Prologue; Part 1
Part Two: The World in a Name
The human gesticulates wildly, talking into a small box that he's holding to his ear. It's a strange device, something 1789 hasn't seen before, but it seems to work like the little mike clipped to Combeferre's ear, the one that allows Combeferre to be summoned quickly if there's an emergency. A human voice comes from the box in Grantaire's hand, distant, tinny, female.
Turning away from the human, realizing that food will not be forthcoming in the near future, 1789 continues his survey of the strange new place that he's found himself in.
He recognizes many of the pieces that have gone into creating this human home. Combeferre has taught him about couches and chairs, how to sit properly on them if asked, though 1789 mainly likes to stretch out on the floor, his front limbs curled under him and his back limbs out straight. It's possible to do that on the couch, as well, and sometimes that's comfortable, but all the trainers other than Combeferre tend to tell him to get down when he does it.
Abandoning the human owner and the room with the couch, 1789 explores the room that smells like food. He follows his nose to several cupboards but doesn't find anything that is obviously food, and Combeferre has taught him very carefully not to eat strange things. The last place that smells like food is a box, a strange shiny device that 1789 thinks is a refrigerator, though he's never seen one before. It hums to itself, a quiet buzz of electricity, and 1789 stays back from it, not trusting the machine.
Anything that hums like that can hurt, and he doesn't want to hurt right now.
He wants to eat.
He wants to find Combeferre.
A soft tweeting noise catches his attention, and he freezes, peering at a strange creature flitting back and forth outside the house. A window, that's what the sheet of glass covering the hole in the house is called, a window onto the outside, and 1789 darts forward, leaping onto the counter without a pause in his stride and crouching down to press his face to the glass.
The world is huge.
He's never been outside. He's never been anywhere but his cage and the training rooms, and though his trainers have shown him pictures of things to be afraid of—cars and busses and trucks—and Combeferre has shown him pictures of other things—flowers and lakes and creatures that make him want to crouch low and move forward quietly—he's never seen any of it.
"Hey, get down from there!"
Leaping down from the counter, 1789 edges away from the human, staying crouched on all fours. When humans sounded like that it was good to be wary, and this isn't just a human but an owner. This is the type of human Combeferre told him to be very cautious about, to be careful around, to hide his intelligence from, and he realizes with a start that he hasn't been doing a very good job of that.
"Hey, it's okay, I'm sorry." Grantaire comes toward him slowly, hand held out, palm up, a look of chagrin on his face. His scent isn't angry anymore, and 1789 relaxes a bit, stretching his head out once more to get a good whiff of the human.
There are things in the human's scent that he's never smelled before, something sharp and pungent and oily but not unpleasant as well as something else, something grainy and thick that oozes from Grantaire's skin as well as coming from his mouth with each breath. Opening his own mouth to draw a deeper, richer, scent-filled breath, 1789 finds his nose too irritated by all the strange smells in the house and sneezes abruptly.
The human laughs, his face lighting up in a bright smile that makes him look harmless and sweet. His hand continues its slow forward progress until it touches 1789's mane, then pulls back abruptly. "There. That's better. No need to look so scared. A pet shouldn't be afraid of its owner."
"I thought you said I wasn't going to be your pet for long." Rubbing one paw against his nose, 1789 gives it a cursory lick.
"Well, plans change." Grantaire shrugs. "I'm stuck with you and you're stuck with me and we're going to make the best of it, all right?"
Placing his paw back on the ground, 1789 stares up at the human in confusion. "But you said you didn't want me."
"I didn't buy you, but you're a gift from my mother—ostensibly my father too, but mainly my mother—and she's made it very clear that she expects me to send her photos and updates about you and I really can't send you back without making her upset." Grantaire presses a hand to his eyes for a few seconds. "And I don't want her to be upset. It's easier for everyone involved if I just keep you, assuming you're not too much work."
The flying creature—a bird, that's what Combeferre said they were, birds—tweets again outside the window. "You could always just let me go."
"No." Grantaire gives another low chuckle, shaking his head. "Not only is it illegal for me to let you go, it would be cruel of me. You'd end up getting hit by a car or starving to death or getting some weird disease. I'm sorry, you're stuck with me. I'll try not to be the worst owner ever, but no promises there."
The things some of these owners do to their pets…
The echo of Combeferre's angry, hurt voice rings in 1789's head, and he stays very still, watching the human before him carefully.
