The wedding ceremony was lovely, if a bit long in Grantaire’s opinion. Of course, he’d been raised Catholic and had once been subjected to one of those atrociously long ceremonies, and in comparison, this wedding was short. But Lisette and Nathan had written their own vows and Lisette lacked her brother’s talent for knowing how to keep an audience engaged when making a speech. None of that really mattered though. Grantaire just spent the whole wedding discreetly making faces at Enjolras, determined to make him laugh.
He nearly got him in the middle of Lisette’s vows, but Grantaire suspected the stern look Gemma was giving Enjolras kept him in check.
After the ceremony was a luncheon for family and close friends. Lisette and Enjolras actually got along for the entirety of the lunch, which Grantaire attributed to the fact that Enjolras had slept well the night before. He’d forgotten how surly his boyfriend could get when sleep deprived, and last night had been the first time in nearly a week that they had a shared a bed. It had taken a fair amount of debating to talk Gemma into it and when Gemma protested about allowing an unmarried couple to sleep together behind closed doors, they had compromised by spending the night on the lumpy pull-out couch in the living room. Gemma figured that sleeping in a public area of the house would discourage anything more than sleeping and cuddling, but Grantaire would have slept on the floor in Enjolras’s parents’ bedroom if it meant that they were allowed to sleep together.
He’d fallen asleep in Enjolras’s arms last night and that alone worked some sort of miracle in his brain. It didn’t matter that the mattress on the pull-out couch was thin and that he had a metal bar digging against his hip all night so hard that it left a bruise. He had Enjolras, sleeping beside him for the entire night. He didn’t know what it was about sleeping together but it seemed to put them back in sync with each other. Grantaire still had some lingering insecurities over everything, but Enjolras was attuned to him once more and could not only discern those insecurities with a mere glance, but he could also dismiss them with a kiss.
The reception that night was a formal, sit-down meal which would be followed by dancing. Grantaire and Enjolras had skipped out on the cocktail hour preceding the reception and spent some much needed time alone in the back seat of Enjolras’s Prius. They cleaned up and made it to the reception just in time for Enjolras to take his place in the receiving line next to Courfeyrac, who was wearing the same forced smile he’d been wearing at the wedding ceremony. Grantaire noticed that whenever Courfeyrac thought no one was looking, his smile vanished and his face settled into a depressingly maudlin expression.
It wasn’t an expression Courfeyrac wore well.
Grantaire left Enjolras in the receiving line with a kiss and went to find his table in the church activity hall. He was impressed with the decorating. Working on it the other day had been ten different kinds of a disaster, but it paid off. White Christmas lights wrapped in tulle were draped from the ceiling, providing a soft, ambient light for the room. The sturdy folding tables and chairs had been covered with tablecloths and slip covers and the pinecone centerpieces crowned the center of each table.
Grantaire and Combeferre had both been relegated to a table for various extended family members while Enjolras and Courfeyrac would sit at the head table with the bridal party. Combeferre was already seated when Grantaire showed up and he was busy folding and unfolding the cloth napkin that had been left at his seat, deep in thought.
He looked up from his napkin folding when Grantaire sat down. “I’m surprised you and Enjolras didn’t check into a hotel and ditch the reception,” he said.
“We talked about it,” Grantaire said, grateful that the elderly relatives they would share the table with had yet to arrive. “But we decided not to risk Lisette’s wrath.”
“Lisette’s too blissfully in love right now to notice who’s here or not,” Combeferre said. “It’d be Gemma’s wrath you’d be facing.”
“Either way, I’d rather not be on the receiving end of wrath from anyone in that family.” He took a sip of water from the glass at his place setting. “How was cocktail hour?”
“Painful,” Combeferre said. “There was a lot of socializing and introductions and I don’t care what Courfeyrac says, he’s not okay right now, but he just kept up his fake smile and his fake laughter so no one would know something more was going on. I can’t stand seeing him that way. It just feels…wrong.”
Grantaire nodded. He understood what Combeferre meant. Some people wore melancholy and depression well. Grantaire could manage it most of the time and Jean Prouvaire managed to make melancholy look down-right beautiful, but Courfeyrac wasn’t meant for that kind of sadness and he didn’t wear it well. He tried to mask it and usually only succeeded in making himself look defeated. He had no idea how many people who didn’t know Courfeyrac well would notice it, but to it his close friends, it was frightfully obvious.
