Chapter 1: Joly
It was Joly that he wanted to talk to, the day after it happened. And in that moment, Joly would have given anything in the world to have it not be him, for him to not be the doctor among their friends, not the person that they turned to when there was any kind of medical question.
He didn’t want to talk to him, didn’t want to face him.
But since he hadn’t talked at all to anyone else, Joly supposed that he couldn’t really deny him this. Not now. Not after everything.
So Joly left the group from where they were huddled downstairs in the Musain – Closed, the sign on the front door read, for a death in the family, and when Joly had seen it, he had given Musichetta such a hug (because it was true, after all; they were a family, their little dysfunctional family that lived, it seemed, at the Musain, and for a moment when he saw it Joly felt the ragged edges of his heart start to burn and it was all he could do to not cry out for the loss of one of his family) – and slowly made his way up the stairs.
Joly couldn’t cry, not when he was about to see him.
Joly felt he had no right to cry when he was about to talk to him.
He pushed the door to the upstairs room open without preamble. They had all heard the cries coming from it earlier in the morning, sharp, wounded sounds of pain that none of them would ever know or understand. There were no sounds now, and Joly turned to Combeferre, who was standing just inside the doorway, frown permanently creasing his forehead. “How is he?” Joly asked softly, closing the door behind him.
Combeferre shrugged, looking exhausted and, for a moment, at least a decade older than his real age. “About as well as can be expected, I guess. He has some questions for you. I wouldn’t...I wouldn’t ask this of you, but…” Combeferre’s voice broke and he closed his eyes for a long moment.
Joly squeezed his arm reassuringly. “I will answer what I can,” he told Combeferre, his voice quiet. Combeferre nodded, and Joly stepped forward, suddenly nervous, and cleared his throat before asking softly, “Enjolras?”
From where he sat facing the window, Enjolras turned, and the breath caught in Joly’s throat. He didn’t know what he had expected exactly, but this...this was so much worse.
Enjolras’s eyes were red and puffy, his face drawn and pale. His curls hung limply, his clothes were disheveled, but the worst part...the worst was the look in his eyes, the complete void of anything that had once grounded him and kept him alive and human. It was not grief; it went so far beyond grief that the very word paled in comparison to what was etched on Enjolras’s face.
Grantaire had once joked that Enjolras was like a statue; here, now, Enjolras looked like a death mask.
Joly swallowed, hard, before repeating, his voice even quieter than before, “Enjolras? You...you wanted to talk to me?”
Enjolras stared at him blankly for a long moment before gesturing at the chair next to his. “Sit. Please.”
His voice was raspy, whether from tears or disuse Joly couldn’t say, and he sat quickly, facing Enjolras as Enjolras turned to stare out the window again. “I...I wanted to ask…” There was a long pause as Enjolras tried to put the words together. Then he said, in a low voice, “I wanted you to tell me what his last moments were like. What he went through. What he felt.”
Joly’s mouth went dry. “Enjolras…” he started before breaking off. “I...I don’t know if I can…”
“Please.” Enjolras’s voice sounded nothing like his normal commanding tone; this was all raw brokenness, the pleading of a man who had already lost everything and was clinging to what few shreds remained. “Please.”
Bowing his head, Joly took a deep, steadying breath, trying to force himself into the detached, clinical mindset he used while at work. “It...he probably didn’t realize that it was an overdose right away,” he told Enjolras quietly, not looking at him. “It would have felt similar at first to a normal hit. The sudden rush of euphoria – maybe a little more intense than normal. He probably just thought it felt extra good.” He paused, trying to find the best way to say what he had to next, knowing Enjolras would not forgive him if he sugarcoated things. “The breathing was probably what went first, his airways constricting. Maybe not all the way. He...he might have thrown up a little, if his stomach spasmed. And he might’ve choked on his vomit, if he was lying on his back.” Joly closed his eyes and fought his own urge to be sick at the thoughts that followed, thoughts that sounded so clinical when not applied to one of his closest friends. “He most likely had a seizure, or several, depending. By that time, his lungs would be too weak to carry on, and his blood wouldn’t have enough oxygen in it. He would have suffered from respiratory failure, and then…”
He couldn’t force himself to say the word, even now couldn’t force himself to acknowledge it as true. He chanced a glance over at Enjolras, who had gone very still. “Did he…” Enjolras started, licking his cracked lips. “Did he know what was happening? Would he have been conscious through it? Do you think he was in pain?”
Joly shook his head slowly. “Most likely not. The...his consciousness would have still been under the euphoric effects of the drugs. He most likely did not know what happened. And chances are that he was unconscious before he would have felt any pain.”
“That’s...that’s good,” Enjolras said, heavily, his hands rubbing compulsively against his jeans. “I’m glad. I just...he was alone, you know? He was alone, and I just…” His voice broke into a sob, and he only just managed to choke out, “I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t scared.”
Tears were cascading freely down Joly’s cheeks, and he wanted nothing more than to pull Enjolras into a hug, to hold him tightly as he sobbed, to offer words of comfort that did not exist. Instead, he sat there, watching as Enjolras sobbed brokenly into his hands, standing numbly when Combeferre cleared his throat. “I’m sorry,” he whispered on his way out.
He didn’t know who he was apologizing to.
He didn’t know what he was apologizing for.
And he didn’t know if Enjolras heard him.
It wouldn’t have helped, anyway.
Joly frowned as Grantaire stumbled into the Musain, late as usual, his clothes even baggier than usual, his hair disheveled, a vacant grin on his face. “Jolllly,” Grantaire said enthusiastically upon seeing him. “How goes your night?”
“Fine,” Joly replied tightly, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “Enjolras is going to kill you if he sees you like this.”
Grantaire just laughed, his eyes wide, and Joly saw what he knew he would, what he had seen so many times before: Grantaire’s pupils narrowed to the size of pinpricks. “Enjolras can try to kill me, but he loves me too much to do any lasting damage. Besides, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right?”
This was aimed at Joly, whose frown deepened. “I’m pretty sure he already knows. He’s not stupid, R. He remembers what you were like last time.”
Some of the joy seemed to slide from Grantaire’s face, but he forced a laugh all the same. “It’s different this time,” he said, insisted really, though his hand automatically seemed to rub the crook his arm. “I’m fine, doc. I promise.”
Joly pursed his lips, but knew from experience that now was not the time to try and reason with Grantaire. “Here,” he said instead, pulling something out of his pocket. “I stopped by the needle exchange at the hospital on my way home. At least...at least be careful, alright?”
Grantaire accepted the clean syringe from him, pocketing it with a wink. He kissed Joly on the cheek, telling him as he went past, “I always am. You don’t need to worry about me.”
Chapter 2: Courfeyrac
Courfeyrac stood in the back of the funeral home, arms crossed in front of his chest, watching Jehan direct the florist in quiet undertones with where to put the flower arrangements.
There was no casket.
There were no smiling pictures of Grantaire.
Courfeyrac did not think Enjolras could have handled it if there were. Hell, he didn’t know if he would’ve been able to handle it if there were. He missed Grantaire like an ache in his chest, and seeing happy pictures of happier times would only make that ache grow and consume him, and he had far too important of a role to play in this mockery of a memorial service for that.
He watched as Joly and Bossuet directed people to their seats, as Feuilly and Bahorel walked around pouring shots of Jameson for each of the attendees, explaining in undertones what they were expected to do with their shots.
An Irish wake, Bahorel had called it - perfect for Grantaire.
It was as good as anything, Courfeyrac supposed.
He couldn’t help but note the twisted symmetries between a funeral and a wedding as guests were ushered to their seats, and had to bite back something between a laugh and a sob, thinking of the wedding that Grantaire would never have.
Courfeyrac might have lost it at that point were it not for the sudden appearance of Enjolras and Combeferre at the door in the back. Instead, he found himself biting back a gasp at Enjolras, who looked like death himself, pale, clammy, and holding on to Combeferre as if he could not stand on his own, something vacant in his eyes as he stared straight ahead of himself.
Moving to flank Enjolras, Courfeyrac helped Combeferre walk Enjolras to the front row, setting him down. Combeferre turned back to Courfeyrac, looking exhausted himself, something tight in his expression. “He hasn’t eaten,” Combeferre said in a low voice. “I don’t think he’s slept either.”
“Christ, have you?” Courfeyrac asked quietly, noting the dark circles under Combeferre’s eyes, his own pale expression.
Combeferre’s eyes flickered. “I’m fine,” he said, shrugging him off. “I’ll be fine. I’m more concerned about Enjolras than anything.”
Courfeyrac touched his arm lightly. “We all are. And you don’t have to take care of Enjolras alone. We can all help.”
Nodding once, a jerky movement, Combeferre went and sat down next to Enjolras, taking Enjolras’s hand and squeezing it.
Enjolras didn’t seem to notice.
Once everyone had filed it, once Bahorel and Feuilly had taken their own shot glasses and sat down, one of the funeral home employees nodded at Courfeyrac, and he went to the front of the room, suddenly nervous, taking his place behind the podium. He rubbed his hands on the front of his pants, trying his best to wipe the sweat from his palms. “Um, I was chosen to deliver the, uh, the eulogy. I haven’t been to too many of these shindigs, so I wasn’t really sure what to do. When I Googled it, I found that most eulogies praised their subject, spoke of their life. But with Grantaire…”
Trailing off, Courfeyrac looked down at the podium, blinking back sudden tears. "How do you sum up a man's life? How do you put it into words? What parts do you touch on? What parts best make up the whole?
“I was chosen for this because I was deemed most qualified. I don't think I am, though I'm damn determined to try.”
He took a deep breath before he continued. “I think anyone would start with Grantaire's art, which was a huge part of his life, no matter how much he tried to downplay it, and which I know I'm not qualified to talk about. I could describe to you the things he painted, but that wouldn't begin to tell of the way he hummed off-key as he dripped paint onto the floor of Enjolras's apartment. Or the way he would doodle on any available surface when he was supposed to be paying attention. It doesn't explain the way that he painted all of us, the way that he saw his friends, saw the world around him. I'm not nearly qualified to talk about that.”
Feuilly would be, he added in his head, seeking out the other artist of their group, whose head was bowed, tears dripping from the end of his nose.
“The next logical thing to talk about would be Grantaire's hobbies, I suppose, but it's another thing I'm unqualified to talk about. No one knew this city like Grantaire. No one knew the best places to eat, the best places to drink, the best places to get warm if you got caught out in the rain. No one had so many hidden talents. The first time I saw him dance, I thought my jaw would need to be scraped off of the ground. And he boxed as well as Bahorel, which given the size disparity, is telling, I think.”
Now he sought out Bahorel, sitting next to Feuilly, his eyes also shining with tears, but there was something of a grin on his face too, remembering his spars with Grantaire, perhaps.
“And I think the most important part of Grantaire, what he certainly spent the most time on and with, would be his friends, his...his relationships. In a way, Grantaire was defined more by us than anything else. But I...I'm certainly not qualified to even begin to scratch the surface of that. And even if I could, I wouldn't. Not here, and not now.”
He did not bother trying to find Enjolras, knowing that if he did, he would only break down, would not be able to say the rest of what he had to.
“I just...I'm not qualified to talk about any of this.I don't think I'm qualified to talk about Grantaire. How can anyone be qualified to try and put a man who so often defied description into simple words designed to somehow make this easier? As if this could be easier if I stood up here and told you that he was a wonderful man, that he's gone too soon?"
