After an entire night of bar hopping, Grantaire actually felt relieved that the last stop for the evening was just a run-of-the-mill gay dance club. Nathan’s best man—a man who’d look more comfortable in a suit than in jeans and a t-shirt and who was also the sort of straight man who probably believed all sorts of weird shit about “the gay lifestyle” which clearly showed in his selection of bars and clubs tonight—had deliberately chosen the most utterly ridiculous bars for them to hit over the course of the night. More than one of which Nathan looked distinctly uncomfortable at.
But this place was standard. This was like any number of clubs Courfeyrac used to drag Grantaire to during their undergrad. Courfeyrac always went for the dancing and Grantaire came for the drinks. Coming to this place—well, it was almost like coming home. The beat of the music was familiar and Grantaire watched Courfeyrac subconsciously start swaying to the music as soon as they entered.
Grantaire was utterly unsurprised to find that Enjolras looked just as grumpy here as he did at any number of places over the night. Which was fine, really, it was. He should have expected it, anyway. Enjolras had spent all of last night grumbling about how much he wasn’t looking forward to this bachelor party and how he felt about the commodification of sex and who knew what else. But Grantaire had hoped—he had really hoped—that Enjolras would have perked up a little for him. He’d squeezed himself into the tightest jeans he owned and wore that green shirt that Enjolras normally couldn’t keep his hands off of because he’d been deluded enough to think that if he looked good enough for his boyfriend than maybe his boyfriend would pay attention to him instead of propping up bars all night.
He knew Enjolras wasn’t a bar hopping kind of guy, but he also knew full well that Enjolras could let loose every once in a while and Grantaire wanted that for tonight. He was sick of constantly second-guessing himself and of the nasty little voices in his head that kept telling him that Enjolras was ashamed of him, that Enjolras was embarrassed by him, that Enjolras didn’t think Grantaire was worthy of being part of his family. He thought if he could just get Enjolras to just pay attention for a night then all of that would go away.
Only he found that he wasn’t enough to get Enjolras’s mind off some stupid spat with his sister. Enjolras hardly looked at him all night. His eyes didn’t linger the way they normally did when Grantaire took the effort to force himself into these damn pants (which, thank you very much, he only kept because he knew how much Enjolras liked them). With every bar, Grantaire could hold back the hurt from Enjolras’s blatant disinterest less and less. So he started drinking—not enough for it to be dangerous, but enough that he noticed Enjolras’s disapproving looks with every ordered drink—and he started flirting with other men when they appreciated the effort it took for him to squeeze into these damn pants. If Enjolras wasn’t going to pay attention to him willingly, then he’d make him jealous. He’d get the attention of every single man in this stupid club—and hell, it looked like there were some straight girls here too, he’d get their attention as well—and he’d show Enjolras just how desirable he really was. He’d show Enjolras that other people found him worthy of their attention, of their affection.
He’d show him.
“Well,” Courfeyrac said after he surveyed the scene. Nathan and the other groomsmen were already heading towards the dance floor. “I don’t about you gents, but I want me one of those pretty little cocktails.”
“Are you sure you haven’t had enough to drink already?” Combeferre asked.
“My dear Combeferre, I am barely even buzzed.” He took Combeferre’s hand and flung his free arm out towards the bar. “To the bar, comrades! Taire, bring Lord Grumpy Pants with you and we’ll tear up the town.”
“He’s had too much to drink,” Enjolras said even as Grantaire steered him towards the bar.
“He’s enjoying himself,” Grantaire said. “Isn’t that what you’ve wanted all week?” Courfeyrac and Combeferre were already at the bar and Courfeyrac was practically sitting in Combeferre’s lap. It’d been ages since he last saw Courfeyrac act like this. “He’s acting like himself for a change, and if it only took him a couple drinks to get there, then you shouldn’t complain.”
“Getting drunk isn’t the way to deal with your problems.”
“Yeah, thanks, Enjolras. I actually knew that already.”
“I didn’t mean—whatever. Do what you want.”
Courfeyrac waved them over. “You have to try this, Taire,” he said, thrusting his drink towards Grantaire and succeeding in slopping most of it onto the floor. “It’s amaaaaaazing.”
Grantaire took the glass from him before he could lose any more of it and Combeferre chuckled at Courfyerac’s antics as he sipped at his beer. It was hard to watch Courfeyrac and Combeferre together—it’d been hard all night—because they looked and acted like a proper couple. Once Courfeyrac had loosened up enough to flirt and tease like he used to, Combeferre had taken it all in stride and even reciprocated it. He was more reserved than Courfeyrac, of course, but he was affectionate and flirty in his own right. They hadn’t stopped touching all night and it was impossible to miss the affection that Combeferre looked at Courfeyrac with.
