Enjolras was speaking to the crowd the next day, and to his credit, they looked on with anticipation. Several men were yelling out, not against Enjolras, but with him. Those who had been supportive in the past were now more vocal as tensions continued to rise through the city. It was predicted that General Lamarque would survive only a few days more. People were once hidden, but now they were talking in doorways, on street corners, or passing meaningful looks on the street. Combeferre was noticing it more and more, and it stuck him that perhaps the Society was not on a fool's errand after all, and that he should have a little more faith in his friend.
His friend was fiery in his element. His fist was clenched, his body loose, his words soaring. He had the throng of people in the palm of his hand. Even the children were paying attention, instinctively caught up in the energy of a pending event, cheering even though many had no idea what they were cheering for. Young Gavroche was there, schooling his friends as much as he could, sticking up for the mites of the streets. The enthusiastic small fist would strike the air, "Vive la France!" and Joly would quickly pull him down once more.
"This is a good turn of events." Grantaire said, appearing at Combeferre's elbow. He winced and put his hand to his head.
Combeferre glanced at him with a smile, then turned again. "Grantaire?"
"I'm fine." Grantaire swallowed thickly.
Combeferre leaned on his side against the brick wall, shaking his head. "You are as bad as he is. How long have you been ill?"
Grantaire shrugged. "A few days?"
Grantaire tucked his hands beneath his arms as though he were cold. "No."
"You are not a good liar."
"I never claimed to be." He closed in.
Combeferre stared. "Are you cold? It is a furnace out here!"
"Oh, leave me be! Look to him, he is the one who bears the attention, not I."
"As I said, you are a poor liar." But Combeferre was concerned. "Grantaire, when was the last time you had a drink? Truly?"
"Fine! I had several when Enolras disappeared. I had another when he was returned to us."
"Someone has to watch his back!"
"You've said that before!"
"And I had a few drinks! But I am not drunk now. I haven't had anything in over a day and a half. I wish I did…oh god…." Grantaire turned and placed his hand against the wall, slumping. "It is worse than last time…"
"Grantaire!" Combeferre quickly braced him, looking around for Marius. "Easy, easy. Let's get you out of here."
"I can stand."
"Perhaps, but not for long," Combeferre muttered, adjusting his grip, his eyes darting through the crowd.
"I'm not leaving him! Why do you think I suffer this outrage?"
"He doesn't need your imminent collapse as a distraction!" Combeferre forced the young man's chin around. "Look at me. You are on the right path. Give it another day with no drink at all and then you will see fit to be at his side."
Grantaire groaned. "Do not jest. I am fit for nothing more than a wooden box."
"Nonsense. Marius! Good, there you are. Watch this crowd and stay close to Enjolras. Keep Feuilly with you. Grantaire is ill."
Marius leaned in to Combeferre's ear. "Drunk again?"
Combeferre grunted as he caught Grantaire's slumping form. "Ironically, his body is suffering from the strain of normality, and has to adjust."
"Do not dare use the word 'normal' in my hearing." Grantiare swallowed hard. "I die. It is worth this? Is he worth this?"
Grantaire did look rather green. Marius took a step back in horror, but Combeferre managed to quickly steer the poor man around the corner before he disgraced himself.
After several minutes Grantaire slid back against the rough wall. "I am useless."
"Give it a day. You'll feel better than you ever have."
"That is questionable. But as Christ rose, so shall I." Grantaire gestured with his hands, and was lifted by the elbows.
Maruis wrinkled his nose. "Oh, my. I preferred you smelling of spirits." He released his grip as Grantaire heaved violently, but was not ill.
"Get me out of here," the sick man mumbled, and Combeferre did as he was told.
Combeferre glanced back at the sleeping man as he opened his door. He turned and walked right into Enjolras.
"Enjol…my god!" Combeferre gasped and slumped against the door, stumbling back as it swung inward.
"Easy!" Enjolras quickly grabbed him to keep him from falling back. "I came to see how he fares."
Combeferre was breathing heavily from his fright, and glanced behind him. "Morbid," he said quietly, taking Enjolras by the arm and pulling him into the corridor while closing his apartment door. "He's been sick constantly. I had to bring him here to guarantee he wouldn't drink the café dry in retaliation." He braced his hand against the wall, still regaining his breath.
Enjolras looked amused at Combeferre's state. "I am sorry."
"Maruis said you escorted him away. What ails him?"
"Lack of spirits." Combeferre gave a sad smile.
"Lack of…" Enjolras thought, then his eyebrows rose. "He's completely stopped drinking?"
"All for the love of country."
"That's a lie."