Courfeyrac paused, taking a deep breath, his hands gripping the side of the podium so hard it hurt. "The truth is...the truth is that Grantaire was a miserable bastard a good half of the time, as prepared to mock as anything else. But the other half of the time...The other half of the time, he was the best friend you could ever ask for, ready with a smile or a joke if you were feeling down or a shoulder to cry on if you needed it. He was good in a fight and even better in a drinking contest. Above all, he was a good man. And maybe...maybe he is gone too soon. But I'm so glad that I got a chance to know him at all. And so in honor of Grantaire, a good man, a good fighter, a good drinker, and an even better friend, I ask you to raise your glasses."
He raised his own glass, fingers trembling slightly, and said loudly, "To Grantaire. Rest in peace, you cynical jackass, and wherever you are, I hope the booze is neverending."
"Hear, hear," everyone said, a little too solemnly for Courfeyrac's taste, and everyone -- Enjolras included -- downed their shots.
After the ceremony ended, most of the crowd stopped to pat Courfeyrac on the back, to murmur that they had enjoyed his eulogy, but Courfeyrac was only concerned with one person’s reaction, if he had been listening at all. He pushed to the crowd until he found Enjolras, standing uncertainly in the aisle, Combeferre still at his side. “Enjolras,” Courfeyrac said softly, gripping his arm.
Enjolras's eyes met Courfeyrac's, and for just a moment, something stirred within them. "Thank you," he murmured, reaching out to grip Courfeyrac's shoulder. "He...he would've liked that."
Courfeyrac nodded and started to say something, but Enjolras’s eyes had already returned to their previous vacant glaze, and so Courfeyrac settled for grabbing Enjolras’s hand and squeezing it.
Then Enjolras was gone, Combeferre steering him through the crowd and away from the well-wishers and the morbidly curious alike, and Courfeyrac turned back to his friends, putting on the bravest face he could muster, because he was the Center, and his friends needed him (and Enjolras needed him, but there was nothing he could do for him; and he needed Grantaire, but that was a dream that could not be).
"C'mon Enjolras!" Courfeyrac laughed, throwing an arm around Enjolras's shoulder. "Relax! It's a party."
Enjolras glowered at him. "Exactly. It's a party and Grantaire literally just got out of rehab. Do you really want to expose him to this again?"
Courfeyrac sighed and took a swig of whatever was in his cup. "It's a controlled crowd, people that we know, and no one's stupid enough to give him anything tempting besides alcohol, which Grantaire said he's allowed in moderation. So take a deep breath and relax. Grantaire will be fine."
Though Enjolras's glare did not diminish, he did at least take a deep breath, his eyes automatically searching out Grantaire and watching him across the room, features softening as he looked at him. Courfeyrac touched his arm gently. "He'll be fine," he told Enjolras in undertones. "We all want him to get better, I promise you that."
Of course, a party at Courfeyrac's wasn't a real party until it was crashed by acquaintances of acquaintances, and soon what had started as a small gathering of friends had turned into an all-out rager. Halfway through the evening, Enjolras grabbed Courfeyrac's arm, panicked. "Have you seen Grantaire?" he shouted over the din of the music.
Courfeyrac shook his head, already more than halfway to drunk. "I'll look for him," he told Enjolras, edging away to search through the crowd.
He found Grantaire upstairs having a low conversation with someone, and Courfeyrac grabbed his arm. "Enjolras is looking for you," he said, grinning.
Grantaire grinned back. "I'll be right down," he said, turning back to the guy he was talking to and shaking his hand.
Courfeyrac never noticed the baggie full of white powder Grantaire took from the guy's hand and slipped in his pocket.
Chapter 3: Feuilly
Part of the reason why I wanted to write this was to challenge myself with writing from the point of view of characters that I tend to neglect (Feuilly, Bahorel and Bossuet in particular). Since I am not as versed in writing them, I would especially welcome any constructive criticism regarding their characterizations (or anything, really; I'm always open to constructive criticism!).
Feuilly stared at the blank canvas, paintbrush in hand. He purposely and studiously ignored the other easel in the room, ignored the canvas still set up on it, ignored the painting that would never now be finished.
He didn’t want to think about it.
He didn’t want to think about sunny afternoons spent in this studio, joking and laughing and, on more than one occasion, flinging paint at each other. He didn’t want to think about rainy mornings where coffee was barely enough to keep them both going and the silence they shared was the only comfort either felt. He didn’t want to think about the late nights, the time Grantaire lit the canvas on which he was working on fire because he was tired of the image not turning out the way he wanted, or when Feuilly casually tipped his sculpture over to watch it shatter against the floor because it just wasn’t right.
They had understood each other the way that no one else could. Jehan was perhaps the only other of their group who could even glimpse the frustration when one’s muse and inspiration ran amuck, the only other one who might get the feeling of loss when a piece didn’t turn out the intended way. The others...yes, they had their own frustrations, of course: papers that didn’t turn out right, protests that went awry, tests that achieved an undesirable grade.
But all those problems had solutions. Start the paper earlier next time, plan the protest in a better location, study more.
The problems of the creative were not so easily solved.
Grantaire had known about unsolvable problems perhaps most of all, and the paintbrush in Feuilly’s hand trembled so much at that thought that he had to set it down for fear of dropping it.
He missed him.
In these moments particularly, when they would have shared quiet time together, of course, but in other moments as well. He missed Grantaire, missed his presence, felt the hole in his life like a hole in his heart.
He hadn’t been able to paint since Grantaire died.
Every day he came to the studio as usual. Every day he got his paints ready, made sure his brushes were clean, stood in front of the blank canvas.
And every day the pictures just didn’t come.
He didn’t know how he was supposed to paint when the space inside of him, that warm part that seemed to overflow with creativity and images that he itched to get out of his head and onto canvas, when that part was empty and gaping and wounded.
He wondered if he would ever be able to paint again.
Almost against his better judgment he stood, stood and shuffled over to the easel and canvas he has been ignoring. A simple sheet was draped over it, as was Grantaire’s way; he hated when people looked at his unfinished work.
To Feuilly’s knowledge, only one person had ever seen what Grantaire was working on. Enjolras had stopped by one day to pick up some flyers from Feuilly, and had wandered over to where Grantaire was hunched in the corner, painting with deliberate strokes. For a long moment neither had acknowledged the other, Grantaire painting as if Enjolras was not watching, Enjolras watching as if Grantaire didn’t know he was there. Then Enjolras had cleared his throat and said softly, “That...that looks really amazing.”
Feuilly didn’t think he had ever seen Grantaire smile so big for so long afterwards.
That painting now hung in Enjolras and Grantaire’s -- no, just Enjolras’s, now -- living room, and for a brief moment, Feuilly wondered if Enjolras still looked at, still remembered the way Grantaire had looked while painting it. He wondered if Enjolras had taken it down, or hidden it behind a sheet of his own, unable to bear looking at the painting for the reminder it bore of its artist.
Feuilly wanted to remember.
With a silent apology that Grantaire would probably never know, Feuilly pulled the sheet off of the canvas and stepped back to look at the work, his breath catching in his throat as he recognized the familiar figures.
It was Les Amis, which was perhaps not surprising. They were Grantaire’s favorite thing to paint. He was fairly certain that every one of them had at some point in time received a small portrait of themselves from Grantaire. Never at a holiday, never for a birthday, just casually slipped across the table with a shrug, like, “Here.”
Feuilly’s hung next to Bahorel’s in their apartment, prominently displayed, even more so than some of Feuilly’s own art. Grantaire had taken one look at the two portraits, blushed, and asked Feuilly in a low tone to take them down, or at least put them some place less noticeable.
That had always been Grantaire’s way. It wasn’t false modesty, insofar as Feuilly could determine. Grantaire genuinely did not believe that his work was that good, was that deserving of a place of prominence. Every award and accolade he got for his work was first a surprise and then easily dismissed.
It sometimes frustrated Feuilly, especially at first, watching as Grantaire received awards for his art that Feuilly would have loved to have, and watching as Grantaire scoffed or crumpled up the announcement letter or declared that the judges must have been drunk. But as it went on, Feuilly realized that it wasn’t just a show, that Grantaire actually thought that way.
He would have said or done something eventually, probably, maybe, but then Enjolras happened, and Feuilly never needed to.
In Enjolras Grantaire found someone constantly proud of his art, even if he had no idea what was happening in any given painting. The man could not tell you the difference between Seurat and Warhol, but he could talk to you for three hours about how good and vivid Grantaire’s paintings were. And Grantaire would blush and roll his eyes but at least tolerate it.
Even if he dismissed it behind Enjolras’s back, pointing out that such praise from someone who didn’t know a damn thing about art was useless, he still smiled a bit more, didn’t look so dour when receiving awards or praise.
But in the end, Feuilly supposed it hadn’t really mattered.
He looked at the painting for a long moment, traced his fingers over the painted figures and their sketched counterparts. It was a painting that would never be finished, which given how Grantaire’s life had ended, was perhaps some kind of poetic justice.
Feuilly just thought it was bullshit.
He took a deep breath and covered the painting back up. He would have to move it eventually, put it away somewhere, do something with it. But right now...right now, if he left it covered on its easel, he could pretend that the studio door would open loudly, that Grantaire would stomp in, ready to complain about something as he readied his brushes and paints, his fingers flying across the canvas as he continued to snark at Feuilly.
And until Feuilly could no longer pretend, the painting wasn’t going anywhere.
He packed up his supplies and went back to his apartment, collapsing on the couch as soon as he got there. “Hey,” Bahorel said, following him into the living room. "Did you paint today?" Feuilly shook his head, and Bahorel touched his shoulder, far gentler than he normally did. "Maybe tomorrow, then."
Maybe tomorrow it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a brush, wouldn’t make him want to cry to try and imagine painting something. Maybe tomorrow he would recognize that it was almost better to paint in silence, because Grantaire could be annoying at times, sure. Maybe tomorrow he wouldn’t think about Grantaire at all, would just keep his head down and do his work.
That thought hurt worst of all.
Grantaire’s head was bowed in concentration, painting slow, careful strokes against the canvas while Feuilly pretended not to watch, although he was dying to know what Grantaire had been so carefully painting the last few days, and Grantaire had promised it would be done today. Finally, Grantaire sat up, setting his brush down, and looked at it carefully for a long moment before looking up to smile at Feuilly. “You can come look now.”
Feuilly tried not to look too eager as he crossed the room to look. It was Grantaire’s first finished painting after rehab, the first one he hadn’t destroyed out of frustration or anger or despair, and Feuilly wanted to know what subject had kept him going.
Of course -- it was them. The smiling faces of his friends as they all sat around in the back room of the Musain. Courfeyrac was gesturing wildly, almost looking as if he would reach off the canvas, the movement was so life-like, and Joly’s head was thrown back in laughter. Combeferre appeared to be frowning disapprovingly at whatever joke Courfeyrac had just told, but Grantaire had managed to capture the glint of laughter in his eyes. Even Enjolras was wearing a small, almost reluctant smile. “It’s amazing,” he breathed, taking a step closer, looking carefully at the brush strokes. “Seriously. What did you use as reference?”
Grantaire smiled, almost sheepishly. “Um, nothing? My memory?”
“You painted this from memory?” Feuilly asked in awe. “Fuck, that’s amazing.”