He doesn't know much about owners, and what he does know seems to be contradictory. Everyone but Combeferre has always told him that he wants an owner, that an owner will make him happy, that an owner will care for him and pet him and feed him and be very good to him.
Combeferre has said very little about owners, but Combeferre has come to him smelling of blood and pain and something thick and acrid and terrible that 1789 has no word for, though it makes him both frightened and hungry. The only thing 1789 ever got him to say by way of explanation was that some owners did terrible things to their pets.
He trusts Combeferre more than he trusts anyone else, because Combeferre helped him learn to speak properly and Combeferre never punishes him for asking why, and so he believes that at least some owners will hurt him. If this human is going to do terrible things to him, though, what is he supposed to do?
He would fight, but fighting is dangerous, gets food taken away and toys taken away and training stopped and, if he's very bad, means the hum-zap-hurt is put around his neck. Fighting has to be used sparingly, only when the cost will make it worthwhile.
Perhaps the human will only do a little bit of terrible to him, and then he will be returned to the Home and to Combeferre though he doesn't really want to go back in his cage before he gets a chance to go outside when it's so close and—
"Food." Grantaire speaks the word abruptly, nodding to himself, though his expression still says that he is just as lost as 1789. "I promised you food, especially since you didn't get breakfast, and food you shall get. Provided you don't mind eating whatever I can scrounge out of the refrigerator."
Grantaire opens the humming box, and 1789 sidles after him, staying crouched on all fours, ready to bolt one way or another if he needs to.
"Beef and peas all right with you?" Grantaire takes a box out of the refrigerator and offers it to 1789.
Holding out one hand, 1789 takes the box and studies it. The box is cold, and he juggles it between his two front paws for a few moments. A picture of meat and vegetables takes up most of the front of the box, though there are words written on it in the incomprehensible letters that he's seen Combeferre use all the time.
"Can you read?" Grantaire studies him with a puzzled expression.
1789 blinks. "No."
"No. Of course not. You're a Novelty." Smiling again, looking very self-conscious, Grantaire takes the box back.
"They wouldn't let Combeferre teach me." The words slip out absently, before he thinks. Freezing in place, 1789 can feel his ears pressing back against his head. He shouldn't have said that. Combeferre told him not to tell anyone else that he wants to learn to read, that it was a secret between them, but there had been something about the way this human smiled at him…
"Oh. I… didn't know you could learn how to read. Huh." Grantaire shrugs. "This Combeferre must have been really good. Maybe I'll hire him on for a little bit to help you adjust."
"Hire?" It's not a word that 1789 has heard before.
"Hire. Pay him. Have him in my employ." Grantaire waves a hand. "Look, it's not something you need to worry about. Just know that I'm going to look him up, and I'll make sure you get a chance to see him. Good?"
"Good." Rising from his crouch to watch what Grantaire's doing, 1789 smiles at the human, being careful not to show too many of his sharp teeth, as Combeferre taught him. If this human is going to help him find Combeferre, then it must be mistaken about being a bad owner. A bad owner would want to keep him away from Combeferre. "What are you doing?"
"Making you food. I can actually cook, too, pretty decently, but you'll have to put up with this for now. I'll get us something better for dinner."
Reaching forward tentatively, 1789 pricks his ears toward the human, in an expression that he knows humans tend to respond favorably to. "Can you show me how to make it?"
"Sure, I guess. I mean… well, it might be good for you to know how to make food, in case I'm too drunk or something. Damn, when Mom said low maintenance she wasn't kidding. So, this is what you do."
Following the instructions carefully, 1789 opens the box the required amount, adds the specified amount of water from the sink, and places the dinner in the microwave. He can't do the buttons on the microwave on his own, not knowing numbers, but Grantaire shows him where on the package it tells the numbers and then how to match the numbers on the microwave to the numbers on the box.
He stands back while the microwave works, not liking the hum or the occasional zap that this machine makes, either, but not willing to abandon his food or show this human that the hum-zap frightens him. Once a trainer learned that he didn't like the hum-zap, they tended to use it more frequently, so the braver he can appear the safer he will be.
"So, do you eat on the floor then, or…?" Grantaire studies him uncertainly.
1789 considers the question, then ruffles his wings. "Floor or table. Combeferre taught me how to act at a table, and I can mostly use a spoon and a fork though sometimes my fingers aren't as good at it as a human's, but usually I'm fed on the floor."