It was hard not to be jealous of the attention they gave each other when Grantaire’s actual boyfriend only spoke to him to nag him about drinking.
Grantaire quickly downed the rest of Courfeyrac’s drink, enjoying the warmth that it seemed to fill him with, before setting the glass back down. He grabbed Courfeyrac’s wrist and tugged him away from Combeferre.
Courfeyrac laughed and braced himself against Grantaire to keep himself upright.
“Do you remember this song?” Grantaire asked.
He laughed again. “This is the song that played at the thing with that dude! I loooooooove this song!”
“Come dance with me,” Grantaire said. He knew he’d never get Enjolras on the dance floor—he’d already tried tonight—and maybe keeping Courfeyrac away from Combeferre would keep him from getting jealous over his friends’ fake relationship.
Courfeyrac hesitated for a moment, surveying the tightly packed crowd on the dance floor, but then he laughed again. “Oh, all right,” he said and he allowed Grantaire to pull him out to the dance floor.
Between the booze and the pulsing music and the heat of bodies, Courfeyrac forgot himself. He forgot that his pounding heart had more to do with the press of bodies against his than it did with the physical exertion of dancing. He forgot that he should be worried at how much Grantaire had been drinking tonight—not because Grantaire would do anything untoward but because Grantaire only drank like that these days when he was in pain. He forgot all manner of unpleasant things, including that he wasn’t supposed to be in love with the man still sitting at the bar.
After all, today had gone so well. Before the bachelor party, he and Combeferre had gone to visit his mom at work for lunch and they had held hands and his mom had introduced Combeferre to all her co-workers as “my son’s charming boyfriend” and it felt right when Combeferre had put his arms around his shoulders or kissed him when Courfeyrac opened doors for him.
Today had felt like being in a real, proper relationship and maybe he was right to think that he and Combeferre could make this work as a real relationship instead of just a fake one.
He and Grantaire had been dancing for a couple of songs when Courfeyrac felt someone’s hand on his hip from behind him. He jolted, unsettled that someone would touch him so casually, until he heard Combeferre’s voice in his ear.
“Mind if I cut in?” Combeferre asked.
“He’s your…boyfriend,” Grantaire said, stepping away a little to make room for Combeferre. Courfeyrac grabbed Grantaire’s wrist before he could go too far in a silent invitation to stay with them. He didn’t think Combeferre would mind. Besides, the dance floor was crowded enough that there wasn’t much of an illusion that only two people were dancing together.
There was the added bonus that Courfeyrac felt better—safer—when he knew the people on either side of him. Grantaire and Combeferre kept a polite distance from him instead of grinding up against him like any number of strangers had already during the night.
“Has anyone told you you’ve got pretty eyes?” Courfeyrac asked Combeferre mid-way through the next song, pressing their bodies closer so Combeferre could hear him.
“You’ve got beautiful eyes,” Courfeyrac said again. “And I think you could beat the moon in a pretty contest.”
Combeferre laughed. “Just how drunk are you?”
“M not drunk,” he said. “I feel alive!” He threw his head back, knocking off his balance enough that Combeferre had to wrap an arm around his waist to keep him from toppling right onto Grantaire.
“I’m glad,” Combeferre said. “I’m not into necrophilia. The cadavers in the anatomy lab never did it for me.”
“You’re pretty and you’re funny. It’s not fair for you to be perfect.”
“I’m hardly perfect.”
Courfeyrac shook his head. “Yes, you are. You’re perfect.” He wrapped his arms around Combeferre’s neck so he could pull him down for a kiss. “Every inch of you is perfect,” he said, pressing butterfly kisses to Combeferre’s face.
Combeferre laughed and tried to pull away, but Courfeyrac held fast and leaned in to kiss Combeferre properly. They hadn’t had a proper kiss yet, just chaste pecks to appease everyone who thought that they were dating, but Courfeyrac wanted a real kiss, one with emotion and life and love behind. No more grandma kisses.
He was a little surprised when Combeferre didn’t immediately pull away from the kiss. Instead, he deepened it and they moved with each other perfectly as though their bodies had been designed to fit together like this. When Courfeyrac opened his mouth in an eager invitation for Combeferre’s tongue, he felt Combeferre practically shiver against him.
