69. Betrayal of Trust

May, 1852

Like any creature turned loose to wander, Grantaire has made his way to places once familiar. Dusk finds him in a corner of what was once the Café Musain, before it changed hands and its name: silent, his face buried in his arms.

An hour after Grantaire arrives, Joly comes in, tentatively. He takes a seat across the table. "I was passing in the street," he says quietly. "I wanted to talk to you, but you weren't in. That maid of yours -- or is she yours? Probably not -- told me you'd gone out in a rush. This is a hell of a place to land, mon ami."

Grantaire looks up sharply, with a sort of fierce distraction. "Of course she's not mine, even I'm not mine. Where else would I land?"

Joly shrugs slightly. "You could have come to us, really. We'd not turn you away." Frowning, he asks, "What happened?"

"I wouldn't do that." Grantaire stares at the tabletop. "Told me to go. Just..." A small, abortive gesture, as words fail him.

That takes a moment to settle in. When it does, Joly's eyes widen. "Like that?" He snaps his fingers. "After all this time? Why?"

Disturbingly enough, Grantaire laughs at that, without humor. "Some... girl. Some girl I don't even know. Jesus--" He breaks off again sharply, looking away, and pushes a hand through his hair to no particular purpose.

"You didn't." That is full of conviction. "I know you wouldn't." Joly puts a hand on his shoulder. "Why did he think... how could he suspect that?"

Grantaire does not acknowledge the touch at all. "I don't know. I don't know. She comes by and asks to talk to him and they go into a room and talk and the next thing I know she's gone, and ten minutes later so am I. God almighty, someone's gone mad." He sounds unsure of who, exactly.

"The bastard!" Joly expostulates. "Without so much as an explanation. I've half a mind to go and tell him off for you. How dare he?" This last is rhetorical. "God, I'm sorry."

"No," protests Grantaire immediately. "God only knows what she said. I just, I..."

Joly shakes his head. "He should damn well have told you why. I will go and ask, if you let me."

Grantaire stares at his hands. "Wouldn't listen."

"You don't know unless you try," Joly says, half-heartedly. "I would try, at least, for you, cher. You deserve something."

Grantaire catches his breath, and glances up dangerously, before he reminds himself that this is only Joly, who always talks like that. With an effort at calm, "It's not worth it."

"Of course it's worth it. Twenty years and you're just going to go? That's not fair to you." Joly stands up. "I am going to go and ask, especially because you won't. You need to know why he's done this idiotic thing."

"Don't, Alexandre." He straightens a bit at that. "I don't want you barging in there and demanding an accounting, for God's sake. I can do that myself if I really care to know." This is bravado, but it's carried off moderately well.

"No, you won't, or you'd have done it already." Joly shakes his head. "You have to know, and I don't believe you'll ask. You'll just pine. God knows you've done it before."

Grantaire stares darkly at him. "What do you know about it?"

Joly's eyebrows rise. "Pining? Nothing, cher. I don't believe in it." With a little wave of one hand, he dismisses the emotion. "What I know, better than damn near everyone, is how to keep a relationship going. You have to talk. You can't just give up. If you walk away and leave it, there it is, gone. Don't tell me you want that. You wouldn't be here if you wanted to be alone."

Grantaire looks away. After a moment he says mutedly, "You can't go tonight, anyway. There's no way he'll listen."

"I will go. You don't have to come with me, but I will. Tomorrow, if you say so." Joly frowns slightly. "And if I have to explain to 'chetta where the bruises came from, well, she'll understand."

Grantaire eyes him, but doesn't comment on that. "Well, I can't stop you."

Joly grins, cheered by his own plans. "No, you can't," he agrees lightly. "I'll tell him off for you. Don't worry, cher. He won't be able to kill me more than once."

"Not you," says Grantaire cryptically.

Joly's smile goes away. "Damn it. Where does he find the hubris?" He sighs deeply.

Grantaire blinks at him, mildly quizzical.

"You don't deserve this kind of abuse!" Joly exclaims. "No one does, but least of all you."

Grantaire blinks again, as though waiting for the point.

Joly, not expecting a response, is not surprised by the lack thereof. "I swear, if I could understand why you put up with this sort of insanity, I'd cure you of it."

Grantaire shrugs. "Maybe you can't."

