Combeferre's apartment was dimly lit, the dark curtains drawn and only a couple of candles lit. Enjolras wondered if Joly had interrupted some sort of experiment; Combeferre had hastily labeled bottles of liquids strewn about along with medical supplies and open books. If Enjolras did not know better, he would have been relieved that Combeferre was carrying on as normally as he could, but Combeferre had always been deliberate in all his experiments, especially ones he came up with on an apparent whim. Why the mess, why the disorganization?
Combeferre moved to the window to use what little sunlight came through to inspect the revolver. He ran his fingers across every inch of the wood and metal as though his mind wandered to a time only a couple of years prior.
It was after the 1830 barricades and the stolen revolution. Enjolras had thrown himself into books and speeches and rough thoughts and ideas and plans of how to proceed. Combeferre was ever by his side with a cup of coffee and cooked meal and words to encourage or hold back, approve or deny. Looking back, despite the heartache and the rage, Enjolras realized that being with Combeferre during that time had been one of his happiest and most peaceful moments.
One night, Combeferre placed the revolver in front of Enjolras.
"What is this?" asked Enjolras. He picked it up and studied it, wondering with envy if Combeferre had been planning something without him.
"The times are restless. You should be safe."
Enjolras frowned. "You know I will not have any intention of using this until the people rise, and by then—"
"It is simply to put my mind at ease," said Combeferre.
"I will not need to use it."
Enjolras could not refuse Combeferre, and so he kept the revolver on his person at every moment until after the summer of 1832 when the republic was won.
Now Enjolras was dead, and Combeferre had the revolver back in his possession. He sighed, fell to the bed, and hung his head, holding the revolver lightly between his legs. He pressed his fingers to his temple and his shoulders shook as he sobbed.
"Combeferre," murmured Enjolras as he wrapped his arms around his friend and kissed the top of his head.
"I couldn't save you."
Enjolras closed his eyes, wishing that he could feel Combeferre's warmth. "You mustn't blame yourself. You did the best you could."
"I should have been behind you, not ahead of you. I should have been beside you, speaking with you, not arguing with Courfeyrac."
"You couldn't have known. None of us could have."
"There must have been some way to stop the bleeding, some way to keep you living long enough to repair the damage, some way to… I should have known it."
Enjolras remembered the wounds he suffered and the sharp piece of debris that had pierced through his stomach. He flinched. "The wound was too deep. It was only a miracle I had stayed alive as long as I did."
"You could have been saved."
"No, I couldn't have."
Combeferre sighed and removed his glasses to wipe his eyes. After readjusting them back upon his face, he walked to his workbench and placed the revolver upon it and stared at the work below.
"What am I doing?" he murmured.
Then in one sweep of his arm, he cleared all but the revolver from the workbench. He slumped over the table and buried his head within his arms, controlling his breathing at first before letting out one short, frustrated and anguished scream.
"I cannot do this," he said as he turned to look frantically about his apartment. "I cannot. Enjolras. Enjolras, why are you gone? Why are you gone when it could have just as easily have been myself? When I could have lingered behind with you? When I have always used to linger behind with you."
He snorted. "I must be going mad. I am speaking to someone who isn't here."
As Combeferre took in deep breaths to calm himself, Enjolras held Combeferre's shoulders. "No, Combeferre. I am here. I am here and you must not blame yourself. I will always be here, Combeferre." Enjolras touched his cheek. "You must have known that you could not always protect me. You know that I did not want to be—did not need to be—but I have never been ungrateful for it because I needed you. I needed you and I still do."
"I need you, Enjolras. We need you."
"And that must be why I am here." Then Enjolras pursed his lips and pushed away from Combeferre. "But I cannot help you. You cannot see me or hear me. None of you can. I have no influence. If I am here because you need me, then why am I so powerless? And if I am here because I need you… oh, Combeferre, I wish you could hear me. I wish you could see me."
"I wish you were here."
