March 21, 2014: ...I should maybe just learn to stop making promises of faster updates. -.-;;; Because whenever I do, things get unexpectedly hectic in my life and prevent me from keeping that promise. *sigh* Anyway, I'd been trying to make a push to finish FYFM before coming back to this, but FYFM has become somewhat... reticent of late. And since I feel like crud, Muet is more to my current mindset, so I'm just going to go with what works and be grateful. ^_~ Anyway, this was written, edited and beta'ed purely by me (because my lovely beta has not one but TWO of my stories on her desk at the moment and adding this one just didn't seem right)... in the throws of bronchitis and some very interesting meds. So. Uh. Yeah. If you find any truly hilarious mistakes, once you get done laughing, please come tell me? Thanks! ^_^
Muet - Chapter 3
The halls were dark, silent in a way that left R distinctly uncomfortable. With the dim lighting, the covered windows, the way people flitted by each other, sometimes barely making eye contact before moving on - it felt like a house in mourning. Word had filtered down by now, revealing an ugly truth, a fear with which they'd never had to contend: Enjolras might have been tampered with. It would have been devastating had it been any in the inner circle, but for it to have been Enjolras… that was a horror which didn't even bear contemplation. Enjolras was the light of Les Amis. Without that light, this safe house became a home of the dead… and the dying.
"You look like you could use a drink, my friend."
R turned, took in the silhouette of the long-haired figure hunched over the table in the darkened kitchen. Snorting softly, he walked over to claim the chair across from that dejected figure. R stood over him for a moment, tired gaze meeting gleaming green eyes in the dark, before reaching out a wordless hand for the bottle he held. "You don't know the half of it."
Prouvaire's teeth flashed white in the dim light of the room and he tapped his head with one finger, even as he passed over the bottle with the other hand. "Don't I?"
R flipped Prouvaire off as he tipped the bottle to his lips, liquid fire scorching its way down his ravaged throat straight into an empty stomach. He swallowed until the room spun, swallowed until he choked, gasping at air that fought to make it past the liquid stream. When he lowered the bottle, he held up a hand to Prouvaire and shook his finger back and forth. "You told me once that you couldn't read my stubborn noggin past what I was willing to let slip. That change and you didn't tell me or should I be telling you to pull the other one a while?"
Grasping R's hand tightly in his, Prouvaire let out a delighted peal of laughter. "Oh, my friend, I've missed you. This place is too lonely by half with you gone. No one else here has any sense of humor. Please tell me that you'll be staying in-house for a while this time?"
R passed the bottle back over and shrugged as Prouvaire released him to take another drink. "With Enjolras the way he is, I doubt we'll have much choice. Combeferre and Courfeyrac will want him where they can keep an eye on him in case he's been tampered with."
Prouvaire snorted and rolled his eyes. "'In case he's been tampered with…' Good grief, R, are you listening to yourself? Is there really any doubt? If there was, don't you think they'd have asked me to clear it up by now? Isn't this exactly why I'm here?"
R's gaze met flat green eyes over the table and gently pried the bottle loose from Prouvaire's clenched hand to take another pull. Being the only psychic in the inner circle, of course Combeferre and Courfeyrac should have come to Prouvaire to vet Enjolras' state of mind. That they hadn't was telling. They had good reason for their mistrust, R couldn't deny that, but it made things… well. It made things sticky and complicated without Enjolras' insistence on assumed innocence of intent to smooth the way. Judging by the nasty sneer overtaking Prouvaire's face as R followed his own thoughts to his conclusion, Prouvaire knew the answer to his own question. R sighed. "I thought I told you to stay away from them when you don't have Enjolras or I here to act as a buffer. What did you do to antagonize them this time?"
Prouvaire pulled a face at that, then yanked the bottle out of R's hand and pushed away from the table to stand and begin pacing. As always, R's breath caught at the stalking wildness of those movements, at the sense of violence so barely restrained behind a veneer of civility. Prouvaire was beautiful, and every movement, every thought, every expression gave lie to the delicate package it was presented in. Prouvaire was all savage grace and strength… quite the opposite of R's rough crudeness.
