51. Dearly Beloved

May, 1836

When Grantaire arrives to collect him one breezy spring evening, Enjolras greets him with a smile and hands him a letter. "They have finished planning at last."

Grantaire blinks, briefly taken aback; then takes the letter, his face clearing. "Ah. That."

"You are expected, if you want to attend," Enjolras says, unnecessarily, because that is in the letter.

Grantaire looks bemused. "Well, certainly. Wouldn't miss it." He unfolds the letter, scans it briefly, and hands it back.

"It could hardly be worse than Christmas," Enjolras adds, taking the letter and fetching his coat.

Grantaire chuckles. "Ah, God, yes. Wasn't that a circus." He braces the door open.

Enjolras searches the coat's pockets for his keys while he walks out the door. "Circus Maximus, yes. At least at this event, some of the family will be Etienne's. They must be more sensible than mine."

"They'd have to be, wouldn't they?" Grantaire follows him into the hall.

"They would, at that." Enjolras locks the door. "Do you think I need to put my coat on?"

Grantaire glances at him not unsolicitously. "Bit breezy out."

Enjolras shrugs into his coat. "Merci." He tucks the letter into the inside pocket.

Grantaire quirks a grin, and touches his arm briefly before heading for the outer door.

Enjolras smiles, then follows him. "Are you hungry yet?"

Grantaire shrugs noncommittally. "You?"

"Rather, yes." A slight pause, then, "How was your day?"

"Dull." Grantaire grins at him. "But getting better all the time."

"What a coincidence," Enjolras says. "That sounds like a perfect summary of my day."


"You have my sympathy for the dull parts."

"Likewise, I'm sure," with mock politesse.

"As for the improvements, I cannot imagine what might have caused them." Enjolras tries not to grin with little success.

Grantaire socks him in the shoulder amiably. "Then you're a dolt."

Enjolras prods his arm in return. "I am nothing of the kind."

"Of course you're not, fair-haired boy." Grantaire grins again.

Enjolras shakes his head. "Don't you know my name yet?"

Grantaire sighs. "Marcelin. Of course you're not. Perish the thought."

"Your day would continue to be dull if I were." Enjolras takes his arm.

Grantaire chuckles, mollified. "It would, at that." He pauses at the corner. "Where to?"

"Home, unless you had a better idea."

The wedding reception seems to be tapering off. The bride and groom have departed, and after them most of their relatives. A few college friends of the groom sit together, discussing old times and new times: René and Manon Courfeyrac are taking turns regaling Feuilly, Grantaire, and the bride's brother with tales of their offspring's tribulations. The bride's little sister, Elise, has claimed her right as inhabitant of the house where the reception is being held, and is listening avidly to the grown-ups conversation, and also drinking wine at a rather alarming rate.

"He had the door open," Manon reiterates through a fit of maternal giggles, brushing her hair back, "and..."

"And the dog came racing in, right into Jean's arms," René finishes, chuckling. "Knocked him flat on his rear."

Grantaire chuckles, more at the two of them than at the anecdote, slouched in his seat. "Adventurous little devil."

Marcelin shakes his head, smiling. "It must have been quite a surprise for him."

Feuilly half-smiles, standing braced against the windowsill.

Elise giggles. "The dog knocked him down? He should've known."

Manon grins. "You should have seen his little face."

"Absolutely thunderstruck," René explains. "But now he knows, right enough, that if he goes to the door and calls the dog it'll come running."

"An important lesson, I'm sure," Marcelin comments, glancing at his sister. She is drinking another glass of wine and seems to have lost track of the conversation.

Grantaire is studiously not looking at Elise. "Keeps you busy, then, does he?"

"Does he ever," René says, grinning.

"Endlessly." Manon leans back in her chair, squinting amiably at Marcelin. "You should be glad you don't have your own." Elise is not the only one who's a mite flown.

Feuilly's eyebrows lift slightly, but he says nothing.

Marcelin blinks at Manon's comment, and looks at his sister again. Her head is pillowed on her arms and she seems to have fallen asleep in near-Grantairean style. Her brother smiles at this and takes the opportunity to grin at Grantaire. "Oh, I'm glad, Manon."

Grantaire returns the smile, somewhat half-heartedly, and laces his fingers together absently, glancing toward the window a moment.

