A/N: I feel immensely guilty over this, because I should be updating my multi-chapter fic in another fandom and convincing my readers that I have not, in fact, been abducted by aliens but have just been up to my eyeballs in exams. Ah well, I felt the urge to write and my current Les Mis obsession seized my plot bunny as well. Shamefully, I have not yet read the Brick, but it is sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be read once I have vanquished my evil exams. I have, however, seen the London stage and most recent film versions of Les Miserables-and I absolutely adore the 2012 film. Therefore, Aaron Tveit and George Blagden will forever be Enjolras and Grantaire in my mind (I know that Grantaire is meant to be ugly, but I was so impressed with the depth of character George Blagden portrayed in like two minutes of screen time that he just is Grantaire to me now, despite being gorgeous).
Also, I have this bizarre head canon that Les Amis sometimes refer to one another as 'cher'-French for 'beloved', among other things. I know it's weird and that they are a group of grown men resoundingly unlikely to use this nickname (I don't see Les Amis as a gay group, personally-although some of them probably weren't above some playful shenanigans from time to time...), but I can't get the idea out of my head. They might be a bit OOC here, though I am trying. It's my first attempt at Les Mis.
It's early morning, too early even for the birds. Ostensibly, it is still night, but a bleary brightness smothers the world at an hour much too close to midnight. The sky is pale and tender, like the inside of a petal. The breath of high summer mists a pearlescent sheen over the pre-dawn light. The towers of the hilltop monastery pierce it like rips in gossamer.
It is here that they hide.
They are sprawled out across a disused dormitory. They ran so far so fast, they haven't had time to notice that they've been wounded, or that the barricade still has bits of their souls caught in it, like wisps of cloth. But now, in this quiet place, safe from the merciless noose of the law for a week at least, maybe more, all of their hurts fall down on them so suddenly that their world splinters into pain and they cannot remember how they laughed or sang or ever felt so full of joy and mirth and wine that they might burst, once. Blood and tears stain the bare wooden floorboards.
The air is thick with the smell of sleep. It hangs in the soft shadows and the silence. There slumbers Courfeyrac, his ribs cracked, Bahorel with an ugly bullet hole in his thigh. Jehan, trembling in his dreams, tears seeping between his eyelids. Here lies Feuilly, with half an arm less than a week ago, and Bossuet, with shards of rust caught in his bayonet wounds. Combeferre is curled carefully on one side as not to aggravate his mangled arm and Joly rests fitfully, twitching as the barricade falls, burns, is painted in the blood of his friends over and over in his memories. Yes, the smell of sleep is heavy, but under it is the sharp, sour tang of pain and sweat and a room full of shredded hearts.
There are two who do not sleep. One is feigning it-badly-and the other watches him with disconcerting constancy. Enjolras can feel Grantaire's green gaze on his face as surely as if he had reached over and touched him. He feels the care in it, like a caress, and the watchful distrustfulness of it, like a pin prick. He expected acidic blame, but there was none of that. Not a single one of his friends had looked at him like that, the way they should.
He had killed a lot of men at the barricade. All those who were bitten by his bullets, of course, and those he'd killed at closer quarters with knife and bayonet, their blood spurting hotly over his skin like war paint. Red, the blood of angry men. Then there were those he had killed with his dream of a free France, with his adoration for his mistress Patria and her glorious liberty. He almost gives a self-deprecating laugh from pure bitterness, but remembers just in time that he is meant to be sleeping and Grantaire's eyes are resting on him like fingertips.
And now, slowly but surely, he is killing his friends, those whom he loves most dearly in all the world, his cherished brothers, who are even now spread around him, battered and broken. They would never be able to stop running. They would have to flee the law all their lives. They would lose their breath. They would stumble, and be tripped and caught. They would be hunted down like quarry in a rich men's hunt. Perhaps all together, the way they like it. Perhaps one at a time, their little ragtag family chipped away at until the rest cracked of its own accord and it all ended with the remainders dragging themselves to the National Guard and begging them to execute them and be done with it, or ended in a dark place, with a shot through the mouth or temple from a familiar pistol.
Enjolras's face creases slightly, like worn paper. If he were to die, it would be so much easier on the others. The hounds of the law might get tired first, and stop their chase. The others might live the rest of their lives in freedom.
It is not the first time he has visited this idea. He knows that Grantaire has noticed it-that is why he persists in his vigil-Grantaire saw it, sitting it the corner of his eye. Of course, it would be him. His keen eyes are sharper than ever, not fogged by drink. Grantaire is an observer, who looks and sees what most men do not and chuckles darkly at their folly and drowns the pain it brings him in absinthe and whiskey and wine, but he is not laughing or drinking now. He is just watching.
He hasn't been able to lay his hands on a bottle for a week and they shake with withdrawal. Every drop of alcohol he brought with him he poured gently down the throats of Bahorel, Feuilly, Bossuet, Enjolras himself, to blunt the edges of their razor-sharp agony. It is a uniquely Grantaire sacrifice. Enjolras is grateful.
