Notes: I may have veered into extreme schmoopiness with this chapter. Apologies. It's how I was feeling. Please let me know what you think of it- I will be waiting with metaphorical internet cookies and long-distance hugs for my conversational partners, if you are into that sort of thing.
"Everyone's okay," Courfeyrac assures him before he's even opened his mouth to ask. Which is probably for the best, because he's so mad at all of them he might breathe fire if he opens his mouth.
"Was anyone arrested?" His friends sometimes make a distinction between 'in jail' and 'not okay' that he is not sure exists in the real world. It's funny except for how it isn't at all, not after their protest turned into a riot and they made the news with cop cars and ambulances so Grantaire left the library early to come check on them and they're still not all here.
"No," Courfeyrac says. "No, I—I don't think so."
"Is it no or is it you don't think so?"
Courfeyrac bites his lip. "It all happened really fast, and the plan is we run if things go bad. I didn't see what happened at the center of the crowd. I'm sure they're on their way here now or someone would have called—"
"Who?" Grantaire demands. "Who isn't here?" But he knows. He scanned the room before he was all the way in it, and he knows who's missing. A bespectacled med student. A long-haired poet. A Greek god of justice.
"Combeferre. Jehan. And…" Courfeyrac looks stricken.
Grantaire probably couldn't have stood to hear it out loud anyway. Fuck.
"You don't even know if they're okay, then, not really," he chokes. "You didn't see them, you said yourself anything could have—"
"Calm down," Eponine says, grabbing his elbow and tugging him away from Courfeyrac (who looks grateful for the intrusion and pulls out his phone, presumably to text Combeferre a hundred times). "They'll be here." She sits him on a bench between her and Cosette, who starts stroking his back immediately.
His friends have just been part of a riot. They could have been arrested or worse, so why is he the one shaken up by this? (He knows why.) Marius is the only one who seems particularly upset, pacing around the bar and frowning, pale under his freckles. Cosette squeezes Marius's hand whenever he passes her, but her own face is flushed and excited.
Bossuet is the only one who seems hurt; in a corner, Joly is fussing over his wrist, which seems to be sprained. This isn't cause for alarm, really—Bossuet could sprain his wrist on a trip to the bathroom. (But he didn't.) Bahorel laughs nearby, holding his beer in hands with bruised knuckles—but Bahorel could get into a fight on a trip to the bathroom, too, and he swears the blood on his shirt isn't his, so that's all right then.
The general mood is mock-jovial over a base of tension. If Enjolras has been arrested, it won't be the first time, but it doesn't mean they like it more (in fact, it means some of them like it less—it gets harder to get him out of it each time). Combeferre's medical career could be in trouble if he's convicted of criminal activity, not that it's likely to happen, because Combeferre rarely engages in any prosecutable offenses—he obeys speed limits and pays for music downloads. Jehan—well, Grantaire doesn't like to think of Jehan in jail, not even for an hour, and he suspects none of the others do either.
So it should be a relief when they finally file in the door of the bar, dirty and tired but present. It should be a relief but it isn't, not at all, because Jehan and Combeferre each have an arm around Enjolras's shoulders as he limps awkwardly between them—maybe the first time he has ever moved awkwardly—and god in heaven that is blood on his face. It isn't much—more a trickle than a deluge, coming from a small neat gash at his temple—but it is shockingly red on his skin and in his fair tangles of hair and where it has dripped onto the collar of his white shirt where it will almost certainly stain.
It's almost funny how he could stay relatively level-headed about his own blood, even in large quantities, but turn so dizzy and nauseated at a mere drop of Enjolras's. Almost funny, but not, because: Enjolras's blood.
He realizes he's jumped to his feet when Cosette grabs his hand and murmurs "Grantaire." It isn't comfort she's offering. It's a warning.
He isn't the only one disturbed; there's a collective outcry of shock and dismay, and the whole room takes a step toward the trio. Only one step, though, because Combeferre gives a minute shake of his head and Courfeyrac holds out a hand to keep everyone back.
