some_stars: (kids! stay in school!)
fifty frenchmen can't be wrong ([personal profile] some_stars) wrote2013-02-24 06:05 pm

FIC: Long black night, morning frost (Les Miserables)

so I wrote a thing!

Title: Long black night, morning frost
Fandom: Les Miserables
Pairing(s): Enjolras/Grantaire except not
Content notes: Explicit sex. No standard warnings apply; further questions are always welcome.
Summary: I'm still here, but all is lost.

Also available at AO3.


*

Most days, it was not a longing of the flesh.

This was not a point of pride, exactly. Grantaire had abandoned pride the first time he had seen Enjolras speak, seen the light burning in his eyes so different from the quick surveying glance he'd spared for Grantaire upon their introduction earlier. It was a light that burned through pride, and a voice that pierced the haze of wine Grantaire wore like a second skin, or like a suit--quilted, felted, dulling to the senses. He would no more face the world without it than he would walk down the street naked; indeed, he was far more likely to attempt the latter.

It was true that there were days, now, when he drank less, when the haze reduced to a faint mist. As he had no pride, he did not pretend this was for any other reason than the hope that Enjolras might notice and approve, but hope was the wrong word for he had none of that either. Perhaps he drank less to perceive Enjolras more clearly. There was a price to be paid for such perception; he saw the rest of the world more clearly too, and the dark place in his head came into sharp relief. A day with less drinking could not help but precede a day with more.

So: he had no pride. He had given it all to Enjolras years ago and never missed it. Therefore he was not proud that most days, when he gazed across the café with a bottle in his hand, almost unblinking, at Enjolras scratching down plans and arguing with Combeferre, or when he held his own court and acted his own jester for his laughing friends and never looked directly at Enjolras at all, the longing that ratcheted tighter and tighter in his chest was not of the old philosophers' sort. How could it be? He loved Apollo; he adored a god; one did not paw lustfully at gods like alley whores. And, too, he was sure Enjolras felt no such stirrings for anyone, and never had. It was difficult even to imagine taking those sorts of liberties with Enjolras.

It was not a point of pride, only a saving grace. Though he hardly blushed less, imagining the liberties he did crave--a smile, a hand upon his shoulder, a nod and a kind word. A returned gaze, warm eyes. Enjolras' eyes were never warm. They blazed, when he spoke of the revolution and the future, but fire was not warm, except from a distance. It was burning hot. So Grantaire yearned for something even more impossible than the coarser desires which he knew some imputed to him.

Nor were they entirely wrong--he had admitted that to himself a long time ago. It was agonizing to love a god, to want the impossible. And Grantaire, himself, was a man. There were nights--like this one, unseasonably cold, the last of the absinthe gone hours ago and a tight, steady ache in his head. The haze was dissipating and his skin felt raw, his eyes too, his whole being, inside and out. He resolved to buy more liquor first thing tomorrow; he didn't know how he had run out without noticing. At this hour, though, there was nothing to be done but lie on his mattress and cover his face with one unsteady hand and think all too clearly.

It wasn't as though he didn't know Enjolras was beautiful. That was the word, beautiful; handsome was too masculine but also not terrible enough. The golden curls of his hair, those woman's lips that could not help but be plush even when pursed, the brave slope of his nose, the way the severity of his cheekbones rounded off when he smiled--never at Grantaire--ah, God, of course Grantaire knew. A dead man could see it. Some days he felt like a dead man, and everything else in the world was grey and distant except the brushstrokes of Enjolras' lovely face. Which was the answer, not that he would say so, to the question sometimes put him on such days, by various friends in various words--sometimes only in glances--but always the same question: What are you doing here? Why have you dragged your wretched wet rag of a body out of bed and staggered down the street? You hear nothing, you see nothing, you care for nothing. Go home, why are you here? Because here was the only medicine that could revive the dead.

It began to rain, suddenly and hard. Half a minute later, the tapping of the drops on the roof and the windowglass had grown to almost a roar. He turned his head this way and that against the pillow but could not escape it. Strangely, the wretched noise seemed to clear his thoughts a little, beating away the dust and dirt, leaving only what was solid. And tonight, the day after the incident at the Barriere du Maine, it was Enjolras' sneering face that stood firm in his mind's eye like marble.

'Sneer' was unjust. Apollo's face could not support a sneer, it was too low an expression. It had been only a turn of the lips, a narrowing of the eyes. And in those eyes, had he imagined it? Grantaire had thought he saw something both worse and better than the usual coldness: a quick hot flash of anger. Previous to this Grantaire had never merited more than strong irritation. Except of course that supreme moment--I consent to try you. Ah, god, that had been fine; that had straightened his back and lit a flame in his heart.

