«I said no.» Jehan slammed a pair of shears on the counter, raising his frown up to Grantaire.
«Oh, come on! You're going so well, I really need both the practice and the exposure, this place is perfect. Please,» Grantaire pleaded him, leaning on the counter with his hands joined.
Jehan shook his head.
«I told you already, I don't want you to scare my clients off. And I just hired a new delivery boy, I don't need someone else hanging around uselessly,» he said, coming off more harshly than what he meant.
«What does he think about this? You should make this decision together,» Grantaire tried, not really hopeful but desperate enough.
«He doesn't make decisions, he just hands me the things I need when he understands what I'm asking for. He's really useless, I only keep him because I needed someone to go around town for me,» Jehan replied, taking another pair of scissors and going around the shop, trimming occasional dead branches and flowers.
«Jehan, please, really. I never asked you for...» Grantaire was saying, but Jehan shot him a deathly glare, stopping him before he could say the really wrong thing. He had done him more favours than anyone on the entire damn earth. Not that Grantaire didn't pay back for every single one of them, but being the kind one was quite shitty some times.
«Okay, but I really need this. I swear I'll do anything you ask for the rest of my life. I just have to sit in a corner and stay silent. I can bring you coffee and food everyday. I can buy you drinks every time you want. Just let me paint here,» he was now begging.
«Also this semester will be all about flowers, and I really need to practice and you know I'm too broke to buy them,» he added, desperation seeping through his voice.
He needed some quiet place where he could find some inspiration and draw freely, which he couldn't do at home now that Éponine's boyfriend had moved in with them. In Jehan's flower shop he could find the right kind of peace and the perfect inspiration for anything he needed to draw.
«And think about all the people who'll come here to see the weird guy who paints! It would be a success for both of us!» he said. Jehan sighed deeply, tried to calm down.
«Grantaire, I'm sick of hearing the same three reasons over and over. Find something better or go away,» he said, pushing him away from the counter.
Right in that moment, an old lady came in, and Grantaire stepped back, standing next to the door as she asked Jehan some advice on a bouquet to give to her granddaughter who was having a baby.
While Prouvaire was in the back picking some flowers to show her, Grantaire gathered up his courage and walked up to the woman.
«Ma'am, excuse me if I heard your conversation, I am an artist, I was wondering if you would like to give a painting to your granddaughter? It would go well with the flowers,» he said, kindly, smiling. The lady smiled at him, a bit perplexed.
«Oh, you think? Maybe they'd like a family portrait now that they have the baby. How much would it be?» she asked.
«Free offer. I do the work and you pay based on how much you like it,» he invented, not wanting to scare her off with a definite price. She looked pleased.
«Well, I can ask them. Do you have an atelier?» she said, and Grantaire had to keep himself from cringing.
«Not really, I usually work at home. But here's my card, with all my contact details. Also, hopefully, you will be able to find me here, if my friend Jehan lets me,» he smiled, handing her his business card and mentally thanking his art school for that assignment. The woman laughed as Jehan came back with the examples she wanted.
«You could set up a good business here, with your friend here,» she said to him, pointing at Grantaire. «People nowadays don't appreciate good gifts any more. When I was young it was every girl's dream to receive flowers and portraits, now they just want expensive things. You could bring back the trend among you youngsters.»
Jehan nodded, agreeing with her, and he proceed to show her his propositions.
It took them twenty minutes and a couple of stories of the woman teenage years before coming to an agreement on a composition, but Prouvaire didn't look bothered. He loved his job, and hearing people's stories was part of it.
She paid and she took her flowers, happy. As she was leaving, saying goodbye to Jehan, she waved at Grantaire too.
«I'll see you soon, young man.»
«I really hope so, ma'am,» he said with his best smile, slightly bowing his head.
As soon as she was far enough from the door, Jehan turned against Grantaire.
«What the fuck, R. Stop scaring my clients off!» he said.
«I didn't! She bought, she was happy! Why can't we both profit from this?» the other asked. He didn't understand why his friend couldn't see the pros of the arrangement he was proposing him.
«Because not everyone is going to be this kind! I get a lot of mean people as well, and they're already annoyed enough by having to buy flowers, they don't need someone pestering them about paintings and other crap!» Jehan burst out. It was meaner than how he really felt, but he had enough of it. Grantaire should learn to take no for an answer, and if he had to do it the hard way, so be it.
«Okay, got it. I'll take my crap somewhere else,» he just said, deadpan, turning around and leaving in a second. He knocked down a vase on his way out, and he pretended to have done it on purpose.
He could always ask Bahorel to let him work at the dog shelter, or at Feuilly's carpenter's shop. If Jehan couldn't see his potential, he would have taken it somewhere else.
All his friends told him he could just put up with Montparnasse's shitty behaviour and stay in his apartment. He wasn't surprised, but he was going to sulk for a few weeks anyway, because they were all ungrateful little shits.
On the bright side of things, the old woman's granddaughter had actually called him, and they had scheduled a series of appointments for him to go to their house and paint them. He had been there already twice, for three hours long sessions, and he was now finishing the details in the background.
It was a sunny afternoon, both his flatmates were out, and he could put on classical music at full volume without anyone complaining.
He was focused on fixing the way the light hit one of the women's hair in the painting when his phone rang, making him startle and almost ruin the baby's face. He quickly pulled out his phone and replied without even looking at the screen.
«Hey, R. Sorry if I bother you...» It was Jehan.
«You almost ruined my painting. What do you want?» Grantaire harshly interrupted him. They hadn't talked since the fight in the flower shop, and Grantaire was still quite mad at how he defined his work.
«Look, I'm sorry, okay? I'm really sorry for what I said, I didn't actually mean it. I shouldn't have snapped at you, I shouldn't have insulted your work. I'm really, deeply mortified.» Jehan paused.
«What do you want?» Grantaire repeated. Jehan lightly coughed, he sounded embarrassed.
«I was wrong,» he said in a little voice.
«Yeah, I know. But what do you want?»
«I want you to come work here,» he said in a rush, almost like he didn't want to say those words.
Grantaire blinked, a grin slowly creeping up his face.
«You heard me.»
«I want to hear it again.»
