April 12, 2015: Well... I'm doing better? It's only been a couple of months this time. And that's a definite improvement over the four month gaps, right? ...yeah. Yeah, I didn't think so. -.-;;; Sorry, again!

Muet - Chapter 7
by eirenical

Toast. Butter. One spoonful of eggs. Pinch of salt. Pinch of pepper. Coffee. No milk. One lump of sugar.

Combeferre placed each item carefully in its place, focused on the task to the exclusion of everything else. Courfeyrac had waited until Combeferre had fallen asleep, then packed up his belongings and moved them somewhere else. Combeferre didn't know where he was bunking down, now, or with whom. He didn't even feel he had a right to ask. They hadn't seen each other since, and it had been almost two days. The house wasn't that large, and Courfeyrac wasn't allowed outside on his own. Courfeyrac must be deliberately avoiding him. And that was his right, really. Combeferre didn't deserve to say two words to him, much less anything more than that.

Picking up his plate and his coffee, Combeferre moved to his place at the table - this morning nothing more than a place to eat - and dug into his food with determination, if not enthusiasm. He felt numb, disconnected, as though his last encounter with Courfeyrac had shut down his very ability to feel. All that was left now was this leaden cold.

By the time Combeferre finished eating and was drinking his coffee like the necessary drug it had become, others had started to filter in - Musichetta, coming off the night shift and knuckling at her eyes; Joly, yawning his way through his breakfast preparations before sitting at the table to peruse the medical journal he'd brought with him... and Enjolras. Enjolras was smiling. And that seemed wrong. No one had the right to smile. Not on a day like this when even the sun was dark and cold.

Combeferre didn't even realize that his hand was clenching on the handle of his mug until he'd sloshed coffee out of it and onto his hand. At first, he didn't even realize what he'd done, didn't register anything but the dark liquid staining the white of his sleeve a dark brown. It wasn't until Joly gasped and ran to his side, relieving him of the mug and patting at the liquid, that Combeferre registered anything more. And what he registered then was pain. Sharp, throbbing, and unforgiving pain. As Joly hauled him to his feet, gently but firmly keeping a grip on his arm just below the elbow, Combeferre felt that pain and laughed. It was what he deserved, wasn't it? It was what they all deserved.

Musichetta and Enjolras were out of their seats now, eyes wide and hands outstretched, but Joly tut-tutted them back into their places, smiling and shaking his head, saying that it wasn't that big of a deal, just a clumsy bobble, easy to fix. Combeferre wasn't so certain. Still, he allowed Joly to lead him down the hall to the infirmary, stood passive while Joly held his hand under the flow of cold water, offered not a word of complaint as the burn was slathered with ointment and bandaged to keep it clean. It wasn't until Joly had him sitting on a cot and was running a gentle hand through his hair that he managed to say anything, at all.

"You shouldn't have bothered."

Joly's hand paused in its gentle stroking, then resumed as Joly clicked his teeth in dismissal. "Nonsense. What do you think I'm here for? Decoration?"

Combeferre sighed and pulled away from Joly's well-meaning hands. "That isn't what I meant. I meant... You know what? I don't even know what I meant."

Joly sighed, shook his head. "On the contrary, Combeferre... I think you know exactly what you meant." Before Combeferre could argue, he continued. "I think that you think that you deserve to get hurt." He tucked his fingers beneath Combeferre's chin to tip his face upwards, forcing Combeferre to meet his eyes. "Because of Courfeyrac." He titled his head. "Tell me I'm wrong."

Combeferre pulled his head from Joly's grasp, turned his eyes back down to the white bandage encasing his hand, the dark stain even now licking at the edges of it where it met his sleeve. There was a metaphor there; he was sure of it. It just wasn't one he wanted to give the power of speaking it aloud to. Taking a deep breath, he said, instead, "You're not wrong."

Joly stood up from his place beside Combeferre on the cot and walked over to start cleaning up the bandages and supplies he'd used, clipped, brusque efficiency in every move he made. It wasn't until he started opening and closing the cabinets, each one louder and harder than the last, that Combeferre winced. It wasn't often that Joly got angry. Sad, yes. Frustrated, yes. Impatient, yes. But truly angry? No.

