SUMMARY: In which Enjolras needs Grantaire's help, and Grantaire is unwillingly sober. Set at the end of the July Revolution of 1830.
CANON: musical/book fusion
PAIRING: unrequited Grantaire/Enjolras
NOTES: Note that in this story Enjolras is a trans man; I would appreciate it if anyone reviewing refrained from calling him a woman in reviews, as I and a lot of other people with more personal reasons to do so find misgendering upsetting.
Many, many thanks to skygiants, feverbeats, and Piscaria for betaing, and Sineala for translation help. Any remaining historical errors or fail in writing about a transgender character are mine, and I would like to know about them so I might fix them.
With Faith Unfearful
It was hot in July of 1830, hot and dry as an oven, so that Grantaire could scarcely bring himself to do anything but sprawl across his bed in his shirtsleeves, with all the windows of his apartment open for the meager breeze. The nights had been eerily quiet since the barricades went up, and dark from the smashed streetlamps. During the day Grantaire could hear the periodic sound of breaking glass, or distant gunfire—although those had mostly ceased earlier that afternoon. But that was in other parts of the city, and it did not concern him. What difference did it make if they managed to overthrow le Bien-Aimé? There would only be another after him. It was all the same.
He wished the infernal heat would break.
"Grantaire!" The shout from the street was a familiar voice, a voice he always listened to even when he feigned disinterest; but it was impossible, surely a hallucination brought on by the heat. "Grantaire, are you drunk already? Let me in!"
It was perhaps a minor miracle that he was not drunk, but he had finished the last of his brandy the day before, and valued his skin too much to venture out into the streets until the bourgeoisie and the Swiss Guard had quite finished shooting at each other.
So at least he knew, when he opened the door, that Enjolras was not a figment of drink, either, although he looked like a revenant, beautiful and terrible and white as a Roman marble. He had lost his coat somewhere. He must have come from the barricades, for the left shoulder of his shirt was scarlet with blood, and there was blood matting the golden curls at his temple and dried down his cheek. "I need your help," he said, as if it was a perfectly ordinary thing to say, and not something Grantaire had never thought to hear.
It was a lot of blood, and the sight made Grantaire's gut churn unpleasantly and his head spin. But it could not be so bad, if Enjolras had walked here from the barricades. "I will fetch a doctor. Or look for Joly—" But for all he knew Joly was still at the barricades—
"No!" Enjolras had placed himself between Grantaire and the door, hands flung out as if he could stop him from going out, even though he was swaying alarmingly. "No," he said, with less of sharpness in his voice, "It must be you. I trust you."
A feeling of warmth blossomed in Grantaire's chest, all-encompassing and brilliant; perhaps this was how other men felt all the time, men who believed—and then it turned to cold stone in an instant when Enjolras continued, almost in a whisper, "It does not matter if you believe in me."
"I am no surgeon," said Grantaire, trying not to sound as bitter as he felt as he helped Enjolras sit down at the table.
"It will be fine. You'll need water, and something for bandages." Enjolras was using the firm, thrilling voice he used with his friends, the one that could convince a man that he was capable of what he had thought himself incapable a moment before. It had never worked on Grantaire before.
Grantaire found a basin and an old shirt that would do for rags, feeling unsteady in his sobriety and wishing for the brandy to steady his nerves. What if Enjolras' wound needed stitching? The woman who came in to clean and mend his clothing once a week might have left a needle and thread, but Grantaire had only the vaguest idea of how to use them. And the thought of having to draw a needle through Enjolras' flesh made him feel sick and faint.
"Just cut it off," said Enjolras, when Grantaire plucked gingerly at the blood-sodden sleeve. He then pressed his lips tightly together, until they began to pale, and squeezed his eyes shut.
The shirt fell away in tatters to the floor beneath the shear-blades, except where the fabric still clung to one arm and across his collarbone, sickeningly wet and crimson. Underneath, Enjolras' chest was bandaged all about with mostly clean white linen, a little blood-spotted near his left shoulder and damp with sweat under the arms and down the middle of his chest—his chest—
Grantaire blinked, frozen with the shears in one hand and the other still resting lightly on Enjolras' shoulder, staring at the narrow waist, the flare of hip, that he had never noticed before.
And because Grantaire was who he was, the first thing that came to mind slipped out: "Well, that does explain how you always achieve such a fashionable figure."
Enjolras' eyes flew open, very wide and blue. "Grantaire—"
"It doesn't matter." It did not, in the slightest. Enjolras was still Enjolras. Looking at him was always a terrible mixture of the sublime and the agonizing. Or her? Grantaire could not see a woman in Enjolras' stern looks or masculine carriage, curve of waist or no. "Let me finish. How did it happen?"
Grantaire peeled off the remainder of the shirt, as carefully as he could, but his hands were shaking, and he cringed a little inside every time the cloth stuck to the wound and Enjolras winced. There was a great deal of blood, and he had to swallow back a little bile and close his eyes for a moment until his stomach settled every so often.
Enjolras hissed a little through his teeth as the last of the shirt came away. "A bayonet," Enjolras said. "I did not think it so bad, at first, but once the fighting had died down—I did not think I could bandage it myself."
