Love Is Blindness
a Les Miserables fanfic
I wondered what they were concerning themselves with, if the defense of their beloved barricades could allow me to slip in and out so effortlessly. No one noticed as I slunk back in, secreted in dark corners, pressed against makeshift walls, slipping through the cracks. If I could do it, their enemies could just as easily arm someone and send them in, to decimate their ranks from the inside out, maybe with a bomb of some sort. Or, just a single thrust of a knife against Enjolras's throat and it would all be over. The boys and girls believed in their cause, but none of them would be able to make this stand were it not for their leader.
Once inside the tavern, I could see him. He seemed too vulnerable- their ideals made flesh, and so exposed. He was flushed with the remnants of their first battle, and I could see his attempts to remain calm. He knew it was the first of many melees, and they should not grow overconfident. That's what he was saying to them.
I kept my hand fisted in my pocket, holding the letter he'd given me. He must have slipped it into my coat when I was here earlier, when Marius was charging me with his errand. I hadn't found the letter until I'd delivered the other to the girl's father. But then I walked through the streets and read his words, feeling them sear into my heart and light up the night, or maybe just igniting my very self.
Love. His words were words of love- simple, yet earnest, and more beautiful than I'd ever dared imagine I could merit. If he hadn't faced certain death, he said his love would have lived forever, quiet within him. But with his end looming near, he wanted to give futile voice to his deepest secret; the secret that was me. That he'd always seen me, that he knew me and my loneliness, the dreariness of my every moment. He wanted to take me away- not to a life of grandeur he could only promise but never fulfill, but to a life of simplicity and happiness. He painted a picture of the life we might be able to share, were the world entirely different, if my love somehow matched his own, if a person's destiny were really their own to decide instead of being directed by God in a pattern none could see.
Truth be told, I'd noticed Enjolras before I'd ever spotted my Msr. Marius. He had a fire in his soul, and it was visible whenever he spoke- and it frightened me. Such fires either burn out quickly or consume those that hold them, and I could see that this one would not be long for this world. He would burn out, trying to help everyone but himself. I knew what the world did to the selfless, and I'd determined to never be one of them. So I kept my eyes roving over the crowds he gathered, I flitted in and out and did my work. And then Monsieur Marius appeared and my heart was easily captured by him.
I knew it was pointless to love Monsieur, and that was why I did it. I could keep flitting, I could come in and out, I could take the surge of heady emotion aroused when he would deign to speak with me, and I could walk away. My wings would not be burned by him, because he was not aflame, he was just a boy. His smile came easily, he walked the walk of a man whose place in the world was not challenged, and he found it simple to saunter in the wake of Enjolras. He was not a dangerous one.
Standing in a dark corner, hidden against a wall, I watched Enjolras and let myself be drawn to his flame. How could someone so noble, so pure, feel love for someone like me- a love that was not borne of pity, but of truth?
Suddenly someone was beside me, someone smelling of brandy and cigars, and something unfamiliar. I turned to see who it was and, of course, it was Grantaire. He, like, Marius, was always somewhere near to Enjolras.
"Ah, I see a little boy has come to our revelry. Have you come to join the fray, little boy?"
At the emphasis on this last word, he jerked the hat from my head, letting my hair fall down.
"How did you know it was me?"
"How could I not? I'm sure you're here for your Monsieur, so go find him if you will. He is out at the barricade, keeping watch. But don't bother with any disguise. This is the sort of night that bares a man's soul, and in the bareness, truth is all that there is room for, all we have time for."
"And a woman's soul?"
"Barer still, my lady."
"Do not mock me, Grantaire."
"I do not mock. I salute the one who succeeded where I could not. And now you are here, and do you even know what for? I told you where your lord is, why do you not go to him?"
I looked down, and found myself bringing forth my hand from my pocket, the letter still in my fist. He took the letter and unraveled it enough to see the seal upon it.
"I see. He has told you at last."
"He- Enjolras... he says that..."
"That he loves you. Body and soul, with a love too pure and true for this world, just as he loves all things and people. But for you, it is a different sort of love. He would hold you to him, he would cleave to you, and be with you always."
"Yes, that is what he says..."
"Do you doubt, ma petite? Do you doubt the honor of the man you see over there?"
"No. I do not doubt. I only can't believe it. But you seem to know about it."
"Oh, I know what they all think of me. Grantaire the Sot, only aware of when his cup runs empty. But I see it all. And, I said, this is the night to lay all of it open, to expose the souls and secrets of us all. The things I could tell you, ma fille..."