"And so do I. Then you would not be like this. Courfeyrac, a man who should never be heartbroken, would be smiling and laughing again. Bossuet and Joly and Musichetta could happily prepare for the wedding. Bahorel and Feuilly would not be swearing revenge. Jehan's poetry would not be filled with despair. And Grantaire…
"Combeferre, I know you have never been particularly fond of Grantaire but you must help him. I cannot bear to see him like he is, and I do not wish to be reunited with him in the afterlife so soon. I must be honest with you, Combeferre, I wish to hold him again, to comfort him, to tell him how much I love him and want the very best for him, but I cannot. I do not ask you to do that for me, but… please help him. It must be unfair of me to ask this, but I worry for him."
Combeferre fell into a grim silence. Then, he took the revolver and buried it into a drawer and grabbed his coat. As he stood before the door, he shook his head.
"I do not know what to do for him, Enjolras, but you loved him, and because of that I feel I must do something. I fear he may be a lost cause."
Enjolras smiled; the illusion of conversation was simply that, but it made his heart soar nonetheless. "He is never a lost cause, Combeferre. I have told you this many times. Believe in him as you both have believed in me, as you have believed in the Republic."
And with that, Combeferre left the apartment, but Enjolras did not follow this time. "Thank you, Combeferre."
As the weeks passed, Enjolras watched his friends fall into a new routine. Most continued to go about their lives as best as they could, though Courfeyrac's smiles were less bright, Jehan's poetry was more melancholy, and Joly took many breaks during his work to release extraneous emotion. Feuilly spent what little free time he had with Bahorel as the two engaged in the detective work the police cared little to perform, both of them using their outside contacts to find out what information they could. Enjolras worried for them, but there was little he could do to deter them in life and there was nothing he could do to do so now.
Bossuet seemed the most determined of everyone to move on. He did not begrudge the others, of course; he helped take some workload off of Courfeyrac's shoulders and helped him laugh as often as he could, he encouraged Jehan's poetry, and he provided a shoulder for Joly to cry on. Sometimes he made inquiries to Bahorel and Feuilly about their progress but did not join in on their activities.
Mostly, however, he cared for Grantaire who had taken up residence in the spare bedroom. Bossuet had Combeferre's aid, but there was very little the two of them could do. Grantaire played with his food absently and he only left the bed to relieve himself.
Combeferre did his best to see to it that Grantaire ate at least half of his meal, though the process often took a couple of hours at a time. Bossuet tried to converse with Grantaire, tried to laugh with him, tried to encourage him to go with him to a party or even just the dinner table when Musichetta made a lavish meal, but Grantaire shook his head and curled back under his covers.
Grantaire cried little and only alone at night. He did not have outbursts of grief anymore. With one glance, Enjolras could tell how much Combeferre and Bossuet longed for any outrageous display. Once, Bossuet suggested to Combeferre that they let some drink back into the apartment to see if it would help Grantaire come alive again, but Combeferre disagreed.
"He will drown himself in wine and absinthe if you give him the chance," said Combeferre. "We must continue to withhold it from him."
Occasionally Combeferre visited Enjolras and Grantaire's apartment to pay the rent and make sure dust did not collect in the absence of its inhabitants. There, Enjolras felt the strongest pull to Combeferre as the man tidied the old papers and books Enjolras had left behind and the destruction Grantaire had caused in his grief.
Combeferre ended his visits with a deep breath to fight the tears and a few words to Enjolras. Enjolras responded, enjoying the illusion of conversation he had with his oldest and dearest friend. It was Enjolras' favorite time since slipping away from life.
Enjolras' greatest pull to Grantaire, however, was at night when Grantaire stared longingly at the ceiling. He softly called out Enjolras' name, sobbed, and then drifted to sleep. Enjolras stayed at his side, caressing him and whispering to him anything and everything.
His greatest mistake came one night when Grantaire tossed and turned in a fit of a nightmare. Enjolras' words were useless to soothe him, so he held Grantaire's head in his hands and pressed their foreheads together. Enjolras closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, he was no longer in the darkened spare bedroom of Bossuet and Joly's apartment, but in a dense fog that carried the nauseating smell of burnt wood and gunpowder.
