Grantaire was born to a merchant family in a town not too far away from Paris, but he never quite belonged. He was mostly plain-looking, with curly dark hair and a broken-looking nose. He was as intelligent as might be expected, and had boundless energy in the way young boys tended to have. But he was never quite normal. No-one ever forgot it. No-one ever let him forget it.
The first word that came out as anything other than a garble was one that his parents had never heard before. Patroclus. Pat-ro-clus. His parents never could work out what it meant. They never looked at him quite the same way.
He had nightmares, all the time. Full of blood and metal and an aching sense of loss that made him wake up cold and weeping and screaming a foreign-sounding word that none of them understood. His parents tried to help, as best they could, staying up with him singing lullabies. But they soon grew tired of it. It was just too much for them, losing hours of sleep each night for a temporary fix.
The doctor recommended a glass of wine each night, to dull the senses. The nightmares stopped. His parent’s frustration with him did not. They endeavoured to spend as little time with him as possible.
The other children of the town refused to play with him. He was too rough, they said. Too fast, too strong, too much. But how could Grantaire help it? That was how he had always been. His father was a king and his mother a goddess. (His father was a merchant and his mother nothing more, and Grantaire could never work out where his strange ideas were coming from.)
He was a lonely child. He spent so much time alone, sitting in his room or in a corner, sketching things he could see and things he could never un-see.
He had never been alone last time. (When was last time?)
He was sent away for his schooling, as early as his parents could get away with without looking desperate to get rid of him. Of course, they told him that it was because they could afford it, and he should make the most of their wealth to make something of himself. They didn’t fool him.
He was just as hard-pressed making friends at school as he had been at home.
But his education was good, better than his father had had, at least. And it was at this school, when he was thirteen years old, that he first encountered the works of Homer.
The class studied the Odyssey first, working through, chapter by chapter. It was a strange experience. Some names seemed to jump out at him from the page, but there was little context, and Grantaire couldn’t work out what it was that he knew he knew.
When they moved onto the Iliad, everything hit him all at once, like a spear thrown straight through his soul.
He could finally put a name to his own soul. Achilles. He finally felt whole, like he understood himself. He finally understood what that word was, that had thumped around in his heart since he knew what though was. Patroclus. Patroclus Patroclus Patroclus. The boy he had been best friends with who had become the man he had loved. The man he had sent out to his death. Patroclus who had left his embrace warm, and returned cold. Patroclus was gone.
And Achilles, Grantaire, whoever, was stupid to think that Patroclus would have stayed by the ships. Brave, sweet, selfless Patroclus, who had only ever wanted to protect those he cared about, to free Helen from the barbarians who stole her against her will, to save those who could not save themselves. As if Patroclus, having the power to frighten the Trojans half the way back to the city, would ever have done just that, would ever have come straight back.
He never came back at all.
Grantaire froze in the middle of the lesson, and his teacher had ordered him to leave for not listening. He hadn’t been able to move at all. The teacher had gotten angry, threatening him with a caning. Grantaire still couldn’t move, couldn’t think. The punishment was carried out, in front of the laughing class. All Achilles could think was that he deserved it.
He deserved to hurt for what he had done to Patroclus. Because it was his fault, even if he had not been the one to drive the spear through his gut. He had been the one who was selfish enough to drive his Patroclus to an act of self-sacrifice.
Achilles had wanted to die, after the death of the only person that really made him alive. He had died. And now he was no longer dead. And that was the worst of it.
He wanted the pain to stop. He crept out and stole a bottle of wine from the kitchens. He knew from his childhood that a glass stifled his nightmares, his memories. More wine could only be more help.
And it did help. After half the bottle, his brain went numb, he could not think. Even thoughts of Patroclus were less painful when he was floating on a cloud of alcohol.
His head hurt in the morning, from the hangover. And his body hurt from the beating he took when the bottle was found in his room. But he could not regret it. And the pain was different, and easier to cope with, than the pain he felt just living.
He stole more alcohol the next night.
Eventually, the teachers came to accept that he would arrive at class hungover. Eventually, half a bottle was not enough.
Grantaire left school with barely-passing grades and an alcohol tolerance that most adult men could never dream of achieving.
Grantaire left school with barely-passing grades and an alcohol tolerance that most adult men could never dream of achieving.
He moved to Paris. His father provided him with money every month to fund his further education. He did, in fact, join an art school. Sketching and painting were the only things he had ever been good at, so different from his former life, when he excelled in everything he attempted. Then, he had never before attempted essay-writing, or mathematics.
He graduated from the school, and his father continued to pay him money to stay away from home. Art did not provide a steady income, and this money was the only thing that could keep him in Paris. Some of the money went towards rent, a little for food. To no-one’s surprise, most of the money went towards alcohol.
Grantaire was drunk most of the time. Wine made everything hurt less. His memories were dampened. No-one questioned his strange mannerisms when he was drunk and they were drunk.
He did still paint, during the day when it wasn’t quite so proper to be out with wine on your breath. It was a different means of distraction; he never felt the need to get quite so drunk when his brain was busy trying to recreate the sunset over the Seine. He even managed to sell his art, occasionally. It wasn’t worth it, he thought, but who was he to question rich people parting with their money if it meant he could buy more to drink.
Sometimes, when he couldn’t paint because his brain wouldn’t focus on anything for long enough, and he had enough propriety to not drink so early in the day, he would drag himself out, walk around Paris, see the sights. He walked around at night as well, of course, he knew the city like the back of his hand when the sky was dark and his brain was fuzzy. But it was different in the day, with people bustling around.
He generally tried to avoid people when he was sober. But there was one family he kept finding himself drawn to, a group of beggars, dirty and starving and with something glinting behind the father’s eyes. But it wasn’t him who Grantaire kept staring it without noticing, but the man’s eldest daughter. She was perhaps a few years younger than him, and he knew he had never seen her before and yet, somehow, he felt like he had.
Every time he found himself watching her, he could never quite catch her eye. Each time she noticed she would flinch back, and suddenly busy herself with something else, on the other side of the square, or in the middle of a crowd. She was always watching him, though. She never had her back to him completely, always ready to run.
Days, weeks later, Grantaire finally decided to approach, to ask what exactly it was that connected the two of them. He had had enough of just watching, of turning it over in his mind, where he could possibly know this girl from. But the moment he took a few steps closer than he normally would have, she fled.
The girl knew the city well, Grantaire could tell. She was trying to lose him in the nest of back alleys that made up this quarter. But Grantaire knew the city too. He was fast, and had stamina. And in the chase, he was Achilles. She didn’t really stand a chance. He had her pinned to an alley wall only a few minutes later.
“Why did you run?” He asked. She was cowering beneath his hands.
“Please, monsieur, please don’t…” she begged, crying. Grantaire’s eyes widened, his hands springing back as though he had burnt them. He hadn’t considered what this may look like to her, to anyone other than him. A well-enough-dressed young man regularly staring at a poor young girl and then chasing after through the city only to hold her against a wall… The thought hadn’t even crossed his mind. But he could hardly blame her for thinking.
“I apologise mademoiselle, I think I may have given you the wrong impression. I believe I have mistaken you for someone I kn-” he voice trailed off as she looked up. As their eyes met for the first time, Grantaire felt himself hit with a barrage of memories from millennia ago.
“Paris?” He asked. The girl’s – Paris’ – eyes widened even further, somehow.
“Monseiur, I, I don’t, how do you…” She paused, blinking a bit, staring harder, almost as if peering into Grantaire’s soul. “Ach… Achilles?” Grantaire flinched a little. It was the first time anyone had addressed him by that name, in this life, and he hated it. He hated it, more so than he could ever have imagined.
“I… Please, call me Grantaire, mademoiselle.” He gave a shallow bow, not knowing what else to do.
“My name is Éponine. Éponine Thénardier” She said, frowning at him. She rubbed her wrists at the point where he had held them, cowering back into the wall still even though he had moved back to give her space to leave if she chose. Grantaire bit his lip.
“I. I am so sorry, Éponine. I hadn’t… I didn’t… I thought I was the only one, and then I felt I knew you but I didn’t know how.” He paused, taking a shuddering breath and closing his eyes briefly. “But I will leave you, I can tell I have made you uncomfortable.” He bowed again, avoiding her eyes as she had avoided his for so long, and made to go back towards the busier part of the city.
“Grantaire, wait.” He turned back. Éponine took a tentative step forward, her eyes full of curiosity now, rather than fear. “I don’t know anyone else from back then either. I, I should like to get to know you, perhaps? Although you have reason enough to hate me.”
“Achilles has reason enough to hate Paris, but I don’t know you. And I should like to, too.” They smiled at each other for a few seconds, but Grantaire could tell that the utter terror which had embraced Éponine had not quite yet left her. He grimaced. “I am sorry, Éponine, that I scared you. You have to know, it was never my intention… I don’t, I mean I’m not, ah, interested…”
“Don’t worry, I remember.” She gave him a half smile. “After all, that is what led to the death of my brothers, is it not?” Grantaire swallowed drily.
“I’m so sorry, Éponine, I can’t, I…” He was crying. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. “I killed so many people and he’s still gone.” Éponine took a sharp breath. It was her turn to look guilty
“No, I’m sorry, Grantaire. I shouldn’t have mentioned him.” She shook her head. “Let’s… Let’s forget this whole thing and start again, shall we?”
Éponine walked off a few steps and brushed her hands on her skirts. Then she marched back up to Grantaire, and pulled him in for a kiss on each cheek. She pulled back with a smile. “My name is Éponine Thénardier, Monsieur, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Grantaire couldn’t help but smile. “Call me Grantaire, mademoiselle. I hope that we shall become great friends.”
I generally think Paris is entirely to blame for the the Trojan War and don't believe he deserves redemption. On the other hand, Éponine is very much a victim. Just try to take it with a pinch of salt :D
Grantaire and Éponine fell into a firm friendship, at a speed which should probably have been alarming.
Grantaire and Éponine fell into a firm friendship, at a speed which should probably have been alarming. But then, Grantaire had never had a friend before in this life, and Éponine said that, other than her siblings, there had only been one girl she had known as a child, who she had only been able to play with until her mother decided that they were not to be friends. And well, Grantaire supposed, even if they had had friends, there would have been no-one who had so much in common with them as they did with each-other. They quickly became each-other’s person to go to when things started to get too much.
They had a shared past, and a shared sense of deep regret for so many things that they had done. They spoke of it, sometimes, when they had acquired some wine or beer or something. Otherwise, they both steadfastly avoided the subject.
They spent most of their spare time sat by the Seine, whenever Éponine could slip away from her parents. They were beggars by day, and organised crime at night, Éponine told Grantaire one day. They had never been rich, but while she was younger her mother had often treated her like they were, buying nice dresses and dolls while living in an inn in a town somewhere in the middle of nowhere
“I remembered,” she said once, an empty bottle and a half of wine between them, “on the day we moved here. People kept saying ‘Paris’ over and over and suddenly I remembered that that was my name.” She smiled wryly. “Of course, that move marked the change from being treated like royalty and being expected to help the ‘family business’. So that came of something as a shock.”
Of course, the wine made the story far funnier than it actually watch, and they giggled together for much longer than it would normally have been amusing for. Grantaire felt that he hadn’t laughed in a long time.
But Éponine could not always be there. It was not surprising, her family was dangerous, and to defy her father’s expectations would be more so. It was nice to have Éponine to talk to, but Grantaire had always had other ways to keep himself busy. He read, he painted, he walked, he drank.
Sometimes, Grantaire found himself in back-alleys, watching bare-knuckle brawls, boxing for bets and petty cash. Sometimes he was even offered the opportunity to fight himself; he was often taken as a boxer, due to hiscrooked, broken-looking nose.
But Grantaire never took these offers. He could not bring himself to fight, not again. Ten long years of his life had been spent fighting when had not truly wanted to. So many lives had been ended by him, or ruined by him ending those of others. He had been doing what he had to in order to achieve his everlasting fame, it had seemed like almost nothing at the time. But now that fame had been achieved, and Grantaire could not find it within himself to think that it was worth it.
Some deaths he did not regret: Hector’s, for example. Hector had killed Patroclus, and so he had to die. But the scene of slaughter surrounding that one kill, when Achilles had barely been a shadow of himself, so desperate to kill Hector and to die? Those deaths he could not justify. Foreign kings and women and children, who fought to protect Troy and died because Achilles could not stop fighting.
He could not draw himself away though. Seeing blood on the floor sparked something within him, memories that even the brandy in his stomach did not seem to be able to dull. He could not draw his eyes away.
It was almost painful to think about it sometimes. He had once been a participant, but now he was merely a spectator. A commoner, where he had once been a prince. Plain where he had once been beautiful. This was all some sort of cosmic justice for his hubris, he could not doubt it.
Each time he came across a fight he found himself stood, entranced by the blood and the thoughts that span in his head. Of course, they were always at night, and so Grantaire was always drunk, which didn’t help. He imagined that the blood would turn his stomach if it wasn’t so full.
It was on one of these occasions, at halfway through a fight one of the men pulled back, brushing blood away from his nose. Grantaire, lost in a trance, met his eyes. He was suddenly sobered by a flood of memories. Memories of another man he had known at Troy, thousands of year ago. Memories of Diomedes.
It felt like all the alcohol, everything he had done to repress the memories that haunted his every waking moment, had been for nothing. He was frozen, staring at Diomedes, stuck in council meetings and funeral games.
And why was Diomedes back? The gods might be punishing his hubris, and Paris’ greed. But what had Diomedes done to warrant the gods’ wrath? Diomedes didn’t have a lover he had near-enough forced into battle and guaranteed his death, or a trail of bodies killed seeking out his own death, or a woman stolen from her marriage bed, or the blood of an entire city on his hands.
It wasn’t until the fight was over and Diomedes backed out of the circle that Grantaire was wrenched out of his reverie. He wasn’t even sure if the man had won. He only knew that the man had seen him too, and they could not leave without speaking to each-other.
The man was tall, and broad, and somehow Grantaire still managed to lose track of him in the crowd. He peered around, backing away from the thick of the crowd in the hope that it might the man easier to spot. He ended up with his back against a wall. Or… something warmer than a wall?
“Achilles,” said a voice from behind him, and sure enough, there was Diomedes, having managed to get behind Grantaire without him noticing. Grantaire’s reaction to the vocalisation of his former name was just as visceral from a former ally as it had been from a former enemy.