“Were you able to talk to him at all since last night?” he asked.
Combeferre shook his head. “It’s not exactly a conversation I want to have in public and, unlike some people, we didn’t have access to a car we could go hide in for a couple of hours.”
Grantaire smirked. “I regret nothing.”
Grantaire and Combeferre cut their conversation short with the arrival of Enjolras’s various relatives with whom they’d be sharing the table. The conversation shifted to introductions and get-to-know-you questions and Grantaire was surprised that Enjolras’s aunts and uncles seemed as interested in news of Courfeyrac from Combeferre as they did of news of Enjolras from Grantaire. The aunts and uncles had enough questions and anecdotes to fill the conversation straight through dinner.
Immediately after dinner was the first dance between Lisette and Nathan, followed by the bridal party dance. (Grantaire was very privately amused to watch Enjolras dance with a woman because he just seemed utterly perplexed by the whole situation.) During the dances, the adults at the table were occupied enough that Combeferre and Grantaire could continue their previous conversation.
Combeferre couldn’t keep his eyes off Courfeyrac the entire time.
“I just can’t stand seeing him like this,” he said. “And even…even if nothing between us works out, I just need to know that he’ll talk to someone about whatever’s going on and that he’ll work through it.”
“This isn’t something that you need to sort out right now,” Grantaire said. “We’re driving back to Sacramento tomorrow and then the two of you can sort this out without a million different relatives hovering around. He might open up if he’s not worried about making his mom worry.”
Combeferre shook his head. “I worry if I don’t get through to him now then he’ll just shut down and pull away. He’s already started it. He hasn’t looked this bad since he and Christopher broke up and you remember how bad things got then.”
“You’ll get through to him,” Grantaire said. He did remember how bad Courfeyrac was in the aftermath of his break-up with Christopher. Back then, Courfeyrac had been running hard from whatever had gone wrong in his life, but now Courfeyrac looked lost. Grantaire figured that if pushed the right way, Courfeyrac would open up. “Dance with him,” he suggested to Combeferre, nodding to the dance floor where the bridal party dance was wrapping up. “He seemed plenty relaxed and open with you at the bachelor party. Maybe it’ll work again.”
Combeferre looked doubtful, but he admitted, “Certainly couldn’t hurt to try.”
Courfeyrac had woken up in the morning knowing that this would be the last day that he allowed himself and Combeferre to carry on this mad charade. He barely slept last night agonizing over the decision because being with Combeferre felt so right in so many ways, but he couldn’t do this anymore. He couldn’t keep pretending that this was something he could have without getting hurt.
He wouldn’t get hurt anymore.
And he wouldn’t hurt Combeferre either.
All through the wedding ceremony, instead of focusing on Lisette and the happiness of her day, he pondered the words he’d say to break his own heart. It was foolish to have done this in the first place, to remind himself of what he could never have, and he should have told Combeferre that they needed to dial things down ages ago. But it’d been a nice illusion and he didn’t say anything and now it was going to hurt but that was okay.
Better to hurt himself now, better to be in control of the pain he’d feel, than have this get any worse.
There had been various times during the day when he’d tried to work up the nerve to explain to Combeferre why, exactly, he needed to put an immediate halt to their charade, but every time he tried, there was a ready excuse at hand to put the moment off, to delay the pain just a little longer. A relative to be introduced to. A chore to take care of for Gemma or Lisette. A joke that needed told.
By the end of the bridal party dance, Courfeyrac made up his mind that this all needed to end now. It’d do himself absolutely no good to spend the night dancing with Combeferre and teasing himself with the possibility that maybe he could pretend just a little longer. Dancing would just make things harder.
Combeferre, apparently, had different ideas about the dancing.
The DJ played another slow song after the bridal party dance and invited all the couples in attendance to come dance if they wanted. Courfeyrac had barely seen the bridesmaid he’d been dancing with back to her seat when Combeferre intercepted him.
“Would you like to dance?” he asked.
The logical thing would be to say no. The logical thing would be to have a discreet conversation with Combeferre now and be done with it. But logic had never been Courfeyrac’s strong suit—no, he was the pathos to Enjolras and Combeferre’s logos and ethos and he knew it—so he said yes. He would allow himself one last dance, one last turn around the floor in Combeferre’s arms.
And then he would end this.