«I want you to come work here,» Jehan repeated, more clearly.
«May I ask you why you changed your mind?» Grantaire asked, openly mocking him. He could imagine the reason, but he wanted to be sure.
Jehan sighed. «It's the fifth time someone comes in and asks for my ''painting service''. The last one didn't even want to buy flowers and walked away when I said I didn't have one. It looks like you're ruining my business by not being here, so please, would you like to come paint here?»
Grantaire had to keep himself from laughing. He was very, very tempted to refuse. After all, Jehan had insulted him and disrespected his work, and he had all the reasons for not wanting to help him with his business. And really, if he hadn't been so desperately in need of money, he would have.
He sighed, pretending to be conflicted.
«Well, if you say please...» he said. He could almost hear Jehan smile.
«Thank you so much, R. You can start tomorrow. I already have the perfect spot for you, and you can pick the music as long as it's something soft,» the florist said.
«See you tomorrow, wanker. Now let me get back to work,» Grantaire replied, smiling fondly even if he still felt insulted.
«See you, love you,» Jehan warbled, adding a smack of his lips. Grantaire couldn't help but laugh as he hung up and got back to his painting, a bit happier than before.
He had a job he really cared about and he didn't have to adjust to Montparnasse's working schedule to have some peace.
For the first time in weeks, things were really going the right way.
When he went to Jehan's shop the following afternoon, he saw a beautiful vintage armchair as soon as he stepped in, beside a new easel with a blank canvas already mounted upon. Also, there was a mug of chocolate coffee on the counter, and a little card with his name on.
It said "Good morning. Thank you again and sorry, again. I hope this will help you forgive me". Jehan's flowery signature was in a corner. Grantaire hid his fond smile in the cup of coffee, taking a long sip.
He put the card in his bag and headed towards his post: right corner of the shop, in front of a piece of fence covered in climbing roses. He sat down and he found himself surrounded by the smell of roses. Accompanied by the soft classical music coming from the speakers on the ceiling, it felt like a little peace of heaven and Grantaire would have liked to nest there forever.
He felt happy. That morning he delivered the finished painting to the couple, who had enthusiastically paid him 100 euros, and he had a bunch of brand new very professional looking business cards printed.
And finally, he had his place to work. His little piece of exposure to the public, he could already see the commissions flowing towards him. He hadn't felt that happy in years, and he couldn't bring himself to be anything but optimist on that experience.
When Jehan came out of the back of the shop, he rushed to hug him, his anger forgotten.
«I'm so glad you like it,» Jehan said, gesturing at what he had set up for him.
«I love it,» Grantaire replied, smiling fondly. Jehan hugged him again and Grantaire rolled his eyes as he heard him sniffle.
«Now go look busy and artsy, people might come in any moment,» the florist said then, vaguely gesturing towards the armchair and rubbing his eyes.
«Oh, and feel free to stain the floor and the chair,» he added.
«Why would I?» Grantaire asked, confused.
«Aesthetic, R! I thought you were the artist here,» he said, rolling his eyes. The other just laughed, sitting down, taking out his sketchbook and pencil case and starting to sketch the flowers on the counter.
It took him a few days to kick in, but at the end of the first week Grantaire was already working on two different commissions for two different people. He also had three appointments scheduled for the two following weeks, and he had gained several new followers on his art blog, mostly other art or photography blogs, but also people who didn't want him to follow back.
Apparently, people who bought flowers were the kind of people who also liked paintings. Weird or old people, mostly, some times both, but he wasn't complaining. It was all rewarded practice, and there was literally nothing better for an art student.
He and Jehan celebrated with a generous amount of alcohol that weekend, and Grantaire made a point of making Bahorel and Feuilly regret having turned him down. They didn't, they were just happy for him, but they claimed to be extremely resentful and jealous.
He was happy with his small success, even with his chronic pessimism telling him not to boast too much, and with his cold realism reminding him that he couldn't really aspire to much more in his life. He could settle with doing portraits of old women and young families and hipster girls, he could settle with giving free sketches to bored kids and being tipped by annoyed mothers, and most of all, he could absolutely settle for a small, kind of regular income, for something he loved doing.
Ambition had never been in his nature, and that kind of luck was something that could make him satisfied for an extremely long time.
The thought that fate could have something else in store for him had never crossed his mind.
A month had passed, the rent had been paid, as well as all the bills, and he was finally on his way to get out of a few debts.
One afternoon he was curled up on his armchair, copying one of Filippo Lippi's Annunciations from a book and listening to Jehan singing while waltzing around the different vases scattered all around the shop.
Outside the sun was shining bright, and as it passed through the vines hung around the big front windows, it spread a soft, warm green-ish light all across the little shop.
In that almost sleepy haze, the bell above the door startled them as it rang. Grantaire, who was focused on tracing the angel's curls, raised his eyes and, for a second, he thought he was dreaming.
How could it be possible that the angel Gabriel himself had just walked through the door?
Grantaire stared at the stranger in awe as Jehan approached him with a casual smile and asked him what he could do for him. When the angel opened his lips, Grantaire was just waiting for him to say «Ave, Maria» for the picture to be complete.
Instead, the stranger (who was very much human), said that he wanted a bunch of flowers for a girl, a friend he had to apologize to.
Jehan laughed. Grantaire kept being in awe. His hand kept moving on the paper, unconsciously tracing the stranger's face on the page, where the angel's face was supposed to be.
«Do you have any idea what her favourite flowers are?» Jehan asked. The stranger shook his head.
«I don't know a single thing about flowers,» he said and his cheeks flushed a bit and Grantaire almost swooned.
«Okay, no probs. Just describe her, I'll think of something,» the florist replied, and the client sighed in relief.
Grantaire's hands worked before he could even think. He found a blank page as the man gathered his thoughts, and as he talked, Grantaire drew.
He drew someone small, petite, cute, with big blue eyes and long blond hair. Someone joyful, generous, kind, friendly. Someone who was always happy, who had the best smile and gave the best hugs.
He just drew, quick and sketchy, trying to be as precise as possible given the useless information he was eavesdropping. When the stranger hushed, Grantaire finished the last touches and raised his eyes in time to see Jehan disappear in the back. Somehow, he gathered the courage he didn't know he even had and talked.