Joly was angry, now.

When the last cabinet door slammed, Joly spun back to face Combeferre, eyes wide, chest heaving as he fought for words. Finally he said, "And do you think that's what Courfeyrac would want? To see you hurt? Can you honestly look me in the eyes and tell me you believe that he'd even think you deserved it?"

Combeferre swallowed hard, shook his head. Barely able to force the words out past the sudden lump in his throat, he whispered, "No. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't."

The room wasn't large and three steps brought Joly right back into Combeferre's personal space to grab up a double fistful of his shirt and shake him. "I swear to G-d, Combeferre. If it weren't for the fact that any discord between us would just upset him more, I'd be happy to give you what you seem to want." He released Combeferre, then, his face twisting into a snarl of disgust. "You're unbelievable. This isn't your fault. This isn't his fault. And he's a mess, right now, far worse than usual, because he's convinced he ruined you, that he's broken you past repairing."

Combeferre jerked his head up at that, widened eyes meeting Joly's narrowed ones, but before he could speak, Joly continued. "Now, I hate to be the one to bring this to your attention, but whether he's right or not, whether it's fair to you or not, you have to swallow it. You have to. Because if he even begins to suspect that he might be right about how badly this whole thing has messed you up..." Joly slumped then, every ounce of angry tension that had been sustaining him, simply draining away. "Combeferre... you haven't seen him the last couple of days. He's teetering on the edge of being truly self-destructive. I don't even want to think about what he might do if he gets any worse. You have to pull yourself together, for his sake, if not your own. Please?" Joly dropped back onto the cot, took Combeferre's uninjured hand in his and clutched it to his chest. "Combeferre, please. You have to do this. If you don't... if you don't, I'm afraid we're going to lose him. I don't know how yet... but I know we will."

And looking into Joly's eyes, dark and wide, and so very frightened... Combeferre knew he was right. And that knowledge shook him to the core. They couldn't lose Courfeyrac. They couldn't. He couldn't. Pulling his hand back from Joly, Combeferre pressed it to his mouth, fighting so hard against that lump in his throat that he thought for sure he'd choke. It had been selfish, so selfish, to feel he had the right to fall apart, even for this little while. He had the lighter burden to bear. He'd always had the lighter burden. He owed Courfeyrac not to make his any heavier. But how could he act as though everything was all right? How could he put on that act and make Courfeyrac believe it enough to let go of his own pain for Combeferre and focus on his own?

Combeferre lowered his hand, his breathing harsh. "I can't... Joly, I can't do it. I can't fake being all right." He swallowed hard, nausea churning his belly and making him regret what little he'd eaten. "I'll request a transfer to another safe house. A different assignment. Anything. That's my only option. I need to leave."

Joly let out a soft moan and covered his face with his hands. "No, Combeferre. That's not what I meant-"

"Joly, you don't understand. It doesn't matter." Combeferre stood and started pacing. "Courfeyrac will see right through me; he always does. If I try to put a brave face on this, he'll still know. And he'll just feel that much more guilty."

"And how do you think he'll feel if he drives you away from all your friends and the only safe haven you've ever known?" When Combeferre just shook his head, Joly growled and pushed himself to his feet, as well. "Damn it. You're not thinking straight. Combeferre, there's a price on your head. There's been a price on your head ever since you walked away from your last year of medical school and refused to finish. There's been a price on your head since you refused that government R & D position. There are reasons we keep you here. Do you think they've forgotten? Do you think they'll let bygones be bygones if they catch you? Do you think Courfeyrac would ever forgive himself, knowing that he was the reason you put yourself in danger?"

When Combeferre's only answer was to shake his head and continue pacing, Joly rolled his eyes, balled up his fist, and punched him right in the shoulder. Combeferre staggered, caught off balance in more ways than one by that punch. Joly clenched his fist again and Combeferre flinched, but this time all Joly hurled at him were words. "Losing you is not a choice. If you can't forgive yourself and you can't fake it, then you have to find a way to talk to him. Whatever broke between you in the last few days, you have to find a way to fix it. For your sake. For his sake. For all our sakes. If you don't... if you don't..."

