Enjolras totters down the street in his finest clothes. Grantaire makes his way after him, somewhat surer on his feet, and, catching up to him, moves to take hold of his shoulder steadyingly. "Careful."
Enjolras has to look at him for several seconds before he works out who it is. "Why are you always around when I'm being an idiot?" His voice is very irritable, and slightly slurred.
"Idiocy loves company." Grantaire, whose tolerance is higher than his, for once sounds like the decisive one. "Let me walk you home."
"I know the way." He shakes his head. "I've been here before, you know." And a deep sigh. "But I'd be glad of the company."
Grantaire quirks a faint smile, and nods, turning that way.
Enjolras scuffs his feet as he walks. "I don't know why I said that to them," he mutters, mostly to himself, and not making much sense.
Grantaire pats his shoulder consolingly. He doesn't know what was said, but he can appreciate the sentiment.
Enjolras sighs again as they turn into the next street. "I wish I could start over. Be, oh, I don't know, five years old again." He wrinkles his nose. "But with different parents."
Grantaire snorts faintly. "Mmmm. I sympathize." He steers them clear of a mud puddle. "Your mother's... well. Something."
Enjolras rubs his eyes on the back of his sleeve. "Isn't she, though?" He blinks up at a nearby building. "Here. Home." Bits of paper fall to the sidewalk as he fumbles in his pockets.
Grantaire keeps a hand on his shoulder, lest he keel over in search of the key. "So it is."
Enjolras smacks his forehead with one hand. "Why can't I see straight?" He holds up the key at last and lets himself into the main hallway.
"These things happen," murmurs Grantaire, following him in.
Enjolras fumbles with the next door -- his own -- but eventually gets it to open. "Well, they don't just 'happen' to me. Not often." He sits on the narrow bed with a sigh. "Or at least they didn't."
"Yes, I know." Grantaire leans on the back of a chair, entirely at ease. "You and your incorruptible virtue." He sounds rather sad. Pitying, even.
That's greeted with a very bitter laugh. "Incorruptible as the Seine." It's rather hard to take boots off today, apparently. He's been struggling with the laces on the right one for a solid minute now.
Grantaire watches this struggle for a moment, then pushes away from the chair and drops to one knee to help him with it, perfectly unselfconscious.
Enjolras puts one hand to the bridge of his nose. "You don't have to do that."
Grantaire shrugs slightly, tossing the recalcitrant boot under the desk and setting to work on the other one. "Gets done sooner, doesn't it?"
"I suppose." It's pretty obvious. With a sigh, he relents, and instead takes off his jacket. "Thank you."
"Welcome," Grantaire says mildly, disposing of the other boot, and sits back on his heels. He adds something that sounds suspiciously like 'damned stubborn fool', but it's too quiet to really tell.
Enjolras seems to have forgotten him for the moment. He takes off his cufflinks and sets them on the dresser.
Grantaire stays where he is for the moment, watching quietly.
Enjolras asks mildly, "Are you going home?"
"Home," says Grantaire vaguely. "Home's an awfully subjective word."
Enjolras nods sagely, though he doesn't understand. "Might as well not, then."
Grantaire glances up at him, brows lifted in ironical amusement. "Really," he says dryly, and stays on the floor.
Enjolras shrugs. "Why not?" This must be part of the human project. "Otherwise, how will you get your boots off?"
Grantaire's grin is crooked in the extreme. "That's a very good question."
Enjolras rubs his eyes. "Not that I'm going to be any help."
"Bah." Grantaire waves a hand at him. "Sit down before you fall down."
He wobbles, but doesn't obey because he is terribly contrary, especially when he's drunk. "Only if you do."
Grantaire looks down at the floor, then back up. "I am."
"Oh." A pause. "But isn't the floor hard?"
Grantaire peers up at him curiously. "Yes," he concedes after a moment, "it is, rather." He climbs laboriously to his feet, and resettles himself on the edge of the bed, which is closest.
Enjolras smiles. "Better." A frown flits across his face. "But you still have your boots on."
Grantaire points mutely to the spot of bed beside him. A deal's a deal.
Enjolras sits. The bed is not particularly sturdy, and the mattress is quite saggy.
"Better," Grantaire says, and looks at him sort of sideways, with the familiar ironical half-smile. "You see."
There is a pause. No comprehension takes place. "What do I see?"
Grantaire reaches out to clasp his shoulder firmly. "I don't know. What do you see?"
Enjolras looks around carefully. It looks like home: same shabby room, same textbooks. The only difference is: "You."
The smile grows still wryer. "Ah. Well, if you squint, that isn't so bad." His grip shifts slightly, as though he might pat him on the back or something, but can't quite find the nerve.
Enjolras takes this advice. "No, actually, it just makes you blurry, and that's no help." He shrugs slightly, not to dissuade the hand on his shoulder, but to show confusion. "And you've still got your boots on. And your coat."
