This is the first time that Jehan meets Montparnasse. I wrote this fairly early on in Requited so I think some of the details of how things play out might be inconsistent with what's actually in Requited, but those are probably only minor details.
Warnings for some homophobic slurs and references to self-harm (also my abundant and obvious lack of knowledge when it comes to drug deals haha)
Grantaire didn’t have a car of his own--hell, it’s not like he would be able to ever afford one because even though he was working part-time bussing tables, it was barely enough to pay for the cheapest room at the Therandier’s motel--but as soon as he got the text from Jehan (my dad found out. please come.) he knew that he needed to get his hands on a pair of wheels.
Luckily M. Therandier’s car was such a piece of crap that the man never bothered to lock it and it didn’t take him long to hotwire it--one of many skills he had learned from Montparnasse and his friends. Therandier would be pissed if he found out Grantaire took his car, maybe pissed enough to kick him out, but hopefully he was too distracted with the Christian Bible Study tour bus that stopped at the motel for the night. God-fearing folk were remarkably easy to rip off. Gavroche would probably be faking some sort of disability and the money would be pouring in.
Grantaire sped across town. He’d been to Jehan’s house before--some massive swank place that he was tempted to call a mansion but Jehan just called home--and it was nestled among fancy country clubs and gated neighborhoods. The car--mirrors held on with duct tape, a dented trunk, a door a different color from the rest of the body, a busted muffler--would look conspicuous in Jehan’s neighborhood, but he didn’t plan on staying long. Just long enough to pick up Jehan and get out of here.
His own father had broken his arm--and threatened to do much worse--when he found out Grantaire was gay, and he’s not going to let anything like that happen to Jehan.
Anyone but Jehan.
When he pulls into the neighborhood, he has to slow down to find the right house number in the dark, but he takes care not to drive too slow because he knows that people in neighborhoods like this get jumpy when clunky cars drive by slowly in front of their homes. He doesn’t need the police called on him.
Especially not in a stolen car.
Jehan is sitting on the curb when he drives past his house and Grantaire slows the car to a stop and leans across the seats to throw open the passenger side door. “Get in,” he says.
Jehan’s on his feet and scrambling into the car and in the brief moment before the overhead light turns off when Jehan shuts the door, Grantaire can see what bad shape his friend is in. His cheeks are tearstained, his eyes red. His hair is mussed, like someone tried to grab it, but luckily he doesn’t see any other sort of mark on Jehan. (If Jehan’s dad had tried to hit him, Grantaire doesn’t think he’d be able to stop himself from tearing out the man’s throat. No one should hit Jehan. No one.)
Still, whatever happened, Jehan is shaken. And shaking.
“What happened?” Grantaire asks as he speeds out of the posh neighborhood. He wishes the heat in the car would work because it’s two days after Thanksgiving and it’s freezing and he wants Jehan to stop shaking.
Jehan shakes his head. “I can’t--I can’t--I can’t--”
He’s gasping for breath that won’t come and Grantaire reaches over to put his hand against the back of Jehan’s head and push it down toward his knees.
“Head between your knees,” he says, “and deep breaths, okay? I can’t have you passing out on me.”
This isn’t the first time he’s seen Jehan panicking like this. The younger boy feels everything strongly. When he’s happy, he’s ecstatic, but that happiness is laced with crippling self-doubt and anxiety given to him by his father. Where Grantaire is prone to depression and hopelessness and despair, Jehan is prone to fear and anxiety and panic attacks.
He rubs Jehan’s back as he drives, trying to get him as far away from his house as he can.
“You’re going to be fine,” he says. “It’s all going to be okay. Just keep breathing.” He barely believes the words he’s saying, but he wants them to be true for Jehan’s sake. If God exists, he’s long since given up on saving Grantaire’s life, but Jehan deserves so much more than he does.
“It hurts so bad,” Jehan gasps, his head still between his knees. “I just--just--just--”
“Deep breaths,” Grantaire reminds him.