Blushing, Grantaire gathered his brushes to clean them. “It’s nothing,” he said, carrying them over to the sink. “I mean, whatever. I was thinking of giving it to Musichetta, seeing if she wanted to hang it in the Musain. Lord knows even that painting isn’t as terrifying as that clown one that used to hang in there, remember?”
Feuilly ignored him as he carried on, stepping backwards to look at the painting again. “You never paint yourself,” he said off-handedly, interrupting Grantaire mid-sentence.
Grantaire looked over at him, confused. “Pardon?”
Gesturing at the painting, Feuilly elaborated, “You’ve painted every single one of our friends, including me, in this painting and in a bunch of other ones that I’ve seen, but you never paint yourself. Why is that?”
“Ah.” Grantaire had gone very tense, and for a moment, Feuilly wished he could have taken the words back. Then Grantaire shook his head. “Wouldn’t want to mar such beautiful paintings with my likeness, now would I?”
He didn’t meet Feuilly’s eyes, crossing over to grab his backpack, hefting it over one shoulder. “Just gonna run to the bathroom. I’ll be back. You just...carry on.”
“Grantaire.” Feuilly’s voice was quiet, but he had seen this too many times before to not say what he was about to, had been informed by Grantaire that he was running to the bathroom only to have him return fifteen minutes later, pupils like pinpricks, movements sluggish, smile painfully wide, higher than a kite. “Why do you need your backpack if you’re just going to the bathroom?” Grantaire’s grip on the strap tightened, and he looked at Feuilly helplessly. “Are you using again?”
Grantaire half-smiled and edged toward the door. “Good art doesn’t just create itself, you know,” he said jokingly, his grip so tight on the strap that his knuckles were white. “We all need a little help every now and again.”
Then he was gone, and Feuilly was alone, understanding now why this was the first piece Grantaire had been able to complete. He thought it was because he was painting their friends, had been naive enough to believe that their friendship, all of their friendships, were strong enough to get Grantaire through, to keep him going.
He should’ve known better.
He debated over texting or calling Enjolras, letting him know, telling him what was going on, but he hesitated. Maybe it was just this once. Maybe...maybe Grantaire wouldn’t do it again.
So his phone stayed in his pocket, and he forced a smile on his face when Grantaire returned.
Chapter 4: Bahorel
Sorry that this took so long to get up. I was doing Grantaire ship week all last week. But updates should be back to at least weekly now.
The feel of a fist connecting with his jaw made Bahorel grin almost savagely. His opponent, some greasy-haired slime ball at a bar who had been just a little too loud and obnoxious for Bahorel’s taste, was grinning as well, clearly taking the landed blow as some sign of victory.
But then Bahorel hit him back, a well-placed right hook directly to his cheekbone, and the man went down. Bahorel grinned even wider and turned back to the bar, downing a shot of whiskey that he was fairly certain the other guy had paid for. His reprieve didn’t last long; the guy had brought friends, and while the other guy was beyond making up for his pitiful performance, his friends weren’t.
They were sloppy fighters because they were drunk, and Bahorel was fairly convinced he could take them with only a little effort. Still, it was three against one, and even though Bahorel emerged the victor, it was by a close margin, and he was breathing heavily and bleeding rather steadily when he turned back to the bar this time.
The bartender, a pretty, curvaceous woman that Bahorel couldn’t remember if he’d slept with at some point or not, just rolled her eyes and tossed a towel at his face. She had witnessed far too many of these fights to be taken aback by it anymore, though she had also seen far too many of these fights recently to not be concerned.
Which was why she called Feuilly.
Bahorel had steadily worked his way through half a bottle of whiskey by the time Feuilly showed up, hair disheveled in a way that showed he had probably been asleep before the bartender called, and his hand on Bahorel’s shoulder was far from friendly. “Really?” he asked loudly over the blare from the speakers. “You couldn’t pick a day when I didn’t have an early shift to get wasted and beat up?”
His tone was not amused, indicative of the fact that this was not the first time he had been called to a bar like this. In fact, in recent weeks, it seemed like this was happening more and more frequently.
Before, it would be different. Nine times out of ten, Grantaire would be with Bahorel, and while they would both wind up getting their asses kicked, they would also both manage to help each other stumble home. Feuilly couldn’t even count the number of times he woke up in the morning to find Grantaire passed out on their couch, previously frozen but now defrosted bag of peas resting on top of what promised to be a spectacular black eye.
Of course, that was a sight that Feuilly would never see again.
And so he had become far too used to this sight instead, Bahorel half-slumped over the bar, empty shot glasses lined up in front of him. “Dude, you’re a mess,” he told Bahorel, who just shrugged him off.
“I’m fucking fine. You should see the other guy.”
He grinned at Feuilly, an attempt at his old grin, but it was hollow, and it was tired, and that more than anything showed that Bahorel wasn’t fine, was in fact a mess. Feuilly just shook his head, too tired to baby Bahorel, to soothe him and walk him home. Instead, he said softly, “You know, it’s ok to miss him. We all do.”
For just a moment Bahorel stared at Feuilly, and for just that moment, Feuilly thought he might have gotten through to him, but then Bahorel stood, shoving Feuilly roughly aside as he strode away.
He didn’t miss him.
He didn’t miss anyone.
And even if he did -- which he didn’t -- that wasn’t what this was about, anyway. This was about the feel of whiskey thrumming through his veins. This was about the feel of bruises the morning after.
This was about feeling alive.
This was about the fact that the only feeling he’d had since learning that one of his best friends had died was anger, anger that coursed through him and grew until he had to punch someone, had to get punched, had to turn that anger into savagery.
Feuilly didn’t understand that. No one understood that.
Only one person would have understood, would have completely understood the urge towards self-destruction, and that person was gone.
And he would have said that it wasn’t fair, but if his half-assed legal studies had taught him anything, it was that life wasn’t fair, that there really was very little sense of justice in this entire fucked up world.
Since he couldn’t have justice, he might as well go for the next best thing.
Which was how he found himself wandering into a different bar in a part of town he didn’t normally go to, well aware of what he looked like, bruises and cuts across his face, bloodstains on his shirt, reeking of whiskey and sweat.
The bouncer stopped him just inside the door, hand firm against Bahorel’s chest. “Not tonight, man,” the bouncer said, his voice calm. “Go get yourself cleaned up.”
“Take your fucking hand off me,” Bahorel snarled, too far gone to care about the fact that this guy was just as big as he was, and was far more dangerous, since he was sober.
He couldn’t remember later who had thrown the first punch, though it was probably him, and he actually didn’t remember most of the fight at all.
He didn’t remember much of anything until he woke up in the hospital, someone he never expected to see sitting at his bedside.
The blond looked up and Bahorel winced. As bad as he felt, as bad as he was sure he looked if the throbbing throughout his body was any indication, he couldn’t possibly look as bad as Enjolras.
With a start, he realized that this was the first time he had seen Enjolras since the funeral, and it was clear that rather than getting better with time, Enjolras was getting worse. He was pale and gaunt, as if he hadn’t been eating or sleeping well. In fact, Enjolras, always tending towards skinny, looked positively skeletal, and the hand he stretched out to squeeze Bahorel’s with felt weak, so weak that Bahorel didn’t even squeeze back for fear of breaking it. “Hey,” Enjolras said, his voice soft. “How are you feeling?”
“Like shit,” Bahorel said honestly, struggling into a sitting position. “What are you doing here? You didn’t have to come. This isn’t the first time I’ve landed in the hospital from a bar fight.”
Enjolras shrugged. “Feuilly called. He was worried. Thought I might be able to talk some sense into you.”
Bahorel managed to crack a smile despite the pain in his jaw. “Right. Because you’re well renowned for talking sense into people. Should’ve sent Combeferre instead.”
Smiling slightly, Enjolras gestured towards the door. “He’s somewhere outside if you really want someone to try to talk sense into you.”
Bahorel snorted. “No thanks. I don’t really need another lecture right now.”
“Well that’s too bad,” Enjolras said lightly, “because you’re going to get one.” He paused, eyes flickering down Bahorel’s body as if cataloging his various injuries, and then sighed. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself, Bahorel. I know that you’re sad, I know that you’re hurting. Trust me. I understand. But Grantaire wouldn’t have wanted this, wouldn’t have wanted you to get lost in the pain.”
Bahorel swallowed and looked down. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought that might be the first time anyone had said Grantaire’s name out loud since the funeral, and he wasn’t prepared for the sudden ache in his chest at the familiar syllables, at the way the name just dropped from Enjolras’s mouth like it meant nothing. His hands clenched around the sheets on the hospital bed, and in a low voice, he told Enjolras, “I’m not sad. I mean, I am. But it’s a hell of a lot more than that.”
He looked up at Enjolras, his eyes blazing with a thousand different emotions, unshed tears pricking in the corners of his eyes. “I’m pissed. I’m pissed at hell. At you, at the world, at Grantaire. How could he do this to us? How could he do this to you?”
Enjolras’s jaw tightened as Bahorel’s voice rose in volume. “I used to think that Grantaire would do anything for us, but I guess I was wrong. And you...you just let him! Did you even try to stop him? To get him help again?”
“You know that I did.” Enjolras’s voice was soft, and he didn’t look surprised at Bahorel’s words. Probably because he had already thought them himself, and that made Bahorel feel even worse, but it was as if the words wouldn’t stop coming.
“So I get in fights. So I let myself get beaten up every now and then. So I’ve drinking more. Who the fuck cares? It makes me feel alive, it makes me feel...fuck, it makes me feel something. And it’s not like I’m going to go the same way as him or something.”
Enjolras grabbed Bahorel’s hand, cutting him off. “But you could.”
The silence in the room was sudden and absolute as Bahorel and Enjolras just stared at each other for a long moment. Then Enjolras released him from his grip and sat back in his chair, rubbing a tired hand across his face. “I care. Because I still need you,” he told Bahorel, his voice quiet, defeated. “And I can’t lose you, too.”
There were a million and one things that Bahorel wanted to say to Enjolras, to scream at him, to ask him, but instead, he forced himself to nod, forced himself to choke out around the tears that still threatened to fall, “Then I’ll try.”
He didn’t make any promises; he didn’t need to. In that moment, they understood each other perfectly.
Then the moment was broken as Enjolras stood, as Combeferre rushed into the room to help Enjolras, though he also gave Bahorel a cursory once-over to ensure his injuries weren’t too bad. “How are you doing, Enjolras?” Bahorel asked quickly before Enjolras could leave, could disappear again.
Enjolras gave him a vague smile. “I’m fine,” he told him softly. “I’m fine.”
Bahorel reached out to grab Combeferre’s arm as they both turned to leave. “He’s not fine,” he told Combeferre in an undertone as Enjolras drifted out of the room. “Tell me you’re doing something to help him.”
Combeferre just shrugged, his eyes dark, and for a moment, looked just as tired as Enjolras. “I’m trying. But I can only do so much. He has to do it for himself.”
Bahorel nodded as he lay back against the pillow, his own expression darkening. Oh, yes. He knew that quite well, that there were some things that others could not do for you, no matter how they might want to.
Bahorel and Grantaire landed on their asses outside of the bar as the bouncer shouted at them, “For the last time, no fighting in this bar! Take it elsewhere!”
Bahorel turned to Grantaire and grinned, a cut above his eyebrow trickling blood. “That was a fucking good fight, man.”
“Speak for yourself, man,” Grantaire laughed. “We got our asses kicked.”