Elise begins to snore at odd intervals.

"But he's such an angel." Manon breaks off, blinking at Elise. "Oops. We lost someone."

"Of course he is," Marcelin agrees, then stands. "I think I should take my sister to bed. If they find her like that in the morning, she will be in no end of trouble."

Feuilly tsks, quirking half a grin. "Looks like."

"Do you want a hand?" René asks, trying to stand and thereby discovering that his legs are rather more wobbly than he had anticipated. He resumes his seat rapidly. "Not that I could offer you one."

Manon dissolves into snickers, batting at his hand. "Terrible man," she remarks for no particular reason.

Marcelin looks at his sister with some trepidation and lifts one of her limp arms. "I would appreciate help, yes."

Grantaire pushes to his feet, pointing out wryly if predictably, "Well, this is a switch," and comes over to assist.

René laughs at his own disability, at his wife, and at Grantaire. He tries to make a comment, but cannot catch his breath enough. This amuses him further and he goes into gales of laughter again.

Feuilly shakes his head. "See you two later," he says mildly.

"Actually," Marcelin begins before allowing himself to be interrupted by a yawn, "it has been a very long day, and I, for one, am ready for it to end."

Feuilly lifts a brow. "'night, then."

"Oh." Manon appears momentarily crestfallen. "Well, goodnight then, dear."

Elise snores again, more loudly, as Marcelin makes an effort to lift her torso. "Goodnight, all of you. Sleep well."

René waves, still chuckling quietly. "'Night."

Grantaire looks ruefully at the girl before leaning over to help, matter-of-factly.

Feuilly observes for a moment with subtle amusement: then pushes away from the window to open the door for them.

"Thank you," Marcelin says, a little breathless, then, to Grantaire, "It's just as well she's not any older, or we'd have more trouble than this."

"Doubtless," says Grantaire briefly.

Manon chuckles again. "The poor little thing..."

Elise snores again and stirs slightly as they carry her out, but she does not wake.

René grins. "She'll be all right. We've all done that."

"Yes, but not at thirteen. I didn't," Manon adds virtuously.

"'s that how old she is?" René asks, somewhat muzzily. "I can't remember when I started."

Manon bursts out laughing and swats him again, as Feuilly, with a tolerant look, closes the door.

"In here," Marcelin says, nodding at a door, after they have carried Elise up a flight of stairs and down a hallway. "Though how we'll open it I don't know."

"Hang onto her, I'll get it." Grantaire eases the girl into her brother's arms, and coaxes the door open after some fiddling with the latch. "There."

"Foolish girl," Marcelin says irritably, but he manages to carry her in and lay her in bed in what looks like an almost comfortable position. Then he blushes. "I suppose we could take her shoes off."

Grantaire grins, leaning on the doorframe. "If we wanted to be kind and fraternal, yes."

Marcelin chuckles and leaves her on top of the covers, shoes and all. "Good point."

"You wake up a few times having slept in your shoes, you learn to at least get your own self to bed." Grantaire quirks another grin, and turns to head back into the hall.

"You would know," Marcelin says, shutting the door and catching up to him. "She will learn something from this, I daresay."

Grantaire shrugs, hands clasped behind him. "One hopes."

Marcelin puts a hand on his shoulder. "I don't know about you, but I'm quite tired."

Grantaire glances at him. "Getting late," he agrees mildly.

"It tends to do that." Marcelin opens the door of his own room; the guest room is currently occupied by Combeferre's parents, the Courfeyracs are using Julie's former room, and Feuilly is in Chantal's.

"Regularly without fail. Vexing, that." Grantaire half-smiles, bracing an arm against the wall.

Marcelin takes a candle from its support on the wall of the hallway and, going into his room, sets it in the holder at the head of the bed. "Well," he starts, then yawns and chuckles.

Grantaire, having followed him in, delivers a gentle cuff to his shoulder, teasing. "Well, indeed."

"Somehow I feel as if I've been here before," Marcelin says, trying to look confused instead of grinning as he goes to shut the door. "Except, this time, I can think clearly."

Grantaire gets a decidedly impish look, but forbears to comment beyond a mild, "Funny, that."

Marcelin sits on the bed and begins to untie his shoes. "I thought so."