Enjolras turned and saw Grantaire standing there, his eyes wide and his face in disbelief. Enjolras, too, was surprised, but when he tried to call out Grantaire's name he found his lips glued together. Instead, he smiled.
Grantaire stumbled towards Enjolras and stroked his cheek. "It's you. Enjolras, it's you, alive! You're back! You're back! How could you leave me like that? How could you leave me devastated? Oh, what cruelty, faking your death like that! I should hate you for it, and yet… oh God, Enjolras, you're alive again and that is all that matters!"
Enjolras tried to protest, but again his mouth did not open. Not that it mattered, for Grantaire pressed his lips firmly against Enjolras' with a passion Enjolras missed. He kissed back as best as he could.
Too quickly the kiss ended, but Grantaire did not pull far away. "Have I offended you? Have I upset you? Is that why you left? Oh, I should have known better than to dream, than to believe, that you would tolerate me to be with me until we grew old together. I do not begrudge you for it. I did believe in it, though. I believed in our future together, even if I could never comprehend what a man like you would do with a wretch like me. The time we had together was the best of my life. Apart was the worst! Thinking you were dead was the worst! I wanted to be dead. I was dead! But now that you are here, I can live again!"
Enjolras held Grantaire tightly, wishing he could tell Grantaire that he was wrong, that Enjolras had not faked his death and that he would never hurt Grantaire as long as he could help it. But he was dead, and Grantaire was far more wounded than Enjolras ever wished to see him. Instead, Enjolras closed his eyes and relished being able to hold Grantaire again, to feel him again, and to have Grantaire hold him.
But the time could not last. The fog lifted to reveal fire and ash, soot and debris, and Enjolras was jerked away from Grantaire with a searing pain through his gut.
Then Enjolras was back in the apartment, holding his stomach far from Grantaire's bed. He looked up to see Grantaire sitting up in his bed, panting and drenching his sheets in sweat.
"Enjolras…" Grantaire murmured, and he screamed as realization dawned upon him.
Bossuet, Joly, and Musichetta burst into the room.
"Grantaire! What is wrong?" cried Bossuet as Musichetta gathered Grantaire into her arms.
Grantaire ignored Musichetta but did not push her away. "He is gone! He was here but now he is gone! Oh, how I am tormented by myself! I had finally become numb. I had finally begun to die! But then he was there in my dreams, and he felt so real, he looked so real, and I had fallen in love again and became alive again! But it was only a dream. A dream! Such cruel fates taunt me. He is gone and he will never come back!"
"Shh, shh," murmured Musichetta as she combed her fingers through his hair.
"And I saw him die again. He died again! And now I must live in torment once more, now I must forget to feel again! I cannot do this. I cannot! I must be with him, don't you see? Don't you see what I must do?"
"No, Grantaire, no," said Bossuet as Joly ran to find some medicine. "It was only a bad dream."
"It was the best dream! It was the happiest dream I ever had, which makes it my worst nightmare come true again. And it is proof, don't you see? It is proof that without Enjolras, I am dead. I am only alive with him, I can only live if he is with me!"
"But he is," insisted Musichetta.
"He is dead!"
Joly returned with a cup of tea and what Enjolras could only hope was something to help Grantaire calm down. "Here. Drink this."
"I don't want it."
Enjolras whispered, "Please, Grantaire."
After a moment's hesitation, Grantaire took the cup and drank it slowly.
He cried himself back to sleep and the pain in Enjolras' stomach was gone. Bossuet, Joly, and Musichetta looked at each other helplessly.
"I will stay with him," said Musichetta. "The poor man has been brought back to life in the worst way. He must not be left alone."
Bossuet nodded. "Please do not push yourself. If you need relief, come wake either of us up."
Bossuet and Joly left the room and Musichetta pulled up a chair next to Grantaire's bed. As she lulled him softly with a lullaby, Enjolras' chest began to ache.
For as much happiness as intruding upon Grantaire's dream had brought the both of them, Enjolras knew that he could never do that again. He worried for many things, but most of all for the consequences his mistake would cost Grantaire.
"What happened?" Combeferre demanded after Grantaire drifted to sleep.