"All for the love of Enjolras, then." At the man's frown, he sighed. "Let's go outside. I've given him a sleeping drought, I do not believe he has anything left to vacate. He'll be fine on the morrow. But we should talk."
They walked the streets of Paris, enjoying the sun. Combeferre noticed Enjolras turning his face upwards more than once. He seemed more calm than usual. "Tell me," he said after they'd walked for a while in silence. "Upon what quest has Grantaire set himself? I've tried to dissuade him from the drink a thousand times, what's changed in him?"
"He wants to see you live," Combferre said bluntly. "He was panicked when you were taken, Enjolras. We all were. But he was struck the hardest. He tried forgoing the drink then, and now he has succeeded."
"How does a lack of drink make him ill?"
"Drink was all he had. His body craves it. At the same time it rids itself of it."
"A devilish way to put off a devilish brew." Enjolras puzzled over this. "And how would this help me to live?"
"He thinks to protect you. Do not laugh, Enjolras! He is very serious, and I think it would be good for him to do so. He is very able when he is sober."
"When has he been sober?"
"I've known him longer, remember? I have seen it. He hasn't always been a drunkard." Combeferre stopped Enjolras. "Like it or not, you are his savior. He both worships and curses the ground you walk on. He loves you, and I think he hates himself for it."
Enjolras shook his head sadly. "I am not worthy of this…insane devotion."
"I've told you before that every man here will put his life on the line for you. You know this. They do this because they believe in the cause, and in your word. Why should Grantaire be any different?"
"No, not for me!" Enjolras snapped. "For the nation! For their…"
"Freedom, yes, I know!" Combeferre caught Enjolras by the arms. "Stop, I do not mean to belittle you! But you have to listen! They don't understand what's coming, Enjolras! They've never seen the storm. But I think you have. Tell me, can you truly prepare them?"
Enjolras sighed and pulled away. He walked a few paces, his back turned, and stopped. The sun gleamed off of his white shirt, and for a moment he did indeed look like an angel. Combeferre nearly caught his breath. But when the voice spoke, it was dark.
"It was my father, Combeferre. He hired the men to take me from my cell. He wanted to frighten me from the cause."
Combeferre was speechless.
Enjolras made a fist, still not turning but speaking over his shoulder. "The bastard visited me while I was in jail, and said nothing. Instead he had me taken. This was how he spoke. Not only was I a child, I was a child flattened by his invisible hand. He did not have the courage to speak to my face."
He couldn't wrap his mind around that. Granted he did not know Enjolras's father, had never seen him and hardly heard Enjolras speak of him. But it remained…"No. Not your own father. He would not."
Enjolras exhaled harshly in a breath which sounded almost like a laugh of disbelief.
Combeferre stood beside his friend and studied his expression. Enjolras did not look angry. He looked sad. Incredibly sad. "I am sorry. I don't know what to say to that."
Enjolras looked up. "What is there to be said?"
"We should let Grantaire pay him a visit."
This time Enjolras laughed loudly. "Do not tempt me!" He chuckled for a few moments as they resumed their walk. "The man my father hired, he did say something. He said there were others who would hamper the cause."
"So we've seen. It landed you in jail in the first place." And it had been pulling at his mind ever since.
"Oh, there are other societies about, other alliances, others who think they know the better way," he waved his sentence away impatiently, "but these people, they are bound to us. They wish to silence us, specifically. That means we are on the right path. Something about us frightens them. Combeferre," he paused and took his friend's arm, "I would know who these people are."
Enjolras considered, then tapped Combefere's chest with his forefinger. "We'll have someone rise against us in public and see if they can attract the attention of these particulars. And I know someone who would be perfect for the part."
Combeferre waited, then shook his head as he realized. "No. Enjolras, he would never do it! And he is ill!"
"Not for long, you said yourself he would be fine. He confronts me nightly in the café. And if he wants to protect me, he will do this."
Combeferre noted the word "protect" was muttered in a wry tone, and as such held out little hope for poor Grantaire.
Grantaire hated it.
They had been sitting in the front of the café when Combeferre broke the news. Grantaire had been back on his feet for a day, and this was not how he wanted to spend it. He had looked on in astonishment as Enjolras explained what was needed of him. His eyes drifted to the bottles which were disturbingly out of his reach. If ever he needed a drink, it was at that moment.
Now he was steeling himself to confront the only man he had ever bothered to admire.
Oh, it wasn't the confrontation which bothered him. That, he would engage in with fervor. What worried him would be the restraint needed should these…others…seek him out. His part was to open the door for these others who would harm Enjolras.
It was deplorable.
