Notes: Before anything else, this chapter was traumatic to write, and I would never have been able to survive doing so if Emma (girlbehindthescrawledletters on Tumblr) hadn't been there to hold my hand the entire time. She even made a doodle to cheer me up ( youarethesentinels. tumblr . c*m / post / 48464932759 / i-was-having-a-horrid-time-writing-the-latest ) because she is the best person ever, seriously. Also, Audrey and Anna have made the most gorgeous photosets for this story ( epjolras . tumblr . c*m / post / 48417047289 ) ( loveholic198 . tumblr . c*m / post / 48278545275 / season-unending-by-unicornesque-there-are-three ). Thank you for the feedback and support, lovely readers, and do keep it coming!
Dream a Little Dream of Me
The headquarters was on lockdown. Courfeyrac shot off messages to Order members and recruits in training, telling them not to come in until the day after tomorrow. As an extra precautionary measure, the front door was sealed against rune activation after Musichetta brought in the crate she'd confiscated.
The humans and demons were now surveying all the collected weapons. It was not, on the whole, an armory that could inspire fear in two legions, let alone all seven, but Enjolras was counting on the force of sheer numbers as well as the support of Lamarque's allies.
"Aim for the eyes, if you can," said Éponine, casually assembling a rifle from the crate and giving it an experimental sight down the barrel. Enjolras tried not to be perturbed by the fact that she was pointing it straight at him. "The holy water will blind them and give you an edge."
Combeferre glanced at Enjolras. "Will Orpheus sing?"
"He said he'd think about it," Enjolras replied with a flicker of annoyance at the oracle's lack of political commitment.
"He will. He must," said Feuilly. "No one hates the Furies more."
"Why, what did the Kindly Ones do to him?" asked Bossuet.
Surprisingly, Marius was the one who answered, although up until then the Metatron agents had been very busily watching television and pretending that they had no idea what was going on inside the room. "Thousands of years ago, there existed one other human settlement," the angel spoke up from the couch. "Atlantis, city of the waves, made of glass and light, surrounded only by saltwater and foam- what you now call the Sea of Ghosts, although it has older names."
"Marius!" hissed Musichetta, while Cosette pointedly cleared her throat.
Marius held up his palms. "I am neither aiding nor abetting. I am simply telling a story in response to a Templar's question."
"But we already know about Atlantis," said Joly. "Well, these days, it's a wine brand more than anything, but we know the place used to exist. Where does this Orpheus guy fit in?"
"Orpheus was a Prince of Acedia, although he was more melancholy than apathetic," said Marius, green eyes wistful. Enjolras realized, much to his disdain, that the speaker was a romantic on top of being an angel. Terrific. "He fell in love with an Atlantean girl, by the name of Eurydice. This was a century before the Accords of Ember and Glacier, so a relationship between a demon and a human was strictly forbidden."
Enjolras couldn't help himself; he glanced at Éponine. But he didn't like what he saw. She was staring at the Metatron agent as if entranced, the rifle loose in her hands, with that soft look on her face that she had only ever worn for him in the time before. He suppressed the growl that crept up from the back of his throat, and Bahorel, who was a creature of desire and thus finely attuned to all the myriad emotions that came with it, flashed him an amused grin.
"Their affair was discovered, and Lucifer was so vexed that he ordered the Furies to destroy Atlantis," Marius continued.
Cosette sighed. "He'd wanted to do that for the longest time." It was a gentle rebuke. "He was angry because the Atlanteans refused to trade with Dis, remember?"
Marius scratched the back of his head, smiling at Cosette. "You're right, of course. You always did get higher marks in International Relations than me," he murmured, and then he returned his attention to his audience. "So. The Morningstar latched on to the first excuse that came along, and the Furies ripped the City of Atlantis apart. No one was spared."
"Eurydice could have been spared," Grantaire suddenly interjected. "We of the Acedia know Orpheus' story better than anyone. He exists for us as a cautionary tale, you see. Anyway, Eurydice was half-dead under the rubble, and Orpheus sang to Ishtar, goddess of love, in the hope that she would tell Lucifer to call off the attack. It must have been the saddest song, because the Furies heard it and they wept."