"It's fine," Enjolras volunteers as he half-falls into a chair. "I'm fine, don't—Combeferre already looked at it," he sighs at Joly, who has been allowed to approach and is hovering around his forehead.
"What happened?" Courfeyrac asks. His voice is low, a sure sign of seriousness; Courfeyrac is only quiet when he doesn't have any jokes to shout.
"He fell," Combeferre says, taking care to keep his voice firm and steady. This is one of the many times his natural talent for calmness prevents the whole room from combusting at the sight of blood. His friends are like sharks that way.
Bossuet brings Enjolras the ice he's had on his wrist, and Enjolras accepts it graciously, holding it against his temple with a faint smile.
Jehan bounds to the back of the room and wraps his arms around Grantaire. His whole body is trembling. "He's all right," he whispers, and Grantaire realizes with a jolt that this hug is meant to comfort him. "It was awful. Everyone was pushing—Combeferre had my hand but we couldn't find Enjolras at first, and then—he'd gotten trapped in front of a police barricade, and he thinks he took a boot to the head, but—" he shudders and pulls back. "But he's fine, okay? Combeferre says no concussion."
Jehan looks as terrible as Grantaire feels—ashen and sweating. "Do you need a snack?"
"No," he shakes his head, takes a deep breath. "I don't have low blood sugar, I just—I was scared."
Cosette's arms wrap around Jehan from behind. "You were so brave," she says, resting her forehead on his neck.
Marius disentangles his hands from her waist (according to Courfeyrac, they've been there for weeks now) to lay one on the back of Grantaire's neck. "You okay?" he mutters. "You seem. I don't know."
Grantaire doesn't know either. He feels oddly fond of Marius in this moment. "I should be asking you," he smiles. "You had to run from the cops today."
It's mean to joke about it—he can tell Marius doesn't want to think about it—but it takes his mind off how weak and exhausted Enjolras seems, how easily he could've been—well. This calls for a drink. Or twelve.
As he pushes his way back from the bar, cool glass in his hand (to replace the one he downed before he took a step away from the bartender), he hears Combeferre conspiring with Courfeyrac.
"—ankle's just twisted, and the cut looks good, but I'd still like to keep an eye on him tonight. You know how head wounds are."
"And how he is," Courfeyrac replies. "Are you going to stay with him? I don't know who else will after last time."
Combeferre frowns. "Someone should. I'm supposed to work nine to nine at the clinic, but I can call in…"
"Don't," Grantaire says.
They swivel apart to look at him. It's clear from their faces they're surprised to hear from him (hell, he's surprised, although for different reasons). He feels suddenly very conscious of the weight of the vodka tonic in his hand, like maybe it should be lighter.
"I mean, my place is closer," he says as nonchalantly as he can manage. He still sounds like he might be in the middle of being strangled to death. "I can watch over him to make sure he doesn't die of, like, a subdural hematoma or whatever."
"That'd be great," Courfeyrac beams. "I don't think Enjolras is in any mood to tolerate Joly's hysterics today."
Combeferre looks more cautious. "Are you sure? He can be a handful when he isn't well."
"As opposed to the rest of the time, when he is never ever difficult," Grantaire says, but he's noticed Combeferre's eyes on the drink in his hand. He sets the glass on the bar next to Courfeyrac with only the slightest pang of regret (he never even took a sip of that, okay?). "It'll be fine."
"It isn't really my call," Combeferre says, "but we can ask him."
There was a time Enjolras would not have let Grantaire anywhere near him in a weakened state. Then there was a time he would have been completely comfortable with it. And then there's now.
Enjolras seems to have recovered a little vitality in the time he's been sitting down with ice on his various injuries. He's still very white, but he looks alert and doesn't seem to be bleeding anymore; the blood on his face has crusted over and no new blood has come to replace it. (If Grantaire's going to have to help him walk home, he'd better not start bleeding again, because Grantaire is positive that direct contact with Enjolras's blood will cause his heart to explode.)
Grantaire gives him a little smile as he sits in the next chair. He makes eye contact with Enjolras, but he still has to wait to issue his invitation until the conversation about attendance breaks up (and, seriously, only Enjolras could happily chat about the great turnout at a protest that ended with him barely walking).