It took that thought to get him out on the streets, bracing himself, evaluating every face which happened to turn his way. Enjolras had made it plain that Grantaire's mission was for the cause, as was everything. It had been Combeferre who had run after him after Grantaire refused to participate and stormed out. He referred to the charge as a personal favor. His eyes spoke what his lips did not, and Grantaire understood in a heartbeat that the way these men would bring down the movement was through Enjolras.
That simply was not acceptable.
And so his god was standing on high, haloed by the sun, his face flushed with passion, his hands and gestures expressive, and his audience was completely taken in. Enjolras was in his element, and it would take quite the performance from Grantaire to match it.
Fortunately, he had plenty of experience on that front. He hitched up his pants and launched in with no reserve.
His first remarks were casual sarcasm, pitched so only those around him could hear. He was very careful; although in truth he wasn't in support of the foolery of Enjolras and his protest, the last thing he wanted to do was undermine his efforts. Then he decided, why not? From that moment not only did he equal Enjolras in his passion but in his steady stream of words which contrasted, rivaled, and sometimes bested that of his friend. And for a moment, one moment which made his heart soar, Enjolras looked impressed.
He was at the foot of the platform, yelling, red-faced, refusing to bend underneath the intense stare aimed his way. And suddenly everything was coming forwards, tumbling from his lips in a tumultuous cascade; their lack of rationale, their need to earn a place in history because face it, this cesspool did well to remember where they put their bags! They would be crushed underfoot and for what? To swing a gun and be a man? Did they really think a rebellion would cease the political machine Paris had become? Even without the people's man, did they really think these cowards would rise? That got a few calls and whistles of disdain, which would no doubt please Enjolras, but to Grantaire's surprise the people were listening to him. They were listening to him! He leapt onto the platform, waving aside his startled friend who watched with his arms folded. And he continued to speak, bemoaning the lives which would be thrown away for what would amount to a useless cause, for what would happen afterward? Would one day change everything?
"Christ died in one day," Enjolras said in his low tone.
"My friend," Grantaire said to him, "you are Apollo. You are not Christ." His comment earned confused looks.
But he jumped down to applause and pats on the back. He steeled himself. He dared not look back, knowing a certain darkened face was watching his every move. Perhaps he had done his job too well. That was fine by him! Enjolras deserved every jolt Grantaire gave him on that platform, the self-serving, pompous little….
Grantaire was thoroughly disgusted with himself. He marched into the café and eyed the bottles behind the counter, only to find his arm caught and his body shoved against the wall.
"What were you thinking?" Joly hissed in his face.
"Oh, get off," Grantaire flung himself away. "I was doing what was required of me. You think that was easy?"
"Yes! I do! You've just destroyed everything we've worked for!"
"You've destroyed everything we've worked for," Grantaire shot back in an insulting, whiny voice. "What have you done? Tell me! So you'll have to work harder. You'll learn to live with it." He instantly felt the impact of a fist against his jaw. He palmed it, then pulled back and punched Joly square in the mouth, sending him back over a table.
"Grantaire!" Combeferre had entered and pulled him back, then turned him and shoved him towards the door. "Go. Get by yourself. You can't be seen here."
"Heaven forbid I should be in the company of your graces!" Grantaire yelled. "I was doing you a favor!"
"Out!" Combeferre yelled, and Grantaire took his leave.
None of these actions went unnoticed.
"Hey! You there!"
Grantaire turned to see a man about his age running up to him. What, now? Couldn't this wait? In the mood he was in, he was ready to send them all to the devil. Damn this ridiculous ploy, "Yes? What do you want?"
The man jerked his thumb behind him. "I saw you. You took that kid right down. Good man."
"Yes. Uhh…thank you."
"You're good at it."
More than you well know. "…I don't understand." Grantaire turned to be on his way.
"Your speech! What else?" The man was irritated. "Don't tell me you've already forgotten, you've just left there!"
"I was only doing what any good citizen would do. The last thing we need is to become a police state due to the unruliness of the…"
"Shh!" The man looked around quickly, then approached him and leaned in close. "The point is, you think he's wrong."
"You do! You said so yourself!"
"I refuse to take a side in the matter."
"However my passion got the better of me, that is all. Good day to you."
"But you know that man. I've seen you speak to him before."
Grantaire stopped, and frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I've attended several talks. I've seen the two of you together."
Was that so? What else did he know?
"And despite that you rose against him before that crowd. That is passion indeed."
Grantaire took two steps forward, leveling his gaze. "Who are you?"
The man pulled out a small card from an inner pocket. "I represent the People. We have a better," he paused, "a better idea, one that these young radicals need to consider."
Grantaire took the card without looking at it. "Young radicals?"
