“My friends, I found the solution to our problem!” Jehan announced dramatically as he bounced into the room. He was met with a chorus of grumbles as it was seven in the morning. Normally none of his flatmates would be up in the first place but they had a protest to prepare for. Unfortunately, necessity doesn’t lead to alertness all the time.
“What is it Jehan?” asked Feuilly, the only other morning person in the group.
“Remember when I told you they wrote a book about our past lives?” The others nodded.
He heard Joly mumble “How is he so okay with this?” Unlike the others, Jehan had fully embraced the idea of reincarnation, so when they all suddenly had memories of different lives, he was the least baffled by the experience. Sure it was difficult, he sometimes woke up after a gun was placed against his head and fired, but he knew the others had the same problems and he needed to be the voice of calm.
“Well, you all didn’t want to read it because it was so long, so I found a shorter version!” The others grimaced at each other. “That’s great, Jehan,” said Enjolras, though his smile looked far from natural. Jehan understood that it would be hard for them to read, not just because of lexile and little time in their days, but also because of the events that they wanted to forget once they woke up. However, Jehan felt it was important that they know their past and how they are now perceived.
“I’ll grab them for you,” Jehan said with a reassuring smile. He whisked out of the room to his reading corner where the box sat waiting. He returned to the kitchen and passed them around and then turned to the group. “Have fun!”
Grantaire sat in his attic bedroom, holding the thick book in his hand.
‘Les Miserables,’ he thought, ‘what a fitting name for anything that mentioned his life.’
He sighed and tossed the book onto his bed without even opening it before getting ready for work. He didn’t want to think about his current past, much less his past past. Wow, this was confusing. He also did not want to know what the narrator, or whomever’s perspective the book was written in, thought of him.
Unfortunately, he was forced to think about it again and again, even though he adamantly refused to open the book. No one could talk about anything else it seems.
“So we’re just background characters? Our story is far more interesting!”
“The author depicted the suffering well, I guess.”
“I’m the farthest of all of you and I still haven’t gotten to where we come in.”
“Are they going to introduce us at all? We just appear!”
“Well, it is the super abridged version so they probably cut out whatever wasn’t necessary.”
Now that the rest of the group was to the part where their past selves entered the story, Grantaire expected there to be incessant talk of the book, but instead they stopped talking about it at all.
At first, Grantaire was thankful for not having to hear about it for a while, but then he started to get paranoid. He swore the conversation suddenly switched when he entered a room, and all of the books suddenly disappeared whenever he got home.
Their treatment of him changed, too. Pitying and worried eyes followed him around and there seemed to be someone distracting him at all times. Anytime he had free time, Bahorel would be asking if they could spar or Jehan would ask if he would listen to a poem he wrote. The fact that Jehan was in on it confused Grantaire. He had already read the version of the book that contained far more details of their lives, why was he all of a sudden fussing over Grantaire?
Finally, Grantaire decided to investigate because if Enjolras, a complete disaster when it came to noticing people’s problems or feelings, was reaching out to him, it had to be bad. If the book said something bad about him, he wanted to know what it was. Before he opened the book, he decided to clarify that there was indeed a conspiracy happening, because he wasn’t going to read that thing unless he had to.
“Hey Courfeyrac?” Grantaire asked casually one morning. He felt bad for targeting the other student specifically, but he was the most likely to spill. Well, other than Marius but he was away for a couple weeks visiting his girlfriend’s family. “How’s the book coming.”
“Um, what book?” Courfeyrac tried (and epically failed) to ask casually.
“The Les Mis book,” Grantaire said, narrowing his eyes.
“Oh, that one!” Courfeyrac laughed nervously. “Um, it was good, I guess. Not very exciting. Good ole Victor just told the battle tactics as far as we’re concerned. Do you want to watch a movie?” Yep, something was definitely up.
“No, I need to head to the library to write a paper,” Grantaire lied. He brushed past Courfeyrac and up to his room. He threw the book into his backpack and left. He hid in the art corner of the library, where the rest of his friend group would not go, so there was no worry about running into them.
“Here goes nothing,” he mumbled to himself as he opened the book.
Since he didn’t have much time, Grantaire just skimmed the beginning of the book. He agreed with his friends assessments of the portrayal of suffering, but he thought the author could get a bit rambly at times. According to Jehan, the original version was much worse. He started genuinely reading once it got to Marius’ story. Grantaire, being the person he was, didn’t really feel bad about this invasion of privacy and was far too wrapped up in laughing at his friend’s antics to stop. Finally, Courfeyrac was mentioned as Marius roommate.