Musichetta is the one who rescues him, squeezing Bossuet's shoulder and announcing that she is hungry and like hell is she eating the Musain's sweet potato fries for dinner three nights in a row. Once she's carted Joly and Bossuet off to their palace of sin (the bathtub and bed could each easily accommodate a fourth person, if they so choose, although so far they never have), the group breaks up quickly.
"I told Papa I went to a movie," Cosette says, fingers intertwined with Marius's. "If we're going to be on the news, I need to get home before it airs." Marius goes with her; at this point it's a given. (Courfeyrac says she sleeps over, and although Marius is too discreet or too shy to talk about why, he has been looking very, very happy lately.) (Cosette shrugs one shoulder with a wouldn't you like to know kind of smirk and lets Grantaire tease her about Marius's freckles. It works.)
Eponine doesn't say goodbye to anyone, just slips out while texting—she might just have gone for a smoke, but she never comes back. Bahorel is amusing Jehan with card tricks at a back table, so even though they aren't gone gone, it's obvious the time for riot postmortem has passed. (Combeferre and Courfeyrac are usually the number two and three most likely to engage in such a talk, but there are more pressing issues here—see above, re: Enjolras's blood.)
"What do you say to staying on my couch tonight?" Grantaire asks quietly. "It's ugly but it's comfortable, and it's closer than yours."
Enjolras shrugs. "Whatever."
"Is it just that easy? Are you the reason strangers think hey little girl, I have candy works?" Grantaire raises his eyebrows. "Do we need to have a talk about safety?"
"I just don't imagine it'll do much good for me to remind you all that I'm an adult and I don't need a baby sitter," Enjolras sighs. "Combeferre will probably insist on staying from work, and that isn't fair. Courfeyrac is already late for his date, and if I refuse you, I'll end up with Joly watching me sleep."
Courfeyrac claps him on the shoulder. "Well spotted."
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay?" Combeferre asks. "I will, you know."
"I know you will, but it's completely not necessary," Enjolras says. "I'll go with Grantaire just so you won't worry." Enjolras straightens Combeferre's collar with a smile. "Now go, or you won't have time for your coffee before work."
"The hospital is on the way to the restaurant where I'm supposed to be meeting Meghan," Courfeyrac says. "I'll drop you off."
After they've gone, Enjolras hauls himself to his feet and takes a few halting steps toward the door. Grantaire hovers at his elbow, unsure what the response will be if he gives help.
Enjolras looks over his shoulder. The half of his face that's visible is the unmaimed one—from this angle, even his hair is impossibly good-looking—and he smiles a bit. "Come on, then," he says. "It'll take much longer if you don't."
Grantaire moves to flank Enjolras's bad side, offering his shoulder as support. He hates his heart for fluttering at the warmth and closeness of Enjolras's body, hates that his impulse is to memorize the feeling of Enjolras's ribcage against his own and Enjolras's arm around his neck. Now is not the time for this childish fantasy. (There is never time for this.) Now is the time for helping a friend. That's all.
The elevator at Grantaire and Feuilly's is a rusted-out antique with a cage instead of proper doors, and Enjolras eyes it warily. "I don't—I'd rather take the stairs."
"Are you serious? You shouldn't be putting weight on that foot at all, and you want to take the stairs?"
"Your elevator is a statistic waiting to happen," Enjolras grumbles. "I am not going to be one of the twenty-seven people killed in elevator accidents this year."
"I guess it wouldn't help if I offered to hold your hand?" Grantaire chuckles. "All right, it's your twisted ankle." He shakes his head. "I always suspected you must have some completely ridiculous fear."
"It's not ridiculous," Enjolras says, grasping the bannister and half-hopping up a step. "You just think I'm being irrational because you don't understand that it's a death machine."
"That's because it's perfectly safe."
"That's what the elevator industrial complex wants you to think. Question authority," Enjolras smirks.