It's possible that Grantaire is uncertain, behind that gently mocking gaze, or even surprised, though he doesn't lose the half-grin. "So I do." With a conscious air of humoring the eccentric, he lets go of Enjolras' shoulder to shrug off the latter garment, and kicks the former off and under the bed. "There. All comfortable."
Enjolras has no idea what to do next. "Better?" he inquires, trying to be some semblance of a gracious host.
Grantaire laughs shortly. "Yes." Again the sidelong glance.
Enjolras looks at the floor. "Well. It was a nice wedding until I went and made a spectacle of my family." His cheek is red, but it's some kind of apology, though probably not directed at the right person.
Grantaire leans back a little, bracing himself on his arms. "It was a perfectly nice wedding," he agrees rather tiredly.
"Oh!" He gets solicitous. "Are you tired?"
Grantaire tilts his head at him, amused. "Aren't you?"
Now that you mention it, yes. "A little." The suggestion makes him yawn, and he protests, "But I wanted to talk to you."
The smile turns less wry and more wistful. "Did you really?"
"Yes. Otherwise, why'd I let you walk me home?" Enjolras smiles a little at that. "I wasn't about to get lost. Even if I was drinking."
Grantaire looks skeptical, which he does very well. "Mmm." He's silent a moment. "What did you want to talk about?"
This is harder than discussing the wedding. "I think I owe you an apology. A lot of them, really."
Grantaire's arms give way, and he falls backward onto the bed, with a faint hoot. Gracious, that's him.
Enjolras likes being laughed at less than the next ten people you can name. He looks away, again. "Thank you so much. It's so easy to say that."
Grantaire picks himself up again. "I know. I'm sorry. But..." he sputters a bit "...you have nothing to apologize for."
Enjolras looks at him, aghast. "Of course I do! Don't you remember? I -- God, I treated you like my father would have, and no one deserves that sort of scorn." There is an unspoken 'even you' on the end of that.
Grantaire puts out a hand to hush him physically. "En-jol-ras. No need. Hear me?"
Enjolras does not avoid the hand, and does hush. "Don't call me that."
Again the crooked half-grin. "'s your name, isn't it?"
"Yes, but you make me think of my mother." He shudders. "I think Combe-- Etienne has the right idea. What kind of an idiot would invite you into his home, such as it is, and insist you use his last name?" Ignoring the fact that the answer, up until a moment before, could well have been himself, he continues, "Marcelin's not such a bad name, and it's mine, and it doesn't remind me of my parents."
Grantaire lets his hand fall to Enjolras', or rather Marcelin's, shoulder once more. "Not bad," he agrees.
"Thank you." He blinks at the hand, as if it is the first time he's noticed its presence. "I think I'm tired."
This time Grantaire's hand does wander, rubbing his back a little. The touch is soothing, but careful, almost reverent. "I wouldn't be surprised."
How often does Enjolras receive a massage? "That feels good," he murmurs, eyes closing. He leans on one hand.
Grantaire just watches him gravely, and does it some more. Presently he says, quite softly, "It's all right, you know."
It would take far too much effort to make a coherent response to that. "Hmm?"
"Everything." His fingers stray upward, smoothing back a strand of fair hair with an odd delicacy. Suddenly he chuckles faintly, more wryly than in amusement. "Poor Marcelin. Twenty-two, never been kissed."
Enjolras freezes like a scared rabbit, then makes himself put another hand down on the bed and relax. "I suppose that's so."
Grantaire's hand trembles a moment. Then he sits up, with sudden resolution, and slipping an arm firmly about Enjolras' shoulders, leans forward to kiss him.
Enjolras gasps, pulls away, and turns bright red. "Don't. Not yet."
At once Grantaire lets him go, and pushes swiftly to his feet, looking away. His hands find his pockets. "I'm sorry," he says in half a voice.
Enjolras sits up, too. "Wait. You don't understand," and neither does he. One might have thought his sister had all the blushing in the family, but he found a bit of it, and is bright red. "I can't bear it for you to be nice to me, not at all, unless you accept my apology."
Grantaire declines to wait. "I'm sorry," he says again brusquely, over the beginning of this protest, "I don't know what I was thinking--" He hesitates, then, though he still doesn't look back. After a minute, more gently, "I told you it was all right."
Enjolras, if it is possible, blushes even more. "Well." Somehow, he's stammering. "Then won't you sit down?" Perfect courtly manners, yes, in precisely the wrong context for them.
Grantaire presses a hand against his mouth for a moment. Then kicks out the chair from the desk, drops into it, trembling a little, and pushes his fingers through his hair.