The spare bedroom was in shambles. The chairs were overturned, the curtains ripped from their rings and shredded, and the drawers torn from the dresser. Feathers, food scraps, and porcelain littered the floor and the bed sheets that were stained from tea and medicine.
Combeferre had arrived quickly enough to help Bossuet placate Grantaire. Together they were able to pin him to the bed until he stopped flailing his arms and legs, which was enough for him to scream into his pillow and sob violently into unconsciousness.
"He dreamt of Enjolras last night," said Bossuet. "I don't know the specifics. Grantaire has not said anything more about it. He has not been like this since Enjolras died. Perhaps he dreamt of his life and then of his death. He only said it was the best dream."
"You suppose he relived the day?"
Combeferre pursed his lips as he studied the sleeping Grantaire. Enjolras wished there was some way to tell Combeferre that he had appeared before Grantaire in his dreams, that he had appeared just real enough to Grantaire that he might have not ever woken up if not for the subconscious, that he loved every second of their time together but because of what it had done to Grantaire, he would not risk it again. Combeferre would have disapproved, but he would have then been able to help Enjolras decipher what such an ability could mean.
"He is too unwell," said Combeferre. "If anything so much as reminds Grantaire of Enjolras, he might go off again."
"He only destroyed his apartment once when Enjolras died. I don't think he will lash out again," said Bossuet with a frown.
"This is not Grantaire's own apartment we speak of. It is not your apartment alone we speak of. You share this space with your lovers. Joly, Musichetta. Would you take that chance?"
Bossuet said, "Enjolras would."
Combeferre gave this a brief thought and then sighed in defeat. "Very well then. Shall I help you pick the room up?"
As the two replaced the drawers, removed the shredded fabric, and picked up the broken feathers and porcelain, upon which Bossuet managed to cut up all his fingers doing, Enjolras considered his own actions from the night previous. He had, of course, not meant to intrude upon Grantaire's dream. He did not even understand how he had done it or why it had occurred. Perhaps Combeferre could make sense of it, if he even knew about it. The only way he could know for sure was if Grantaire told him; unfortunately, Enjolras was unsure if Grantaire understood it at all himself.
Was this something he could do to anybody? What if he entered Combeferre's dreams? Perhaps they could communicate somehow, easier than he ever could with Grantaire!
But no, Enjolras realized. It was a dangerous thing to do, and to be a willing invader upon his dearest friend's subconscious was an atrocious thought. He knew that Combeferre would never hold it against him, but could Enjolras forgive himself? He had not begun to do so for doing it to Grantaire.
When Joly and Musichetta returned home with supper, Grantaire was still asleep. Combeferre and Bossuet explained to them what had happened earlier, and Joly and Musichetta took the news in stride.
"I will feed Grantaire his food myself," said Musichetta with a nod. "And as soon as he wakes up I will give him the spare sheets and throw out the old in case any broken pieces were left behind."
"Should I prepare a sedative just in case?" asked Joly.
Combeferre shook his head. "No. You will not need it. And Musichetta, feeding Grantaire will be unnecessary. He is a grown man capable of feeding himself. The tantrum was an isolated incident. But I thank you both."
And Enjolras smiled.
They offered Combeferre to stay for dinner, but he declined, and Enjolras found himself stuck by Comeferre's side as he walked home.
There was so much he wanted to say to Combeferre, but alas, there was nothing he could say that Combeferre could hear. So he stayed silent, waiting for Combeferre to begin their conversations as he always did.
He did not. Not through the walk home, not through his own dinner, not through reading one of his many thick books. Combeferre remained silent, almost peaceful, as though he had been as successful in Bossuet in moving on.
Except, however, when he finally climbed into bed and murmured Enjolras' name with a melancholy sigh before falling asleep. Enjolras fell to his knees by Combeferre's bedside and grasped his hand between his.
"Combeferre! I have much to confess to you. I know you cannot hear me. I have pretended that you could because I miss talking with you, but now I cannot pretend anymore. Hear me, if you can. Hear me and know the crime I have committed against my own lover."
