Cosette is not given to hyperbole, but she's prepared to state on record that this is the nastiest weather she has ever been out in. The wind plasters one side of the hood to her face but blows the other side wide open, flinging tendrils of her damp hair around like a painting of Medusa. It's going to be unmanageable by the time she gets inside, assuming she doesn't drown before then.
Eponine's building doesn't have an elevator, of course, so she plods up six flights of stairs in her waterlogged heels. She nearly falls to her death four separate times. Maybe she should have stayed by the fire with Papa after all.
She hates that thought, but what she hates even more is the sight that confirms it. Eponine answers the door in plaid flannel pants and a baggy sweatshirt, barefooted with no makeup on. Cosette opens her mouth to apologize for getting the day wrong (she didn't) or not checking her phone for the cancellation message (she did, and there wasn't one), but Eponine has already stepped aside to let her in.
"Someone's never had a girls' night before, huh?" she asks, face curled with amusement.
Cosette suddenly feels awkward. In public, she wears her silver miniskirt like armor, but in Eponine's apartment, with Musichetta in a pair of Joly's scrubs and her hair in a messy bun, she is as out of place as a bottle of champagne in a Pepsi machine. "Um, is it that obvious?"
Chetta laughs. "It's okay, I brought you an extra pair of pajamas from Jehan. He's sad he isn't allowed, but he thought the pink would favor you." There's a strict no-males edict on this evening, because us girls have to stick together. When Grantaire offered to bring wine, Eponine told him to make other plans for Friday, because we're stealing your girlfriend and he sulked, but all the that's sexist in the world couldn't change their minds. Cosette has never had female friends before. She isn't sure how these situations are handled.
"How did you escape childhood without a sleepover?" Eponine asks. "I mean, even I've had one, if only because of Azelma." Eponine talks like this, like she doesn't want anyone to break out the tiniest violins or anything but her childhood was definitely a terrible experience. For the most part, Cosette admires her for the deliberate lack of self-pity.
"We moved around a lot," Cosette says, shrugging evasively.
"I'm glad we're fixing it now," Musichetta says, handing Cosette the pajamas. They're yellow plaid with pink carnations, and it's easier to imagine a housebound grandmother picking them out than a twenty-four-year-old man. If they're a little hideous they make up for it with extreme comfort.
"The first rule of girls' night is no bras," Eponine calls through the bathroom door. "If you don't follow it I'm going to kick you out. See if I don't."
Chetta tames Cosette's hair into a loose braid that trails over her left shoulder while Cosette fires off a text to Papa promising she's safe. "Where's R tonight?" Chetta asks, tying off the braid.
"Out with Bahorel," she says. "Feuilly is meeting them after work, so I hope no one ends up in jail or the hospital tonight."
"It's always a toss-up with Bahorel," Eponine nods, bringing Cosette and Musichetta glasses of wine. "But Courfeyrac and Jehan are looking for them, so they're guaranteed one sober head." Jehan's diabetes means he drinks less than anyone in the group; alcohol (especially the sweet wines he prefers) raises his blood sugar.
Cosette checks the vibration in her palm. She expects it to be k from Papa, but it isn't. "Grantaire says I'm a traitor," she informs the others. "I guess he's already drinking."
"It's almost eight. Of course he's drinking." Eponine says, sipping her own wine. "Don't worry about it. We're having fun without him, and he's going to have to deal."
Cosette's phone has something to say about that, but she doesn't get to find out what. Musichetta confiscates the phone and slips it into her bag. "No phones," she says. "I know you and R are like platonic soul mates or whatever freaky telepathic shit you have going on, but tonight is us only. And that goes for you too," she says, glowering at Eponine, who is trying to hide her phone in the sleeve of her sweatshirt. "Don't think I don't know what you're doing. Give it here."
Eponine passes her phone to Chetta, but she looks about as pleased as a knife in a dark alley.
"I left Joly and Bossuet to make dinner for themselves," Chetta reminds them, "and I'm not checking my phone even though my house is probably on fire and my boyfriend is probably mid-panic attack, so you can do it too." She tucks all three phones into her bag and sets it behind the sofa. Musichetta serves up unpalatable law with a sweet smile, and she applies the rules unhypocritically even to herself. Cosette should suggest Grantaire paint her as the blindfolded avatar of justice. It'll have to wait until she has her phone back.