The song playing was the usual sort of sappy love song played at wedding receptions—the sort of thing that inspired people to believe in soulmates and One True Love and all the things Courfeyrac didn’t let himself believe in anymore—but he was surprised that Combeferre seemed to know every word to this particular song. Combeferre held him tight, his arms supportive and comforting without being possessive or restrictive, and softly sang the words in Courfeyrac’s ear. The moment was too perfect. It was something out of a romantic comedy and in a perfect world, this would be when Combeferre confessed his love and promised Courfeyrac that nothing would ever hurt him ever again.
When the song ended, Combeferre leaned just a little closer and whispered, “I know things have been hard lately, but I want you to know I’m here for you. In whatever capacity you need me. I don’t know…I don’t know if it’s something you’d want, but I’d like to give us a shot if you’re interested.”
Courfeyrac looked up at him, shocked at the words that had just come out of the other man’s mouth. But Combeferre looked so loving, so hopeful and Courfeyrac choked back the emotions that threatened to swallow him. This was hard enough when it was just his own heart on the line. He didn’t know if he could do this to Combeferre too.
But he had to. He knew that.
Courfeyrac pulled away from Combeferre and muttered some half-assed excuse about needing air because he need some time to muster the courage to do this. Combeferre called after him, but Courfeyrac didn’t stop, pushing himself through the crowd and out into the hall.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. Combeferre was just supposed to be a decoy boyfriend, someone he could introduce to his mother to hold off questions until he felt a bit better prepared to handle them. He wasn’t supposed to fall in love. Combeferre wasn’t supposed to fall in love.
How had he screwed this up so much?
Combeferre found him pacing in the foyer, his hands fisted in his hair as he tried to work this out in his mind.
“Courfeyrac?” he asked. “What’s wrong?”
“I need you to stop!” he said, spinning around.
“Stop what? What do you mean?”
“I can’t—we can’t—this was just supposed to be a charade,” he said. “A con. Just a fake little fling to keep my mom off my back. And I can’t do it anymore, okay? I can’t have you—we need distance. This is messing with my head and I can’t anymore.”
“How is it messing with your head? Talk to me, Courfeyrac. Tell me what’s going on.”
“This was supposed to be fake, Combeferre! But my heart got involved and now it needs to stop before we make this worse!”
“It doesn’t have to get worse,” he said. He hesitated for a moment, looking unsure of himself in a way that made Courfeyrac want to hug him. “I think we might be on the same page here. This doesn’t have to be fake. We can give this a shot. We can give us a shot.”
Feeling frantic, Courfeyrac shook his head. “I can’t do this! I can’t play at something I’ll never have!”
“But you can have it,” Combeferre said. He reached out, trying to take Courfeyrac’s hands in his own, but Courfeyrac pulled back. If he allowed Combeferre to touch him now, it’d ruin everything. He didn’t have that much self-control. “That’s what I’m been trying to say.”
“Courfeyrac, please, I’m in love with you—I can’t stand to see you like this. Just talk to me. Tell me how I can make this better!”
Courfeyrac flinched, his heart pounding against his chest. “What did you say?”
“I love you, Courfeyrac.”
“No. You can’t. You can’t love me.”
“Love has only ever meant pain to me!”
“It’ll be different with us.”
“It never is,” he said. “You don’t understand.”
“Make me understand. Please tell me what happened.”
Courfeyrac made the mistake of meeting Combeferre’s eyes. He couldn’t refuse those eyes. “You really want to know what happened?” he said, feeling completely raw. Everything else was falling apart, he might as well rip open old scars while he was at it. “I loved someone and I let him love me and we destroyed each other, Ferre. I can’t do that to you!”
“You won’t,” he said.
Bless his soul, he meant it. He was wrong, but he honestly thought they could make this work.
Courfeyrac shook his head. “That’s what he said, too. He said he was okay with who I was, but he wasn’t and when I couldn’t give him what he wanted, what he needed, he took it from me!”
“He took—Fey, what are you trying to say?” Combeferre’s voice was hard, but there was something like sympathy or pity lacing it.
He didn’t want pity. He wanted Combeferre gone so he could nurse his broken heart in private.
“I’m saying that I woke up one morning to find my boyfriend fellating me because he was sick of being turned down,” he said. “He had his mouth on me and his fingers in me and it was a mistake because I wasn’t giving him what he needed, but I didn’t want that!”