The publishers weren’t kidding when they said it was super abridged version, Marius’ first meeting with Les Amis weren’t mentioned, nor was their preparations, nor the storming of the funeral. In fact, by the time the battle started, only Enjolras, Combeferre, and Courfeyrac had been mentioned. Grantaire was relieved that his drunken argument with Enjolras before the fall of the barricade was omitted. He was also relieved that the deaths of his friends weren’t given in detail, because even hearing that they died sent a small jab of pain through his heart. Soon, only Enjolras was left.
Grantaire turned the page and discovered that the story went back to Marius. He frowned and scanned through the rest of the pages and realized why his friends thought the book would upset him. Even though his friends weren’t mentioned much, every single one of the names of Les Amis appeared throughout the book. Except for his.
Grantaire… wasn’t sure how he felt if he was being honest. He wouldn’t write about him either, especially with all the epic screw ups he had then, but he was upset that his friends were upset. He left the library and was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he was home even though he swore he had just passed by Fauchelevent flower shop. He double-checked that the book was out of sight, took a deep breath, and unlocked the front door with hands that were shaking more than he would have liked.
“Hi Taire,” chirped Jehan as he perched on the edge of the kitchen counter. Clearly Joly wasn’t home yet.
“Hey,” Grantaire greeted in return, hoping his smile was convincing. But of course Jehan knows all and sees all.
“What’s wrong. And don’t say nothing.”
Grantaire didn’t really want to answer so he just reached into his back and pulled out his copy of Les Mis.
“Oh, Taire,” Jehan whispered. “Whoever arranged that version is dumb, we all knew you were there and that you were important and-”
“Jehan,” Grantaire said, cutting off the poet, “It’s fine, I promise. I really don’t care I get that there were more important things for them to include.” Jehan’s pale cheeks flushed angrily.
“You were asking for it,” Jehan informed him. Before Grantaire even processed what had happened, Grantaire was flat on the ground with a scrawny yet surprisingly heavy nineteen-year-old pinning him down. Grantaire was really starting to regret giving him self-defense lessons. Sure Grantaire could easily escape, but Jehan was trying so hard, and a selfish part of him wanted the comfort that Jehan’s reinforcements would bring.
“Jehan,” Grantaire groaned in annoyance, but his complaints fell on deaf ears. The younger student fished his phone out of his pocket, no doubt texting the ‘cRisis’ group chat. Sure enough there was a commotion and they could hear Courfeyrac running around upstairs yelling, “A crisis with a capital R alert has been sent! Into battle men!”
Grantaire sighed dramatically but didn’t try to escape as there was a thundering of feet down the stairs.
“Jehan, I think you can get off of him now,” Grantaire heard Enjolras say. The weight on his chest was removed and he was tugged to his feet.
“So what’s the crisis?” Combeferre asked.
“He read it.” The fact that no one had to ask what Jehan was talking about meant they had definitely talked about him.
Before anyone could say anything, there was a crashing sound from the entryway announcing the arrival of Joly and Bossuet.
“We got the message,” Bossuet said as he stumbled in while trying to get Combeferre’s book bag, which had gotten wrapped around his foot somehow, off of himself.
“The arranger was an idiot, R,” Joly added as he attempted to help the still struggling Bossuet.
“Guys it’s fine, really. You all were the ones who fought so it makes sense that you would be mentioned, I didn’t really do anything. I wasn’t really part of the group. They just wanted to focus on things that are more important than my mistakes. And anyway, if the arranger was going to target anybody it makes sense that they would go for the unhelpful drunk.”
“You were important. You were the most changed out of all of us and that’s amazing,” Jehan said softly. “And the original said how much you cared about us.”
“Your actions were more important to me than mine were to the entire story, it doesn’t matter what one person thinks,” Enjolras added.
“You’re always going to be one of us,” said Combeferre.
“We should set them on fire.” When everyone laughed or looked at Courfeyrac with panic, Grantaire took the opportunity to wipe his eyes without anyone seeing.
“You can borrow my full version,” Jehan suggested as they walked outside to their firepit, but he sounded hesitant. Apparently no version of the story portrayed Grantaire the way his friend thought it should, but then again they had always been a little disillusioned and foolishly optimistic, so of course his flaws weren’t as big a deal to them as they were to the literary world.
“That’s fine,” Grantaire said, and he actually meant it. Sure curiosity was burning in him but for his own sanity he vowed not to give in. “I’ll just take you guys’ word for it.”
"Good," Jehan said fiercely, and then he pulled Grantaire toward where his friends were committing the greatest sin known to man, burning books, on his behalf.