Bahorel shrugged unconcernedly, heaving himself off the ground. “Yeah, but some of the best fights that we’ve had are ones where we’ve gotten our asses kicked.”
Grantaire snorted. “That is true.” His nose had been bleeding freely, and he looked down mournfully at his hoodie. “Of course. Now I’m gonna have to wash this.” He tugged the sweatshirt off, crumpling it into a ball. “Ah well. You gonna help me up?”
“Help yourself up,” Bahorel said good-naturedly, but he reached down to give Grantaire a hand. As he pulled him off the ground, he noticed for the first time the marks on Grantaire’s arm, and he twisted his arm, unnecessarily roughly, to see them clearer. “The fuck are these?”
Grantaire flushed and wrenched his arm out of Bahorel’s grip. “They’re nothing.”
“The fuck they are. Those are track marks.” Grantaire didn’t look at him, just gave a half-shrug, and Bahorel ground his teeth together in frustration. “I thought you got better.”
Now Grantaire snorted lightly. “I got clean. There’s a difference.”
“So now you’re using again?”
Grantaire shrugged moodily, his shoulders tense. “It’s complicated, ok? There’s more to it than just that. It’s not...it’s not something I can really explain, alright?”
Bahorel frowned at him, but didn’t press the issue. He had never understood Grantaire’s predilection towards drugs, and didn’t suppose he was going to start now. Instead, he asked, almost hesitantly, “You gonna make me promise not to tell anyone?”
Grantaire snorted again, an actual smile lifting the corners of his mouth for a moment. “Of course not. You’re worse than Courf at keeping a secret, and that’s saying something.”
“Hey!” Bahorel said, offended. They started walking in the direction of their apartments, companionable silence falling between them for much of their walk. Then, abruptly, Bahorel said quietly, “I would fight it for you, if I could.”
It may have been the most honest thing Bahorel had ever said.
Grantaire just laughed. “Doesn’t really work like that, man.” They were silent for a long moment more before Grantaire mumbled, “Thanks, though.”
“Anytime, man,” Bahorel told him. “Anytime.”
Chapter 5: Bossuet
Bossuet. Lesgle. L’Aigle de Meaux. Whichever name Bossuet was known as, it all meant the same thing: bad luck.
He had been born with ill fortune, it seemed, the kind of thing that plagued him as a child and just followed him around ever since. In some ways, it manifested as being particularly accident-prone, but it was more than that. Sure he stubbed his toes and slammed fingers in doors just like everyone else, but it was his luck that by stubbing his toe, he would hop on one foot at the pain and promptly fall down the stairs and dislocate his shoulder, for instance. And then the explanation of how he had stubbed his toe and subsequently dislocated his shoulder to Joly would always just end in Joly sighing, rolling his eyes, and kissing him quiet.
Being in love with a doctor helped with the physical injuries side of being unlucky, at least.
But it was more than that. He would sit on benches that had just been painted. Strangers seemed inclined to spill their coffee on him. He learned not to bother trying to sit on public transportation because inevitably, someone would fall on him, and it was far easier to just offer them his seat.
Buses and trains ran at least ten minutes late as soon as he set foot on board. The person in front of him at airport security always inevitably had something suspicious in their bag that required it to be run through the scanner eighteen separate times, all while he waited patiently.
He had gotten very good at being patient.
It helped that he had a remarkable sense of humor about the whole thing, but part of that stemmed solely from the fact that if he didn’t laugh about it, he would probably explode.
And of course, he learned to plan accordingly, lived his life by routine so that he could at least plan ahead for the potential problems that he would inevitably run into over the course of his day.
But then his routine changed. And miraculously, his luck changed as well.
He and Joly always went out for breakfast before they both had to go into work, but one day, Joly had to go to the hospital early, and Bossuet didn’t want to get breakfast by himself.
That in and of itself was a change that he had never anticipated, since before…well, before everything, there was normally always someone to get breakfast with, whether Enjolras, up early to read or get to work, or Feuilly, fresh off the night shift and thus eating breakfast, or...Grantaire.
He didn’t want to think about the number of mornings he had spent eating breakfast with Grantaire, who either had never made it to bed, or woken up at an odd time to work on a painting, or was doing the walk of shame from Enjolras’s apartment back to his own.
He didn’t want to think about the way they would laugh and joke and Grantaire would start drinking at far too early of an hour, pouring whiskey in Bossuet’s coffee when he wasn’t looking and then claiming it wasn’t he who had done it.
He didn’t want to think about Grantaire at all.
So he didn’t, choosing to go into work instead of face eating by himself when there should have been a laughing dark-haired man next to him. And by leaving for work early, things seemed to change.
The bus was on time. On time to pick him up, on time to drop him off at work, and no one fell on him, pushed him, jostled him, or anything.
Getting off the bus, he found a five-dollar bill on the ground.
When he got into work, his boss, who Bossuet had previously thought hadn’t known his name, clapped him on the shoulder and told him it was nice to see him.
It was a bit like living in someone else’s life, but Bossuet, for all that they had been through the past few weeks, was not one to complain.
Things kept going well for him. He kept going to work early, kept making small talk with his boss, and within a few weeks, landed a promotion that, from best he could tell, meant more money with somehow less work.
And every night he would go home, kiss Joly, and think that maybe things were turning around for him.
But then one day when he got home, Joly wasn’t there. This wasn’t such an irregularity -- Joly often stayed late at the hospital, working on things, especially if a patient came in that needed his help. As the night went on, though, Bossuet began to get worried, checking his watch as he heated up some leftovers for dinner, debating over calling the hospital to check on Joly.
The door banged open not too long after that, and Bossuet looked up, relieved, though his relief instantly turned into concern when he saw Joly. “What happened?” he asked, standing and crossing over to where Joly stood, swaying slightly, his eyes red.
“A man came into the ER not too long before my shift was over.” Joly’s voice was his detached, clinical voice, but here was something lurking behind the words, something that made Bossuet grab his hand and hold it tightly. “An overdose victim. Heroin. He…” Joly’s voice cracked a little, and his grip on Bossuet’s hand tightened as he struggled to stay upright. “He had dark hair.”
Bossuet understood, instantly, and his whispered, “Oh, Joly…” wanting to take him into his arms and hold him, but Joly was pulling away, his eyes wild as he looked around.
“We...We did everything that we could but he had stopped breathing. He had stopped breathing and I did CPR, chest compressions over and over and over again, and they kept telling me to call it, they kept telling me that it was hopeless, but it couldn’t be, it couldn’t be…”
Joly sank down to the floor, openly weeping. “I should have...I should have…” He was crying too hard to continue, and Bossuet knelt next to him, cradling him in his arms.
“There was nothing you could have done,” he whispered, his voice as broken as the man in front of him, and they both knew that he wasn’t just referring to the patient from today. “There was nothing you could have done.”
“I should saved him, I should have known,” Joly sobbed, his voice muffled against Bossuet’s chest. “I’m a doctor. I save people. That’s my job. Why couldn’t I save him? Why couldn’t I save him? Why, damnit, why?”
Bossuet closed his eyes and pulled Joly even closer, his own tears beginning to fall freely as he said softly, his voice hoarse with his tears, with his pain, with everything he was bottling inside of himself for the sake of the man he held in his arms, “Because he didn’t want to be saved.”
It was the truth, plain and simple, and it hurt him worse to realize that than anything else. And as he held Joly, as he cried and Joly sobbed, he knew that if he could, if it were possible, he would trade all the luck in the world, everything good that had happened to him these past few weeks, just to have Grantaire back, just to not have Joly cry like this, or Enjolras be lost to where no one might be able to reach him, or hell, just to have his friend back for breakfasts and laughter in the morning, grinning at him in that lazy, sardonic way of his.
If he could, he would do it in a heartbeat. He was strong, he had always survived with what little luck he had. He didn’t need luck. He just needed Grantaire back.
They all needed Grantaire back.
But he couldn’t, and so he closed his eyes, and held Joly a little bit tighter, and thought bitterly that if this was what good luck looked like, they could have it back.
As was his luck, Bossuet was elected to be the one to go find Enjolras and Grantaire after first Grantaire and then Enjolras had stormed out of the meeting. They were fighting, that much was clear, and Bossuet didn’t want to get in the middle of that, but as Combeferre pointed out, they needed to know if the meeting was over and they should leave, or if Enjolras would stroll back, suitably appeased, and pick things up again.
So he went to the back alley behind the Musain, hoping he wouldn’t walk in on a blowjob or a handjob or them full-on fucking, even though it wouldn’t be the first time he had walked in on Enjolras and Grantaire doing any of those (he had seen all of his friends naked and probably intimate at one point in time or another due, of course, to his bad luck -- though Courfeyrac had winked and flexed when he accidentally walked in on him and told him that he’d hardly consider it bad luck to see him naked).
When he got to the door leading to the alley, though, he heard raised voices, and so he paused, trying not to listen but unable to stop himself.
“You’re killing yourself!” Enjolras was shouting, and Bossuet closed his eyes, far too able to imagine the terrible look on his face as he yelled at Grantaire, who almost certainly was staring back at him defiantly. “You’re killing yourself and you’re killing all of us, and I know you don’t care what happens to you, but I thought you might care a little more about the rest of us.”
He didn’t say ‘about me’, but he didn’t have to. Grantaire’s answering voice was a low growl, still loud enough for Bossuet to hear it. “For the last fucking time, Apollo, it isn’t about you. None of this is. And I’m sorry that I can’t be the perfect boyfriend that you want me to be, but you promised you’d love me no matter what baggage I came with.”
“And I do.” All the anger had seeped out of Enjolras’s voice and he sounded tired, and defeated. “I do love you. And I always will. But I also can’t watch you do this to yourself again.”
“What do you want me to do, Enj?” Grantaire’s voice was equally exhausted, its hard edge completely gone. “Do you want me to go back to rehab? Go to NA meetings? Get clean again just to watch my life spiral out of control because I always fuck things up?”
There was a long pause before Enjolras said softly, “I just want you to realize you don’t always fuck things up. And I want you to want that, too.”
The door opened so abruptly that Bossuet barely had time to spring back from it to avoid being hit in the face. Enjolras strode past him, his eyes dark and suspiciously wet, and Bossuet made no move to go after him, choosing instead to slip into the alley where Grantaire still stood, hands in his pockets, staring at the ground. “Hey,” Bossuet said quietly. “Are you ok?”
Grantaire looked up at him and smiled a twisted smile. “Didn’t you hear? Apollo’s basically done with me, so everything’s pretty much par for the course, don’t you think?”
“That’s not what he said.” Bossuet didn’t bother pretending he hadn’t heard. “He loves you. And you want to know something?” Grantaire nodded reluctantly, and Bossuet told him gently, “Even with my luck, as terrible as it is, I would bet on you two working everything out. Because you love each other, more than maybe anyone else that I know. And not even my luck could ruin that.”
There was a long moment as Grantaire looked down at the ground, but then he nodded, and smiled, a real smile, reaching out to clap Bossuet on the shoulder. “Thanks for that.”
“You’ll be fine,” Bossuet told him bracingly, giving him a big smile. “I believe in that.”
Chapter 6: Combeferre
Only two more to go! This probably won't be updated until the new year, just because of everything I have to work on, and I'm sorry for that. I can promise that the next two chapters will probably be both the best and the worst, depending on how you look at it, because of the characters whose chapters they are...