Prouvaire turned on him, then, snarling. "You knock that shit off around me, R. We have an agreement. You keep that foul mouth of yours off yourself in my mindshot or I take it out on that poison's source, OK? Don't think I won't do it just because he loved you once. Don't think I won't do it just because he's vulnerable, now." Dark humor flitted in to fill the edges of Prouvaire's smile as he said, "It would be so easy, now, too… so easy to make him yours, again. I could feed him to you on a silver platter, R. All it would take was one small… push…"
R was up out of his seat, over the table, and across the room in one smooth motion, knife out and flashing by Prouvaire's throat as R pinned him to the wall. Prouvaire laughed in his face, arched his back off the wall to push himself closer. "Is that all you've got, R? Is that all your partner's right to self-determination is worth?" Reaching out a hand, Prouvaire hooked his fingers into the belt loops of R's jeans, pulled him in closer until R's leg was wedged firmly between his and the knife could have just as easily cut both their throats. Prouvaire rolled his hips, eyes darkening at the soft moan R couldn't quite keep behind his teeth. "Fuck, R… come on."
The knife flashed, disappeared back into the sheath from whence it had come too quickly for anyone to track the motion. Not even Prouvaire knew where R kept all of his knives, and R intended to keep it that way. He pressed closer, then, pinned Prouvaire to the wall just as he'd pinned Enjolras not even six hours before, teeth taking little nips and bites along the column of his bared neck and the underside of his jaw. Prouvaire groaned and slid his arm around R's back to pull his tee-shirt free of his jeans, slid his hand quickly down past the hemline to squeeze at the muscles of his ass. R let out another choked moan at that, winced at the rough, distorted sound of it, before turning to claim Prouvaire's lips.
There was no love here, never had been. His friendship with Prouvaire had been one of necessity from the start - the necessity of having someone to communicate with who wasn't Enjolras, the necessity of having someone who understood what it was like to live with painful secrets, who wouldn't judge him unworthy because of his past. Prouvaire was all of those things for R, and he'd tried to be all of those things for Prouvaire, as well. Expedient. Necessary. Prouvaire had kept him sane at a time when he thought for sure he'd go mad. It saddened him still that that he hadn't been able to keep Prouvaire from the same brink, but, this… this was something else entirely. This wasn't friendship or love… this was a distraction gambit, nothing more.
R tore away from the temptation of Prouvaire's mouth, panting harshly as he shot back, "That's not an answer to everything, Prouvaire. What the hell did you do?"
But Prouvaire would not be put off. Inhibitions loosened by alcohol and tolerance worn to the nub by the upheaval at the safe house today, Prouvaire had nothing of patience left in him for games or reticence. At R's rejection, he let out a scream of pure rage and flung the bottle at his head.
When the bottle left his hand, R had all of two seconds to make a choice. He could duck and let the bottle crash against the wall, bringing company and all kinds of unwanted questions crashing down on their heads with it, or…
…or if you're going to go out, you do it with a bang.
R flung a hand out - an unnecessary motion which did nothing but cater to his own flair for dramatics - and halted the bottle mid-spin. As the bottle stopped, slowly righted itself midair, and drifted back to rest on the table, the rage drained from Prouvaire's eyes to be replaced by an unholy glee. He laughed, high and a little frantic… and not quite sane. "R… oh, R… if you only knew. I could go to hell for all the secrets I keep. My secrets, your secrets, Courfeyrac's secrets, the secrets of the whole of the world are trapped up here inside my head, burning little holes in my skull where they spin, spin, spin."
Hands burying themselves in his hair, Prouvaire let out another laugh, turned to press his face into the wall. "Secrets, lies, truths, all the petty things that make up a person, a life. What difference does it make what I did?" He spat that last word as though it tasted vile. "I meant to help. But, no one wants my help. No one wants me to do what they've brought me here to do- R!" That laughter picked up again, higher in tone, as he hissed his next words directly into R's mind. "I'm a weapon without a hand to wield me. I'm a missile without a target. I'm completely idle here - useless - and have no purpose but what I make for myself, and I'm not even allowed that." Spinning around, he launched himself at R, beat his hands against his chest before clenching them in the fabric of R's shirt and turning pleading eyes upwards. "R… make use of me. Even if just for this. Please."
R slumped, let his head lower to rest against Prouvaire's for a moment as he puzzled through the outraged rhetoric to find the truth beneath. "…you went after Courfeyrac again, didn't you?" Sighing softly, R wrapped his arms around Prouvaire. "You never learn. He's afraid of you… and with good reason, Prouvaire. You all but admitted to his face that given too long a temptation, you'd take him apart just to see if you could. He's already weak and he knows it. Do you honestly think he'll ever let you get close enough to have that chance?"