“I go by Grantaire now, monsieur.” He tried to keep his voice polite. “Shall we walk?” He gestured vaguely away from the crowd of people now shouting over the next fight, and the pair made their way towards a quieter road, a better place to have this conversation.
“Then you must call me Bahorel, Grantaire,” said Bahorel-once-Diomedes with a broad smile. “Forgive me, I have yet to meet anyone else. I thought I was the only one.”
Grantaire made a vague noise in response. It was not his place to reveal Éponine without her permission, especially as someone who had once been Diomedes might not have as much sympathy for Paris as Achilles had for the man who had killed him when he wanted to die.
Diomedes, Bahorel, was not deterred by Grantaire’s non-answer, but continued to talk, about his life now, about their joint exploits before. Grantaire merely had to listen as they wandered the streets of Paris together as if they’d been close friends forever. They hadn’t even been particularly close when they had last known each-other. Though, Grantaire supposed, it was understandable, that he would latch onto the first person he could talk to about such things. Diomedes had been nothing if not loud.
“And what happened to you after?” Grantaire asked, finally finding his voice. He did genuinely want to know more about Diomedes, but he did also to stop him from talking before he got to the events that would make Grantaire hurt. “After the Greeks left Troy?”
“Oh, you know, women.” He rolled his eyes, smirking at Grantaire, who could only raise his eyebrows in response. Bahorel’s eyes widened, and he suddenly snorted. “Or, well, I suppose you don’t. But yeah, wife troubles, ended up in Italy.”
Grantaire blinked, and motioned for Bahorel to tell the story, which he did, full of laughs and anecdotes.
When he had finished, Grantaire found himself smiling. “That’s… wow that’s certainly something.”
Bahorel laughed, loud and heartfelt. “It certainly is.” He paused for a few seconds. “I suppose, if we’re back the rest of us might be back, right? The Greeks princes?”
Grantaire shuddered. ‘I hope not’, he thought. “Who knows?” he said. Looking up, he realised that by some fortunate timing they had made their way to Grantaire’s apartment “This is my place. I guess I’ll see you around?”
Bahorel gave him a bright grin. “I should hope so, my old friend.” He clapped Grantaire round the shoulder, and made his way into the night.
Unfortunately, it became harder and harder to spend time with Éponine.
And Grantaire did meet up with Bahorel again, every so often. It was, nice, he supposed. Having another friend. Mostly everything continued as before, drinking and painting and walking and drinking. But having someone else to spend time with helped easy the aching sadness in his soul, at least a little.
He was still closer with Éponine, it had to be said. But then, he had known her longer, and he felt like he could be more honest with her. He was sure Diomedes had his own regrets. But Grantaire could hardly imagine they were in the same vein as Achilles’ and Paris’.
Unfortunately, it became harder and harder to spend time with Éponine. Her father kept demanding that she play a larger part in the crimes that he organised, and it became more difficult for her to slip away from him. They managed to make time, however, slotting in half-hours where she could be spared, keeping up to date with each-other’s lives.
“A boy called me Paris the other day,” said Éponine, one day when they were sat side by side, kicking their legs against the wall they were sitting on.
“Oh? Who was it?”
“My brother.” Grantaire rolled his eyes with a smile. Éponine was being deliberately vague. Well, Grantaire was quite apt at being irritating himself.
“Which one, weren’t there fifty of you?” She slapped him round the shoulder, laughing. (It was nice to see her laugh, Grantaire thought. Often she it was a challenge to even make her smile.)
“That was a myth.”
“Aren’t we all just myths? According to the scholars?” Éponine snorted. “Anyway, which brother?” He was genuinely curious which other son of Priam was walking around France in the 1830s. Mainly because there were certain of them that he hoped he would never see again. However much of his past life he regretted, there were crimes that Grantaire could not forgive.
Grantaire blinked, wrinkling his nose. “I don’t remember that one.”
“Gavroche Thénardier.” Éponine smirked. Grantaire poked her in the ribs, laughing as she yelped.
“I thought you meant one of Priam’s sons.”
“I mean, he was also one of Priam’s sons. It was just funnier to confuse you.”
Grantaire pouted. “You wound me, my friend. I am hurt.” He threw an arm across his forehead dramatically. “How could you betray me like this?” He held the pose for a few seconds, before Éponine’s giggles caused him to break down himself.
When they’d finally calmed down a little, Grantaire turned back to her, still a grin on his face. “But, seriously, Éponine, who was he?”
“I, ah.” Éponine’s smile fell a little. “He was Troilus.” Grantaire’s mind shuttered. Troilus. Another life he had taken. A boy, just a boy, when Achilles had slit his throat. He could almost see it now. Blood bubbling up as Achilles just wanted it all to en-
Éponine slapped him in the face, hard enough to twist his head around, and to draw himself out of his head.
“Don’t you dare.” She almost growled.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Grantaire said, refusing to make eye contact.
Éponine grabbed his chin and pulled his face round, so they were eye to eye. She looked fierce. “I can hear you thinking about it. It was not Grantaire who killed Troilus, and Gavroche is not dead.”
Grantaire stared at her for a few seconds, before dropping her intense gaze.
“I… you’re not wrong.” She wasn’t. She was definitely right, and Grantaire knew it. He knew he needed to separate who he had been, what he had done, with who he was now. But that was easier thought than done.
Their positions were reversed not long after.
Éponine had slipped a scribbled note under Grantaire door, and the moment he had read it he had cancelled his plan with Bahorel, begging a cold, and waited for her by the Seine, which she had specified in the note.
When he arrived, she was curled up in a hidden corner, shaking in the cooling autumn air with only a thin shawl to keep her warm. Or maybe she was shaking with something else. Grantaire slid down beside her, wrapping an arm around her. She had said nothing. Maybe she couldn’t. Grantaire just held her close, and spoke and spoke about anything and nothing, as he often did to distract himself. He hoped that it was also helping to distract Éponine.
It was a long while before her shaking subsided and she pulled away from him a little. It was only then that Grantaire paused his rambles on the skills of the Renaissance artists, and looked at his best friend. There were tear tracks were dried on her face.
“What happened, Éponine?”
Éponine swallowed. “I… It’s Helen. He’s moved into the room next to ours.” She paused, taking a steadying breath. She looked up, brushing her knuckles across her eyes, seeming to be doing anything she could not to start crying again. “I don’t think he remembers. He hasn’t said anything.”
“Oh.” Grantaire replied. He did not know what else to say. He did not know what he would do, if he ran into Patroclus and discovered him living completely oblivious to his own past. And while it was his fault that Patroclus had died, that didn’t even start to compare to the things that Paris did to Helen.
He squeezed her arm, and she let herself be drawn back into a hug. She was less painfully curled up this time and she wasn’t shaking. Instead, she looked out across the murky water of the river. They stayed there, silent, each caught up in their own thoughts. Grantaire hoped that just being there for Éponine was enough.
“By the gods, I was so awful to her, Achilles.” Éponine said suddenly. Grantaire put everything he had into not flinching at the name. This was not about him. This was about Éponine, and Paris, and Helen, and all the emotions that came with that story. “I just, I took her. She was married and she was happy and she had a daughter and I took her away from that and made her mine and I didn’t even think about what she might want. Aphrodite told me that she would love me and I took and I took and I took.”
She crying started again, quieter this time. Grantaire rubbed his hand up and down her arm, pulling her closer. She kept staring out into the Seine, as if seeing something that wasn’t there.
“Remember you are not him, Éponine. You’re you own person, your choices before aren’t who you are now.” He didn’t believe it for himself. But he believed it for Éponine. He truly did.
Eventually, Éponine looked up again.
“Do you think this is a punishment, R?” She asked, her voice so quiet her question was almost carried away in the wind.
Grantaire blinked at her. “I’ve considered it.”
“It’s just, I’m a woman now, and a poor woman at that, and I know what it’s like to, to have my choices ripped away from me, to have to go along with what men want just so I’ll survive. Everything I subjected her to, I have to feel myself and I can’t, I was so awful, R.”
She started shivering again, and this time it seemed to be the cold seeping into her bones. Grantaire took of his coat and wrapped it round her shoulders. She looked so small.
“I don’t know if I can look this man in the eyes and act as if don’t know him when I caused a war over him.” Éponine’s voice was small, her shoulders shaking.
“You didn’t, Éponine. It wasn’t you. And Helen was not stupid, if I remember her right. I think your neighbour will understand, if he does remember.”
Éponine looks straight into his eyes, her own open and vulnerable. “You truly believe that?”
“You know I make a point not to believe in anything.” Éponine laughed a little, and Grantaire smiled. If he could do nothing else, at least he had managed to make her a little happy.
Éponine burrowed back into his side, as if he could protect her against the pains of the outside world. They continued to sit, even after Éponine’s tears would no longer come, staring at the murky waters of the Seine.
“I still love her, you know. And seeing him, I love him more than ever,” Éponine whispered. Grantaire could not respond.
When he had been with Éponine, Grantaire could only be a supportive friend. It wasn’t until later that he could no longer do anything but think about what she had said.
The idea that they were being punished for what they had done in their previous life was one that had been playing around in his head for a while. When it was only he who had returned, just Achilles, it could have been a punishment for all he had done before. He certainly deserved it. The same went for Paris.
Diomedes was more questionable, but Grantaire could pretend that he was being punished too, for something that had happened after the war. Though, was his life far away in Italy not a punishment enough? Perhaps not; they had all done so many unspeakable things that one lifetime’s worth of suffering was not enough to atone for all the pain they had caused.
But Helen? Helen had done nothing wrong. The Greeks had not even blamed her in their own time; she was nothing more than a prized possession, which Paris had stolen from Menelaus. Grantaire had only met her once and twice, but she had always been shy. She had done nothing more than be beautiful and female, and she deserved none of the blame that had been lain on her by later authors. Helen, of all of them, was among the least deserving to live out this strange punishment of a new life.
And if someone as innocent as Helen was back, then someone equally innocent could also be back…
Not a punishment, then? A lesson, perhaps? A horrid lesson, but one nonetheless. Giving each of them a chance to learn from their mistakes, to be a better person? To have the chance to do things right. Grantaire was well aware that he was not doing that. He had distanced himself from real life, staying away from the problems of the real world as he wallowed in his own, just as he had all that time ago after his fight with Agamemnon. But how could he change when he had no purpose to do anything else?
It could always be that there was no reason at all for them to live again. The gods had always been cruel.
Grantaire sat outside a café, drinking and waiting for Bahorel.
Grantaire sat outside a café, drinking and waiting for Bahorel. He had tried to make it up to him for not meeting a few weeks ago, but the man, unlike him, actually had a social life, and it felt like ages since they had last spoken. He had found himself missing Bahorel more than he thought he would.
He had arrived early to their meet-up, as he tended to do. Without a steady job, or studies, or much by the way of friends, he had nothing to keep him running between things he needed to do. He could take things leisurely, sit in the sun and soak up the wine.
He looked around the courtyard, watching people go about their everyday lives. They did not have another life a few thousand years ago that haunted their every step, or an ever-present question of why they had another chance at life floating around their minds, and Grantaire was so jealous of them. They could simply live.
He knew that, technically, he was fortunate that he came from money, that he could afford to sell only the occasional painting but still not have to scurry around working, worrying about where his next meal was coming from. But he would give it all away for the chance to be at peace with his own life. For the chance to not remember. For the chance to just be normal.
A shout came from somewhere, and he turned his head towards it. A baker was lying on the ground surrounded by pastries. He was swearing up at Bahorel, who apparently had just knocked the man over. Grantaire laughed to himself. His friend hardly knew his own size and strength.
Bahorel helped the baker up, looking apologetic and mumbling something that Grantaire could not make out from the other side of the street. He then stood up to his full height, his eyes scanning through the crowd almost frantically. Grantaire raised a hand and an eyebrow in greeting.
Bahorel’s eyes widened, and he almost ran towards where Grantaire was sitting. Bahorel’s reaction worried Grantaire a little. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know what had got his friend so worked up.
“Bahorel, my friend, pull up a chair, how are you on this fine day?” Bahorel did not sit down.
“Achilles.” He replied, breathlessly.
Grantaire frowned. Bahorel never called him that, and certainly not in public.
“I’ve found him.”
Grantaire froze, the bottle half way to his lips. There was no doubt as to who Bahorel could be talking about. There was only one “him” that would cause Bahorel to run up to Grantaire like this.
Bahorel was still talking but it was all just noise to Grantaire. He was probably explaining who, and where, and how, and what Grantaire should do to find him. Grantaire heard none of it.
All he could hear was Patroclus Patroclus Patroclus.
Grantaire tried to clear his head, to think. He had a choice. Go and find Patroclus, apologise, beg down on his knees for forgiveness until the end of time. Or give his Patroclus the chance to live the life he should have had, if Achilles had not dragged him off to war.
It was no choice at all.
He downed the rest of his bottle, and stood up, tossing a few coins on the table to pay. Bahorel blinked at him as he started to walk away.
“Achilles?” Grantaire didn’t stop.
“I don’t know any Achilles, Bahorel, who are you talking to?”
“Grantaire, where are you going?” He was closer than he should have been, he must have been following Grantaire. Grantaire stopped, swallowing. He felt like his throat was closing up.
“To find something a bit stronger. I finished that bottle of wine.”
“Grantaire, this is Patroclus, surely you-” Bahorel cut off as Grantaire clasped a hand over his own mouth, to stifle the sob that was working its way out of him. When he was sure he wouldn’t make any unwanted sounds, he took his hand away. Now it wasn’t holding anything, it was shaking.
He span round to look at his friend “I… I can’t. I just can’t. Don’t tell him you know me, Bahorel, please.” Bahorel looked at him with such confusion, and yet such sympathy, that it almost hurt. Grantaire continued, quieter now. “His life is better without me in it.”
And then he turned back around and left. He just walked, away from the café, away from Bahorel, away from the promise of the man he once loved.
Grantaire wanted almost desperately to forget what Bahorel had just told him.
Grantaire wanted almost desperately to forget what Bahorel had just told him. And he knew, from his great deal of experience, that absinthe was the best way to go about that. But he also knew that he could not afford to be drunk and alone. Not right now, when he knew Patroclus was somewhere in Paris.