Grantaire chews thoughtfully at his lip for a moment. "Well, which do you prefer?"
Normally he likes the floor. Normally he likes not having to worry about following any rules, just diving into his food. Right now, though, with this unknown owner watching him, weighing his every movement and action, he feels like showing off what he can do. "I'll eat at the table."
Grantaire nods, dumps the contents of the box onto a plate, and sets it on the table. He sets a spoon and a fork beside the plate.
Sitting up straight in the chair, 1789 tries to find a comfortable position, one where his wings aren't pressed against the back of the chair and his tail can slip between the slats without getting pinched. He manages after only a few rearrangements. Fingering the utensils, 1789 finds his tail waving behind him, displaying his tension, and forces it to stop. "Do you want me to use these, or could I just eat?"
"Just eat. Enjoy." Waving a hand in the air, Grantaire smiles, grabs a can of something out of the refrigerator, and sprawls in a chair next to 1789.
Diving into the food, 1789 finds it very different from anything else he's been given, the broth rich and salty, the meat tough and chewy. He devours it all, savoring each bite, licking the plate and his paws clean of escaped drops of gravy when he's done.
"So… what am I going to call you?" Grantaire takes a drink from his can, which has the same scent wafting from it that 1789 had smelled on Grantaire's skin and breath earlier.
Licking his paw once more, just to be certain it's clean and that he hasn't missed any bit of breakfast, 1789 meets Grantaire's eyes. "You could call me 1789. That's what Combeferre calls me."
"That's a number, not a name. I can't call you by a number." Tilting the can first one way and then the other, not spilling a drop, Grantaire sighs. "No, I have to come up with a real name for you. My mother is probably expecting me to name you Fluffy or Furface or something equally adorably degrading."
Frowning, 1789 tilts his head. "How can it be both adorable and degrading?"
"Because it's human. Humans are good at being both adorable and degrading." Pursing his lips, Grantaire shakes his head. "I don't think I'm going to play that game. I think I'm going to give you a real name. I'll probably shorten it to an adorable and degrading nickname in the future, because I'm good at doing that to all my friends, but yes, I think I want you to have a real name."
A real name. A human name. Something even Combeferre hasn't given him, and he finds his ears pricked forward, his tail lashing in excitement, the feathers on his wings rustling in glee. "What name?"
"How about… how about…" Grantaire's face goes from contemplative into another bright smile that makes 1789 want to smile back at him, to rub against him, to lick his face and straighten his hair. "How about Enjolras?"
"Enjolras." 1789 repeats the word slowly, savoring each syllable, trying to consider it in terms of himself. "Enjolras."
"Yeah. I think I like it. Enjolras." Setting the can down on the table, Grantaire stretches forward, his hand reaching out. "Do you like it?"
Leaning forward, lowering his head, Enjolras allows Grantaire's hand to come into contact with his mane again. Grantaire freezes, as he had before, seeming lost and uncertain as his fingers touch the fur, and Enjolras presses his head forward, burying Grantaire's fingers in his mane and closing his eyes so he can enjoy the sensation of being petted. It's one of the things even the not-Combeferre trainers can do well, though Enjolras likes it best when Combeferre does it, Combeferre's fingers always finding the perfect spots, the perfect rhythm, the perfect pressure to make Enjolras' muscles go limp.
"Your name is Enjolras." Grantaire's fingers move, hesitantly at first, gaining more certainty with each stroke, and it's a wonderful feeling. Twisting his head first one way and then the other, Enjolras ensures that Grantaire's fingers hit the sensitive spots behind his ears, sending little bursts of joy through his body. There's a note of disbelief and awe in Grantaire's voice when he speaks again. "And you're my pet."
Enjolras opens his eyes. Twisting his head, he licks gently at the inside of Grantaire's arm, tasting the scents that define Grantaire, and he will have to find out what these strange things are. He will have to learn about Grantaire's world, about the outside, and when he finds Combeferre he will have so much to tell him. Licking once more at Grantaire's arm, Enjolras smiles. "I am Enjolras. And you are my human."
Grantaire frowns, but he doesn't actually protest, and Enjolras finds himself relaxing.
This human has fed him and petted him and talked with him without anger, even though Enjolras hasn't been hiding his intelligence.
This human has named him, a name such as a human might have.
This human has promised he will help him find Combeferre.
This is a definitely a good human, a good owner, and Enjolras is very glad to have found him.