The stranger turned around, perplexed. «Yes?»
«Does your friend, by any chance, look a bit like this?» Grantaire asked, turning the page towards him. The stranger went a bit closer to see it, and puffed out a laugh.
«Not really. Close enough, though,» he said with a smirk that made Grantaire melt.
«I could do better with more details, or a photograph,» he said. The stranger's smirk got a bit more sarcastic.
«I'm sure you could. I'm sorry, she's engaged,» he said. Grantaire laughed nervously.
«Good for her. I just heard you needed to apologise and thought a portrait would be a more original than just flowers,» he said. The man looked at him for a while, probably uncertain whether to believe him or not.
«What kind of paintings do you do?» he asked then. Grantaire smiled, reaching beside his armchair to take his portfolio. He picked a couple of portraits of young women he had done over the last few weeks, some realistic, some almost impressionist, and he handed them to the stranger.
He looked at them with a clearly fake knowing expression. He just looked quite impressed but confused. He probably knew about painting as much as he knew flowers.
«Maybe you should ask her boyfriend what she likes best,» Grantaire suggested.
«Maybe,» the other said, giving the drawings back. «But I don't really know if it would be a good idea,» he added, clearly still suspicious about Grantaire's real intentions.
«Well, just think about it. If you change your mind, you can find me here,» Grantaire said, smiling understandingly, handing him his business card. The stranger took it with a smile and put it in his pocket, promising that he would have thought about it. Grantaire highly doubted it, but it had been worth a shot.
The stranger walked up to the counter again and Grantaire went back to drawing his angel, who looked more like the man in front of him than the original version on his book.
Once Jehan came back, he eavesdropped again, and occasionally glanced at them to look at what the stranger was buying. Trusting Jehan's experience, he bought a pretty and simple bouquet of wild flowers, like poppies, daisies, pansies and small sunflowers, all surrounded by a cloud of baby's breath. In his hands, it made him look even more angelic, and Grantaire felt a little bit in love with that complete stranger.
«That's perfect, thank you so much,» he said, looking at it and beaming a smile at Jehan.
«Thank you, dear. I hope she'll forgive you,» Jehan said, returning the smile and handing him his receipt.
The client said goodbye and walked towards the door. Grantaire quickly bowed his head, pretending to be focused on the drawing, and didn't look at him while he walked out. He waited half a second before looking up to Jehan.
«Did he look at me on his way out?» he asked. Jehan grinned.
«Briefly, but he did. And touched his pocket,» he replied, knowing what it meant, and Grantaire let out a sigh of happiness. is blog would have gotten a new follower that evening.
It turned out that, somehow, for some reason, Grantaire was more lucky than he imagined.
He did get a new follower that evening, as he had expected. The man was called Enjolras, he studied political science and ran a blog about politics and social justice. Grantaire scrolled through some of his posts, unsurprisingly finding himself disagreeing with most of them but also attracted by the way he wrote, his strong words, his simple and direct syntax, without wasting time in empty rhetoric, without ever being offensive, and occasionally dropping some probably not completely conscious poetic bombs.
He followed him back and made a point to start commenting on some of his posts in the following days, just for the pleasure of having some contact, given that he didn't expect to ever meet him again.
So that's why, when he answered the phone two days later, he couldn't believe his ears as he heard his voice.
«Hi, I'm Enjolras, the guy from the flower shop. Do I bother you?» he said, sounding nervous.
«Not at all,» he almost warbled, so loud and happy that he startled Jehan who was working a few steps away from him. «You changed your mind?»
«I did. The flowers apparently weren't enough, so I need something else,» he said, now sounding embarrassed.
«Awesome,» said Grantaire, and he meant it. «What do you have in mind?» he asked then, quickly grabbing a piece of paper to write down notes.
«I asked her boyfriend and he told me she'd love an, umh, impressionist rendition, I think, of one of her photographs. Is it something you can do?»
«Absolutely. I just need the photograph.
«I can send you a link to her Flickr account and you can choose from there?» Enjolras asked, partly relieved. Grantaire paused for a second, writing down what the other had just said, and then understood it.
«No, wait, I have to choose? Doesn't it have to be a little more personal?» he argued. Now it was Enjolras' turn to pause.
«Maybe? I don't know, I really suck at all these feelings things. I guess it should, but I'm absolutely clueless,» he replied then, sounding a bit whiny. Grantaire laughed softly.
«Okay, why don't you tell me a bit about her and why you need to apologise and then I can check the photographs and suggest some of them for you to choose?» he proposed. Enjolras hummed in agreement.
«It's a great idea. But, umh, I'm a bit busy now,» he said. He paused, there was some confused noise and then he came back. «I'm really sorry to ask you this but could we meet later? Like around seven? There's a café in Boulevard Saint Michel, called Musain, we can meet there and discuss all of this. If you're free, obviously.»
«I am. Musain at seven. That's perfect,» Grantaire was really glad the other couldn't see how much he was beaming.
«Thank you so much, see you later,» Enjolras said, and hung up. Grantaire's hands were shivering as he closed the call and put his phone in his pocket.
«Do you have a date?» Jehan asked, half perplexed and half excited.
«I have a meeting. Work stuff. With the blond Renaissance angel from the other day. I'm totally not going to pretend it's a date and freak out,» Grantaire replied. Jehan let out a high-pitched squeal, flapping his hands.
«That's so great, R. You've got the chance of a lifetime to impress him and get a real date.» he said, and Grantaire sighed deeply, trying to fight as hard as he could against his pessimism, which was telling him he would never impress Enjolras enough.
«If he won't be impressed today, he will be when he sees the painting,» he tried, with a smug grin, trying to believe his own words.
The rest of the day passed slowly and calmly, in contrast with how restless and impatient he was feeling.
He had an appointment at two o'clock, he spent three hours painting an old woman sitting in an older armchair, wrapped in a probably even older fur. She had a small, incredibly fat dog in her arms, who luckily slept the entire time, and peacock feathers in her white hair. It wasn't Grantaire's weirdest commission, but he was really glad when it was over and he could get away from the stagnant air and the mix of mould, dust and some pungent sugary kind of perfume that permeated the old woman's flat.