The alcohol might dull the pain, but nothing could make him forget his Patroclus. He didn’t trust himself to run through all the streets in Paris shouting Patroclus’ name.
And so, instead, he walked to the tenement where Éponine’s family was currently staying. He could only hope her father didn’t need her for some nefarious scheme right now. Grantaire needed her more.
When he arrived, he had no way of knowing whether she was in. He wanted to call out for her, but he didn’t trust his voice not to crack. Everything was just too much. His whole body was tense. His nails were starting to cut crescents into his palms.
The door opened, and he span to face Éponine, his shoulders loosening, only to be confronted instead by a gangly, freckled boy with a broad smile on his face. He swallowed. He knew exactly who this was from the way that Éponine had described him. Helen.
Grantaire leaned against the wall, trying to look nonchalant, hoping that the boy would not pay any attention to him. He wasn’t sure he could cope with this conversation right now. Unfortunately, Helen was not so unobservant.
“Hello monsieur, can I help you?” The boy asked politely. Grantaire did his best to plaster on a polite smile, looking anywhere but the boy’s eyes. That was how he had recognised Éponine and Bahorel. He did not want to go through another barrage of memories, not right now.
“No, monsieur, it’s fine, I’m simply waiting for Éponine.” He managed to speak without his voice shaking, and he felt almost proud. Maybe he wasn’t about to break apart at the seams after all. As long as Helen took the hint and continued to wherever he was going. He didn’t.
“Oh, Éponine! She’s my neighbour, actually. Are you a friend? Or, you know, a friend?” He wiggled his eyebrows a bit, but there was concern in the lines of his forehead, where Grantaire’s eyes were now focussed.
“The former only, monsieur,” Grantaire said with a half-smile, trying to look and sound invested in the conversation and not as though he was about to break down. The boy looked almost visibly relieved. That was interesting. Could it be that he liked her? Or perhaps not. It could simply be pity for her situation, especially given that he had apparently once been rich. And even if he could not remember his past life, he should still surely be able to work out his neighbour’s present one, even behind closed doors.
“I can go and fetch her for you, if you want?” Maybe he had noticed Grantaire was desperate, that his insides were eating themselves.
“I…” Grantaire wanted to say no, he didn’t want Éponine to spend more time with this boy she once loved who no longer remembered her. But at the same time, he didn’t know how much longer he could wait. “Could you, monsieur? If you’re not in a hurry. And only if her father isn’t around.” Marius grimaced at that. Yes, not so blind as to not know exactly how evil a man monsieur Thénardier was.
“Yes, I’ll go and see.” He turned to go back in the building, before spinning to face Grantaire once again, his face turning red. “I’m sorry, I realised I don’t know your name to tell her who you are.”
Grantaire took a breath, before finally looking the boy in the eyes; it would be rude not to when introducing himself. “I am Grantaire,” he said, as his memories of Helen flew back into his mind. It was easier, he found, already knowing that the memories would come. Or perhaps it was easier because he had met Helen so few times before the war, and when she finally came home he was already long dead. There was not so much to remember, and no memories that made him hurt more than he already did.
“My name is Marius Pontmercy,” replied Helen, or rather, Marius. There was no sense of recognition in his brown eyes, unless he had somehow hidden it. Although, given how easy he was to blush, Grantaire did not get the impression that this boy would be very good at hiding anything.
Marius went back into the tenement, and Grantaire tried his best not to think about Patroclus and Helen, and what a mess he and Éponine had made. Only a few moments later, or perhaps it was hours, Grantaire couldn’t tell anymore, Marius emerged with a bemused-looking Éponine beside him.
Marius gave a small wave, a grin still splitting his face. “I’m supposed to be meeting my friend Courfeyrac, so I won’t stay around. It was nice to meet you Grantaire!”
And Helen, who was now Marius, walked off down the road, a spring in his step.
Once Marius had gone, he and Éponine began, almost without thinking, to make their way down to their usual spot by the Seine. They didn’t talk for a few minutes. Grantaire couldn’t, he didn’t… he needed a distraction right now.
“Marius seems nice.” Grantaire murmured. Éponine let out a laugh, though one perhaps not as genuine as it might have been. He supposed she’d worked out that fact that Grantaire was a few wrong words away from weeping
“Oh, he is, isn’t he? He’s ever so sweet.” To anyone else, it probably would have sounded like she was mocking Marius, but Grantaire knew her too well, could hear the longing in her voice.
“I… I think you’re right when you say he doesn’t remember.” Éponine didn’t reply, only smiled sadly. “But, yes, he seems nice. And he seems happy.”
“He… he is happy as any rich boy now living in that slum could be. And as for niceness. It’s how I know he doesn’t remember. He would not be so nice, being hurt, being used the way he was. And he certainly would not be happy to be anywhere near me,” Éponine said, letting out a small sigh.
By this time they had reached the Seine, and sat down. They stared at the water for a few moments. It helped, the gentle flow calming the near-incessant screaming of Patroclus’ name in Grantaire’s ear, enough that he could think about how to tell Éponine.
“Diomedes told me that he had found him.” When he finally spoke, his voice was quiet. Éponine sucked in a harsh breath.
“And you just left?”
“And I just left.” Éponine gave a small sigh, and wrapped an arm around him. He let himself curl into her shoulder, as he had sheltered her not too many weeks ago. It helped to know someone was there, that someone cared.
There was silence between them again. Grantaire could just about feel Éponine squeezing his shoulder. Grantaire was staring somewhere into the middle-distance, not really seeing anything.
“You are allowed to find him if you want. You are allowed to be happy.” Éponine said, breaking Grantaire out of his daze. He looked up at her, smiling sadly.
“How can I be happy if he is not? And how can he be happy if I am… me. I would rather we both be alone. He can live a better life, then.”
“And what if he needs Achilles to be happy?” She asked, the words a challenge to his statement but her tone anything but.
“I am hardly Achilles anymore, Éponine. Just look at me.”
Éponine laughed, more genuinely this time, but full of a self-deprecation that he knew all to well.
“What a pair we make,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Do you want to go get drunk now?”
Grantaire gave Éponine a crooked smile.
“When do I not?”
The absinthe helped, but not for long.
The absinthe helped, but not for long. When he woke up the next morning the full effects hit him – he had a high alcohol tolerance, but having people to spend time with meant that this was more and stronger than he’d had in a while – and once night drunk out of his mind hadn’t managed to erase the knowledge Patroclus was here, in Paris. The fact spread through his body like a poison. He needed something to get rid of it. More alcohol, then, was his means of medication.
He wanted nothing more than to see Patroclus. To take him once more into his arms, to run together, to bathe in the streams on Pelion. He wanted to return to a better time, before the horror, before the war, before any of this had happened.
But it had happened, and as much as he wanted to see Patroclus, he did not want Patroclus to see him. Because how could he do anything but hate the man who had caused him to die?
Achilles had not held the spear that pierced Patroclus’ heart, no, that had been Hector, and even dragging the man’s body through the dirt of Troy for days on end had not soften Achilles’ hatred for the Trojan Prince. But for all that it was Hector’s hand holding the weapon, it was Achilles’ hand that had caused Patroclus to be there in the first place. Had he not been so stubborn about his honour, Patroclus would never have joined the fight in his place.
And what was that honour worth, in the end, when the only thing he cared for was lying limp on the ground before him? What was that honour worth thousands of years later when he hated everything that he had been?
How could Patroclus forgive his arrogance, his hubris, when that had been what caused him pain?
To know that Patroclus could be his again and not to have him was a terrible punishment, but one which Achilles knew he deserved. To have Patroclus know him, and hate him, as he truly should, was more than Grantaire could possibly bear.
But even knowing this, his very presence in the city made him want to weep. And so Grantaire’s alcohol consumption grew. He started to wake up with no memories of the previous night, just as he wanted. Sometimes he even woke up curled in doorways, or under trees.
On one particular occasion, he woke up in the home of someone he’d never met before.
Grantaire opened his eyes, then quickly shut them. His head was pounding, and his leg hurt. He could feel that he was lying on a bed, but it was softer than his own… He opened his eyes again, peering around. He did not know this place. He tried to think back to what had happened the night before.
He had drunk, well, maybe a little more than was perhaps advisable. And then more. It had distracted him sufficiently enough to lift his spirits, and he had had various conversations with various people, and he could remember neither the topics nor the conversation partners. And then he had set off home, and… that was it, he had no recollection of the rest of the night. Someone must have found him, drunk out of his mind, and dragged him home with them.
That was certainly a novelty. Most people avoided people who were dead-drunk in the street.
Suddenly a figure came into view above him, and he startled. His eyes focused on a tall young man with glasses, and an expression on his face that Grantaire couldn’t quite make out.
“I see you’re awake now.”
“I… Where am I? Who are you?” Grantaire’s voice sounded more alarmed than he had intended.
“You’re in my apartment. My name is Combeferre, I saw you collapse on the street in a pile of your own vomit. As a medical student, I could hardly break my oath and leave you there to suffer.” The man – Combeferre – spoke matter-of-factly, holding out a glass of water. Grantaire would rather have had more wine to dull the ache, but he supposed that a medical student probably had his own ideas on what would be best for him. No matter. He could get something more to his taste later.
Still, he took the glass, and sipped. He had not realised quite how dry his throat had been. He took a longer gulp, and then another and another, quickly finishing up the glass.
“And your name, monsieur?” Combeferre asked, once he had finished. He was still hovering over Grantaire, in a way that was slightly disconcerting. He was looking at him almost strangely, like he was analysing him, or something of the sort. Grantaire imagined that was down to his studies. Still, it was somewhat disconcerting.
“Grantaire, monsieur. Thank you for saving me, but I really should leave you be.” He swung his legs around and stood up. Or rather, tried to stand up. His right leg buckled beneath him, and the world started to sway in a way different to the way he was used to when he was drunk. A pair of competent hand grabbed his shoulders before he could slump to the floor, and gently pressed him back onto the bed.
Combeferre’s knowing smile looked familiar, somehow, but Grantaire’s head and leg hurt too much for him to think about it.
“That was the other thing, Grantaire, you collapsed with your leg under you at a strange angle. I don’t think it’s broken, but it may hurt a while, and I don’t know how long it will take you to be able to walk without pain again.”
Grantaire swore under his breath. It seemed that he would be trapped here with this strange student for another day, at least.
In the end, it was three more days before Grantaire felt comfortable enough with his leg that he would be able to make his way to his own apartment.
In the end, it was three more days before Grantaire felt comfortable enough with his leg that he would be able to make his way to his own apartment. Half a week trapped with this Combeferre. It had started not so well. Combeferre was annoying, especially over the first day or so. He did not prevent Grantaire from having alcohol altogether, though he did make him cut back, and it frustrated Grantaire that his favourite form of medication had been taken away from him.
Combeferre was almost constantly saying that too much alcohol was bad for the healing process. Grantaire wasn’t sure how true that was, but who was he to argue with a doctor-in-training.
On the other hand, Combeferre took the time off his classes, and Grantaire didn’t find himself as quite so much in need of a drink when he had another person to distract him constantly. Combeferre seemed to care about his rambling thoughts, and also had quite a biting sense of humour. Eventually, Grantaire warmed up to him.
Grantaire left Combeferre’s apartment on the fourth day somehow having gained an extra friend.
Grantaire managed to keep his new-found habit of drinking a bit less (although it was still far more than the average person likely drank in a night), especially now he knew quite how much of a difference it made having people to distract him. It made him feel like a burden to need others around him constantly in order to behave in way most people seemed to manage alone. But Éponine and Bahorel seemed glad to find out he wasn’t dead after disappearing for half a week, and he endeavoured to spend more time with them to make it up to them, and if it helped him too, that was a bonus.
A few weeks after Grantaire’s leg had recovered, Combeferre invited Grantaire to a café called the Musain for “drinks with a few of my friends”. Grantaire agreed, almost to his own surprise. But then, he found that he liked spending time with people; maybe more friends would help him spread the burden of his presence around. As much as he loved the mind-numbing effects of too much wine, he would rather not wake up in a stranger’s bed ever again.
Combeferre had invited him to come a little before everyone else was set to arrive, saying it was so he could introduce them as they arrived, and not to a big group all at once, for which Grantaire was grateful. When he arrived at the café, Grantaire went up to the counter and asked for a bottle of wine, which he promised himself was to last him the entire night. Combeferre was waiting for him there, before leading him to the back room.
“There are quite a bunch of us, and we don’t want to disturb anyone else, so the landlady is kind enough to let us use the back for our meetings,” Combeferre explained as they sat down.
“‘Meetings’ is a bit of an extreme way to describe ‘drinks with friends’, isn’t it?” Grantaire chuckled. Combeferre shot him an apologetic smile.
“I have to admit, Grantaire, I brought you here under false pretences. This isn’t actually just a few drinks, but a meeting of a social justice group I am part of. Les Amis de L’ABC.”
Grantaire wasn’t exactly pleased by this discovery. Not that he was against social justice, mind, but he had lived a life before, and while technology and science and knowledge had changed, the principle of the divine rights of kings over the downtrodden poor had not. He was not sure such a thing could change. But, he supposed, he was here now, so he might as well stay. He raised an eyebrow at Combeferre.
“Well, I always appreciate a terrible pun.” Combeferre smiled in return, looking slightly relieved.
“I am glad you want to stay. I feel there are lots of members of the group you will get on well with.” Before he could carry one, several people entered the back room with a cheer of greetings. Two men walked in, almost arm-in-arm, one a short man supported by a cane, the other taller, bald, and with a bandage around his arm. And then, behind them, Bahorel.
Grantaire stood up to greet his friend with a smile, not expecting to find someone he already knew here. But Bahorel’s eyebrow’s furrowed, and he strode past the pair in front of him to reach Grantaire.
“I don’t underst… I thought you said you couldn’t come here?” Grantaire paused. He did not remember Bahorel ever mentioning a social justice group to him. Unless…
Unless. Unless this was… oh gods. And that would mean Combeferre knew.
He spun to face Combeferre, bringing his fist with him to connect with the medical student’s jaw. He barely heard the gasps of surprise from the pair he had not had the chance to be introduced to. The punch had dislodged Combeferre’s glasses, and for the first time Grantaire was able to properly look the medical student in the eyes. Memories of the hundreds of times he had met this man before, right from the beginning of that gods-forsaken war, swam to the front of his mind.
He knew he had recognised that smug expression somewhere.