"'course you did." Grantaire half-grins at him; then catches at his hands.

Marcelin blinks at him a moment in the flickering light, then smiles. "Yes?"

Grantaire presses a kiss to his knuckles, oddly serious. "Let me."

A pause, then, "If you like," quietly.

Grantaire nods then, gravely, and gazes at him a moment before dropping easily to the floor to finish unknotting the laces.

Marcelin puts his hand on Grantaire's shoulder.

Grantaire glances up after a moment, serious, smiling, quizzical.

"Shall I help you, then?" Marcelin asks, in a tone that is meant to be light but which catches in his throat.

Grantaire tucks his shoes under the edge of the bed, and reaches up to take his free hand. "If you like."

Marcelin laces their fingers together and slides off the bed. "I wouldn't mind."

"Ah," half a sigh. "Who am I to turn you down?"

"You can, if you want." Marcelin sits back for a moment, but does not pull his hand away.

"I wouldn't." Grantaire's fingers tighten in his.

"Good." Marcelin smiles and leans forward to brush his cheek with a kiss, then sits back and begins to untie his shoes, one-handed.

Grantaire takes in an unsteady breath, and watches him, tenderly and in silence.

Marcelin tucks his shoes under the bed, then leans forward to kiss him again.

Grantaire accepts the kiss and returns it, sliding an arm around his shoulders.

Marcelin frees his hand to embrace Grantaire properly, then suggests, smiling, "Perhaps we should get off of the floor."

"Perhaps we should, at that." Grantaire trails fingers through his hair a moment, then shifts to stand up.

Marcelin stands, then helps Grantaire to his feet and embraces him again. For a moment, he says nothing, only rests his head on Grantaire's shoulder.

Grantaire holds him quietly, one hand rubbing gently at his back.

Marcelin kisses his cheek. "Thank you."

"For what, fair-haired boy?" Grantaire half-smiles at him.

"Everything." Marcelin is serious, now, and does not return the smile. "I --" he interrupts himself and looks away.

Grantaire reaches up to touch his cheek. "What?"

"Nothing, really. I felt out of place at Chantal's wedding, that's all."

A slight frown. "Why's that?"

"Foolish reasons." Marcelin kisses his cheek. "Don't worry."

"Don't worry, the man says." Grantaire returns the kiss, half-grinning. "What do you keep me around for, if not to worry?"

Marcelin chuckles. "To untie my shoes, among other things."

"Ah, of course. I was forgetting." His fingers twine through Marcelin's hair again.

"And because I love you," Marcelin says, hastily, to speak before he loses his nerve.

Grantaire is quiet a moment or two. "Oh," he says then, simply, but not as though he's perturbed.

"You aren't surprised, are you?" Marcelin asks. There is a note of hysteria in his tone.

"Shhhh," and Grantaire pulls him close, fingers pressing soothingly at his shoulders. "Easy, beloved."

Marcelin sighs and relaxes in his arms. "It was odd to watch the wedding and think that I would never have that. And I do love you." The words come more easily.

"What a coincidence," Grantaire murmurs into his hair.

"How so?"

Grantaire grins crookedly, unseen. "I love you, too."

Marcelin's arms tighten around him.

Grantaire reciprocates, and remarks, half-teasing, "I'd ask you to marry me in a minute, if I could."

Marcelin makes a noise half-way between a chuckle and a cough and hides his face in Grantaire's shoulder. "Thank you, I think," he mumbles.

Grantaire adds, solemnly, "You'd look lovely in white."

Marcelin lets him go abruptly. "You're mad," he says, affectionately. "Absolutely mad. I would not look at all 'lovely' in white, particularly not -- that white."

"Of course I am," returns Grantaire cheerfully. "You would, you know. Though not," he allows, trying for deadpan, "in skirts, probably."

"I am not going to find out," Marcelin assures him, then sits on the bed. "I have enough trouble keeping my clothes presentable as it is."

Grantaire gives way to laughter. "You mean to tell me I'm never to see you with flowers in your hair?" he protests in mock dismay, and comes over to sit beside him.

Marcelin blinks, then chuckles. "Not when I'm awake, no, unless I lose my mind more than I already have." He kisses Grantaire.

"Damn." Grantaire chuckles, and then kisses him back in earnest.

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