Joly couldn't finish that sentence, and Combeferre was only grateful that he didn't try beyond that token attempt. He could envision all too well on his own what would happen... but he couldn't face Courfeyrac. Not now. So, in spite of what he'd told Joly, he would do his best to put a brave face on it. And he'd have to hope that Courfeyrac was willing to play along, even if he didn't believe it. Because if Joly had already gotten himself this worked up over this, then he was a short two steps away from riling up everyone else, and neither Combeferre nor Courfeyrac needed that burden added to one which was already too heavy to carry.

Sighing heavily, feeling that weight start to grow with each passing second, Combeferre slowly nodded. "All right, Joly. I'll find a way. Somehow... somehow I'll find a way to make this right."

Joly took in a deep breath and when he let it out, a smile finally found its way back to his face. "Good. That's all I would ever ask."

They parted ways, then, Joly to return to his interrupted meal, and Combeferre to his computers. And as Combeferre fled down the hall, he could feel his face flushing with shame. He didn't know why he was so sure, but he knew that he'd just lied to Joly. Unintentionally, maybe... but he'd lied. There was no making this right. Not for Combeferre. Not for Courfeyrac. Not for any of them.

Enjolras only reluctantly took his seat after Joly swooped in to manage Combeferre. Enjolras been distracted lately, hadn't noticed anything wrong with Combeferre until this morning. Odds were that whatever it was, it had to do with Courfeyrac. How could it not? Enjolras still couldn't quite believe that anything could have forced him to condone what was going on between the two of them, much less that he could have been the one to suggest it in the first place. How could he have done that to his two oldest friends? What kind of monster had he become that such a solution could ever have seemed OK? What had happened in these last two years?

Enjolras was so focused on his brooding that he didn't notice that he had company until said company's hand landed on his shoulder and nearly caused him to repeat Combeferre's earlier mishap with interest. Fortunately, Grantaire had far better reflexes than he did and steadied the coffee cup before he'd so much as bobbled it, taking it out of his hand and placing it out of reach on the table. Moments later, Enjolras felt that telltale shiver up his spine that let him know that Grantaire had something to say and he lowered his shields. They'd worked on that all night - raising and lowering his shields - a fact that had Enjolras both relieved and unnerved. He'd expected... well. He'd expected to pass quite a different kind of night with Grantaire than staying awake for half of it working on shield drills, then collapsing exhausted at 3 in the morning. He'd expected to wake up to Grantaire this morning, but in that, too, he'd been disappointed. Grantaire had been gone before Enjolras had woken up, off on some business that he hadn't seen to make Enjolras privy to. Turning towards Grantaire, Enjolras raised an eyebrow, indicating he was ready to listen.

"Sorry, I wasn't there when you woke up. I had a message."

Enjolras nodded, feeling a little silly answering Grantaire out loud when there were other people in the room who hadn't heard Grantaire's half of the conversation, but judging by the complete lack of reaction from the others when he did, he was the only one. Still, he leaned in close to answer, "I was worried. I thought I'd... that I'd done something wrong."

Grantaire smiled, then leaned forward to place a gentle kiss on Enjolras' forehead. "You're fine, Enjolras. You didn't do anything wrong. It really was just business."

Feeling the heat rising in his cheeks, Enjolras dropped his voice into a whisper for his next response. "If I didn't do anything wrong, then why...? Why didn't you-?" He cut himself off, frustrated. Fortunately, Grantaire understood what he couldn't quite bring himself to say.

"Why didn't we have sex last night?" When Enjolras' only response was to blush harder, Grantaire snorted. "Two reasons." At Enjolras' scowl, Grantaire sighed. "Look. I'm glad you want to work things out. I am. But while it may have been just days for you, it's been two years for me. It's been two years, and there's been a lot of fucking water under that bridge." Leaning back in his chair, he shrugged. "I don't switch gears that fast. Sorry, love."