“You bastard!” He shouted. Bahorel grabbed his arms and pinned them behind him. Achilles tried to wrestle him off, but Diomedes had always been stronger than he was. Odysseus touched a hand to his already-bruising cheek, his expression carefully blank.
“In all fairness, I deserved that.”
Achilles bared his teeth at him. Odysseus took a small step back, but Achilles could not move from Diomedes’ arms. Instead, he decided to assault Odysseus with his tongue.
“So you taking me off the street because you thought I was going to die was all a lie then? Was my leg even hurt before you found me, or did you hurt it to ensure I stuck around? I wouldn’t put it past you, you duplicitous peace of shit.” He spat on the ground. Odysseus did not open his mouth, did not change his expression, simply stared at him. That only made Grantaire angrier.
“I bet you recognised me and thought, ‘oh, how can I ruin his life again?’ That’s just you, isn’t it, tricking me into situations that I don’t want to be in. You made me think I’d finally made something I could see as a friendship but instead was just you being your sneaky old self. You haven’t changed a bit!”
Odysseus voice was soft. “Maybe not, but you have.”
“Shut up. Shut Up!” Grantaire was almost screaming now, he was shaking. Diomedes had finally let him go, but he made no more moves towards Odysseus. How could he? He could barely stand upright. He felt like the earth had been pulled out from under him. “How dare- How dare you just come into my life and try and make me live it in a way I have so clearly been avoiding! I was perfectly fine how I was –”
“You were drinking yourself into an early grave”
“– and now you’ve brought me somewhere I have no desire to be, that will only ruin me all over again. Fuck you. Fuck You! Well, jokes on you this time, Odysseus, because I figured it out before the punchline. I get to leave before everything turns out just as I’ve never wanted it to. I hope you’re fucking happy.”
He turned and started to stalk towards the door, ignoring the shocked expressions on the faces of the others in the room.
He was almost at the door when someone else came in.
He knew it the moment he saw him, even before their eyes met. He could almost sense it. This new Patroclus was an angel: tall, blonde, beautiful; beautiful even in the objective sense of the word, although Grantaire knew that he would have found him beautiful regardless. He gave off the feeling of the same righteous fury that Grantaire remembered from when he had demanded that Achilles go and fight, or at least let him go in his stead.
This was his Patroclus. He was not the shy, mousy boy he once was, he appeared more like Apollo incarnate. But this was his Patroclus.
Their eyes met, and everything Achilles knew was true. Every memory came rushing back. Phthia and Pelion and Skyros and Aulis and ten long years at Troy. Throwing figs and catching snakes and long nights wrapped in each-other’s arms. Fitting his armour over Patroclus’ body. Breaking over his lover’s limp form. Patroclus. Patroclus.
“My name is Enjolras.” The angel who had once been Patroclus said. Achilles could not move, could not speak, could not breath. “Who are you?”
This man was Patroclus. This man did not recognise him.
“I was just leaving.” Achilles forced himself to say, before leaving, pushing past Patroclus, Patroclus who didn’t know him.
He had conjured hundreds, thousands of scenarios in his head of how poorly a first meeting with Patroclus in this life would go. But he had never once considered that Patroclus may not know him. This was worse than every scenario that he had imagined.
And, in spite of it all, the following week Grantaire walked back into the back room of the Musain, eyes immediately straining for golden hair.
And, in spite of it all, the following week Grantaire walked back into the back room of the Musain, eyes immediately straining for golden hair. But Patroclus was not yet there. In fact, the only people present were Combeferre and Bahorel, deep in conversation. Diomedes and Odysseus, scheming together, just as they had always done. He supposed they were talking about him.
He had avoided both of them for the whole week. He had found Éponine to tell her what had happened, but then had abandoned her as well, drinking himself into such a stupor that he could barely tell whether it was night or day.
But he had somehow known it was a week since the meeting, and his feet had brought him here without his full consent.
When they looked over to see who had entered, he raised his bottle of wine at them – not his first of the night, and almost certainly not his last either. Bahorel looked surprised, almost alarmed, to see that he had returned. Combeferre’s expression did not betray anything, as Odysseus’ never had.
He went and sat with them. The conversation between the pair had stopped when they saw him, and did not pick up when Grantaire sat, staring directly at Combeferre as he drank.
He had almost finished the bottle before Bahorel broke the silence.
“R, are you sure this is the best idea?” He asked, concern overlaying his tone. Grantaire did his best not to snort, turning to his friend
“What else have I got to lose?” Bahorel looked disappointed at this reply, and Grantaire felt compelled to tell his friend the honest truth. “I cannot have him feel nothing for me, Diomedes. It burns deeper than any possible hatred could.” Bahorel looked stunned and saddened, and even Combeferre looked almost sympathetic. “In any case, I deserve to be hated, especially by him.”
Bahorel looked affronted at that, but before he could reply more people entered the room. It was the pair from the previous week, the shorter man with his cane and the other who was holding a reddening handkerchief against his forehead. Combeferre and Bahorel stood, greeting their friends.
“What happened to your head, Bossuet?” asked Combeferre, seemingly unconcerned by the blood.
“Ah, you know me, my friend, I walked into a door. Jolllly has already taken a look at it.” He ruffled the shorter man’s hair, before looking over at Grantaire. When their eye’s met, no memories jumped to the front of Grantaire’s mind. But he could not help but feel that he had seen this man somewhere before.
“I see we have a new friend this week,” he said, spinning towards Grantaire and kissing his cheeks. “My name is Lesgle, or L’Aigle, or sometimes Bossuet, it’s lovely to meet you.” Grantaire laughed a little at the pun.
“I believe we met briefly last week, though I don’t believe I made the best first impression,” Grantaire said, smiling wryly.
“First impressions hardly matter,” said the shorter man, “I am sure you had good reason for punching Combeferre. I wished to myself sometimes.” His smile was large, and Grantaire wouldn’t have believed his claim for a second if it had not been for the slight grimace that appeared on Bahorel’s face out of the corner of his eye. “My name is Joly, I study medicine with Combeferre.”
Strangely, when he looked at Joly he felt the same pull of recognition as he had with Bossuet, though again, no memories.
He stayed talking to them, and when they moved to rest Joly’s limp leg he joined them at their table at the back, studiously ignoring Bahorel and Combeferre and the looks the pair were throwing at him. Bossuet suggested a quick game of cards before the meeting started, and produced a pack from his coat pocket, but he held it the wrong way up and they all fluttered down onto the table, many landing in the unfortunate man’s drink.
He cursed his luck, and Grantaire offered to go and fetch him a new drink while they cleared up the mess. He got a new bottle for himself, of course. When he returned, the cards had been tidied away, and instead they shared jokes and jibes while more people entered the back room of the café.
And then Patroclus arrived, and Grantaire’s attention was locked on him. If the man recognised him from the previous week – or if he noticed him at all – Grantaire could not say. He went to the front and spoke with Combeferre and another man with a round belly and a large smile. More people trailed in, and when the hour struck on the bells of the nearest church, Patroclus opened his mouth and began to speak.
He had not only the face of a Christian angel, but the voice of one too; it commanded to be listened to, as though spouting forth gospel. He spoke of the plight of the poor and what needed to be done about it, and Grantaire could drown in that voice for days. He didn’t agree with that this man could do what he was saying he would, but by the gods he would listen to him say it until the end of his days.
Hearing Patroclus speak with passion once again, albeit in a different language and thousands of years, was addicting in a different way to wine; it sharpened his memories rather than dulled them. But, just like with the wine, he couldn’t stay away.
They had meetings several times a week, it turned out, though he only went to them sporadically. Sometimes he was too miserable even to think about sullying Patroclus’ presence. Sometimes he was too drunk to make the journey. But being near Patroclus again made him feel almost alive.
A few weeks in marked the first time that let his disagreement with Patroclus’ opinions be known. He had not intended to, but a snort of derision at some particularly misguided comment was hard to ignore, even if it did come from as far across the room as possible.
“I’m sorry, did you have something to add?” Grantaire blinked to see the full force of Patroclus’ gaze turned on him. He could hardly breathe. He could not think. In his daze, he could do nothing more but respond sarcastically.
“No, my lord, but that it is clear from your speech that you have scarcely spoken to a member of your so called ‘wretched ones’ in your life.” And the gaze turned to a glare, and the speech turned to a diatribe, and Achilles felt that he had almost been blessed by the gods.
To have Patroclus’ full attention again was the best thing than he could have hoped for, and yet the worst feeling in the world at the same time. In their past life, that full attention had only ever been loving. To have it be full of nothing but hate hurt more than he had thought it would.
But he continued to attend meetings, and he continued to speak his mind, or even to say something deliberately contrary which he himself did not agree, with simply to get his latest dose of poison. His comments ranged from mere denials to eloquent refutations, depending on just how drunk he was at the particular point in the night.
He would see Combeferre sneaking disapproving looks at him, and Bahorel sympathetic ones, or others he had not been introduced to look at him curiously out of the corner of their eyes, but he ignored them all. During meetings, his focus was only ever on Patroclus, or on Joly and Bossuet.
Grantaire enjoyed being with Joly and Bossuet. It was a nice feeling to get to know people free of any prior expectations for once. Even though he got the strange feeling that each of them had also lived a life before, as he had, there was no sense of pity, or that they expected him to behave in a certain way. Not that he disliked spending time with Éponine, or Bahorel, or even Combeferre, before he had discovered the man’s schemes. But this was liberating, in a way.
They were brilliant at keeping him distracted in between the times when Patroclus hated him. They would frequently talk about Joly’s mistress Musichetta, whom he ‘shared’ with Bossuet (although, Grantaire was almost certain that all three of them shared each-other, from the looks that occasionally passed between the pair. He tried to look away whenever they did that. He didn’t want to intrude on whatever they had). It was painful, sometimes, to hear them talk of love when his own – or rather, the man who used to be his love – was so close by, but dealing with it was easier than trying to explain. He wasn’t sure whether they had worked out who he was, or even knew who their leader had been.
He also ended up spending time with them outside of meetings; sometimes they would continue to drink elsewhere after the meeting had finished, other times they would arrange to meet on the following day. He had yet to be introduced to their darling Musichetta, though he supposed that was for the better.
They never commented on any of his strange idiosyncrasies, and Grantaire hoped that they were not bothered too badly by his constant interruptions, or the fact that he refused to use their leader’s name. They always referred to him as Enjolras, which was how he had introduced himself on that first night, that first time he had not known Achilles, but Grantaire could not find it within himself to call the man any name other than his own. But of course, he could not call him Patroclus in public. Then he would know Grantaire knew him, and then he would ask who he had been, and Grantaire would not, could not, deal with the sheer amount of disgust that would come with the discovery of what Achilles was now.
And so he bestowed on him a series of nicknames, all of which seemed to annoy him immensely. From ‘my lord’ he had moved onto ‘your highness’, and ‘our fearless leader’. He cycled through them, swapping to a new one whenever Patroclus seemed to be getting resigned.
There was one name he used only once, in a flyaway comment when Patroclus had said that his beliefs would raise a revolution.
“I’m sure you could rouse whatever crowd you wanted even if they didn’t care about the topic. You look like a statue of a god, Apollo.”
He knew something had changed when Patroclus’ arms froze mid-gesture, and he turned and faced the corner where Grantaire had sat, his jaw clenched.
“I would appreciate it if you did not call me that, monsieur.” He almost spat. It truly was like he was Apollo, and Grantaire was basking in his sun beams.
But he noted the pain behind those eyes, and suddenly remembered the passages of the Iliad that he had forced himself to read over and over, because he had not been there himself. Apollo had been the one to remove Patroclus’ armour. Apollo had played a key role in causing Achilles’ beloved to die. Grantaire almost kicked himself, and swore silently that he would never call him such a name. Having Patroclus hate him was one thing, but purposefully causing him pain was something else entirely.
A few meetings turned into a few weeks turned into a few months.
A few meetings turned into a few weeks turned into a few months. Grantaire came to recognise people that came to the meetings regularly, although he avoided talking to anyone outside of those he already knew. There were two in particular that he had avoided; the third member of Patroclus and Odysseus’ triumvirate, and a small poet with a peculiar taste in fashion. While most faces changed meeting by meeting, or came every-so-often, these two and the people he already knew remained the same. Joly and Bossuet had pointed them out as Courfeyrac and Jehan, but Grantaire had made no effort to be introduced to them properly. Given the prevalence of old souls among the members of the group he already knew, he did not want to take a chance with any more.
There was also another member that Joly and Bossuet spoke about, with whom Grantaire knew he had yet to cross paths. Feuilly was his name. He was a fan-maker among other jobs, and the only member of the core of the group that wasn’t a student and was actually affected by the issues that they discussed. His need for constant work in order to survive, however, meant he only managed to come to meetings infrequently.
Somehow, Grantaire and Feuilly never managed to run into each-other. In fact, it took months of meetings before Grantaire finally met the man.
A thin red-head in workman’s clothing had sidled through the door about halfway through a meeting. Grantaire noticed him out of the corner of his eye. It was clear to him that he didn’t want to interrupt anything.
It came as a surprise to Grantaire when Patroclus interrupted himself.
“Feuilly!” He cried from the front of the room, directing the full force of his smile towards the stranger. So this must be the famous fan-maker.
Achilles couldn’t help but wish that Patroclus face lit up in the same way when he saw him.
Sheepishly, Feuilly made his way over to where Patroclus was standing, and the leader of the group threw his arms around the newcomer. It twisted Grantaire’s heart. He wondered who this man must be, to elicit such a response. Briseis? Automedon? Perhaps instead new soul – did Enjolras have a lover in this life, someone who wasn’t Achilles?
That was something he had not considered before. The idea almost made him sick. He took a swig of wine, not wanting to deal with such a thought.
Feuilly and Patroclus were standing talking at the front of the room. Grantaire looked up from his bottle just in time to accidently make eye contact with the newcomer.
He choked on his wine.
Hector’s eyes widened, but he continued looking around as if nothing had happened, as if Grantaire hadn’t just been stabbed through the heart with the knowledge he had just gained. Soon he joined Combeferre and the rest of Enjolras’ closest allies at the front.
The meeting carried on, but Grantaire couldn’t hear what they were talking about. For once, he wasn’t even looking at Patroclus. His eyes were glued to the back of the head of the man who had once been Hector. The man who had killed his Patroclus, stabbed his stomach with a spear and left him to die on the plains of Troy. The man whom Patroclus had found it within himself to love, to greet with a broad smile and a warm embrace.