Enjolras spoke of the night previous and spared no detail. Then he spoke of his own fears and reservations, of how much he wanted Combeferre to hear and see him to the point he considered briefly going where he did not belong, and finally how he treasured Combeferre too much to do it.
"I am dead, Combeferre. I do not know why I still linger but I never wanted to shield myself from any of your pains. Not yours, not Grantaire's, or Courfeyrac, Jehan, Bahorel, Feuilly, Bossuet, Joly. But I fear I am doing more harm than good by staying.
"I wish you could help, but you are helping Grantaire, and that is enough. I am fine. I am dead. I cannot be anything but alright. But why did I enter Grantaire's dream? How could I? And yours… how I wish to enter yours!"
Enjolras closed his eyes but jumped back when he felt Combeferre's fingers curl around his hand. He pulled away as the room around him flashed into a fog once and then disappear as soon as he jerked away from Combeferre.
"Combeferre," Enjolras murmured. "Combeferre, I am so sorry."
After the first time they made love, they stayed with their noses touching and panting with peaceful smiles. Enjolras touched Grantaire's face and Grantaire leaned into his hand, kissing it gently.
"I never thought, never dared to dream…"
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
As tears welled in Grantaire's eyes their lips met again and their arms wrapped around each other in an entanglement Enjolras found he never wanted to escape from.
Tonight, with one glance Enjolras knew that Grantaire remembered that moment as though it was yesterday. It had been a week since the dream, and Grantaire had mellowed into frequent broken sobs for which there was little consolation. He still did not leave the bed, and he barely spoke or ate, and he slept often. Tonight, however, as Joly and Bossuet and Musichetta retired for the night, Enjolras feared that Grantaire had no plans to sleep.
An hour passed after the apartment quieted. Grantaire pulled the sheets off himself and quietly pulled open his drawers. He slipped into his trousers and a clean shirt and waistcoat, and he wrapped a cravat around his neck but did not bother to tie it. After slipping on his shoes, he tiptoed out of the apartment, and Enjolras felt the onset of panic.
"Grantaire, what are you doing?" he murmured as he followed Grantaire down the street.
Soon they arrived at a darkened yet rambunctious tavern. "Don't," cried Enjolras as Grantaire walked inside. Enjolras sighed; despite all of Bossuet and Joly's best efforts, Grantaire could not be kept from his drink forever.
Grantaire approached the bar and made his order. After downing one glass of absinthe he asked for another, and then another, until finally he turned to watch the other patrons.
His eyes finally fell upon the loudest group of men and women as they guffawed and cackled and the men made lewd passes at the waitresses and the women danced in the men's laps, covering their faces and necks in kisses and tongue. The men were big enough to be Bahorel's older brothers; the women dressed as though they were out to make money. The men shared their drinks among each other and they challenged each other to dominoes and card games and arm wrestling matches. The women hid their smirks.
Enjolras wondered what Grantaire's interest was in them but as Grantaire approached them, he knew he did not wish to know the answer like this. Grantaire tapped the biggest man on the shoulder, and when he turned to face Grantaire with an annoyed scowl, Grantaire threw a punch into the man's face.
The man stumbled backwards into the table, spilling drink all over his companions. He was on his feet instantly and without a word lunged at Grantaire.
They fought and wrestled until they were out of the tavern, and the man's friends had rallied to join him on the streets. Grantaire was outmatched and outnumbered and soon stopped fighting. The men continued to throw blows and kicks.
"Bahorel!" cried Enjolras, wishing desperately that his friends would come to end this. "Feuilly! Combeferre!"
Finally, the men had enough and left Grantaire curled up bleeding and bruised on the pavement. Enjolras relief that Grantaire was still breathing was short-lived; he pulled himself to his knees and spat on the leader of the group.
"What?" slurred Grantaire as he swayed, a smirk underneath his swollen and bloodied face. "Had enough have you, you sniveling little—"
Grantaire did not have the chance to finish. The leader stormed back to him and forced him to his feet by his collar, rearing back for another punch, his companions circling around them.
Then a gunshot rang out.
Enjolras could not have been happier. "Combeferre!"