Combeferre tasted amazing, something like alcohol and chocolate, but when Courfeyrac hummed against his mouth, Combeferre abruptly pulled back.
“What?” Courfeyrac asked.
Combeferre’s pupils were wide. “Let’s not let things get too heated,” he said.
Confused and wanting to go back to kissing—it’d been so long he’d forgotten how much he liked proper kissing—he pressed himself against Combeferre.
He jerked back almost immediately when he felt Combeferre’s hard cock against his hip.
Obviously, that was what Combeferre had meant by things getting too heated, and for a second, Courfeyrac felt panic flare up in his chest because he’d been in this situation before. He’d been with other men who’d gotten aroused while kissing and they always expected Courfeyrac to do something about the problem.
Combeferre watched him with concerned eyes. “It’s okay,” he said, loud enough to be heard over the music. “I don’t need anything from you.”
He hesitated for a moment—that’s not what anyone else had ever told him in this situation—but this was Combeferre and he could trust Combeferre. He forced himself to relax and pressed closer against Combeferre, leaving just enough space so their hips weren’t touching.
“Are you okay?” Combeferre asked.
“I trust you,” he said. “Besides, I like kissing you.”
“We’ve just got to take it easy,” Combeferre said before leaning in to kiss him again.
This kiss was less passionate than before, but still better than any of the pecks they’d traded this week. His heart pounded in his chest because he wasn’t quite sure why Combeferre was kissing him now. Previously, all their kisses had been a show—Look how well adjusted I am, Mom!—but there was no reason for Combeferre to feel like he needed to perform like that now. Courfeyrac didn’t think anyone from the bachelor party was going to report back to his mother. Courfeyrac had kissed Combeferre because he had wanted to and maybe…maybe Combeferre was kissing him now because he wanted to, too. Maybe Combeferre kissed him because he liked kissing him.
Maybe their strange little romance wasn’t doomed.
The giddy rush of hope Courfeyrac felt made him giggle against Combeferre’s mouth.
Combeferre pulled back again. “Am I that bad at kissing?”
“You taste like chocolate,” Courfeyrac told him.
Courfeyrac was about to lean up for another kiss—he and Combeferre shouldn’t have stopped kissing in the first place, how had he forgotten how much he adored kissing—when Nathan practically barreled into them.
“Combeferre,” he said, slightly breathless, “you’re in med school, right?”
Combeferre nodded. “Is something wrong?”
“With Blake,” he said. “My best man. I don’t know. Maybe he just drank too much, but he can’t stop puking and I just need to be sure he’s going to be okay. He’s my best friend, you know?”
“Yeah, of course,” Combeferre said. “I’ll take a look at him. Fey, will you be—”
“I’ll be fine,” Courfeyrac said. He’d be more than fine. He was feeling better than he had in ages. “You go save lives.”
Combeferre smiled at him and leaned in for a chaste kiss before vanishing into the crowd with Nathan. Courfeyrac turned, looking for Grantaire, only to discover that he’d lost Grantaire sometime after Combeferre had shown up. That was just as well. He didn’t need to hear any third-degree over the way he and Combeferre had been kissing. Grantaire had probably gone back to the bar to be with Enjolras. Courfeyrac would go meet them there. He was thirsty anyway.
Only then he saw Enjolras cutting through the crowd on the dance floor—it was impossible to mistake Enjolras, even as crowded as it was here—and it was clear Enjolras was on the warpath. Courfeyrac followed his trajectory with his eyes and spotted Grantaire, clearly flirting and dancing with two other men.
“Shit,” Courfeyrac said and began to shove his way through the crowd. This could very well be the end of Enjolras-and-Grantaire if someone wasn’t there to moderate.
Despite the thick press of bodies, Courfeyrac managed to trip over someone’s feet but before he was dumped on his ass, someone’s arm wrapped around his waist and hoisted him to his feet. But once he was on his feet, the arm didn’t let go from his waist, no matter how Courfeyrac pressed at it. He felt someone nuzzle at his hair.
“Woah, dude,” Courfeyrac said, loud enough that he’s sure whoever was grabbing him heard. “Back off, yeah?”
“With an ass like yours, I’d fuck you on all fours,” he said, one hand descending to grope Courfeyrac’s ass. “You got a name, baby?”
“Yeah, fuck you!”
Courfeyrac’s stomach churned and his lungs felt tight. He clawed at the man’s arm, trying to get him to let go. “Seriously, asshole,” he said. “Let me the fuck go. I’ve got a fucking boyfriend.”
