Note: After the last part, I intended to write all about Cosette's integration into the group, but Enjolras took the wheel as he is wont to do. Sorry/not sorry. Next time, loyal readers, I promise.
He's never realized how many of his daily activities use both hands. The wake-up-and-see-how-much-your-life-sucks moment happens about three minutes after Joly unlocks his apartment door for him, when he bolts directly to the kitchen for his first beer in two days. He needs it more than he wants to let on; he is too weak without it, his whole body aching with the trembly-sweaty feeling he recognizes as desperation.
The weight of the cool can in his hand feels like a blessing. A smooth release of tension begins in the back of his skull before he's even popped the tab. The tiny voice in his head he drowns with whiskey on bad days has started its whispering, now you know you're really alive. If that's a fucked-up thing to be thinking after barely surviving an encounter with a band saw, well, that's exactly why he's having a beer at 11 AM as soon as he's home from the hospital, thanks for joining the rest of the class.
His friends have left him a spot on the couch, so he can prop his left arm on the arm rest, keeping it elevated and preventing it from getting bumped. Courfeyrac has draped himself over Eponine's lap, when normally he wouldn't hesitate to take the last open seat and force Grantaire to choose between his lap and the floor. (If Grantaire is drunk enough, he might try to insist on Enjolras's lap, which has never ended well, because Enjolras's eyes can hiss displeasure so loud that Combeferre gets up to save R from evisceration.)
No one says anything about the can in his hand, though he sees a couple of looks pointed in its direction like "shouldn't you be taking it easy?" He almost wishes someone would say it out loud so he would have an excuse to feel so defensive. It's one beer. He istaking it easy. Okay?
This silent judgment makes him need the beer out of its can even more than before, but it's really hard to open a can when he can't hold it in his other hand. His left hand is useless in its swaddling of bandages; for all the protection his dressings afford the wound, they don't afford him much in the way of a grip. Muscle memory still dictates he try it the usual way, with the predictable lack of result.
"Is someone going to put a movie on or do I have to do it myself?" he asks, feeling his face go red with frustration. (Enjolras's cool blue eyes miss nothing, no matter how Grantaire would like to erase the last few seconds of fumbling from the record. He'd drink it out of his own memory if he could open the damn can.)
"Do you want something specific, or will anything with foul language and lots of explosions do?" Enjolras quips, sliding off the arm of Feuilly's chair where he's been perched.
"Something with a car chase," Grantaire replies, relievedly dropping into his place on the couch. He slides the can between his knees and uses them to hold it steady while he clicks it open. Mental note: way easier this way.
The first swallows of the beer combine with the pill he dry-swallowed in Joly's car to take the edge off, but not much more. His left palm throbs vaguely in time to his heartbeat.
Jehan folds himself into Grantaire's right side, putting his face closer to the beer in Grantaire's hand than Grantaire's own. Jehan is soft and gentle in a pajama shirt with flowers on it. He strokes absently at Grantaire's thigh.
Courfeyrac lobbies hard for Pulp Fiction, but Enjolras icily nixes Tarantino. Since it's his computer hooked up to the TV, no one can really argue. "Maybe we should cool it with gratuitous depictions of bloodshed until we all have the proper blood volumes in our bodies?" he suggests smoothly, putting the Big Lebowski on instead. Joly looks grateful; Bossuet and Musichetta each squeeze him a little tighter.
The relief at being home safely doesn't last, and neither does the novelty of having his friends falling over themselves to do things for him.
"I'm fine," he insists Monday afternoon. "You should go to work."
Feuilly looks unimpressed. "You'll be alone."
Grantaire glares. "Good," he says savagely. Not counting the bathroom and the time Feuilly supposedly stepped into the hall to take a phone call because Grantaire was sleeping (he swears it happened, but no witnesses come forward to attest for him, and Grantaire was unconscious, so it's cheating in any case), Grantaire hasn't been truly alone in days. (Joly had wanted to skip class to ensure this did not happen today either, but he can't afford to miss any more class after he took February off because of a flu scare.)