Grantaire is feeling pretty good about the probability that Enjolras is not slowly bleeding to death in his brain by the time they make it into the apartment (which takes f o r e v e r, because even though he offers after each flight, Enjolras refuses to take the elevator).
"Do you want anything?" His hand is itching for another drink, but he as much as promised Combeferre he wouldn't. And he doesn't need it. He doesn't.
Enjolras looks at the couch with an unusual expression on his face—is it longing? do statues yearn? Enjolras might, after two blocks and four flights of stairs on a bad ankle—but he heads for the bathroom instead. "I want to wash my face," he says. "I feel kind of gross."
"I bet." As clean as he usually stays—not that Grantaire's noticed—these hours of sweat and grime and blood must itch. "I'll, uh, I'll get you a towel."
The cloth is one of Feuilly's (he'll apologize later if it's ruined, but none of his are clean), and after a few minutes of running water, Enjolras emerges looking more himself. He's still lopsided, and the cut on his head is surrounded by faint purplish bruising (it'll look worse tomorrow), but he's got nothing on the pathetic image he made lolling between Combeferre and Jehan a few hours ago. So Grantaire is positive he's as fine as he says he is. Mostly.
Grantaire has already wrapped ice in towels for his head and ankle, so all Enjolras has to do is sit down, which he does. "Thank you," he says, sliding the ice into place and slumping against the cushions.
"Want to watch yourself get trampled on the news?" Grantaire asks.
Enjolras just shrugs, which he takes as a yes. He clicks on the news and they watch coverage of the riots. Enjolras is making a displeased face at the reporter's mischaracterization of events ("we weren't a mob, we had a permit") when he appears on the screen. He's shouting about interest rates from a pedestal (a literal pedestal, Grantaire wouldn't use a metaphor this obvious) which he shares with a statue of Thomas Jefferson (a far less pleasing specimen of sculpture, in Grantaire's opinion). He looks—god—the camera just loves him.
And then the rioting. The reporter's cool voice over informs them that seven arrests were made and two people were taken to the hospital but released. The footage is more violent than Grantaire was expecting. He wishes he hadn't had the idea to turn it on. There's another shot of Enjolras, bloodied and leaning on Combeferre.
Grantaire turns the TV off. "Sorry," he says, "that was a bad idea."
Enjolras is not as bothered by it as he is. "No, I wanted to know. This is—it was good." He smiles. "Now I've got valuable perspective for next time."
Grantaire swallows the nausea that rises in his gut at the implications of that next time.
"Tired?" He realizes he doesn't know if that's a bad thing. He knows he's seen movies where people try to keep their friends awake after a head wound. Isn't tiredness after a blow to the head considered a warning sign?
"I was tired before the protest, too," Enjolras says. "This isn't a trauma thing. It's late."
Grantaire gets out his phone to google it anyway (better safe than sorry, right?), to see he has a text from Combeferre. He laughs.
He shows Enjolras the message he's just read.
Combeferre (8:58:12 PM): You can let him sleep as long as his color and breathing seem OK. It's a common misconception that you can't sleep after a head injury. Just check in every few hours.
Enjolras smiles. "I don't know what any of us would do without him."
"We would go to the ER a lot more often," Grantaire says. "Joly isn't nearly as level-headed about providing advice." He stands up. "I'll get you a pillow?"
"That'd be great."
Enjolras curls around the pillow and closes his eyes. "Thanks," he says, and then apparently he's asleep. Grantaire doesn't know whether to be worried by how easy that was. Doesn't it take longer than that? Maybe not, not if you're working on a sleep deficit dating back to the late 2000s.
He hasn't planned for this part—he never thinks things through—how awkward it is now that Enjolras is actually sleeping on his couch and he's just supposed to… creep on him, he guesses.
Feuilly returns home a little after two from one of his million jobs—he's a bouncer at an 18-and-over club, and, no, Grantaire doesn't know what anyone was thinking hiring this gangly fuck as a bouncer, except he's fierce like a honey badger and doesn't take shit from anyone, so apparently he's pretty good at it—and lets out a low whistle at the sight of Enjolras asleep there.
"Shh," Grantaire hisses from his room. "Don't wake him up."