After that, he went home, had a long shower to get the smell off of his hair, fixed himself up a bit and then sat in his room with one of his latest commissions, trying to get something done in the hour he had before meeting Enjolras. Musain was a few minutes away from his flat, so he could wait until the last minute to go out.
Painting relaxed him, so he was actually able to not freak out too much when he finally went out and arrived at the café, five minutes late with spots of paint still fresh on his fingers. He walked in and looked around, trying to find his angelic potential client. Finally, he spotted him sitting in a booth near the back of the café, with his laptop and a bright green smoothie. He walked up to him and, when he was close enough, he called him.
Enjolras raised his head and when their eyes met, Grantaire felt his legs sway and his heart lost a beat. He had almost forgot how gorgeous he was. When he smiled, his head spin for a second. This was going to be harder than he had expected.
«Once again, let me tell you how sorry I am to call for such a sudden meeting,» Enjolras started, but Grantaire interrupted him by laughing. The thought that this could be even remotely annoying for him was just so hilariously wrong.
«Dude, I spend most of my afternoons painting creepy old ladies and boring families. Believe me, I'm glad to be here,» he said, and Enjolras smiled.
«Anyway,» he said, turning to his computer (probably to close whatever he was working on while he waited for him). «Feel free to order anything, it's on me.»
«Oh, don't even think about it,» Grantaire started saying, but Enjolras shot him quite an intent gaze. «I insist,» he said, and the painter could bring himself to argue any further. When a waiter came to ask him if he wanted something, he took a cappuccino and laughed softly when he saw the other smiling satisfied.
«So, have you gathered any ideas yet?» he asked then, taking a sip of his drink. Enjolras shook his head.
«Still clueless,» he said, turning his laptop around and pushing it towards Grantaire. «These are her photographs.»
«Okay, so, why don't you tell me a bit about what you have to apologise for while I take a tour?» Grantaire proposed, already scrolling through her albums.
Enjolras took a deep, vaguely shaking breath. He probably wasn't completely at ease about opening up to a stranger, but he tried anyway.
«We had quite a strong fight a week ago. She's been trying to set me up with people for months now, because I've been without dating for a few years and she thinks I need to be in a relationship, for some reasons.»
«Well, she probably wants you to be happy,» Grantaire commented with a little smile, lingering on a really sweet photo with a caption saying 'Me and my favourite person', portraying Enjolras with a grumpy expression and flower crown on his hair, and a cute blond girl who was kissing his cheek.
«Sure, but all her set ups have went from failures to complete disasters, so when she proposed me another one, last week, I just snapped. I, umh, told her several bad things and I hurt her, a lot,» he said, and added «Emotionally,» when Grantaire raised a shocked look.
«Anything you can tell me?» he asked then. Enjolras sighed, lowering his eyes and flushing a bit. He was torturing a little paper tissue with his hands, clearly showing how nervous he was. Grantaire was about to tell him he didn't have to talk if he didn't want to, but he talked first.
«I told her that not everyone needs affection as bad as she does, that, unlike her, I was self-confident enough not to need someone else to consider myself worthy, and also something nasty about her boyfriend and how she was just settling for him,» he spat out, quickly and nervously.
«You see, she's adopted, she had a rough childhood and it was very insensitive for me to say those things, which I didn't even actually mean, at all. But I really want to make up to her, and I suck at expressing feelings with words so I don't know how else I can apologise apart from gifts. But she refused the flowers. Actually, she slammed the door closed as soon as she saw me. I left them there but I guess she threw them away.»
Grantaire stood silent for a while, scrolling trough the photos and thinking about the right thing to say. Enjolras did the same, keeping tearing apart the tissue, not daring to raise his eyes.
«You should do something to show her how much you care for her,» Grantaire said eventually. «To make her see that you do care for affection, especially for hers. And you have to tell her what you just said to me, that you're sorry and you didn't mean any of those things.»
And maybe date someone, maybe me, he thought, but he obviously didn't say it. Enjolras nodded, but when he looked at him he was clearly asking him how he could do it.
«Luckily for you, I think I just found the perfect photo,» Grantaire said, clicking on it and turning the laptop to make the other see.
It was a view of the Seine from a corner on the left end of the Petit Pont, with Notre-Dame on the right and behind it, a beautiful sunrise with a pastel pink, azure and soft orange sky and the sun peeking almost shyly from behind the cathedral. On the surface of the river lingered a pale greyish mist, with shimmers of gold reflecting on it and on the water beneath.
The view was amazing, the colours gorgeous, but another detail made the photo special. Two men, leaning against the handrail on the left riverbank, one of them with blond hair who Grantaire had recognised as Enjolras, and another with brown hair, who probably was the girl's boyfriend.
The photograph was titled Treasures, and the plural suggested that the picture depicted more than a thing that the girl held dear.
As soon as Enjolras looked at it, a fond smile spread on his face, lighting it up and making his anxiety disappear.
«That's perfect,» he murmured emotionally.
«Awesome, let me just write down the link and we're done,» Grantaire said, trying not to sound as sad as he felt. He wanted to spend more time with Enjolras, but didn't have a valid excuse and he probably had stressed him out enough for the evening.
He turned the computer on again and took his phone to write down the link. When he finished, he gave the computer back to Enjolras and put the phone away. As he was preparing himself to say some sort of goodbye, the other talked.
«By the way, I browsed through your blog a bit and your drawings are really amazing. I felt a little guilty for how I treated you the other day, I shouldn't have thought so poorly of you,» he said, surprising him.
«I'm actually quite used to people thinking I'm some kind of crook or a prowler. It might be because part of my job at the flower shop is eavesdropping people's conversation and basically just annoying them till they give in,» he said, and Enjolras laughed.
«I'm sure you're not that annoying,» he said, but he didn't sound sure.
«Well, you thought I was.»
«I thought you were after my friend, that's different.»
«That's kinda worse,» Grantaire laughed, and Enjolras made a face.
«And by the way, since you didn't let me snoop around enough, I looked at your blog too,» he said then, and Enjolras' expression turned into a smile.
«What do you think about it?» he asked, hopeful, and Grantaire smirked, embarrassed, scratching the back of his head.