"Maybe not, but I wish to God I could." Joly gives him a very sad look. "Damn it. You shouldn't put up with this. I know you're not listening, but you shouldn't have to. The idiot."

"I'm listening," Grantaire says patiently, as he has said countless times to Enjolras.

"Yes, but only with your ears, not with your brain." Joly glances at the door. "No, I shouldn't remind you that your beloved can be a heartless bastard. It's not as if you don't know."

Grantaire smiles faintly, though it doesn't reach his eyes. "Yes, I know."

"I wish you cared. I wish he cared." Joly gives Grantaire an appraising look. "Where are you sleeping, then?"

"Oh, I care," retorts Grantaire bitterly. "I just can't do anything about it." He shrugs to the latter question, as though it is the least of a thousand worries.

"Come home with me. We've space since Alisse left." The tone is cajoling. "Don't sleep here. It'll only make you feel worse."

Grantaire shrugs again. "Doesn't matter."

Joly half-frowns. "It does to me. Come on."

There is a brief pause. "All right. Thank you." It's rote, almost listless, but at least it's acceptance, and he does stand, slowly.

Joly smiles. "Good. Let's go. You look exhausted, mon ami."

The next day, Joly departs shortly after breakfast. Musichetta keeps half an eye on Grantaire, as does Bossuet, but they generally leave him to his own devices (not that he has anything in particular to do). Joly returns two hours later, his normally fair cheeks pink with exertion and anger. He storms into the living room and without so much as a greeting, begins to explain the situation to Grantaire and Musichetta, who watches him over the shirt she is mending. "He's an idiot, I've said it before, I'll say it again until you listen. That woman was some prostitute or other who'd found something of yours and wanted money, so she made all sorts of claims and he believed her. The gall of that man."

Grantaire just blinks at him, as though something in this is failing to make sense. "Hell."

Musichetta's eyes widen. "How could he believe that?" She looks at Grantaire. "You didn't do anything, now, did you?"

"No." Grantaire runs a hand through his hair, dazedly. "I wouldn't-- no."

Joly shakes his head. "I don't understand this whole thing. I tried to tell him to consider the situation before he made stupid assumptions, but... you know."

Musichetta gathers up her sewing basket, stands, and goes over to give Grantaire a kiss on the cheek. "Tell him the truth. Maybe he'll listen."

Grantaire brushes her sleeve reflexively, staring out the window. "I didn't get the chance."

Joly grimaces. "It's your house, too, you know. You have more than the right to go back there and talk to him -- though, right now, I can't see why you'd want to. Still, you should. I'd go with you."

Musichetta tsks. "You should, cher. Go home and talk." And with that little bit of advice, she leaves.

Grantaire watches the door close behind her, and shakes his head slightly. "I can't do that." He pushes to his feet, shoving his hands in his pockets, and turns away, pensive.

"You have to." Joly, not normally firm, is adamant on this point. "All of your worldly belongings and your history are there. If you didn't do anything wrong, don't act guilty, don't stay away, or he will think you did betray him, and then where will you be? At Musain. Again."

"It's not--" but then he pauses, for the words will not be said so plainly. "I can't just ... walk in on him."

"Why in hell not? You live there!" Joly is nearly at his wit's end with this.

"Not anymore, it looks like." This is deliberately flippant.

Joly smacks his own forehead. "It was all a mistake. You've said it. I believe you. Don't just give up. I swear I'll drag you over there bodily if I must."

Grantaire sighs, rubbing at the back of his neck for a minute. "All right," he says at last. "All right, I'll go."

Joly smiles at that and sighs in relief. "All right. Shall I come with you?"

Grantaire shakes his head. "No. Thank you." He turns back to face him, slowly.

Joly studies him a moment, then nods. "All right. Good luck, mon ami." He spreads his arms slightly, offering a hug.

Grantaire hesitates, then yields, slinging one arm around Joly's shoulders in a brief, fierce half-embrace. "Thanks," he says roughly.

Joly thumps him gently on the back, says, "Any time you need me, you know where to find me," and lets him go.

"Right. If I break my arm, I know where to come." With this well-worn quip and a poke in the shoulder, Grantaire takes his leave.

The maid blinks once when she opens the door, then bites her lip. "M'sieur, I'm glad you're home." Her tone suggests that she may be the only one. "We worried." She steps back to allow him into the house. "He's in his study."

