A few notes: This is my first Les Miz fiction. I've been a fan - forever - but I've never tried writing a story based on it. So bear with me! If anyone wishes to beta, please message me. I'm flying solo here! As such, all mistakes are mine.
I'd also like to point out that, although I know Enjolras is blond (LOL) to my mind he's very much a brunette due to countless on stage portrayals. Michael Maguire will always be "my" Enjolras, but he isn't who prompted this story. It was the wonderful Ramin Karimloo in the 25th anniversary who prompted this one, and who is in fact my model. Why? Never mind that amazing voice, my god if he and Michael sang together it would be the end of me. What prompted this was Ramin stepping back and making the sign of the cross and praying during "One Day More". Enjolras suddenly became real to me in a way that he never had before. That doesn't make him easy to write, however!
Enjolras was always my favorite male character in the book (Eponine being my other favorite and no, I don't ship them though as a kid I thought it was cool that my favorite characters both began with an "E") but the way he was written drove me a little nuts. He was so idealistic, so single minded, and so...young and stupid. LOL!
This story is my answer to all that, with a helping of pure fancy and "because I can" thrown in. Hope you enjoy! - Kam
The room was crowded and loud, distracting, everything a grand meeting of the minds should be; the energy so palpable as to crackle in the air, the tension relieving itself through words of haste and vigor. Heated discussions barreled from one passionate body to the next, the sentences sealing themselves into the walls. It was a wonder the room didn't sway from the pressure, and indeed Combeferre supposed their mission was what caused the cracks in the walls and the scratches on the table, as though the room was desperately trying to withstand the assault through stubbornness tempered by idle curiosity of what was to become of the impassioned men.
As he picked at one of the scratches on the rough, wooden table his eyes settled on the stationary object across the room who was taking in the organized chaos with his usual calm. Enjolras stood on the perimeter, his arms folded across his chest, his hair more disheveled than he usually allowed. He did not appear fatigued, only contemplative. At six feet he was taller than most in the room, though not the tallest. His posture demonstrated the control he felt over himself. His stern visage took in the activity, and Combeferre knew him well enough to search for the wry smile hidden within his depths. It wasn't visible on his face, but more in the subtle glint of his eyes. Enjolras was pleased.
Combeferre's brows quirked in response and he disguised his own smile, his attention returning to worrying at the splinter he was determined to extract from the table top. He was exhausted of planning. Better to let the others sort out their differences. It wouldn't matter in the end; what Enjolras said was God's own gospel. But he knew Enjolras listened, as any good leader did, to the opinions and crass jokes which filtered through the more serious discussion of the upcoming days, gauging the mood of each individual man. Enjolras was forever evaluating the situation before him. Combeferre was content to allow it. It was nothing for him to pick at the table and let the leader do his work.
The men were relaxing in their own ways, and he himself was tempted to retire to his room. There would be no speeches, not tonight. Jehan tossed the occasional glance in his direction several times, and after reading the man's demeanor he gave a quick shake of his head. No, no speeches. The men were free to leave at their will. It was late. Shoulders were slumping and Enjolras noticed. Some nights he would keep them, bolster their spirits, pour energy into them. This wasn't one of those nights. The energy was there and allowed to run its course.
Grantaire appeared seemingly from nowhere and sat heavily across from Combeferre, squinting with an expression of near disgust which Combeferre could not understand. He opened his mouth, but Grantaire spoke first. "How do you do it?"
Combeferre frown his puzzlement.
Grantaire glanced over his shoulder at Enjolras, and turned back to the man seated across from him. "I am a witness. You talk with your eyes. Both of you." Grantaire's own gaze was slightly unfocused.
"We know each other. It is only normal to learn to read someone through their actions."
Grantaire clenched his fist. His lips pressed together as though to force a idea from his head to his throat through his liquor haze. "That is the thing, is it not? How can anyone know what that man thinks, indeed, if he even has thoughts which are not held exclusive to the cause of liberty, and his 'free citizens of the world'". He leaned back, his head wobbling slightly, and picked at the table in the same manner as Combeferre. "It makes me envious that you can read him so," he continued. "I would that he'd talk to me on occasion without resorting to slander."
"He seems to think I imbibe more than can be healthy for me."
"I do not jest!" Grantaire stood, his chair scraping back, which was a common occurrence when this group of men joined together but which always seemed to silence a room when it was Grantaire who did the standing. The room quieted, and Grantaire looked around.
