(My dear friends, the time has come. This will be the last chapter of 'No Place for a Revolutionary'. It pains me to say so, but I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it. Enjoy this last chapter and please, let me know what you think of this story in the end. I hope this chapter does not disappoint. Thank you all!)
A week passed. Enjolras slowly, but surely started to find his way back to himself. It was a hard road and he knew it would probably take a long time for him to feel comfortable enough to walk the streets alone; to sleep a full night without having nightmares or to be able to feel bad without having the urge to find that knife…He still loathed the way he had handled things and he mostly felt too embarrassed to talk about what had happened. He was still carrying guilt, shame, anger and fear. And even though he felt a little better now, he knew very well that setbacks were possible. He was not even close to the person he was before all this happened, and he knew it might take quite some time to get there again. If he was ever going to get there again...
But still, he couldn't deny the fact that ever since he had broken down and allowed at least Combeferre to come close again, he had started to feel better. Because Combeferre was always there. Always ready to help whether it was to calm him down after a nightmare; to take his mind of things when he felt that specific urge to harm himself; to comfort him when he felt lost or scared. Mostly though, Combeferre was there to remind him that no matter what had happened, no matter what he might think of himself, he was loved. Loved by the people he cared so much about, loved by his friends. His friends who would never let him fall; who would always be ready to catch him.
Combeferre not only reminded him of the fact that he was loved; he also tried his hardest to convince Enjolras that no matter what had happened, people would always believe in him, because he carried a light within himself that was bound to shine again, even though it was dimmed right now.
And through Combeferre's reminders - whether that was by giving him a simple hug, coaxing him into allowing his friends to visit or forcing him to eat his plate – Enjolras slowly dared to believe in himself as well.
At first, he didn't tell Combeferre much, but he also knew he didn't need to. The medical student had this ability to read him and often knew so much more about him by just reading his body language than by actually talking to him. Of course, they did talk; Combeferre had his way of gently forcing Enjolras to open up to him whenever he felt bad and soon enough Enjolras would come to Combeferre willingly. Their already strong bond strengthened even further and after five days of Combeferre just being there for him; helping him and comforting him, Enjolras finally completely opened up. He told Combeferre everything that Louis and Antoine had done to him; said to him. He told him what nightmares he had and why he felt so guilty all the time.
It had been the most difficult thing to do, because telling everything meant that he had to relive everything and that had been far from easy. Again though, Combeferre was there every step of the way. He was understanding and honest; comforting and just. He did not cry with Enjolras, because he knew his friend did not need pity. He did not say that everything was alright, because it wasn't. He did not get angry when Enjolras told him why he was so disgusted with himself, because he understood why his friend felt that way, but he tried to explain to Enjolras in a logical way why he was wrong.
Yes, it was the hardest thing Enjolras had ever done, but it was worth it, because he felt better afterwards. He was relieved to have shared his story with that one person who knew him better than he knew himself. He felt more comfortable now that Combeferre knew exactly what he had been through and how he felt about it; it was a way for Combeferre to help carry the load.
After Courfeyrac and Joly came by a week ago, Enjolras had been reluctant to see any more of his friends. He didn't know what to say to them or how to act around them. In a way it had been easier with Joly and Courfeyrac, because they knew exactly what he had done to himself. There was no use in hiding it or trying to deny it. The others however, did not know about his cutting habit and Enjolras had decided that he didn't want them to know. Combeferre thought it would've been better if he did share that particular point with them, but he promised Enjolras not to say anything if that was his choice.
The result was that Enjolras had to come up with a story that was believable enough to explain why he hadn't been present at meetings. The fact that he was about to lie to his friends however, made him feel really guilty. So in the end, he decided to tell them a sort of half-truth about having a bad cold and needing time to collect himself after everything that had happened. He didn't give them any details and his friends were okay with that. They knew Enjolras well enough to know what he did and did not feel comfortable to talk about.
That week, all of the Amis had dropped by Combeferre's and his apartment to visit him and wish him well. Combeferre had been present at every time as well and Enjolras had been very happy about that. He was grateful to have a friend as Combeferre. The man knew him through and through and Enjolras didn't even have to ask him to be there. He just always was.