Joly made a sound of disbelief. "The Kindly Ones can cry?" And Enjolras wondered if the boy was thinking about the Schism, remembering the way enormous talons had seared deep gashes into the skyscrapers of New Advent, the way gray hair and red eyes and vulture's wings had filled the world.
Grantaire smirked. "Only once. Only for Orpheus. They never forgave him for that. The Morningstar is cruel; he told Orpheus that Dis would retreat, if the Prince returned with them. Orpheus had to walk into the open chasm; he had to walk away from Eurydice, without looking back at her."
"But he did," said Combeferre gravely. "He looked back."
Grantaire nodded. "Yes. And the Furies, eager for vengeance, killed the girl right before his very eyes, and then they fell on him. They tore him to pieces, but Ishtar prevailed upon Lucifer to spare his life at the last minute. She brought his head back to the underground city, where he is now an oracle. Not a very good one, mind you."
"I'll say," Feuilly remarked. "He told me to beware of trees. What're they going to do, turn on me?" He pondered his own statement for a second, and then looked at Enjolras. "They can't do that, can they?"
"I do not believe the Suicide Woods are particularly invested in this matter," said Enjolras.
"What's with you?" Combeferre asked Feuilly. "You know that forest like the back of your hand."
"They've been a little jumpy as of late," said Feuilly. "I think they can sense something's about to happen."
That was all he would comment on the subject, and into the lull that followed, Jehan mused, "A city of glass. A boy singing to a goddess as his love is lost to the waves… Of course he looked back."
"He didn't have to," Éponine muttered, dismantling the rifle and tossing its parts into the crate with more force than necessary. "He could have saved her and what was left. He shouldn't have looked back." She refused to meet Enjolras' eyes. "What an idiot."
They were in the training room. The harsh white light rained down on Éponine's slim form as she tested the balance of the double-edged blade in her hands. Attached to the hilt was about twelve feet of metal chain. Musichetta had christened this particular weapon Oathkeeper, and it was a rough approximation of the blades used by the Envy legion, who would be one of the hardest to fight because of their speed and cunning. Vainglory liked explosives and frost in equal measure; Wrath and Lust liked to charge headlong into the field, blazing; Greed preferred heavy armor and battle axes; Gluttony used their teeth and claws; Acedia usually hung back and shot arrows from afar. The demons of Envy were the shadows, the knives you never saw coming.
"I think this is more your style than mine, Joly," Éponine commented, studying Oathkeeper. But the other boy was busy teaching Combeferre and Grantaire how to use shuriken, while Bossuet walked Feuilly and Bahorel through the finer points of marksmanship. Jehan and Courfeyrac were on the sidelines, ready to intervene if something went wrong, and the Metatron were upstairs, determinedly turning a blind eye to the events going on beneath their feet.
Éponine turned to face Enjolras. "Right. Let's give this a shot." She sheathed the blade but kept her fingers poised over its hilt, legs apart and one knee slightly bent, half a heartbeat away from springing into action. "Whenever you're ready."
"I…" Enjolras glanced at the sword in his hand, a heavy blade named Excalibur. He was unused to mortal weapons, to steel and silver instead of fire and lightning. But he had to learn to use them, because their cutting edges had been cooled in holy water and he needed the element of nasty surprise. There was, however, another worry nagging at the back of his mind. "I don't want to hurt you, Éponine."
To his extreme discomposure, Jehan, Courfeyrac, Bossuet, and Joly burst into laughter.
"I didn't know your general had a sense of humor," Bossuet remarked to Grantaire.
"It tends to emerge at the most random moments," Grantaire affably replied.
Instead of joining in her friends' mirth, Éponine just stared at Enjolras. "You won't hurt me." Her voice was painfully cool.