«Honestly? I respect and really appreciate the intent, but I can't find myself to care about it. I just don't think it serves any real purpose. Things are never gonna change so what's even the point, why bother so much,» he said. Enjolras' smile disappeared as quickly as it had blossomed, turning into a frown.
«That's exactly the way of thinking that's keeping things from changing. People change if they believe they can change, if they believe in building a better world for the next generations. Think about what would have happened if, three centuries ago, the people of France decided that liberty and equality served no real purpose and weren't worth fighting for. Where would we be now?» he said, closing his laptop and leaning on the table, already getting fuelled up.
«Three centuries ago there was the Enlightenment. And anyway, it took them an entire century and two Napoleons to get to a stable Republic, billions of lives wasted in the meanwhile, thinking of building a better world. And then what? World War II looked at our motto and spat on it. It took us another eighteen years to go back to normal,» Grantaire replied, remaining calm. He wasn't the kind of guy to really care about politics or social justice, but he felt like a need to reply to Enjolras.
«The Enlightenment was what helped us through the darkness of the Ancien Régime, and its values are the only way we have to make our motto come true. Liberté, égalité...»
«And Beyoncé,» finished Grantaire for him, laughing and gaining a death glare from Enjolras. «For real, though. You're good with words, you almost make them seem true, but I just can't believe them.»
«Do you believe in anything?» Enjolras asked, raising an eyebrow. He believed anyone could change in better, but stubborn scepticism was hard to cope with.
Grantaire thought about it. When he had first read Enjolras' post, he had almost believed in them, but not for what they said rather than for how they said it and who said it. Did he believe in people? Not really, as the pessimist and misanthropist he was. But he could believe in Enjolras, if he could bring himself not to pay much attention.
«Probably not,» he replied, anyway, because it was kind of creepy to say that to a stranger.
«Not even in some kind of deity?»
«Nope. Careless agnostic. There might as well be someone up there, but I don't care,» he replied with a grin and a shrug. Enjolras shook his head.
«What, are you religious?» Grantaire asked.
«No, I'm agnostic too, but it's not that I don't care, it's that I know that I'm not able to know the truth and I never will be until I'm dead, and I think that crossing out any possibility is the most close-minded thing one could do,» Enjolras replied. «I don't think religion is always a good thing, though. Most people lean on it because they need some reassurance they're not alone and their lives have a meaning, and I respect their faith, but not if it leads to discrimination and hate. I think the only things people should really worship and take as guidance for their lives are reason and progress and equality, with the aim of, one day, reaching liberty in its purest form.»
As he said that, his eyes shone bright and his voice was sure and passionate. He believed in his own words with such a strength it almost made Grantaire believe them too. As he watched him talk, he felt his heart beat faster and his lips curl in a stupid fond smile, and he thought he was really like the angel Gabriel, come on Earth to spread God's message.
«Why are you looking at me like that?» Enjolras asked, perplexed. 'Because I'm falling in love with you' would have been the awkward truth.
«Because you're so sure of what you're saying, it's kinda sweet,» he said instead making him frown.
«Don't treat me like an idiot just because I have some ideals,» Enjolras scowled.
«I'm not, I swear. You really are sweet,» Grantaire said, smiling fondly again. Enjolras looked embarrassed. Luckily, his phone buzzed and a message popped up on the screen, making him notice what time it was.
«Oh shit, it's already half past eight, my friends are waiting for me,» he said, typing a quick reply to the message and standing up to put his stuff in his bag and put on his coat.
«Hey, umh, thank you again. It's been, umh, a pleasure,» he babbled, awkwardly gesturing towards Grantaire.
«The pleasure was mine,» Grantaire just said, tilting his head to the side and smiling.
«We'll keep in touch, for, umh, the painting, yeah?» he said, even more babbling, even more awkward.
«Yeah. Bye,» Grantaire replied, smiling even more.
Enjolras just waved and literally ran away, bumping against the door frame on his way out.
Grantaire watched him go and cursed under his breath as the weight of how fucked he was suddenly hit him hard. If he was lucky enough, Enjolras would have just cared about the painting and then forgot him after he had finished it, leaving him alone to get over his stupid crush.
Needless to say, after more than a month full of strokes of luck, one of the cards changed and, barely two days after their meeting, Grantaire's phone buzzed and a message from Enjolras lit up the screen.
His heart absolutely didn't swell as he took his phone and he definitely didn't beam as he read it.
Enjolras 'I just met her and she barely looked at me as she crossed the road. I know she's right but I miss her, I can't do this. How long have you got?' 08:07
Grantaire was trying to manage some sort of reply when Enjolras wrote again.
Enjolras 'I don't know why I told you that' 08:08
Enjolras 'Sorry, you don't have to answer' 08:08
Enjolras 'It's too early for this kind of shit, sorry if I woke you, just ignore me' 08:09
Grantaire laughed softly. He had never imagined their first texts to be like that.
Grantaire 'Too early indeed. Nobody else knows about that or what?' 08:10
Enjolras 'Only Marius, her boyfriend, and it's not like I talk to him' 08:10
Grantaire 'Then that's why you told me that' 08:10
Enjolras 'So much reason so early. Why are you even answering me' 08:11
Grantaire 'You woke me up, I might as well do something' 08:11
Enjolras 'Sorry' 08:12
Grantaire 'No prob. I started working on your painting yesterday, anyway. It shouldn't take me long, a week I think' 08:13
Enjolras 'Oh god, so much?' 08:13
Enjolras 'Sorry, I know you have other stuff to do and it's not easy. I'm such a jerk' 08:13
Grantaire laughed again, barely believing his eyes. He had never expected Enjolras to be bothered by things such as feelings and early mornings. He probably never expected him to be an actual human being, and this all came as a surprise to him.
