51. A Night Out

True to form, Grantaire comes by at about six in the evening and taps on the half-open door: once and twice.

Inside, Enjolras sits with his head propped on one hand, poring over a thick document. "Come in," he calls in a dull voice.

Grantaire ducks inside, nudging the door shut behind him. "'lo." And, almost immediately, "What's wrong?"

"They lost the shop," Enjolras answers, nearly in a monotone. "They lost the goods. It was all my fault. I should have -- I should have known what to do."

Grantaire blinks. "Ah... hell." He drags a spare chair over beside the desk, and collapses into it, frowning in concern.

"Well said," Enjolras says wryly. "Oh, hell." He covers his eyes with his hands. "I should have been able to help them."

Grantaire sighs, and leans over to put an arm around his shoulders. "It happens."

"It should not happen." He sighs deeply. "They are good people. They did not deserve this." Enjolras straightens his shoulders. "It is hardly the first time."

Grantaire runs gentle fingers through the fair hair, briefly. "'Tis for you, though, isn't it?"

Enjolras sighs. "You ask as if you do not know. Of course it is."

"Of course it is, golden boy, and your luck just cut out on you." Grantaire quirks a faint smile. "I don't wonder you're bothered."

"I have lost enough that I should be able to deal with this," Enjolras says. "But, really, I am more upset on their behalf than on my own."

Grantaire nods, for all the world as though he believes this wholeheartedly, and rubs soothingly at Enjolras's shoulders.

Enjolras sighs deeply. "I feel as if I owe them more."

"I know..." Grantaire rises, comes over to stand behind him. "You and your damned sense of duty," this with rueful affection.

"If I lost it, how would you recognize me?" Enjolras asks, leaning his head back slightly. "I have to do something. God alone knows how."

Grantaire drops a kiss to his hair. "Nothing says you can't."

"I know, I know." Enjolras sighs again. "I suppose the best thing to do would be to concentrate on the next, and the next. There will always be more to do."

Grantaire is quiet a moment, fingers working patiently at Enjolras's tense shoulders. "You can't do it all, you know."

Enjolras leans against him. "I know when I am thinking clearly. Sometimes I need to be reminded." He puts one hand over Grantaire's. "What would I do without you?"

Grantaire kisses his hair again, lingeringly. "I'm sure I don't know."

Enjolras smiles ruefully. "We should go. Perhaps if I eat dinner, I shall feel better."

"Probably." Grantaire squeezes his hand gently.

Enjolras sits up and begins organizing the papers. "I wish I could burn them, but that would be terribly imprudent. I only want them out of my sight."

Grantaire pats his shoulder and straightens. "Don't blame you. Depressing things, records."

Enjolras drops the pile into the bottom drawer of his desk. It lands with a resounding thud. He closes the drawer with a bang, then stands resolutely. "At least now I know that there's nothing to do but improve from here."

Grantaire makes an odd wry face, but wisely forbears to comment, only catches Enjolras's coat from its hook and hands it to him.

"Merci, mon cher." Enjolras takes the coat and puts it on. "Shall we go home?"

"If you like." Grantaire's fingers brush at his sleeve lightly.

"Where do you want to go, then?"

Grantaire shrugs expressively, half-smiling. "Wherever you like, of course. I was thinking I ought to take you somewhere decent for a change. But just as you like."

Enjolras's eyebrows rise. "Somewhere decent? You must mean somewhere expensive. I am not certain that is a good idea, tonight."

"Now, now, have a little faith in me, will you?" Grantaire tilts a grin at him. "I wasn't intending to break the bank. I know a couple of places."

Enjolras takes out his watch and looks at it. "All right. I suppose it would be good for me to relax."

Enjolras stops just outside, waits until Grantaire has left the office, and locks the door. "Now, where are we going?"

"Over a couple of blocks." God forbid Grantaire should actually name a destination when he can give directions. "Nice little place. Wait six months and it'll be fashionable, and it won't be worth visiting anymore."

"Do you think so?" is Enjolras's offhand answer to this as he opens the outside door for Grantaire. "We had best go tonight then, indeed."

"Assuredly." Grantaire casts him another grin, the propriety of which is debatable, and goes out.

Enjolras locks up and puts his coat on, then half-smiles at Grantaire. "Which way, m'sieur?"

Grantaire chuckles, tucks his hands in his pockets and sets off up the street.

Enjolras follows a half-step behind.