He isn't used to being surrounded like this; his friends are there when he wants them, but they're usually happy enough to leave him alone when he wants, too. It's nice to see they care, but after three days of constant company, it's started to be a little much.
"I'm an artiste," he says in his most pretentious tone. "We require solitude. We live alone. We die alone."
Feuilly frowns. Maybe this was a poor joke (or at least a poorly-timed one). Grantaire readies himself to backpedal, but all Feuilly says is "You're a jackass, is what."
Grantaire rewards him with a smile. "It'll be fine. I'm just going to do some light calisthenics and rearrange the furniture."
"If I didn't know for a fact you're still too shaky to do anything but lie on the couch watching Law and Order reruns, I'd threaten to call Joly and tell him what you just said." Feuilly ruffles Grantaire's hair. "Keep the heating pad on it, all right?"
He rolls his eyes. "I'll follow the instructions Joly taped to the fridge, bathroom mirror, and the remote control. Now go, or you're going to be late."
Feuilly pins his name tag to his shirt. "Okay. I left a pill out on the counter, and I should be back before you need the bottle open again. Call if you need anything." He makes Very Serious eye contact. "Seriously."
"Don't worry," Grantaire sighs, pushing him out the door. "I'll be good."
As soon as the door is shut behind Feuilly, Grantaire grabs a six-pack from the fridge and flops onto the couch. Even though it's in direct odds to how he prefers to sit and his shoulder is starting to get sore from doing it, he elevates his left hand on the back of the couch and wraps the heating pad around it, because he does see the benefit of restoring proper circulation. He'd like to be able to use the hand again someday; he'd just like to gripe about it a little first.
He makes it through three beers and two episodes of Veronica Mars before he falls asleep (he does that a lot lately, thanks to the pills, which is annoying but he guesses he doesn't have anything better to do). Next thing he knows, it's dark outside and there are actors he doesn't recognize on TV and his hand hurts like a motherfucker.
So it's past time for that pill Feuilly left out, then. He grabs the empty cans from earlier and takes them to the kitchen for recycling (the city doesn't pick up recycling, but Jehan and Enjolras make a round every other Thursday). He picks up the pill and—promptly drops it, whereupon it skitters away under the refrigerator.
He drops to his knees and looks under the fridge, but it's found a portal to Narnia or something because it's just fucking gone.
And now he's starting to regret not letting Feuilly call in to work.
The cap of the pill bottle isn't as easily managed as beer cans. His legs don't have the right amount of friction to hold it still and pharmacies are really serious, apparently, about keeping little kids from swallowing Percocet. And people with only one functional hand.
It would be easier to move the fridge and look for the dropped pill that way, which he actually tries (his inner Joly screams when he puts his hurt hand on it, but, like, shut up, Joly, this is important), but sometimes easier than impossible is still impossible. So, to recap: one pill inaccessible because the fridge is either holding an elephant or bolted to the floor, the rest inaccessible because screw tops are the difficulty equivalence of Ultimecia from Final Fantasy VIII, and he's alone in the apartment until he doesn't even know when.
Basically, he's fucked.
He takes a handful of Tylenol instead, which is about as likely to help as deep breathing exercises at this point, but at least it's something.
He's planning to sit on the couch and watch the seconds tick by until it becomes in any way acceptable for him to start calling his friends asking for help, but he has to change course halfway to the couch when there's a knock on the door.
His first reaction is thank God you're here, but the relief is overshadowed by the part of him that thinks no, not today, you can't see me like this.
His distress must be showing, because Enjolras tilts his head to an angle of uncertainty. "I heard you were home alone," he says. "I brought you dinner." It's from that co-op Enjolras likes, and it smells like Thai.