"Every one of you has his vice, and are free to engage in said vice. Is that not freedom? I can sit and drink until my eyeballs are full and vestiges of liquor pool from my very pores! There is neither man nor beast which can stop me from engaging in my pleasure. With drink I have no worry, I have none of the fears which plague all of you on a daily basis!" He swiped his hand at the room. "You cry out for revolution, for freedom. I have it! I am content! What is freedom, then, but to be content?" He eyed each man as he fell silent.
No one answered, in fact the men seemed more engaged in his short speech than usual. For one, it was odd indeed for Grantaire to give a short speech. Many a time his talks would rival the impassioned ravings of Enjolras. But now Grantaire seemed angry, and his glare was aimed at the motionless man he so admired- which was the second thing to draw the attention of the friends.
It was no secret that Grantaire worshipped the ground over which Enjolras soared. "Apollo" he called him. Adonis. On occasion he managed to sneak in a "your highness" which earned him a cuff on the ear and an expression which suggested maybe Grantaire had taken his jest too far. But the admiration was true, and it wasn't because he had designs on being like Enjolras. He was desperate for the ideals which Enjolras upheld simply by existing. The man was a physical manifestation of every emotional and spiritual desire Grantaire had ever felt in his life, and everyone knew it. It was evident in their discussions, their arguments, their banter. It was in the very look that Grantaire would give him when he spoke. It wasn't one of love, although Grantaire did love Enjolras. It was the expression of one who so desperately wanted to believe what he was told, yet was afraid to let himself go so far.
The fact that he envied Combeferre's friendship with Enjolras was apparent, and understood by all. It was painful to witness, because no matter how hard Grantaire claimed to try, Enjolras never saw past the bottle in Grantaire's hand, and with good reason.
Combeferre knew better. He had seen Enjolras glance at the young man when his head was down on the table. It wasn't disdain which crossed his face, but mild concern, and yes, annoyance. It was obvious Enjolras saw something much more in Grantaire than Grantaire himself saw, or indeed anyone else. Combeferre could not see it until Enjolras started pointing out the brilliant behaviors disguised as apathy. It was little wonder Enjolras stayed frustrated with Grantaire, but the poor drunken man had no clue of this. It certainly wasn't obvious in the words Enjolras gave him.
Grantaire held no bottle now, but he clearly suffered the effects of one - or three. It was another thing to expect from him; the later the day, the more bottles sway. Grantaire was usually a happy drunk.
But now, his eyes were dark. He walked to Enjolras, each step steady from daily practice of living in a constantly tilting world.
Enjolras watched him, his arms still crossed, his expression unchanged. Grantaire was nearly his own height, allowing the two men to regard each other eye to eye. Combeferre was slowly approaching the two men, more out of curiosity than out of a response to a threat. Grantaire would never threaten Enjolras. But each man felt such a dedication to their leader that it sometimes showed itself as protectiveness. The fact that two others of their party also stepped closer did not escape the attention of Combeferre.
Grantaire seemed to have run out of things to say, which again, was unusual. He watched Enjolras, and Enjolras watched him. Both waiting. The men around them also waited.
Grantaire finally spoke, his words soft but carrying far. "Do you really wish to die, Enjolras? Because I do not wish that for you. I've seen death. It sounds noble. You could do so much more for these people than to throw your body onto a barricade which will crumble beneath your feet. I've no interest in assisting your suicide."
Enjolras continued to watch him, taking in his words.
Grantaire's lips pressed together in anger, and he raised a finger, pointing it to Enjolras' face, only for the marble man to finally move, grabbing at the hand with startling speed, and squeezing it tightly.
"My reasons are my own," Enjolras responded in a low voice. "I need not explain them to you. If I must man the barricade alone I will do just that. If it takes one man to stand tall and to be shot down, if that is the example the people need, then that is the example they will receive."
"You are an idiot," Grantaire muttered, snatching his hand away. "Look at us. Do you honestly think what we do will matter?"
"It will send a signal."
"Yes, it will! Clean up day! Time to rid the streets of foul litter! Ah," Grantaire waved him down. "Why do I speak? I waste my time here."
"That is the first sensible thing you have said," Enjolras answered quickly. "And yet you accuse me of wasting mine. Did you not say that we must engage in our vice? Yours is the bottle. Mine, the republic. The citizens. My vice, is to ensure that they have the freedom to pursue theirs. Open your eyes, Grantaire! What you see in the streets every day is but a fraction of the degradation and squalor which permeates this great city. What point is there to have the privileged few if we can not use our privilege for the greater good?"