The establishment may be on the verge of popularity, but it has not yet tumbled over. The tables, waitstaff, and patronage seem to be well-to-do people at the end of college careers. Grantaire and Enjolras are unremarkable in this group.

"I give it six months," Grantaire says again, leaning comfortably on the table with hands clasped. "And then it'll be on its way to offending both your frugality and my sensibilities."

Enjolras looks around, not quite relaxing. "You know much more about these matters than I care to research. I'll take your word for it." He raises his hand, trying to catch the eye of a waitress. "What is worth eating here?"

"Oh, anything, as far as I know. I haven't" the dark eyes glint with amusement "done a great deal of research."

"Ah, well. We'll have to take a risk, then."

Grantaire flashes a grin. "I trust you're up to the excitement."

Enjolras smiles back. "I imagine so. Dinner." He takes a deep breath. "Something smells good."

A tired-looking young woman meanders over to the table. "What can I get messieurs this evening?"

Grantaire looks to his companion.

Enjolras asks, "What would you recommend?"

"Well.. roast beef.. glazed chicken.. potato soup.." the girl recites a long list of delicious-sounding foods in a bored voice.

Grantaire, used to this, inserts "All right" more or less at random, while the girl pauses for breath.

Enjolras waits for the litany to end and says, "I'd like the vegetable soup and a cup of tea, please."

The girl scribbles something on a tablet that may be the order, or it may be a daffodil. She smiles warmly at Enjolras. "Is that all, m'sieur?" she purrs, sounding anything but bored now.

Enjolras answers, "Yes, thank you," as curtly as he can manage. He does not glance toward Grantaire because he is certain that the latter is highly amused by the waitress.

He is, but he's doing his best not to be obvious about it. "Quite," he agrees genially.

The waitress turns and walks back toward the kitchen, with considerably more grace than she arrived with.

Grantaire observes, over the rim of his waterglass, "She was friendly."

Enjolras shakes his head as she leaves. "Too friendly. What did you order, cher? I could not quite hear over her babbling."

"I'm not entirely sure," Grantaire admits airily. "What, you didn't find her charming?"

Enjolras narrows his eyes, then looks toward the kitchen, and back at Grantaire. "Surely you're joking."

Grantaire does his innocent look. "Why?"

"She is a waitress," Enjolras says slowly. "I do not find waitresses attractive. I never have in any case. Moreover, I consider myself duly charmed." He takes Grantaire's hand.

"Well, in that case," pressing a kiss to his knuckles. "I can't argue with you."

Enjolras smiles and gently withdraws his hand. "Ah, good." He looks slightly sad. "I have had enough arguments today."

Grantaire refolds his hands. Decorous. "That bad, eh?"

Enjolras thinks a moment, then answers, "Yes. It was."

"What all happened?" Grantaire is serious, again, with that curious facility of mood.

Enjolras explains the salient points of the shopkeepers' hearing, keeping his voice steady while he discusses actual occurrences in the courtroom, but sometimes betraying his own frustration and anger in side comments.

Grantaire listens gravely, with a faint frown. At the end of the recitation he grimaces in sympathy, and shakes his head. "Idiots."

"They are, at that." Enjolras sighs. "I would not care if the rich did not depend upon the weak for their own advancement."

"I know. I know." Grantaire shakes his head again, ruefully.

Enjolras shakes his head. "I wish there were something I could do to change everything and fix it all, but..."

"...but you're only one man, my dear." Gently. "You do the best you can. It's better than most."

"I have learned from some of my mistakes," Enjolras answers, quietly but forcefully. I have to try to do something. It hurts when I don't succeed."

Grantaire watches him in quiet concern. "I know."

"I was not going to think about this tonight," Enjolras says tiredly. "I only wanted 'dinner somewhere nice.'" He waves a hand at the restaurant. "This is nice enough by far, but it fails to include dinner."

Grantaire blinks, and glances at the clock. "So it does." A pause. "Two months."

"Two months?" Enjolras asks.

The girl returns from the kitchen, bearing plates of food. She manages to set the appropriate things down in front of the correct persons. "I'll be right over there, if you need anything at all. Name's Lyn." She flashes a toothy grin at Enjolras and retreats to her corner.

Enjolras coughs and says, to Grantaire, "Some privacy, mademoiselle? No, I thought not."

Grantaire chuckles. "She likes you."

"I could hardly care less." Enjolras eats a spoonful of soup. "At least the food is tolerable."