Prouvaire shifted in R's hold, tensed momentarily before making a disgruntled noise into his chest and relaxing. "You're one to talk. If you had half the balls you claimed to have, then you'd be back in Enjolras' bed right now, making up for years of lost time." Leaning back, his lips slid up into a sneer. "In fact, I'll bet our high and mighty leader even offered. I'll bet he has no idea why you turned him down. Idiot."
R rolled his eyes. "Psycho."
Prouvaire scoffed as he stepped back. "Just so long as we both know where we stand, I suppose." Eyeing both R and the bottle, Prouvaire quirked an eyebrow and braced a hand on his hip. "I suppose a little work-off-the-frustration sex is out of the question, then."
"Do you honestly think it would help?"
Green eyes met blue for the barest of moments and it was Prouvaire who looked away first. "There's not enough in that bottle to get us both drunk. I'll go get another. Maybe two."
As Prouvaire drifted off down the hall, R allowed himself to slump against the table, allowed himself just one minute to appreciate how badly his hands were shaking, before lowering one to the table to lift the bottle to his lips and take a deep drink. He couldn't afford to be scared - not then, not now. And, may all the Powers help him, he trusted Prouvaire. Then again… he had no choice.
The next morning dawned far too early for R. In spite of Prouvaire's undeterred attempts at persuasion, R had sought out his coldly solitary bed in the very small hours of the morning, tossing turning through what little remained of the dark. Only the promise of coffee got him out of bed, and only a niggling worry for how Enjolras would react if R didn't beat him to the meeting room got R out of his clothes from the day before and into relatively fresher ones. He didn't bother with a shower. With his head feeling as though it had swelled to the size of a watermelon, he was in no mood to be sociable. Snarling at his face in the mirror, R thought, perhaps the others would keep away with their good intentions if he smelled.
No such luck.
Bossuet was on him the second R reached the meeting room. He had a cup of coffee (black with a dollop of honey, just how R liked it) in one hand and a single piece of toast smeared liberally with strawberry jam in the other. There was a soft smile on his face as R relieved him of his burdens. He didn't say anything. He didn't have to. Even before Philadelphia, R hadn't been one for conversation in the morning, and he and Bossuet had long since worked out how to meld their morning routines without the need for speech. Nodding his head and saluting Bossuet with his coffee, R moved past him into the room.
Their meeting room had been a dining room once. The wallpaper had been grand, in rich tones of red and gold that had driven R to attempt their recreation more than once. There was a plush carpet underfoot, a heavy mahogany table worthy of a king. For all R knew, it might have graced the dining room of one. Enjolras alone knew to whom this house had belonged before Les Amis took it over, though, and he had never disclosed that information. It was just one more mystery, R supposed.
This grand dining room was an all-purpose room, now. They ate here, they planned here, they debriefed here. Sometimes they even slept here. R took his customary seat to the left of Enjolras' spot at the head of the table, looked briefly around for the man who usually sat at his own left. It didn't take long to spot him. Prouvaire always stood out. He was in the corner of the room, now, helping himself to a cup of tea and flirting with Bahorel, showing disturbingly few signs of his indulgences of the night before. Not for the first time, R wondered exactly where he put it all. Prouvaire caught his eye from across the room and winked, then turned back to talking with Bahorel.
Bossuet completed the seating arrangement on this side of the long table and was deep in conference with Joly at its foot, one or the other occasionally lifting their eyes to glance at R or the door. At one point, Joly caught R's eye and moved to rise from his seat, but Bossuet restrained him with a simple headshake. Joly rolled his eyes but complied with the unspoken request. R could only be grateful. He wasn't up for Joly's tender prying. Not now. Not when he had no positive change to report.
As head of security, Musichetta would have taken the seat on Joly's other side, but she was still on shift from the night before. That left four empty chairs at the table - Enjolras', Combeferre's seat beside his, Courfeyrac's beside that and the seat which Bahorel and Feuilly shared beside that. It wasn't unusual for Feuilly to be late, wasn't unusual for him to be absent completely, these days. He was Enjolras' eyes and ears about the city. He was their link to the very people they were trying to help. It was a rare luxury that had him available for early morning strategy meetings. He would report in when he could, however he could, and they were invariably grateful for his contributions, but they couldn't rely upon his presence with regularity. R had been such an agent once - as in tune with the city's underworld as Feuilly was with its working class. Those days were long over now.