Feuilly throws a rude gesture over his shoulder as he disappears into his own bedroom.
Enjolras wakes up when the sun through the windows gets too hot on his face. It takes a minute to place the unfamiliar surroundings—he's never spent the night at anyone's apartment but Combeferre's and, once, Musichetta, Joly, and Bossuet's (which had been a traumatic experience for all involved, and is best unmentioned). The apartment is quiet and still, so Feuilly and Grantaire must still be asleep. Small wonder—his phone (screen cracked, damn it) tells him it's 8:13 AM, practically the middle of the night by Feuilly and Grantaire's standards. It makes much more sense to roll over onto the cool side of the pillow than to get up and risk ruining everything by waking them up when they've been so nice to let him stay here, as ridiculous as it is that anyone thought he needs looking after. But he's much too thirsty for that to be a workable plan.
He moves as quietly as possible to the kitchenette, biting back the harsh words that almost spill out when he forgets to keep weight off his left foot. He sets a cup under the faucet and turns the water on, then leans against the sink with a hiss while it fills up. He probably has bruises on forty percent of his body, judging by the low-level throbbing under his skin.
"You're going to flood my kitchen," Grantaire's voice comes from behind him.
Enjolras startles. "Right, sorry." He turns off the faucet, rubbing at his temple while he looks at the overflowing cup in the sink.
"There's aspirin on the counter," Grantaire says. He doesn't look up from his tablet.
"Thanks." Enjolras pops two pills from the bottle and tosses them back with the first blessedly cool sip of water. "I didn't figure you for someone who keeps medicine around."
Grantaire's mouth twists in a half-smile. "I don't know how many drunks you've known, but you can always count on us to have aspirin." His eyes flick, finally, to meet Enjolras's. "You grind your teeth when you sleep, did you know?"
Enjolras nods slowly, not breaking eye contact. "I have a bite guard," he says absently.
"Of course you do," Grantaire laughs. "High maintenance even in sleep."
Enjolras pulls his gaze away. He looks at his own feet on the dirty floor. His cheekbone aches. "Thank you for… for everything. Even if it was stupid of you to think I needed it."
Grantaire's eyebrows reach a new height. "You're welcome, even if it was stupid of you to need it. I'm glad you didn't die in your sleep of a traumatic brain injury." He studies Enjolras's face. "It's an ugly bruise. Even your bone structure doesn't pull it off."
It feels ugly, swollen and puffy and hot on the left side of his face. "I'm not sure whether that was an insult or a compliment," Enjolras says. He lifts his cup for another drink of water.
"I'm not either," Grantaire laughs. For the first time this morning, his eyes sparkle. "Sit before you fall, please; I don't think I'd like to answer to Combeferre if I return you with extra bruises." He offers the stool next to his.
Enjolras wants to argue (fall, of all things), but it's an appealing offer. He edges over and slides onto the stool. His right leg brushes against Grantaire's left.
Grantaire smiles at him from under his wild black curls.
Enjolras takes a deep breath. "Did you sleep, or did you just monitor my pulse all night?"
"A little of both," Grantaire says wryly.
He imagines Grantaire bending over him in his sleep. Enjolras's neck feels warm. He licks his lips. "Listen, I—"
"How d—" Grantaire starts at the same time. They stop.
"You go first," Enjolras says.
"No, it wasn't important," Grantaire says. "What were you going to say?"
Enjolras swallows. "I just wanted to. Well." He sighs. "I like you."
"Yes," Grantaire says, very slowly. "And I you. Are you sure you aren't concussed?"
"Yes. For once in your life, will you listen to me?"
"I always listen to you." Grantaire's voice is quiet. His breath tickles Enjolras's cheek. "What are you trying to say?"
Enjolras opens his mouth, but he hesitates and closes it again. He's never been unable to speak before. Usually words come from his mouth before they've even been through his mind. But now his throat feels tight around the words and he can't force them out.
Enjolras frowns. "Don't."