Courfeyrac was breathless after his confession and he had rendered Combeferre speechless. He watched and he waited for Combeferre to process it all, waited for Combeferre’s anger and his pity, because Courfeyrac had no doubt that would be the reaction he’d face.
He wasn’t prepared for the heartbreak in Combeferre’s eyes, like it caused him pain to hear Courfeyrac disclose such a painful memory.
“Courfeyrac,” Combeferre said when he finally found his voice. “I am so sor—”
“Don’t tell me you’re sorry,” Courfeyrac said. His voice sounded brittle to his own ears. He was too close to falling apart. “It was a mistake. He didn’t know.”
“Didn’t know what?” Combeferre said, his anger coloring his voice. “That having sex with someone who’s asleep is rape?”
“It wasn’t rape, okay?” Courfeyrac said quickly. “Why do people keep saying that?”
“Because it was!”
Courfeyrac shook his head. “No, it wasn’t. I was supposed to like it. He wasn’t hurting me and people are into that sort of thing, but I’m not normal and there’s something wrong with me.”
“Courfeyrac,” Combeferre said slowly. He was using a tone of voice that he only used on the rare occasions he needed to be heard without the chance of Courfeyrac or Enjolras interrupting him. It was the voice he used to make people pay attention. “There is nothing wrong with you. Circumstances might not be what you wanted, but you. Are. Not. Wrong.”
Courfeyrac felt tears burn in his eyes.
“You can’t—you don’t know what you’re saying,” he said. “I won’t trap you in some sort of loveless relationship. I won’t do that you!”
“It wouldn’t be loveless, Fey.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be interested sex again. Christopher hated me in the end and I can’t go through that again. I can’t make you hate me.”
“I’m not Christopher, and I’m not asking for sex. I’m asking for your heart.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying,” Courfeyrac said again, desperate to make Combeferre understand. “You don’t know how hard it is.”
Combeferre crossed his arms over his chest and approached this from another angle. “To be fair, neither do you,” he said.
“You don’t experience sexual attraction, right?” he said. “You can’t miss what you’ve never experienced. You’ve never had to abstain from the sexual attraction you feel for someone, so you don’t know how hard it is. And what I’m trying to say is that you are worth whatever sacrifices I choose to make—and it would be my choice, Courfeyrac. You’re not forcing me to do anything, you’re not trapping me or tricking me—but you are worth that to me. Your happiness and your health and well-being are more important to me than my cock!”
“I can’t let you do that,” he said. Combeferre’s words were pretty enough, but Courfeyrac couldn’t let himself believe that this would be any different than any of his other relationships.
“Courfeyrac, I want to be a part of your life in whatever capacity you’ll have me and if you honestly and legitimately don’t want a relationship with me, then I will accept that, but I will not be driven away by you telling me what I allegedly do and don’t want.”
“Then what do you want?” Courfeyrac said, frustrated.
“You, Courfeyrac! However much of you or little of you you will allow me to have!”
Courfeyrac was silent. He had no words for that proposition and he was saved the burden of finding them by Enjolras’s appearance. He looked reluctant, like he knew he was interrupting something.
“Fey,” he said, “they’re about to do the garter toss and my mom wants all the groomsmen in there for pictures.”
“Right,” he said. “Of course.” He slipped past Combeferre without making eye contact. He still didn’t know what he was supposed to say or do, so he fled.
“Are you okay?” Enjolras asked as he accompanied Courfeyrac back to the dance floor. Lisette was sitting in a chair right in the middle of the floor, laughing at something Nathan was saying to her.
They made love look so effortless, so easy.
It wasn’t fair.
“It’s fine,” he said.
“Fey, I’ve known you forever. I know when you’re lying to me.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, casting an angry look at Enjolras.
Enjolras had the good sense to look chastised. “Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me.”
Gemma spotted them and ushered them closer, explaining the sort of pictures that she and Lisette wanted taken. Enjolras complained about having to watch someone grope around under his sister’s dress and Courfeyrac forced himself to laugh and made a quip about how Enjolras would have to return the favor when he and Grantaire got married.
After that, Enjolras didn’t have time bother Courfeyrac with questions because he was too busy trying to assure his mother that no, he and Grantaire didn’t have any plans to get married anytime soon.