Grantaire moves automatically to take the burdens from Enjolras, but Enjolras swats his hand away. Grantaire trails behind him to the kitchen, where Enjolras sets the bags on the counter and gets plates out of the cabinet. Then he turns and locks eyes with Grantaire, tall and authoritative now that he's decided to take control. "Okay, tell me what to do."
Grantaire contemplates playing dumb, but Enjolras has his very serious don't fuck with meface (when doesn't he?), so he wilts obediently. "Pill," he mutters, gesturing toward the bottle. "I can't get the top off myself."
Enjolras frowns, creating a wrinkle between his eyebrows Grantaire has often seen and wants to smooth away with his thumb like an imperfection in a piece of recalcitrant clay. "Didn't Feuilly leave one out for you?" He twists the cap off in one smooth motion, which slips something intensely negative into Grantaire's chest.
"He, uh, he did. It's under the fridge if you want to get it." Grantaire takes the pill Enjolras slides into his palm and tosses it back, grateful and humiliated in equal measure.
Enjolras piles pad thai onto plates and carries them to the table in front of the couch (the only one in the apartment not piled with art supplies or miscellaneous belongings Feuilly and Grantaire leave around). Grantaire is glad he cleaned up the empty cans; he has plausible deniability. Now that his mental agony has ended (and the physical agony has about twenty minutes to gtfo), Grantaire can see how tired Enjolras looks—it's midterms for him, and he's probably been writing papers all weekend.
Grantaire picks at his food. It's good, but he isn't hungry. His hand still hurts, a burning throb that distracts him from everything else.
"Did I make a poor choice?" Enjolras asks, watching him closely. He's hardly eaten anything either; his fork has a small bite on it, and his plate looks virtually untouched otherwise.
Grantaire shakes his head. "It's fine," he says. "I'm just… not hungry, I guess."
Enjolras's lips scrunch up with displeasure. He sets his fork down without eating what's on it. "You should eat. Not supposed to take those pills on an empty stomach."
It's cute Enjolras thinks he responds to chemicals like a normal person anymore, but he has a point. He takes a few bites so the gnawing emptiness in his stomach is replaced with a more generalized twisting. At this point, Enjolras takes pity on him and pushes the plates away.
"No," Grantaire objects, "you should finish, just because I can't doesn't mean—"
"Shut up and give me your hand."
Grantaire is confused but he does it anyway. He has a reputation for being argumentative, but when Enjolras gives instructions, his first instinct has always been to follow them. Anyone else would get an insulting rejoinder, but if Enjolras wants him to, that's all he really needs to know.
It isn't all he wantsto know, though. "So, are you doing research on the harmful effects of totalitarian professors on the proletariat art student, or…?"
Enjolras rolls his eyes, but it's one of those rare times he is relaxed against the back of the couch instead of rigidly alert. He looks more affectionate than anything else. If Grantaire weren't starting to get lethargic from the pill, he'd grab his phone so he could have photographic evidence. He's afraid he won't remember this expression when he tries to draw it.
"I suspect you can't change your dressings with one hand." Enjolras talks smoothly as his hands unwind the bandage. "I want to try."
Letting Enjolras experiment can be dangerous, but Grantaire is more worried about him seeing the line of thirteen stitches holding him together. It's just as ugly as when Feuilly unwrapped it this morning. But he forgets that Enjolras is well-acquainted with ugliness; his golden lashes don't so much as flutter at the sight.
And then Enjolras's thumbs are digging into the flesh of his palm, and "what the fuck are you doing?" falls out of his mouth, because seriously?
"Combeferre said massaging the area will help restore blood flow," Enjolras says. His voice is gentle but firm just like his hands. "Does it hurt?"
He swallows down the growl of of course it hurts, it's a wound that's been sewn together and you're pressing on it, because now that he's over the initial shock it doesn't hurt, not really. It's sensitive, and it feels strange to have anything touch it after so long in gauze, but it isn't painful. "No, I just wasn't expecting it." He sucks in a breath as a jolt runs up his body from the hand in Enjolras's, but he doesn't pull away. "Maybe warn a guy next time."