"What point is there if you are dead?" Grantaire countered starkly. "And do not dare try to answer with poetry. You use your death as a shining example to all men! But you'll not die a martyr, Enjolras. Women will weep for a day, your mother will weep for a week, and your body will rot with the others."
He backed away, his eyes taking in the quiet, accusing glances, and the more concerned ones. "It is a good thing you make death sound so grand, Enjolras," he concluded. And he took his nearly empty bottle, and left the back room of the café.
Combeferre let out the breath he had been holding. The men slowly resumed their activities, though with a subdued air.
Enjolras remained standing. He was upset. It was something the men were trying to ignore.
Jehan joined Combeferre as he reached Enjolras' side. "Provisions are ready," he said in a low voice. "I'll retire if nothing else is needed tonight."
"Nothing is required, thank you, Jehan." Combeferre shook his hand warmly. Enjolras gave him a grateful clap on the shoulder, and Jehan took his leave.
"Do you think he is going after Grantaire?" Combeferre asked.
"I honestly can not decide if that man needs looking after, or if he is better off on his own recognizance," Enjolras muttered. "If Jehan wishes to take on the monumental task of looking out for him, I wish him the best of luck." He shook his head ruefully and rested his knuckles on the table before him.
"I thought you did not believe in luck," Combeferre teased.
"I believe the situation demands it," Enjolras responded dryly.
Several others were following Jehan through the door as the room slowly emptied. Tasks for the morrow had already been laid before them. The men knew their duties.
Courfeyrac entered, then closed the door behind the last few departing men.
"Where have you been this evening?" Enjolras asked sternly. Combeferre was not certain if Enjolras was truly upset at Courfeyrac, or if he was still suffering from the emotion Grantaire had hurled at him.
Courfeyrac was nearly as used the leader's moods as Combeferre, and waved him down. He scraped out a chair and sat, catching his breath.
"Good God, man, did you run here?" Combeferre asked.
Courfeyrac nodded. "I was distracted by a man I thought I recognized when earlier I arrived. He was watching me from across the street. I thought it best to move on and not bring him here, even though our gathering this evening was innocent. I wanted no risk of nefarious conversation crossing his ears."
"A wise decision," Enjolras complimented. "Who was this man?"
"I know not. Only that I've seen him talking with the police several times. He may consort with them on official business, or unofficial, depending on your view. Regardless, it seems he knows to watch these doors." He yanked his cravat from his neck. "And now the police will know to watch as well."
Enjolras sighed, and rapped his knuckles on the table in thought. "We could change our meeting place, but it may raise suspicion were we to suddenly vacate these premises. How many officials have you seen while out today?"
"About the same number. But they are very attentive to the goings on in the street."
"They know something. They've seen us talk, that is obvious. But they must sense something more. Surely no one here has spoken of our further plans?"
"I would not know, Enjolras." Courfeyrac wiped his face and snapped the cravat in the air. "Alas, I do not frequent the households of every man who comes through those doors."
"Of course not." Enjolras sighed and turned to sit on the table top. He clasped his hands in his lap, his fingers worrying at each other, his ever-working mind evaluating the situation. "We will continue to call to the people, but perhaps with less frequency." He pounded a fist into his upturned hand. "Confound it! Now is not the time for suspicion. The people are starting to listen."
"Then it sounds like the perfect time for suspicion," Courfeyrac said.
Enjolras looked at him over his shoulder. He considered, then gave a light chuckle. "Of course. You are right. We continue tomorrow as stated, it is too late to change those plans. But make certain everyone is careful, and aware. We cannot have men jailed before we've begun."
Combeferre nodded in agreement.
The people were gathered, some with papers in their hands, others standing with arms folded across their chests in defiance, not ready to hear what was being said. Enjolras glanced around the corner of the building, taking in the increasing number, then resumed his pacing as he rehearsed his speech in his head. He never bothered to write anything down. He had a gift for oration. He knew words wouldn't fail him, not when speaking of something in which he believed with the whole of his being. For him, the energy of the crowd was his passion. Their upturned faces and bright eyes at his words were the caress of a lover. This was why he was put on the earth. To speak. To be a soul of the Republic. This was his purpose. And if he had to die for it, he would, willingly.