Jehan sucks in air. “It feels like I swallowed glass. It’s all so sharp.”
For a second, Grantaire’s not sure if he’s speaking literally or figuratively. “Did he hurt you?”
Because if he hurt Jehan, he’ll take the boy to the hospital to be looked over and then he’s driving straight back to the Prouvaire’s and beating the shit out of his father.
“Just with words,” Jehan says. “It shouldn’t hurt this bad.”
Of course Jehan would make the distinction between physical pain and pain caused by words. It’s not a distinction that Grantaire makes because he knows from experience the sort of damage both kinds of pain can do.
“It’s okay,” Grantaire says. “You’re okay.” He wishes he could say something better, more profound. He wishes he could convey in words what he can in art--that Jehan is something like this perpetual spot of light in his life and even though the pain and anxiety is overwhelming, he knows it’ll pass.
Jehan needs words more than he needs art and it’s one of Grantaire’s faults that he’s most ashamed of, especially right now.
“He said he hates me.” Every word is breathless. “He said I’ll never be good enough. He can’t forgive me for this. He doesn’t want to see me again.”
“Did he kick you out?”
“Mom wouldn’t let him. But she hates me too. I can tell. I’m a disappointment. I’m not what they wanted. I tried so hard to be what they wanted.”
Grantaire knows exactly how hard Jehan has tried to be someone his parents could be proud of, and he also knows that Jehan refuses to pretend to be someone he’s not. For years, he’s been walking some mad tightrope of reconciliation, trying to be the outgoing, rough-and-tumble jock and the introverted, big-hearted poet. Jehan’s one of the best runners on the school’s cross-country teams. Other students love him because he’s just so damned nice all the time. His poetry is featured in every creative writing showcase and he gets every flute solo in band.
How his parents can be disappointed with someone so perfect is beyond Grantaire. He thinks they must not have a heart.
“You’re what I’ve always wanted,” Grantaire says to him. His parents can go die, for all he cares. They don’t deserve Jehan.
“I tried so hard, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough to make him love me.”
Another reason to hate Jehan’s dad.
Of course, Grantaire’s own father was a piece of work and he thinks that being kicked out was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. But Grantaire learned long ago how to shut down his heart, to close himself off to hope. He knew he would never be enough for his dad, so he stopped trying. He stopped caring.
But Jehan--his heart is too big to ever just close everyone out. He feels too much, too keenly. And every time his father rejects him, it’s like opening a new wound and all Jehan can do is wait for it to bleed out and scab over.
If Grantaire’s problem is that he cares too little, it Jehan’s curse that he cares too much.
“He should have loved you because he’s your dad,” Grantaire says. “You shouldn’t have to earn that from him.”
Jehan sits up straight and pulls his legs onto the car seat, making himself as small as possible. “I need it to stop hurting. I need it to stop. Make it stop.”
“What do you need from me? What can I do for you?” He’s so used to being the one to fall apart, that he’s not sure how to keep Jehan together.
“How do you make it stop?”
With alcohol. With pot. With razor blades and fresh blood.
But no. He can’t teach Jehan his shitty ways of coping. Jehan’s the one who loves to write poetry around the scars on Grantaire’s arms with felt-tipped markers, trying to make something beautiful out of his pain. And when Grantaire got him drunk last year, Jehan couldn’t stop crying. The alcohol just made him sad, made him feel all his father’s disappointment with sharper relief.
“Weed,” Grantaire says. It’s not physically addicting. He won’t be ruining Jehan by sharing this vice. It’ll mellow him out, fill him with euphoria. It’ll soften the edges of his pain until he’s ready to deal with it. “I can get you some weed.”
If Jehan says no, he’ll think of something else. Anything else. Hell, he’ll break into the local botanical gardens and sit Jehan down in the middle of the flowers that he loves so much.
