Les Hommes de la Miséricorde
(Or Men of Mercy)
A/N: Hi readers! In this AU premise, Valjean manages to save a handful of Les Amis and things continue from there, turning the tide of the story for all our favorite major characters. This is a mix of book, stage show, and movie, with elements of each.
I hope you enjoy!
Chapter 1: The Barricade
Valjean still isn't sure how he managed it.
All he knows is that a bullet is flying toward a ten-year-old boy and he's launching half his body over the barricade wall and pulling Gavroche back, losing his grip and sending the little one flying back onto the concrete, barely missing the bullet himself.
"Gavroche!" the boy called Grantaire shouts, rushing over to him and scooping him up. "What the hell were you thinking! Are you alright?" He looks over at Valjean in utter awe, then looks back at the child in front of him.
"M'fine," Gavroche mumbles, rubbing the back of his head. "I was only trying to get the ammunition." He hugs Grantaire briefly, and catches Valjean's gaze, silent but very grateful.
"I know," Grantaire says, the usual playfulness gone from his tone. "But you aren't to go back out there. Our lives are one thing…"
"But yours is quite another," Enjolras finishes, looking both shaken but firm. "Back in the café with you. Do not come back out, do you hear me?" His tone is kind but there's also something formidable there, something that even Gavroche won't argue with.
The boy nods, still looking a bit defiant even as Grantaire follows him inside, obviously intending to watch him. Valjean looks around at the wide-eyed revolutionaries, seeing how upset they are at nearly seeing Gavroche killed before their eyes; they're like surrogate brothers to him.
"Thank you monsieur," Enjolras breathes, resting a slightly trembling hand on Valjean's shoulder. "I'm not quite sure how you did that. I couldn't forgive myself if something happened to Gavroche. Nor could Grantaire. Or any of us."
"I'm not sure how I did it either," Valjean answers honestly, surveying the young man before him, who he guesses is in his mid-twenties, though his face looks much younger, somehow. He's incredibly brave, that much is clear, he's passionate, intelligent, but underneath the courageous face he puts on for his compatriots, Valjean can tell he's frightened; not for himself, but for the lives of his brothers in arms.
Enjolras knows his friends were fully aware of what they were getting involved in, knows death is an inevitable part of revolution, but he also clearly wants to save as many of them as possible.
Valjean thinks France would do well to have more young men like them, young men who possess such compassion and empathy for those suffering around them.
"You are a blessing Monsieur Fauchelevent," Marius says, joining the two of them, and Valjean feels his heart twist in his chest as he imagines telling his sweet, beloved Cosette that the boy she loves is dead.
He cannot let that happen.
Because if anyone in the world deserves happiness, it's her. He remembers her lost in the woods, shivering in the freezing cold wearing nearly broken wooden shoes, dirt streaked across her face.
His thoughts, however, are interrupted by the call of the National Guard.
"You at the barricade listen to this! The people of Paris sleep in their beds! You have no chance, no chance at all! Why throw your lives away?"
Valjean can't help but hear the pleading in the man's voice…he doesn't want to give the order to shoot…
But he will.
Because it's his duty.
Adrenaline races through Valjean's veins like electricity and he raises his gun, glancing over at Marius, who is nodding at Enjolras, a spark in his eyes.
"Let us die facing our foes, make them bleed while we can!" Enjolras declares, fire with just a pinch of fear blazing through his bright blue eyes, his gaze running over his friends, one hand resting on his heart.
"Make them pay through the nose!"
"Make them pay for every man!"
"Let others rise to take our place, until the earth is free!" Enjolras raises his arm in the air, and the other boys, though still afraid, join him, their eyes shining with determination. Enjolras has sent away those with wives and children, so it is just these few left. Grantaire comes back from inside the café, shutting the door closed on Gavroche and seizes a gun, his expression full of admiration for Enjolras.
They are bonded together, these young men, and they will follow their leader, will stand firm with the dream of a free France living in their hearts.
Unto the dream of freedom.
"Canons!" the national guardsman shouts, and Valjean inches himself closer to Marius, determined to drag him out of here should he fall.
The guns go off around him, the sound exploding in his ears. He gains a footing on the barricade itself, his bullets piercing several national guards in front of him.
And then the canon goes off.
"Move!" he shouts at Marius, who is so intent on pumping out bullets that he isn't paying attention.
Marius jumps, nearly colliding with Enjolras as the cannonball comes blasting through the barricade, sending four other boys soaring through the air.
They're dead before they hit the ground.
But there's no time to grieve, not yet.
National guards come sprinting through the hole in barricade, and what follows can only be deemed a blood bath, with men falling on both sides.
But there aren't more than twenty-five young men left and there are hundreds of soldiers now that this is the only barricade remaining, and Valjean's heart physically aches as they fall. It's raining blood, and he can't save them all.
Then he hears the sound he's feared most.
"Marius!" Courfeyrac shouts! "Duck!"
But it's too late.
A bullet pierces Marius' abdomen and he goes down, blood spilling forth. Throwing caution to the winds, Valjean rushes over just as the boy's eyes flutter closed, and he quickly checks his pulse.
He's alive, just unconscious, but that could easily change.
He spies a small entrance to what looks like the sewer and makes an instantaneous decision. He places Marius as gently as he can upon his own shoulders and makes for the entrance, pushing it open. None of the guards notice in the mayhem, and his eyes fall on the small knot of boys still left. He pushes Marius inside the tunnel and calls out to Grantaire, who is nearest him.
"Grantaire! Bring Gavroche here, and we'll escape through the sewer. The barricade is overrun. There's no need to lose your lives here!"
