Disclaimer: Les Miserables belongs to Victor Hugo.
Author's Note: This story will, if continued, be a very long epic. The main focus would be on Les Amis, especially in the beginning, but the majority of the Les Mis characters will at least put in an appearance. It will be plot-oriented, but as currently drafted it will also have romance, including LGBTQIA-inclusive romances. Con crit is always appreciated, both about my writing style and about characterization or Brick details that slipped past me and my beta. If people are interested, please review!
Part One: Welcome
Enjolras forces the man—the murderer—to his knees, with strength and surety, knowing what he will have to do.
There isn't any other option. If he allows this man to live, if he allows this one action to go unchecked, the entire barricade will be tainted. Others will follow the murderer's example, doing what's simple and easy instead of what's right and just. Justifying their behavior as for the good of the barricade, for the good of the citizenry overall, and he will not allow that to happen.
He will not allow the revolution to be tainted from the start. Too many good men—too many friends—will undoubtedly be sacrificed for that to be allowable.
All of them sacrificed on the altar of your pointless pride, your lost cause, the voice whispers. It is barely audible, just on the edge of hearing, so soft it could be male or female, old or young. In truth it seems the shadows whisper, as no one else seems to react, but Enjolras knows that's not possible. It must be a trick of his mind, though his mind's never been so cruel to him before. Usually Combeferre must be the voice of uncertainty, of hesitation, because Enjolras' own thoughts seem incapable of being so.
Combeferre watches him as he gives the murderer a minute to pray for forgiveness and salvation, to make peace with himself and give any message he must give. Combeferre's face is drawn, his mouth a thin line, his eyes weighted with the knowledge of what they're doing. This night will be hard on all of them, and he knows Combeferre stands willingly at his side, but Enjolras can already see the heavy price the barricade will demand from his friend's heart.
He'll beg you to stop the killing. The shadows continue to whisper, rolling in the torchlight as though they've a mind of their own. He'll hate what you're doing, beg you to finally stop, and die with a half-dozen bayonets in his chest and no hope in his heart, one more forgotten martyr to a lost cause.
"It is a just cause. It is something that will happen, that must happen, and if it does not happen now then at least we will shine as an example for those who follow." The shadow's words are nonsense, speculation at best, dire prophecy at worst. So why does he hear an echo of Combeferre's voice ringing in his head, begging him not to shoot a man that they would gladly call brother at any other time? Why does he see his friend dead—all his friends dead, a succession of pictures gruesome and bloody overlaying the street before him?
The words the shadow speaks are not his, are nothing that his own mind would torment him with. He can feel the fierce scowl pulling at his mouth, and the pistol in his hand moves from the murderer's head to aim at the shadows. If there is another enemy here, one that wishes to undermine him, let it face him directly.
"Enjolras?" Combeferre's hand brushes his arm, hesitant, and there is doubt in Combeferre's eyes, doubt such as Enjolras has never seen before. "Are you all right?"
(You aim at him still! For God's sake, he could be your brother!)
The murderer has scrambled to his feet, his hands held up in supplication. "I was just tryin' to help, sir, honest I was, and it won't happen again—"
Wrong. This isn't the way it's supposed to go, this isn't what needs to happen, and Enjolras reaches out again to force the murderer down.
The execution lacks the finesse that it should have had. The shadows and their words broke the flow, turned something that was proper, just and right, into something that feels hurried and awful though no less necessary.
Not necessary. The shadows laugh, swirling, surging, creeping into the light where they have no right to be and staining the expressions of the barricade's defenders. Where faith, hope, camaraderie had been there is doubt, fear, disbelief, and blood. So much blood, the gutters running red with it, and for one awful moment every man standing is replaced by a walking corpse. Not necessary, Enjolras, not right, not remembered. Your name was long forgotten before a Republic was ever built.
"But a Republic was built." Enjolras smiles, staring into the darkest, densest part of the shadows. "You try to mock me, and instead give me hope."
A Republic was built, and the people still starve. The shadows laugh. The people still castigate one another, turn man against man, brother against brother. Nothing has changed. Your deaths mean nothing. Your cause means nothing.