Grantaire 'You're not a jerk, come on. It's too early to be polite' 08:14
Enjolras 'But you are' 08:14
Grantaire 'I'm a morning person' 08:14
Enjolras 'Ugh' 08:15
Enjolras 'I don't know if I can be friends with a morning person' 08:15
Enjolras 'Cosette is a morning person' 08:15
Enjolras 'Shit I miss her so much' 08:16
Grantaire 'You know, you could probably just print out this conversation and she'll forgive you. I mean, you don't look like the person who'd be so at ease in embarrassing himself in front of a stranger just because he's sulking' 08:16
Enjolras 'I'm just tired. I always remember too late how early eight in the morning really is' 08:16
Grantaire 'Had coffee?' 08:17
Enjolras 'Had two, thanks. But it's not me, it's the morning,' 08:17
Grantaire 'You're making no sense' 08:17
Enjolras 'Shut up, my professor just arrived. I never text during class you know' 08:18
Grantaire 'What a good boy' 08:19
Grantaire locked his phone and put it back on his bedside table, smiling like an idiot. Enjolras wanted to be friends with him. Enjolras told him things nobody else knew. Enjolras was completely senseless in the morning.
Grantaire turned around and pressed his face in his pillow to suffocate a long high-pitched squeal.
Enjolras was so fucking adorable.
Enjolras 'Are you working or can I bother you while I wait for the bus?' 11:32
«He texted me again!» Grantaire told Jehan and read the text aloud. Jehan laughed.
«Tell him you're working, make him want you,» he said, jokingly, but the other took him seriously.
He was actually working on his painting, so it wasn't like he was lying.
Grantaire 'Working on your painting' 11:33
Enjolras 'Send me a photo please??' 11:33
Grantaire did it, even if he had barely started painting the background, just to reassure him.
Enjolras 'Aw thanks, I feel better now' 11:34
Enjolras 'As a reward for you, I'm gonna leave you to your work and do something else' 11:34
«I made him feel better,» Grantaire told Jehan, clutching the phone to his chest and smiling.
«Do you even know if he's single, R? Or if he even likes guys?» Jehan asked, his voice sounding distant, coming from the back of the shop.
«He says on his blog that he's a proud homosexual. And he wouldn't be texting me like this if he had a boyfriend,» Grantaire replied.
«Okay. Just don't let him keep you on the hook,» Jehan told him, peeking from the back door to look at him.
«He's not. He wants to be friends, I think. And I want it too, if we can't be more than that,» Grantaire replied, with a little smile. He was sure of that. He would have been happy to be just his friend, even if things never evolved from that.
But it wasn't the right moment to think about it, not when he needed to concentrate on working on such a complex painting. He sighed, put his earphones on and let the Lord of the Rings soundtrack wipe his mind of any thought.
Enjolras kept texting him, suddenly, mostly with phrases with no context nor sense, that usually evolved in rants about literally anything that crossed his mind. Grantaire kept smiling every time he saw his name pop up on his phone, and he kept replying, trying to put some sense in that guy.
It was funny, slowly getting to know little pieces of him and of his life, reading him ranting about his classes or his friends, and even if Enjolras kept apologising for bothering him he never felt bothered.
The more Enjolras wrote, the more Grantaire replied, because whatever he was doing, he just couldn't keep himself from wanting more of him.
He learned about how his two best friends had just started dating, about how he constantly failed in trying not to curse, about how much he hated the graffiti near monuments. That he was allergic to nuts and afraid of pigeons, that he was able to burn instant noodles, that it took him a shower and two coffees to be able to cope with the outside world before ten in the morning.
His favourite colour was red, he had a French flag hanging from his bedroom window, he had to wear glasses because one of his friends had terrified him with the risks of wearing contacts. (Grantaire asked him for a photo of him wearing glasses and put it as background picture on his phone)
And other than telling him all those things, Enjolras was also asking Grantaire about them, showing an interest that sometimes made Grantaire feel almost hopeful.
Enjolras 'You know, I really don't understand how you're still talking to me. If I did this to any other of my friends they'd probably call a doctor'22:45
Six days had passed from Enjolras' first text, his friends had started asking him who he was always writing to, and Grantaire was not so slowly slipping into insanity.
Grantaire 'I just have nothing better to do' 22:45
He stared at the finished painting in front of him, the phone still in his hand, and he felt his heart hammer in his chest.
He was afraid of telling Enjolras he had finished it, because then he would have had to give it to him and Enjolras would have had no more reasons to keep in touch with him. Sure, they had been knowing each other quite a bit over the last days and probably Enjolras had started to look at him as a friend and wouldn't have just forgotten him, but reason could nothing against his fear.
He breathed deeply, trying to gather up courage.
Grantaire 'I have good news for you' 22:47
Enjolras 'Shoot' 22:47
Grantaire breathed again, and again, and again. His hands were shaking. He didn't want to, but he had too and there was no point in delaying it any further.
Grantaire 'I just finished your painting' 22:49
He closed his eyes and tried to calm his breath. His phone buzzed in his hand, several times in a row. When it stopped, he tried to open an eye to give a look at them.
Enjolras 'YAY' 22:50
The first one was good. He opened the other eye and read the rest.
Enjolras 'FUCK YEAH' 22:50
Enjolras 'thank you so much finally oh god' 22:50
Enjolras 'shit they're asking me why I just squealed, give me an excuse, quick' 22:51
Enjolras 'too late, they to ook thdiphjoi' 22:51
He stared at the last text, confused. Probably, Enjolras had either fainted on his phone or his friends had taken it from him. He waited, staring at the screen, until a new message popped up.
Enjolras 'Awesome, now they think we're dating' 22:56
Enjolras 'Would you please tell them we're not dating?' 22:56
With shaking hands and a heavy heart, Grantaire did it.
Grantaire 'Sorry to rain on your parade, but your friend is a strong independent man who needs no date' 22:57
Enjolras 'They still don't believe it, but thank you' 22:57
Grantaire wanted to ask him if they could date, just to make his friends happy, but he couldn't.
Instead, he asked him when he wanted to get the panting.
Enjolras 'Oh right the painting' 22:57
Enjolras 'Tomorrow please' 22:58
Grantaire 'At the Musain?' 22:58
Enjolras 'No, at Cosette's house. I don't want to lose any more time. She lives in rue Oudinot. Can we meet there like at five and then you'll help me figure something out because I'm once again completely clueless?' 22:59
In spite of everything, Grantaire smiled. He wanted to see him again and he wanted to help him and he love the fact that he was asking for his help again.