"Oh." Enjolras cleared his throat, turned his attention back to his plate long enough to push his eggs around with his fork a bit. It was difficult to grasp, this idea that he'd lost two years of his life - two years which his friends had lived that he had no memory of - and it wasn't getting any easier to accept. Clearing his throat again, Enjolras said, "So... the message? What... can I ask who it was?"

There was a world of pity in Grantaire's eyes when he shook his head. "I don't think that's wise, Enjolras. Not yet. The others don't trust you. And to be honest... I don't, either. I can't."

Enjolras winced at that, said quietly, "And that's the other reason we didn't have sex last night, isn't it?"

Grantaire nodded, eyes solemn. "It is. It's also the reason that, despite your generous offer the other night, I'm not letting you anywhere near Courfeyrac. I don't know what prompted you to make that offer, but on the reasonable chance that it wasn't you making it... Enjolras, it's too much of a risk. But you're right. If he and Combeferre need a break - and it's more than reasonable that they do - then someone is going to have to take Combeferre's place. And it has to be someone who's psychic, or someone who knows Courfeyrac well enough to give him what he needs without pushing too far. And that narrows the pool by a quite a bit. Because it can't be Prouvaire. It can't be you. And Feuilly... it isn't fair to ask Feuilly to take that on in addition to everything else he does. That leaves me. And if I'm going to do that... Enjolras, you can't ask me to make love to you knowing that I'm going to have to do that to him. I... Enjolras, I don't have it in me. I'm not that strong."

Swallowing hard, Enjolras reached out to take Grantaire's hand in his, then brought it to his lips to drop a kiss into his palm. Voice rough with unshed tears, he said, "I would never ask you to do this. You know that."

"I do know that, Enjolras. But I also can't quite overlook the fact that it was your decisions that put us in a position where I'd have to do it, anyway."

Grantaire gripped Enjolras' hand tightly, placing his own kiss across the knuckles before turning and tucking into his food. Enjolras reluctantly did the same, though he'd long since lost his appetite. It had been naïve to think that things could go back immediately to how they'd been. He saw that now. But that didn't mean he didn't wish it could be different. That he couldn't wish that after breakfast, he couldn't have invited Grantaire back to his room for a midmorning- He blushed, again.

Grantaire didn't interrupt his eating, but his glance did flicker sideways to take in Enjolras' expression. And as he caught that blush, he smiled, then softly bumped Enjolras' knee under the table. "We'll get there, Enjolras. We will. But maybe this is a blessing in disguise. It feels... dishonest, somehow, to resolve this between us with you lacking your memories. Like I'd be taking advantage. Just have patience. And try to have faith that we'll have a tomorrow to sort it all out."

When Grantaire finished his last mouthful of food and got up from the table, Enjolras couldn't help but add, in the privacy of his own thoughts, that he hoped that when tomorrow came and he had his memory back... that he'd still want to sort it out. Because with every bit of information he learned about the man he'd become in the last two years, Enjolras was less and less certain that that would be the case.

Grantaire knew every hallway, every corner, every hidden passageway of their safe house. He didn't think he was even fooling himself when he said he knew it better than Enjolras, himself. It was easy enough for him to avoid people when he had to.

Today, he had to.

Lying mind-to-mind was impossible, according to Prouvaire. Grantaire had never tried it, but he believed him too much to take that chance. So, talking to Enjolras this morning had been a risk, but it had been one that paid off. He was free and clear for the next several hours, at least. Now, if he could only avoid running into anyone else...

And thus, the back passageways.

Because Grantaire had a secret to deliver, and he couldn't afford to be intercepted. After somehow convincing to Enjolras to spend the entire night working on getting his shields back under conscious control instead of taking a step in their relationship that Grantaire was still uncertain that Enjolras wanted, they'd fallen into a deeply exhausted sleep... which had been interrupted for Grantaire barely an hour after tumbling into it. His phone had flashed with a message alert, and the text had read (in code): "Met w ET. Need meet. Bring Cf. Tell no one else."