Another few minutes passed with those about the table making small talk and determinedly working their way through their first doses of caffeine when their next member arrived. It was Combeferre… and he was alone. He moved straight to his seat, bypassing the communal breakfast table altogether, and sat, listlessly shuffling his papers and refusing to meet anyone's eyes.
It didn't take a psychic to decode that body language.
But had that not been clear enough, then when Courfeyrac came in nearly five minutes later and took Musichetta's empty place, leaving two entire seats between he and Combeferre, R had all the evidence he needed to know exactly how wrong things had gone last night… and to know that he and Enjolras weren't the only ones they'd gone wrong for.
Enjolras was the last to show, moving confidently to his place at the head of the table as though nothing had changed. The beauty of it was that for him… nothing had… until Bahorel and Prouvaire took the two empty seats between Combeferre and Courfeyrac. Enjolras' eyes narrowed. That wasn't right and he had to know it wasn't right. He also knew, however, that there were two years of time missing from his own mind, and he didn't have all the facts. Courfeyrac had given him the bare bones of what he'd missed the night before, but he'd carefully glossed over just as many things as he'd explained. Seeing Enjolras' frustration building and seeing him turn towards Courfeyrac with the intent of asking the obvious question, R clamped a hand hard on Enjolras' wrist.
Enjolras turned towards him, quick as a shot and hissed back, "Stay out of it, R."
"No." Meeting Enjolras' eyes head on, R tightened his grip. "Neither of them will thank you for interfering, especially in such a public venue. Their issues are known quantities. We work around them as best we can. You'll learn to. You did once before."
Backing down wasn't in Enjolras' nature, but his lack of knowledge about the current situation was making him more cautious than usual. R never would have gotten away with checking him like this in front of the others if it wasn't. Leaning over towards R, Enjolras said, "Are they always like this, now? What happened? Courfeyrac didn't say…?"
R sighed, shook his head. "No. They aren't always like this. Just… some mornings are worse than others. And, Enjolras… that's all any of us will say on the subject until Courfeyrac gives permission otherwise. So, don't pry, OK? Don't put any of us in that position."
Enjolras didn't answer, but R wasn't really expecting him to. As Enjolras turned to add milk and sugar to his coffee, R turned his attention to Courfeyrac. Courfeyrac's hands were steady around his mug, but they were pressed close and firm against the sides, not making a move to lift it even once. Normally the focal point of all their morning socializing, Courfeyrac was conspicuously silent today. Withdrawn. Even Bossuet couldn't coax him into eye contact. Well. Combeferre had pushed, then. It happened sometimes when Courfeyrac turned stubborn. Normally Combeferre had the luxury of waiting him out, but with Enjolras as he was, Combeferre must have been feeling more pressured than usual and decided to act, consequences be damned.
Because things weren't complicated enough, R thought.
At that, Courfeyrac finally raised his gaze from reading the tea leaves in his mug, or whatever he was doing instead of interacting with the others, and met R's eyes. There was a sad sort of acceptance there, one with which R was all too familiar, sadly enough. He saw it in the mirror on far too many mornings. R offered a sympathetic smile. Courfeyrac gave it back only half-heartedly… but it was enough. Visibly taking strength from that eye contact, Courfeyrac took a deep breath, collected himself, and made eye contact with everyone else at the table, in turn. By the time he'd reached Combeferre the room had gone silent, holding its collective breath for what might be said.
Of course, in the end, no audible words passed between them, but R didn't think he was fooling himself into seeing a slight softening in Courfeyrac's eyes as they landed on Combeferre. Forgiveness, then. That was good. Because, powers help them all if that situation ever fell apart beyond repairing. Prouvaire had likened the pair of them once to a time bomb sitting in their midst just waiting to go off… and fuck his perception, but the man wasn't wrong.