He wasn't sure about the others. He had to convince them that the cause was worth it. But the truth was, he didn't want to see men die. The previous night's sleep had been filled with images of stiff bodies along a mile high barricade, thanks to the ravings of Grantaire. And he knew, deep inside his chest, that Grantaire was probably correct. It tore at him.
Enjolras shook his head in brief amusement. Woe be the day he would admit Grantaire just might be the voice of reason!
He scratched the back of his neck, pacing more quickly as the time approached. A man bumped into his arm, apologized, and took his place near the makeshift podium, which had been hastily erected ten minutes earlier as Marius and Feuilly handed out information. They were well hidden now. Enjolras had thought it best not to have everyone in the open, in case certain eyes were to notice. It was another thought which disrupted his sleep the previous night. He knew they would attract attention. Caution was the order of the day.
Most of his friends were present. His eyes rose to see Combeferre watching from the room above. Reassured that his friend was near, Enjolras gave a nod, feeling perhaps not quite so nervous.
Nervous? He was never nervous. He voiced his thoughts as fluidly as water flowed downstream. Damn Grantaire and his words! He cursed lightly under his breath and clenched his fist. No doubts. Not now. It was time. He mounted the stack of crates and boxes to the small platform, feeling it shift beneath his feet. He paused for a mere fraction of a second, testing the stability. No sudden movements today, he told himself. Reign in the enthusiasm. They would have to work on their platform design.
The people grew silent as Enjolras stood before them, taking them all in, letting his presence fill the air. Once the eyes were no longer curious, but expectant, he began.
"Citizens. Look at yourselves." He waited until the men and women turned and glanced at each other uncomfortably. "Is this France?"
The crowd was instantly confused, and looked at each other once more before turning to Enjolras for the answer.
"The answer you seek is, yes. Yes, this is France." He pointed to a man in a tattered coat. "You, sir, what is your trade?"
He looked startled, but answered clearly, "Shoe repair."
"How many shoes in a week?"
"This week? Just five."
"Extensive enough. Damn near rebuilt three pair."
"And who benefits from your labor?"
The man gave a lopsided smile. "I've heard you speak before. I believe you like to call them the 'upper crust'."
Enjolras smiled at the people's chuckles. "You have indeed heard me before, though I won't swear to using that particular phrase. Welcome back, brother. Are you paid well for your services?"
The man spat for an answer.
"And has your trade suffered?"
"They'd rather purchase new shoes. Not local, either! Some fancy new thing from Spain. Spain, I tell you!" He looked ready to launch into his own tirade, but Enjolras raised his hands.
"Citizens, you are the backbone of society. Every one of you. And yet you can not make a living this way! How many are forced to resort to illicit means to feed your children at home? No, do not answer," he said to several guilty faces in the back, "I do not stand here to accuse, but to say I understand."
"You're an upper crust!" a different voice yelled out from the center of the crowd. Enjolras squinted into the mass and watched a large, burly man push through the bodies. "You say you understand us, you know nothing! I know who you are!" A forefinger thick as a sausage jabbed toward him. "You're a student at the university."
"I am," Enjolras answered truthfully.
The man planted himself at Enjolras' feet. "You claim to understand our plight! Look at you! Look at your clothes! Fine linens, nice jacket. What the 'ell do you know?"
Enjolras immediately shrugged off his jacket and tossed it into the crowd. "What I have, I give freely," he said. "It is true I have had fortunate circumstances. Those circumstances I have shunned in the name of the people. Come, citizens! M Lemarque has done what he can, it is time for the people to speak! You must make your voices heard! You must take a day to shut down your wares and march in the street as one voice! One voice who says, this is enough! This shall end! I will no longer be trod upon, forced into slavery! For that is what is happening, my friends! You slave away, your families grow ill, there is no money for medicine, and no jobs to be had!"
"What do you know of it!" The angry man again shoved a finger toward Enjolras. "Look at you! You are nothing more than a Boheme. You stand up there lording over us, and when you are finished you'll return to your books and your wine and talk about how you'll 'improve the world'" he spoke in a high whiny voice, "while the rest of us lay dying on the pavement at your feet. How many people have you helped by standing there, earning their attention? Go to the stage for your performance, boy, and leave the citizens be!"