Courfeyrac mustered up a smile for the pictures and he tried to keep himself from staring at all the happy couples in the room. He was usually pretty aware of couples around him, but now it felt worse. Now it felt like the entire room was taunting him with what he couldn’t have. He had a wonderful, beautiful, perfect man waiting for him out in the foyer, prepared to sacrifice his own sexual desires for him, and Courfeyrac couldn’t have him.
It would never work out and he had to keep telling himself that. He wasn’t wired for the happily-ever-after. It didn’t matter that the loneliness was overwhelming most days. It didn’t matter that he was in love with Combeferre or that Combeferre was apparently in love with him. Courfeyrac had been down this road too many times before. It couldn’t work out.
He was lost in his own thoughts, thinking of how hard it would be driving back to Sacramento tomorrow and pretending that he hadn’t destroyed his own heart, when his mother came up next to him and handed him a drink.
“You look glum,” she said.
“Weddings are supposed to be happy affairs,” she said. “What’s on your mind?”
Courfeyrac watched Nathan launch Lisette’s garter into a crowd of bachelors. He studied the bemused smile on Nathan’s face, like he couldn’t believe how lucky he was, and he watched the way Lisette couldn’t take her eyes off Nathan. He glanced across the room and caught sight of Enjolras and Grantaire sitting at a table and he noticed, not for the first time, how Enjolras and Grantaire seemed to revolve around one another, like some sort of unstoppable gravity was constantly pulling them together.
“They all make love look so easy,” he said.
His mom’s laughter took him by surprise. “And it’s all an illusion, sweetheart,” she said. “Love is never easy, not when you want it to last. Your dad thought it was supposed to be easy and when he discovered that he needed to work at it to keep our relationship alive, he left. You and I weren’t worth the work to him, and if I wished anything for you in life, it’d be that you don’t make the same mistakes your dad did.” She gave him a sly look. “I don’t know what’s going on between you and Combeferre, but if you love each other, then you owe it to him and to yourself to put in the work.”
He stared at his mom. Was Combeferre worth the work that they were both going to need to do to make a relationship work?
It was barely even a question.
He thrust his drink back at his mom and kissed her on the cheek before rushing out of the room.
He needed to find Combeferre.
Combeferre stayed in the foyer after Enjolras pulled Courfeyrac away, trying to make sense of everything that had happened. He had known, on some vague intellectual level, that Courfeyrac having been raped or abused by previous romantic partners was a distinct possibility. Courfeyrac had always been prone to giving too much of himself to other people. But his vague understanding had done nothing to prepare him for the anger and the pain he felt at hearing Courfeyrac disclose what had happened between him and Christopher.
He had half the mind to track down Christopher and murder him. He even knew how to make it look like Christopher died of natural causes.
But none of that would help Courfeyrac and right now that was all he wanted. He wanted to help Courfeyrac. He wanted to help him see that what happened with Christopher wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t the sort of treatment Courfeyrac would have to tolerate in exchange for being in a relationship. He wanted to give Courfeyrac the relationship he deserved.
In the face of Courfeyrac’s stubbornness, though, he was beginning to think that convincing Courfeyrac that he deserved any sort of healthy, romantic relationship would be nigh impossible.
Grantaire came looking for him not long after Enjolras had whisked Courfeyrac away.
“How’d it go?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know if I got through to him.”
He was afraid that nothing would get through to Courfeyrac.
Grantaire just nodded. “Are you okay?”
“The jury’s still out.”
“Why don’t you come back in,” he suggested. “They’ve got an open bar and I know how to mix a mean cocktail.”
“Thanks but no thanks,” he said. Getting drunk could wait till they were back in Sacramento. “I think I just need some time alone.”
“All right,” Grantaire said. “Enjolras and I will be just inside if you need anything.”
Combeferre nodded his thanks and watched Grantaire go. He used the time alone to figure out what he was supposed to do about all this. If Courfeyrac honestly didn’t want a relationship, then he would respect that. He’d be a shitty friend not to, and he understood that, but he wasn’t convinced yet that Courfeyrac really didn’t want a relationship. He thought it was more likely that Courfeyrac was afraid, and he couldn’t blame him for that, not after knowing how Courfeyrac had been treated by people who professed to love him.
If he couldn’t get through to Courfeyrac tonight, he’d wait till they were back in Sacramento before bringing it up again. He’d give Courfeyrac time and space to think things over and he’d do his best to be a supportive friend. It’d break his heart a little each day to see Courfeyrac deny himself the chance to be happy, but this was Courfeyrac’s choice. It had to be.