“Enjolras?” Combeferre spoke the name quietly, gently, his ear pressed against the door as he knocked softly, hoping that Enjolras might actually answer him today, might actually come out of the room he had shared with Grantaire, might actually acknowledge Combeferre, or any of their friends. “Enjolras?”
But the room beyond the closed door was as silent as the grave now filled by Grantaire, and Combeferre’s shoulders slumped in defeat, holding back the urge to go collapse on the couch and curl in on himself.
It had been bad enough losing Grantaire, losing a friend, someone that, even if he hadn’t been the best at showing it, he had cared about greatly. It was infinitely worse watching what the loss of Grantaire had done to Enjolras, to Combeferre’s best friend, his rock, the one constant in his life for the past several years.
He felt like he was losing Enjolras as well, and had no idea how to help him.
Of course, he reflected as he drifted towards the couch in Enjolras and Grantaire’s -- in Enjolras’s living room -- he hadn’t known how to help Grantaire either. Had never really offered help, when it came down to it.
In every relationship between friends, there always seemed to be a divide, those friends on one side of the relationship or the other, where if a breakup were to occur, it was clear whose side they would fall on. Without any doubt, Combeferre was firmly on Enjolras’s, and as such, what little help he had been able to offer in the beginning, even lesser towards the end, was always towards Enjolras.
He had supported Enjolras through everything, through Grantaire’s stint in rehab, through their fighting, through the discovery of Grantaire’s relapse, through it all.
He wondered who had supported Grantaire in the same way.
That was a stupid thought. The rest of their friends hadn’t seemed to have a problem unconditionally supporting Grantaire, forgiving him at every turn.
Combeferre hadn’t been so quick to forgive, and he highly doubted he would ever forget.
But of course, the rest of their friends weren’t him and Enjolras. They hadn’t seen behind Enjolras’s façade, the brave face he wore at their meetings. They hadn’t seen the way Enjolras curled against him on this same couch, sobbing brokenly into his shoulder because he didn’t know what he had done wrong with Grantaire to make him use again. They didn’t know the way that Grantaire had -- accidentally or not -- repeatedly broken Enjolras’s heart.
And it was easier, so much easier, now as back then, if Combeferre didn’t know full well how amazing Grantaire could be. He half-wished that he could say that he wasn’t close to Grantaire, but he had been. It grew out of Grantaire’s relationship with Enjolras, understandably, because as much time as Enjolras and Combeferre spent together, suddenly Grantaire seemed a part of that. But it wasn’t just that. He had genuinely liked Grantaire, liked him for his mind, for his bizarre and eclectic range of interests and hobbies, liked him for the way he was quick-witted and sharp.
He had liked him for the way he made Enjolras smile.
He had hated him for the way he made Enjolras cry.
And now he was gone, and instead of the almost bitter feelings he had borne towards Grantaire at the end, Combeferre couldn’t help but feel like there was some part of them all missing.
Which was stupid. Enjolras, Courfeyrac, and Combeferre -- they were the triumvirate, they were the three parts to the same whole. Grantaire hadn’t played a role in that. Why, then, did it seem like a part of him ached, like a part of him wanted to cry and never stop?
He couldn’t afford that. Enjolras needed him. He had to be there for him.
So engrossed was Combeferre in his thoughts that he didn’t even hear Courfeyrac let himself into the apartment, didn’t hear him come into the room, didn’t even notice him until Courfeyrac tentatively touched his shoulder. “Ferre?”
Combeferre jumped and blinked up at Courfeyrac. “Sorry!” he gasped. “I, uh, I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Yeah, you looked pretty engrossed in thought,” Courfeyrac told him, grimacing slightly as he looked carefully at Combeferre. “Dare I ask how Enjolras is today?”
Shrugging, Combeferre leaned back against the couch, running a tired hand over his eyes. “Same as he’s been for the past week,” he said softly. “I haven’t convinced him to come out of his room today. If he doesn’t come out by lunch, I’ll bring some food in to him, see if I can convince him to at least take a shower or get out of bed.”
Courfeyrac sat next to Combeferre, turning him slightly so that he could give him a shoulder and neck massage, and Combeferre groaned appreciatively, letting his head flop forward. Courfeyrac had always been the most tactile of the three, and gave amazing massages that had saved his life more than once during finals. “Mmmm,” Courfeyrac hummed in agreement, shooting a sad look towards the closed door at the end of the hall. “What about you, though?”
“What about me?” Combeferre asked wearily.
Sighing slightly, Courfeyrac told him softly, “I know that you’re worried about Enjolras. Hell, all of us are worried about Enjolras. But Ferre, when was the last time you ate? The last time you slept through the night on your own bed?” Combeferre shrugged without answering, and Courfeyrac sighed again. “You have to start taking care of yourself. Enjolras will be fine. Or he won’t. But either way, you still have to live.”
Combeferre jerked out of Courfeyrac’s touch, his shoulders suddenly tense again. “I...it’s not that easy, Courf,” he said impatiently. “I can’t just...I can’t just forget that any of this happened. Not with Enjolras the way he is. What exactly do you want me to do? Get Les Amis meetings started up again despite the conspicuous and permanent absence of our ninth member?”
“No, but it’d be nice if you at least took an interest in something other than Enjolras. You do still have other friends, you realize.” Though Courfeyrac’s tone was mild, Combeferre still flinched, his hands closing into fists, feeling his fingernails bite into his palms. “And most importantly, you still have yourself. I mean, come on, when was the last time you went out? Had fun? Hell, when was the last time you stayed up with a book until 3 o’clock in the morning because you couldn’t put it down?”
Glancing automatically towards Enjolras’s bedroom door, Combeferre shook his head mechanically. “I just...I can’t.”
Courfeyrac shook his head, growing exasperated. “Why the fuck not? It’s like you’re punishing yourself for something that isn’t even your fault! It’s not your fault that Grantaire died, it’s not your fault that Enjolras is reacting this way, it’s not--”
“It is my fault!” Combeferre snarled, his eyes flashing. “It is my fault because I never once tried to help Grantaire. I was always so concerned about Enjolras and everything with him. I never spared a second thought for my other friend, who was hurting, who was suffering from a disease that he couldn’t control because I was too busy blaming him for being weak and worthless.”
The words were sharp and angry, and seemed to pierce the quiet of the apartment as loudly as if they had been yelled, and it was Courfeyrac’s turn to flinch, to jerk backwards from Combeferre as if he had just been slapped. “Grantaire didn’t know that,” he said softly. “And even if he did, he wouldn’t have blamed you.”
Combeferre snorted. “Of course he wouldn’t have blamed me. Because he did know. And because he thought all of those things about himself as well. And I never once did anything to make him not think that way.”
Silence fell between them for a long moment as Combeferre looked down, forcing his hands to relax. “That’s why I have to help Enjolras,” he told Courfeyrac quietly. “I owe it to Grantaire. And if I don’t get through to Enj, if anything happens to him, I…”
He couldn’t finish the sentence, tears welling in his eyes, and he bit off his words, struggling to not cry. Courfeyrac scooted forward, pulling Combeferre into his arms. “I know,” he told Combeferre gently. “I know.”
Combeferre didn’t know if Courfeyrac actually understood, if anyone could ever understand. But he still allowed Courfeyrac to hold him, and for the first time in weeks, allowed himself to cry.
Enjolras stood up from where he had just finished working out logistics for their next rally with Courfeyrac and Combeferre and made his way over to Grantaire, bending over to kiss him lightly on the lips. “Are you ready to go home?” Enjolras asked softly. “I have some work that I need to get done.”
Grantaire smiled up at him. “Nah, I think I’m going to stay out for a bit, let you get the work done that you need to without me being there to distract you.” Though Enjolras nodded, it was only after freezing for a moment, a brief look of panic flaring across his face, and Grantaire’s expression softened as he reached up to cup Enjolras’s cheek. “Hey. It’s fine, I promise. I’ll come home tonight. It’s not like before.”
Holding Grantaire’s hand against his cheek, Enjolras took a deep breath and nodded again. “I know,” he told him, voice pitched low, and he forced a smile onto his face. “I just worry.”
“Well don’t worry about me,” Grantaire told him cheerfully. “I’ll see you later.”
Enjolras bent and kissed him once more, a long, lingering kiss, and then left. Combeferre, who had watched this entire exchange instead of reading the papers in front of him as he was supposed to be doing, noticed the way Grantaire’s shoulders seemed to slump in relief at Enjolras’s departure.
As the evening wore on, Grantaire laughed and joked with everyone as usual, though Combeferre noticed he also kept a careful eye on the clock and on everyone else, as if waiting for a moment to slip away when he would be noticed least. Combeferre recognized the behavior from before and closed his lips in a tight line, resolving to say something when most everyone else had left.
Soon enough, the rest of the Amis headed back to their respective apartments, calling it a night, and Grantaire stood as well, draining his beer. “Well, goodnight, Combeferre.”
“Goodnight, Grantaire,” Combeferre said, and he glanced up at him and added in a low voice, “Make sure to go straight home to Enjolras. Don’t do anything you’ll regret later.”
Frowning, Grantaire told him, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Combeferre snorted. “Come on, Grantaire. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Or are you really going to tell me that you stayed behind tonight so that you could go out somewhere and score?”
Grantaire grip on the chair back slipped and he straightened, emotions flickering too quickly across his face to follow, settling finally on a closed look. “I’m not going to tell you anything. It’s none of your business.”
Combeferre raised an eyebrow at him. “Anything that involves you involves Enjolras. That makes it everyone’s business. So you getting high and throwing away everything good you’ve got...that is my business.”
Grantaire’s lip curled and he shook his head. “You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”
“I know that after everything that you’ve put him through, you think you’re not good enough for him,” Combeferre said mildly.
Grantaire looked up at him, expression carefully controlled. “Oh yeah?” he asked conversationally, as if he wasn’t dying to know what Combeferre was about to say, where he was going with this sudden change in conversation.
“Yeah,” Combeferre said, looking at him coolly. “And you’re not. I want you to remember that every time you kiss him, every time you hold his hand, every time he tells you that he loves you. I want you to remember every time you’ve made him cry, every time you’ve made him worry, every time you’ve made him feel worthless for not being able to help you. Remember that he will always deserve more than you, will always be a better man by far than you could ever be.
For just a moment, Grantaire stared at Combeferre in shock. Then he slowly gathered his stuff and stood, his expression carefully blank. Without meeting Combeferre’s eyes, he told him in a low voice, “I’ve always known that I’m not good enough for him. From the day we met I knew it. Why he would ever fall in love with someone like me…” He trailed off and shook his head, still not looking at Combeferre. “But I’ve always known that. And everything I’ve done has more than proved that. But, uh, thanks for the reminder, I guess.”
With that said, Grantaire turned to go, his shoulders slumped, his posture defeated, and for just a moment, Combeferre glared at Grantaire’s retreating back, tempted to let him leave like that, with that exchange between them, nothing to soften the blow of the reminder. But not even Combeferre, for all Enjolras had been put through, for all Combeferre had seen, could do that. So he cleared his throat. “Oh, and Grantaire?”
Almost despite himself, Grantaire paused and half-turned, looking at Combeferre’s inscrutable expression. “Enjolras believes that you’re good enough for him.” Grantaire swallowed and nodded, and Combeferre continued, albeit reluctantly, “I believe that you could be.” Now Grantaire’s eyes snapped to his, equal parts shocked and defiant. Combeferre just shook his head as he turned back to his work. “Don’t let either of us down.”