"I can not," Enjolras said quietly, yet his voice carried over the crowd like a whip. "You wound me, sir, with your lack of faith. What I wish, I can not do alone. That is why I stand here, speaking, nay entreating!" He knelt down, his hand held out. "I need men like you. You are passionate, you know where you stand, you are able-bodied and strong. You voice will be heard. It has already been heard here! Why not turn it to the cause at hand? Work with me, not against me, and together we will fight for this great country and truly make it a land for the free!"
The man sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. Then he raged, reaching up to grab Enjolras by the shoulders, and, pouncing like a tiger, threw the younger man backwards.
Enjolras wasn't expecting the attack. The man was nimble, no doubt of that. He landed hard on his back, his breath driven from his ribs. He knew well how to fight, but as he tried to push the man away he realized was outweighed, and the platform was buckling from the people's response as they shoved forward.
Warning shots from the hidden police pierced the air, causing mayhem. Damn! Enjolras heard his name called out several times, the voices frantic. He saw faces start to appear over the shoulders of the man holding him down, all of them wide-eyed, yelling, tugging, then falling backward. Underneath him the wood cracked, splintered, and gave way.
Combeferre tumbled down the stairs in his haste to get to the street. He had been watching his friend from directly above, clutching the peeling window seal in desperation as Enjolras was confronted by the big man. He saw his friend kneel, thought for a moment his speech had soothed the savage beast, only to find him disappear beneath the bear of a body. He had launched himself from the window at that point, and could hear the panic and commotion echo loudly in the stairwell.
He burst from the door and shoved people aside, calling out his friend's name, fighting the hoard who seemed to both be running toward and away from the scene. Courfeyrac was there, flinging boards left and right. Marius was pressed against the building, and Combeferre heard him cry out, "Here!" as he dove down and shifted more wood.
Combeferre didn't care what he trod upon. With a savage yell he forced his way to the clutter, his hands grabbing crates, throwing them behind him, taking no notice of who may be in the way. He could just see the burly man, moaning, his head bleeding, and Enjolras lay half beneath him, stunned, visibly trying to get his bearing, one hand freed and pushing upward uselessly at the debris.
Grantaire appeared beside him and together they freed the large man from beneath several crates before, with the aid of Marius, bodily heaving him aside and shoving him away. Combeferre knelt beside Enjolras, eyeing him quickly while noting another threat to him, this time another man, smaller than the first, raising a metal bar high above his head, ready to strike down.
Grantaire tackled him backward with a yell.
Combeferre cleared more debris and pulled Enjolras to his feet, clutching his hand and his arm, steadying him as his friend quickly regained his bearings. He noticed Grantaire's struggle and reached out. "The fool will kill himself," he gasped.
Combeferre held him back. "Let him be. No, Enjolras! You're not safe here. You've become a target, we must go!"
Enjolras turned to him, startled. He looked back at Grantaire, who was aiming a fine punch and yelling, "Go, be on with you!" before laying the man out.
Marius tugged at Enjolras' other arm. "We must leave, now!" Neither man gave him time to argue as they pulled him from the wreckage, with some assistance from well-meaning citizens. More angry cries were heard, and it occurred to Combeferre that while Enjolras had been organizing a coup with the best of intentions, there were in fact adverse opinions. And those opinions were just as determined to be voiced.
A bottle crashed against the brick wall over their heads. The three men ducked, then took to their heels down a back alley. They darted around a corner, sliding on damp cobblestones, and planted themselves against a grimy wall.
"Do they give chase?" Enjolras asked quickly, panting, swiping angrily at a line of blood streaming toward his eye.
Marius glanced around the corner, his only answer being long arms propelling the other two men forward. But there was no where to run, as four more men blocked their paths.
"Go, go!" Enjolras insisted, shoving at the backs of his friends but there was no way Combeferre was leaving him. He planted his feet and waited.
"Ah, our revolutionaries!" A tall man, whose white hair belied his more youthful appearance, was thumping a nightstick into his palm. "Do you suppose they fight as well as they read?" And he charged.
There was no longer any doubt that Enjolras was their target as two men grabbed him instantly, the white-haired one smashing the club against his knees, eliciting a rare cry from the leader as he collapsed.
Combeferre was striking anything near him, and striking hard. He heard an enraged yell from Marius, heard more yells from behind, and even more yells farther back. Once again, the mob had come to them. He could see nothing but flailing arms and yelling faces, flashes of teeth, and limbs becoming so entangled he no longer knew who belonged to what.
It only took one blow to his head to silence him.
to be cont...