After that week, he had seen and talked to all of his friends, except for one. Grantaire did not stop by and Enjolras didn't ask Combeferre why. Of all his friends, Enjolras had been most reluctant to talk to Grantaire and each day the drunkard did not knock on their door, Enjolras could not help butfeel relieved. He knew though that they could not avoid each other forever. Soon, Enjolras would be participating at meetings again and he needed to clear the air between them. Combeferre agreed of course. He had been subtly pushing Enjolras to either invite Grantaire over or go to the Musain to confront Grantaire there. And each time he did so, Enjolras just as subtly waved the suggestion away or tried to change the subject. Until now.
He was sitting at the dinner table, working his way through a large bowl of soup in silence while Combeferre appeared to be busy studying. Enjolras nearly fell of his chair in shock when Combeferre suddenly slammed his book shut and walked over towards the table. He sat down in front of his blond friend and took a deep sigh.
"I am going to the Musain tonight", he said nervously, as if he had been planning to tell Enjolras this for a while, but was too anxious to do so. "And you are coming with me".
Enjolras frowned and dropped his spoon in the bowl. He knew exactly what Combeferre was doing. His friend had not left Enjolras alone at all since his breakdown a week earlier; he had been there practically every waking second, because he knew Enjolras didn't feel comfortable to be alone. He had been pressing Enjolras a few days now that it would be good for him to get out of their rooms for a bit, but every time he proposed to go for a walk or anything like that, Enjolras was quick to refuse. He had never before forced Enjolras to go out, but something told the revolutionary that Combeferre wouldn't back down this time. And that set him on edge.
"Combeferre", he began quietly, "I know what you're trying to do…I'm not ready yet, I'm sorry…"
Combeferre smiled at him and offered his hand. Enjolras hesitantly took it; it was Combeferre's way of letting Enjolras know that he'd always be there for him and Enjolras' way of showing his gratitude. "You're never going to think you're ready Julien, if you keep yourself locked in here. You need to see for yourself that there's nothing to be afraid of. You've already come so far this past week, you need to allow yourself to take that next step."
Enjolras cast his eyes down. He knew Combeferre was right; he knew that in order to fully heal, he needed to face his fears. But he was afraid he couldn't do this. Not yet. There were so many things that could go wrong. Only a week ago, he collapsed. Before that, he hadn't been doing well, but he was running on this weird sort of adrenaline. It kept him going. After he fully broke down however, every fear he had, intensified and he was completely drained of all energy, too uncertain of his own judgements and feelings. He didn't trust himself anymore and he was reluctant to trust the world outside Combeferre and his friends.
"I'm right there with you, Julien and we're only going to the Musain; see our friends; have a drink and a laugh and we can go back whenever you want."
Enjolras chewed the inside of his cheek. It wasn't just the fact that he had to go outside. That was only part of the problem that made his heart beat faster. He knew that if he went to the Musain, Grantaire was going to be there, and he didn't know if he was ready for that confrontation yet.
"It's not just about going outside, 'Ferre", he whispered.
"I know that. And that's partly why I'm going to insist that you're coming with me tonight. You know you need to talk to him, Enjolras. The longer you wait, the harder it's going to get. He has already taken the first step by coming to talk to you a week ago. It's your turn now."
Enjolras swallowed thickly. "He loathes me…he practically told me that. Why would he want to see me or talk to me?"
Combeferre shook his head. "That's not true. I told you that already. He was shocked to see what you were doing to yourself. He saw a lot of himself back in you at that point and that made him angry and scared. He cares a lot more about you than you think and that's exactly why he reacted the way that he did. According to Courfeyrac he asks about you every day. Grantaire could never loathe you Enjolras, you can safely trust me on that one."
Enjolras let out a shaky breath and nodded. "Alright then…if you think it would be good for me, I'll go with you. I trust you. But if I…if I don't….if things aren't…"
"We're leaving the second you've had enough or feel uncomfortable", Combeferre assured him, "but I do want you to try, Julien. Really try. Don't give up too soon, give it a chance."
When Enjolras nodded once more, Combeferre's smile grew and he softly squeezed his hand, before letting go again. Then he pointed at the unfinished bowl of soup and said: "Eat that first, we'll leave when you've finished it. And I want it to be completely empty, because don't think I haven't noticed you working your way around lunch this afternoon." The blond rolled his eyes, but couldn't suppress a small smirk at Combeferre's mothering.