He had meant to do the thing right. He had. Out he had set for Richefeu's with the finest intentions, wrapped in that ridiculous red waistcoat he'd only bought to tease Enjolras, but never found the occasion until now. He had practiced his speeches all the way there. And if he had practiced them laughing--for he could not but laugh at the sound of such passionate rhetoric, such wide-eyed sincerity, even in his own head--well, he had meant to deliver them sober. In every sense of the word: the long walk cleared his head, Enjolras' nod had cleared his head.

Only, when he had entered Richefeu's--

*

Only, when he entered Richefeu's, Enjolras was not there. It was only him, Grantaire, in his scarlet waistcoat, and the smoke of the place curled around him; he breathed it in.

The men were drinking and playing at dominoes. They were rough men, but artists nonetheless: the living hands of sculptors. Grantaire himself had never tried his hand at sculpture, only painting. He had been proficient enough, but bored. Finally he had realized that he lacked the artist's urge to immortalize the world in pigment; none of it seemed worth keeping around that long. He still did a sketch or two when the urge came upon him, mostly studies of his friends, dashed off in the corner of the café by flickering lamplight. These were competent, often slyly exaggerated, and generally fêted merrily about the back room for a few minutes by the amused subject before being lost in some pile of papers or another.

Occasionally he drew Enjolras, but his shortcomings pained him more then, the imperfect representation seeming to melt under his hands into something ugly. He put too much of himself into it. Once he had seen Enjolras laughing, Courfeyrac's arm slung across his back; he had done a lightning-quick study and painted it later, alone in his room. It was the first time he had painted in months, and the result was much as might be expected. Still, he had kept it, leaning it face-first against the wall.

He had told Enjolras the truth when he had said he knew the men of the Barriere du Maine, though he had not been there in some time. Several of them today he recognized; one was unknown to him, and looked up at his entrance and cried, "Who's this?"

The spirit of '89, Grantaire might have answered. Or, a friend of the people, of men like yourselves. Or many things.

"Who's this? Who's that?" He waved at the man, falling easily into the grand gestures of the drunkard. Some of the others laughed and called his name. "I am a patron of the arts, sir. Another round for everyone; I'll pay."

A cheer went up. He ambled further inside, moving toward their table full of wine and dominoes as though he were being reeled in. Though he smiled broadly, he was conscious of a great anger settling upon him. It wrapped around him and squeezed, and he could not tell if the greater part of it was toward himself or Enjolras.

Himself: he was not much attached to his honor, or what remained of it, and so it was not because he feared to lose such a meaningless thing that he had never spoken false to Enjolras. Certainly a lie or two about his convictions could only have advanced his cause; had his profession of revolutionary fervor not worked so well today? Enjolras was the sort of man who believed the lies that suited his view of the world; which was, that all men are born with convictions, and if the convictions are of the wrong sort, they can be taught better ones by the application of strident logic and blazing eyes. Grantaire's true profession of nihilism was what struck him as a lie. But it was not, for he did not lie to Enjolras; he was not in the habit of doing so. He had meant every silly word this morning--meant to do what he said, if not to believe it. Now he found himself with a cup in his hand and a rough song on his lips instead of the promised encouragements. He had not lost his honor; he had lost--or was about to lose--something greater.

Enjolras: how dare he? For that was the extent of what Grantaire could frame to his conscious mind. The rest was red and wild and caught in his chest. How dare he? It mattered not that he had not asked this of Grantaire, that Grantaire had volunteered, had begged quite without dignity for the privilege of satisfying him. Enjolras had nodded; that was the point on which this fury seized. He had nodded and said, I will try you. He had said, yes, if you can. Yes, the precious yes, the long-awaited yes--if you can.

It was quite unfair to blame him for this action, which would seem to a rational mind rather a kindness than a cruelty. Grantaire would never have been able to explain his rage, even had he understood it himself. But the whole world was unfair, and even beloved Apollo's affirmation could not change the nature of the world. Yes, if you can. Well, damn you, my dear: I cannot.

He drank, and he played, and when after some unknown length of time he caught sight of Enjolras in the doorway--sneering without sneering, eyes flashing or perhaps not--he dropped his eyes and drank more.

So much did he drink, in fact, that he staggered home quite incapacitated and lay in a haze for some time. Somewhat revived that night, he stripped off the red waistcoat and took a seat at a café a few streets away, the opposite direction of the Musain, where none of the evening crowd knew him anymore.

It was not in Grantaire's nature to linger long in a deep brown study; the fact was that he lived in such a state, and had adapted himself to it so thoroughly that his melancholy resembled gaiety and his despair good humor, albeit of a sullen sort. The next afternoon he returned to the Musain. Was he received more coldly than usual? Not by the others.

