes him regret all the strain he's put on his neck today. He's been doing a thorough analysis of the checkered tablecloth so he doesn't make prolonged and awkward eye contact, and doing a good job of it. He could write up a nice report about checkered patterns by now, he's sure. He was truly hoping to get through this exchange without speaking, it's not like Grantaire was going to win conversationalist of the year no matter how bubbly Courfeyrac was so the conversation should have been short, but this is something else altogether. He's been addressed. By name.
He has no choice but to look up. Courfeyrac is smiling and his eyes are bright. He's put on a sweater since leaving the showcase, the pink shade of which is making his face look as highlighted as a magazine ad. He's looking at Jehan, and Jehan is suddenly and acutely aware that he's never seen Courfeyrac's eyes this close before (it's not even close by anyone's normal standards.) Jehan then realizes he should respond, one needs to speak when one's been addressed, he repeats, by name.
"Yeah, nice to see – hey," is what he manages, which is terrible but could be worse. He pictures Grantaire wincing beside him and prays to all the gods he knows to keep his face a neutral colour right now.
Courfeyrac doesn't seem perturbed. "You guys want to join me? I have some time to kill before my club meets up?"
It is this statement that finally skids Jehan's brain to a conclusive halt. Thankfully, Grantaire is there to be Jehan's knight in plaid-and-ripped-denim armor.
"Uh, thanks but we both have classes on the other side of campus, so." This isn't entirely a lie; Jehan's class just happens to be much closer than R's.
"No sweat," Courfeyrac nods.
"Yeah so we should probably head out…"
Jehan's mouth moves of it's own accord before his thought has even processed: "I liked your song today!" It sounds like a shout to him, but it's actually come out so jumbled that no one seems to have properly heard what he said (Courfeyrac's confused face is endearingly earnest, and Jehan has never wished for death more.)
"Your song," he repeats helplessly. "Today, I, uh. Really liked it."
Grantaire is looking at him like he's grown another head (very Hydra of him, if he had) but Jehan isn't actually regretting being honest and communicative right now. He had liked the song. People who haven't been crushing on you for a year and a bit can also like your songs, that isn't suspicious.
Courfeyrac tucks his hands under his thighs and rocks on them slightly. Offstage, he is always moving, a lot like Grantaire, actually. But with Grantaire it's a sure sign he is dying on the inside. Courfeyrac just seems to not even notice when he's in motion (damn you, comparison brain!) It makes his grounded-ness on stage all the more obvious.
"Thanks," he says, and there is that embarrassed tone again. "It's not done yet, but, yeah," he shrugs, "I wanted to play it for an audience, see if they actually responded to it, if it was worth continuing my writing."
"Well, I liked it!" Jehan wishes he could find something constructive to say, could pin the words on top of all the feelings Courfeyrac's song had evoked within him and pull something meaningful out of his brain, but, like they always do, the words fail him in the heat of the moment.
"Yeah, it's good," Grantaire adds, seeming not to want to watch Jehan fail at conversation endlessly. His usual smooth, noncommittal tone is giving way though, as he hastily adds, "Not that I know jackshit about song writing."
They lapse into silence. Ok, they had a nice run of it, Jehan thinks, but now they're slowly tanking, they should leave before he word vomits something else at Courfeyrac.
"Well, uhhhh, see you at the next showcase, Courfeyrac," he stutters.
"Yeah, 'course!" Courfeyrac smiles, and it is so much more dangerous for Jehan's blood pressure when they're not separated by a few feet of cabaret tables and some amps. "You're always a good indicator of when my set is going well, it's very helpful. I should contract you for my pub gigs."
What. "C-c-cool, well I…um."
Courfeyrac doesn't seem to notice that Jehan's brain has lost connection with his mouth. He gasps, it makes both Grantaire and Jehan jump, and then starts rubbing his hands together like he's a comic book villain.
"I know you guys have class this afternoon so it's a no go right now, but my club's next meeting is this Saturday. Wanna come? We're always looking for new perspectives."
What the fuck is happening?
Courfeyrac seems to sense their hesitation. Since he knows Grantaire, this makes sense. "R, I know it doesn't seem like your scene, but you're so good at pointing out weak areas in presentations and Jehan, I mean, with your words…"
Jehan's first impulse is to give an apologetic but firm no. Of course, it's not like he and Grantaire will be doing anything except maybe homework (that's optimistic thinking in Grantaire's case, unless it's for his actual art classes) but it's also not like Jehan can even consider stepping foot into a room with that many strangers unless Grantaire is there and Grantaire would never…
He hears himself say, against his brain's better judgement, "We'd love to!" Yes, his voice squeaks and yes, three distinct exclamation marks can be heard on the end.
Courfeyrac has the nerve to look even more excited; he bursts into a wide grin, and Jehan's head is swarmed with the shining planes of his face and his slightly crooked eye teeth and his pink fuzzy sweater. He thinks he might faint.
"Great! Here's the address, see you guys then!" Courfeyrac waves cheerily as Grantaire and Jehan stagger their sorry corpses out of the dinner (or at least that's how it feels to Jehan.)
They might have taken some shots in that conversation, met some awkward potholes perhaps, but all in all, not bad.
"I can't believe that just happened."
Courfeyrac was genuinely nice and kind to them (especially if he pretended not to see Jehan's palpable awkwardness; if he didn't notice it, even better.) Maybe he is kind like that to everyone, even mostly-strangers, but if that is the case, Jehan wasn't repulsive enough to warrant a less-than-usual response. That's a win in his book!
"I cannot believe that just happened. Jehan, look at me, this is a face of a man who cannot believe…" Grantaire dissolves into incredulous giggles. "We were just talking about you talking to him, and then he was there! What are the odds?"
Jehan just had a conversation with Courfeyrac! History has been made! He feels a little like the sidewalk has turned to clouds beneath his feet, or maybe his legs are just tired from all the nervous jiggling. Whatever, he talked to Courfeyac, and Courfeyrac smiled back! He feels like whistling, and Jehan can't whistle anymore than he can sing. He's definitely going to be replaying this day in his head until the end of time. And –
"Oh fuck, I just realized that means we gotta go to this club thing on Saturday."
Jehan is going to see him again, within the next two days!
Grantaire's horror is increasing. "It's a social justice club, Jehan. They meet more than once a week, and one of those times is on a Saturday." He tries to step in front of Jehan and block his path to get his attention, but Jehan has started skipping and so easily swerves this obstacle.
"I don't want to go to this thing, Jehan, can you get me out of it? Explain to Courf and his do-gooder friends that I'm violently ill or something? 'Cause I will be if you make me go! I'm not gonna go to this club, Jehan. I told you I'm not a club person!"
Jehan is barely listening. Nothing can anchor him to this menial Earth right now!
"Jehan! Are you listening? I'm not going to this stupid club with you!"