The man took on a rational tone. "Come, they will do nothing more than line the streets with their own blood! You know this. They are suicidal. If they truly wish to die we can appease them and then get on with our own cause. A more civil cause."
If they truly wish to die we can appease them. The man's delicate emphasis on his words did not escape Grantaire's notice. "Which is?"
The man smirked and pointed to the card. "Show up, and see for yourself."
General Lamarque was gone. Gavroche had delivered the news, which lit a fire in the bellies of the men. Enjolras felt his blood surging. The plans were laid out furiously as he recognized an ideal opportunity. The people were already on the streets talking, the workers looking angry, the mothers clutching their children. The Society had been meeting and brewing in the back rooms of wine shops and in the talk of the workers on the streets for several months, and now that talk was wide open.
The cholera had done it's evil deed throughout the city, and had abated somewhat. The grave-diggers were well paid, and the back streets were still heavy with carriages toting wooden coffins. The main streets would be cleared for the funeral procession of the general. The lesser people would have to rot in their homes for the afternoon.
Enjolras drummed his fingers on the small table, having ushered everyone out so he could tend to his own thoughts. He sipped his coffee without tasting it. His eyes were distant, looking forward to what was certain to be a public funeral, picturing the throngs of people lining the streets as they watched their only friend in government, their last chance at a clear voice, being driven away to his burial. They would be emotional. They would be angry.
They would be ripe for the picking.
He sipped his coffee.
They would be heard that day, by God they would, with a cry so loud as to empty La Seine.
He had verbal messages delivered to the other Society factions. We must meet. Now. Only us. It was intended for the other leaders, the ones who would organize the insurrection. They would take to the streets in force on the day of the funeral. Use the power of the people.
They would need more weapons.
His mind raced. He'd already come up with the idea of a barricade, knowing the worsening condition of Lamarque, and originally he'd planned to stop the funeral in its tracks. Perhaps that was foolhardy. He'd heard varying numbers, from five thousand to twenty-four thousand, all rallying around the Society and it's smaller branches. He doubted those numbers. That they would raise a cry there was no doubt. But they needed an army to match an army, and there was no way that many would come to the Paris center for a protest.
Until now. The funeral itself would play into his hands.
He pulled at his lip, and thought some more.
The voice was gentle. His eyebrows raised as he looked behind him to see Joly standing in the door. "Yes?"
"All messages are delivered." Joly walked in, running his hand through his curly hair, his face flustered. "I - uh." He fidgeted.
"Say what's on your mind." Enjolras fought his impatience. Joly looked disconcerted, and it bothered him.
"It is going to happen, isn't it?" Joly asked.
Fear. That was what Enjolras saw in the boy's eyes. "It is."
Enjolras studied him. His expression was downcast, his hand clenched into his pockets. The reality of the situation had struck him hard. He felt a rush of sympathy for the boy, but it was something he could not afford. Not now. He sighed and turned in his chair, propping his elbow on the back, and regarded the student. "You know I require this of no-one. It is purely voluntary. You can help in many other ways."
"I'll be there for you. I'll be by your side."
"No, it's what I wanted to tell you." He suddenly looked so young, his fair hair damp from the heat, his eyes large. "I'll stand by you."
Enjolras felt his eyes narrow. "Why are you saying this now?"
"I think it makes me feel better." Joly gave a slight smile.
Enjolras smiled back. "Well, if it makes you feel better…"
Enjolras raised his hand to stop him. "What we are about to undertake is massive. I know. But with the people behind us, we will succeed. Do you hear me? You see this small group, and you fear. Were it just this group I would fear as well." He leaned forward. "Joly, we are talking about the heart beating within Paris itself. The people are that heart, and they have suffered a grievous wound. You will see for yourself, in two days time that wound will be exposed and the city will rise with a roar. You will not be alone. You will have thousands at your side. Thousands, Joly! Think of it!"
Joly raised his head and looked Enjolras in the eye, and visibly changed. He pulled his shoulders back, and seemed more confident.
"Now go on. Rest. I'll have word tomorrow evening."
Joly nodded. He smiled a wonderful, youthful grin and retreated, closing the door behind him.
Enjolras smiled down at the table. Then his face formed a mask of seriousness as he truly weighed the task before them. All he could do now was wait for a response from the others.
Grantaire paused, squared his shoulders, then knocked on the heavy door. It opened to reveal a burly man, the tallest he'd ever seen, and he felt his eyes widen. He should have had a drink. It was much easier to face monsters with warmth in your belly.
He flicked out the small handmade card. The large man stepped aside, his dark eyes locked with Grantaire's.