Valjean isn't sure if Grantaire will convince the other boys, isn't sure if he'll come himself, but he does go to retrieve Gavroche and shields him with his own body before depositing him in the sewer tunnel next to the unconscious Marius. Enjolras spies them, taking in the situation, a plan forming in his eyes.
Valjean watches the thoughts and emotions flit across the boy's face; He desires revolution for the people of France with every fiber of his being, desires victory so that change can take root, but he also knows this barricade is lost; but his love of his friends, his yearning to save them, triumphs.
If he gets them out, they can live to fight another day.
He places himself in front of the sewer opening, gun poised.
"Grantaire, follow Gavroche, he might need help through there. Courfeyrac, Combeferre, Jehan, Feuilly come!" Enjolras shouts, ushering them past him as he shoots into the oncoming stream of soldiers, the spattered blood of his dead friends dotting his blonde hair and dripping down his face.
Valjean watches as they all run past Enjolras one by one, doing as he says without question.
Only Jehan isn't quick enough.
He falls, a single bullet piercing his heart.
He's dead in seconds.
Enjolras reaches for him, desperately trying to drag him toward the sewer, but the ground is slick with blood, and he slips.
"Enjolras!" Combeferre cries, tears flooding his voice. "He's dead, Enjolras, come on!"
Enjolras pauses then backs up slowly, guarding their escape with his gun and the others back up to give him room to enter, his hands drenched with red from trying to save Jehan's already dead body.
Another gunshot flies through the air, hitting Enjolras deep in the shoulder.
And then a second in his thigh.
"Halt!" Valjean hears the army general call, and the flood of guards ceases.
Enjolras stumbles and falls, clinging to consciousness. Grantaire hands Gavroche to Courfeyrac and reaches out for Enjolras, the sound of a lone pair of footsteps approaching.
It's the army general.
He stares hard, gun pointed directly at them, but his eyes swim with conflict, with melancholy, and he hesitates. Enjolras winces, breathing in sharply with pain as his hand grasps Grantaire's arm, the two of them frozen in place in front of the guard.
A tension-packed moment passes, and Valjean's heart is in his mouth, threatening to leap out and sprint off down the street. With all of his years spent hiding from Javert, with all the years spent constructing a new identity and having multiple houses for an extra precaution, he's used to this feeling, but it doesn't mean that makes it any easier. Even in the convent he'd been constantly on his guard.
"They've gone into the café!" the army general shouts, lowering his gun, pushing Enjolras onto Grantaire's shoulders and shutting the door to the sewer just as another flood of his men come running over the barricade.
They're left in the darkness now, left in the overpowering stench, but Valjean doesn't move until he hears the footsteps pass them as they follow their commanding officer's fake trail back into the café.
It's an act of mercy from an unexpected source, but Valjean silently thanks the unnamed solider.
He shifts Marius onto his shoulders, mirroring Grantaire's stance with Enjolras, whose eyes fall closed, the pain sending him spiraling into unconsciousness.
But he's still breathing.
Gavroche's voice cuts into the silence, and the always courageous child finally allows a tinge of fear into his voice. His gaze flits back and forth between Valjean and Grantaire.
"Are they alive?" he whispers.
"Yes, Gavroche," Grantaire says, keeping his own terror in check and holding out Enjolras' limp wrist for Gavroche to touch. "See? He's still got a pulse."
Gavroche nods, then reaches over to do the same with Marius.
"How do we even get out of here?" Courfeyrac asks, voicing the question that everyone else is thinking. "The Paris sewer system, it's like a maze."
"I'm not sure," Valjean admits. "But it was the only way out of there." He pauses, soaking in their grief for their friends, their grief for the loss of their revolution.
"Joly, Bousset, Bahorel…Jehan," Combeferre whispers, their names sounding like a prayer on his lips. "So many dead, I don't…" he trails off, eyes falling first on Marius, then on Enjolras, their fallen leader, his medically-trained brain assessing their injuries and the very obvious risk for infection inside this place.
"I know," Valjean says, gentle. "I know. But right now we've got to concentrate on getting out of here. You'll show me the way to Marius' grandfather's house..."
"Marius' isn't welcome at his grandfather's house," Feuilly points out. "They've had a falling out."
"I think you'll find he'll change his mind when he sees the state of his grandson," Valjean says kindly. "We will at least try. The rest of you shall stay with me."
"You have room for all of us in your home?" Grantaire asks. "A place for Enjolras to recover? They might not have the information to come hunting all of us, but they know who Enjolras is, he's on every list in Paris."
"You'll be safe, all of you," Valjean assures him. "I promise."
"Monsieur," Grantaire presses. "Why are you being so generous?"
Valjean turns to him, knowing it's only fair that they don't quite trust a stranger in the midst of their tightly knit camaraderie.
"My daughter Cosette, she loves your friend Marius here," Valjean says, a small smile on his face, a strange sadness mixing with a strange sort of joy in the pit of his stomach. "How could I be anything but generous to his friends?"
They soak in his words, terrified but trusting him.
Because who else do they have to trust now?
"I think I might know a way out of here," Gavroche pipes up. "I come down here sometimes."
Valjean finds he doesn't want to think about why a child would come down into the sewers, so instead he allows Gavroche to direct him from atop Courfeyrac's shoulders, and leads them deeper into the darkness.
And hopefully toward the light.
A/N: Side-note- my characterization of the national guard is based on Hadley Fraser's very interesting portrayal of said character in the Les Mis film. To me, it just really looked like he didn't want to shoot those boys, and I'd never imagined it like that before, hence the idea for that bit in this chapter.