The brief silence between events woke him: he hadn't drunk quite enough to render himself entirely dead to the world. Grantaire remembered where he was, rose, and started to walk: he had a vague recollection of promising to die if Enjolras wished it. The world and his vow became more and more clear to him as he walked down the stairs, his footfalls got firmer and his bottle was left behind.
Outside everything was chaos, and there was smoke in the air. He searched for his friend's faces: he saw a few of them, but not Enjolras. Marius was in the center of the fray, unarmed, and a gun leveled at him: Grantaire cried out to warn him (exactly what he cried, he never knew) but someone else dived in and took the surely-fatal shot. As they fell to the ground, Grantaire saw it was a woman, a teenage girl.
He went towards her- no-one else had even noticed her fall. His mind was still hazy from drink and from confusion, and he found himself calling out for Enjolras, as he usually did (rarely out loud) in times of need. As he did so, something caught him in the back, and it took him a moment to realise it was probably a bayonet. He never saw who stabbed him: he fell down next to the girl.
On the ground amongst the madness, he saw her dark eyes staring at him. She wasn't dead, unless he was also, but he suspected he wasn't. Her hand had a hole in it, and his body hurt. It hurt like hell, and he thought it - he- was probably on its way out. He was filled with bitter regret, but not fear. Or not fear yet, anyway.
He was still facing the woman.
"Good day, mademoiselle," he said quietly. To his suprise, she smiled, although it was fleeting and gone in an instant.
"Monsieur," she said.
She was clinging to life with utter fierceness; Grantaire thought she would probably outlast him. Marius was shouting something, but he wasn't sure what, and then there were sounds of a scuffle and more gunshots. After that, a sort of silence fell.
"Will you call to him?" the girl said. "Call to Marius. Your voice is surely louder."
Grantaire did. The first time, his voice was swallowed up by the distant sound of shouting and gunshots- the second time, Marius heard. He turned, but the girl had already started to crawl towards him, her face focused and determined. She didn't smile or even seem to breathe until he had knelt beside her, then, she relaxed.
Grantaire looked beyond them and searched for Enjolras. He didn't want to die without seeing him, as vain a hope as it seemed. He wasn't there, so he closed his eyes and pictured him- and then felt a hand on his shoulder.
It was Enjolras, staring down. Combeferre was by his side.
"Yes," said Grantaire, so grateful he could have wept. Hesitantly, he added, "I think I'm dying. It hurts...don't touch it!"
"I won't, I won't," said Combeferre hastily. He exchanged a glance with Enjolras: everyone who saw it knew what it meant.
"You called out to me," said Enjolras, looking down. "Grantaire? R? I heard your voice a minute ago."
He and Combeferre both leaned over the dying man, but Grantaire glanced instead, just for a second, towards the pair sitting to his right.
"Two attend to me; only one attends to her," he said. "It hardly seems fair. Combeferre-"
Combeferre rose, regarding him with sad curiosity more than anything else, and went to Marius and the girl. She used the last of her strength to shove him away. Enjolras knelt closer to Grantaire, keeping his eyes averted from the spreading blood.
"She's a determined one, I doubt we can help her," said Grantaire. He kept his eyes fixed on his saviour. "Time to leave me be, too. You're needed elsewhere."
"I'm not," Enjolras said after a pause. "I don't want another friend to die alone." Grantaire smiled warmily and happily; it was the first time Enjolras had ever seen such an expression on his face and it suddenly made him indescribly angry that he wouldn't see it again.
"Thank you. And don't tell me who's dead," Grantaire said. "I'm sure I'll find out soon enough."
Enjolras nodded. Combeferre returned, searching for someone who would accept his help: he squeezed Enjolras's shoulder as he went past. He also nodded at Grantaire: Grantaire nodded back and said:
"Do you know that girl's name?"
"I don't, I'm sorry." He knelt. "Do you wish me to stay?"
"No. No, it's quite alright. Thank you."
With another sympathetic nod, Combeferre left. Now it was only four remaining, soon to be two.
"Did you see what that girl did?" Grantaire said after a pause. "She had the right idea, I think." Enjolras had not seen, but he could hear the quiet words of the girl, and he could piece the story together.
"I'm sorry for my harsh words," he said to Grantaire. He wished he had said that first. "I'm truly, truly sorry."
"They were deserved."
"They weren't. But if that was a request for forgiveness, you have it. "
Grantaire just smiled, shook his head and then nodded it. Somewhere in the distance a child was singing, while Marius and the girl continued to converse. The world was eerie and it was sad, but -lying as he was in Enjolras's arms- Grantaire had no desire to leave it just yet.
"May I touch your face?" he whispered to Enjolras.
"Yes. You don't have to ask."
Grantaire raised his hand. His strength was failing, so Enjolras held his wrist, and after a moment stroked his cold fingers. From their position they heard the young woman die- they heard her last words- but they were silent, not wishing to intrude.
Marius kissed the girl's forehead (they had heard her request it) and then he came towards them. There was something in his hand which he quickly stuffed into his pocket. He knelt, but Enjolras shook his head at him.
"Marius," said Grantaire, "was that the woman you loved? Or another?"
"It's alright, dear fellow. Go. Stay alive for your other one."
Marius left. Grantaire turned his head for just a second.
"I should have asked her name. I suppose I'm otherwise occupied, but still. I feared that for so long, all of you dying with no-one to remember your names or deeds. Me, I don't mind, staggering out and getting stabbed is hardly going to ignite the history books. But still-"
"You came to find me! You called out to me. Your conviction is affection, I see that now, that's good and that's important." Enjolras tightened his grip on his hand. "Please don't die berating yourself."
Grantaire smiled again, softly and sadly. "I'll try." He ran his fingers down the place where Enjolras's tears would have been, if he'd shed any. He hadn't yet. "I always hoped I'd die with you, properly. Saving you or comforting you or something. By your side, if you would permit it. But not this."
"I'll be by your side. Hush now. You haven't disappointed me."
"Thank you. For everything." Grantaire lowered his hand: he knew his time was up. But he did gesture best he could towards the girl. "Enjolras, will you lay me next to her when I'm gone? I think she could use a protector in death. She certainly didn't seem to have one in life."
He closed his eyes then. Enjolras thought he had departed, but he was just hanging on.
"There is much I would tell you," Grantaire finally said, eyes still closed, "if I had the time. I hope to see your smile again, I hope-"
His muscles stiffened and he breathed his last. Enjolras remained kneeling by his side for a few moments, head bowed, and then moved him over to the girl like he'd asked. As he did so it occured to him that Grantaire had most likely never seen him smile; he hoped he was wrong.
He put Grantaire's hand over the girl's pierced one, then knelt to kiss his forehead. He made a quiet vow to find out the girl's name. Then he let the tears fall, and then he walked away.