“Does he know?” His voice was quiet even to his own ears, quiet in a way he never was at these meetings. He did not know who he was addressing. Anyone who could answer. His fists clenched on his thighs. A spare chair at the table was pulled out, and they were joined by the poet that Grantaire had yet to speak to. He barely acknowledged this new presence. “Does he know?”
Joly and Bossuet made no sound. Instead, it was the poet who answered, his voice quiet and soothing, as though Grantaire might do something rash.
“Yes, Achilles. They both do.”
Grantaire stood up abruptly, not caring about interrupting the meeting, not even looking in the direction of the front, and walked out of the café. He had barely made it a few feet from the door before his wine and what little he had eaten that day made an appearance on the street beside him.
He managed to carry himself a little further, to a nearby alleyway, before crumpling to the ground.
They both knew. They both knew. That meant that Patroclus had welcomed his murderer as a friend with open arms. That meant the Hector had been forgiven for everything he’d done. That meant – that meant that Enjolras remembered.
Patroclus remembered Hector, but did not recognise Achilles.
Grantaire threw up again.
It had been easy for Grantaire to think that he did not remember at all. After all, he had not seen this new Patroclus interact with anyone in a way that would cause him to question it. It had been easy to pretend that Combeferre had wanted to introduce Grantaire to him to try and spark those memories. That made sense, after all. If Patroclus remembered anyone, it would be Achilles.
Apparently it was only him, only Achilles, whom Patroclus no longer knew.
Grantaire did not know how long he sat there, lost and aching and alone, so painfully and conspicuously alone.
It was the poet who came out after him, which he might have thought was strange, given their previous lack of acquaintance. He might have also wondered how the man had referred to him as Achilles, when Grantaire himself had not looked this man in the eyes and seen if he knew him before. He might have thought these things, but he couldn’t get the image out of his head of the smile on Patroclus’ face when Hector had walked into the room. Of Patroclus throwing his arms around the man who had killed him, who Achilles had dragged through the dirt and still not felt properly revenged.
He was barely aware of being pulled up and guided further away from the Musain until he had been pulled into the warmth of another café and a new glass of wine pressed into his hand.
The poet introduced himself as Jean Prouvaire, but call me Jehan, and continued talking about anything and everything and nothing until the small hours of the morning, when Grantaire finally felt numb enough to make his way home.
Grantaire did not return to the Musain for two weeks, but could not hold off much longer than that.
Grantaire did not return to the Musain for two weeks, but could not hold off much longer than that. Maybe he was a glutton for pain and punishment, but Patroclus was like air. There was a reason he had died so soon after losing him the first time. Without Patroclus, Achilles could not breathe
He crept into the café only seconds before the meeting was due to start, and made his way to his usual seat looking only at the floor, not in the mood for any more surprise introductions. The revelation that one member of the group was Hector meant that anyone could have been anyone.
Anyone he fought with. Anyone he hated. Anyone he killed.
Grantaire sat through the meeting, not talking to his friends, only watching Patroclus when he wasn’t looking in his direction, and drinking when he was. It was hard to avoid the leader’s eyes entirely, though; he could not predict when the man would turn his head, after all. Each time their eyes met, Grantaire could see the small frown between Patroclus’ eyebrows deepen.
At the end he left without speaking to anyone.
He refused to meet up with Joly and Bossuet or Bahorel or even Éponine outside of meetings. Instead, he stayed alone in his apartment, drinking, ignoring his few commissions and only sketching Patroclus as he had been and in the guise he was in now. This radiant Enjolras, far better than Achilles’ broken Grantaire could ever be. He left the house only for meetings and to buy more wine.
Grantaire continued in this pattern, he could not say for how long. He could tell you nothing about the content of the meetings during that time, so focused was he only watching his old love’s face, committing the new details to memory. He imagined they were talking about justice, or some such topic. But there was no justice in this world.
Eventually, Patroclus snapped at him.
“If you’re not listening, Grantaire, why are you even here?” He spat out Grantaire’s name like a curse. Grantaire did nothing but stare back at him.
“Enjolras…” came a reproachful tone from closer to the front of the room.
“No, Courfeyrac. He’s staring at me and isn’t listening to a word I’m saying. He doesn’t care about the cause, he contributes nothing, all he ever does is disrupt meetings and stare at me.”
“Enjolras.” The tone was firmer this time, and the voice was different. Combeferre. “He has done precisely the opposite of disrupt the meetings recently, especially considering he used to interrupt you several times a night.”
Enjolras scowled a little. Grantaire smiled to himself. Patroclus looked beautiful even with his features screwed up.
“What are you smiling at Grantaire?”
“I can start making those comments again, if you prefer, angel?” Of course, the first thing that Grantaire said when he somehow managed to find his voice was a taunt. He wasn’t sure, but it may have been the first time he had spoken to anyone at all in the weeks since he had met Feuilly.
Enjolras glare was hot, burning through him like a flaming arrow. It felt glorious, to be seen. It hurt. Grantaire held his eyes for what must have only been a few seconds, before having to look away, for fear that his soul would burst into flames for everyone to see.
Instead, he looked around the room. He hadn’t noticed how empty it was tonight. Just… just nine of them. Perhaps this was why Patroclus had allowed himself to become so angry. Without noticing, Grantaire had pierced the core of the group.
“How dare you!” Enjolras’ voice snapped Grantaire’s eyes back to the front of the room. “How dare you pretend you just stopped making comments for my sake, as if it didn’t stop the moment you saw Feuilly. He’s one of my closest friends, and you hated him from the moment you met him, and what possible reason could you have –”
This time, it was Hector who interrupted Enjolras’ tirade.
Patroclus immediately shut his mouth. His eyes widened, flicking between Hector and Grantaire, as if trying to discern the reason Hector had given such a huge secret away in front of someone who wasn’t part of the group, who didn’t know about their shared past.
He opened his mouth to say something, but snapped it shut after glancing at Hector again.
When it became clear that Patroclus was not about to speak, Hector began. “Enjolras, there are many people who would and should hate me at first sight, and a lot of them are in this room. Including Grantaire. Including you.”
“Are you trying to tell me that Grantaire, of all people, lived before at Troy?” He laughed a little, but it was fake-sounding, and quickly died away as no-one else joined him. “Who was he?” No-one replied. His attention flashed back to Grantaire. “Who were you?”
Grantaire held his gaze as Enjolras studied him for some kind of hint as to who he had been. He willed his features to remain still. To not betray the further layer of heartbreak that this in-depth search that left Patroclus still puzzling over his identity was causing.
Finally, Patroclus looked away, apparently no more knowledgeable of Grantaire’s previous incarnation as he had been before. He paused for a few moments, not speaking, just running a hand through his hair. Eventually, Patroclus turned back to the room at large, though his gaze noticeably avoided Grantaire.
“I maintain that he is rude and disrespectful, and I am less than pleased about his lack of commitment to the key tenets of this group.” It hurt Grantaire that he could say such things without even looking at him. But an acknowledgement of his existence was better than nothing. “However, I am sorry for my outburst today. It was unjustified.” It was only now that he turned to look at Grantaire, who gave him a slight nod.
“I will always forgive you, Ange.” Patroclus’ nostrils flared, but he managed to control his temper.
The meeting started again.
At the end the meeting, instead of running away immediately, Grantiare sat and waited.
At the end the meeting, instead of running away immediately, Grantiare sat and waited. He spoke quietly with Joly and Bossuet. It was a little, awkward, at first. Grantaire had not spoken to them, or to anyone, in weeks; he had been so focussed on Patroclus and Hector that he had scarcely spared a thought to anyone else, and now he had to deal with trying to mend those friendships, starting with the two men he shared a table with.
But Joly was jolly as ever, and Bossuet had plenty a tale to tell of his misfortunes, and it was easier than he had thought it might be.
Throughout their ribaldry, though, Grantaire kept one eye on Patroclus and Hector, who were having a hushed conversation in the front corner. When they seemed to have finished, sharing a brief embrace, Grantaire excused himself from his friends and approached the pair.
For the first time the whole night, perhaps at all since he had started going to the meetings, Grantaire was studiously avoiding looking at Patroclus. This was the closest they had ever been to each-other since that first night when Patroclus had not remembered him. He could almost feel his skin prickle from the proximity. He wanted nothing more than to reach out and touch his love. But he could not. Patroclus did not know him. Enjolras could never love him.
Instead, he focussed his attention on Hector. He cleared his throat.
“Hec- uh, Feuilly, could we talk. Outside.” He could see Patroclus’ eyes widen out of the corner of his own, but tried to ignore the movement. Hector – no, Feuilly, it would have to be Feuilly for Grantaire to even think about talking to him without the urge to drag his body around the walls of Troy again – gave him a small smile.
“Of course. I was just about to head home. Will you accompany me?” Grantaire nodded. Patroclus shook his head.
“Feuilly, are you sure this is a good idea?” There was almost worry in Patroclus’ tone. Clearly the way he had always cared so deeply for the people he was close to had remained with him in this life. That such a tone was aimed at Hector, but not at Achilles… well, Grantaire tried not to think about it.
“If you never see me again, you’ll know exactly who did it.” Feuilly cocked a half-smile, and Grantaire couldn’t help but think that, if he had not been Hector, he could have been very good friends with the man.
The pair grabbed their overcoats, and headed off into the night. For the first few streets, nobody spoke. Grantaire was beginning to think this was a bad idea. He knew that he needed to clear the air with Feuilly. That he needed to separate Hector from Feuilly so he didn’t feel the urge to murder him each time he saw him. He just wasn’t sure how to do so.
“I forgive you, you know.” Hector was the one to break the silence, causing Grantaire to jump a little, lost in his own thoughts. “I… If I had been alive, when Andromache… I think I would have done the same.”
Grantaire swallowed drily.
“I… I don’t know if I can forgive you. Not yet.” He took a deep breath. “But thank you, for today. You. You could have told him. But you didn’t. So thank you.”
Somehow, they had both stopped. Hector gave a small smile again, but it was sadder this time.
“I didn’t do it for your sake. I may not have cared for Patroclus, but I do care for Enjolras. It would destroy him, I think, to discover that you are who Achilles now is.” Grantaire could only stare at him, trying to stop a reappearance of his wine. It was not as if he had not known that Patroclus would disdain the person he had become, but to be told so, and by the man he had killed for killing Patroclus so many years ago, was another thing entirely. He blinked back tears.
“Of course it would. How could anyone love me as I am? A pathetic, ugly man, who drinks away his memories.”
Feuilly’s brow wrinkled in concern. “You misunderstand, my friend. He would be destroyed that you were so close, and so different that he does not know you. He would still love you. He does still love Achilles.”
“Why?” There was so much despair in Grantaire’s tone that it almost broke his own heart. “How can he still love Achilles, when I am the reason he died?”
“Grantaire, surely you cannot blame yourself? It was war.” Feuilly placed a hand on Grantaire’s shoulder. Grantaire steadfastly ignored what Feuilly had just said.
“Besides, what time does he have for Achilles? He has the whole of France to care for now.” Grantaire attempted at humour, but his delivery was flat. Feuilly only looked sad.
“Achilles was his world, Grantaire. He cannot wait to find him again.” Feuilly sounded so earnest, like this was something he had discussed with Enjolras time and again. Grantaire pressed a hand to his mouth, doing his best to prevent the sob that was attempting to burst his way out of his throat.
“Fuck. I’m – I’m right here!” Grantaire could not keep the anguish out of his voice. This was not how he had expected this conversation to go. Feuilly was still holding his shoulder. It may have been the only thing keeping him upright. There was pain in Feuilly’s expression, pain for Grantaire. In the back of his mind Grantaire remembered being taught that Hector was one of the most sympathetic characters in the Iliad. He had not believed it then. He believed it now.
“You may have been Achilles, Grantaire, but you are not the same Achilles that Patroclus knew. You’re not even the same man I knew so briefly. I only knew who you were because Combeferre warned me you may be there, and I could see that you knew me. I do not see the Achilles I knew in your eyes. When we fought you were only rage. And now there is almost nothing. Your eyes remind me of a dead man’s.”
“I still love him.” Grantaire whispered. He knew that if he tried to speak any louder his voice would crack, and no sound would come out at all. There were already tears leaking down his cheeks.
“I do not doubt that you do. But it as though that love for him is all that you are. Hector was the tamer of horses, Feuilly is a painter of fans. Achilles was a brave, formidable warrior. I do not know Grantaire, but I am sure there are things that you are good at, that make you you. You are more than your love for Patroclus, but I’m worried that if you don’t see that, Enjolras never will.”
It was fortunate that Feuilly was still holding on to him, because his vision blurred, and he found himself sat against a wall before he was even aware of moving. Feuilly was sitting beside him, their arms pressed against each-others. There was a silence again, while Grantaire regained some of his senses.
He couldn’t think, not properly. It was all too much. All he could really see was how good Feuilly was. How much Grantaire didn’t deserve his care and attention.
When he finally re-found his voice from where it had been lost somewhere in the murky depths of his anguish, that was all could say. “It was my son who took your wife and killed your son, was it not?” Feuilly nodded slightly. “Gods. How can you be so kind? How can even stand to look at me? After everything I’ve done to you.” He spat out bitterly.
“Grantaire has never done anything to hurt me.” Feuilly said, openly and honestly, and Grantaire started to weep.
When they parted later, it was with an almost embrace and a definitive peace.
Slowly, things returned to how they had been before.
Slowly, things returned to how they had been before. Éponine forgave him, eventually, for avoiding her for what turned out to have been over a month, and they fell back into the easy comradery of their mutual regrets. His friendship with Joly and Bossuet was built back to what it had once been, and more.
The main change was that Grantaire no longer only came to meetings sporadically. Now he never missed one, and he even listened to what was being said, and attempted to contribute helpfully, on occasion. A few people, Patroclus especially, seemed suspicious at first about the tentative friendship between Grantaire and Feuilly, but eventually it became accepted.
Patroclus gave speeches about the importance of France rising against the Bourgeoisie, except, well, Grantaire supposed that Feuilly was right. This man may have been Patroclus, before, but he wasn’t anymore. Not quite. Patroclus fought for the lives of other soldiers fighting in the war. Enjolras was fighting for the children starving on the streets. A similar fire, but kindled for different reasons.