Chapter 7: Jehan
Sorry this took so long! Only one chapter left, and you know whose chapter it is...
The sun was bright in the sky and the wind was warm, a hint of spring that carried on the edge of what had been a long and hard winter, not only weather-wise, though the wind had howled and blown quite fiercely, but mostly because of Grantaire.
Winter had started with a gaping hole in Jehan’s life from the absence of his best friend. And since winter was often a melancholy affair for Jehan as it was, what had happened in the late months of autumn had sealed the fate on what he assumed would be a miserable winter.
And he had been right. But he had also been very wrong.
Jehan had a philodendron that he had rescued from Grantaire. It had originally been a present that Jehan had given Grantaire when he went to rehab, but Grantaire, having much more of a black thumb than a green thumb, had almost killed the poor plant, and so Jehan had rescued it. When Grantaire died, the philodendron had looked fairly close to death itself, and Jehan would look at it bitterly everyday, sitting innocuously on his bookshelf. Why would it not just die and leave him? It seemed like everything did, eventually, so why not join those he cared about most?
But if the plant had retained anything from Grantaire after being owned by him, it was his stubbornness, and so the plant hung on as fall became winter, as Christmas came and went. Jehan watered it when he remembered, on the days when he forced himself to get out of bed. When the poinsettia Bahorel had brought him finally died, when his Norwegian pine gave up, that stupid philodendron kept right on living, its leaves growing enough to cover the name “Phil” that Grantaire had painted on the pot.
When Jehan had finally stopped struggling through the day-to-day, it was still there, still patiently waiting for him, and if anything, that was also very similar to Grantaire. The number of times Grantaire would sit in his living room, waiting for him to come out of his funk, never trying to force him, just waiting for him to come to it on his own...Well, having Phil wait for him was hardly a comparison, but since the philodendron was full and green now, alive and happy, two things that Grantaire would never again be, Jehan supposed he couldn’t be too picky.
To anyone else, that thought would probably have seemed harsh, but Jehan had come to terms with his own mortality long ago, giving much thought and preoccupation to death and what lay beyond it, and he couldn’t imagine Grantaire being upset that Jehan had stated the obvious: he was dead. The plant was not.
Nature, it seemed, had a way of surviving. Time healed all wounds. However one wished to phrase that particularly nonsensical idiom, in the case of Grantaire’s philodendron, it had certainly proven correct. And in the case of Jehan, well...it had proven correct as well.
When first he had heard the news, he had wept and sobbed and fallen into a pit of despair so deep that he honestly did not think he would be able to climb out of it. But Jean Prouvaire, for all his focus on the melancholy in the world, also saw beauty, far more than perhaps anyone else did. And when he finally forced himself out of his bed and out of his apartment, he saw that beauty still, and on the days when he wanted to do nothing more than lay in bed and cry, sometimes the thought of that beauty was enough to get him out of bed (and sometimes it wasn’t. But that was ok, too).
He spent more time than was probably healthy at Grantaire’s grave, which was really no more than a tombstone since Grantaire had been cremated and Jehan had no idea what had been done with the ashes. But it was a quiet, peaceful spot, even in the dead of winter, and he could see where flowers would bloom come spring, the tree that overhung the grave would blossom as well, and it was perfect.
Jehan told Grantaire as such, using his tombstone as a backrest as he scribbled in his journal. He didn’t often talk to Grantaire, whether at his grave or otherwise. It seemed a bit silly; Grantaire was no more at this particular stone with his name carved on it than anywhere else, and it made far more sense to evoke his name in the Musain with a full glass in hand, but still. On some days, when the wind wasn’t whipping quite as fiercely, when a bird chirped in the tree above Jehan, when he felt particularly at peace, he felt close to Grantaire.
It was still hard. He had tried to make his peace with it as best he could, but it was still hard. No one ever said it wasn’t going to be, but it still snuck up on him at the worst times. When he went to the bookstore, for instance, and the kindly woman behind the counter asked, “Where has your friend been lately? The curly haired one? I haven’t seen him in awhile.”
Jehan had gripped the counter, swallowed hard, and told her, “Oh. He...he died, actually.”
Her hand had flown to her mouth as she gasped. “Oh, I’m so terribly sorry,” she had said. “I had no idea. The poor dear. He was so young! Oh, my.”
“It’s fine,” Jehan had said, automatically, before shrugging and shaking his head and saying, “Well, I mean, it’s not fine, really. It will probably never be fine. But it’s ok. I’m ok. I will be fine.” He had smiled up at the woman and taken his books then. “Have a good day.”
Time didn’t heal everything.
Nothing could heal everything.
But with time, he would be fine. He would never forget -- had gotten a chain of forget-me-nots tattooed around his wrist with a cursive ‘R’ in the middle for that very purpose, had hoarded as many home videos of Grantaire as he could find so that when the time came, when the memories started to fade and the sound of that laugh became a distant memory, he could pull them up, watch them, and remember -- but time would soften the jagged edges of his heart. He truly believed that.
There was one in his group of friends who did not seem so optimistic. Jehan had received a phone call from Combeferre that morning, a phone call that explained why Jehan was skipping his time usually spent in the park on such a lovely day as this to instead trek across town. “Please, Jehan,” Combeferre had said, his voice breaking. “You’re the one who knew him best and we thought, if you could just talk to him…since nothing I’ve said has gotten through...”
Though the pronoun choice was confusing, Jehan knew which ‘him’ referred to whom, and so closed his eyes and nodded. Combeferre would never beg, would never admit defeat if it were not serious, and for Grantaire’s sake more than anything, Jehan would try. “Very well. I’ll come over and see what I can do. I can’t promise anything, of course.”
So Jehan knocked on the apartment door, swept past Combeferre when he let him in, pausing only long enough to grip his shoulder for a long moment, and went into Enjolras’s room without knocking. “Enjolras.”
The months that had passed since Grantaire’s death had not been kind to any of them, but had been especially harsh on Enjolras. Jehan knew as all of them did that Enjolras had not been handling things well; this was more than obvious with Courfeyrac more often than not leading the sporadic Les Amis meetings they had tried to hold, but Jehan knew that Enjolras had started going into work for a day or two a week, even if he still mostly worked from home, and had somehow deluded himself into thinking that Enjolras was getting better.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Seeing him huddled on his bed, with dark circles that threatened to subsume his dull, almost vacant eyes, looking skinnier than ever wrapped in one of Grantaire’s old hoodies, his blond curls lank and lifeless, Jehan’s breath caught in his throat. Enjolras looked closer to death than life. Still, Jehan determinedly stepped into the room, closing the door behind him, and took a step towards Enjolras before repeating, in a slightly questioning tone, “Enjolras?”
Enjolras looked up at him as if noticing him for the first time. “Jehan.” He didn’t sound surprised, he didn’t sound interested, he sounded numb. “What are you doing here?”
“Combeferre called me,” Jehan said softly, moving to sit down next to Enjolras on the bed, automatically reaching out to take one of Enjolras’s hands in his. “He’s worried about you. We’re all worried about you.” Enjolras didn’t say anything, just shrugged, and Jehan sighed, rubbing Enjolras’s hand gently as if trying to restore warmth to the too-thin flesh. “You can’t keep going like this. You still have to live your life.”
Something flickered in the depths of Enjolras’s eyes, something as close to anger as he could muster, and he asked, “You want me to just forget about him? Forget about everything? Act like none of it happened?”
Jehan huffed a little impatiently. “Of course not. But there’s a difference between remembering and still managing to live and remembering and wallowing in those memories.” He squeezed Enjolras’s hand gently. “What would Grantaire say if he were here?”
Now Enjolras closed his eyes, and his hand tightened in Jehan’s grip. “Honestly?” he said, his voice cracking. “I can’t even remember. It’s been so long since I...since I talked about him, or thought about him beyond just missing him and wanting him.”
“Then why don’t we talk about him?” Jehan suggested lightly. “I bet I’ve got some memories that even you don’t know, back from our wild days of youth before we really knew you. And I want you to tell me about him. About the side of him only you ever got to see. Ok?”
Enjolras nodded slowly. “Ok.”
And that was how they spent the day, talking about Grantaire, sharing memories and stories. Jehan got Enjolras to eat an actual meal out at the kitchen table instead of in his bed, and even convinced him to shower, though he promised to sit in the bathroom with him and continue talking (he was in the middle of the story of Grantaire’s first arrest anyway, which was a harrowing tale of a teenage vandal that actually made Enjolras crack a smile).
Back in Enjolras’s bedroom, Jehan had Enjolras sit on the chair as he combed through his wet curls, still talking, and as Jehan worked through a particularly nasty tangle, he finished his story. “So then Grantaire says something along the lines of ‘I thought I smelled bacon’, and that’s how what should have been a fine turned into a civil infraction that had him spending the night in jail.”
Enjolras shook his head, smiling good-naturedly. “Yeah, he never did know when to keep his mouth shut, did he?” he mused, his gaze distant as he reminisced. “Half the time it pissed me off, but the other half of the time it made me laugh…”
“I disagree with your math there,” Jehan teased. “I think a third of the time it pissed you off, a third of the time it made you laugh, and a third of the time it made you horny as hell.”
Enjolras laughed then, a true honest laugh, and instantly froze, clapping a hand over his mouth. Jehan moved to kneel down in front of him, his expression serious. “Enjolras,” he said, his hand wrapped around Enjolras’s wrist. “Enjolras, it’s ok. You’re allowed to laugh. Grantaire would want you to laugh.”
Shaking his head, Enjolras lowered his hand from his mouth, his eyes closed against the tears that struggled to escape. “I can’t,” he whispered. “I...it’s not fair to him.” He was silent for a long moment, and then he looked up at Jehan, despair written all over his features. “How am I supposed to keep doing this? How am I supposed to go on without him, laughing and joking as if he was still here?”
“You’re not,” Jehan said, gently, moving his hand to lace his fingers with Enjolras’s. “You’re not supposed to pretend that he’s still here because he’s not. And you have to learn to let yourself laugh and joke again in spite of him not being here.”
Jehan shrugged, reaching up with his free hand to wipe a tear from Enjolras’s cheek. “You just do,” he said simply. “Because you know that if Grantaire were here, he would kick your ass if you didn’t.”
Enjolras did manage a small, if watery smile at that, and he squeezed Jehan’s hand. “He really would, wouldn’t he?” he said in a faint sort of voice. “How disappointed he would have been in the way I’ve been acting.”
Jehan reached out to pull Enjolras into a hug, holding him close as he whispered fiercely, “Never. Grantaire would never be disappointed in you because he loved you. Loves you still. There’s nothing in the world that I believe more than that.” He released Enjolras and rocked back on his heels. “And now that you are washed and dressed and smelling significantly better, what do you say to actually leaving the apartment and getting some coffee or something? I have a really great story about Grantaire’s 18th birthday that I’ve been meaning to tell you.”
Though Enjolras looked slightly apprehensive, he still nodded, and allowed Jehan to pull him up. “Sure,” he said. “That sounds good.”
He still wore Grantaire’s hoodie (a different one, thankfully, one which had actually been washed in the preceding weeks), but Jehan didn’t think that was such a bad thing. Enjolras just needed more time before he was fine. But then again, didn’t they all?
“Prouvaire!” The call was accompanied by a repeated pounding on his door, and Jehan groaned and rolled over, trying to bury his head in the couch cushions. “Prouvaire, you changed your fucking locks on me, so let me in you asshole, or I’ll keep this up all night.”