“Oh, that’s too bad, pretty boy,” the asshole said. “If you were single, I’d have you spread out naked on my bed and I’d fuck you senseless. You wouldn’t be able to walk straight for days.”
Did people actually think shit like that was attractive? Was it supposed to be some kind of turn on to have another person talk to you this way? Because Courfeyrac just felt sick and he felt terrified and he remembered all the people he’d been with who didn’t seem to care if his consent was less than enthusiastic and expected him to lie there and take what was given him because that’s what he was supposed to like.
Panic descended on him and he could barely breathe and his hands trembled as he pushed against the man’s arm.
The man moaned and rubbed himself against Courfeyrac. “Does your boyfriend like how feisty you are, baby? I bet he gets off just watching you struggle beneath him.”
“Get your fucking hands off me!” He twisted in the man’s grip, trying to get some leverage to get away.
“And I bet you just love it when he holds you down and uses you like some fucking whore. Do you think he’ll let me watch, baby?”
Courfeyrac finally managed to twist out of the man’s grip and a whimper caught in his throat when he felt the man’s hand close around his arm. Courfeyrac spun around, using his momentum to slam the heel of his palm into the asshole’s nose before turning his back and running straight out of the club.
Enjolras watched Grantaire from his place at the bar. He’d declined Combeferre’s invitation to embark on the dance floor with him. Dancing wasn’t his thing. It wasn’t even close to being anything he could call his thing. Writhing up against Grantaire was one thing—but doing that with an entire crowd of strangers was another matter entirely. He didn’t know why Grantaire seemed to like it so much—and he especially didn’t know why Courfeyrac liked it so much. Courfeyrac could barely stand to have his friends touch him these days—although today certainly seemed to be an exception with Combeferre—and Enjolras couldn’t help but think that Courfeyrac couldn’t possibly enjoy having strangers rub and grind up against him.
But Courfeyrac seemed pretty well preoccupied by Combeferre at the moment. Whatever anxiety he might have about being in a crowd like this, it certainly wasn’t an issue with Combeferre around. Grantaire, though, Grantaire was another matter. For a while, he’d been dancing with Combeferre and Courfeyrac and Enjolras had been fine with that. He knew there was nothing there. But now Grantaire was eagerly soaking up the attention of several men at once and he…he just didn’t get it. He didn’t. He didn’t know why Grantaire was acting like this. He didn’t know why Grantaire was ignoring him. He didn’t like dancing, but if Grantaire had pestered him a little more, he would have agreed to go out for at least a few songs. Grantaire knew that about him, knew that to get him to go along with anything you had to push him. But Grantaire had just given up on him and sought out the company of some else.
And it hurt because he knew he wasn’t the best person to go out clubbing with. He knew he had a bit of a stick up his ass (Courfeyrac had been telling him that from the time they were twelve), but that normally didn’t bother Grantaire. Grantaire liked spending time with him regardless.
And he didn’t know why.
He knew Grantaire had hit a bit of a rough patch. It happened and he knew his boyfriend well enough that he recognized the rough patches easily. Part of him knew he should have expected it—the abrupt change in schedule, the pressure of making a good impression, the forced change in their sleep habits—all of those would put a strain on Grantaire and he was beginning to suspect that there was more going on with all that business about the webcomic than Grantaire told him and all of this was the perfect storm to set Grantaire over the edge. And that was fine. Bad days happened. Enjolras had committed to helping Grantaire through them in any way he could, but right now…it just felt like Grantaire didn’t even care, like he was feeding his own bad habits. This was, after all, the most Enjolras had seen him drink in ages. It scared him.
And he couldn’t help but think that he was the cause.
Maybe Grantaire didn’t like his family. Maybe Grantaire didn’t like the fact that Enjolras came from a cookie-cutter upper-middle class household when there had been times when Grantaire’s mother had struggled to feed him as a child. Maybe Grantaire thought he was stuck-up or boring or that dealing with his temper wasn’t worth it anymore.
He watched Grantaire laugh at something someone said—a full, hearty laugh. The sort of laugh that made him throw his head back and that he only ever did when he was amused by something that caught him by surprise. Enjolras was the cause of that laugh most often and he was surprised at how much it hurt to have Grantaire laugh like that for someone else. He shoved the hurt aside, not caring that anger swelled up in its place, and he marched onto the dance floor to demand answers from his boyfriend.