Enjolras sighed. He gripped Excalibur's hilt with both hands, and then charged at her, extinguishing the hellfire that instinctively nipped at his heels. She dove forward, putting herself within striking distance; surprised, he drew back and his steps faltered, but her foot lashed out, slamming into his ribs and sending him reeling. The sword flew from his grasp and spun through the air, right in the direction of Combeferre, who kicked up a wall of ice which the blade sank through, stopping mere centimeters away from the demon's nose.
"This thing can cut through Vainglory ice?" Combeferre seemed unruffled after this near brush with yet another painful head wound. "Now I'm impressed." The ice melted into water, and he grabbed the sword and chucked it at Enjolras, who caught it in one open palm.
"Don't hold back," Éponine scolded him. "Your enemies won't."
You are not my enemy, Enjolras wanted to say. You are my ghost, you are in my dreams, but you are not my enemy. He couldn't tell her these things, because their time had passed, had been stolen away to somewhere he could no longer reach.
"If you want to save her, you must lose her," Orpheus says, eyes glazed and voice soft.
"I already did," Enjolras replies. "She no longer loves me."
"That should make it easier." In the waning candlelight, the oracle's young face is wreathed with a vague, eternal sadness. "Let her slip from your fingers. Let her become the sea."
She gritted her teeth impatiently, watching him give Excalibur an experimental swing. "You have to practice. You have to learn how to fight against this kind of weapon. Oathkeeper is just metal, but the Envy legion's will be made of shadow. Much harder to throw off. You need to be at the top of your game."
He glared at her. "I know that."
"Then act like you do!" she snapped. "Come on!"
When he refused to budge, all her anxiety spilled out onto her tongue, because she was Éponine Thénardier and when it came right down to it she was not a good person. "It should be easy for you to try to kill me," she taunted, carried away by the thought of what was waiting for him in the underworld, carried too far. "Just pretend I'm Azelma."
Combeferre, Feuilly, Bahorel, and Grantaire dropped what they were doing and turned to her in shock, as Joly sucked in a sharp intake of breath. Enjolras' gaze darkened, and the smell of smoke began to stain the room.
"She looked for you, during the war. She asked where you went," Éponine continued, even as her mind screamed at her to stop talking. She needed to do this; she needed to find his anger, and there was no other way. She didn't have time to question her actions, to ask herself why she would so willingly misuse her sister's memory, would so unflinchingly drag its darkness into the merciless light of the present, if it would only save him. Her eyes were wet, but she refused to blink. "After the Requiem Street evacuation, she was sure you'd come looking for us. She was sure you'd find us. And you did, didn't you? On the last day-"
Éponine was unprepared for the sudden speed of Enjolras' movement. He lunged at her and she almost lost her footing as her body arched to the side to avoid the blow. Hellfire erupted in a circle around the two of them, shielding them from view. The heat of the flames licked at her clothes as she parried and thrust, metal clashing against metal, and she could only imagine what they must look like to the others, two silhouettes in a shimmering curtain of red and gold. He wielded Excalibur without finesse, but she, too, was out of her element- Oathkeeper flicked too small and fast in hands used to a heavy gunblade. The flat of the sword hissed at her exposed arms and smoke curled into her mouth and she carved cuts into his skin, the world made up of nothing but the blue eyes that had once burned for her and her alone.
Fire of my blood, the air in my lungs, Éponine thought wildly as she dodged his strikes, her vision blurred by heat and sweat. The ocean to my sky, all I ever wanted-
Their blades met again, and his strength drove her backwards, her feet inching along the tiles. There was only one way out, and it was going to hurt.
She slammed her forehead into his, wincing as the pain burst into stars behind her eyes. He staggered and she leapt backward, tossing Oathkeeper's chain in his direction and managing to wrap it around the hand closed over Excalibur's hilt. She tugged, but instead of successfully sliding the sword from his grasp, she ended up pulling Enjolras to her, and suddenly they were pressed against each other. He was looking down and she was looking up, the sword between their faces cool against her cheek as it reflected the light of the fires, the small double-edged blade almost at his throat and gleaming sapphire blue against his pale neck, their breath coming out in ragged gasps, his lips a whisper away from hers. Her hands were curled around Oathkeeper's hilt, making fists against his chest, and she could feel his heart racing, matching hers beat for beat.