“Will that make it not so sharp?” His voice is steadier now, like he’s finally managed to gain control over his lungs. But his voice is still thick with emotion.
“Give me some.”
Grantaire nods and when he pulls up to a stoplight, he turns on his left blinker. He usually kept a stash of weed in a baggy in one of his socks, but M. Therandier found it earlier in the week--proof that while he was close enough to be family, he wasn’t family enough that they wouldn’t rob him blind when they could.
It made him feel less guilty about stealing the car.
But it did mean that if he wanted to get something to take the edge off for Jehan, he needed to go straight to the source.
He needed to go to Montparnasse.
It’s a fifteen minute drive to the apartment that Montparnasse shares with his friends on the edge of town and it’s enough time for Jehan to pull himself together. He’s breathing normally. He’s not crying. He can talk without hyperventilating.
But Grantaire still wants to leave him in the car.
“I can do this myself,” he says. “If you’re not feeling steady enough, you don’t have to come.”
He can’t bring himself to say that he doesn’t want Jehan to come. He knows Parnasse’s friends. He knows what they’ll say when they see Jehan--all long hair and awful sweaters and skinny jeans (and skinnier bones)--and he doesn’t want to subject Jehan to that. Ever. At all.
“I can go.”
“You don’t have to prove to anyone that you can do this.”
Jehan turns to look at him in the dark. A lamp post from the parking lot offers enough light to see Jehan’s wide brown eyes. “I’m not proving anything.”
“These people will eat you alive.”
“How is that any different from normal?”
Grantaire sighs. He reaches over and opens the glove compartment and thrusts a couple of napkins at Jehan. “Wipe off your face,” he says. “With red eyes, they’ll just think you were smoking. You don’t want them to know you’ve been crying.”
Jehan wipes off his face and with nimble fingers, he combs through his hair before braiding it again. He tugs on his clothes and looks to Grantaire, who sighs and opens the car door.
This is going to be...interesting.
Parnasse’s apartment is on the third floor of a building so seedy it makes the Therandier’s motel look like the Ritz. He’s honestly a little surprised that Parnasse can stand living anywhere like this because the man is so vain about what he looks like that Grantaire assumes it rolls over into what his home looks like. But the rent has got to be dirt here and the neighbors probably don’t care (or at the very least won’t call the cops) if they smell weed or hear any manner of illegal activities Parnasse is getting up to.
Grantaire pounds on the door, angling his body just so to try to hide Jehan from view.
“Who is it?” someone on the other side of the door asks.
“It’s Grantaire. Let me in,” he hollers back.
A moment later, the door swings open. Grantaire can see a pile of a license plates on the floor in the living room and knows instinctively that they’re either (a) stolen or (b) fake. Maybe both. He also knows that it means Parnasse isn’t going to want to do business with the door open. So he steps inside, gesturing for Jehan to follow him in.
The apartment is a bit of the mess with empty beer bottles and empty pizza boxes. The paint is peeling off the wall and a perpetual stench of bodily fluids and smoke hangs in the air. Grantaire is honestly surprised that the smell doesn’t make Jehan gag. Parnasse and Gueulemer are the only ones home.
“Who’s the queer?” Gueulemer asks, nodding his head toward Jehan.
Jehan doesn’t even blink at the slur.
“Shut up, Gueulemer,” Montparnasse snaps.
“It’s cool,” Grantaire says. “He’s with me.”
“That’s right,” Guelemer says. “I always forget you’re a little faggy yourself. At least you got yourself one that looks like a girl this time.”
Montparnasse rounds on him. “You shut your motherfucking mouth,” he says. “Or I’ll break your jaw.”
Grantaire is the only one in the room privileged to know that Parnasse’s defense of Jehan has more to do with the fact that the older boy’s been sleeping around with men for nearly two years now and less to do with any sort of loyalty to Grantaire. He doesn’t care either way, as long as Gueulemer keeps his mouth shut.