"Sorry." Enjolras doesn't look sorry. He looks, at best, disinterested in his own apology; he might even be amused by it.
The fuzziness he feels when the pills kick in is back with a vengeance. His head is too heavy to hold on top of his neck anymore, so he lets it droop onto Enjolras's shoulder. "How are you so perfect all the time?" He murmurs.
The small sober voice in the back of his head starts panicking—oh god, couldn't you just shut your mouth for once, this is why you shouldn't mix alcohol and pills, it makes you unbearably stupid, now he's going to leave, everyone always leaves you, just die, just let the floor open up and swallow you, you worthless shit—and this voice is why he drinks.
Enjolras is oblivious to the leaden weight in his gut, and only hears his sleep-dulled words. "No one is perfect," he reminds idly, dabbing antibiotic ointment over the stitches, "but I do have my moments." He does up the bandages deftly with very little extraneous motion. "What do you think? Is everything… copacetic?"
Grantaire laughs, light and breezy as he wishes he were. "Copacetic? That is a computer word. People don't say that. Are you even human? For real?" But he's too tired from his long day of lying around doing absolutely nothing to keep it up, so he trails off.
"Rest," Enjolras says, and he almost sounds fond. He disentangles his legs from Grantaire's, but when he tries to stand Grantaire traps him. He refuses to lift his head from Enjolras's shoulder, and he hooks his bandaged arm through the crook of Enjolras's elbow.
"Stay," he says.
"I have work to do," Enjolras protests, but his heart isn't in it. Grantaire has heard the real thing enough that this version sounds like the pale imitation it is.
"You could use a rest," Grantaire yawns. It's true, but what's more true is that he doesn't want Enjolras to leave. "The work will still be there tomorrow."
"I don't want to disturb you," Enjolras breathes. Or maybe he is already dreaming.
"You won't," Grantaire promises. "I'm asleep already. You'll disturb me more if you get up."
Enjolras chuckles, a low rumble under Grantaire's head. "Fine."
Grantaire's relief is so complete that he is asleep within seconds.
This is how Feuilly finds them when he returns after work with pizza, Grantaire splayed on the couch, asleep, clinging to Enjolras, curled beneath him with a book in his hands. (He snaps a picture with his phone before he alerts Enjolras to his presence and sends it to Chetta with the caption "your move.")
"Hey," he whispers, "I got your text. Thanks for looking out for him."
"You don't have to whisper," Enjolras says. "He's out. I think we could have a rally in here and he wouldn't wake up." True to his word, Grantaire doesn't even stir.
Feuilly grins. It's ten kinds of adorable, really, like a kid with a beloved teddy bear. "I can take over from here."
As expected, Enjolras leaps at the chance. "I should go," he says, slipping the biography of Alexis de Tocqueville into his messenger bag (whether it's for pleasure or for class Feuilly can only guess, and he doesn't know which possibility disturbs him more). "I have a meeting with my adviser in the morning to talk about assistanceships for next semester, and I have more preparation to do."
Feuilly would bet a week's paycheck that Enjolras is prepared enough to terrify any professor in the poli sci department into taking him on as a teaching assistant, but that obsessive intensity is what makes him Enjolras, so Feuilly just nods. (If Grantaire were awake, he'd probably make a crack about prezi, but Feuilly doesn't have the right kind of wit to come up with one in his place, which is why Grantaire should be more careful with power tools.)
Enjolras looks oddly reluctant as he eases himself from under Grantaire. Grantaire's unwrapped hand reaches out after him, but grasps only air; he sighs but doesn't wake. Anyone else would be touched by this tender display, but this is Enjolras. His eyes take on a distinctly frightened gleam, and he bolts for the door.
"See you tomorrow," he calls to Feuilly as he tucks his bag under his arm. Then he's gone. Feuilly shuts and locks the door behind him.
Grantaire startles awake at the soft click of the door latching. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
"No," Feuilly laughs, "He's really not."