Little more than an hour later they were ready to go. Combeferre was excited to leave the apartment again and felt hopeful, because he was certain that this was going to be good for his friend. Enjolras was a lot less cheerful than Combeferre and kept pulling the sleeves of his shirt and jacket down in an unnecessary attempt to hide the bandages, because his clothing completely covered his entire arm.
"Stop fidgeting, Julien, no one can see anything, we've completely covered it up, but if you keep pulling at your sleeve, you're actually going to draw attention to it."
Enjolras stopped immediately. "Sorry", he mumbled quietly, "I'm just nervous".
"I know, but you don't need to be. I'm right here, now come on". And they stepped outside. Enjolras closed his eyes the second he left the safety of his and Combeferre's apartment. His heart was beating fast and he knew his hands were trembling and sweaty. He was afraid. He couldn't do this. It was too soon. But then there was a strong hand on his shoulder and a familiar voice nearby. "Deep breath and open your eyes, Julien. You can do this, I know you can."
Enjolras forced himself to do as Combeferre told him and he blinked his eyes open, but kept his head down. He breathed in deeply through his nose and shuffled a little closer to his best friend, so that their shoulders were touching. When he felt a light push against his back, he stepped forward. One foot in front of the other, and he focused on Combeferre's quiet words of encouragement. Soon enough, his heart had calmed down and he found himself secretly enjoying the fresh air and the familiar sounds of the city he loved so much. With every step he took, he felt more secure and he arrived at the Musain with his head held high and a small smile on his face. And Combeferre could've sworn he saw a hint of the old Enjolras right then and his heart warmed at the sight.
Enjolras managed to hold that small feeling of accomplishment all the way up to the backroom of the Café. But he lost it completely as soon as he got there, because the first person he saw was no one other than Grantaire. And Grantaire was staring at him with wide eyes as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Enjolras blinked rapidly and looked away. He was panicking. What do I do now? What do I say? When he looked up again, Grantaire had walked away and was now sitting in the corner of the Café with his back to Enjolras.
"Come", he heard Combeferre say quietly, "we'll start of easy", and he pulled Enjolras towards a table where Courfeyrac and Joly were seated. Soon enough they were joined by the others who were all surprised and happy to see their friend at the Café again. Within the hour, he had spoken to all of them; laughed with them and felt more like himself than he had in a long time. Combeferre had been right all along. His friends had not changed. He was almost able to forget about all that had happened. There was one person however who did not approach him: Grantaire did not leave his corner. He appeared to be busy drawing and Enjolras could not help but look over at him every other minute.
He thought about how Grantaire had been the first to know what happened to him, when he walked him back to the Café after that failed public speech. He had been the first person Enjolras had sought comfort with. He had been the one who came to his rescue. He had been the one who had made sure neither Louis nor Antoine would ever be a threat to him again. He had been the one who had pulled Enjolras out of his destructive downwards spiral. He had saved Enjolras' life in more than one way and it made Enjolras all the more nervous to go and talk to him as he realized this. Every time their eyes met, Enjolras flinched and quickly looked away again.
After little more than an gour, Combeferre and Courfeyrac pulled him apart. "Go talk to him", Combeferre whispered quietly and Courfeyrac nodded his agreement with an encouraging smile. "He has been wanting to see you, Enj, the two of you need to talk this over. You can keep on delaying, but it's not going to get any easier."
"Will you come?", Enjolras asked Combeferre and he cringed when he realized how childish he sounded. He was an adult, he needed to do this alone. He could do this alone. There were some things Combeferre could not help him with. And this was one of them.
Combeferre only smiled sympathetically and shook his head. "It's Grantaire, Enjolras…The man worships you, you can do this one alone."
Enjolras pressed his lips and nodded. He shared one last look with his two best friends, turned around and slowly walked over to the cynic. He wished his heart would calm down, because he was sure that Grantaire was actually going to be able to hear it pound if he came closer. He stopped right in front of Grantaire, but the latter did not look up. The man obviously had already seen him approaching, but chose to ignore him until Enjolras cleared his throat. The blond felt slightly annoyed, but forced himself not to let it show.
"May I join you?", he asked quietly and he cursed himself when he heard how nervous he sounded.
Grantaire raised his eyebrows and eyed Enjolras warily. Then he shut his sketchbook, motioned to the chair opposite of him and said. "Since when does the high and mighty Apollo ask me for my permission." He did his best to sound cynical, but Enjolras noticed the small tremor in his voice and the way Grantaire kept clenching and unclenching his fingers. Apparently he was just as nervous.