It took more effort than Jehan could possibly say to get up off the couch and let Grantaire in, not even looking fazed by the glare Grantaire sent him as he pushed past and into the living room. “My landlord changed the locks,” Jehan said tonelessly. “There were break-ins in the building.”
Grantaire settled on the couch and looked up at him unconcernedly. “You still should have given me a key,” he chided. When Jehan just stared at him, Grantaire raised his eyebrow. “Problem?”
“You’re in my seat,” Jehan muttered.
Shrugging, Grantaire told him, “If you want to sleep, you have a bed. Otherwise, it’s 3 in the afternoon, and your couch is comfy. I’ve got some reading to catch up on, and you’re welcome to join me.”
Jehan blinked at him. “But it’s my couch,” he protested, though the protest was half-hearted as best. Grantaire was doing exactly what Jehan would do -- what Jehan had done in the past -- were their positions reversed. “Fine,” he sighed, trudging to his bedroom.
The melancholy mood that had gripped Jehan had receded enough by that evening that he was able to emerge from his bedroom and actually smile slightly at Grantaire, who was reading something on his phone with a look of complete disgust, though the look quickly changed into happiness at seeing Jehan up and about. “How are you feeling?” Grantaire asked, sitting up.
“Better,” Jehan told him, honestly. “Still not great, but...better. Thanks.”
Grantaire reached out to pull Jehan down next to him on the couch, a warm arm slung around Jehan’s shoulders. “Well, since you’re better, I get to yell at you. You know you’re supposed to call me when things like this happen.”
Jehan shrugged and looked away. “I know, but I didn’t want to bother--”
“How many times do I have to tell you, it’s never bothering me,” Grantaire growled, his arm around Jehan’s shoulders tightening. Then he cocked his head slightly and acknowledged, “And even if it does bother me -- which it doesn’t -- I owe you after the number of times I’ve bothered you, ok?”
Nodding, Jehan allowed, “Ok. I’ll call you next time. And I’ll get you a copy of the new key to my apartment when I get a chance. Ok?”
“Ok,” Grantaire agreed. “Because if you don’t, I’ll kick your ass. Got it?”
Jehan rolled his eyes but nodded again, a small smile lifting the corners of his mouth. “Got it.” He shrugged out from under Grantaire’s arm and stood. “You hungry?”
Grantaire shrugged. “I probably could eat,” he said, grinning when his stomach gave a loud gurgle. “And apparently my stomach agrees. Chinese place on the corner?”
They walked in relative silence out of the apartment and down the street, until Jehan asked, “So how are you doing?” He reached out to rest his hand lightly on the crook of Grantaire’s arm. “With...you know, with everything?”
Jehan honestly expected Grantaire to shrug and smile and give his usual, “Oh, I’m fine,” but instead, Grantaire shrugged, his smile fading, and he scuffed his shoe against the ground. “It’s hard,” he said, after a long moment. “Feeling like I’ve disappointed you guys. Like I’ve disappointed Enjolras.”
“Hey, you could never disappoint Enjolras,” Jehan said, seeing tears threaten in Grantaire’s eyes. “He’s so proud of you for getting help when you did, and he knows that this is hard, and that you’re trying.”
Grantaire nodded and swallowed, looking down at the ground. “I’m just so scared that he’s going to leave me.”
Jehan reached out to wrap Grantaire in a hug, squeezing him as tightly as he could. “Never,” he told him, his voice a fierce growl. “Enjolras loves you. And he always will. I believe that more than anything else.” He released Grantaire but grabbed his hand, lacing their fingers together firmly. “I know you don’t believe in much, so I’ll believe in it twice as hard for you.”
Grantaire smiled slightly and tugged Jehan close to kiss his temple. “Thanks,” he said, his voice a little hoarse. “You’re a good friend, Prouvaire.”
“I know,” Jehan said easily, and he squeezed Grantaire’s hand. “And you are, too.”
Chapter 8: Enjolras
A huge thank you to everyone who's read/kudos'd/commented/etc. on this! Hopefully this final chapter is a satisfying conclusion.
This chapter does come with some chapter specific warnings that may spoil things; as such, I've hidden them below (hover to reveal), and if you think you might be triggered by anything, you can check them to be on the safe side.
Hover to reveal warning.
Combeferre shuffled into the kitchen in search of coffee, startled but not entirely surprised to find Courfeyrac sitting at the kitchen table, munching on a pastry. “I knew giving you my spare key was a bad idea,” Combeferre muttered, grabbing a coffee mug and pouring himself some coffee.
“You love me and you know it,” Courfeyrac told him cheerfully, finishing the pastry and licking the crumbs off his fingers. His expression softened as he looked at Combeferre. “How are you doing today?”
Combeferre shrugged as he took a sip of coffee. “It’s a better day today,” he said softly, his expression distant.
Nodding, Courfeyrac stood. “Glad to hear it,” he said, completely sincere. “Want to visit Enjolras today?”
There was only a brief moment’s hesitation before Combeferre nodded, a small smile touching his lips. “Yeah. That’s a good idea.” He glanced at the clock. “Give me, say, half an hour to shower? If that works for you?”
“Lord knows I’m in no rush,” Courfeyrac said easily. “Only other thing I have to do today is go see Joly. Something about numbers for the next protest -- I wasn’t really listening. But ever since Bossuet broke a rib at the last rally, Joly’s been a little waspish, so I don’t mind putting it off.”
Combeferre laughed lightly and shook his head. On his way out of the kitchen to the bathroom, he paused, turning back to ask Courfeyrac, “Should we get some flowers for Enjolras?”
Courfeyrac raised an eyebrow at him. “Have you ever known Enjolras to like flowers, let alone appreciate the gesture?” Combeferre just laughed and shook his head, and Courfeyrac told him, “Besides, I think Jehan brought him some the other day. Now go shower -- you kind of smell.”
Combeferre shook his head again and took the opportunity to stick his tongue out at Courfeyrac, who just blew him a kiss. As he went to shower, he decided that today really was a better day.
A little over an hour later, Courfeyrac and Combeferre were walking up the path together, Courfeyrac’s arm looped through Combeferre’s. “Ah, see!” he said, excitedly. “I told you Jehan brought flowers.”
Sure enough, a bouquet of brightly colored flowers was propped against the grey headstone, a matching bouquet propped on the stone next to it, and Courfeyrac and Combeferre slowed as they approached. Combeferre bent to brush some fallen leaves off of the first headstone, which had Enjolras’s name carved on it, and a death date almost two years to the day after Grantaire’s.
Enjolras’s grief had been a grief that went beyond words, beyond expression, a grief that only those who had similarly shared in it could understand even a glimpse of. It was not just the loss of a person, but the lose of a part of oneself, as if his very soul had been rent in two and the second piece was just suddenly, inexplicably gone.
There is no way to recover from such a loss. He had to either decide that he could still live even with half of himself gone, or he couldn’t.
Enjolras decided to live.
Certainly not right away, not even immediately following Jehan’s visit, which had at least started Enjolras’s world spinning again. Still, it had taken him another few months to stop being a zombie, to make it out of bed every day, to make it out of his apartment every day, to finally make it back to work every day.
But once he did, he threw himself back into his work. It was the only thing that was going to keep him going at that point, so he worked the way he had worked his freshman year of university, determined that he wasn’t going to waste a single day.
On his days off, which by law he was forced to take every now and then, he still despaired at first, without Grantaire there for him (same with the way he still despaired at nights when he had to sleep alone). He started going to the cemetery as often as he could, visiting Grantaire’s headstone. Or else he would go to Grantaire’s favorite places, imagining Grantaire there beside him.
It wasn’t the healthiest thing, necessarily, and he certainly got his fair share of strange looks as he sat on a bench in the art museum and cried while smiling at a particularly strange modern art piece, imagining Grantaire sitting beside him whispering stupid comments in his ear.
Grantaire was gone, but Enjolras was determined that he would not forget him, that the part of his life that had been thoroughly devoted to Grantaire would remain so.
And it bled into his working life as well, both professionally and for Les Amis. His personal mission became working on legislation that would help recovering addicts in any way possible. He personally wrote the text of a bill that mandated certain treatments at rehabs, ones proven effective against relapse, and while in committee it had been amended to make the mandate more of a suggestion, it still meant that the conversation surrounding rehabilitation and techniques for recovering addicts was expanding, which in and of itself was an achievement.
In Les Amis meetings, he turned some of their attention towards information campaigns and rallies on destigmatizing mental illness in society, including but not limited to addiction, knowing that Grantaire’s demons were based in more than just the pull of drugs. He also knew that mental illness affected more than just Grantaire, and that his obligation thus extended to help all of his fellow citizens who were ignored and marginalized.
His friends were remarkable in supporting him in his endeavors. Les Amis dove into the mental illness efforts wholeheartedly. They even revealed some of their own struggles in order to show that these issues could and did affect anyone, Joly drawing on his own experience with anxiety, and Bahorel coming forward with an eating disorder he had struggled with while wrestling back in high school. Together, the group of friends worked in hopes that no other friends would face the loss of one of their own.
And still Enjolras visited Grantaire’s grave, talked to him, kept him updated on all the things they were doing. Some days he would stage arguments with himself, thinking of all the ways that Grantaire would refute his points, would look at him with that smile he wore, his eyes crinkling as he told Enjolras seriously, “I love you, but you’re a dumbass, and that’s not going to work.”
He was more determined than ever to prove Grantaire wrong. Even though it would not bring Grantaire back, even though nothing could bring Grantaire back, it was still worth it.
Of course, it didn’t mean things were perfect for Enjolras. He still had days where he couldn’t bring himself to get out of bed, where he just didn’t want to face a world that didn’t have Grantaire in it. On some of those days, his friends would leave him alone, let him have the time he needed.
On other days, they did anything but.
On one such day, Joly arrived at Enjolras’s early in the morning, not having to be into the hospital until three. He tossed Enjolras’s coat onto his bed. “Get up,” he said, tone brisk. “We’re going to the clinic.”
Enjolras sat up and rubbed his eyes. “I don’t need to go to the clinic,” he said, a little sulkily. “I’m fine.”
“We’re going to the free clinic for addicts,” Joly clarified, raising an eyebrow at Enjolras. “And you’re going to talk to them. You’re going to tell Grantaire’s story. You’re going to tell your story.”
Looking down at the bed, Enjolras shrugged. “They’re not going to listen,” he muttered. “I’m just one man.”
Joly fixed him with his most fearsome stare. “And since when have those odds ever stopped you?”
Courfeyrac showed up on the next such day, sweet-talking Enjolras out of bed and out of his apartment. They ended up going to series of restaurants and pubs and bars and cafés, all places that Enjolras vaguely recognized until he realized: they were all places Grantaire had known, had loved, had wanted to take him to.
When he mentioned this to Courfeyrac, Courfeyrac just smiled and said, “He really knew all the best places, didn’t he?”
And together, they raised their shots of whiskey to Grantaire and downed them (and then Courfeyrac blanched and insisted on tequila shots to get the taste of whiskey out of his mouth, and then one shot turned into four, and they both wound up puking behind the bar, but in a way, Grantaire probably would’ve liked that just as much).
