When Grantaire lies, he wants to be caught and knows he won’t be, knows that he’s getting away with everything, and no one will read anything further in his blown pupils and broad gestures and booming laughter, and that crushes him and thrills him, and he has never felt lonelier.
It had started out as a ploy to get Montparnasse to stop harassing him during a nightly visit - do a line, peace and quiet, and never again. He should have known better, should have realised that when it comes to him, everything can become an addiction. Not that he'll complain; stimulants are a good way to pick himself back up, to feel human again. That is, until Enjolras finds out.
When Grantaire lies, he has to move. Dig his fingernails into the soft skin of his palms. Bite his lips. Drag the toes of his worn-out trainers across the floor, through the ceiling, and drop into the room beneath, into the next, and the next, fall and dig and scratch his way through to the centre of the Earth, where Hell itself awaits with arms outstretched to welcome his blackened soul.
Because he is lying, and because he knows it, and because he generally assumes that all people are an extension of himself, Grantaire assumes that everyone else know as well. He assumes, as Joly leans across the table to fill his glass for the fifth - or was it the sixth? - time this evening, that Joly has seen the flicker of uncertainty in his eyes, heard the clicks and whirs of the cogs in his brain and the police sirens in his loud laughter. Assumes that Joly, like he himself, is merely pretending not to know. Waiting to catch him in the act. The act of assuming is a thrill, makes the entire business dangerous and therefore marginally more manageable, this lying to himself and to his friends.
"I’m just going out for a smoke", he says, and thinks, you liar. Joly, returning his easy grin, waves him off with a free hand, because he doesn’t know (and if he does?), but he doesn’t, or he wouldn’t have grinned so warmly, wouldn’t have waved so casually, wouldn’t have called out a final joke for Grantaire to shrug and grin at as he slips through the back door. Falling heavily against the brick wall of the backside of the Musain, he lights a cigarette and smokes the tightness from his chest into the breeze.
When Grantaire does things he shouldn’t, he likes to imagine he’ll be caught. Imagine that the sirens in his forced laugh are loud enough to alert the rest of the world of his dishonesty, that the harshness of his breathing in the cold night air will signal to passersby that he shouldn’t be here, shivering in the dark with trembling fingers threading through his pockets, clapping against his thighs, shaking against the un-weight of the plastic baggy that he withdraws with a sigh and a wide-eyed glance over his shoulder.
He imagines the sharp edges his name will take on in someone’s mouth - Enjolras, Bahorel, any of them - the drop of his heart into his left foot, the churning in his stomach, the flimsy explanations that he will never have to invent, because it is dark and cold and his friends are all packed cosy and well-spirited in their usual corner in the back room of the café. He dips his finger into the bag and snorts quickly. Stuffs the rest into the confines of his breast pocket. Returns to the others inside.
Each step back into the room, coloured by the flash of his teeth and the flush of his cheeks beneath his spreading grin, is like a step away from himself. He can see his feet detach from the rest of the body, this shade that he is becoming springing away like Peter Pan’s shadow, only there is no one with a block of soap and a sewing needle to stitch him back together here. Just too-loud laughter and another full glass, and another as the drugs and the alcohol (a terrifying combination, he thinks vaguely, without regret) kick in, until the hard wood of his skin begins to soften ever-so slightly, and the sawdust in his chest loosens up, falls away. For a moment, he imagines himself a real person, a laughing person, a drunk person, a talking person. A too-loud person, scolded by a scowling Enjolras from his position at the table beyond, a calling-out-nonsense person, staring unashamed into those blue eyes, teasing them, loving them.
And then the contact breaks; Enjolras returns his attention to whatever he had been discussing with Combeferre, leaving Grantaire to stare into his empty glass, sawdust in his chest, lead in his limbs, hot air in his head, lifting his gaze again, his blown pupils, his red-rimmed eyes to Joly, Bossuet - any of them.
The problem with being a good liar is never getting caught. When Grantaire lies, he hopes desperately that he will not be caught and knows that he will and prays that he won’t. Prays for someone to come along and bite through his skin, spit out the sour apple taste of his rottenness and throw him away. He is a convincing actor. No one bites.
Not as he laughs too loudly, gestures too broadly, speaks too quickly. Not as he twitches, flinches the thrum of electricity from his shoulders, tosses back the remainder of whatever was in his glass, sways, jerks his head, blinks.
Hopefully it is obvious, how wide his pupils are, how pale and manic he looks. Hopefully it’s glaringly obvious. Hopefully not. Hopefully yes. Hopefully they notice right away, or not at all.
He leans heavily over the table to tug the pitcher out from the crook of Joly’s elbow.
Hopefully they notice now. Never. Immediately.
"Grantaire?" Wide, round eyes over the curve of a shoulder. For just a moment. "Haven’t you had enough to drink," asks Joly quietly, biting his concern into the thin line of his lower lip.
On the left, shuffling his cigarettes, staring hard at the screen of his phone - Bahorel. He knows. Knows that Grantaire is a liar and an addict and a black hole. Hears the drumline in his chest, feels the lump in his throat, the itch in his fingers to move, move, move.
He says bluntly, his eyes on his empty glass, "Do you think I’m an asshole?"
What he means is, I am drunk and high beyond belief and I lied to you about the stop we had to make at my flat on the way here and the three times I’ve said I was smoking or peeing, and I lied to everyone. I lied the entire time. About having a cold. About everything. The entire time.
When Joly opens his mouth, Grantaire knows, there is no point in listening. He doesn’t want to be comforted, to have the gnawing, empty feeling between his ribs filled with placations, with excuses, with the idea that human beings are allowed to be as flawed, as cracked and imperfect and wrong as he is. He thinks, I am a bad person, and he says, Forget it. You know, I was reading something interesting the other day… Launches into a rant directed at the floor, the window, the tabletop. The others will only ever get one half of the story when it comes to Grantaire. A slanted, crooked half-truth. To the room at large, he complains about humanity and throws about references to obscure literary figures and Greek philosophers and smiles and laughs and is there. To the floor, the window, the table, he says with his eyes: I’ve been lying all along, and I can’t find it in me to be sorry, but my chest is tight and my throat is dry and I am drunk and high beyond belief and I want you all to like me. To love me. To hate me.