Enjolras sat down and forced himself to look Grantaire directly in the eyes. They watched each other for half a minute or so and then Enjolras looked away again. This might have been the first time Grantaire actually succeeded in staring him down. And to Grantaire that was completely wrong and he couldn't help but feel a little guilty. He watched how Enjolras fidgeted with his fingers and how a small sheen of sweat broke out across his forehead and he almost reached out to calm him down. But then Enjolras spoke. Very quietly.
"I'm sorry for what I said…"
This actually blew Grantaire away. Enjolras was apologizing? To him? Never would he have expected something like that. He was so shocked that the only way he knew how to react, was a sarcastic huff and a cynical "Well, well, that must have been the hardest thing you've ever done." He mentally kicked himself when he saw Enjolras flinch at his words and he bit his lip. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I said that…", he whispered quietly.
Enjolras swallowed nervously and looked up again. "It's okay, I understand…"
They were both silent again and Grantaire couldn't remember a moment in his life where he felt more awkward than he did right now. He quickly looked around the room and noticed how both Combeferre and Courfeyrac were watching them closely. When he looked back at Enjolras, he realized the blond was working hard to build up the courage to speak again and Grantaire decided to make it a little easier for him.
"How have you been?"
Enjolras let out a shaky breath and swallowed again. "I uh…", he began hoarsely and he cleared his throat again, "I think I'm doing better…I mean…well, better than before…"
"You look better", Grantaire grinned, " although even your darkest hours did not diminish your godlike beauty." He hoped this little joke could serve as a sort of ice breaker and his grin grew wider when he saw a small smile tug at the corner of Enjolras' lips.
"Combeferre's been a great help", Enjolras said honestly and he briefly looked up again, "I don't know if I'd be where I am now if it wasn't for him…"
Grantaire only nodded.
Enjolras closed his eyes for a second and shook his head once. Then he looked up again and this time he kept eye contact with Grantaire. "R, I'm sorry", he said again, "I should've never acted the way I did when you told me about your past. I…I can hardly imagine how it must have been for you and I feel really bad about the things that I've said. I was just in a really dark place, as you know and everything you said was just so shockingly right and it made me nervous and angry and I just lashed out at you when I should've actually thanked you, because if you hadn't told me all those things…if you hadn't confronted me about it all than I don't know how this would've ended, but I don't think it would've been happy…", He paused and let out a shaky laugh, "You had every right to be angry with me…I was angry with myself as well and I think you might have actually saved my life by forcing me to see what I was doing to the people who care about me. And I'm just…I really am sorry for what happened to you...and I want you to know that I don't judge you for the things you were forced to do. I don't know if it means anything to you, but I am not angry or upset about you working with them...I just wanted you to know that..."
Enjolras fell silent again, but he kept his eyes trained on Grantaire. He had been feeling guilty for the way he had reacted to Grantaire's story ever since the drunkard told him and in his head he had been practicing over and over how to apologize or what to say. Now everything came out jumbled and not at all as he would've wanted it, but at least it was out. He really wished Grantaire would say something now instead of just staring at him in awe.
"Wow…", Grantaire began, "I uh…thank you…That actually means a lot to me…" He stared back at Enjolras with an unfathomable expression on his face. "And you do not need to apologize to me…I understand why you reacted the way you did…I know how it feels…I mean, I've been there myself, haven't I?" He let out a nervous chuckle and averted his eyes again, suddenly very interested in his own fingers.
"I guess", Enjolras agreed quietly.
They looked at each other again and they both smiled a little, somehow more comfortable in each other's company now that these first words were said. Grantaire wanted to talk to Enjolras more; wanted to ask him questions; really know how he was doing and how he was handling things, but he was afraid Enjolras would should done if he did. Maybe the blond would think it was absolutely none of his business. He hesitated for another few moments and then decided to just go for it.
"So…things are better now? You don't…do that anymore?", Grantaire asked in a small voice.
Enjolras pursed his lips and shook his head; an obvious blush of shame visible on his face. "No", he said softly, "It's still hard though…I do think I'm doing better, not being on my own helps a lot, but sometimes…after a nightmare or a flashback or something…I do feel bad enough and I really have to fight that urge…I know it sounds pathetic."
Enjolras raised an eyebrow and looked at Grantaire skeptically.