"In that I know you are wrong." Setting his feet firmly, he scans the shadows for signs of whatever creature it is that speaks to him. If he could just find the beast…
"Enjolras, you're frightening the men." Combeferre's hand settles gently on his arm. "Come, I know that must have been difficult for you, but you mustn't allow them to see how shaken you are."
"I'm fine, old friend." Glancing between Combeferre and the shadows, he shakes his head. "It's just… have you been hearing anything… strange?"
"Strange?" Combeferre coughs, and trickles of blood begin to slide from his nose and mouth. "No, I can't say I have. It's rather hard to hear over the pounding of blood in my ears, though. Could you tell me again why I had to die here, Enjolras? Why I had to watch you kill, again and again, the wild angel of death? I seem to have forgotten it…"
Enjolras doesn't cry out as he backs away from the pale, bloody corpse that wears his friend's face. He doesn't allow his hands to tremble as he lifts the gun. "You are not Combeferre. If you were, you would know the answers to the questions you ask. What manner of trickery is this? What games are being played at my expense?"
"No games, Apollo." Arms wrap around him from behind, drag the gun down to point at the street. Grantaire's slurred voice is recognizable, though, and Enjolras can't quite suppress a shiver as breath that smells like blood and absinthe puffs against his cheek. "No games with you. Only Truth. Only Revolution. Only Death. Am I still an acceptable Pylades? Dead at your feet, will you smile just once more at me, so that maybe I can rise and die for you again?"
It hurts. Snippets of conversation, images, thoughts, feelings that haven't happened yet are suddenly crowding his mind, drowning his consciousness, making it hard to sort fact from fiction.
Except for one thing: they fought bravely, for a cause worth all their lives.
Two things, and he snarls as the shadows dance about his feet: his friends would not approve of what is happening here.
The same strength that allowed him to force a man twice his age and likely twice his weight to his feet allows Enjolras to break free from the arms that encircle him. One shot fells the terrible, crying creature with Combeferre's face. Bullets seem to have no effect on the thing that wears Grantaire's shape, however, perhaps because his thorax and abdomen are already liberally sprinkled with gunshot wounds.
"Enjolras, please." Reaching up with one bloody hand, Grantaire whimpers like a lost dog. "Just smile and tell me it was worth it. Tell me you're worth dying for. Tell me you were worth all of our lives."
"It wasn't for me!" The words echo in the street, and Enjolras finds his back against the barricade. "You died for the cause! They all died for the cause! For freedom! For the people! For the Republic! Whatever devil you are, you do Grantaire and the rest a grave disservice to imply ought else."
Cold fury begins to replace the fear, the confusion, the pain as the memories that he can't have—memories of dying, of watching the others die, of killing over and over to defend the breached barricade—flood his mind. If what he sees, in flashes and fragments of pain behind his eyes, is true, he will not allow the dead to be disgraced in this fashion. "Show yourself, monster. Stop hiding behind shadows and using the tongues of better men. If you've accusations to make to me, make them!"
Laughter rings all around, a cold, low, bitter chuckle that shakes the barricade and throws Enjolras to his knees.
I've accusations aplenty to make. But why rush things? We've an abundance of time together, you and I. The most time, I daresay, because I want that fiery spirit of yours. I want to watch it burn itself to ashes. And I've all the time in the world to make it do so.
Enjolras is on his knees, the ground stable, and torchlight plays over shadows that seem to writhe with unfettered glee. It takes him a moment to recognize the feel of a pistol against his head.
"Pray or think. You have one minute."
The voice is his own, the words his own, and Enjolras has no doubt that if he looked up at the face of the man holding the gun it would be his own. "Why?"
You said it yourself, in your speech right after you did this. Is that a mouth, buried in the shadows? The hints of eyes glinting, red and hungry? You judged yourself for this, and the judgment you reached was damnation.
"You oversimplify." He keeps his back straight, his expression stern and calm. If this thing wants his panic and his terror, he will not give it the satisfaction. "I was guilty of murder. It was what had to be done. But because of that I was unfit for a place in the new Republic. Dying on the barricade was the sentence I gave to myself."
To you and to all your friends. And call the feelings what you will, justify your actions as you will, you thought yourself a monster deserving of punishment more than once that night. Those are definitely teeth, glinting in the darkness, a wolf's hungry smile. Consider your punishment delivered. Welcome to Hell, Enjolras. I'm going to enjoy having you here.
