35. On the Wagon

Le Café Musain is quiet tonight. Its normal patrons are variously occupied, and most are elsewhere. When Louison goes through the back room to reach the washroom, she is unaccosted, because Enjolras and Grantaire are thoroughly involved in their own problems.

"I wish you wouldn't drink." It has been said before. Said even by Enjolras, to Grantaire, in this cafe. This is the first time it has been less than thoroughly censorious.

Grantaire glances up in mild bemusement. "Occasionally, so do I." He is ensconced in the usual chair, with his arms folded on the table and a general air of benign melancholy.

Enjolras says, as if it is the easiest thing in the world, "Then stop."

Grantaire half grins, not quite a chuckle. "Right," he says dryly.

Enjolras's eyebrows lift. "Why not?" It's not as if alcoholism is a part of Marcelin's daily life, after all.

"Because, fair-haired boy," it appears that Grantaire cannot function without some nickname or other for Enjolras, "it's not quite that simple."

Enjolras frowns slightly at the nickname. "How could it be complex?" A pause, then, "If you call me that, I shall have to come up with some new epithet for you."

Grantaire waves a hand. "The old one suited well enough. I've got used to it." He pokes at the glass on the table in front of him, but otherwise leaves it be.

"But when" not if, mind you "you stop drinking, it won't suit you at all." Enjolras is certain that he's being eminently reasonable.

Grantaire quirks one of his dour grins. "All the more reason I shouldn't, then. Don't want to put you out."

Enjolras sees no humor in that. "I'd rather call you François." There's a slight, almost disdainful emphasis on the name, but it's almost sympathetic. "Truly, I wish you would stop drinking. I don't understand why it pleases you so."

Grantaire winces elaborately. "God, no. Don't do that." He prods the glass again, and watches its contents splash slightly. "Very few things please me, mon ami, some things are just less aggravating than others."

Enjolras takes that a little too personally, and looks away. "I am certain that I can be aggravating, but I would have thought you could have told me less rudely."

Grantaire blinks. His brows quirk ruefully, and he puts out a hand gently to brush Enjolras' wrist. "You're an exception to everything, as you very well know."

Enjolras blushes slightly, turns back partway, and looks at the table. "Oh. I see." He's lost his procession of thought.

Grantaire trails a finger along his wrist for a moment. "Of course you do."

This does not help Enjolras figure out what he was talking about. He keeps staring at the table, not sure what to say, until he registers the glass again. "You won't drink, will you?"

"I won't promise any such thing," Grantaire says calmly.

Enjolras looks at him, distraught. "Then I shall have to drink with you."

Grantaire raises a brow. "You don't want to do that."

"No, but I don't want you to drink, either."

This time there's a touch of asperity in Grantaire's tone. "I'd have thought you'd have figured out by now that there are some things you can't fix."

Enjolras pulls his hand back, looking surprised and quite hurt. "I know that." His voice is very quiet, but increases in volume rather quickly. "I only thought that I might be able to help you. After all, you're not dead, are you?"

"Not yet." Grantaire sighs, and sits back a little. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that." This comes out gruff, but kinder.

Enjolras agrees quietly, "You shouldn't have. But if you didn't say the wrong thing, I might not recognize you." It's almost a tease, and he's almost smiling as he says it. "Will you let me try to help you, then?"

Grantaire closes his eyes a moment. "You can do what you like with me," he says then, quietly, "as long as you don't hurt yourself, doing it."

"If drinking hurts me, it must hurt you just as much." Enjolras frowns slightly. "Don't drink, and I won't."

Grantaire counters, "Don't have nightmares."

"That's ridiculous! How can I stop myself from dreaming?" Enjolras is almost glaring again. "I wish to God that I could."

"Precisely," is all Grantaire says.

Enjolras is scornful now. "You're not unconscious, and you're not asleep. You know what you're doing when you drink. It's not like dreaming at all."

Grantaire laughs, unexpectedly. "Oh, on the contrary, it's a great deal like dreaming, sometimes. Takes a damn sight more waking up, too." He is being deliberately blithe, now.

Enjolras shakes his head. "I don't want nightmares any more than I want to see you drunk. I shall keep you awake when you are about to drink if you wake me when I fall into an unpleasant dream."

Grantaire gives him an oblique look. "You don't know what you're playing with, fair-haired boy."

Enjolras returns the look levelly. "I have played with things far more dangerous than you."

The mocking smile again. "And almost as rude and unpleasant."

"That's nothing." Enjolras smiles slightly. "I've been more rude and unpleasant than you."

Grantaire quirks a grin. "Ruder I'll grant you. You have trouble being unpleasant."

Enjolras laughs at that. "Ah, you're absolutely wrong."

At which Grantaire spreads his hands in a shrug. "Of course I am."

Enjolras shakes his head slightly. "You don't change, do you?" It's an affectionate question.

"Not much." Grantaire settles back to where he was, slouched ungracefully, arms folded. "It's one of my few talents."

"I appreciate it." Enjolras still smiles a little. "After all, I've seen enough change for a lifetime."

Grantaire reaches out to capture his hand again. "I would say," he agrees.

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