When Feuilly came over, it was also to drag Enjolras out of the apartment, taking him to the art museum, walking him through the paintings. He explained Grantaire’s artistic style, and what it said about him as an artist, the things Enjolras would never have known. “He painted from the heart,” Feuilly said, honestly. “And he painted what he loved.” He smiled at Enjolras. “Why do you think there were so many paintings of you?”
“So many paintings of all of us,” Enjolras corrected, though he also smiled. “Grantaire loved us all.”
Feuilly nodded. “I always thought that it was odd, that Grantaire never painted himself into any of the paintings of the rest of us, but I think I understand now,” he said, contemplatively. “He put himself into the paintings with all the love he poured into them.” He blushed and shook his head. “And now I sound like a sap.”
Enjolras laughed lightly and rested his head against Feuilly’s shoulder. “Maybe. But that doesn’t mean you’re wrong.”
One day, Bahorel took over Enjolras duty, which meant bodily carrying him out of his apartment, despite Enjolras’s protests, and taking him to the boxing ring. “You’re going to fight me,” Bahorel told him firmly.
“But I don’t want to fight you,” Enjolras protested, even as Bahorel was wrapping tape around his knuckles.
Bahorel just shook his head. “It’s not about me,” he explained. “You’re going to fight to remind yourself of the blood flowing through your veins, of your heart pounding in your chest, of the pain that you can feel.” He leaned in and popped a mouthguard into Enjolras’s mouth. “You’re gonna fight to remind yourself you’re still alive.”
Not even twenty minutes later, Enjolras was collapsed in a heap on the floor of the ring, bloody and bruised and maybe crying just a little, but feeling more alive than he had in weeks.
On days when Enjolras was feeling particularly low, Bossuet came over, bringing with him kleenex and Disney movies. “I’ve had a lot of experiences being laid up with injuries,” Bossuet told him cheerfully, “and sobbing while trying to sing ‘A Whole New World’ always helps.”
“I’m not injured,” Enjolras told him, a little petulantly, but he still allowed Bossuet to sit next to him on the couch.
And when Enjolras broke down and sobbed for almost half an hour after the scene with WALL-E and EVE in space, Bossuet gathered Enjolras to him and let him cry on his chest as he told him gently, “A broken heart counts as an injury.”
Combeferre tried to turn Enjolras’s despair into productivity. He would sit next to him in bed when Enjolras refused to get up and read him articles out loud. Sometimes he debated them with himself, other times he would just pause until Enjolras weakly supplied the opposing viewpoint. When Enjolras really despaired, Combeferre would read him articles on all the things they had achieved, not just in this fight, but across all aspects of Les Amis’ activity.
“Thank you,” Enjolras told him, one such day, his voice quiet. “I know it doesn’t always make me feel less sad, but it does help.”
Combeferre shook his head. “That’s because it’s not meant to make you feel less sad,” he told him gently. “It’s just meant to remind you that you still have work to do.”
And when Jehan came over, it was to just sit and listen, to let Enjolras cry or talk to do whatever he needed to do. Sometimes they went to Grantaire’s grave together; other times they never moved from Enjolras’s bed. But every time, at the end of every day, when Enjolras was so emotionally exhausted that he couldn’t keep himself awake any longer, Jehan would hug Enjolras, would kiss his forehead, and would tell him, “Grantaire would be -- Grantaire is so proud of the effort you’re making.”
Just because he knew Enjolras needed to hear it.
But on the days when the pain wasn’t too much to bear, Enjolras still had a tendency to lose himself in his work, forgetting to eat and sleep, but his friends were far more used to dealing with that extreme of Enjolras than the other. They instituted their old patterns from university during finals, ensuring that Enjolras ate at least one full meal a day and slept at least four hours. It was harder since they didn’t all live together, but they still managed.
As time went on, things for Enjolras began to even out. Yes, he still missed Grantaire, as he always would, but it was an old hurt now, a war wound that would never heal, would always remind him of what he had lost, but one that only made him want to work harder.
Around this time, Courfeyrac stopped him after a Les Amis meeting and said softly, “Did you see my friend Louis came to the meeting today?”
“Which one was Louis?” Enjolras asked distractedly, flipping through his notes in search of a specific statistic he was fairly certain needed updating.
Courfeyrac rolled his eyes. “The cute ginger who tried to flirt with you?” Enjolras remained silent and Courfeyrac said cautiously, “He thinks you’re really cute, you know.”
Enjolras straightened, something unreadable in his expression. “Tell him that I appreciate that,” he said honestly. “But I’m not...I’m not ready for that yet. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for that.”
Squeezing his shoulder gently, Courfeyrac told him, “I understand that. Really, I do. Just know that when or if you are ever ready, none of us will judge you for it. Hell, Grantaire wouldn’t judge you for it. He would want you to be happy.”
“And I am,” Enjolras said, not even having to think about it, though he paused before adding, “Or at least, I think I will be.”
As it was, he would never get the chance to see if he would be ready to date again.
Almost two years to the day after Grantaire’s death, Enjolras was walking to the Musain, typing distractedly on his phone, writing a follow-up email to a concern a legislator had about a recently proposed bill. Suddenly, a man brandishing a knife leapt into his path. “Gimme your phone and your wallet,” the man said, his hands shaking. “Now!”
Enjolras instantly focused on the man’s pockmarked skin, his wide, frantic eyes, and knew from the time he had spent volunteering at the clinic that this guy was high. Most likely on meth, but he didn’t know that for sure. “It’s ok,” he said slowly, holding his hands up carefully. “I’m going to give you my phone and then I’m going to reach into my pocket for my wallet, alright?”
“Just hurry up!” the guy snapped, glancing around as he took the phone from Enjolras. “Gimme your wallet.”
Slowly reaching into his back pocket, Enjolras told him in the same calm voice, “I know you’re going through a rough time right now, but there are people and places that can help you. You don’t have to do this.”
The guy peered closely at him through red-rimmed eyes, and then smiled, revealing his yellowed, rotting teeth (Definitely meth, Enjolras thought). “Hey, I know you,” the guy said, still grinning. “You’re that queer that comes into the clinic, right?”
“I volunteer at the clinic, yes,” Enjolras said, carefully.
This was apparently the wrong thing to say. “What’s a pretty little faggot doing at the clinic, huh?” the guy snarled, waving his knife. “You think you’re so much better than us?”
Enjolras shook his head and protested calmly, “I don’t think I’m better than you at all.”
“Liar!” the guy shouted. “Nothing but a fucking queer liar, nothing but a--”
Whatever he said next, Enjolras would never know, because at that moment, the man stabbed Enjolras in the stomach, and his words were lost in the instant pain and shock that Enjolras felt.
Enjolras crumbled backward onto the sidewalk, clutching convulsively at his abdomen, his hands coming back stained with blood. He watched with blurred eyes as the man dropped the knife, and Enjolras’s wallet and phone, looking suddenly terrified before running off. So it was all for nothing, then.
His breathing was becoming more difficult, and Enjolras wondered if he was going to die alone.
Grantaire had died alone.
That thought was the only thing that managed to throw Enjolras’s world back into focus. He was going to die. He was going to finally be with Grantaire again.
He heard the shout but could not turn towards it, could not really move. A few moments later, Combeferre knelt by his side, hands closing over Enjolras’s wound, applying pressure. “Oh my God, oh my god--” Over his shoulder, he called to someone out of Enjolras’s line of sight, “Call 911!”
“Combeferre.” Enjolras’s voice was weak and fading fast, but he had to say this. “The man...who did this...he was an addict.”
Bowing his head slightly, Combeferre snarled, “And he will pay for this, I promise you that.”
Enjolras struggled to lift his hand, trying to touch Combeferre, to soothe him. “No. Promise me no. Get him help instead.”
Combeferre shook his head, still trying to stop the bleeding from Enjolras’s wound. “Damnit, Enjolras, now is not that time for your crusade,” Combeferre snarled. “I’m trying to keep you alive!”
“Get him help,” Enjolras breathed. “I will die anyway.”
Combeferre shook his head, pressing even harder on the wound. “No, Enjolras, don’t say that,” he said, sobbed really, at the realization that his compression was doing little to stop the bleeding. “You’re going to be fine, you’re going to live, you--”
“I’m going to see Grantaire.”
Those words, barely a whisper, were the last words Enjolras spoke as his eyes dimmed and his breathing stuttered to a halt. Combeferre sobbed in earnest now, shouting Enjolras’s name over and over again.
It wasn’t until much later that he would realize that Enjolras died with a smile on his face.
Combeferre stood a little unsteadily from where he had knelt in front of Enjolras’s headstone. Almost eight months had passed and he still didn’t know if he was ever going to be ok again. As if sensing his thoughts, Courfeyrac wrapped an arm around Combeferre’s waist, holding him steady. “I miss him,” Courfeyrac admitted, glancing at both headstones. “I miss them both.”
“Me too,” Combeferre whispered.
They stood there in silence a few minutes longer, then Courfeyrac shook his head. “At least they’re together again.”
Combeferre nodded, blinking away the tears in his eyes. “They are. And they always will be.”
He reached down to lace his fingers with Courfeyrac’s, drawing on Courfeyrac’s quiet strength, and turned to give him a small smile. “Come on,” he said, taking a deep, if slightly shuddering, breath. “Let’s go get some lunch or something. I’m starving.”
So they turned and left the side-by-side headstones for the two men who slept together among the stars in eternity.
“Well, I think I’m all settled,” Grantaire said quietly, smiling a little nervously at Enjolras. “Thanks for helping me move in.”
Enjolras cleared his throat. “Of course,” he said, voice rough, though he managed a small smile. “And you know that if you need anything, I’m a phone call or a letter away.”
Grantaire’s smile faded slightly. “They don’t allow phone calls right away,” he said, his expression suddenly anxious. “Not while we’re detoxing. Which is probably for the best, because I don’t want to do something stupid like call you and tell you that I hate you and that this is all your fault.”
“I wouldn’t believe a word of it anyway,” Enjolras assured him, far more confidently than he felt, and he reached out to cup Grantaire’s cheek. “I know you love me.”
Grantaire leaned into the touch, his eyes closing. “And I know you love me.”
Enjolras pulled him close and kissed him deeply. “I really do,” he said, something of a promise in his tone. “I love you, and I want you to remember that, especially on the days when you feel like you aren’t going to make it through. Your addiction doesn’t define you, and you are so much stronger than you think.”
He kissed him again, a long, sweet kiss before adding, “I love you because of who you are and despite of who you are and everything in between.”
An orderly knocked on the door. “If you’re all set, you have your first meeting with your doctor in just a few minutes,” he said politely to Grantaire, who nodded, looking uneasy.
Enjolras swallowed, hard. “I guess I’ll be going then.” He kissed Grantaire once more, letting Grantaire lean against him, letting Grantaire turn the kiss open-mouthed and desperate. Then Enjolras ran his fingers through Grantaire’s soft curls once more and promised him, “I’ll see you when I can.”
“Yeah,” Grantaire said, nodding. “I’ll see you soon. And I will get better.”
“I believe you,” Enjolras said, flashing him a quick, genuine smile. “I believe in you. You can do this.” He reluctantly released Grantaire and stepped towards the door. He looked back at Grantaire, who had perched on the edge of the bed, and blurted, “I’ll sleep better when you’re back beside me.”
Grantaire smiled at him as well. “And I’m sure I won’t sleep soundly the entire time I’m here. I sleep the best with you at my side.”
Enjolras’s smile softened. “Soon,” he promised, as much to himself as Grantaire. “Soon.”