"I heard you spent your evening at the Valadilène last night," said Bossuet. "No doubt your cynical soul required some respite from the youthful idealism that fills our little chamber."

"Oh, I never tire of breathing this rarefied republican air with my dear comrades," Grantaire said, adopting a crooked smile. "But a man must maintain his interests now and then. Strangers never drink for free, you know; and the pretty barmaids were withering for the lack of their finest patron."

"The pretty barmaids were withering to see you back to plague them again, I should rather think."

"Louison did have an unusually cheerful air last night, did she not?" Joly said. "As though a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders."

"From her backside, more like," Courfeyrac added, turning from the table where he was sitting with Combeferre and Enjolras.

And so on.

As for Enjolras, his reception there was the same as ever, which was to say he was ignored. Enjolras broke off speaking for only a moment when Grantaire entered and hailed them all heartily. Then he continued his conversation with Combeferre and Courfeyrac, another interminable debate over futile principles, with a suddenly vanishing smile the only sign that he was aware of Grantaire's presence. It may go without saying that Enjolras did not look at him.

Combeferre, though, glanced up at him as he passed, with a small furrowing of the brow which said that Enjolras had shared the incident of the previous day with him. Absent any rancor, no doubt, only a cold assessment--well, Grantaire has failed us, who shall go to stir up the revolution in the hearts of the Barriere du Maine, should it be you or I or some other, let us decide the matter.

Perhaps there had been fury yesterday afternoon--Grantaire would have liked to think so, that Enjolras had felt a hot yellow flame of rage and betrayal in his gut--a flame that burned him, and cast no fierce blue light but only a red glow and flickering shadows. He would have liked to start such a fire in Enjolras. But if he had, it was long cold by now.

The evening passed as usual after that. Enjolras scolded him once or twice and shot him a glare when he held forth too loudly on the futility of art and the general sourness of the world. Finally Grantaire could not take it any longer, this sameness, as though nothing grand and terrible had happened between them; as though he had never leaned in close to Enjolras and whispered a promise in his ear. He went and sat beside Enjolras and slung an arm over his shoulder, which was now bent to scribbling notes on some new pamphlet, some mess of ink scrawled in three separate hands. The motion prompted widened eyes from Combeferre and a startled exclamation from Courfeyrac, which he ignored.

"Come now," he said to Enjolras, "have at me."

Enjolras stiffened, but did not look up. "Do not bother me, Grantaire. I have important work." But his pen was stopped.

Grantaire removed his arm but stayed close. "Are you not quite furious with me? You may excoriate me as you will; I have betrayed you; I can bear it."

The crooked smile was gone from his face, the habitual rough laughter vanished from his voice. He was entirely sincere, a rare thing inside these walls where he so often railed against sincerity in any guise. But he meant every word, as he had meant them yesterday. He would take a dressing-down here before all his friends; what did he care? He would have taken the lash. Only let Enjolras be angry with him.

He hoped for this so violently that it was a bodily sensation; waves of heat and cold raced up and down his skin. He felt as though he were swimming in dark waters, caught up by a strong current. Ahead lay either the salvation of the shore or the endless plummet of the waterfall, and he did not rightly know which one he would prefer.

Enjolras set down his pen and sat up straight, turning to look at Grantaire. A faint color had risen in his cheeks. "You are wrong," he said evenly. "You did nothing. I betrayed myself in trusting to you a task of such weight, and I am grateful that my better judgment prevailed in calling me to look in on you. Furious? To what end? You have done quite as I expected. I would as soon be furious with a rat for biting me." His voice grew a little louder now; he stopped and, with a measured breath that made Grantaire tremble, restrained it again. "That you behave after your nature, Grantaire, concerns me infinitely less than the preparation of this pamphlet concerning our new positions, which I am having published this week. I beg you to leave me to it."

And he began to write again.

*

He had begun to write again, and Grantaire had sat dumbly for a moment before standing and making his way back to his usual corner, the murmur and chatter of the room eclipsed by the deep pounding throb of his pulse in his ears. He had not even left the café. Somehow that seemed a sticking point, now, as he lay on the mattress and rubbed at his face. He had not stalked out, had not even slunk out, had merely walked back to his table and sat down and drunk. He thought: I am a dog. And I am angry.

It was to be one of those nights. He could feel his blood rising. This was different, however, from the usual pattern. It was not a frequent pattern, but after years he knew it well. What happened ordinarily was that he would grow unbearably sad. This acute sadness would come on him in the late afternoon, and he would retreat to his rooms and drink absinthe alone until his brain loosened enough to imagine the things he desired, on such evenings. He would lie back on the mattress, or lie forward with his heated face plunged into the pillow, and imagine--first the purer dreams, the smile, the touch on the arm. He would begin it that way.

