Grantaire was drunk. It was not a new occurrence, and he would be more intoxicated before the evening was finished, but his expression was different. He walked toward the Café Musain with a firm step, as firm as possible considering his state. He had finally decided to do what it takes any man a great deal of courage to do: he was going to declare his feelings to the one he wished would be his lover. His nerves were on fire: the potential for rejection was so great. He was not handsome, he had bad teeth, he drank and could not control his raw opinions and harsh voice, he was not intelligent or even so very rich. He had been rejected before, by many potential lovers, as having nothing to offer, but never had the pain been so great as the possibility of this moment. This pain had burned him for years, always so close and yet so far. But there was not much time left. Lamarque was on his deathbed; when he died, the revolution would begin. Grantaire finally had the courage to chase after love, even if he could not rejoice in it for long.
He put his hand on the door, hoping to gain courage through the wood. Finally, he took a deep breath and entered the back room. His quarry was alone, moving tables that had been set up for the previous night's game of dice.
“Enjolras?” Grantaire asked nervously.
“What? Oh, it’s just you,” Enjolras spat out when he saw Grantaire. His hair was falling out of the ribbon that tried to hold it out of his deep blue eyes, so he pulled out the ribbon and shook out his long hair.
Grantaire stared in admiration. “He's so beautiful!” he thought. “And I'm so ugly. But I can’t lack courage now.” He steeled himself against the coming blast.
Enjolras pulled his hair back and retied the black ribbon which contrasted perfectly with his golden tresses. “Well? What do you want?” he asked impatiently.
“Enjolras, will you let me speak without interruption?” Grantaire asked nervously. “It is very important.” Reluctantly, Enjolras nodded his assent. “Enjolras, I - I love you. I’ve kept this inside for - for years. You’ve kept me alive. I haven’t looked at another man since I first saw you. I would be so faithful, if only you would accept me as your lover. I was depressed, I was suicidal, but you have kept me alive. The hope of you has kept me alive. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
A strange expression came into Enjolras’ eyes at the beginning of Grantaire's short address. Had it been someone other than Enjolras, one would have called it mirth. Yet by the end his expression had hardened to its normal tone: anti-Grantaire. “Are you quite finished?” Grantaire nodded in fear. “Then I have some things to say. Have you lost your mind completely? I wish to god that it was the drink talking and not the depraved desires of your immortal soul. You have never spoken this way to me before, and while I believe you to be sincere for once in your miserable life, I wish that you had never brought this to my attention. To think that I would share in your depraved sexual aberrations! You ought to be locked away from the world! Get out!”
Grantaire hung his head in shame. “I'm sorry for loving you, Enjolras,” he said softly.
Combeferre had entered unnoticed just as Enjolras told Grantaire to get out. He saw an abject Grantaire and an Enjolras red with anger and embarrassment. “Enjolras, what is happening?”
“He,” Enjolras spit out, “has just declared that he loves me. This-this-coquin is gay! And he thought that I would share in his depraved sexual aberration!”
“Grantaire, you are a homosexual?” Combeferre asked, quite friendly for the circumstances. Grantaire nodded, still looking at no one. “Well, I am quite glad to hear it.” Enjolras and Grantaire stared at him in surprise.
“You are glad to hear that he is gay?”
“Why, yes, for it means that I am not alone.”
“What in heaven’s name could you possibly mean, Combeferre?”
“Just what it appears, Enjolras. I, too, am homosexual.”
“You are joking,” Enjolras told Combeferre in fear.
“Have you ever known me to joke?”
Enjolras was for once at a loss for words. His legs failed him and he sank into a chair.
Bahorel burst in the door, laughing. “Another great night, boys. And not just for the revolution!” Then he noticed the silent group. “Don’t be so serious, boys! We’re fighting a revolution, not organizing a funeral! What’s going on?”
Enjolras refused to speak, so Combeferre explained, “Grantaire finally had the courage to declare his love to Enjolras, and a discourse on the depravity of homosexuality ensued.”
“You’re anti-gay?” Bahorel asked Combeferre.
“No, I am homosexual. It is Enjolras who had a problem with Grantaire’s declaration.”
“Really? Combeferre I hadn’t quite pictured, but I guess it makes sense. But Enjolras? I thought you were one of us.”
“O-one of you? Don’t tell me that you are gay, too.”
“Not really gay. I’m bi.”
“Bi?” Enjolras enquired, not sure if he wanted to understand.
“Bisexual. I go to a party, I’m guaranteed to get laid.”
“Bahorel, that comment was highly inappropriate,” Combeferre chastised him.
“Sorry. Hey, Combeferre, you seeing anyone? I’ve got a guy you might like.”
“I have no use for one of your lust-filled Englishmen, Bahorel.”
“I promise that he is neither lust-filled nor English. He’s French, he’s young, and he’s looking for a commitment. I can’t handle commitment - you know that. Plus, I found him rather insufferable. But you might like him. He's a mathematician.”
“Do not tell me that you mean Évariste.”
“Évariste Galois. You know him?”
“The world finds him insufferable. In addition, when I knew him, he was worse than you. I believe he contracted some fatal disease from ‘sleeping around’, and I am sure he seeks commitment now that he is about to die.”
“Stop! stop!” Enjolras shouted. “This is worse than when you and Bossuet discuss grisettes!”
“I am sorry, Enjolras. I had no idea that my sexuality would be so offensive to one as liberal-minded as you.”
“Exactly. Have you ever seen a gay royalist?”
“Or Bonapartist.” Grantaire finally entered the conversation. “Marius sure as hell ain't gay!”
“You, out!” Enjolras shouted at Grantaire. “Bahorel, cease this depravity. It is most certainly not funny. And Combeferre, you, I - I just don’t understand,” he finished, almost in tears.
“I’ll let you two talk about this alone,” Bahorel suggested. “Come on, Grantaire, let's go shopping."
“Shopping?” Grantaire asked incredulously.
"For men. We’re going to get you laid tonight. Come on, there’s this bar I know.” Grantaire followed meekly, knowing that no one could be as worthy as Enjolras.
Enjolras had collapsed at the table. “I don’t understand. I don’t understand, Julien.” It was the first time Enjolras had used Combeferre’s first name.
“What do you not understand?”
“You, me, Grantaire, everything.”
“Enjolras, Grantaire worships you. He admires your sobriety, your chastity, your leadership. I do not believe that he would have been able to contend with acceptance on your part. He needs rejection, as strange as that may sound, else he cannot function. As for myself, my sexuality enters nowhere into the revolution or our friendship unless you allow it. There have been no problems thus far. But what is your problem?”
“Homosexuality is depraved, it is a grave sin that will result in eternal damnation,” Enjolras began slowly, “but god help me, I love you.”
Combeferre was shocked, yet pleased. “What?”
Enjolras looked into Combeferre’s eyes. “I love you, Julien. But I should not allow myself to pursue a relationship. It would be morally reprehensible, and I cannot willingly bring doom on this revolution. I cannot do it.”
“Enjolras. Marcelin. I love you, too, but I as well have no desire to bring doom on the revolution. But why do you not pursue love outside the revolution? Surely Grantaire's blind worship cannot suffice.”
“No. I detest Grantaire’s worship of me. I dislike the man immensely. His ragged clothing, his bulging, glassy eyes, his hair like a peasant, the constant smell of liquor on his breath and being, that harsh voice: it is a wonder that I can ever tolerate his presence. I realize that he is not typical of gay society, or of humanity as a whole, but the world out there frightens me because he is a part of it. And then there is you: quiet, intelligent, my philosopher and gu