Every single one of Grantaire's Spidey-senses, so to speak, had sounded an alarm on deciphering that message. ET - Eponine Thenardier. No matter what Feuilly believed, no Thenardier could be trusted. Cf - Courfeyrac. It was an unspoken rule that Courfeyrac did not leave the safe house. And, to leave without telling anyone that they were going, much less where... it was lunacy. Sheer lunacy.

But if Grantaire trusted anyone in this world, right now, he trusted Feuilly. So, he would talk to Courfeyrac and see what he thought of this message... and then pray like mad that he wouldn't regret that decision.

This time of the day, Courfeyrac was usually sequestered in the library, pouring over the morning's newspapers and police reports, gauging the current political climate as best he could, plotting where a bribe would be beneficial, where a word in the right ear might ease their way. Normally, he wouldn't thank Grantaire for interrupting, but Grantaire had a feeling that that had changed, that he might welcome the change in routine. Courfeyrac had been growing more and more restless with each passing day, cooped up here as he was. He was used to being on the outside, doing direct good for people. Being stuck at the safe house in this limited capacity had been sticking in his craw for months, now. Grantaire could only hope that he wouldn't do something stupid in the name of that restlessness, that need to be away.

Grantaire reached the library ten minutes later, somehow without running into Prouvaire, or anyone else, for that matter. And Courfeyrac was exactly where he'd expected him to be... only he wasn't working. He was slumped over a table, his hands buried in his hair and tugging harshly. Within moments of Grantaire's arrival, however, he'd lifted his head... and Grantaire hoped he never had to see that look in someone's eyes ever again.

Bleak. Despairing. Tortured.

They were the eyes of a man who'd given up.

Grantaire was no precog, but with sudden, glaring certainty, he knew that this was going to end badly. He couldn't take Courfeyrac out of the house like this. He'd get them both killed - or worse... captured. He started to back out of the room, but Courfeyrac was having none of it. Pushing himself slowly to his feet, leaning on the table as though it were the only thing keeping him upright, he said, "What do you want, R?"

Harsh. Guttural. As ugly as Grantaire's voice at its best. He couldn't do this. Shaking his head, Grantaire backed up another pace.

Courfeyrac slumped back into his seat and let out a bitter laugh. "Are you afraid of me, R? You should be. I destroy everyone I care for, everyone who cares for me. You should run while you still have the chance."

And as simple as that... Grantaire couldn't. He approached slowly, wary of upsetting Courfeyrac further, and pulled out his phone with the decoded message. Wordlessly, he passed it over. Courfeyrac read it, then read it again. Finally he said, "This is from Feuilly?" When Grantaire nodded, he said, "Why?"

All Grantaire could offer to that was a shrug. He had his suspicions, of course - none of them good - but with no proof one way or another, he'd rather keep them to himself.

Courfeyrac read the message again, drummed his fingers on the table as he thought. Finally he pushed the phone back in Grantaire's direction. "We'd be breaking all kinds of rules to do what he's asking. There are reasons those rules are in place, R."

Grantaire nodded.

Courfeyrac snorted out a short laugh. "Yeah. Of all people, I don't need to tell you that, do I?" He sighed, drummed his fingers on the table a few more times. Eventually, as though the decision had been dragged out of him, he said, "OK. There's a pool hall on Grand. He'll know the one. If we can get away at all, we can meet him there in an hour. If not... we'll know in twenty minutes."

There were reasons those rules were in place, and Courfeyrac wouldn't break them without good reason... which begged the question of what that reason was. It begged the question of what he knew that Grantaire didn't. What did Courfeyrac know that would make him agree to break every rule that had been put in place to keep him safe?

But meeting those bleak, pain-deadened eyes once more was all the reason Grantaire needed not to ask those questions... because he just knew that he wasn't going to like the answers. And having committed to this, Courfeyrac wasn't going to back down now, not without a fight that Grantaire really didn't want to have. So, they would go and meet with Feuilly, and Grantaire would just have to hope that this mission wouldn't go as disastrously wrong as their last one had... because every instinct he had was screaming at him that it had the potential to go far, far worse.


Thanks for reading! Feel free to come find me on tumblr at eirenical! I promise I don't bite. ^_~