"I like this wine," Cosette offers. "Did you pick it out, Eponine?"
"Chetta brought it," Eponine says, fidgeting nervously now that she's been divested of her phone. "It's a little sweet for my taste, but it gets the job done."
"It's ice wine," Musichetta says. "It's Canadian. They freeze the grapes while they're still on the vine. Isn't that cool?"
Cosette laughs. It's easy to laugh with Musichetta. She makes people feel good. Even Eponine cracks a smile at this pronouncement that frozen grapes are cool. "You're a dork," she says, shoving Musichetta's shoulder affectionately.
Musichetta settles on the sofa next to Cosette. Eponine curls up in the armchair across from them. "I don't care what the conventions of girls' night are," she warns. "I am not painting my nails."
"Ooh, can I?" Cosette's fingernails are a rosy gold with French tips, but the polish has been chipping off in pieces for days.
Chetta grins and passes her a bag of nail paraphernalia. "Have at it," she says.
They're into the second bottle of wine and Cosette's nails alternate sparkly crimson and metallic gold—"Lannister colors, Eponine, God, not Gryffindor, what is this, 1999"—when Musichetta sighs at the TV they've mostly had on as background noise.
"I've always wanted to go skydiving," she says, grabbing a handful of Fritos, "but no one will go with me."
"I would," Cosette says. "But we'll have to lie to Papa about where I am."
"Count me out," Eponine snorts. "I think the guy with the parachute is about to die." It's that kind of movie; the guy is dead within twenty seconds.
"I'd still go," Cosette confides. "I don't think people actually sabotage parachutes very often."
"Once is too often if it happens to me," Eponine says.
The knock at the door is unexpected and sharp. Cosette turns to Eponine, like did you invite anyone else or did we order a pizza and then forget about it? Eponine and Chetta seem as confused as she is.
They don't get less confused when Eponine unlocks the door to find Enjolras dripping in the hall. "Can I come in?"
"Uh, sure," Eponine says, running her hand through her hair.
Enjolras is so wet his hair is a shade darker than usual, to say nothing of how the storm has affected his clothes. Cosette would offer a towel, but she doesn't know where Eponine keeps them. Chetta does, although once the towel is in Enjolras's hands, he doesn't seem to know what to do with it. It just hangs from his fingers while water runs off him onto Eponine's floor, which would probably be upsetting if he weren't already mid-rant.
"I don't know what on earth possessed him," Enjolras grumbles, pacing the floor. "It was completely uncalled-for. Saying—that." His hands wave manically. "He knows I have better things to think about, and—"
"You're going to fall," Cosette observes. "I don't really want to go to the hospital on my day off."
She'd expect Enjolras to shoot her one of his famous nasty looks for interrupting, but he barely pauses for breath as he sits down on a plastic chair. "—and the whole idea that I should have to apologize for telling the truth—"
"These pronouns are great, but maybe you could tell us who said what?" Eponine suggests. "It's tough to follow without context."
He stops everything—the talking, the gestures. Without the motor running, he looks small. "You didn't get my text."
"We're phone-free," Eponine says, nodding. "It's girls' night."
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have—" He starts to stand, but Musichetta pushes him back into the chair and puts the towel on top of his head.
"Too late now," she says cheerfully. "What's bothering you?"
The three women sigh in unison. "Call for pizza," Eponine says, tossing Cosette a phone from Chetta's bag. "It's going to be a long night."
"Sometimes I just want to wring the arrogance out of him," Grantaire growls, eyes dark.
"You know that salt shaker isn't actually Enjolras, right?" Jehan asks.
His fingers have tightened around the table's salt shaker; it does, indeed, look like he's trying to wring something out of it. He needs a drink. (Why are all his involuntary actions so embarrassing?)
"Have you tried punching him in the face?" Bahorel asks.
"Please. If they turned to violence it would end in murder," Jehan answers, tugging the salt shaker from Grantaire's hands.
Grantaire frowns. "I know I have impulse control problems—" Courfeyrac snorts "—but I think I'd stop short of murder."
Courfeyrac laughs. "Not you."
Enjolras looks thin and delicate, but at his core is a fire that can—that does—burn anyone who might be in his way. Given the ease with which he wounds without thinking, an Enjolras who has turned his eye to destruction could lay waste to Grantaire in minutes.