And Patroclus had always fought quietly, fighting all he could but always in someone else’s shadow – normally Achilles’ own. Yet Enjolras was fighting loudly, making speeches, and demonstrations.
As Grantaire spent more time listening, rather than sitting in the corner and watching, he saw more and more of Enjolras. He interrupted him, often with petty asides, sometimes with actual comments and refutations. And maybe the more he helped Enjolras develop his arguments, the more he believed that this man – this not-quite-Patroclus – could make a difference.
All his life, this time around, he had believed in nothing, except for that a full glass would sooth away the pain behind his skull. He had been shown by life that everything was terrible, that everything would go wrong. But maybe, just maybe, he believed in this Enjolras.
Not that Grantaire would admit to this.
Now that he was attending all the meanings, he finally had to face his previous misgivings and look Courfeyrac and Jehan Prouvaire in the eye, facing their pasts. It would have been rude to continue to avoid them, after all, especially now he had made himself a permanent fixture of the group.
Even when Grantaire hadn’t been paying much attention to him, it had been clear that Courfeyrac was something of the centre of the group. He stood out as a clear leader along with Enjolras and Combeferre, a part of their triumvirate that they would be lost without.
When he finally managed to meet the man’s eyes he discovered that the centre of Les Amis de L’ABC had once been the centre of the Greek army.
Courfeyrac being Agamemnon was surprising, to say the least. The king had been arrogant and had little by the way of interpersonal skills; the dandy was the opposite, having almost a magnetism about him, drawing people in and becoming friends with them immediately, including Grantaire once he had finally built up the courage to speak to him. It came as a shock to Achilles that he could stand the man – after all, the quarrel between the pair was infamous.
Courfeyrac was almost always up for a night out, and when they got drunk together they often found themselves talking about the history between them. Courfeyrac didn’t hold grudges, it seemed, and it was also clear that he had made an effort to change who he had been. He confided in Grantaire once, late at night, the pair well into their cups, that he had hated himself when he remembered. He had killed his own daughter, led thousands of men to die. He had thought that the only thing he could do was to be better than he had once been. Grantaire wished that he had the bravery to do such a thing himself.
Jehan’s former identity had come as simultaneously more and less of a shock to Grantaire. Ajax Telamon, Achilles’ own cousin, had been a hulking man, as tall as two and as strong as three. Jehan Prouvaire was a short and thin, a poet who probably couldn’t even lift a spear, let alone throw one through an enemy’s chest. And yet… and yet, the fire that had always been in Ajax’s eyes burned just as fiercely, if not more, in the eyes of the poet. He held Ajax’s true bravery: it was clear in what he said, in what he wrote, in how he dressed.
Ajax had never been just a soldier, no matter what the stories said.
This new body, this new person suited Ajax in a way that one could never have imagined. Grantaire made sure to pass along the sentiment, which seemed to delight his new friend.
Jehan didn’t seem one to hold a grudge either, from the way he interacted with Combeferre, who had played such a terrible role in his death, destroying that pride which made so much of who Ajax had been. Watching the pair talk on the philosophy of poetry after a meeting one day, Grantaire couldn’t help but wish he could cast off the shadows of the past in the way these men all seemed to be able to.
In any case, things were good. Well, things were better. Since his talk with Hect– with Feuilly, Grantaire had been doing a lot more thinking about how true the things he said might be. Much of that thinking was done at the bottom of a bottle, at the end of a long meeting. And perhaps he wasn’t making an effort to change. But at least he had the meetings now. He had a group of people to spend lots of time with, so at least he wasn’t drinking alone. And maybe he was drinking less. Although, he could rarely remember how much he drank, so he couldn’t be sure.
However, while Grantaire was spending more time with Les Amis de L’ABC, he was spending less with Éponine. He was at meetings, and she was pulled further and further into the nefarious dealings of her father, and they rarely had the chance to spend much time with each-other, now.
When they finally did spend time together, though, it felt the same as it always had, as if they hadn’t spent any time apart.
Éponine and Grantaire were sitting by the Seine, their legs hanging over the river, commiserating on the ignorance of each’s object of affection, when a freckled face burst between them, causing them to jump apart.
“Hello, Éponine, is this your boyfriend?” The boy asked in a teasing tone. He could only be around ten years old. Grantaire raised his eyebrows at his friend, who had her face in her palms.
“No, Gav,” Éponine said, her voice muffled by her hands, “Grantaire is not my boyfriend, please leave me alone.” The boy – Gav? Why did Grantaire feel like he recognised the name? – merely laughed, and turned to face Grantaire instead.
“’Ow do you do, m’sieur, my name’s Gavroche.” And oh. There it was, written in his eyes. A scared child charging at him, too young to be on the battlefield. Blood spilling from the boy’s throat as Achilles had cut it. Gavroche. Troilus. Éponine’s brother in two lifetimes.
“Oh, merde.” Grantaire said, softly. Gavroche pinched his ear.
“None of that swearing, m’sieur, I’m only a kid.”
“Oh shut up Gav, you hear that kind of thing every time you bother to come home.” Éponine’s voice was teasing her brother, but her eyes were focussed on Grantaire when he finally managed to drag them away from blankly staring at her brother.
Grantaire tried to speak more, but no sound came out. He had to say something, to apologise to this child who was scarcely older than he was now when Grantaire had killed him. Achilles had killed him. Something.
“You alright, m’sieur? You look like a fish!” Gavroche crossed his eyes and opened and closed his mouth in an exaggeration of what Grantaire must have been doing. The impression startled a snort out of Grantaire. That alone seemed to be enough for him to find his voice again.
“I’m. I’m so, I’m sorry, Gavroche.”
“Dunno what you’re talking about, m’sieur. It was a long time ago.”
“Nope, not listening.” Gavroche stuck his fingers in his ears, dancing around singing nonsense until Grantaire could only laugh at his childish antics. Oh, to be young and free and cheerful. And maybe Gavroche had been born in poverty now, but this was a freedom he had never had before. Troilus was still almost a babe in arms when the city of Troy had been thrown into turmoil.
And Grantaire did still regret what he had done to Troilus, regretted it deeply. But this was a second chance for him. And clearly this child knew better than Grantaire not to let the past colour the future.
Gavroche must have noticed the regret filter out of Grantaire’s expression, because he stopped next to wear Grantaire and Éponine were still sat, leaning down to look Grantaire right in the eye. “You gonna stop being so miserable now, m’sieur?”
Grantaire cracked a grin. “Alright, alright. I think you’ve driven it out of me. My name’s Grantaire, or you can call me R, if you want.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. R.” He stuck out his hand like a posh English man (though Grantaire had no idea where the boy would have seen such behaviour to replicate), and Grantaire reached out and shook it.
Éponine snorted. “Alright, alright, now clear off, you rascal, it’s my turn with Grantaire now, I’m sure he’ll be pleased to talk to you some other time.” Gavroche let go of Grantaire’s hand, stuck his tongue out at Éponine, swung his cap off his head with a flourishing bow, and disappeared back into the city.
Grantaire still had a smile on his face. “He’s certainly something, that brother of yours.”
“He’s a nuisance, if that’s what you mean,” Éponine retorted, but not as sharply as she would have if she had truly meant it. She clearly had a soft spot for her brother. And, well, thinking of Éponine’s once brothers…
“You should come to a meeting sometime. See Hector. Meet everyone.”
The light in Éponine’s eyes from watching her brother dance about faded rapidly. “I think I’ll pass, thanks.”
“Come on, it’ll be fun.” He really did want her to come. It would be an easy way to spend more time with her, if she came even occasionally to meetings. And he was sure she’d get along just as well with Joly and Bossuet as he did.
“I’m good without some stuck up rich boy telling me how to help the poor, as if he’s ever lived like that.” She snorted, rolling her eyes.
“You can give him a piece of your mind. Or we can just laugh at him from the back of the room.”
“I can’t Grantaire. I have to go home.” Grantaire should stop now, he knew he should from the tone of her voice. But he, he just wanted…
“Éponine, you know you don’t want to go home, your father’s awful, just come and spend some time with-”
“Look, Grantaire, I appreciate what you’re trying to do. I just don’t think they’ll accept Paris in quite the same way they accepted Hector.”
He didn’t agree with her. Everyone, was different, everyone had grown (everyone except him), and he couldn’t imagine them begrudging her past when they’d accepted so many.
But it was her choice to make. And Éponine deserved to be able to make her own choices.
We're over halfway through the total word count now!! Thanks everyone for reading <3
And so Grantaire went to the next meeting without Éponine. There was, however, a new face at the meeting, and not one that Grantaire expected to see.
And so Grantaire went to the next meeting without Éponine. There was, however, a new face at the meeting, and not one that Grantaire expected to see.
“Oh, hello Grantaire!” said none other than Helen of Sparta himself, Marius Pontmercy. Grantaire was suddenly very glad that Éponine had refused to come along to the meeting with him.
“You know Grantaire, of all people, Marius?” Came the reply from Courfeyrac, who was standing beside the man with an arm around his shoulders.
“Very rude, Courfeyrac,” Grantaire cut in, “of course he knows me, who doesn’t? I’m famous among Parisiens for my love of wine and debauchery.” Marius chuckled as Courfeyrac rolled his eyes dramatically. Grantaire caught Patroclus scowling in the corner of his eye. Fortunately, it was Marius who replied.
“Yes, I know Grantaire, he’s friends with my neighbour Éponine.”
“Oh?” Courfeyrac’s curiosity was evident. It sounded like he had heard some things about Éponine and would like to know more about her mysterious friendship with Grantaire. Grantaire quickly changed the subject. Éponine would not be spoken about behind her back, not if he could help it.
“So what brings you to the meeting, Marius?”
“Oh! Courfeyrac won’t stop talking about them, so I thought I would come along and have a look.”
The conversation flowed from there, before Enjolras finally got sick of the distractions and forced them to actually start the meeting.
And so they began, with the usual discussion of what bad things the rich were doing and what must be done to aid the poor. Then someone, for some reason – Grantaire paid attention most of the time, but maybe not to all the details. He was only human, and sometimes the meetings were long – mentioned Waterloo. Which Enjolras had denounced. Of course he had. An emperor was no better to Enjolras than a king. And then Marius… Well, Marius.
Grantaire supposed, sympathetically, that in his previous life – not that the boy remembered it – he would never have been welcome to deliver his opinion in such a way. Unfortunately, he did not seem to know when the appropriate occasion to give such an opinion was. All conversation derailed as they watched Marius ramble profusely about everything that Napoleon had given to them. Patroclus looked almost murderous – or, rather, Enjolras did. Patroclus had never looked at another with such harshness, not that Achilles had seen.
“– He created an emperor from the ashes of the kings! He built us up from nothing! What could be greater than that?”
“To be free”. It was Combeferre who shut down his long winded spiel with a simple three words, and it was all Grantaire could do not to laugh a little. While it was amusing to see him cut down so thoroughly, he did feel a bad for the poor boy. Marius didn’t say much after that, and Grantaire had a feeling that he might not come to another meeting.
Sure enough, Marius was the first to leave after the meeting was over, begging an early rise in the morning, and Courfeyrac hopped up to accompany him. Any people there who were not part of what seemed to be the core members of Les Amis filtered out pretty quickly after them.
For the first minutes after they had gone, the conversation was almost muted. They were all thinking the same thing – or at least, Grantaire supposed they were, but he was definitely not going to be the one to start that conversation.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but Pontmercy was Helen, was he not?” It was Patroclus who spoke. It stung Grantaire that Enjolras recognised a woman he had only met once in the eyes of a man he had no idea who he had been, but couldn’t even recognise his own former lover.
“It would appear so, although I’m not sure he remembers.” That was Feuilly. Grantaire was confused for a second before realising that, of the people present, Hector had spent the most time with Helen.
“That really is quite interesting.” Said Combeferre, clearly not quite so affected by his annihilation of Marius than Marius himself had been. “Everyone else we know of has been brought back in a body of the same gender as before. What has caused this swap, do we think? Has this affected how Menelaus and Paris were reincarnated?”
Paris, of course, had been reincarnated as a woman. But it was not Grantaire’s place to tell anyone that. In fact, he’d rather steer clear of any such conversation entirely. And so, of course, he decided it would be a good idea to derail the whole conversation himself.
“What has caused any of this, do you think? A punishment from the gods? A second chance to prove ourselves? It is not as if we know that, and that is the very root of our problem, is it not? It’s probably a far more pertinent question to start with. And, in answer to your second question, I am sure we all here know full well that one does not have to be a woman in order to love a man.”
“Was that supposed to be a jibe in my direction, winecask?” spat Enjolras. Grantaire frowned, putting down his bottle on the table. He didn’t know how his statement on Greek love, known as such even in their current time, could possibly be taken as such.
“I don’t know what you could possibly be referring to, mon ange.” He replied in a similar tone. If Enjolras wanted a fight, he could have one. (He had only argued Patroclus once. That had ended with a corpse and Achilles tearing his hair over it). A glance around the room showed that the other Amis were wide-eyed.
“You seem to be aware of my past even if I can’t see yours, drunkard. And it is quite clear to everyone here that you despise me.” It was good that Grantaire had put down his bottle, because had he been drinking he would almost certainly have spat it all over the floor. Despise him? He could never.
“I couldn’t despise you if I tried, my lord. But my thoughts are not always turned on you.” A lie, and one so barefaced he doubted anyone currently in the room would even consider it truth. “My reference was merely to the Greek way of life, which everyone here is most intimately acquainted with.” He picked up the bottle as he was talking, thrusting it a little at the appropriate moment, causing a small amount of liquid to shoot out of the top.
Several of the people watching the argument sniggered a little. Enjolras merely frowned, clearly unimpressed with Grantaire’s ribaldry.
“I am wild.” Grantaire flashed him a broad grin, showing his teeth, before tipping the remains of the wine down his throat.
“Impossible, is what you are.” Grantaire laughed. It was not the first time he had been called so.
“Why, your highness, I have never claimed not to be.” Patroclus huffed, and turned to join the conversation that everyone else seemed to have started while the pair of them were arguing.
Grantaire watched him for a few minutes, before taking his leave. He very much wanted to talk to Éponine of exactly what she had missed.