By the time R finished his woolgathering, Courfeyrac was already speaking, filling the others in on what had happened yesterday, with Combeferre and Enjolras adding their own commentary at appropriate intervals - Combeferre from the security footage and Enjolras relaying for R. It wasn't until then that R fully appreciated how well Enjolras was handling this particular upheaval. They took it for granted most days - Enjolras' minor receiving telepathic ability - the ability that let R speak to him as though nothing had changed. He'd not known he had any psychic ability before then, had never even had cause to suspect it was so, not even enough to register on the government screening tests. It was just enough to let him hear R's thoughts when they were within distance for routine speech. It was just enough to keep R from being completely isolated from conversation outside of Prouvaire. And it had come on Enjolras suddenly, exactly when he'd needed it, exactly when they had needed it. Enjolras had had a reason to need to speak to him, then.
They'd still been together.
One more regret, tossed onto the pile with a thousand others. Enjolras hadn't understood when R had walked away last night, had thought him just being respectful of Enjolras' need to get his head together. He'd learn. R wasn't exactly all that eager to tell him. Prouvaire was right on that, at least. He was a coward.
Let Enjolras live in delusional bliss a little while longer. After all, he was the one who'd walked away.
When Courfeyrac finished filling everyone in, there was an uproar of questions. Had they achieved contact? Had they acquired the intelligence they'd been after? And the question of the day - was Enjolras' lost memory a side-effect of the drugs he'd been given or a sign of something more sinister?
Inevitably, once that question was asked, all eyes turned to Prouvaire. The only way to know for sure if a psychic had tampered with one's mind was to have a psychic one trusted examine the suspect mind for said tampering. The difficulty here was that Prouvaire wasn't precisely trusted - at least not by any but R, who had no choice, and Enjolras, who was in no position to impose that trust. And riding on the heels of however Prouvaire had interfered between them last night, neither Courfeyrac nor Combeferre was going to let him anywhere near their leader's head without a knock-down, drag-out fight. Which left them back at square one.
It was Bahorel who finally said what they were all thinking. "We're missing the obvious solution. Enjolras, if we can't confirm or deny that you've been conditioned, we'll have to eject you from our confidence, carry on as if you weren't here, for now. It isn't safe to act any other way until we find someone else to vet your mind."
Enjolras didn't like it, of course, argued vehemently against it. "You can't do this. You need me. You can't just cast me aside like I'm a different man than I was yesterday."
In the midst of the table-pounding, half-shouted argument which followed, R was the only one to notice Courfeyrac get to his feet and back away from the near-melee, eyes wild and hands shaking as they hadn't been all morning. So, he was the only one who noticed when Courfeyrac suddenly glanced down at the mug clenched in those shaking hands… and then throw it as hard as he could against the opposite wall.
Amongst the shards of ceramic… silence fell.
Into that silence, Courfeyrac said simply, "We can, and we will, Enjolras. Because you may well be a different man today than you were yesterday. It could happen to any of us and we'd never know on our own; we learned that the hard way after Philadelphia. That's why we go out in pairs. That's why we don't separate from our partners." And if Combeferre flinched at the way Courfeyrac spat that last word out, again R's were the only eyes no so fixed on Courfeyrac as to notice… and he said nothing. "However it happened, you and R got separated yesterday. There are hours unaccounted for - hours in which they could have managed any manor of reconditioning on you. We have to protect the cause. You, of all people, should know that." Voice dropping into a whisper, he added, "And you, of all people, should know what it costs me to say that… but you don't, because you don't remember, and we don't know why. The least you can do is no make this any harder on us than it already is." With those last words, he stepped back from the table, met Enjolras' eyes for a solid moment… and then fled the meeting room.
"Well. That's that, then." Enjolras stood, his own shaking hands braced on the table in front of him, his eyes hooded as he stared down at his hands. "If that is your will then, though I don't agree with it, I will accept it. I may have founded this group, but I am not a dictator. Though I will say that I am disappointed that in two years, the rest of you still don't trust Prouvaire in such matters. That's why he's here. That's why I brought him in to begin with. If you've forgotten that much in two years… then how can you truly comment on what I've forgotten in the last twenty-four hours without making hypocrites of yourselves?" Taking a deep breath, he stepped back from the table. "I would encourage you to think on that."
Just before he made it out the door, R stood. "Enjolras?"
Enjolras snorted out a bitter laugh under his breath as he answered that doubly-unspoken question. "I'm not going to do anything stupid, R. I just need some time to think… no matter how much you all seem to believe I can't be trusted to do exactly that."
This time, when he moved to go, no one stayed his leaving.