Parnasse turns his attention to Grantaire. “What can I do you for, kid?”
“I need some weed,” he says. “For the kid.”
“Don’t you think the little bird’s a little too young for that?”
“The ‘little bird’ is sixteen,” Jehan says. Grantaire’s surprised at the hint of steel in his voice. “And I know you’ve sold Grantaire weed--and more--when he was years younger than I am. And my name is Jehan, not little bird.”
“Little bird’s got some bite to his chirp,” Parnasse says. “I like that. How much do you want? We just got some good stuff in.”
“Not much,” Grantaire says. “A couple of grams.”
“Three grams for sixty.”
“You’ve got to be shitting me,” Grantaire says. “Normally you sell it to me for half that.”
“Normally I’m selling you shitty weed,” Montparnasse says. “I told you. We just got some good stuff in.”
“You know me,” Grantaire says. “Forty bucks.”
Montparnasse just laughs at him. “I’m not giving you a twenty dollar discount.”
“All I’ve got on me is forty bucks,” he says. It’s true and it’s money he was planning on using for food. “I’ll pay the rest the later.”
“Like hell you will,” Montparnasse says. “Last time you tried that stunt, I didn’t get my money for two fucking weeks.”
“My dad had just kicked me out of the house!”
“Not my problem. You didn’t pay on time.”
“And you broke my nose. I thought we were even!”
“First of all, we’re even because you finally got me my money. Breaking your nose was a warning. Besides, being even doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly gotten stupid. You don’t get to pay on credit.”
“We’re just looking for a little--”
“Gueulemer, take these two out.”
Gueulemer lumbers to his feet and Grantaire steps in front of Jehan, but Jehan shoves him aside. It’s such a surprising move that Grantaire can’t help but gape at him.
“For crying out loud, if money’s the issues,” Jehan says, “I can pay.”
Montparnasse wants to laugh when the little bird says he can pay because the entire situation is just too ridiculous. He knows Grantaire is poor as dirt. His leather jacket is second-hand (if not third- or fourth-hand) and there are holes in all his clothes. The kid can barely afford rent at Therandier’s motel. As for the little bird, well, he’s not any better dressed than Grantaire is.
“Little bird, you don’t have a cent on you,” he says. “You clearly buy your clothes from The Salvation Army. There’s no way you can afford this.”
But he’s pulling a wallet out of his pocket and Montparnasse sees a flash of green when he opens it.
He’ll get the wallet off the bird before the end of the night.
He pulls out three twenties and holds them up. “Sixty bucks,” he says. “Can we get the weed now? I’ve had a crap night.”
This time, Montparnasse does laugh. He sits down on the arm-rest of his beat-up sofa. “And what exactly could make your night such crap, little bird?”
He has a hard time imagining what could have ruffled his feather so much. Especially with the amount of money he has in his wallet. He knows exactly why Grantaire comes to him. He knows what sort of demons he’s running from, but nothing of this strange boy who seemed to wander into his apartment almost by accident.
“I came here for some weed,” he says, “not a therapy session.”
“Seriously, Parnasse,” Grantaire adds. “If you’re not selling, we can find someone else.”
“Who says I’m not selling?” he says. “I’m a businessman, Grantaire. I’m just looking for a way to sweeten the deal.”
“You could sweeten the deal by actually making the deal,” Grantaire says. “Jehan has the money.”
“Exactly,” Montparnasse says. “The little bird has the money, not you. Therefore my deal is with him, not you. So I’m negotiating with him, not you. Are you catching my drift here, Grantaire?”
Grantaire rolls his eyes.
“What are you after?” Jehan asks.
“What makes you think I’m after something?” Montparnasse asks. “You’re the customer. This is about what you want.”
“This has never been about what I want,” he says. “If you were at all concerned with what I want, you’d have given me the weed and kicked me out of here long ago.”