Ahh we hit over 100 kudos with the lat chapter and I just wanted to say thank you so much! I really enjoyed writing this and I'm just really glad other people are enjoying it too!! <3
Unfortunately, Grantaire did not seem to be able to find Éponine
Unfortunately, Grantaire did not seem to be able to find Éponine. He spent hours wandering around the usual places they met, and even waited outside her building a few times, but for all he tried to find her, it had been almost two weeks and she seemed to have disappeared without a trace.
Grantaire tried not to worry too much about her. She was, after all, a grown man in the body of a young woman who had known far too much suffering. She could look after herself.
But for all that, she was his best friend. He had wanted to tell her of the general mess that had arisen when Marius Pontmercy had appeared at a meeting of Lis Amis de L’ABC, but now he just wanted to make sure that she was alive.
Thus, when Grantaire happened upon Marius in the street one day, he could not help but ask after her. He hadn’t seen Marius in the intervening time, given the unsurprising fact that he had not returned to a meeting at the café. Grantaire didn’t think anyone had expected he would, given the fear that Enjolras’ stares and Combeferre’s scathing comment had probably instilled into him.
When he asked the simple question “have you seen Éponine lately?”, Grantaire had expected Marius to say something along the lines of ‘oh, I don’t know, sorry, I haven’t seen her in a while either, but I’ll look out for her as well.’
Grantaire had not expected Marius to turn to him and say “She’s laying low for a while, she almost got arrested.”
Grantaire blinked. Marius made no attempt to expand or clarify what he had said.
“What do you mean she almost got arrested?” Grantaire resisted the urge to shake the man.
That spurred Marius into a long and rambling story which Grantaire could barely make head or tail of, but which seemed to involve both Marius calling the police and warning the people he had called the police on that he had called them. Honestly, Grantaire wasn’t sure he understood, or that he wanted to.
“… Anyway, now I’m sleeping with Courfeyrac” (Grantaire swallowed back his laugh, knowing that Marius had no idea what he was implying with such a statement, the poor innocent young man) “and Éponine is hiding from the police helping me find out where I can find the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, with whom I have fallen in love.”
That brought Grantaire back to the present.
“Oh?” he said, as if he wanted more details about Marius’ love life, although what he was really trying to find out was –
“Yes, it’s strange, really. As if I’ve known her before. But I know I’d remember such a beautiful face as that.” And that must be Menelaus. Which means that, oh, poor Éponine…
“How strange,” Grantaire said, plastering a pleasantly interested smile onto his face – or at least the closest to that that he could come up with, “I’d love to hear more, but I’m supposed to be meeting a friend. Do you know where I might be able to find Éponine, later?”
“Well, I can tell her you’re looking for her, and that you’ll meet her…?”
“In our usual spot by the Seine. Thank you so much, Marius. I hope I shall see you around soon.”
Grantaire briskly walked off in the direction he had been heading, not waiting to hear anything else Marius might have to say. As soon as he was out of Marius’ possible view, he diverted his course, heading straight for the Seine. Once he had arrived, he wrapped his coat around himself, kicked his legs out, and waited.
Éponine arrived not overly long after he did, and slid down to sit next to him.
“Marius was under the impression that you wouldn’t be here yet, as you were on your way to meet a friend.”
“Is that not where I am?” Éponine gave him a small smile, but didn’t say anything. “By the gods, Éponine, I could hardly stay there and listen to him blather on about how you were searching for the whereabouts of his one true love.”
“I… It’ll be fine, Grantaire.” She did not look like she would be fine. She looked tired, and dirty, and exhausted by the constant hurt that the world seemed to throw at her.
“Éponine…” He said, trailing off. For what could he possibly say that could make this better?
“I knew he would never be mine, not we he has the opportunity to choose.” She smiled ruefully, shrugging her shoulders. “Helen would have chosen Menelaus over Paris, and Marius will choose Cosette over Éponine.”
“Cosette? You know this girl?”
“Yes.” Grantaire winced. That was just rubbing salt into the wound, another layer of pain, that the man she was in love with was himself in love with someone Éponine knew. He pulled Éponine closer to his side, not saying anything. Éponine would say more if and when she wanted.
Eventually she did. “My parents cared for her when we were children, her mother worked far away and sent money. And we all treated her awfully, like a little servant.” Grantaire had heard enough about Éponine’s own childhood to imagine how bad things must have been for that poor girl.
“Eventually my parents got a fat pay-out from a man who claimed her mother had died and sent him look after her. And we were glad for the money and glad to see her go. And now she’s all dressed up nicely with her ‘father’ and we’re all almost getting arrested in the slums.
“And, and, I didn’t know myself as a child, let alone her, but when I saw her lately we both knew…” She clasped her hand to her mouth and swallowed back a sob. Grantaire squeezed her arm, and she burrowed deeper, burying her head in the crook of his neck as she finally let out all the hurt that had been stored in her the past few weeks, soaking Grantaire’s collar with salt.
When her shaking had mostly stopped, she pulled away from him and scrubbed at her eyes.
“Sorry. It just. I hate this.”
“There’s no need to apologise, Éponine. There’re hardly grounds for this being your fault.” said Grantaire, hauling himself up from where he was sitting. “I think this situation calls for you to drink far more alcohol than you currently have in your body.” He held out his hand to her. “Shall we go find some wine?”
She gave him a small, genuine smile, reaching the corners of her still watery eyes, and pulled herself up.
Grantaire guided Éponine towards the Corinth
Grantaire guided Éponine towards the Corinth, the café Jehan had brought him to after his disastrous first encounter with Feuilly. Ever since then, it had been Grantaire’s café to go to when the gods seemed to be working against. As far as he knew, the poet was the only other member of Les Amis who knew about it, and he didn’t seem to be a frequent customer.
Unfortunately, on this occasion ‘as far as he knew’ turned out to be wrong, when he noticed a couple of familiar faces sitting in a corner. He retreated immediately, pulling Éponine behind him.
“What’s wrong, Grantaire, I thought you said we were getting drinks here?” hissed Éponine, pulling her arm from his grip, and rubbing at her wrist where his grip had tightened.
“Joly and Bossuet are sat in the corner. If they see us they’ll invite us to join them, and I know you didn’t want to meet any of them.”
Éponine paused for a second, then she started tugging Grantaire back towards the café. “Things are already bad, they can hardly get worse. And it’s about time I met some of your other friends.”
She went straight to the bar and ordered two bottles of their strongest cheap wine, leaving Grantaire slightly dumbfounded, though he handed over the money graciously. Éponine thrust one of the bottles into his hands, and spun to face the room
“So. Which ones are your friends?” She asked, eyes scanning the room as if she might be able to guess. Grantaire didn’t get to answer before his name was shouted, the sound rising over the general bustle of the café. He shot her a crooked smile, and led her over to the corner. Bossuet stood, and made to grab extra chairs for them from other tables, but he succeeded only in causing said chairs to topple to the floor, and himself along with them. Grantaire rushed forward a little to help his friends up.
“Bossuet, my friend, may it never be said that you are not inordinately clumsy.” He said with a smile, kissing his friend on the cheeks, before turning and doing the same to Joly, who had half-risen, resting on his cane. He had a large smile on his face.
“Grantaire, it’s so good to see you! We can finally introduce you to our beautiful Musichetta!”
“And I can introduce you to my good friend Éponine,” Grantaire said, returning his smile. Éponine stepped forward with an almost-shy smile to greet Grantaire’s friends, and Grantaire turned to greet the tall – well, taller than Joly at least, not that that was saying much – woman who must be his friends’ lover.
Grantaire grabbed her hand and kissed it with a flourish. “Ah, Musichetta, I’ve heard a great deal about y-” He froze as he met her eyes. She raised an eyebrow at him. He opened his mouth to try and say something, anything, but no sound came out. He had never considered… He had a feeling that Joly and Bossuet had lived before, but he had no memory of them. As such, the idea that their lover was someone who he had known had never occurred to him. But here he was. And here she was.
There were two women over whom a war was fought at Troy.
“Achilles.” Briseis’ voice was cool, and who was Achilles to blame her? “You look like shit.”
“Hold on just a second,” Joly interrupted, before Grantaire could say anything, which was good, because he had no idea quite what to say to a woman who had once been his war prize, “Grantaire was Achilles?!” Grantaire drew his eyes away from Musichetta and looked over at her lovers, who were both staring at him, their mouths agape.
“I… Yes?” Grantaire said. He had just assumed that they knew. After all, Feuilly had been told who he was. He had supposed it was something that everyone but Patroclus knew.
Éponine sniggered a little. He shot her a quick glare.
Bossuet threw a hand over his forehead dramatically, accidentally hitting Joly in the process, who staggered a little. “Everything suddenly makes sense now!”
Joly quickly recovered, joining in with his own dramatic gesturing. “The fight when we first met you!”
“The way you looked like you wanted to murder Feuilly!”
“Oh! The pining!”
Éponine was fully laughing now, and if Grantaire wasn’t so shaken by the fact that Briseis was here and Joly and Bossuet had only just found out who he had been, he would have been happy that she was so distracted. Instead he raised an eyebrow at them.
Éponine’s laughter almost doubled. “You guys have exactly the same expression right now.” She said, between laughs, gesturing vaguely towards him and Bri- Musichetta.
He turned to face her, and sure enough she had one eyebrow raised archly, though hers was aimed at him and not her hysterical lovers.
Grantaire swallowed, looking down. “Patroclus. He… He doesn’t recognise me.”
“And?” Grantaire glanced back up at her response. Musichetta’s expression was distinctly unimpressed. Grantaire was confused.
“And, get over it? Find someone else? I did.” She gestured towards Joly and Bossuet, who had by now recovered, and were watching the conversation closely. Even Éponine’s laughter had died down.
“It’s hardly the same. You didn’t-” Musichetta slapped him before he could finish that sentence. Grantaire raised one hand to his stinging cheek.
“Didn’t what? Didn’t love him the same way you did? How could you possibly know how I felt? As if you ever paid attention to how I felt.”
Grantaire couldn’t hold her gaze. She was right. Of course she was. He had largely ignored Briseis, except for when she was being taken away from him. He. Gods. Another person he had hurt. Another person he had failed.
The silence around the table was tense, almost tangible even with the unbroken conversations flowing around them from the rest of the café. Grantaire was staring at the table, gazing the grain of the wood as if it could tell him something.
“Well.” Joly was the one who finally broke the vacuum of noise. “In the interest of being fair, and of making this less excruciating, it’s nice to meet you, Éponine, my name is Joly, and in my other life I used to be called Philoctetes.”
“And I am Bossuet, or L'aigle, or Lesgles, or once upon a time Protesilaus.”
Both Greeks, both names that Grantaire vaguely recognised, somewhere in the corner of his mind, but he was lost in thought, engrossed in the table, and he couldn’t bring himself to think about it too closely.
“I. I’m Éponine.” The edge of worry in her voice was enough to finally capture Grantaire’s attention, dragging him back to the conversation at hand. He reached out and tapped her wrist.
“Éponine, you don’t have to…”
“It’s fine.” She glanced at him, giving him a small, brave smile. When she turned back to address them, her voice was stronger, more confident. “I’m Éponine, and I used to be Paris.”
The sip of wine that Joly had just attempted to drink made a reappearance across the table, and Bossuet’s eyes widened almost comically, flicking between Grantaire and Éponine, trying to work out the punchline of the non-existent joke. Even Musichetta looked a little surprised.
Éponine’s brow creased. “Oh shit, I, I shouldn’t have said anything.” She stood up, her chair scraping the ground as it was pushed back. “I’ll leave. I’ll just-”
“No, stay.” Musichetta’s voice was soft, and kind, accompanied by a smile of the same nature. “It’s nice to meet you Éponine. I’ve been telling my boys we need to make more friends who are girls. Tell me something about yourself.”
When Grantaire looked over at his best friend, there were tears glittering in her eyes. She smiled when she saw Grantaire looking, and Grantaire couldn’t help but smile back. To be accepted, to be included, to not be turned away when people found out who she had been, that was all she had ever really wanted. And now she got to have that.
Éponine looked back to Musichetta, and started talking, quietly and faltering, but talking all the same, about her family. And Musichetta talked about her own, asking questions. As Éponine’s confidence grew, Joly and Bossuet started piping in with their own stories, and questions, and jokes.
Éponine started laughing. Just earlier that afternoon, she had been curled into his side weeping, and now she had finally got the chance to let her stresses go, to not think, to be a normal young person.
As Éponine leaned forward, engrossed in a story of Joly and Bossuet’s escapade, a smile crinkling her eyes, Musichetta leaned over to Grantaire.
“She’s… She was the first person I found. And we’ve spent a lot of time wallowing together. It’s good to see her so happy.”
“You, wallowing? How surprising.” She said, voice flat, an eyebrow arched. Grantaire laughed. She hadn’t had such a dry wit last time.
Or maybe she had. Briseis had hardly been able to speak Greek, and even when she had learnt, Achilles had hardly made an effort to speak to her. What need had he to? What was she but a symbol of his fighting prowess?
Except she was a person. Another person he had hurt. Again and again.
He swallowed what pride he had left.
“I. I am sorry, Musichetta, for what I implied. Earlier. I didn’t… I didn’t want to say that you didn’t love him. It’s just. He was the only one I really had, before, and without him I have no-one.”
Musichetta kept her eyebrow raised, though her expression was somewhat tempered by a sort of sympathy. “It looks to me like you have plenty of people now.” She gestured at where Joly, Bossuet and Éponine were laughing together, then turned back to him, leaning forward. “You’re a new person, with a new life to live. You don’t have to live as if nothing has changed, and you don’t need him to be complete. You just have to accept the people you have for how much they mean to you.”
By the end of the night, Éponine was laughing with Joly, Bossuet and Musichetta like old friends.
By the end of the night, Éponine was laughing with Joly, Bossuet and Musichetta like old friends. She still refused to come to meetings, but she did meet up with the trio again, on occasion. Grantaire was glad his friends liked each-other.
In spite of what Musichetta had said about not needing Patroclus, Grantaire could not stop being hopelessly addicted to Enjolras. He did appreciate the friends he had this time, of course he did. But Patroclus was everything he had been, and he was shattered and rebuilt every time he heard the man speak.
Grantaire felt guilt for all the deaths he had caused, chief among them his own beloved, and if the only way he could redeem himself was to be there, to not leave Enjolras alone as he had on the battlefield, then that was where he would be.