"It doesn't", Grantaire repeated, "It was an escape for you…not the best one, I admit, but hey…look at my own way of dealing. I'm…really relieved to hear you don't do that anymore, because to be honest with you Apollo, it really did not suit you. Not really your style in my humble opinion." He grinned at the blond and Enjolras snorted softly.
"Maybe not", he agreed hesitantly.
"Listen, I don't expect you to take me up on the offer I'm going to make you, but I just feel like I should at least propose it to you, because, well…I know I'm anything but the picture perfect example of someone who has dealt with his issues, but I am someone who knows pretty much exactly what you're going through and I just want you to know that if you ever feel like…talking about it, to someone other than Combeferre I mean, I just want you to know that I'm always willing to be that person…" Grantaire's face had gone a slightly red when he was done and he nervously bit his lip. Maybe he had been too bold. What was he thinking? As if Enjolras would ever come to him about this.
"Thank you", Enjolras said honestly, "I won't forget …" And when he smiled at Grantaire and reached out his arm to shake his hand , the cynic could have sworn his heart made all sorts of happy jumps inside his chest. He let out a shaky laugh and clasped Enjolras' hand in his own. "Okay then", he breathed happily. "Well, now that all this awkwardness is out of the way, how about a drink to celebrate it only took you one week to build up the courage to get back on your feet?"
A wide grin broke out on Enjolras' face and he genuinely laughed out loud. "I wouldn't say I'm back on my feet yet, but I guess I am exceeding everyone's expectations, so yes, why not. One drink." They joined the rest of the Amis and Enjolras shared a relieved look with Combeferre who smiled at him and subtly squeezed his shoulder. They stayed for another hour so until Combeferre was the one to tell Enjolras that it might be time to go back to their apartment again. The blond was still fighting the remnants of a fever and needed enough rest to build up his strength after suffering infection and blood loss.
"We can come back again tomorrow or the day after if you feel up to it", he promised Enjolras when his friend was obviously reluctant to leave the Café. "Say your goodbye's Julien, I'm serious here, I don't want you to overdo it." Enjolras knew Combeferre was right and he wished his friends a good night. He was once again flooded with praises and happiness of having him back and then he followed Combeferre outside.
At first they walked in comfortable silence. Enjolras still stayed close enough to Combeferre to make sure their shoulders brushed together, but he was clearly less nervous about stepping outside as he had been earlier that evening. And Combeferre did not miss the permanent smile that had been playing around his best friend's lips ever since he and Grantaire had had their conversation. They might still have a long way to go, but Combeferre was now more certain than ever that everything would turn out okay for his young friend in the end.
"Look at you, all grinning and cheerful", he said playfully and he nudged Enjolras with his shoulder, "I take it an 'I told you so' is in order?"
Enjolras rolled his eyes, but was not able to wipe the smile of his face.
Combeferre chuckled. "I told you so", he teased and he draped an arm around his friend's thin shoulders, "I told you everything would be fine tonight. I told you, you and Grantaire would be fine. I think you should listen to me more often, because it turns out that I was right about it all."
Enjolras snorted and tried to shove Combeferre away, but the medical student tightened his hold and pushed back, which resulted in Enjolras nearly tumbling over and yelping in shock. When he found his balance again he turned to Combeferre and mumbled seriously: "I always listen to you."
Combeferre smiled and ruffled Enjolras' hair. "I'm proud of you, Julien", he said quietly, "Tonight has not been easy, but you've done wonderfully. I've always known you would be able to climb out of the darkest pit and I'm happy you proved me right tonight."
Enjolras did not say anything; a sudden lump in his throat made it difficult to do so. He swallowed a few times and leaned closer to Combeferre. This had been good.
"I think I might have proven it to myself as well", he whispered quietly and he smiled as soon as the words left his lips. Combeferre ignored the sudden prickle behind his eyes when Enjolras said that. He was starting to believe in himself again. He was starting to believe that he would be okay. Things would be better.
(I want to thank everyone who has followed this story from the first chapter till now. I cannot express in words how much your support means to me. It helped me to stay motivated and keep writing. I sincerely hope this last chapter has concluded the story in a positive way and I would be ever so happy if you took the time to tell me what you think. So please leave me a review :) It's hard for me to let this story go, but I've enjoyed writing it so much and I hope you have enjoyed reading it. Thank you all again so much. I am forever grateful)