"I'm sure you did," Grantaire murmurs with weary irony, and rakes a hand through his hair before stepping in cautiously.

The maid twists her apron in her hands, flustered, and ends up just getting out of the way. "I hope it gets better, m'sieur," she mutters, then retreats.

"Can it get worse?" he says, to no one in particular. He braces himself on the stair rail for a minute, breathing carefully; then heads into the hall, knocks once on the door, and enters unasked.

"How could you?" Enjolras asks in a rough voice. He looks a fright: eyes red, hair disheveled, with a definite air of insomnia. "I thought there was some reason to all of this. I thought there was something between us." He gives Grantaire a harsh look. "I wish I had been correct."

Grantaire braces himself in the doorway to keep from shaking. "How could I what? What have I done? Because before God, I don't know."

"You were drunk, then? Because she remembers." Enjolras looks away from him. "That -- woman -- had your watch. She told me you came to her when I was away." He takes a deep breath. "You say nothing happened. How can that be?"

"Because she's a liar, that's how." Grantaire draws a deep breath. "Wondered where that damn thing had got to. Wouldn't you know the bitch would pick my pocket?"

Enjolras asks icily, "Why was your pocket anywhere close to her?"

A pause. "Will you hear me out?"

Enjolras thinks for a moment, then, reluctantly, "Yes."

Grantaire turns a little away from him, leaning on the doorframe, and folds his arms. It takes him a minute to assemble words. "That time you were gone, those three weeks, after your mother died? You remember."

"I remember."

"Well, I--" Grantaire sighs. "I was out one night, walking, you know, and this woman comes up to me the way such women do... this... fair-haired girl." He seems oblivious to the irony in this. "And-- I don't know, I missed you, and it was right around when Clarisse took sick and it seemed like everything... and she was, you know, she seemed friendly, and I got to talking to her. And finally I said I should get home and she pouts a little the way they do and lets me go, and I went home, and that's all. I saw her again a couple of times on the corner. She was dressed a damned sight better when she came in here."

"I want to believe you," Enjolras says slowly as the tale ends. "I want it more than anything." He shakes his head slightly. "If I do, and I am wrong, it will kill me." A fraction of a pause, then, in a determined tone, "Swear to me that I should trust you, and I will."

Grantaire's fist comes down on the top of the bookcase. "Tell me why you shouldn't!"

Enjolras was expecting capitulation. It takes him a moment to form a coherent response. "A whore came in here with a tale of how you wooed her and gave her money and made her your mistress. A whore, cher, who had something of yours. Your story makes some sense, yes, but so did hers. Listen, please. I love you. I do not want to find out that I was wrong in that. Even more, though, I do not want to continue in it and find out in some horrible way that I should have stopped today."

"For God's sake!" Grantaire's voice carries more conviction than perhaps it ever has before. "You know me, Marcelin. Twenty years you've known me, and when have I ever lied to you? I've made mistakes, yes, but I never lied to you. Not once. If you can't take my word now, then--" he takes a breath "--then I'll go, because there's no use my staying."

Enjolras stands. "I believe you. I told you I would. Please -- forgive me, mon amour. I should never have doubted you." He studies the floor. "It was stupid of me."

Grantaire takes in a sharp breath, and says quite calmly, "Excessive humility doesn't suit you any better than bullheaded arrogance, chéri. When are you going to learn some moderation?" He crosses swiftly to Enjolras' side, slipping an arm around him.

Enjolras embraces him tightly. "Never," he mutters, leaning his head on Grantaire's shoulder. "I was so frightened. I should never have thought -- I am an idiot."

Grantaire kisses his hair. "So you've said."

"Can you forgive me?" Enjolras half-pleads.

One awkward hand rubs gently at his back. "Easily."

"If you'd said," Enjolras begins, but he stops himself. "No. I wouldn't have listened. Stupid, stupid, stupid."

Another kiss lands. "But beautiful."

Enjolras shakes his head slightly and kisses Grantaire on the cheek. "Small consolation that is, nowadays."

"You'll be beautiful at eighty, confound you. Now stop moping," and Grantaire returns the kiss, with evident intent to enforce this.

"Oui, m'sieur," Enjolras answers, eventually, before lapsing into busy silence again.

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