Grantaire takes a swallow of his whiskey.
"Maybe you should try talking to him," Jehan suggests, as if that isn't more ridiculous than the denim vest Jehan is wearing.
"Sure, and then we'll hop a rocket to the moon," Grantaire says. "Or maybe I'll crown myself Emperor of the Americas and start collecting taxes to finance my palace."
"Enjolras won't like that," Bahorel crows.
"And he's so pleased with me otherwise." Grantaire shakes his glass to assess whether any alcohol remains on the ice (maybe). He licks the half-melted ice cubes at the bottom of the glass.
"Talking it out isn't a bad idea," Courfeyrac says.
"You wouldn't know a bad idea if it wore a name tag," Grantaire mutters, motioning for another drink. "Exhibit A: scuba lessons."
"I didn't know she was married," Courfeyrac snaps, and Grantaire pats himself on the back for a distraction well-made.
"It was my idea," Jehan says. "And I'm clever." Clever and tenacious, which are not positive qualities if you ask Grantaire. "Talk to me like I'm Enjolras."
"Jehan, you're a darling, but you're no Enjolras." It's true. Setting aside the question of Enjolras's incomparable physical perfection, Jehan is too nice. "You'll forgive me at once." Of course, if his goal is to be left alone sooner rather than later, raising this objection may be the latest in a series of mistakes he's made tonight. He accepts his new drink with a nod to the waitress who brings it.
"Then me!" Courfeyrac could stand to look less thrilled. "I like role play. Pretend I'm Enjolras."
Grantaire takes a little care in arranging his face into the Platonic ideal of skepticism: brows raised and pushed together, mouth wrinkled critically. "Are you sure I can't keep using the salt shaker? I think we have real chemistry."
"Oh, boo to you too."
"—and I just took off walking," Enjolras finishes.
Musichetta nods, her face neutral. "Sometimes it helps to get a little space," she says diplomatically.
Eponine rolls her eyes. Cosette sees her over Enjolras's head and has to bite her lip to keep from smiling. "How many of them called?"
"You know, like, to see if you were okay or whatever?" Cosette suspects any elaboration of Eponine's whatever would involve calling either (or both) Enjolras or Grantaire an asshole.
Enjolras frowns. "No one called." He reaches into his shirt pocket his phone. After a moment, it comes free from the sodden fabric and he squints at it. "Shit."
"Rice," Musichetta says, holding out a hand. "We might be able to save it." She whisks the phone out of his hand and into the kitchen. "And will you get him some dry clothes?" she calls over her shoulder. "I'm cold just looking at him."
"I don't think he'll fit in my clothes," Eponine shouts back, "although I do have a dress that would look grand with his coloring."
"Doesn't Montparnasse leave his shit lying around everywhere?" Chetta yells back.
Enjolras looks decidedly troubled at the thought of wearing Montparnasse's clothes.
Eponine snorts. "He knows I'll burn anything he leaves here overnight." Except the leather motorcycle jacket Cosette has seen her wear—it's too long in the arms to be Eponine's. It's a little badass on her, though; Cosette would've kept it too.
"Check my bag," Musichetta calls. "Joly might have stuck an extra pair of pajamas in there. He double checks my packing a lot."
Joly, in fact, has stuck a pair of pajamas in her bag. Cosette finds a set of green flannels in there, along with a full first aid kit and at least three cell phone chargers. It's a wonder Musichetta managed to carry it up all the stairs. She might be a superhero.
Enjolras looks laughable in the pajamas. They're clearly Joly's purchase, and they're several inches too short in the legs and arms. They are, however, dry, which is a huge improvement over his red button-down and black jeans.
"You owe me a dollar for the dryer," Eponine says, dropping back into her chair.
Enjolras doesn't reply. He curls his arms around one leg, letting the other swing free. "I just don't understand," he says irritably, "why he hates me so much."
Cosette chokes on her wine. "I'm sorry," she says, turning to Chetta so fast her braid swings over her shoulder, "I don't know him very well. Is he being serious?"
Musichetta's mouth tilts in a dry smile as she nods. "It's tragic, isn't it?"