The dance floor was crowded, but Enjolras had plenty of experience in forcing his way through crowds at various protests and rallies. This was nothing different, although he did take a little better care to try not to step on anyone. When he reached Grantaire and the men, he grabbed Grantaire by the arm to get his attention.
“Whoa, pal,” one of the other men said. “Let’s not get grabby here.”
Enjolras ignored him. “What the hell are you playing at, Taire?”
“It’s called having fun, Enjolras,” he said. “I’d suggest you’d try it sometime, but we both know you’re incapable of it.”
Enjolras shoved aside the hurt that welled inside him. He tugged on Grantaire’s arm. “I think we should leave now.”
Grantaire jerked his arm away. “Who said I want to go anywhere with you?”
“You’ve had too much to drink,” Enjolras said, catching Grantaire’s wrist. “Now let’s go.”
“Hey, buddy,” one of the men said. “He doesn’t want to go with you.”
“Yeah, who are you to tell him what to do?” the other said.
Enjolras gave them both a dirty look. “I’m his fucking boyfriend,” he said. “And he has a fucking drinking problem and I’d appreciate it if you’d both mind your own fucking business.”
“He didn’t say he was seeing anyone,” the first man said.
“Yeah, well, now you know.” He glared at the men until they left before he turned his attention back to Grantaire. “C’mon, Taire, let’s go.”
“I don’t want to go,” Grantaire said, twisting his wrist out of Enjolras’s grip. “I’m having fun!”
“Well, forgive me for not enjoying myself while I watch my boyfriend throw himself at anything that moves.”
“Oh, so now I’m your boyfriend!”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“You just seem really particular about when you’ll admit to having a boyfriend and when you won’t,” he snapped. “And I really don’t have the patience for those kinds of fucking head games.”
“What head games? Look, I’m sorry if you’re pissed that I haven’t been hanging off you all night, but you’re the one who left me back at the bar!”
“You know what? Fuck all this,” Grantaire said. “I’m getting another fucking drink.”
“Don’t you dare,” Enjolras said. “You’ve had enough tonight!”
“Are you my boyfriend or my mother?”
“I care about you, Grantaire!”
“Well, you have a funny way of showing it. You can find me at the bar.”
He turned on his heel and started to force his way through the crowd.
“Grantaire, wait!” he called after him.
He was about to follow when he heard a shout from a few feet away.
“Get your fucking hands off me!”
Enjolras swore and turned in the direction of the voice just in time to see Courfeyrac slam his hand against some guy’s nose. The man dropped to the floor and Courfeyrac was already on his way out the bar.
Enjolras turned back to Grantaire, but he was too far away to call for help. He wanted to go after Grantaire, wanted to go figure out was festering between them, but he knew Courfeyrac needed someone right now and Combeferre was nowhere to be found.
“Fuck it all,” he said through clenched teeth and he chased after his oldest friend.
He found Courfeyrac just outside the bar, puking into the gutter along the side of the street.
“Courfeyrac, what happened?” he asked in a gentle voice as he approached.
Courfeyrac groaned before throwing up again. “I want to go home,” he said in a broken voice.
“All right,” Enjolras said. “I’ll text Grantaire and Combeferre and we can go home as soon as they get here.”
He pulled out his phone and sent a quick text to Grantaire and Combeferre, telling both that there was a bit of an emergency and they needed to go ASAP. He hoped Grantaire wasn’t pissed enough to ignore the message.
When Courfeyrac stopped puking, Enjolras put his hand on Courfeyrac’s back. “Are you okay?”
The way Courfeyrac flinched from his touch was answer enough.
Interlude, Spring-Fall, Three Years Ago
Things with Christopher started off great. Better than great. Courfeyrac had a rather robust dating history—he loved dating, he loved relationships, he loved loving people—but he also had a long history of those relationships crashing and burning. It was inevitable, really. In today’s day and age, love and sex were inextricably intertwined and Courfeyrac couldn’t escape that. His romantic partners always hit a point where adding sex to the relationship was non-negotiable, and for a while, Courfeyrac had tried to accommodate. He’d been willing to have sex with his partners, had been willing to share his body with them because he understood that that’s how they communicated love. Sometimes, he even enjoyed having sex with them. He enjoyed the closeness that it brought to his relationships.
But after a while, it just got…old. After a while, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was somehow being disingenuous, that having sex when he really had no personal desire to do so made him some kind of liar. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his partners, of course he did, but whenever he started feeling uncomfortable and tried to gently suggest that he might feel better if they toned back the sex, at least for a little, then his partners felt hurt and angry and they’d start arguing and these arguments always ended in the same place.