There he stood, his revolver pointed at the sky and a deadly scowl pointed at the gang. "Let him go."
"This does not concern you," the leader snapped.
Combeferre pointed the gun at him. "Now."
They stared at each other for a long moment as though the leader considered the possibility that Combeferre would actually shoot them. Finally, he snarled and shoved Grantaire to the ground.
"He isn't worth my time anyway."
As the gang disappeared back into the tavern, Combeferre knelt beside Grantaire and grabbed his face to inspect it.
"What were you doing? Were you trying to get yourself killed?"
Grantaire kept his gaze on Combeferre's shoes. "I miss him."
"So it was that. I was hoping that you were going to tell me that they had done something to Bossuet or Joly and you were here to defend their honor, or better yet, that those brutes had picked the fight with you! Where are Joly and Bossuet?"
Combeferre nodded. "You sneaked out then. That makes sense." He sighed. "Can you stand? Walk?"
"I can die."
"You will not."
Combeferre slung Grantaire's arm over his shoulder and lifted him to his feet, but Grantaire jerked away and fell back to the pavement.
"No! I am not trying to kill myself this time, don't you see! I want to be with Enjolras. I need to be with Enjolras. I remember too much about him. I see him whether I'm asleep or I'm awake. He is everywhere and nowhere, but none of that matters because he is not here! And so I must see to my own death. I am not trying to kill myself! I am trying to get killed!"
"There is no difference."
"Is there not? Combeferre, I cannot bear to live. I cannot stand life. Please, leave me alone in the gutter to die. Let my wounds become infected, let me bleed out! Let them come back to finish me off! Or I shall find another gang. Maybe they will have guns. Guns, and you will be too late to save me!"
"I am trying to!"
Combeferre looked absolutely exasperated. "Grantaire, do you think Enjolras would ever forgive either of us if I left you here and now? Do you think I could forgive myself?"
"I would forgive you. It would be the first kindness you showed me. A greater kindness would be if you were to put a bullet in me yourself."
"I will not do it."
"You are cruel!"
"Then so be it," snapped Combeferre as he jerked Grantaire to his feet again and dragged him along despite the drunk man's stumbles and protestations. "We need to get you cleaned up and then returned to Bossuet and Joly's before they discover you are gone. You look absolutely horrible."
"No worse than usual," muttered Grantaire.
And Combeferre grimly smiled. "So it is then."
They sat in silence in Combeferre's apartment. Grantaire barely winced whenever Combeferre applied wet cloths and bandages upon his open wounds, but he did not push Combeferre away when he went to inspect the rest of his body. For that much, Enjolras was relieved.
"You have a broken rib, but your limbs are fine," said Combeferre. "The bruises and swelling make you look worse than you really are. Here, drink this."
Grantaire took the bowl from Combeferre but did not put it to his mouth. "Why do you bother? You hate me."
"I do not."
"You didn't like that I was with Enjolras. You hated that he chose me. You thought I was unworthy. You probably still do. No, I know you do. I don't hold it against you. I could never believe he was with me. I know I was never worth his attention or his affections—"
Combeferre scowled. "Enough. Enjolras was capable of making his own decisions. My opinion on the matter of the two of you is unimportant. Now drink the medicine."
"You wish I died instead of him. All of you do. So why do you keep me alive now? Do you hate me so much you enjoy my suffering without him?"
"Drink the medicine."
Grantaire's shoulder slumped. "So it is that you hate me and you wish to see me suffer."
Enjolras noticed Combeferre's fingers curl into a fist. He gently placed his ghostly hand on top of them, silently begging him to keep his temper. Combeferre loosened his fists and knelt before Grantaire, making sure that their eyes met.
"Hear me now, and hear me well. Nobody wishes for your death, not even in exchange for Enjolras' life. You are the only one who wants that. But let me tell you that not even Enjolras would want your death, not even now. It is not because he would not want to be with you. It is because he wanted you to live and be happy. I know you believe you cannot live or cannot be happy without him, and I know you see no end to your misery until death takes you, but believe me, your death will solve nothing."