It would be so easy for him to die. At the moment, he clutches life with both hands, white-knuckled, because he knows that if his grip falters even slightly the end will come fast and it will not be merciful. He remembers the eyes of the man who had shot him, and how frightened they were. A burst of heat. The pain came later and he thought the world was ending. He remembers swimming into patches of clarity through his fever and seeing Joly's furious tears in the moments when they thought he might not make it, and the gleam of Combeferre's glasses in the candlelight as the two of them hunched over him, and he remembers Jehan sobbing and dabbing at his burning skin with cool cloths and he remembers clasping Grantaire's hand so hard through the worst of it that their group cynic had to bite his lip to keep from whimpering.
And what is he now, without his fire and revolution? Just a shell, a heap of blood and bone, a crumpled scarecrow. His whole life was his hope. He had wanted so blazingly to burn the old world down and make a new one rise like a phoenix, but instead all he burnt was himself and his closest friends, and countless others whose names Patria will forget. He was the fire-starter. He should be the one to crumble to ash.
Grantaire's voice sits strangely in the silence. Enjolras's name hangs between them, an end to his little charade. Sighing, he resigns himself to an uncomfortable conversation, and opens his eyes without looking at Grantaire.
"What is it, R?"
He hopes that he sounds tired enough to put Grantaire off. Only recently has he taken to using Grantaire's silly pun of a nickname. It is reassuring. It makes him think of the Musain and his friends when they laughed, and a time when his worst concern was keeping the meeting on track in the face of Joly's hypochondria or Grantaire's drunkenness or Courfeyrac's tales of his latest female conquests.
Grantaire pins him to the bed with an intent look. He should have known better than to think that he could ever be put off.
"What's keeping you awake?"
He opens his mouth to reply that it is nothing, he is just not tired; he hates anyone seeing the cracks in his marble face. But Grantaire is an observer and a truth-seer and only last week he saw how flawless Enjolras isn't, so what rushes off his tongue is:
"I sometimes wonder if it would be easier for you all if I were to die."
Grantaire gives him a blank look that is not an agreement or a denial. Enjolras swallows nervously and rambles on.
"It's me they want, really. If I died-and I was turned over to them-then they might stop pursuing you. You'd all be free to recover in peace. You could live normal lives."
Grantaire lifts an eyebrow fractionally, but still doesn't comment.
"I should, R. It's the right thing to do. I-I want to. If I die, you'll all be free."
Grantaire shrugs and shifts in his chair, grimacing as he does. Enjolras is reminded that even he did not escape the barricade unscathed. He does not deny the truth of Enjolras's words. This is why, if he had the choice of his friends to confess this to, it would still be Grantaire, even over Combeferre or Courfeyrac. No matter how uncomfortable or cruel, Grantaire will never deny him a truth in order to make him feel better. Grantaire is his cynic, his watcher, and he has never denied him a truth.
"Want to know what else would happen if you died?"
Enjolras was not expecting this answer, and his mouth hangs open uselessly. Grantaire continues, his eyes suddenly hard and tender at the same time.
"So, you die, your body is turned over to the National Guard, and they decide that the rest of us aren't important enough to bother with. Then what happens? Combeferre blames himself for your death."
Enjolras gapes and tries to articulate an argument, but Grantaire lifts a hand to silence him and rolls on relentlessly.
"Combeferre blames himself-inadequate medical care, or something. He'll consider himself an incompetent medic, fail his exams and fail to become a doctor. He ends up down and out on the streets of Paris, haunted forever by the memory of the brother he couldn't save. Joly does something similar, but losing you would probably intensify his hypochondria, since he'd obsess even more over health, and it might give him a nervous breakdown. With Joly a wreck, Bossuet loses his best friend and the one who helps him stay cheerful through all of his unfortunate incidents. So we lose Bossuet, too. Bahorel is furious, and drinks and fights more than ever and probably dies in a tavern brawl one night. Jehan's always felt things more deeply than the rest of us, he'd waste away with grief. We all fall apart, cast adrift without an anchor, and Feuilly has no one to help him recover from losing an arm, nowhere he can stay when he can't pay the rent anymore, no one to buy him dinner when he can't get a job because of his arm. Courfeyrac exhausts himself trying to keep us all together and he won't succeed and it will break his heart because he will know that you were the one who did that."
Enjolras is stunned by this dire vision of a future without him, and can only hoarsely scrape out:
"And what about you?"
Grantaire gives a smirk edged with melancholy.
"I plunge myself into drink more deeply still, because I won't have a reason to hold back. I have come close before, but then remembered my friends and thought of how I would like to keep all of my tomorrows drinking at your side. But there will be no more tomorrows for me, so I will die alone, alcohol-soaked, in a gutter somewhere, toasting the memory of Apollo."
Enjolras cannot speak. He can, however, feel something warm and wet streak down his face. He is aware that he weeps, but cannot decide if he cares or not.
"On balance, cher, I do not think that it would be better for us if you were to die."
Speechless still, Enjolras eases himself up onto his elbows. He sees alarm flash across Grantaire's face, but before he can push him down, urging him in hushed tones not to overexert himself, he reaches out a trembling arm towards him. Realising suddenly what it is Enjolras wants, something he has never sought from Grantaire before, the cynic quickly leans forwards and enfolds him in a tight, careful embrace.
"Better like this, then? All together?" Enjolras murmurs uncertainly into the thicket of black curls near Grantaire's ear.
"Yes, cher, I think so. Better together."
A/N: I'd absolutely love some feedback on my first venture into Les Miserables fanfiction, if you fancy reviewing... Please do, it's much appreciated. Hope you enjoyed it!