My first published story here. A story I wrote a couple years ago when I fell in love with Grantaire and the Barricade Boys.
I don't own them or Les Miserables, all credit where credit is due, including to Hadley Fraser and Ramin Karimloo for being the inspiration for the looks of my Grantaire and Enjolras.
"Did you see them, going off to fight?
Children of the barricade who didn't last the night."
The sun rose and the streets of Paris bustled with normalcy, ignoring the blood spilled on their cobblestones. The barricade outside the Cafe Musain was all but torn down, the bodies of the revolutionaries thrown haphazardly against the walls of the surrounding buildings. Angevin hugged her shawl tighter around her body, not allowing herself to come apart. Grantaire and the boys, they were fine, she told herself, nothing had happened to them, they would come into the cafe in the evening, drink and laugh and sing together. Grantaire would kiss her and she would run her fingers through his hair.
She willed herself to step forward, willed her arms the strength they would need to help those here to a proper resting place. Their families would need to know who was gone, and who knew the Friends of the ABC better than their favorite bar maid? Approaching the first bodies, laid closest to the skeleton of the barricade, she began to move them, turning them to see their faces, ashen and cold, blood brown and stained on their faces, their shirts, their tricolors: the white was white no longer, the blue a dingy dark color, and the red, the red was deeper than ever.
Combeferre, Feuilly, little Gavroche, Courfeyrac; body after body, boys she knew, boys she had served a wine or a brandy to the night before. She could almost hear Gavroche's footsteps rounding the corner, the latest piece of Paris news on his lips. "Didn't you see 'em, Mademoiselle Angevin? They fought so well, kept those guards on their toes, they did." If only that had been the news, if only the little band of Revolutionaries had been enough to turn the tides, if only Paris had come to their aid.
Angevin's hands shook, her tears pouring so she couldn't see and she stopped, leaning her head against the wall behind her, willing herself back to focus. If only she had been able to be there, she would have done anything to help, anything to keep just one of the boys alive. But Grantaire wouldn't hear of it. He paid for a night in one of the nicer houses on the left bank, told her to keep warm, he'd be back by dawn and he would kiss her soundly, he would scold her for worrying: he promised he'd come back for her. She had to be there when he returned, because he would return.
But dawn had come and gone and he wasn't there. She had waited, but not long before rushing to the site of the barricade.
She drew in a deep breath and pushed off the wall, steeling herself to cross the street and check the bodies there. Blood had stained her hands, her skirt, her shawl, but she didn't care, even if it never washed out, because someone needed to remember the ones it belonged to, someone needed to remember the school boys with dreams grander than the people Paris deserved.
On the other side of the street, she found Eponine nearest the door of the cafe. Sweet Eponine, she had followed after Maruis, doing whatever she could to be near him, and dying for her troubles. Fresh sobs shook Angevin as she stroked the girl's hair, remembering as she watched Marius cradle her, rain falling around them, whispering to her as she died. Setting her down gently, Angevin prayed that Marius was alive and would honor her memory. She hadn't seen him yet, nor had she seen Enjolras, which was a good sign, for she was sure wherever Enjolras was, Grantaire would be close at hand. She could only plead with heaven that they were alive, safe somewhere, hiding from the National Guard perhaps.
Jean Prouvaire, Bahorel, Bossuet, Joly: oh sweet Joly, with his cane and his ready smile. His lips, even now, looked set to laugh, like he would jump up at any moment and proclaim it was all a great jest. Angevin brushed his hair out of his face and a sad smirk tugged at her lips, "I wish this were one of your jests, as much as I hated so many of them."
She had nearly made it through all the bodies, only a few remained, when she noticed that there were no bodies from the National Guard. "Ces salauds," she muttered cuttingly. "Why would they leave any of their dead so dishonorably on the ground in piles?"
It was then she saw it, the red of Enjolras' vest and the green of the shirt Grantaire had left in, and sinking to her knees, Angevin let out a great cry, sobs tearing through her body. She didn't allow herself more then a second before rushing to the bodies, praying, hoping, begging that her mind had been playing tricks on her - it couldn't be them. She turned the first body over: it was Enjolras, his angelic face, black hair, high cheekbones and full lips were impossible to mistake. But those eyes, those eyes didn't belong to Enjolras, no, his eyes were bright, always twinkling with anticipation and excitement and passion. These eyes were dull, lifeless and blank and she couldn't look at them anymore. Setting him down, she whispered her fingertips over his face, closing his eyes for the last time.
She reached for the last body, hands trembling so hard she could hardly control them, and as she turned it over a strangled noise ripped from her throat: it was her Grantaire. Her hand flew up to her mouth as the sobs threatened to take her breath. No, no, it couldn't be. Her dear skeptic, her jovial friend, her love, he couldn't be dead. Her fingers laced through his hair, her hand tugging at his shirt. "You're not dead," she whispered fiercely. "You promised me you'd come back to me. You promised me. You promised." She pulled him to her chest, holding him as tight as she could.
"And you," she spat at Enjolras. "You promised me a new world, 'a new world that would rise up like the sun!' Well? Where is it? Cause all I see is more of the same, no! what I see is worse, because I now have a world with no Grantaire, no Enjolras, no Joly, no Gavroche. Tell me, oh Apollo, how is this a better world? Where is it, now the fighting is done? Did your conflagration work? Did the volcano's eruption illuminate? Because this dawn feels colder, harsher, worse than any other dawn I have known, worse than burying my family! Turning, turning, everything is the same, everything coming back to where it began - me alone, with bodies to bury!"
Angevin felt herself deflate as her speech ended and she leaned back against the building, still holding Grantaire to her chest. She brushed his hair in her hand, cradling him like a babe. She felt as though she were crying enough to wash them all away, at least enough to wash the blood from Grantaire's body, leaving him clean and new. She tipped his head back in her hand, to look at his face, taking in every part of it: the sweet curl of his hair around his face, his high forehead, those eyebrows that raised whenever he smiled, his perfect nose, the scruff surrounding his chin and mouth, and his lips, those perfect lips that smiled often and kissed her just between the eyes and made her sink deeper in love with him. His eyes were closed and she was glad, it had been hard enough to see Enjolras and his lifeless eyes, she could not imagine what it would be like to see these beautiful, steel blue eyes without a single spark of life left. Many of the other girls who hung around the Cafe complained about Grantaire and how plain and homely he was, but Angevin disagreed - he was beautiful, more beautiful than Enjolras, that statue of the gods. Grantaire was warm and inviting, gentle and feeling, his skepticism made those passionate ones of the ABC uncomfortable, but it was endearing to her. She traced lines on his face, down the column of his neck and he hand stopped at his chest, obviously where he had been shot. Her hand shook and she leaned her forehead to his, her voice a shuddered whisper, "Ma amour, don't leave me here. Don't leave me alone in Paris, what will I do here without you? I can't go back to work, not in that Cafe. I will see your face in every corner, in every bottle of brandy." She laughed quietly, without mirth, and briefly touched his cold lips with hers. "Pity this isn't like those Grimms Brothers fairytales, perhaps true love's kiss could wake you. Or maybe you'll come and wake me, and this will have all been a terrible dream."