"Has your revolution ended already, then?" Grantaire asked; if he could not give Enjolras anything for the pain, perhaps ranting about his political ideals would at least distract him. Three days: not much of a revolution. He bent and took a wet cloth to Enjolras' arm and began dabbing at it as gently as he could. The water in the basin turned pink, then red. He carefully did not look at Enjolras' chest.
"Near enough," said Enjolras, with a disdainful curl of his lips. "We took the Hôtel de Ville this afternoon, but—there is talk of the Duke of Orléans, and constitutional monarchy. It is not what we dreamed of—par Dieu, Grantaire!" His shoulder jerked.
"I am sorry," Grantaire said, peering at the wound as closely as he could bear. It was still bleeding sluggishly, but not as much as he had thought before, and the edges of it were clean. Likely it was only that Enjolras would keep tearing at the wound every time he moved his arm. "You ought to wear a sling for a while, but I do not think it needs stitching, at least." But what did he know about that? He knew a great many useless things, about Robespierre and Lamarck and the Rights of Man—his mind seemed to grasp to knowledge as firmly as a barnacle to a pier, no matter how little he cared for it—but not how to tell if a wound needed stitching. "But I don't know. Are you sure—"
"No!" Enjolras said tightly. "Not Joly. Bind it up, if you think that will do." I trust you, he had said earlier, but why? Because he knew that Grantaire loved him? Grantaire had not thought he would notice. Because he knew no one listened to Grantire's ranting?
It was impossible to bind up someone's wounds without touching them: the clean, unmarred skin of Enjolras' shoulder was smooth and warm under his fingers, and Grantaire thought he trembled a little. Enjolras was biting into his bottom lip so hard it was turning white. Did it hurt that much, or was Enjolras so unused to being touched—or so averse to Grantaire—that he could scarcely bear it? He dared not ask.
At last it was done: not the neatest job, but it would hold well enough.
Grantaire helped Enjolras into a clean shirt and one of his spare waistcoats, a brilliantly ugly thing that Enjolras would never have chosen for himself. It was too short and a little too wide, but it would do.
"Grantaire," Enjolras said, and then stopped. His expression was one Grantaire had never seen before, baffled and grateful and wary all at once. "Aren't you going to ask?"
Grantaire shrugged. "It's not my business, is it? Man or woman, you're—"
"No! I'm not a—" Enjolras said, and flinched. Then, "Nam quae femina nuper eras, puer es."
For you who recently were a woman, are a man. Grantaire had, occasionally, paid attention to Ovid, and he remembered the story well enough—had wished, sometimes that there was a god who would change him into who he wanted to be, if he prayed hard enough (but prayer came no more easily to him than belief, and the gods who could work such transformations were long dead). Iphis, who had prayed to Isis to become a man, so she could marry her beloved; Iphis who had become a man. It did not quite seem to fit, though.
"But surely—" Grantaire began, and then forged ahead, ignoring Enjolras' warning look. "There was no Ianthe for you."
Some of the tension went out of Enjolras' shoulders. "There is always an Ianthe." His deep-set eyes had gone faraway and dreamy, and it hurt, a sharp stabbing ache under Grantaire's breastbone. The only thing that had made it bearable, all along, was that Enjolras had never looked at anyone else with such a melting look of love and tenderness, either. "For me, she is Patria. But that was&mdashlnot why, at the first."
The ache receded at once to its usual dullness. Of course it was Patria, always Patria. "'And so Iphis the boy fulfills the vows which Iphis the maid had vowed?'"
"Something like that," said Enjolras, with a look of startlement. "Although I do not think I was ever quite a maid."
"Perhaps Iphis wasn't, either."
Grantaire suddenly had the unsettling feeling that Enjolras was really looking at him, as he rarely did, with a piercing gaze that seemed to see more than Grantaire had ever wanted him to see. "Perhaps. Thank you. For—" Enjolras waved his right hand, frowning, apparently at a loss for words. Likely the first time that had ever happened, Grantaire thought.
"Of course." You know I would do anything for you, if you permitted it. There was nothing Grantaire could think to say that would convince him to stay.
But when Enjolras set his hand to the doorknob Grantaire found himself saying, in a rush, with more earnest sincerity than he could ever recall using before: "I believe."
Enjolras looked back at him, his face unreadable. "In France?"
Enjolras closed his eyes and gave a queer twisted smile. "I suppose that is something." Enjolras reached out and pressed Grantaire's hand, so quickly it was like the brush of a feather, maddening in its brevity. "I wish that you would decide who you are, my friend."
And then he was gone, leaving Grantaire with nothing but a pile of bloody rags and a bowl of bloody water. It was still stiflingly hot, and he still had nothing to drink.
But Enjolras had called him a friend, and smiled at him. He would remember that.
The story of Iphis may be found in Ovid's Metamorphoses, 9: 666-797 (available on Perseus with a couple English translations, but I can't link because it's FFN, sigh). It mostly seems to express the incomprehensible, unnatural impossibility of lesbians to the Roman mind, but I think it could, with some effort, be read on the slant as being about a trans man, and I thought it might be the best way a classically educated Frenchboy could find to explain himself to another classically educated Frenchboy. I hope this works reasonably well.
I used fairly free translations in places because it's the nineteenth century, and older translations do not seem to have placed the same value on exactitude as modern scholarly translations often do. Plus it's Grantaire.