If you really loved me, you’d want to have sex with me!
I don’t understand why you’re so repulsed by me!
What’s wrong with you? I thought I was making you happy!
Courfeyrac had learned that it was best to just break off the relationship when they escalated to that point. If his partner didn’t break up with him first, at least. He’d certainly been dumped on more than one occasion because he wasn’t willing to put out. (He had noticed over the years that it was normally his boyfriends who dumped him for not putting out. The girlfriends usually thought that there was something wrong with them—that they weren’t attractive enough or sexy enough to keep his interest, despite his constant reassurances that that wasn’t the case—but the guys almost always blamed him for not wanting sex.) Courfeyrac knew that these relationships would turn toxic if he allowed them to continue, and he was honestly more than a little worried what his friends would do if they perceived that any of his partners were trying to coerce him into having sex. Enjolras, in particular, had a sixth sense for when his relationships were about to turn toxic and was downright threatening to anyone he perceived as a threat to Courfeyrac’s well-being.
Which was flattering, he supposed, but it was hard to negotiate something as delicate as a break-up with Enjolras chomping at the bit in the background.
By the time Courfeyrac and Christopher met, Courfeyrac hadn’t been in a relationship with anyone in months and had quit clubbing and bar hopping with Grantaire all together. Grantaire was great about stepping in with assholes who got too grabby at the clubs, but Courfeyrac just didn’t want to deal with it anymore. He was sick of people automatically expecting sex from him just because he was dressed a certain way or dancing a certain way or at a certain club. He was sick of having people grinding themselves up against him, sick of these simulated sex routines that played out at every club he went to. He tried for a little while to date from a more religious or conservative pool, hoping to find the “good Christian girl” that his mom always hoped he’d marry who wouldn’t be so eager for sex outside of marriage and he was normally disappointed. There were girls who thought that the ban on pre-marital sex was just outdated and then there were the girls who thought that vaginal sex was out of the question but were willing to suck him off or let him fuck their asses, as though it were some sort of sex loophole, and then there were the girls who started talking about getting married after the second date and it was just too much work.
But then he’d met Christopher at the volunteer booth and he’d been smitten. Christopher was kind and smart and funny and handsome. He was thoughtful and understanding and after a month of going on dates and hanging out, Courfeyrac flat out told Christopher that he was asexual before he’d consent to making their relationship exclusive. He was sick of falling in love and letting his heart loose only to get broken and the accusations that he was a liar for keeping this from people. He needed to be upfront, so he was. He laid it all out. Sex wasn’t something he felt he could offer to the relationship anymore. After so many people accusing him of “holding sex hostage” or being emotionally manipulative for not wanting to put out, he wasn’t comfortable having sex at all and he didn’t know if he ever would be again, and he told Christopher as much.
And Christopher had been understanding and honest. The honesty was what Courfeyrac appreciated the most. Christopher admitted that he did want to have sex with Courfeyrac and that he didn’t really understand “this whole asexuality business” but that he respected Courfeyrac enough to not put him in that situation. He wanted them to be comfortable communicating their needs to each other. He didn’t want Courfeyrac to feel like he had to hide that part of himself or be ashamed of himself and he wanted to continue to have conversations like this to help him understand.
Courfeyrac nearly wanted to propose to him on the spot because finally—finally—here was someone who understood. Here was someone who was kind and compassionate and who wasn’t going to vilify Courfeyrac for something that was beyond his control. He felt weightless after that conversation. He felt untouchable.
And he thanked Christopher for giving him that feeling.
For the whole summer, things were wonderful between them. They had the occasional argument, the occasional hiccup, and Christopher tended to get horny when he had too much to drink and he propositioned Courfeyrac once or twice, but he didn’t argue or fight or get angry when Courfeyrac turned him down. Courfeyrac felt safe around Christopher. He felt comfortable. He showed his love for his boyfriend in an endless barrage of thoughtful actions and caring cuddles. He wanted to make sure that Christopher never had a reason to doubt his devotion.
And Christopher never did. He met kindness with kindness and he basked in Courfeyrac’s attentions—and not even then did he try to pull sex into their relationship.
It was just after the start of the new semester at school that Courfeyrac suggested they bring more physical intimacy into their relationship.
“I’m not—I’m still not interested in sex sex,” he said over a quiet dinner in Christopher’s apartment one night. “Not anal or anything penetrative really, but, if it’s something you’d like, I’d be comfortable giving you hand jobs or things like that. Maybe not super frequently or anything, but it’s something I think I’d like to consider doing with you.”