He would progress his dream through each sweet liberty, each more impossible than the last: clasping hands, pressing a gentle kiss to Enjolras' fingers, gazing up at him with the soft eyes Grantaire knew only from seeing them on girls who had been paid to flutter their lashes so. He did not imagine fluttering his lashes. There was a limit to his foolishness. But to look up at Enjolras' face, at his sweet features halfway between woman and man, to see his lips parted and his eyes wide--this he dreamed.

The carnal desires soon followed. His hand would slip into his trousers and he would quite lose himself. Sometimes he imagined slipping that hand into Enjolras' trousers, releasing his prick and swallowing it up as he had never done to any man outside these heated imaginings.

Sometimes he imagined taking the ultimate liberty: Enjolras on his back before him, all undone and marked with kisses, panting and sighing as Grantaire eased himself inside, joining them so slowly, so carefully. This gentle dream was not a prayer any curé would have recognized, but it was worship all the same.

Tonight he was not thinking of a god, with one hand tangled in his own hair and the other pressing against his cock through his trousers, fully hard though he had only just begun. The god had spurned him. He wanted the man.

He imagined Enjolras furious.

He imagined that he did not drop his gaze when Enjolras entered Richefeu's, and that he saw in Enjolras' eyes the rage of betrayal. This rage was nothing like the icy passion of his hatred for the bourgeois and the royalists and the enemies of the people. This was a bleeding wound.

Grantaire would smirk, leaning back, extending a welcoming hand. Enjolras would storm across the smoky room and seize it. He would be shaking, a little.

To feel him shake! To melt the marble statue between his hands! In the ordinary course of things Enjolras was no match for Grantaire in brute strength; he was no willow, but very far from stout. But his desperate fury would lend him the strength of ten men and the grip of a vise. He would pull and Grantaire would follow, which was the ordinary course of things after all.

Lying in bed and working himself roughly, his eyes closed, Grantaire gave little thought to the niceties of realism. It was true that Enjolras would never behave so; would certainly never drag Grantaire into a foul and narrow alley barely wide enough for both their bodies. He would never slam Grantaire against the dirty wall hard enough to make his teeth shake in his head. He would not say--such things as Grantaire imagined, the vilest imprecations and the sweetest despair. He would not say, I trusted you.

He would not say, You hurt me.

But he did, and Grantaire could not hold back a cry when he heard it. The echo of his own voice in the empty room displeased him, and he pushed the fingers of his free hand into his mouth to quiet himself.

That was the climax, in a way. The rest he hurriedly sketched in his mind before his body could overtake him: Enjolras' kisses, brutal and hungry, his teeth nipping at Grantaire's lip, clinging and punishing in equal measure; the heat of Enjolras' body pressed head to toe against him, his own heart pounding and Enjolras' chest trembling with every ragged breath. The dream was too passionate to incorporate any complicated action, and so he imagined Enjolras opening their trousers, rough in his hastiness, and wrapping both their pricks in one shaking white hand.

Oh, Grantaire would cry out--he did, the sound choked around his fingers--Enjolras' cheeks would flare red at the sound. He would kiss Grantaire again to shut his mouth but he would moan himself, his hand moving faster. Grantaire would wrap his own, larger hand around them both and make Enjolras shudder. He would hold Enjolras up when his knees grew weak. Enjolras would be untried, he would never have felt such a passion, never in all his years of speeches and cold devotion to patria, never.

There was not much more to it after that. The imagined completion blurred with the real one; he bit his hand; he sagged back against the mattress, panting, and opened his eyes. They were wet; he had wept. Angrily, he rubbed his sleeve against his face.

He cleaned himself and found a bottle with a little wine left, and drained it.

He thought: This will not do.

The next day, Grantaire behaved as if nothing had ever happened, only he took great care to refrain from aggravating Enjolras too much with winding discourses and ill-timed laughter, and measured his success in the absence of curt scoldings and withering glances. He managed to keep up this good behavior for very near a week.




-end-



"He was the prey of a throng of novel sensations. He was conscious of a sort of rage; he did not know against whom it was directed. He could not have told whether he was touched or humiliated. There came over him at moments a strange emotion which he resisted and to which he opposed the hardness acquired during the last twenty years of his life. This state of mind fatigued him. He perceived with dismay that the sort of frightful calm which the injustice of his misfortune had conferred upon him was giving way within him. He asked himself what would replace this."

--Les Miserables, Volume 1, Book 2, Chapter 13