Title: singing like they know the score
Word Count: 1095
Summary: “Feuilly does not look away as he drinks.”
Author’s Notes: the title is a line from the Fleetwood Mac song, “Songbird.” Written as a Christmas present for the lovely keevacaereni, as commissioned by the ever-amazing theladyisatiger. Happy Christmas!
There is a moment during the ceasefire where Enjolras orders Courfeyrac to take the first watch, and Grantaire’s whole body goes still, his eyes fall to the cobblestone road they’ve built their barricade upon and stay there for what feels like a long time. Feuilly watches him from the sidelines, too tired to do anything else. Every inch of him aches, deep down to the bones; his mouth is filled the taste of ash and rust, of smoke. He is leaning against what was once a door and without warning, Grantaire springs up like he’s been shot and starts to root through the wreckage of the inn, gathering up all the wine and whiskey he can carry, the bottles clinking together in his arms as he passes them around. He sinks momentarily back to the bench beside Jehan, his eyes dark and glassy as he tells the group around them, “Drink with me.”
Feuilly is quick to move into the space Grantaire leaves behind as he moves across the barricade, drinking long and deep from the wine Grantaire had pressed into his hands as he passed. Jehan does not look at him, not at first; their Jean Prouvaire is generally not the quiet sort, but Feuilly does not begrudge him his silence. Even now, hours later, he can still hear the enemy’s shouts and catcalls, can still feel the echo of gunshots reverberating through him.
Jehan slumps forward, elbows on his knees, and Feuilly echoes Grantaire’s words as he turns his way: “Drink with me,” he says, “To days gone by,” and holds out the bottle for him to take. Jehan hesitates, just for a second, and his palm brushes against Feuilly’s fingertips as he takes the wine for his own. He does not answer – a first, Feuilly thinks – but there is gratitude in the tired creases around his eyes, thanks poised at the tip of his tongue. Jehan is their poet, the cleverest of their bannermen, never lost for words and yet struck silent in the aftermath; he studies the glass bottle intently and Feuilly can see the words taking shape in his mouth, wishes they would spill past his lips.
“Sing with me, the songs we knew,” he urges, gently, and for the first time since they gathered here Jehan’s eyes meet his own.
His lips curve up into a small, wry smile. “Here’s to pretty girls who went to our heads,” he says, and with Joly’s ribald counter – “Here’s to witty girls who went to our beds” – Jehan finally lifts the wine to his lips. Feuilly cannot look away as he drinks: the muscles in Jehan’s throat contracting, Jehan’s mouth pressed to where his own was less than a moment before.
Feuilly does not look away as he drinks.
Before, when the fight began, in the midst of the madness as the barricade went up Enjolras sent them for supplies – there were boxes of gunpowder on the second floor, forgotten underneath the table they had laid their plans upon. They needed all they had in this first violent spark of insurrection, and there was no use for rationing when he was so sure of their victory, so sure that the others across the city would hold fast the line.
“You are the quickest,” he’d said, “Run fast, my friends, for revolution will not wait,” but he needn’t have bothered: they nearly scrambled over themselves in their haste, each rushing toward the battered door as men worked to free it from its hinges and add it to the wall. They had bounded up the narrow stairs two at a time, Jehan had jammed his elbow hard into Feuilly’s ribs. He apologized, panting, as they rummaged beneath the table for their missing armaments, his cravat loose, his shirt untucked, missing buttons. The window was open, the sounds of battle already rising up from the street below, and while Feuilly stacked boxes on the table Jehan went for extra muskets underneath someone’s bedroll. Feuilly tried hard to carry as much gunpowder as he could, and there was a moment where he looked up to see Jehan silhouetted in the window, struggling to rearrange the muskets in his arms: the illumination of the setting sun turned his profile into a being of black and gold, shadows and light rather than flesh.
Feuilly could only stare as Jehan fumbled with the rifles, the boxes falling from his hands to the table as the moment overwhelmed him like a great wave, the feeling of realization sudden and suffocating as it filled his chest to bursting.
He does not know what made him move forward – not as it happened, not now, remembering along the barricade – but before Jehan could turn completely to face him Feuilly had grasped him hard by the shoulders, pulled him in and kissed him roughly on the mouth. Jehan dropped the muskets he’d been holding, tumbling to the ground with a clatter lost to the shouting and gunshots already growing louder from somewhere in the distance. It was not a particularly long kiss – nor was it necessarily a good one, Feuilly regretfully thinks now – but Jehan closed the distance between them, still not quite comprehending what was happening as he kissed him back. Feuilly gripped Jehan’s hair in his fist and he knew that good or terrible, this kiss was one meant to communicate everything that had gone unsaid between them in the past; in case they were captured, in case they were killed, in case they never saw each other again – in equal parts a declaration, a memento, a goodbye.
Feuilly sits now on what was once part of a battered pianoforte, his back to the barricade, his heart in his throat. Jehan lowers the wine, cradling the bottle between his palms, and the path his eyes take along the sad, sorry crowd around them is a slow, anxious circle back to Feuilly’s. The other men around them trade quips and stories but Jehan’s mouth stays closed, his jaw set; his hand falls to Feuilly’s back and his fingers curl into the space between his neck and his shoulder, squeezing once, gentle and firm. There is no apology, here, no regret: only fear of what will come with the morning, the fear of losing the next day, and the next, and the next.
Feuilly lifts his hand and lets his fingers twine with Jehan’s, the momentary brushing of skin against skin innocent, nearly imperceptible. The terror chokes but the love frees, and for the first time in hours, he feels like he can breathe.