Eponine sets her glass on the table and sighs. "Look," she says to Enjolras, "you know I love you. You save my life every day just by being part of it. I know you're trying, but I'm going to have to ask you to add yourself to the list of people who are fucking kidding me."
Eponine actually keeps this list on a whiteboard on the back of her door. Courfeyrac's name takes up most of the board in his flourishing blue script, but a dark scribble in the corner might be "Montparnasse," and near the top there's a stick figure labeled "Gav." (Also pictured: "barista who charged me extra for napkins," "guy who put his hand up my skirt at work.")
"Use the red marker, please," she says sweetly, tossing it at him. "This shit is serious."
"I shouldn't have called you a sociopath," Grantaire says. It sounds somewhat less than sincere even to himself, possibly because once he's said the same sentence ten times it stops feeling like an honest expression of his feelings and starts feeling like a line someone told him to say (which it is). He has never been a gifted actor; if he wants to sound sorry, first he's going to have to feel sorry. "It was wrong, even if you were being a massive prick and totally deserved it."
Bahorel snorts a laugh into his pint.
"This isn't going as well as I'd hoped," Jehan winces. "Maybe—maybe Courfeyrac should stop making that face? I'm sorry, I just don't think it's helping."
"Courfeyrac's face is perfect. I think it's a great Enjolras impression," Grantaire soothes, shoulders sagging. "He isn't the problem. It's me."
Courfeyrac looks slightly mollified by this admission of guilt (Courfeyrac can never stand to be blamed for anything). He brightens, letting the stormy Enjolras sulk fall off his face (exaggerated as it is, the expression is a bit apt). "What if I—"
"No," Jehan and Grantaire say in unison. Only Bahorel looks amused at the prospect of more amateur theater.
"No more playacting," Grantaire says. "I just want to drink in peace." Not that there's much chance of peace in his head, not while Enjolras is angry with him somewhere. A flash of lightning illuminates the bar. "Does anyone know where he went?"
"Combeferre's, probably," Courfeyrac says airily. "Combeferre will talk him down. He'll be less murderous tomorrow." As comfort goes, it's on the cold side, but Courfeyrac means well.
"His cell goes straight to voicemail," Jehan says, patting the back of Grantaire's hand (he accepts, but only marginally). "I'm sure he's somewhere safe and dry."
As angry as he was when he left the Corinthe, it's entirely plausible that Enjolras has kept circling the city in the rain. His psyche was so wrapped up in being irate, he might be invulnerable to such base concerns as water falling from the sky. It isn't the first time he's walked away from Grantaire in a temper, and he doubts it will be the last.
"He shouldn't have said that to you," Jehan says quietly. "You definitely owe him an apology, too, but… he shouldn't have."
Grantaire hums in acknowledgement. "It's my fault. I wind him up."
"You do wind him up," Courfeyrac agrees, "but he doesn't always explode at you like that."
"Yes, he does," Bahorel says.
Jehan frowns. "No, sometimes he's annoyed, but he isn't usually cruel. He's been weird lately."
"It's Enjolras," Courfeyrac says, waving his hands around dramatically. "He's been weird since he was born."
"Weirder," Bahorel says, "I've noticed. He hardly even looks at you anymore," he says, frowning at Grantaire, "and when he does…"
"It's never good," Grantaire finishes glumly, downing the last of his drink. "I've noticed that pattern myself. It'd be one thing if I'd killed his dog or something, but I don't even know what I did."
"He doesn't have a dog," Bahorel says, "I think he hates animals, actually, so he might like—"
Jehan silences him with a snap of his fingers. "Focus, please." He turns back to Grantaire. "I still think you should talk to him about it. I know he's Enjolras, but he's only a person and whatever he's feeling, it's making him act mean. You've both been about as pleasant as porcupines lately, and the only way to sort it out is to pretend to be adults instead of the hormone-addled preteens I know you both secretly are." He says it in the softest tone imaginable, as though he weren't slapping Grantaire across the face with his words.
Bahorel giggles. Courfeyrac looks as stunned as a baby who's just been splashed in the face with cold water.
"I don't have to do it today, right?" Grantaire pleads, looking up at Jehan from his position slumped over on the table. "It can wait until tomorrow?"
Jehan nods his approval. "It should wait until tomorrow, unless you want him to set you on fire for coming over drunk while he's still mad at you and it's the middle of the night."