Grantaire is unruffled. "Glad you approve." He casts another amused look Lyn-ward, and picks up a spoon.

"I am glad she has struck your fancy, chéri," Enjolras says lightly. "Perhaps we should invite her home?"

Grantaire blinks once, then breaks down quietly in laughter. "Not my type."

"No?" Enjolras asks, smiling. "Too déclassée? Too greasy? Too pretty?"

To which Grantaire shrugs, and grins, and returns the only proper answer: "She's not you."

"Ah, well. I suppose we'll have to leave her disappointed, then."

Another chuckle. "I'm sure she'll get over it someday."

Enjolras shrugs. "We can hope."

Grantaire chuckles again. "Poor Marcelin. The burden of having pretty girls make eyes at you. The misery of it." He pokes at his peas, watching Enjolras with dancing eyes.

Enjolras laughs quietly. "It is a pain that you were spared, my love. I do not see how you could understand the burden of it." He smiles teasingly, then in a more serious voice adds, "I wish that the futility of their flirtation was as obvious to them as it is to me."

Grantaire quirks a brow wryly. "Ah, do you?"

"If it would stop them, yes." Enjolras shakes his head. "I am all wishes tonight, and all of them for impossible things. I wish for dinner. Look, it has already been granted." With a wry smile, he begins eating again.

"Small mercies." Grantaire watches him a moment, half-smiling, then glances down again. Discreetly, even.

Lyn moves around the room with the water pitcher, refilling glasses, and collecting empty plates. Finally, she drifts to their table. "Anything else I can do for messieurs?" A conspiratorial wink at Grantaire.

"No, merci," Enjolras answers after a glance at Grantaire.

"I think we're taken care of," Grantaire concurs solemnly, "thank you."

Lyn meanders away again with her burdens. There will be other nights, other lawyers, other cafés.

"Wait, mam'selle," Enjolras calls after her.

Grantaire raises his eyebrows, observing.

Lyn spins around, losing some silverware from the tray in the process. "Yes, M'sieur?" Brightly, eagerly.

"You have forgotten to give us the bill," Enjolras answers, doing his best to keep from laughing at the girl.

Grantaire winces at the clatter, and shakes his head, bemused.

"Oh! I'm sorry." She dips down to pick up the lost silver, tipping the water pitcher in her other hand in the process. "Actually.. I'll be right back with that." Toward the kitchen again.

Enjolras covers his mouth with one hand and chuckles silently.

"And so clever, too," Grantaire drawls, under his breath; "how can you resist?"

"Easily. At least I know you won't toss the cutlery all over the room."

Grantaire laughs again. "Not under most circumstances, no."

"Not without proper provocation?" Enjolras asks, smiling.

"Exactly." A crooked grin.

"I shall have to be careful in how I provoke you, then."

Grantaire nods gravely. "Whereas you're welcome to provoke me improperly any day of the week."

The response to the deliberate straight line makes Enjolras blush slightly, even though he had expected it. "I thought as much."

Grantaire reaches over to brush fingers across his wrist, soothingly -- or ostensibly so. "'course you did. Nothing escapes that penetrating intellect."

Enjolras appears soothed out of proportion to the dimensions of the touch. His eyes close for a very long blink. When he opens them again, he is still smiling. "Where is that waitress? I want to go home."

Grantaire barely remembers to withdraw his hand. "Excellent thought," he murmurs.

Lyn is leaning in the corner, having forgotten all about the bill she was supposed to bring -- that is not to say she forgot he who she was supposed to be bringing it to. She's watching them with a puzzled expression on her face.

Enjolras answers, "I thought so," then spots the waitress. "Ah. There she is."

Lyn smiles as his eyes fall on her. Suddenly, she remembers the check in her skirt pocket. She hurries over to their table yet again. "Your check," she says, lying the slip of paper on the table between them. "Thank you, m'sieurs. Did you enjoy dinner?"

Grantaire half-grins lopsidedly at her. "Quite. Thank you."

Enjolras counts out the appropriate amount and sets the money on the bill. "Are you ready to leave?" he inquires of Grantaire.

Grantaire nods with manufactured briskness, and moves to stand.

Lyn nods at them, and collects the check and money. "Have a good evening."

"And you," murmurs Grantaire courteously, and steps back to let Enjolras precede him to the door.

Enjolras does so, comfortably confident that he will be closely followed.

... Previous ... Interlude ... Table of Contents ... Next ...