Grantaire 'I'll be there' 22:60
Enjolras 'You're a gift, Grantaire' 22:60
If only you cared enough, Grantaire thought and sighed.
Grantaire 'Yeah I know' 22:61
Grantaire 'Let me sleep now, I'm exhausted. See you tomorrow' 22:61
Enjolras 'See you. Good night' 22:62
Grantaire sighed again. He picked up one his brushes and traced a small R in a corner of the painting. It was almost over, only one more day and he was finally free to be left alone and get over his stupid crush.
He slowly stood up, crawled to his bedroom and curled up under his duvet, trying to take as little space as possible, wanting to disappear into the mattress and never face the following day.
And yet, the following day came, and he left his house at half past four and took a bus to rue Oudinot. He thought he was ready, he thought he knew what was expecting him, but nothing could have prepared him to the sight of Enjolras with his smile and his bright blue eyes and a bouquet of flowers in his hand.
Actually, if he had to be completely honest with himself, nothing could have prepared him enough to the sight of Enjolras in general, just there, real and beautiful, almost shining under the sun.
Grantaire handed him the painting without saying a word. Enjolras looked at it and widened his eyes, amazed.
«Wow,» he breathed out, making Grantaire flush. «It's seriously...wow, I mean, it's... just wow.»
«Wow,» Grantaire repeated, mockingly. Enjolras grinned at him.
«Yes, aren't you amazed by my descriptive skills?»
«They're definitely wow,» Grantaire said, and he felt a bit lighter. It felt just like texting him, the same tone, the same stupid banters, the same lazy sarcasm. The only difference was that he had to cope with Enjolras being present and being strikingly handsome and painfully close.
«Have you got any ideas on how to give her the painting?» Grantaire asked, changing the subject. Enjolras beamed a smile.
«I actually did!» he exclaimed, excited. «If she sees me she's not gonna let me in, so I'm thinking of holding up the painting in front of my face, so that it's the first thing she sees. Hopefully, she'll be amazed enough not to close the door and let me apologise properly. And then I'll give her the flowers,» he explained.
«It's a surprisingly good plan,» Grantaire commented, smiling with some sort of pride.
«Your surprise hurts my feelings.» Enjolras pouted for a second, but then came back to grinning.
«So, are you coming up with me? Just, I don't know, maybe to save the painting if she decides to smash it on my head?» he asked. Grantaire raised an eyebrow.
«Or maybe to keep me from running away because I'm really fucking nervous?» Enjolras said, rolling his eyes and sighing. Grantaire smiled fondly.
«Sure,» he said, and Enjolras smiled too. They looked at each other with mirroring smiles for an awkwardly long moment, in which Grantaire's heart seriously threatened to explode in his chest.
Then, Enjolras came back to himself, walked up to a door and opened it with a key.
«Marius gave me his spare keys so that I didn't spoil her the surprise,» he explained to a perplexed Grantaire, who nodded understandingly. This Marius seemed to be a nice guy.
They climbed up the stairs in silence. Grantaire could clearly hear Enjolras's shaky nervous breath. He wanted to do something, like put a hand on his shoulder or hold his hand, but his hands were shaking too, so it wouldn't have helped much if he did.
On the third floor, Enjolras turned towards the hall and stopped in front of a door. The doorbell read 'Fauchelevent-Pontmercy'. Enjolras breathed deeply and looked at Grantaire, who nodded in what he hoped was a reassuring way. It worked. The blond one handed him the flowers and held up the painting to cover his face.
He took another deep breath and rang the doorbell as Grantaire stepped back not to be seen by Cosette, and smiled encouragingly at Enjolras' terrified face.
They heard the door opening and a female voice murmur a confused «What?» before letting out a soft, amazed «Wow».
«What...who?» she asked, reaching out to touch one of the hands that held the canvas. Enjolras slowly lowered the painting, revealing a sorry little smile.
«I'm sorry,» he said. «I'm sorry I said those things, I'm sorry I hurt you, I'm sorry it took me so long to find the proper way to apologise. I really didn't mean anything of what I said and I miss you, these two weeks have been hell without you, and I love you. Please forgive me. Please, Cos, I can't...» The girl interrupted him by jumping on him and wrapping his arms around his neck and smacking a kiss on his cheek.
«You stupid little fucker, of course I forgive you,» she said, pressing her face in the curve of his neck. He brought an arm around her waist, moving the painting aside and holding her close to his chest.
«I love you too, even if you're such a loser,» she whispered in his ear, making him laugh.
When they parted she took a step back and took the painting to look better at it.
Enjolras subtly gestured towards Grantaire to make him hand him the flowers. Grantaire obeyed, quick and silent, and then came back at his post.
«I've also brought you these, because you didn't want them the first time,» Enjolras said, handing her the flowers. She looked at them and then at her friend, and smiled.
«I took them in when you left,» she said, but took the new ones anyway.
«Thank you, Enj. This,» and she looked at him and at the gifts, «is what I needed. Just a proof you're not a robot.» Enjolras laughed, a bit nervously.
«Well, if I have to be completely honest, I'm not as sensitive as this makes it look,» he said, and glanced at Grantaire.
Cosette followed his eyes and startled a bit, because she hadn't noticed him in the dim light of the hall.
«Who is he?» she asked, surprised.
«He's Grantaire,» Enjolras said. «He suggested the idea of the painting and then painted it. And he helped me get trough this week without you,»
Her eyes widened. «You painted this?» she asked Grantaire, who nodded shyly.
«Wow! This is incredible, congratulations! And thank you, of course. Wow!» she exclaimed, excited. Grantaire laughed softly, thinking about how clear it was that she was Enjolras' best friend.
«Well, the subject is yours,» he said, taking a few steps forward to get closer to them.
«Right. This photo is one of my favourites,» she commented, smiling fondly.
«I know,» replied Grantaire before he could stop himself. Cosette looked confused and Enjolras laughed softly and proceed to quickly explain about their first meeting.
«Well, Grantaire, thank you for being such a sensitive person and helping my robot friend here,» she said then.
«I don't know what I would have done without him,» Enjolras said, looking at Grantaire. Their eyes met and, for a second, Grantaire could almost spot something other than gratefulness in his eyes, but he looked away before he could identify it.