Pain and yearning flickered over his features. He dipped his head, brushing the tip of her nose with his. Her eyelids fluttered of their own volition, because this, too, was memory, this nearness, this warmth. He would be gone tomorrow, perhaps for forever, and he was looking at her like she was all he had left.
But, in the end, he was the one who stepped away. The flames around them disappeared, leaving only faint trails of smoke, and he waited silently as she unwound the chain. She noticed his eyes were wet, like hers, and then she refused to even glance at his face at all.
"I carry her with me," he said at last, in a soft voice meant for her ears alone. "Every day. I think about her always. Believe that, if nothing else."
"I know you do," she grudgingly replied. The fight had unlocked a certain clarity within her; she felt like she could breathe again for the first time in years. All her defenses were falling away because there was only one more night, too little time for anything except the remnants of grace. "I've always known." What they had shared had been real. It was tainted now, impossible to return to, but it had been real.
She finished untangling the chain and it dropped to the floor with a loud clank. She walked away, dragging it behind her, leaving Enjolras to rub the life back into his numb hand.
"That was very confusing," Bossuet said to Joly in an undertone. "Who's Azelma? I think you should fill me in now."
Joly shrugged. The air in the training room was smeared with smoke, just like the street had been. He could almost hear the war again, could almost feel Éponine's tears on his forearms like raindrops. She had never cried since that day. She hadn't cried at Azelma's funeral or when she'd broken her arm during training. It was like she'd closed herself off from the world, turned into nothing but a tightly-coiled spring of sarcasm and anger. "It's not mine to share."
The past caught up with him later, though, when the only lights on the first floor came from the television screen and the weapons on the racks and the crucifixes around the Templars' necks. Bahorel and Éponine were snoring away on their respective beds, while everyone else was gathered on the couches, grumpy and wide awake.
"It's like an orchestra," Jehan said in amazement. "They even crescendo at the same time."
Musichetta sighed and turned up the volume of Estelle et Némorin. Beside her, Cosette's head was drooping on Marius' shoulder, but whenever there was a particularly loud snort from the two sleepers, she would straighten up once more, her opalescent eyes blinking.
Feuilly gestured at the screen. "I can't believe this soap is still running. Have they figured out they're brother and sister yet?"
"They're not," Courfeyrac told him. "Némorin isn't really Estelle's dad's child, but the mistress tricked him into thinking it was."
"Why did you tell me that?" Feuilly demanded, his face paling. "You've gone and spoiled the whole thing!"
"It's not like you still watch it, anyway," Courfeyrac protested. "Unless you're somehow getting our cable down there in Dis."
"Remember when Némorin's actor got possessed during the sixth anniversary live taping?" said Bossuet, nudging Joly.
"How could I forget?" grumbled the other boy. "It was horrible. He was supposed to profess his undying love, but he ended up trying to eat her face. And I mean literally eat it."
Grantaire laughed around the bottle of beer held to his lips. "The culprit was Choronzon. One of Beelzebub's dukes. He always hated that show."
"Eurgh, Beelzebub." Courfeyrac wrinkled his nose. "Look, I get the whole King of Gluttony shtick, but the flies are overkill."
"I hear he's named every single one of them," said Jehan in hushed, conspiratorial tones. He glanced at the demons for confirmation, somewhat shyly.
"That is a damnable lie," said Combeferre. "He only names the ones on his head."
Enjolras stood up. "If we cannot sleep, we might as well train some more."
The other demons booed him.
"My bruises have bruises!" Grantaire cried over the commotion.
Enjolras rolled his eyes and made for the training room. Joly found himself following. The lights automatically switched on when they entered, and Enjolras busied himself hurling knives at one of the cardboard targets.
"I had always wondered," said Joly, hands in his pockets, "how you managed to sleep through her obstructive apnea."