He doesn't deign to respond to the creature. What point is there in talking to something that only intends to twist all his words, to strive to cause him harm?
The bullet hurts as it passes through his head, and the taste of blood fills his mouth. Only it isn't a single bullet, not the clean death that he gave to the murderer. He's standing against a wall, facing the National Guard, and his chest and abdomen are an ocean of pain that should drown out everything else. Would drown out everything else, if not for the pain in his head, too many memories trying to play at once, or the pain in his heart, recognizing the loss of too many good men to name.
He doesn't scream. He will not give the monster the satisfaction.
Somewhere in the deepest recesses of his mind, though, another howls in terror and confusion.
It hurts. His gut hurts, his chest hurts, his head hurts, pounds, has been split open, is pouring blood—
"Eric, come on, man, wake up!"
He doesn't understand the words, shouldn't understand the words because they're not in his language, only it's hard to remember what his native tongue is…
"That's it. Come on, E, open your eyes. You're scaring me."
He shouldn't scare anyone. He shouldn't do anything that could potentially dishearten anyone. He has to be the general, the leader, the conduit through which the revolution can speak to the people and the people can find their calling. He—
He's in his dorm room, and that's his roommate standing awkwardly on the ladder to lean over him, and he most definitely has not been shot.
Reaching up to feel tentatively at his chest, at his neck, at the back of his head, Eric lets out a sigh of absolute relief. He isn't dead. He isn't dying.
He's just in the rather awkward position of lying flat on his back while Grant stares down at him with dubious concern. "Good morning, Grant. I'm awake."
"I can see that." Grant straightens slightly, staying stooped so as to not bash his head against the ceiling. "You're all right?"
"I think that might be the worst nightmare I've ever had." He doesn't allow his mind to dwell on it. He doesn't want to remember the horror of dead friends. He wants even less to remember the feel of the gun in his hand, the spray of blood as he shot a man in the head, or the pain of being injured himself. "But yeah, I'm fine."
None of it was real, and he isn't going to torment himself with it. There's more than enough difficulties in the world without his subconscious mind putting him through… whatever that was.
"If you're sure." Grant backs slowly down the ladder, finally disappearing from view when he's a step or two from the ground. One large hand reaches up to pat the edge of the bed. "Sorry if I scared you more waking you up. I'm sure I'm not exactly what most people dream of seeing when they wake up."
"Hmm?" Rolling over to the side of the bed, Eric looks down at his roommate with a puzzled frown. After a few moments of staring at the self-deprecating smile on Grant's face, he realizes the joke his roommate was trying to make. "No, I appreciate it. Believe me, waking up from that was worth anything. Besides, I promise you that most of what I saw in that dream was about a thousand times worse than anyone's face could ever look."
"Must've been a real doozy, then." Grant hits the snooze button on his alarm clock before yawning and crawling back up into his bed. "I turned yours off, 'cause it's seven and you don't know what 'snooze' is for."
"I know what it's for." Scrambling down from his bed, Eric stretches slowly, resisting the urge to feel again at where the bullets struck him. He's not dead. Nobody he knows is dead. The fact that a dream could shake him so much is utterly ridiculous. "I just don't usually feel the need to use it, because I don't usually wake up with a hangover."
"'S very easy to fix anytime you want to." Grant waves one hand in a lazy circle. "I will help. Just give the word."
"The word is I'm getting up and heading to class, you should really try not to sleep through your nine o'clock, and if you're coming to the meeting tonight it starts at 6:30. Otherwise I probably won't see you until fairly late tonight."
"I'll be there." Grant raises his head to give a tired smile. "I'm always there when you're going to talk, E. It's exciting."
"Exciting…" Tilting his head in bemusement as he considers the other man for a moment, Eric turns from his roommate to his closet. "I suppose that's a good thing to be called. Enlightening, educational, even invigorating might be kinder complements, but… exciting will do. See you later, Grant."
A cheerful sound that's not quite a word is the only response he gets.
Shaking his head as he dresses and prepares for the day, Eric manages to shove the last vestiges of the nightmare from his mind. It doesn't matter. It was just a dream, of the non-metaphorical kind, and the faster he can forget it, the better.
He's got much more important things to focus on.