If he had looked at Cosette instead than at the floor, he would have read in her grin everything he needed to know.
«So, Enjolras. Now that you apologised, can I go back to looking for a boyfriend for you?» she said, clearly joking, but making Grantaire's heart skip a beat anyway. In his start, he didn't see Enjolras briefly glancing at him, and so he thought Cosette had no reason at all to grin like that.
He wanted to tell her that she was wrong, that Enjolras didn't want him, that she'd better look for someone else to pair her best friend with, but he didn't, he couldn't.
«I don't think he'll be able handle other strong emotions for a while,» he said instead, mockingly, covering his pain with sarcasm. Cosette laughed.
«Right, his cold robot brain could short-circuit and explode,» she said, gently patting on his head. Enjolras rolled his eyes, but smiled.
They stood in an awkward silence for a while, Enjolras and Cosette looking at each other and silently communicating, and Grantaire with his eyes on the floor, thinking about the best way to excuse himself and leave.
«Well, I'm sorry to dismiss you like this, but I have to return to my developmental psychology books,» Cosette finally said. Grantaire sighed in relief.
«It's been a pleasure,» he said, already half turning around to leave before and without Enjolras.
«Mine too. Thank you again for the painting,» she replied.
«You're welcome. Bye,» he said and almost literally ran away, hoping that Enjolras would have the good sense of not following him.
He reached him when he was already on the street, he took his arm and made him turn around.
«What was that?» he asked. He was flushed, probably because he had run down the stairs. Or maybe he was angry.
«Why did you ran like that?» Enjolras clearly was more sad than angry.
«I'm late for an appointment,» lied Grantaire, but the other clearly didn't buy it.
«You wouldn't be here if you were. Don't lie to me, Grantaire, please,» he said.
Of course he would be there anyway. Of course he would have done anything to help Enjolras, like he had done for the entire week, delaying any other task to work for him, to reply to his texts, to be the friend he should have never wanted to be.
He was so fucking oblivious it made him furious. He wanted to punch his fucking perfect face and kiss it, to hurt him, make him bleed and then cure his wounds and cuddle him.
It was driving him crazy and he needed to tell him everything, he needed to know what he felt, he needed to know a single fucking truth he could then finally settle for.
«You're driving me crazy, Enjolras,» he let out, squeezing his eyes closed and wincing, as if saying those words was hurting him.
«Why? How?» Enjolras asked, genuinely sorry, and Grantaire couldn't reply.
He knew there was not a real reason for his anger. He knew it wasn't Enjolras' fault if he had never done anything to bring their almost-friendship to something more and now it was too late and he was the only one to blame.
Enjolras had done nothing to deserve all this useless drama.
«It doesn't matter. I'm sorry, okay? Just, please, leave me alone,» he said, opening his eyes. «It's eighty euros for the painting, there's a link to my PayPal account on my blog so you don't have to meet me ever again. I'm sorry if... about this... I...» his voice died out. He swallowed a couple of times.
«Goodbye,» he just said, eventually, turning around and trying to walk away, forgetting that Enjolras still had a hand on his arm.
He stopped when he felt held back, looking down at the fingers tightly wrapped around his wrist and sighed.
«Can you let me go?» he asked without turning around.
«No fucking way,» Enjolras replied. «Not until you tell me what the fuck is going on with you,» he added, pulling him.
Grantaire slowly turned around, still looking at his hand and sighed. He felt as if he was about cry, and he definitely didn't want to make Enjolras feel worse.
«Please,» Enjolras murmured, softening his grip.
Grantaire knew that the only way to sort that out was giving in to him, one last time, and then they could go back to their separate lives.
He didn't see any other possible ending.
Grantaire sighed, fighting against the urge of running away, and then raised his eyes on the other's face, trying not to think about how he beautiful he was, even with sorrow and disappointment painted all over his fine features.
«Why are you acting like this? Is it for something I've done? Because if it is, I'm sorry and I want to know what it is so that I can make up for it,» said Enjolras, sounding desperately sincere.
Grantaire shook his head and parted his lips to explain, but only a shaky sob came out.
Enjolras sighed. «Just tell me the truth, Grantaire.»
«The truth?» the painter finally managed to murmur.
«The truth.» Enjolras repeated, nodding.
Grantaire lowered his eyes again, unable to stand Enjolras' pitying look.
«You know when we first met, at the flower shop?» He swallowed. «You made a step into that fucking shop, I looked at you and, believe me, I was already in love.»
He was shaken by a sob and his sight got blurry.
«It was just a downfall from there. Every text you sent me, every thing you said to me made the ground crumble under my feet and I fell more and more in love with you every fucking second of every single one of this fucking twelve days,» he said, his voice cracking up.
«And you never thought, not even for a second, that I might feel the same?» Enjolras asked with a feeble tone.
«Why, do you?» Grantaire bitterly snorted.
«I...» Enjolras swallowed. «Honestly, I don't know.» he said, and Grantaire made a face, as if he knew that he was going to say that.
«I don't know if it's love, okay, because fuck, we met twelve days ago. But I do know that I like you, and not just as a friend,» he finished. A strange noise came out of Grantaire's mouth, something shaky and weak, in between a sob and a laughter. He looked up, and his eyes were full of surprise.
«What do you mean?» he asked.
«I mean that I don't want Cosette to set me up with anyone because I want to date you,» Enjolras blurted out, serious and determinate and Grantaire couldn't take it any more.
His brain short-circuited and his instinct pushed him forward, bringing his hands to cup Enjolras' face and his lips to literally crash against the other's.
Enjolras replied right away to the kiss, wrapping his arms around Grantaire's waist and pulling him closer, feeling every inch of his body press against his own and wanting him more than he had ever wanted anything in his entire life.
When they parted they stood there, in the middle of the street, their foreheads pressed together. Grantaire gently brushed Enjolras' cheeks with his thumbs.
«I want to date you too,» he murmured.
«Well, thank God, or this would have been really awkward,» Enjolras said, making the other laugh.
«And I want to make you fall in love with me,» he said, even if it sounded weird.
«I'm looking forward to it too,» Enjolras just replied, leaning in to kiss him again.
They were both sure that no matter long it would take, it would have been worth the wait.