Paris, 1828

Enjolras' nose is inches from the paper his pen is currently scratching at, his mind too wholly occupied by the wages of textile workers to notice the dusty shaft of orange light the setting sun casts through the window, or even the darkness once some anonymous someone supplies him with a candle to write by. Certainly he's oblivious to Combeferre's "good night" and the door closing after his friends as they leave and the clocks that strike midnight an hour later. He only stops when he runs out of ink: continues to write for a moment before he realizes nothing is going down on paper, frowns at his pen, and finally looks up.

"Ah, so our otherworldly firebrand has finally returned to the mortal realm," says a voice lightly from the corner. "I do hope you enjoy your stay." It's the new boy--he's been meeting with them for months and he's older than all of them and still Enjolras can't think of him as anything else--sitting at the far end of the table and regarding him over a book and a glass of wine.

"Out of ink," he murmurs, almost to himself, and stretches out the now-very-cramped fingers of his left hand as he slowly drifts back down to earth. "And in the middle of a sentence too."

"Easily fixed--you could probably fill an inkwell with your hand alone." Enjolras blinks at him for a moment, nonplussed, before looking down at his hand and realizing: he learned long ago to use talcum powder to keep his hand from smudging the ink, but in his fervor tonight he forgot and parts of his left hand have been stained completely black. He makes a face and begins wiping his hand on a spare bit of paper.

"I saved some food for you," says Grantaire, gesturing towards a full plate Enjolras hadn't noticed, and now with a lurch and a rumbling in his stomach he realizes he forgot to dine and he's hungry. "It's gone cold by now, of course, but cold food's better than no food."

"Considerate of you," Enjolras murmurs, and the look he shoots at Grantaire is almost questioning. "I hope you weren't waiting on me to eat, because if you were you're probably even hungrier than I am." He takes a seat next to him, allowing Grantaire to pour him a glass of wine and sipping it slowly before he begins to eat.

"Oh, I'm fine," says Grantaire, studiously neglecting to mention whether he actually ate or not. He raises his glass. "To liberty," he says, "and equality, and fraternity, and forty hours a week." They both drink deeply, and Enjolras smiles.

"So you were paying attention, after all."

"When it's you, I always pay attention." Grantaire colors slightly, and then looks angry with himself; the flush goes away, and he nods to no one in particular and begins demolishing his wine at a pace that looks positively frightening next to Enjolras' careful, measured sips. Enjolras notices, and puts a staying hand on Grantaire's as he reaches for his glass, pulling away abruptly when he notices the black smudge it leaves where it touches but catching his eye once his hand is back on the table.

"Slow down," he says, "it won't run away from you if you drink it slowly. To look at you you'd think you were deliberately setting out to get drunk."

"No, no, not get drunk--I'm simply trying to work up the courage to do something thoroughly idiotic."

"I suppose I can't stop you. Just as long as I'm not involved."

"Oh, but you are involved. Intimately," says Grantaire, his face so straight that Enjolras doesn't quite pick up the sardonic lilt to the last word. He takes one last extra-long drink, lifts his gaze from the table, and looks Enjolras straight in the eye, his courage apparently sufficiently worked up. "You're a wonderful boy, you know. I could sit here and compliment you for hours--days, if you pumped enough wine into me--and not come close to doing you justice."

"Flattery won't get you anywhere, Grantaire, especially if you're trying to convince me to do something stupid."

"I'm not trying to convince you of anything, you silly, blind, innocent, beautiful, wonderful boy. I'm doing something stupid as I speak." And he reaches out, his eyes never leaving Enjolras' face, to carefully clasp the hand that had pushed his own away from the wine bottle, and he hesitates but begins to speak again. "Have you ever been in love, Enjolras? Do you know what it's like, the damned idiocy of it? If you haven't, if you're as cold and distant as you act, you'll think me a fool right now. And who's to say I'm not, but at least if you know a little bit about what it's like you'll understand and be able to forgive me."

Enjolras has never, in fact, been in anything that might resemble love, but as Grantaire's hand reaches out, awkwardly, carefully, something fine as golden thread seems to connect them and tangle around his insides and pull on them in strange new ways, and when their fingers touch there is a mysterious yank and his stomach lurches in the same way it did when he realized he was hungry, only less unpleasantly. Uncomprehending, suddenly hyper-aware of his blood as it races through his veins and pounds in his ears, he whispers, "Stop it. You'll get ink all over your hand."

"Don't you understand? As long as it's from your hand, it could be a deadly poison and I'd hold it even tighter." The thread pulls taut between them, and Enjolras doesn't understand what's going on, only that he feels as if the floor has been pulled out from underneath him and he doesn't know why. Grantaire, perhaps sensing that something like this is happening, clutches his hand, leans forward very slowly, brings his other hand around to rest on the small of Enjolras' back, and plants a cautious kiss on his lips.

Enjolras jerks away as though he's been slapped. The color rises in his face; he pushes his chair out from the table; he begins to shake; his mind is still floundering somewhere, but his body's reaction is immediate and instinctual. At his movement the golden thread twists and tangles, fine as piano wire, cutting through his insides, and as his mind begins to catch up he regards Grantaire with a sick sort of disgust.

"You understand, now," says Grantaire, switching abruptly from tu to vous, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice. "Try to forgive me for having fallen in love with a beautiful boy, not a beautiful girl."

"Yes, I understand." Enjolras fairly spits the words out, feeling all of a jumble inside except for his heart, which betrayal is already building another wall around. "And to think, I almost trusted you when all you wanted from me was--" He chokes, unable to say it. "What made you think I would let you do that to me?"

"Idiocy," Grantaire whispers. "I'll go now."

"Do that. I don't want to see you in here again."

"Goodbye, then, Fearless Leader." And for the first time, there is bitterness in the nickname.

The minute the door closes behind him, Enjolras collapses into a chair and lets his head fall to the table, a marionette whose strings have been cut, and succumbs to the tremors that wrack his body. Frantically he reaches for his pen, but the ink is still gone, and no words can come now, as phantom hands ghost over his skin in places he should never have been touched, and ugly memories rise up from where he thought he'd buried them. "But he wouldn't," he murmurs almost desperately, "I wouldn't let him." And he buries his face in his hands, oblivious to the ink that smudges over his cheeks.

Grantaire stumbles blindly down the long corridor into the Musain's main room and throws himself down into the nearest empty chair at the nearest empty table. He looks despairingly at the bottle of wine he is clutching, scoffs, flags down a waitress, and orders the strongest drink he can think of. When it arrives, he contemplates black stains on his hand for a moment. "One poison from your hands or another, Apollo," he mutters, "I love them all the same." And he drains the absinthe down.