"No, I'm sorry, I can't help it," Grantaire says. "You've never seen you flustered so you have no idea what it's like. Have you ever had a dream where everything was just like your real life except everyone is speaking Russian? Or your clothes don't fit and everything in your apartment is shifted slightly to the left so you keep knocking into things?" He waits a moment, then shakes his head. "No, of course not. Anyway, that's what this is like for me, seeing you being not yourself."
"You talk all the time," Enjolras says, feeling hostile without knowing why. "But you never say anything. Why—"
And then he doesn't say anything else, because Grantaire's mouth is on his. It is not at all like he imagined and exactly like he imagined, strong jaw rough stubble slippery tongue. He sighs into it—maybe more of a moan—and pushes back. He expects Grantaire to yield, but he doesn't; he matches Enjolras move for move.
"I think there may have been a misunderstanding about my intentions," Enjolras says when he pulls away. "I trust that cleared things up?"
"Uh, yeah, I think that covered it," Grantaire pants. "Unless you have anything to add?"
Which, yes, maybe he does. So he adds it. With teeth this time.
"Wow," Grantaire whispers. His lips move against Enjolras's. It's pleasant. "How did you get so good at this, have you been practicing?" Which is a moronic thing to say, so Enjolras shuts him up by sucking on his lower lip.
Grantaire whines (and, all right, that's pleasant too).
Grantaire's hands come up to cup Enjolras's face. He's gentler than Enjolras might have guessed, but he isn't gentle enough to allow for the mottled bruising on Enjolras's face; Grantaire's thumb brushes a painful spot. He winces and draws back.
"Sorry," Grantaire pants, "did I hurt you?"
Enjolras shakes his head. He's breathing heavily, too, and he doesn't trust himself to speak just yet.
This is the perfect time for the front door to open. "Hello?" Combeferre's voice comes from the next room. "Is anyone here?"
"Goddamn it," Grantaire hisses. "Fucking—next time, we're locking the door, okay?"
"In here," Enjolras calls, smiling as he runs his hand over his hair.
Combeferre enters the kitchenette, holding a brown paper bag. "I brought bagels. Is there coffee?"
"I can put some on," Enjolras says, levering himself onto his good foot.
"You just did a twelve hour shift. Are you sure coffee is a good idea?" Grantaire asks. He tries to sound normal, but his voice is half an octave higher than usual.
Combeferre's eyebrows crease, but he doesn't comment on it. "I'm staying up for breakfast and the trip home, so, trust me, I need the coffee. How's your head?"
"It's okay," Enjolras says, limping to the freezer for the coffee grounds.
"It doesn't look great," Combeferre says. "Here, let me. You sit."
Combeferre takes over the coffee brewing and brings ice for Enjolras's injuries.
Grantaire pulls on Enjolras's hand while Combeferre's back is turned and jerks his head toward the living room.
"We're going to take the bagels to the couch," Enjolras says smoothly. "More room to prop up my ankle. Will you bring plates when the coffee is done?"
Grantaire wraps an arm around Enjolras's waist as they leave the kitchenette, ostensibly to hold him up, but shatters the illusion as soon as they're out of Combeferre's view by pressing a kiss to the thin skin behind Enjolras's ear.
Enjolras shivers. "Now?"
"No," Grantaire says, "but later? Will you?"
"Isn't that obvious?" Enjolras whispers. "I want to. Hang out with you. Sometime."
Grantaire touches his lips ever so lightly to Enjolras's. "Just checking." He squeezes Enjolras's hand and deposits him on the couch, then flops down next to him.
"Morning news?" Enjolras asks, smiling hopefully up at Grantaire from under the cool cloth over his left eye.
"You're insatiable," Grantaire murmurs, clicking the power button on the remote.
Combeferre has, somehow, wizarded up a tray for the plates and three mugs of coffee. He sets the black one in front of Enjolras, hands the honeyed one to Grantaire, and keeps the milky one for himself. He takes a cinnamon raisin bagel and sits in the rattiest armchair. "Is that BBC? I didn't realize you'd sprung for the premium channels. Is something happening in Bolivia?"
Behind him, Grantaire and Enjolras intertwine their fingers and bite their lips to hide their smiles.