"Next round's on me," Courfeyrac says, clapping a hand on Grantaire's shoulder. "What's everyone want?"
"Cyanide," Grantaire says gloomily, and everyone laughs.
"But if he doesn't hate me, why is he so difficult?" Enjolras asks. His eyebrows have
It would be funny, really, if it weren't all so pathetic.
"He doesn't hate you," Eponine repeats. "Not at all. Like… the opposite of hate, okay? He idolizes you."
"No," Enjolras insists, "he doesn't. He disagrees with me about everything. He spends his whole life trying to prove I'm not perfect, but then he gets angry when he's right."
"The thing about R," Cosette says, and everyone leans forward slightly to listen, "is that he's like that kid in your second grade class who really, really wanted a puppy. And when he realized he was never going to get a puppy, he decided it was easier to pretend he never liked puppies at all." She takes a bite of her pizza.
"And in this analogy, I'm a puppy?" No one has ever looked less like a puppy than Enjolras, sitting stick straight and staring at her—not even Bahorel with a split lip and bloody nose after a brawl gone poorly. "And he wants me as a gift?"
"Forget the puppy," Eponine says. "There's a point, and you're missing it."
"So why does he insist on filling my life with needless complications?" Enjolras sighs. "All he does is undermine me without provocation."
"You've been provoking him for weeks!" Eponine shrieks. "You ignore him, you snap at him—honestly, it's a wonder he hasn't bitten back sooner. He has incredible patience where you're concerned."
Enjolras looks at the other women. Chetta and Cosette both nod.
"You've been kind of a jerk," Musichetta says, way gentler than Cosette would have. "So has he, but this didn't happen out of nowhere. By your own admission, he only called you names after you said some pretty nasty things yourself."
"So… he was right, and I should apologize?" The fact that it's even a question is boggling. Cosette wonders how Enjolras has managed to have human relationships so far.
"You can ask Combeferre when he gets off work, if you don't trust us," Eponine says, "but I think we're all in agreement on that score."
Enjolras leans back against the chair. "No, you're right. I shouldn't have spoken to him like that. Sometimes when my temper gets the better of me—"
"I know," Musichetta tuts sympathetically. "And, not to put too fine a point on it, maybe we aren't the ones you should be telling this?"
At his pained expression, Chetta laughs and rubs his back. "You're the one who brought up apologizing!"
"Tomorrow," he says at last. "I should get my clothes out of the dryer and go home."
"You sure?" Eponine asks. "There's still pizza and I think the Sandra Day O'Connor biopic is about to come on. You can stay."
He smiles. "No, I should go. I've interrupted long enough." He stands up. "Where's the laundry?"
"End of the hall," Eponine says, "I'll walk you."
His clothes are wrinkled—which is funny, given his usual pressed-to-perfection appearance—but he looks less than half drowned. Maybe one-fifth drowned.
"Don't forget your phone!" Musichetta dashes to the kitchen to pull it out of the jar of rice. "It's working. Jehan left you a voicemail and Courfeyrac sent you a series of picture messages of his own face." She smiles as she hands him the phone.
"Thanks," he says, looking at the messages with a strange mix of amusement and annoyance.
"Let me know when you get home," Eponine says. It sounds like something she's said before. "Especially if you need to talk."
Enjolras shakes his head. "I'm just going to crash. Don't worry about it." He turns back to wave to them, then shuts the door behind him.
"Wow," Cosette says.
"Tell me about it," Eponine sighs.
"More wine?" Chetta offers brightly, holding up the bottle.
Grantaire has the doorknob in his hand before it occurs to him that this is a terrible mistake. It's ten til four in the morning, and any jury of his peers will sympathize with Enjolras's justifiable homicide defense if Grantaire wakes him up. Still, he opens the door, because Enjolras never locks it and whiskey is apparently making all Grantaire's decisions now with very little input from his rational self.
Of course Enjolras is awake. For someone who gets annoyed by texts after midnight, he sleeps alarmingly little. He sits at his desk, back to the door, scribbling frantically at some piece of important work or other. (He's always preferred to write by hand; when necessary, Combeferre types the second draft for him.)