The room was dim, but otherwise reminded Grantaire greatly of the meetings at the café. Young men were gathered around a table. He saw the one who had handed him the card, and was waved forward. "Gentlemen! May I present our orator!" He clapped as the others turned and regarded him.
Grantaire struck a nonchalant pose. "This is it?"
"We have more in number than what you see."
That is what worries me. "I assume you've heard the news."
"Of course." The man walked around the table. His hair was nearly the color of flame. Grantaire had never seen a shade like it. With hand extended, he welcomed Grantaire to their table. "I am Moliere. This is Langley, Andre, Leroux, Remi, and Julien." He pointed to the perimeter of the room, where more stood. "Dax, Jourdan, Platt, Vallis."
"I'm terrible with names," Grantiare said, after giving them his own name as "Roi".
"You will remember, or not," Moliere shrugged. "I am suited either way, though you might want to at least attempt to commit them to memory should you need to call out in distress." Moliere winked.
"You anticipate distress?"
Moliere flattened his palms on the table and faced him like a red wolf. "We expect nothing less."
Grantaire smirked. "You are a cheerful bunch, aren't you?" He noticed no one else was talking or moving. He felt unsettled.
"How well do you know Enjolras? What are his motives, his plan of action?"
"What?" He had expected this line of questioning, but not directly upon entering a room. "No one really knows the man but himself. He is an enigma, even among friends."
"And are you a friend?" Moliere asked.
"I know him. He despises me."
"But you do not despise him."
"He has certain endearing qualities, many of which you are aware or you would disregard him."
"Indeed." Moliere smiled. "My point, is you spoke well against him. Would you do so again?"
"It is a habit of mine."
Moliere walked around the table, his grey eyes not leaving Grantaire's. "Would you silence him?"
Grantaire turned his head, ever so slightly, his eyes still fixed to Moliere's but noticing movement in the corner. "I don't take your meaning, sir."
"Sir." Moliere smiled. "I like that. Nice and proper." He stood nose to nose. "News of this death will have the people in an uproar. The Society would be foolish not to make their move."
"And if I may ask, what are your stakes in this?"
"Merely the good of the people!"
"Bullshit. Look at you. You are as upper crust as I've ever seen. Your suit would pay the wages of a dozen factory workers and has not a rent in it. You are boys playing at this. You've seen a leader, and now you think you can be one. Are you striving to take his place?"
"This rebellion, as it were, will not stand. We'll not allow it."
"How do you propose to stop it?"
"When desperate times arise…"
"Are you desperate? You look well to me. Let me take a guess, then. You'll lose your funding should the government collapse under the weight of democracy, and we can not have that!" Grantaire laughed. "You all amaze me, you truly do! Enjolras believes he can save the world, and you are frightened he will!" He spread his arms wide. "This is not the revolution! When will you understand that what you do here will not matter! It is too small! You will be trodden upon and forgotten in history, and for what?" He flung his hand. "Devil take it. You are no better than he is. I was hoping to come here to find someone with wits and quite possibly a brain in their head. I am disappointed." He scoffed, and made for the door.
"We serve the government. They know what is going on, more so than you think."
"Good for the bloody government. Let me out."
"They will crush this before it starts!"
"Then let them. I'm neither a supporter nor opposed. I simply do not care."
"You would have your friends die?"
Grantaire turned. "You want me to silence Enjolras, then four breaths later ask if I wish my friends to die? You are a mad man. I said to let me out."
Moliere nodded. "You have shown your colors, then. I know you will go back to the café, and you will tell them of what had transpired. Quite possibly this was the plan all along. Fine. Tell them this. If they attempt a rebellion of any sort, if they so much as plan, we will take steps to insure it will not come to be. If that means taking Enjolras, we only have the will of the government to support us."
"Enjolras was arrested once. Why not arrest him again, if it is the will of the government?" He studied Moliere, then barked out a laugh. "Unbelievable. You had me fooled. You do not represent the government. You represent your own fear of what would happen should the government fall. I'm sorry, is the possibility of living in the streets so unappealing to you? You sicken me. At least Enjolras has a decent vision, faulty though it may be. You, however, just wish to save your collective, expensive asses."
"Keep in mind what happened to your leader on that platform, and know it would hardly classify as a warning," Moliere said in a low voice. "We will do much worse. Leroux, please escort Monsieur Roi from this place. And believe that we will be watching, and waiting. I am sure we will see you again." Moliere turned away, as did the other men. "Oh, Leroux? Send their leader Enjolras a message, would you?" He turned back to stare at Grantaire, his eyes dark.
Grantaire felt his stomach churn. This did not look good at all.
Uh-oh! Looks like trouble! Please leave a review, and pardon any errors, I'm flying solo on this one. Thank you!