"You came just in time, monsieur," said the doctor breathlessly, his hands already flying over Marius, tearing away his blood- and shit-soaked jacket and shirt. "A minute later and he would have been lost."
Valjean watched over the doctor's shoulder. His back was aching and his eyes stung with adrenaline and exhaustion, but he took no notice. His entire energy was concentrated on the boy in front of him. The boy who was going to live, by God, if Valjean had to march up to Saint Pierre himself and demand it be so.
He was surprised from his convicted reverie by a splash, for the doctor had dumped a bucket of water over Marius, clearing away most of the shit, but the bullet wound was still bleeding, the red stark against his pale skin.
Please, God, Valjean prayed. Please, he must live.
Warm dark wrapped around him in soft embrace. There was no more pain, only the soft comforting warmth. Marius let out his breath in a contented sigh. It was over. He was done, free. He did not quite remember from what, but he remembered that it was awful and painful and frightening. He much preferred to be here.
A pinpoint of light appeared at the center of his vision, just a tiny spot of pure white against the blackness. As he watched, it widened into a beam, larger and larger, until it washed over his face, bringing with it a feeling of utter comfort and safety. From somewhere beyond the beam, he could swear he could hear singing, a chorus of a thousand voices calling to him, beckoning him home. He took a step toward the light.
"Marius,what are you doing?" The voice was sharp and stern, and could belong to only one man.
Marius turned reluctantly away from the light and saw the familiar face. "'Jolras," he said. "What happened? Where are the others?" The words appeared in his mind as quickly as they came out of his mouth, for with Enjolras' appearance had come the flood of memories: Courfeyrac and Grantaire passing around the wine, little Gavroche climbing the barricade. Little Gavroche lying dead on the stone, eyes wide and staring. The explosions, the bullets all around them. Eponine. Marius winced. He didn't want to remember. He squeezed his eyes shut but the images kept flowing, surrounding him, soaking him in blood.
"They're gone." Enjolras' voice cracked. "They're already gone. I stayed behind to wait for you."
"For me?" said Marius. "Why?"
Enjolras grinned his old cocky grin, the one Marius had not seen for so long, not since before Enjolras had taken the reins of the resistance, had climbed above the rabble and gathered them, aligned them into the troops. Or so they'd thought. Marius could see in Enjolras' eyes that they were thinking the same thing: he had not lined them up like the elite soldiers they'd pretended to be, but into a queue at the door of the slaughterhouse.
"Someone had to be here to send you home," he said.
"Home?" repeated Marius. "But…I'm coming with you."
"No, Marius." Enjolras shook his head sadly. "Not yet, you're not. You've got to go back. You've got a wife to marry, a live to live. I see it all now. I was wrong." He moved closer to Marius, looked hard at him. "Go back to Cosette. Make your little life count, mon ami." He stepped past Marius and started walking toward the light. The edges of his body blurred. Just before he became an indistinguishable shape, he stopped and turned back to survey Marius sternly.
"And I don't want to see you for sixty more years, are we clear?"
Marius stared at him. "We're clear."
"Good." Enjolras kept walking until he disappeared completely into the beam of light. Then all of a sudden a strong force pulled at Marius from behind, dragging him backwards away from the light. Icy wind rushed through his ears, but through the roaring he was sure he could hear Enjolras' voice say, Remember us.
He awoke to an unfamiliar ceiling with his side aching and his lungs burning. Everything hurt. The memories burned fresh in his mind, flooding his vision with red. Every night he dreamed of his friends, watched each and every one fall from the barricade. He thrashed and screamed, and then Cosette was there, holding him, speaking softly to him in her sweet nightingale's voice. He could not have recalled what she said, but whatever it was soothed the screaming nerves, calmed him until morning.
When he saw the face of the tiny pink bundle in her arms, he knew exactly which name to choose.
"Enjolras." The name sounded like a song on his wife's tongue as she crooned it to their newborn son. "It's beautiful."
All of them came to him before the end, Enjolras and his wife and their children, and Eponine and her husband and daughter. His children and grandchildren gathered around him like he was Père Noël. They kissed him and said they loved him and brought him tea and biscuits for which he was not hungry, but he ate them anyway. Cosette hushed them away after a little while, though, in that mother hen way of hers. She held his hand and sang to him, and he told her that her voice was as beautiful as the day they met. She smiled at him.
The next thing he knew he was wrapped once more in that warm darkness, and he realized that he'd never forgotten the feeling of the peace it had brought him. He turned away from the growing light and cast about for the one he knew was waiting.
The voice still came from behind him. "There you are, Marius. Right on time."
This time, Enjolras came from the light, sharpening from a shadow into a man, looking exactly the same as he had sixty years ago, with his sharp chin and bright, dancing eyes. He beamed at Marius and looked at his watch.
"Sixty-two years, to the day." He looked back up at Marius. "Good timing." His eyes swept up and down Marius, from his carpet slippers and bathrobe to his wrinkled face and grey-haired head. "Mon Dieu, you're in a state."
Marius laughed. "Age will do that to you." He jabbed playfully at Enjolras. "Not that you'd know."
"Haha!" laughed Enjolras, ducking the blow. "Take a shot, old man." He made a victory lap around Marius' hunched figure, then linked arms with him and said, more seriously, "Come on, it's time. Everyone's waiting for you." Together they walked towards the bright light until it enveloped them, momentarily blinding Marius. When he could see again, he found that they were standing on an enormous barricade, a hundred feet high, stretching as far as the eye could see, and they were surrounded by the faces of all his friends, all the friends he had never forgotten. And he could hear the music again, loud and strong.
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light.