49. Anniversary

July 14, 1833

July 14th, 1833. There was quite a party in Le Café Musain in celebration of Bastille Day and the wedding of René and Manon Courfeyrac, who have not yet left Paris, but attended with their son Jean, who is nearly a year old. At this party, Musichetta announced that she, too, is with child, eliciting odd looks from all and sundry, and much speculation as to the identity of the father. No wedding is planned on that front, as it might exclude the true parent of the child to no good end.

The other anniversary has gone completely without comment. Perhaps it is recognized, but it was not mentioned by Enjolras, who was quiet through the celebration, and observed more than participated.

As for Grantaire, though the fact that he was involved at all is some mark of change, except for the occasional dry witticism he has spent the evening a little withdrawn, and by two in the morning, when the crowd begins to disperse, he is, for once, almost the only one sober.

True to form, Enjolras is not inebriated. When Combeferre shepherds Courfeyrac out the door, and the party is clearly over, he stands and looks around. Bossuet and Joly have been celebrating each other's incipient fatherhood for several hours, and are both asleep at the same table. With a little shake of his head, Enjolras glances toward the door, then asks Grantaire, "Shall we?"

Grantaire assents with a silent nod, pushing to his feet.

Enjolras nods to the few remaining people in the room, and opens the door for Grantaire.

Grantaire quirks a faint half-smile, and slips out.

Several blocks toward the flat that passes for home, these days, Enjolras observes, "That was a pleasant party."

A deep breath intaken in the dark. "Was, wasn't it?"

"It should have been, all things considered." The things thus considered are not specified.

"Indeed." The R kicks a pebble along, urchin-like, for a few paces, and remarks, "I pity that infant. Whoever he may belong to."

Enjolras shudders and shakes his head. "They should have it adopted. Something. No one should have that many parents."

Grantaire chuckles at that. "What's terrifying about those three is how well they manage."

"Could we not talk about them?" In the past year, Enjolras has become rather more accepting of Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta, particularly because of his own continuing relationship with Grantaire, but he still does not care for them particularly.

Grantaire slants a look at him, but says nothing further.

Enjolras attempts to, not apologize, exactly, but clarify. "It's just that I didn't want to think of them tonight. It's Rene and Manon's night."

"Of course," Grantaire says tolerantly.

"Among other things."

Silence for a couple of paces. "Yes."

"Bastille Day, of course," Enjolras adds, though there is a rising inflection at the end, and he seems to be prompting.

"...Among other things." Grantaire glances at him sideways, not quite smiling.

Enjolras does not respond to that, precisely. He looks away, his bluff called, and does not continue.

Grantaire is thereafter silent, till they reach the door of their building; stops, then, and reaches out hesitantly to rest a hand on his shoulder.

Enjolras stops, and looks at him with raised eyebrows. "Yes?"

"Nothing." He can still reduce Grantaire to diffidence with appalling ease. "I just... ah, nothing."

Enjolras glances at the door. He pulls an envelope from his pocket, and offers it to Grantaire, saying, "Take this, please."

Grantaire blinks, accepting it reflexively. "What--?"

"Read it," Enjolras says, or rather orders, and escapes through the door.

"Enjolras--" But the door closes, and he has to bite back the sudden panic sharply. "Hell," he says to no one in particular. After a moment he turns away, and walks off a few paces to lean against a streetlamp, staring at the envelope. It is some time before he can bring himself to open it, and another minute before he grits his teeth and starts to read.

July 14, 1833

Dear Grantaire,

It is the anniversary of the July Revolution. I am sure you recall that. It has also been a year since this adventure of ours began. Who would have thought anything of this nature could work for so long? I admit that I did not, but that I am glad to be proven wrong.

I am writing this instead of talking to you because I can write things I could never say. Does that make sense to you? What I mean is for you to read the whole letter. It does not all make sense, and it contradicts itself, particularly the parts you will not like. Have patience with it and with me, as you have for a year.

I did not like you at first. Did you know that? It is irrelevant, it was irrelevant then. I needed you. For a month, I had been wandering alone, tormented night and day by horrible images. You drove them away; you were more real than the phantoms that haunted me. You held me to life and would not let me escape. Little else could have helped me, I know that now. I liked depending on you no more than listening to your drunken ravings, but once the shock had faded, I could see that you are a person. Forgive me, I did not, before all of this. I suspect you faced the same dilemma, or you would have used my name from time to time. I apologize on that count; I cannot call you François. It is not you to me.

I am sure that you have lost the illusion you had of me. I am sorry for that, but only because it must be disappointing. I am much less pleasant than you had thought, perhaps to the same degree that you are more pleasant than I had thought. If you had told me two years ago that I would write this letter, apologizing for being human, it would have been quite a scene. I can imagine it, but it is as if I am someone else now, watching the scene play out between a man who is almost, but not completely, unlike me, and you. Again I ask for your forgiveness for my own cruelty, though I know that if you had not granted it, you would not read this letter.