"For the last time, it's not obstructive apnea," said Enjolras. "She just likes making my life hell." The third throwing knife bounced off the target, and he hissed in frustration. "I got used to it, I suppose. But I'm not, anymore."
"You've been gone a long time," Joly solemnly agreed.
Enjolras paused, studying the knife in his hands. "How did you become Templars?" he asked. "You and her?"
"The Metatron approached her first. They were looking for people who had lost loved ones in the Schism. People who were able, people with grudges. They worked their way through the casualty reports and picked the ones who had suffered most. And then they came to me."
Enjolras' brow creased. "Because?"
"Do you remember my parents?" Joly cautiously asked. "They visited the apartment from time to time. I think I introduced you to them, in the hallway-"
"Yes," the demon interrupted. "I remember." He swallowed. "How…?"
"Felled by the arrows of Acedia, while they were trying to make a run for it," said Joly. "They were old, and Dad had terrible arthritis. They didn't have much of a chance." He could talk about this calmly, because he had already stared into the face of mourning and allowed it to pull him under. After the war, he'd bought one of those five-stages-of-acceptance booklets, determined to carry out all the steps with methodical precision. He got three pages in before tossing it into the nearest garbage can, and he'd simply just cried until his eyes were so sore it hurt to blink. He'd gone through the next few weeks in a daze, assisting in the restorations when he could, listening to the Metatron when they showed up at his doorstep and nodding blankly. He hadn't really snapped out of it until Éponine barged into his apartment with a determined bounce to her step and said, "First round of training starts tomorrow. Ready to kick demon ass?"
And Joly had nodded and never looked back.
"It wasn't Grantaire," Enjolras said hurriedly. "He was by my side almost the entire time, and he spent the war too drunk to fire a single shot. Our commanding officers told us to stick to our legions, but the four of them- Grantaire, Feuilly, Combeferre, and Bahorel- wouldn't leave me."
Joly grinned. "Of course they wouldn't have. You're stuck with those little bastards for the whole of eternity, I'm afraid. The chaos they raised in the apartment building! Like unruly puppies, the lot of them."
Enjolras flashed him a small half-smile. "When did you move out?"
"A year ago. I don't have a car, and, well, no one's taking the train anytime soon, so I had to find a place nearer the hospital where I work." Joly tipped his head to the side. "We did have some good times, though. Didn't we?"
"Yes," Enjolras murmured, his gaze still on the knife.
Are you thinking about the walks in the park and drinking lattes on the sidewalk? Joly wondered. Do you remember all the movies, all the old inside jokes? Do you still love her? Because there were times- I swear there were times- when you glanced at her in the sunlight and I thought that I'd never seen anyone look at anybody else like that.
He swiftly banished these thoughts. They already had too much to worry about.
"Come on," said Joly, stepping forward and grabbing a knife from the crate. "I'll show you how to use these properly."
They practiced throwing until their arms were sore. They were serious for the most part, but a little bit of the old camaraderie returned as the blades sliced through the air. You who used to be we, every movement seemed to say. You who were once my friend.
Éponine sat up in bed, blinking against the morning light. The Templar base was unnervingly quiet. She looked around and saw the angels asleep on the couches, heads bent in what seemed like uncomfortable positions- they would certainly wake up with awful cricks in their necks. Jehan, Courfeyrac, Bossuet, and Joly were eating breakfast at the dining table.
The demons were nowhere in sight, and neither were the weapon crates.
It crept up on her, the hollow ache that blossomed from the pit of her stomach and straight into the corners of her heart, until it felt like her entire chest was consumed by it. "They left?" she croaked.
The boys exchanged uneasy glances. Joly stood up and went over to her, kneeling at her side.
"Enjolras asked me to tell you," he said in a soft voice, his gaze earnest, "that he hopes you will be well- that he hopes you will have a good life, either with the new world under your feet or without it. He asked me to tell you…" He trailed off, because Éponine had started to cry, and then he continued, in more determined tones, over the sobs that wrenched loose from her throat, "that, come what may, you were the last good thing. He swears this by the Wolf, by the Mirror, and by the other side of the sky."
To Be Continued