"So, tell me, Grantaire."
"Marius is consumed with this passion for Cosette. Coup de foudre. The lightning that comes and seals a pact between two people and lasts beyond this world and the next. You mourn this, for you think you care for the young man. This blinds you to the love with Enjolras has for you, a love that he holds in his heart like a sacred secret, one he could only tell you about in the hour of his own death. And he is holding himself for you, though he doesn't think anything shall ever come of it. And Grantaire, he holds a similar love in his heart. A love that will never be given voice, for it can only be met with contempt- or pity, even worse. But this love he holds like a flame, that is what draws the poor wretch to this awful place, to this terrible moment. We are all here for love, and we all know that it will be the end of us.
"And there it is. Grantaire adores Enjolras and follows him to death. A death decreed by Enjolras's love of ideals, which outweigh his hopeless love for Eponine. Eponine's doomed affection for Marius, who is also going to die, despite a love for Cosette which could give him cause to live and fight on even beyond death."
I gave him a good long look, then, but as I had chosen the darkest corner of the tavern, that availed me little. I pushed and pulled him until we were moved and standing beneath a lamp, so I could look into his eyes and read therein whether he spoke truth or nonsense.
I had never been so close to Grantaire, and had never before taken note of exactly how bright and green his eyes were. I would have thought them surprisingly lovely if they had not been so heavily sad, showing a depth of feeling I would never had suspected could have lain within him.
"Say again, tell me again what you just said, now that I can see your eyes and read your face for lies."
"I love Enjolras. I am following him to this foolish death because I would follow him anywhere; to be in his company is all that I can hope. And he loves you so much that he overcame his natural humility and need to allay his own desires that he wrote you a letter tonight, telling you as much. And you- you think you love Marius, and you pretend that you do. But I'd wager, looking into your eyes, mademoiselle, that you begin to realize, on this night of peril and ultimate choices, that your infatuation with him is nothing when weighed against all of the the true and deep loves that will all come to ruins this night. What say you?"
I met his probing gaze, as he had met mine. As he had put the unspeakable into words, I felt I owed him something like as much honesty, and I hoped that he'd see it all when I let myself flood into my eyes.
"And now, I wonder- did you come back to this awful place, Eponine, because you would not be parted from your Marius, or because the strength of Enjolras's love pulled you here?"
"I came because I... the letter..." I have never been a falterer. Or, rather, not for a long time. In my family, if you hesitated you were met with a brisk slap and and order to stop being useless. As a child, I'd been quieter, and I had a habit of murmuring as I thought; my parents had carefully slapped that tendency from me. But now it came back- as if the years of being so tough and so calculating had melted a bit. My defenses had brought me nothing worthwhile, but they had helped keep me alive. In that moment, I surrendered them, as Grantaire had put his own aside.
"I never thought anyone could feel for me what he said he feels. I had to come and see if he spoke truth, because if it was true... I cannot let him die. If someone does care for me so much, I must fight for them."
"What will you do when you find that he will not fight for himself? Believe me, I've tried and tried to protect him from himself, from the inevitable doom. I care not so much for myself, truly- I'm a measly third son and will be mourned by none when I leave this world- but I cannot bear the thought of him not being alive, of his light being snuffed out before he would fulfill his purpose in this world. But he feels so strongly that this is his destiny, there is no dissuading him."
I sighed, knowing Grantaire was right enough. "But I must try. And, in the end, if I cannot make him leave and live on, I can at least leave this world by his side."
"So, you and I are in a similar boat, 'Ponine. The difference being that he loves you in a way that he will never love me. So, you must go to him..."
In that moment, I saw how united we were, Grantaire and I, and for all that the unjustness of it was like an ache. He was not exactly noble and pure, not like a knight from a tale of gallantry, but he was a man who loved one and hurt none. His payment for his kind of honor was to quietly suffer, but he accepted this so readily, expecting nothing else from life. I reached out and gently touched his face before kissing him, tenderly, on each cheek.
"Do not worry about Grantaire, mademoiselle. He will sit here and drink, as he does, and he will sing bawdy songs and lighten the hearts of those nearby. He will put on his motley and be the fool that the poor boys and girls need. We'll all be dead by morning, but some of us might be able to laugh between now and when we cross the door. You- you go to him. If he'll let you, then you will love him for the both us, won't you?"
He kissed me on my cheek, and it was like a benediction. I felt like he was strengthening me, and I knew what I had to do. We smiled at each other, and I turned away.