And now? I do not adore you. Be grateful. It is uncomfortable to be adored for any length of time. You taught me that. Rather, I enjoy the person you truly are, rather than the image of you I carried in my head for so long. I can smile at your jokes, now that I am sure they are not meant to hurt me. I need you when the faces of the dead speak to me in the night. Do I love you? I do not know, even now. I do not want to be apart from you. Let that be sufficient, as it has been for so many months. You are very patient with me. Thank you for that. Thank you for everything.

Yours in gratitude,
Marcelin Enjolras

Slowly the tension fades from his stance, until, by the time he rereads the last line for the fifth time and refolds the paper, the lamppost is nearly the only thing keeping him on his feet. After a moment, a laugh escapes him. "Idiot." And, straightening, still laughing, the letter still in his hand, he goes swiftly inside and upstairs. "You idiot, Marcelin."

Enjolras does not appreciate the joke at all. He has apparently been staring at the wall while he waited, and is bright red when he looks at Grantaire. "What?"

"Ah, God." Grantaire embraces him fiercely, and chuckles again. "You dolt, you scared the hell out of me, d'you know that, fair-haired boy?"

Enjolras narrows his eyes. "I have no idea what you mean. Scared you? Why on earth are you insulting me -- and don't call me that."

"The hell I won't." Grantaire is not daunted by this sort of pricklishness. He lets him go, and leans back against the desk. More seriously: "I don't know what to say."

"Neither did I," Enjolras admits. "That's why I wrote that damned letter in the first place." He shakes his head. "Was it that bad?"

Grantaire flaps the letter at him in mock exasperation, and subsides into the chair. "You'll be the death of me yet. Bad? My God, considering what I thought was in it, I can hardly complain."

This does not help. Enjolras is only getting more confused as Grantaire continues. "Why? What on earth do you think it said, that could have been more idiotic than what it did?"

Grantaire laughs again, pretending to throw it at him. "Idiot. I thought this was my eviction notice."

"Your... no. Not that. Of course not." The denial, when it comes, is emphatic. "What do you take me for? I could have said that to you." In a more self-deprecating voice, Enjolras elaborates, "I was always able to be cruel to you. No, it's the pleasantries I can't manage."

Grantaire only laughs harder at that, slouching back in his seat. "Oh, Lord. Well, that's honest, anyway." He shakes his head, subsiding, and looks at Enjolras with that gently crooked smile. It seems as though he would say something, but can't quite find words.

Enjolras frowns, and goes back to looking at the wall. "A year. God help us."

"Is that so bad?"

"That is entirely a matter of perspective," Enjolras says, dodging the question.

Grantaire does not let it drop. "Well?"

"Did you read the letter, or just hand it to a passerby and ask, 'Could you read this and tell me whether I have to move out or not?'" Enjolras asks, a little crossly.

That hurts, but he's not about to let on. "I do have a little more sense of decorum than that. Does it bother you, that's all."

Enjolras asks, in too slow of a tone to really count as patient, "If it bothered me, would you be here?"

"No," Grantaire says steadily. "That's why I asked." He stands, and comes over to sit beside him on the bed.

"You're here. It's your answer." Enjolras puts an arm around his waist. "You -- I don't know. A year. God."

Grantaire pulls him into a rough hug. "Ah, well, I've given up being astounded that easily."

"It's that I thought -- God, I thought I'd be dead. Alone, if not that. Never this." He does not protest the hug. "This is better."

"I would have to agree." Grantaire drops a kiss into his hair.

Enjolras sighs. "I meant it, you know."

"Which?" It's very gentle.

"The letter."

Fingers work soothingly at his shoulders. "I believe you, my dear. I knew that as soon as I'd read it."

"I..." The words do not immediately obey Enjolras's command. He settles for lesser ones. "Thank you."

Grantaire kisses his hair again, with somewhat less innocent affection. "Don't mention it."

Enjolras puts a hand on his knee, and tries again. "I have to mention it. I -- I love you."

Grantaire freezes. There is a long, painful pause. Then, rather hoarsely, though still gently: "No need."

Enjolras is not mollified. "Of course there's need. It's been a year. There must be some damn reason other than that I'm an idiot and you feel some compulsion to take care of a pathetic, broken man who used to hate you and remind you of it at every moment." After this outburst, he says, almost apologizing, "You're far too good to me. You always were."

"No, no, no, now..." Grantaire's arms tighten around him. "Don't say that."

"I'm not supposed to say anything, am I?" Enjolras asks, petulantly.

Grantaire smooths his hair. "Don't say what isn't so. I've given you far more trouble than you ever gave me, and you may believe that or not, but it's true."

"Shall we agree to disagree about this, as well as everything else?" Enjolras kisses his cheek.

"Just as you like," simply.

"Sometimes, it's better if I don't have my way."

Grantaire chuckles. "Ah, you think so?" And kisses him back. "Someday I'll convince you."

"Only if I allow it?" This is a joking question. A third kiss is given.

"Bah, you lawyers and your devious arguments. I am outmatched." Whereupon Grantaire gives up talking altogether, in favor of more direct communication.

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