They talked about it for hours, with Christopher checking and double checking that Courfeyrac really was comfortable with this. But this was something that Courfeyrac really wanted to do for his boyfriend. Relationships were about compromise and he’d had sex with people before. Hand jobs would be okay. He could handle hand jobs.
When he saw the expression on Christopher’s face later that night as he jerked him off, Courfeyrac was sure that he had made the right call.
It was a couple of weeks later that Christopher started suggesting other things he’d like the two of them to try, always with the caveat that he didn’t want to make Courfeyrac feel uncomfortable and that these weren’t conditions to continue dating and that he’d respect Courfeyrac’s answer.
Courfeyrac usually let himself be talked into whatever Christopher had in mind, even though he was never completely comfortable with the suggestions. Secretly he felt that it was one thing for him to bring up sexual activities for them to try seeing as how he was the one who had issues with it and he would be the one having to accommodate Christopher and not the other way around, but when Christopher brought it up…well, he was grateful that Christopher was open about what he wanted out of their relationship and really, Courfeyrac thought, he wasn’t asking for that much. In past relationships, Courfeyrac had done a lot more than what Christopher was suggesting.
I just want to show you how much I love you, baby.
I want to make you feel so good.
This is how I show my love. I feel like I’m not doing enough for you.
That all changed the first time they had sex. The sex itself had been fine, as far as sex went. Christopher was certainly a more attentive partner than plenty of other people Courfeyrac had been with. (He’d dated a small selection of assholes who interpreted Courfeyrac’s asexuality to mean that Courfeyrac’s pleasure in the act was inconsequential and, during sex, treated him as little more than a means to an end. Those relationships lasted considerably shorter than the rest.) But Courfeyrac wasn’t really interested in having sex often—special occasion sex was okay, but he didn’t want more than that—and Christopher seemed to think that sex once meant having frequent sex.
Courfeyrac fell into a pattern of of consenting about once out of every four times that Christopher suggested they go fool around in the bedroom, which translated to sex a little less than once a week. It was too much for Courfeyrac, but he saw the hurt in Christopher’s eyes whenever he said no and Christopher had been so supportive and so understanding. Courfeyrac felt that this was really the least he could do.
But he had a hard time relaxing during sex sometimes, which meant that no matter how much Christopher prepared him—and Christopher was always thorough and attentive and so careful—it still hurt, which meant that Courfeyrac’s body just began to associate sex with pain, which meant he had an even harder time relaxing.
Christopher, though, he was so happy. He looked so content and pleased with the turn their relationship had taken and he often told Courfeyrac how much it meant to him that Courfeyrac was willing to trust him like that.
Courfeyrac couldn’t take that away from him. He just couldn’t, he cared about Christopher too much.
But his reluctance to engage in sex manifested itself in other ways, even though Courfeyrac never said a word about it. He’d get nervous when he and Christopher cuddled together on the couch while watching a movie, because Christopher had a history of getting bored and letting his hands wander, so Courfeyrac would sit alone on the arm chair, away from Christopher. At night, when they shared a bed, he couldn’t sleep with Christopher touching him, even though he normally loved falling asleep in someone else’s arms. Every time Christopher reached out to touch him, Courfeyrac couldn’t help but worry that simple touching would escalate into something more, so he’d push Christopher’s hands away.
They started arguing more after that, but sex was never a part of the arguments. Christopher never hurled accusations at him that he was withholding sex to get what he wanted or that his reluctance to have sex was somehow a sign that he didn’t love Christopher. No, their arguments were far more mundane. Whose turn was it to cook or do up the dishes or arguing over canceled plans because of school or work. They were both busy. They both had other things going on. But this was the first time Courfeyrac had been in a relationship where the arguments weren’t centered around sex. He knew that couples argued and went through rough patches. This was normal and it wasn’t about sex. If it were about sex, he would have broken up with Christopher, even though that would have broken his own heart. But it wasn’t, which meant to him that their relationship was still working. It meant that there was still hope.
Until there wasn’t anymore.
Courfeyrac had woken up the morning after Thanksgiving to find his pajama pants and his underwear down around his knees. Christopher had his mouth around Courfeyrac’s cock and three fingers up his ass. Courfeyrac jerked back so bad he accidentally kicked Christopher in the crotch.
Or maybe it hadn’t been an accident.
He scrambled up the bed, trying to pull his pants up as he went. “What the hell were you doing?” he demanded.