He just wished he knew what to say to make Courfeyrac understand that the rewards of their relationship would far outweigh the risks.
Combeferre took a deep breath, preparing himself to rejoin the reception, when Courfeyrac practically barreled into the foyer. He skidded to a stop a few feet from Combeferre.
“Did you really mean it?” Courfeyrac asked, breathless.
“When you said that you’re in love with me. Did you really mean it?”
“Of course I meant it.”
Courfeyrac nodded. He looked nervous, scared. “I don’t know how trust people anymore,” he said. “I don’t—this scares the shit out of me, you see that right? I’m a mess and this isn’t going to be easy.”
“I didn’t say I wanted easy,” Combeferre said, his heart pounding. He couldn’t screw this up. “I want you. I want your laughter and your compassion. I want your happiness and your affection. I want to learn how you need to be loved—and to give you that. I want you to love me in whatever capacity you have to offer.” He closed the distance between them and reached out to take Courfeyrac’s hands. Courfeyrac didn’t pull away. “I want this.”
“You already have it.”
“My heart. My love. You have it already.”
Combeferre blinked at him. “That…I wasn’t expecting that,” he said, laughing nervously a little. He’d never felt so awkward around Courfeyrac, but it was the best possible sort of awkwardness.
Courfeyrac offered up his own nervous laughter. “Yeah,” he said. He was blushing and it was beautiful.
Combeferre grinned and licked his lips. “This seems—well, after everything this feels kind of silly, but Courfeyrac, do you want to go out with me?”
“Yes.” Courfeyrac’s response was immediate and he seemed to speak with his whole body.
“You have no idea how happy you’re making me right now,” he said. He couldn’t stop grinning. “Can I kiss you?”
Courfeyrac snorted a little. “What is this? Our wedding?” He shifted his weight a little, looking unsure but hopeful. “Combeferre, you may kiss your boyfriend.”
Combeferre leaned in, but he let Courfeyrac set the pace and terms of this. It was gentle—hesitant, even—but it was so full of hope. When Combeferre pulled away, he held out his hand to Courfeyrac. “Enjolras and Grantaire are probably worried by now,” he said. “Let’s go share our good news.”
Courfeyrac took his hand and laced their fingers together. “The best news.”
Interlude—December, A Year and a Half Later
Courfeyrac had blossomed.
Maybe that was a cheesy or creepy thing to think, but it was the best way Combeferre had to describe the change in Courfeyrac as he watched his boyfriend. It was Christmas Eve, and they were at Courfeyrac’s mother’s house with Enjolras and Grantaire. Enjolras and Grantaire had been banned from Enjolras’s house after they had started bickering about the decorations.
Combeferre suspected that it had been a deliberate move on their part to get out of decorating.
He was in the kitchen helping Diane with some baking, but he could see and hear Courfeyrac in the living room, helping Grantaire tease Enjolras about the plans for their upcoming wedding.
“I don’t care what my mom says,” Enjolras said. “We are having a small, small civil ceremony and then an equally small gathering of family and friends to celebrate afterwards. I am not living through the nightmare of Lisette’s wedding again.”
Courfeyrac laughed. “Isn’t it so cute that he thinks he has a say in this?” he said to Grantaire.
“Well, I’d rather Gemma have her way than my mom,” Grantaire said. “She’s trying to convince me that we need to have a Catholic wedding—never mind that I haven’t set foot in a Catholic church since she got remarried—and don’t Catholics still have a thing about two dudes shacking up? I don’t even know anymore.”
“Exactly,” Enjolras said. “Which is why we are going to have a small civil ceremony—”
“You can keep saying that as much as you want,” Courfeyrac said. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. In fact, Gemma was telling me yesterday about all her plans for your reception. You’re going to hate it.”
The sound of Courfeyrac’s laughter while Enjolras groaned carried into the kitchen.
“You know,” Diane said. “I haven’t seen him this happy in ages, and I know I have you to thank for bringing his laughter back to me.”