Grantaire swallows. The sight of him, lit by the desk lamp like the focus of a Rembrandt—it caresses his gold halo and illuminates the bright red of his shirt, but beyond that the room is a grainy gray darkness with only the vaguest suggestion of furniture in the shadows—makes Grantaire's throat ache for a drink. He wishes he'd brought his flask.
Enjolras doesn't look up from his papers as Grantaire lingers in the doorway, but just as he starts to think he can slip away unnoticed, Enjolras's voice comes softly: "Stay."
Grantaire approaches hesitantly. A soft tone from Enjolras is rare but it's by no means a guarantee no yelling is coming. What is he doing here? He is too drunk for this.
Enjolras turns and his eyes are on Grantaire, steady and calm and, God, so blue. Maybe he isn't too drunk for this at all. Maybe he's too sober for this. He should have let Bahorel get him into a fight, because that would have taken less alcohol to prepare for than this. (It would hurt a lot less, too. What are broken bones next to the careless beauty of Enjolras's eyes?)
"You came," Enjolras says. "I thought you might."
"Waiting up for me?" Grantaire asks, wry smile twisting his face. (The voice inside him yells no stop what are you doing just beg forgiveness already but the voice on the outside sounds confident so it is probably the right one this time.)
The faintest smile plays at one corner of Enjolras's mouth. A less dedicated observer than Grantaire might miss it. "Can't sleep."
"Can't or won't?" It's often the same, with Enjolras.
Enjolras makes a noncommittal sound, low in his throat. He puts his pen down on the desk. He runs his hand through his hair, leaving a streak on his face where ink has leaked onto his hand. "I was thinking about earlier."
Grantaire stills. He is motionless all the way to his core. If he stays still long enough, time might go backward. None of this will have happened. (He can hope.)
Enjolras licks his lips. "I wanted to say I—I'm sorry. I shouldn't have—you aren't worthless. I didn't mean it."
Laughter bubbles up from the well of despair and whiskey in Grantaire's stomach. "Sure you did," he says, looking away.
"It was a terrible thing to say," Enjolras pleads. "I don't mean it now."
"I'm sorry too," he offers, and he might mean it this time. "I was mad, and I went for the things I knew would hurt you. It was pretty shitty of me too." His skin itches. He rubs at the back of his neck. "I, ah, I don't know what I'm saying right now. Fair warning. I'm pretty drunk."
"No, you aren't." Enjolras from several months ago might have sneered at him, would have said well, when aren't you with an arched eyebrow of spun gold.
Grantaire almost misses these casual cruelties. With cruelty, he knows where he stands. An Enjolras who doesn't dismiss him immediately—with a huff of righteous anger—is a frightening apparition.
Because his pulse is clanging in his ears, and the voice is begging what does this mean?
And the truth is that no part of him knows.
"I'm hungry," he says, grinning cockily at the puffy-eyed, frizzy-haired god of beauty at the desk. "Want a snack?"
Enjolras's fridge is depressingly bare. "What the hell?" Grantaire calls from halfway inside it. "There's nothing here except some wilted celery, half a jar of blackberry jam, and some milk that has—oh god that's disgusting, I think this milk is older than Gavroche." He pulls his head out of the fridge and directs an incredulous stare at Enjolras where he has draped himself against the doorframe. He looks impossibly tired but also impossibly graceful (and maybe, just maybe, a little bit happy). "I always had you figured for the artisanal cheeses and fresh fruit type."
"I'm not here that often," Enjolras says. "I mostly grab things while I'm out. Musain, Corinthe, Whole Foods, that sort of thing."
"You eat at the Corinthe? Even I don't eat at the Corinthe." Grantaire laughs. "Who'd ever think I would be the one lecturing you about what you put in your body, this is ridiculous. Say something holier-than-thou so order is restored."
"Don't pick a fight," Enjolras sighs, face in that strange almost-smile again. "We'd almost gone half an hour."
"That'll do," Grantaire mutters, shutting the fridge door. "You have meetings here sometimes. That makes this a public health hazard. I'm going to call you in to the Health Department."
"Looking forward to it," Enjolras says. "As long as you don't tell Joly."
"Oh, Joly will be my first call. He deserves to know."
"I think I have crackers and almonds and stuff in the cabinet," Enjolras offers, "if you still want a snack?"
Grantaire nods. His face is starting to hurt with all this smiling. "After you."