Christopher doubled over on the bed. “Dammit, Courf!”
“What the hell were you doing?!”
“What did it look like? I was giving my boyfriend a fucking blow job!”
“When I was asleep?”
“It’s not like you weren’t already hard!”
“And that makes it okay?”
“Pretty much every guy I’ve ever been with likes getting woken up like this!”
“I didn’t want this!”
“I was going to wake you up before I made you come, Courf. You don’t need to—”
“I need you to leave.”
“What? Courf, I—”
“You need to leave.”
“I’m sorry. If I’d know, I wouldn’t have—”
“Please, Christopher, I need you to not be here right now.”
Christopher pulled back. “Okay,” he said. “Please call me later? So I know you’re okay? You have no idea how sorry I am. I didn’t think you’d mind this. I’m so sorry.”
Courfeyrac nodded. He just wanted Christopher to leave so he could feel like he could breathe again.
The first thing he did when Christopher was gone was lock the front door.
Then he fled to the bathroom where he was promptly sick.
He showered afterwards, scrubbing his skin harshly in too-hot water. Then he bundled up and walked the four blocks to Jehan’s apartment. He thought about going to Enjolras and Combeferre’s, but Combeferre had gone home for Thanksgiving and Enjolras was having drama with Grantaire and Courfeyrac didn’t want to be a burden. Besides, he had a key to Jehan’s apartment and he could let himself in. Once inside, it appeared that Jehan wasn’t awake yet, but his cat was prowling around the living room. Courfeyrac scooped the cat into his arms and collapsed on the couch.
Jehan emerged from his room within the hour and if he was surprised to find Courfeyrac on his couch, he didn’t mention it. He merely took one look at Courfeyrac and said, “Do you want to talk about it?”
Jehan nodded. “I’ll go make us some tea, then.”
“Can I have a hot chocolate instead?”
Jehan kissed the crown of his head and Courfeyrac tried not to tense under the touch. He was just on edge, that was all. Christopher…surprised him, and it hurt to have his trust betrayed liked that, but that hurt would go away. It had to. He loved Christopher. Jehan smiled at him. “Whatever you want,” he said.
Courfeyrac spent the day on Jehan’s couch, cuddling the cat and marathoning the first season of Downton Abbey on Netflix with Jehan. Jehan kept his distance and didn’t ask any prying questions, but his presence was comforting. Around the death of Mr. Pamuk in episode three, Courfeyrac pulled out his phone and texted Christopher.
[Courfeyrac] Sorry I chased you out this morning. I was just...I was freaking out. Sorry.
Christopher’s response was almost immediate.
[Christopher] I’m so glad you texted me. I was worried you wouldn’t want to see me again. Are you okay? I’m so sorry about this morning. I wasn’t thinking. I should have known you’d have a problem with that.
[Courfeyrac] I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have freaked out.
[Christopher] No, baby. You have nothing to be sorry for. This was my fault. I know that I was wrong now, and I’m sorry
[Christopher] I wasn’t trying to hurt you. You know that, right? It’s just I know how tense you’ve been about this whole sex thing
[Christopher] and I know that sometimes you have trouble relaxing because you overthink things and I just thought if I could get us started when you were still asleep then you’d be relaxed and it’d be better for you
[Courfeyrac] I’m not okay with what you did. I’m still kind of freaked out.
[Christopher] And you have every right to be. Seriously, you have no idea how awful I feel. I know we should have talked about it before I did anything.
[Christopher] I was never trying to hurt you
[Christopher] I love you, baby, and I never meant to hurt you. Lots of people I’ve been with before never minded waking up like that and I know it was stupid of me to assume that you’d be okay with it too, but it was early and I wasn’t thinking.
[Christopher] Please forgive me
Courfeyrac stared at the text messages for a long time, grateful that Christopher was waiting for him to respond before texting again. He felt sick when he thought about that morning and he had no idea how comfortable he’d be with Christopher touching him, but he also took comfort in Christopher’s words. He was sorry. He knew he screwed up. He still loved Courfeyrac.
And Courfeyrac didn’t know if anyone would ever love him like Christopher did.
[Courfeyrac] I forgive you. I think we need to slow things down a little, but I want to keep working at what we have. I love you.
He hesitated before he sent the message, unsure if he was making the right choice. When he finally sent the message—which was immediately followed by a message from Christopher professing his love and gratitude—Courfeyrac felt relieved. They were in this together. They could make this work.
He had no idea how toxic the relationship had the potential to get.