Grantaire snapped, "I have heard all of this before."
"But you have not heard this: I do not wish that you had died instead of Enjolras. I wish I had died. This would upset him, I know this, but I do not care. I should have been the one taken by that explosion. Not him. And I know that he would not want this for me. I know that given the choice between my life and his he would have always chosen mine to spare. This does not matter to me.
"We are not the same, you and I, but I know what it means to live with him and to live without him. It is impossible to carry on. I want to be dead. The reason I am not is simple: I have always respected Enjolras' requests and judgment. If this is what he wants for me, for us, to live and be happy, then I will strive for it. If you loved him, you would do the same."
"Do not accuse me of not loving him!" snarled Grantaire. "It is because I love him I cannot live without him! My life was dark before him, and then he became my light. Even if he never loved me back, he was still there, giving me reason to live another day! And now he is gone, and my world has never been darker."
"All of our worlds are darker, but we carry on."
"You are all stronger than I am."
Combeferre sighed and stood, shaking his head as he went back to the table full of his medical supplies. "You give yourself too little credit. Drink."
Enjolras smiled as Grantaire gaped at Combeferre's back. He had told Grantaire this once after Louis-Philippe abdicated and everyone began to find their place in the new republic. Grantaire felt he would fit in nowhere, but Enjolras assured him otherwise. That memory was not lost to Grantaire, and without a word he hesitantly took a sip from the bowl.
"That is disgusting!"
Grantaire made a face but did as he was told. When he finished, he set the bowl aside. He scanned the room, awake for the first time since Enjolras' death, when his eyes fell upon something on Combeferre's bookshelf. Grantaire tried to stand but cried out as he did so. Combeferre was immediately at his side to ease back down.
"That," Grantaire gasped, pointing to the leather bound folder on the bookshelf. "That is Enjolras'."
Combeferre glanced to where Grantaire indicated. "Yes."
"Why do you have it? It has nothing for the government in there. It is music."
"Why do you have it?"
Combeferre remained stoic, but Enjolras heard the trace of regret in his voice as he said, "Because I never had the chance to hear him play."
"Oh." A beat. "I did."
Grantaire was not smug when he said this. Instead he was solemn but not sheepish. Combeferre stared at him without a trace of surprise or jealousy, asking Grantaire to continue.
And so Grantaire did. "It was when we went to his family's place for the Easter holiday. I never knew he used to play the piano before then. He feared that he was out of practice since he had not played in a few years, since coming to Paris, but he was…" Grantaire smiled. "… beautiful. I do not know how else to explain it. I am not as good with words as Prouvaire is, or you or Courfeyrac, but I just remember the sun coming in through the windows and just… him. Enjolras and the music that flowed from his soul and through the piano. Forgive me."
Grantaire hung his head and wiped his eyes. Enjolras embraced him, smiling as he went back to that day.
It was the first time since leaving home that he had touched those cold keys, but he remembered everything: how his fingers were supposed to curl, where the notes were, his foot pressing down on the pedals he had an easier time of reaching. There was no one else in the house that day but himself and Grantaire, and he knew that Grantaire's curiosity was piqued ever since his mother offhandedly mentioned Enjolras' passion before the republic. So Enjolras decided to treat Grantaire to one of his favorite pieces, and they had returned to Paris with that leather folder filled with all of the songs Enjolras treasured most.
Combeferre frowned and hesitantly asked, "Do you want it back?"
"No. I have the memory, though neither his music nor my memory could ever bring him back, and he's who I want back the most. Keep it. Please."
Combeferre nodded and then glanced at the clock upon his wall. "You shall stay here for the night, then. I will send a message to Joly and Bossuet so that they know where you have gone. We'll see you back to their home tomorrow. You must rest now."
He helped Grantaire into the bed and blew out a couple of candles to dim the light. As he jotted the missive for Joly and Bossuet, Grantaire stared at him for a long while and murmured as he drifted to sleep, "Thank you, Combeferre."
He was asleep before Combeferre could respond, and Enjolras quietly repeated the sentiments.
"No," murmured Combeferre. "Thank you."