The little bird talks like he’s not afraid of anything and it absolutely fascinates Montparnasse. Maybe it’s just because he’s too stupid to realize he should be afraid, but he doesn’t think that’s the case. He doesn’t think the boy is stupid at all.
Why did Grantaire never tell him that he had such fascinating friends?
“Is this your first time getting high?” Montparnasse asks.
Again, he wonders what’s ruffled the little bird so much to bring him here. Whatever the reason, though, he’s not sure he wants the boy to leave at all--at least not until he can start to unravel him a little. See what makes this walking contradiction tick. “The way I see it,” he says, “is that it’s in my best interest to see to it that you have a good experience your first time.”
“Meaning I want to watch,” he says.
Grantaire swears under his breath. “We’re not dealing with any of your voyeuristic shit, Parnasse.”
He knows why Grantaire has a problem with voyeurism. He’s done business with the whores Grantaire’s father forced him to watch, so he’s not entirely surprised to hear this complaint from him. Still, he hardly thinks this is the same thing. “It’s not like I’m asking to watch the two of you have sex,” he says to Grantaire. “Like I said, if the boy’s got money, it’s in my interest to make sure he enjoys himself so we can continue doing business--and I’m not sure I trust him with you, you sad sack.”
“We’re not sleeping together,” Grantaire says.
Interesting that he doesn’t refute the part about him being a sad sack.
“What do I get out of letting you watch?” Jehan asks.
“The comfort of knowing if something goes wrong, there’s a sober person here to drive you to the hospital.”
“No, seriously,” he says. “Look, I don’t care if you get off on watching teenage boys get high. That’s none of my business, but it makes R uncomfortable. So if you want it that bad, you’re going to have to bargain for it.”
Again, Montparnasse laughs. It’s rare the he deals with people who are capable of bargaining. Most of the people he deals to are addicts who are so desperate to get a fix that they’ll give him anything he asks for. And even then, the ones who are capable of bargaining usually don’t want to because Montparnasse scares them.
And yet here he is, with some tiny slip of a sixteen year old boy in front of him, willing to stand toe to toe with him.
And damn it if that’s not one of the hottest things he’s ever seen.
“I’ll throw in an extra gram. On the house.”
“Haha, no,” he says. “You get one.”
“This is for Grantaire, not for me. He was my ride here and I know that he’s not going to leave me in this den of sin alone. If you want us to stay, he gets two extra grams.”
“Fuck it, Parnasse,” Gueulemer says, finally vocalizing what Montparnasse is sure he’s felt from the beginning. “You really gonna let this little faggot yank you around like this?”
“Shut your mouth, Gueulemer,” he snaps.
But the little bird turns to look at Gueulemer. “I’ve had men straighter than you coming in their pants for me. Don’t think that I can’t do it to you too.”
Grantaire looks terrified that Gueulemer’s about to snap his friend in half, but Gueulemer looks so shocked that some kid dared talk to him like that that he can’t even manage a response.
“Look,” Jehan says. For the first time, Montsparnasse can hear the desperation in his voice. The little bird is running from something, and running hard. “I just want the weed. If you want us to stay, that oaf leaves and you throw in an extra two grams. If that’s too much, we’ll take our three, you take your sixty and we’re out of here.”
He notices that the bird’s hands are trembling and he’s starting to wonder if his tough attitude and hard bargains are just puffed feathers--just a show he’s putting on to hide fear and pain and anger. He deals with people like this all the time. Everyone wears a mask. Everyone pretends to be someone they’re not.
But the boy doesn’t back down or back up and even though Montparnasse can see his Adam’s apple working like he’s trying to choke back tears, he looks like he’s not going to let anything stop him from getting what he wants right now.
He looks like someone with nothing left to lose.
And Montparnasse likes that.
“Gueulemer,” he says. “Get the hell out of here. I don’t want to see your ass again till morning.” He plucks the cash out of the little bird’s hands. “It seems we have a deal.”