Enjolras is a wreck. He wipes his face on his sleeve. "I can't do anything right at all. I can't go to a wedding without alienating people, I can't have a pleasant conversation with my friends in a café, I can't write a simple letter without help, and I can't even apologize to you and get it right!" The last one seems to hurt the most. Oddly, it is followed with a laugh, but it is a broken laugh. "This must be the first time I've ever watched what I said to you. I have the devil's own timing."
"Marcelin--" If there was anyone else here, you might not know it was Grantaire, the voice is so low, so nearly gentle. "Don't. God, don't tear yourself up over me, least of all, I--"
Enjolras interrupts, less pain in his voice, but hardly as soft as he might wish to be. "As if I don't know I've hurt you before." A slight pause, then, "Would you come here so I can talk to you?"
A small gasp of laughter escapes Grantaire, but it's not in him to resist. He stands and crosses to the bed again, tense. The trouble with letting your defenses down is it's so bloody hard to get them up again fast enough.
Enjolras is having trouble with this whole situation. "Look. When I had to write to Jean's parents, I had a long discussion with Feuilly -- Paul, rather -- about having missed the revolution. I realized how much of my time had been wasted by it, and thinking about Les Amis made me think of you." A little shake of the head is merited here. "I didn't make you what you are, and it was never my right to judge you so harshly, nor to be so vicious to you." He's a bit shy, now, while he's admitting his faults, and looks away. "I was afraid of you. I thought that if I made a tiny mistake, drank a sip of wine, I would suddenly slip and fall and never be able to stand again." A little laugh. "And then I did it, when I was expecting it the least, and I found out that falling doesn't hurt as much as I expected, and that you are not reprehensible." He looks at Grantaire from under fair lashes, half-averting his gaze. "I was stupid. Incredibly stupid. I could have had a very interesting friend, and instead I kicked him, for years. I don't know how it can be enough that I am sorry."
Grantaire is silent for a long minute after this confession, watching him intently. At last he glances down, and murmurs with some difficulty, "Everything you've ever said to me was true."
"No!" The denial is swift and vehement. "Don't believe that. You'll go mad. Now, I'm telling you the truth. I want to find out who you really are, instead of who I always thought you were. I never understood how you could bear to have no belief in anything, but I have lost my faith. I would be so grateful if you would teach me." He puts a hand on Grantaire's shoulder.
Grantaire's own hand comes up to cover it, though otherwise he still sits very still. He slants a dark glance over. "You still don't know, do you." His voice is rough. "You never have. I don't-- I can't believe in anything the way you do." The present tense is dogged. "I can't make it make sense. Everything I believe in is in you, that you care, that you can believe things, that you have this dream of yours, that if anything could make a difference to anything it would be this mad, crazy, stubborn faith of yours, it's beautiful. I want it to make sense, and it doesn't." By this time his words are tumbling over one another. "Nothing ever did, and it makes less now-- and I should go, I shouldn't have done what I did just now, you were always absolutely right to despise me. Don't you see?" And he looks away sharply.
Enjolras does not let him go. "I held your faith?" It's quiet, and rhetorical, because he's just said as much. "I wish I could have kept it more tightly, then. I wish a lot of things about the things I've said and done recently. But," a pause for emphasis, "I do not regret that you are here. And," he laughs, almost hysterically, "you saved me, didn't you? I'm not perfect anymore. You can't believe in me, you have to believe in yourself. I can't believe in my dreams anymore. What do you think I should believe in, my own warped ideals?" A snort, and he does not want that question answered, so he goes on, "I don't believe anything. I'm starting over in believing. Help me. And don't hate me. Please."
Grantaire's fingers tighten on his. "I couldn't hate you." That is deathly serious, and produces a reaction of bitter amusement. "God knows I've tried." He looks up again, and hesitates; then, with infinite caution, his free hand reaches out to touch the golden hair.
"I'm sure you have." Quietly, as if he's afraid he'll make another mistake, "I am lucky, at least, that I know someone who understands how bewildered I am." He reaches out and pushes Grantaire's hair away from his face with a bit of a smile. "Forgive me all of my mistakes." Slowly, he leans forward and kisses Grantaire's cheek. It is almost like a benediction, or a kiss between brothers, but there are other overtones.
This time it is Grantaire's turn to tense involuntarily, catching his breath; but only for a moment. Very tentatively he returns the kiss, and when it's accepted without comment, follows it up with another, more purposeful, his fingers tightening in Enjolras' hair.
Enjolras's hands end up on Grantaire's shoulder and on his back. When his mouth is released, he chuckles ruefully. "That does take care of 'twenty-two and never been kissed.'" He rests his head on the shoulder near his head for a moment, then laughs again. "Is that all there is to being human? Get a little drunk, talk too much, and kiss someone?"
Grantaire doesn't answer for a minute, while he recovers his powers of speech, and just holds him. Presently he murmurs, with a somewhat lame attempt at his accustomed flippancy, "It's a start."
... Previous ... Book Two ... Table of Contents ... Next ...