Really, Combeferre thought, she had months and months of weekly appointments with a therapist to thank for it. It was one of the first things Combeferre had insisted on doing when they got back to Sacramento after Lisette’s wedding. What Christopher had done to him—it was obvious that Courfeyrac internalized the wrong messages during and after that relationship, and Combeferre knew that having someone to talk to would give him a healthier perspective on everything. Courfeyrac hadn’t been keen on seeing a therapist at first, and Jehan had been the one to explain that Courfeyrac had tried therapy before but hadn’t found a therapist who didn’t view his asexuality as a problem. It had taken some work, but Combeferre managed to track down a few asexual-friendly therapists with Enjolras’s help and, at Courfeyrac’s insistence, he attended Courfeyrac’s first appointment with him for moral support.
But having a professional to talk things over with had done wonders to help Courfeyrac come to terms with his past relationships and help him feel comfortable and okay with himself again. It’d been a struggle and sometimes Courfeyrac had walked away from those appointments feeling worse than he had going in. Sometimes he pushed Combeferre away after tough sessions—not wanting to be seen or heard or held—only to call him up in the middle of the night a few days later to rant about how that stupid thing his therapist said was right and why couldn’t he just be done with this already.
But he stuck with it—he even balked when, after a particularly bad session, Combeferre suggested that maybe they should find a therapist who was a better fit for him (“But I like this one!” Courfeyrac had said indignantly at the time)—and it had been worth it.
“It’s nothing,” Combeferre said to Diane. “Really. I love seeing him like this.”
Diane put some cookies on a plate. “Which is exactly why you’re the sort of person I always hoped he’d fall in love with,” she said, handing him the plate. “I think I’ve got everything in control here. Why don’t you go take them some cookies?”
Combeferre was all too happy to oblige. He took the plate into the living, smiling at the way Courfeyrac’s eyes lit up at the sight. Combeferre liked to think the excitement was for him, but knowing the love affair Courfeyrac harbored for his mother’s cookies, it was likely that the adoration in his eyes was for the sweets.
“Are those the snickerdoodles?” Courfeyrac asked.
Combeferre held the plate over his head, easily out of Courfeyrac’s reach. “Kiss me and find out.”
“You’re such a tease,” he said, but kissed Combeferre on the lips and then held out his hands. “Cookie, please.”
Combeferre put the entire plate in his hands.
“Great,” Enjolras said. “Now there won’t be any left for the rest of us. You know he’s not going to share.”
Grantaire snorted. “That coming from the man who drank the entire pot of coffee this morning.”
“I was tired,” Enjolras said.
“You should have gone to bed when I suggested it last night,” Grantaire said.
Enjolras smirked. “I don’t recall you complaining last night when I—”
“Ew, gross, Enjolras,” Courfeyrac said. “TMI. I don’t need to hear about your gross sex life.”
Courfeyrac meant the remark with good humor, but Combeferre knew that any sort of discussion about sex still left Courfeyrac feeling uncomfortable. It was something he tended to avoid when he could, and the few times the topic of sex had come up between the two of them, they’d argued. With all the progress Courfeyrac had made in purging himself of the unhealthy expectations his past relationships had left him with, Combeferre knew there was still a part of him that felt he was denying Combeferre something or being cruel to him by not bringing sex into the relationship. Combeferre had no intention of having sex with Courfeyrac, not when it was clear that Courfeyrac was still uneasy about it, and, feeling stubborn and afraid that he was self-sabotaging his relationship, Courfeyrac occasionally hurled accusations that Combeferre was coddling him and trying to protect him from himself.
The arguments that followed were harsh, not because either of them were deliberately trying to be cruel, but because they involved digging up a lot of sensitive issues, and by the end of these arguments, both of them were left feeling raw and vulnerable.
It was strange, Combeferre always thought, but he always felt closer to Courfeyrac when they made it to the other side of those arguments. Something about being able to tough through issues that made both of them uncomfortable assured Combeferre that the love he shared with Courfeyrac was stronger than their obstacles.
Because for all the arguments and tense, fragile conversations they had, Combeferre had never been so certain of anyone’s love for him. Courfeyrac showered Combeferre with affection in ways that he didn’t often know how to reciprocate. Despite the fact that Courfeyrac was about to start his last semester of law school, he always made time for Combeferre, who was every inch the over-worked and overwhelmed medical school intern. The fact that he could come home from his internship at the hospital every day and he knew that Courfeyrac would be there for him, ready to offer whatever support was needed, had gotten him through more than one impossible day.
Thank you all for reading! If you liked this roller coaster, please let me know here or over on my tumblr! <3