Author's Note: This is a spin-off series of one-shots based on my longer fanfic "Dreamers in the Shadows". Most of these won't make much sense unless you know what's been going on there. This little bit takes place during Chapter 28. I'm quite happy to write any scenes that people would like and put them in this story collection.

Crimson Tiles

There's blood everywhere.

Con knows it's not true. He knows that the blood was diluted by water, and that this means it stained far more than it should have. He knows that the person who almost undoubtedly owned the blood at one time is doing just fine right now.

He knows that the blood isn't Eric's blood.

He hates himself, a little bit, for thinking that and being relieved at first. Erin is as much his friend as Eric is, and the fact that the blood belongs to her and not Eric shouldn't make anything better.

Doesn't make anything better.

Because it's Erin's blood but it was used to rip apart Eric's soul, and Con opens his mouth, forces himself to breathe slowly and calmly through that rather than his nose. There isn't much smell from the blood, but he doesn't want any of it in his nose, triggering his gag reflex.

We need to clean it up. Combeferre's voice is a soft, tired murmur in his head. We need to clean it up before we do anything else.

Before they shower, before they clean themselves off like Cori had suggested, before they try to wash away the worst of the last twenty-four-hours of horror, they need to get the blood cleaned out of the shower and off the bathroom floor and off the sink and—

One place at a time.

One bit at a time.

He starts with the sink and the mirror, because it has the least amount of blood. There are still five or six smeared hand prints, four of them smaller, Eric's hands, slipping and sliding on the mirror, on the countertop, smearing the watered-down liquid around so that it leaves pretty ruby trails behind, dries almost phosphorescent red on the glass of the mirror. There are two larger handprints, Grant's hands, grabbing Eric, hauling him toward the paramedics.

Why did Eric claw at the mirror? What did he see there to draw his attention, to pull him toward it? What was he reaching for? Himself? His identity, his consciousness, his memories, drowning amidst a dozen other permutations of him, broken and fragmented by whatever the beast did to him?

He's healing. He's recovering. Combeferre's words are soothing, and he has seen blood like this, worse than this, and Con holds tight to that as he finishes with the mirror.

He cleans the floor next. The bath mat needs to go through the wash, so he folds it carefully and places it up on the toilet, making sure that it won't leave any new bloodsmears. Grant and Eric will have to decide if they want to try to clean the small footprint off of it or if they want to simply throw it out.

Grant would throw it out, likely.

Grantaire might keep it somewhere as a souvenir. There's actually a note of wry humor to Combeferre's voice. He… wasn't always reasonable about Enjolras. Something like that, a memento like that, he might leave the bloody footprint and hide it away somewhere.

Grant… might do that as well. It's really not funny. It's really not fair, to laugh at a friend, but a smile still twitches at Combeferre's lips as he considers Eric's exasperation should he ever find Grant doing something like that. Except… No. He wouldn't keep this. Hair, definitely, or nail clippings, or other weird things. I could see him making a small shrine to Eric. But not… this. Not something so tied into pain for us.

I know. Grantaire wouldn't, either. It's just… Laugh or cry, Con. It's what we have to do, sometimes. Combeferre understands how he feels, feels it himself, and Con tries not to shiver as he once more has the distinct impression of looking into a mirror that shows his heart and soul.

The bloody footprints on the floor are somehow easier to deal with than the mirror was. At least he knows what these mean. At least he understands that Grant's larger footprints surrounding Eric's slender ones just indicate Grant helping Eric to the door, to the paramedics, to the hospital where they poured blood into his veins to replace what the monster ripped from him when it tore through his soul

He has to stop, to take a deep breath, and his vision is blurry even though he still has his glasses on and it takes him a moment to realize that's because there are tears in his eyes.

"Can we laugh and cry? Is that allowed?" A low, dark chuckle slips from Con's throat.

Definitely allowed. Combeferre hesitates. Do you want me to come forward? Do you want me to finish this?

"No. I'll do it." He's spent half the day with Combeferre in control of his body already—half the day with his thoughts so tangled with Combeferre's he wasn't always sure where he stopped and Combeferre started. He will do this himself.

The entire bottom of the shower is a showcase of the color red. The edges have darkened, flaking up in places, maroon and carmine and rosewood flecks that stick to his hands. The area around the drain still hasn't dried completely yet, though, maintains the true scarlet hue of well-oxygenated blood, and in between the maroon and the scarlet there is every shade of red imaginable.

He doesn't allow himself to think as he cleans. He just turns on the water, dumps half the bottle of bleach into the bottom of the shower, and scrubs until his hands burn and the water runs clean and there isn't a trace of red anywhere to be seen.

He doesn't think of Eric, screaming as cool water tried to keep his body and mind from burning away.

He doesn't think of the bruises, so dark and horrible against Enjolras' pale skin.

He doesn't think of Grant's haunted eyes, of Grantaire's dark despair.

He doesn't hum any of the Red and Black song from the musical, and he doesn't bite his lip until it bleeds a single drop of fresh crimson when he finds himself doing it, the pain driving away the half-mad laughter that bubbles in his throat.

He cleans.

He cleans, and when he's done he strips out of his clothes as quickly as he can and dives under the hot water himself, though there is a part of him that wonders darkly if any of the Amis can ever truly be clean after this, if anything that monster has touched could ever really be washed spotless again.