Éponine confided later that Musichetta had given her a similar talk later on that night, when he had been singing drinking songs with Joly and Bossuet at the top of his lungs, telling her that she no longer owed Helen anything, that this new life was a new life, and she shouldn’t hurt herself helping a man who would never love her back. But for all of that, Éponine did not, could not stop searching for the girl who was had been Menelaus.
The only way she felt she could stop the guilt that cut through her every time she thought of how she had pulled Helen from her husband was to reunite them, as much as it hurt her. She owed it to Marius, to let them have a whole lifetime together.
Grantaire did not try to talk her out of it. He knew exactly how she felt.
Maybe Musichetta was right, about both of them. But Briseis had only had wrong done to her, had done nothing wrong herself. Musichetta had nothing to atone for. Not like he and Éponine did.
He offered to help Éponine in her search, but she said that she did not need it. So instead he continued to attend meetings, and stare at Enjolras, and drink. And as the winter turned to spring, and the weather became better, and the flowers came out, Grantaire spent more and more time outside.
The day was pleasant, and the world inside Grantaire’s head was more pleasant than usual, and he found himself down in the Luxembourg gardens with his paints. He had been there for the best part of the day, and only a single empty bottle (along with one that was half-full), sat by his feet. He had painted the scenery around him, including, in the distance, the small indistinct figures of a young woman on the arm of an old man, presumably (hopefully) her father, who had also been there for much of the afternoon. Other had come and gone, but it was only these two who had truly taken their time to enjoy the May weather, and were the only two that Grantaire had decided to put into his art.
He was just putting the finishing touches on some of the plants, when he heard a voice next to him.
“Oh, papa, isn’t it just lovely!”
He was suddenly aware of a woman standing over his shoulder and peering at his art. A brief glance to the side showed him it was the very girl he had painted.
“It certainly is,” replied her father, peering across at the painting. “Say, young man, is it for sale?” Grantaire was taken aback by the question. People did not normally want to buy his art unless he was trying to sell it.
“I, oh, it can be, sir. If you want it.” He stumbled over his words, turning around to face his customers properly. The man’s white hair was even starker up close, matching well with the wrinkles around his eyes. And the girl was… well, the girl was Menelaus.
He could see the shock on her face as they made eye contact, and tried his best to keep his own surprise out of his expression. After all, her father – or what was it Éponine had said? The man who had paid Éponine’s parents to take her away – was standing right there, and Grantaire did not recognise an old friend or foe in the man, nor did he get the feeling he knew him from somewhere, as he had when he had first met Joly and Bossuet. Grantaire could hardly be caught looking at the girl with surprise without alarming the man, and could not explain himself without being thought to be quite mad. Fortunately the old man seemed to be quite taken with the painting, and did not notice anything awry; by the time he turned to face Grantaire fully, Grantaire felt his expression was fairly neutral.
“Well, I’d love to have it.” The man said, and without asking Grantaire for a price, he handed over an almost shocking amount of money for what was only half a day’s work.
“Sir, I can’t accept this much. It’s… it’s not…”
“Of course you can, my boy, it is a marvellous work.”
“If you insist, sir,” Grantaire said, smiling. He was thrilled that the man liked his painting. It, well, being praised creating something, rather than destruction? It was almost as good a feeling as wine sliding down his throat. “It is still wet at the moment, though. I can bring it around to your house later, when it has dried?”
“I could pick it up from your studio, perhaps tomorrow?”
“That would work, sir. Around noon?”
The man nodded, and Grantaire gave his address and a smile. Then the man left, taking the girl who had been Menelaus with him. She turned back and looked at Grantaire as she left, her eyes questioning. He gave her a solemn nod in response.
He could not be sure quite what she was asking. But he was fairly certain that he had answered correctly.
Once they had gone, and the feeling of delight of someone liking his art quite so much had calmed a little, Grantaire realised that this was the perfect opportunity for Éponine to find an address to give to Marius. While he had not been given the address, she could probably follow him home.
And then Helen and Menelaus could be happy together, and Paris’ debt was repaid.
Fortunately Éponine was not engaged in her father’s business that evening, and so Grantaire managed to find her. He told her that he had discovered this Cosette, this once Menelaus, and that her father would be round at his house the following day, and that Éponine may do as she so chose with this information. She didn’t stay by his side as he normally did, but faded into the night, a conflicted look on his face.
He did not see her when Cosette’s father came to collect the painting, but then, he supposed, that meant it was unlikely that the old man did either, and that was the point. He found out the next day that she had followed him home, and she had led Marius to the house that very evening, and that the pair were quite enamoured with each-other, or so Marius had told her, repeatedly.
Grantaire curled an arm around her, and together they watched the waters of the Seine flow by once more.
The blossoming love of May, however, was coming to an end.
The blossoming love of May, however, was coming to an end. The rich were getting richer, the poor were getting poorer, and the only man of any standing who seemed to care about the wretched had taken ill.
And the first day of June brought with it a little gamin running into the café with the report that General Lamarque was dead.
The boy in question was, of course, Gavroche.
Grantaire had spent more time with him since their first meeting, and in fact the boy would semi-frequently join him in his ambles around the city. Possibly for the company. More likely because Grantaire had no problem with giving away of the francs his father still sent him to the hungry boy.
In any case, they talked, learnt a lot about each-other. Gavroche lived on the streets rather than with the Thénardiers. From what he knew of their parents, Grantaire could understand why. But despite the hardships of the streets and the parents who would never care for him, he always had a ready smile and a joke or two.
And in return Grantaire had told him all about Les Amis de l’ABC, who they were and had been, and of course all about his problems with Enjolras. Gavroche always laughed at him every time he spoke about Patroclus. He probably deserved it. It was at least better than the pitiful glances some of his friends sent him when they thought he wasn’t looking.
And thus, of course Gavroche was here. He would have heard the rumours in the street, and he knew exactly the place and the people who would want to know such information. So he had run in in the middle of a meeting, shouted at everyone to shut up and listen to him, stood on a table at the front of the room and delivered his news.
He was still there now, answering questions from those who asked, surveying the room like a foreman as it became a flurry of noise and activity.
Grantaire stayed at the back with a bottle of beer, alone at his table as everyone else rushed forward started clustering off in groups, organising what needed to be done. Another war. Maybe their fate was inevitable. He knew that this was bound to happen. He hated it. He would be there – how could he not? – but he did not think he could bring himself to help his friends of two lives prepare to die.
When he next looked up, Gavroche was talking to Enjolras. After a few seconds, Gavroche looked up and waved, and Enjolras twisted his neck to stare at Grantaire, a confused expression contorting his pretty face. Gavroche glanced down at Enjolras, saying something, and saluted at him when Enjolras looked back at him, before jumping down from the table and making a beeline toward Grantaire.
He was cut off, however, by a hand on his shoulder from Courfeyrac, lines of concern cutting around his forehead. By this point, they were just about close enough for Grantaire to make out what they were saying.
“You are far too young to be involved in this, citizen. Go home.” Gavroche only shot him a grin in return.
“This city is my home, monsieur, its citizens my family. And I have always fought to protect my family.” His expression turned serious for a moment, far too heavy for a child to bare. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, it had gone again, his bright, scheming grin returning. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, monsieur, I was just on my way to talk to a friend of mine.”
Gavroche ducked away from Courfeyrac’s well-meaning hand and almost scampered towards Grantaire, sitting on the table with his legs crossed, firmly facing away from Courfeyrac’s worried expression.
“Alright R?” Grantaire grinned at him, leaning forward and ruffling his hand through Gavroche’s already-messy hair.
“You’re a public menace, you are.” Gavroche stuck his tongue out. Grantaire stuck his tongue out back, before remembering that he was in a room full of his friends and he should maybe pretend to be a little more mature. “Be nice to Courfeyrac. He lost his daughter because he was hungry for war last time. He’s just looking out for you.”
Gavroche pouted a little, but nodded. “I’ll be nice. But I won’t leave.” Grantaire grimaced a little. He wanted nothing more than for Gavroche to get out of here, to run and hide and lay low until the fighting was done. But Grantaire had no right to tell him how to live his life. Not when he’d ended it last time…
Gavroche poked him in the face.
“Stop thinking so loud, R.” Grantaire had it within him to look at little sheepish at the admonishment. “Anyways, you were right about your Enjolras. He is pretty.” Grantaire groaned dramatically, pressing his forehead to the table.
“You’re a little shit.” He said into the wood, before sitting up again and reaching for his bottle. Gavroche grabbed it before he could and took a swig.
He immediately spat it out again, grimacing at the taste. “R this is piss.”
Grantaire let out a loud laugh, earning glances from various people around the room, some of them amused, one of them annoyed. He ignored them, and grabbed the bottle back from Gavroche, taking a drink himself.
“That’s because you’re too young to drink stuff this strong, little man.” He ruffled Gavroche’s hair again. Gavroche lunged forwards and grabbed Grantaire’s hair in retaliation, and the ensuing struggle resulted in two sore scalps and a copious amount of beer on Grantaire’s waistcoat.
They were still laughing and tugging at one-another when the door opened and Enjolras exclaimed “Feuilly! Have you heard?”
At that, Gavroche froze, whipping his head towards the door before just as quickly turning back round, hiding his face from the man who had just entered. He bit his lip, his forehead wrinkling.
“Gavroche, are you alright?” Grantaire asked, smoothing his thumb across his young friend’s forehead. Gavroche looked at him.
“Feuilly… you said Feuilly is Hector, right?” And then Grantaire understood. Hector was Troilus’ much-loved eldest brother.
Grantaire nodded. “He is. Did you want to talk to him, or leave without him seeing?” Gavroche shrugged.
“I… I stayed so I could see him. But now… I don’t… what if…” Gavroche trailed off.
“What’s this, little Gavroche, too scared to go and say hi?” Grantaire almost laughed, but managed to keep all but a small trace of mirth out of his voice. Still, Gavroche hit him in the arm, slightly harder than he had anticipated. Wincing, he continued: “Come on, even I’ll admit that Hector was one of the best men on either side of the war. He’ll be thrilled to see you.”
Gavroche looked at him curiously, but clearly found whatever it was he wanted to see. He pushed himself off the table, and crept towards the front of the room, where Feuilly was still talking to Enjolras.
Grantaire watched from his seat as Gavroche gained their attention, and Feuilly stared at the boy for a few seconds before his eyes widened, and he swept Gavroche up in hug and an exclamation of “Troilus!” They clutched each other close, talking and both crying a little, and the remaining members of Les Amis quickly turned back to their previous conversations, to give them a little privacy.
He found his eyes glued to the pair until a seat was pulled out at his table. He was joined by Courfeyrac, who also looked toward the embracing brothers before turning to face Grantaire.
“You know that boy?”
Grantaire nodded. “Yeah, he’s Éponine’s brother. We meet up quite a bit. He lives on the streets, most of the time, but he knows how to look after himself.”
“And you knew he was…?”
Grantaire nodded again.
“And he knows you wer-”
“What do you want, Courfeyrac?” Grantaire didn’t like to be so harsh with a friend, but he did not want this line of questioning to continue. Courfeyrac sighed a little.
“We need to keep him away from the barricades.”
“And how do you propose we do that? Where are you going to keep him?” Grantaire rolled his eyes. He didn’t think anyone would be able to keep Gavroche anywhere he didn’t want to be. Or away from anywhere he wanted to be.
“I was hoping you would-”
“What, talk him out of it? I of all people have no right to tell him what to do, surely you see that, Courfeyrac.”
“I was going to say that I was hoping you would keep him with you during the fighting.”
Grantaire froze. Courfeyrac had said he wanted Gavroche away. How was he supposed to be away if he was with Grantaire? Unless…
“Do you think that I won’t be there?” Courfeyrac opened his mouth to splutter, but Grantaire cut him off. “Honestly, Courfeyrac, you clearly don’t know me if you think I won’t be there, what else am I good for if not fighting?”
A crease appeared between Courfeyrac’s brows.
“You’re good for plenty of things, and you certainly don’t care for the revolution. Why would you be there?” Grantaire laughed, a hollow, haunting sound even to his own ears.
“I’ll see you at the barricade, my king.” He stood up with a shallow bow, and went to leave. Everyone was staring at him. He must have been louder than he had thought.
“I hope not, wine-cask. We don’t want you there.” Grantaire swallowed, ignoring Enjolras’ scorn. Instead he looked towards Gavroche, still standing with Feuilly, though no longer embracing him.
“See you soon, Gavroche. Take care.”
And he walked out without another word.
Grantaire did not see any of Les Amis again for several days.
Grantaire did not see any of Les Amis again for several days. Or Éponine, for that matter. He sat in his room drinking and generally feeling sorry for himself. Which was stupid of him, really, because none of what had happened was any surprise to him at all.
Of course Courfeyrac did not expect him to come to the barricade. Agamemnon knew Achilles as the boy who had sat out of the war for a temper tantrum, and Courfeyrac was the member of Les Amis that Grantaire knew the least well.
And it was even less surprising that Enjolras didn’t want him there. That warranted no explanation at all.
However, on morning of the fifth of June Joly and Bossuet near enough dragged him out to the Corinth, despite Joly having a thick cold. They ordered a hearty breakfast, and the waitress brought him a bottle of wine before he’d even asked.
“It’s Lamarque’s funeral today.” Grantaire wrinkled his nose at Joly’s words.
“What, already?” Joly nodded solemnly. “And we’re sitting in the Corinth drinking rather than taking part in the funeral procession because…”
Joly rolled his eyes. “It’s raining, Grantaire! I have a cold! It’ll only get worse, and then I may well catch something worse! I’ve spent enough of my life being ill.” Grantaire bit back a comment about how any planned insurrection would result in something much more deadly than a cold, namely gun-shots and cannon-fire. He couldn’t imagine that telling his friends that they were all going to die would put them into particularly good spirits.
Besides, Joly was not wrong, about being ill. After the revelations the first time they had met Éponine, Grantaire managed to find a book or two on the Trojan War, to find out why he recognised his friends former names but not known them. Bossuet had been Protesilaus, the first Greek to die at Troy, surely a precursor to his bad luck now. And Philoctetes. Well. He had been stranded on an island after a venomous snake bit his foot, not healed and retrieved until a prophecy and Odysseus had decided he was needed. Ten years sick and alone with an injured foot explained Joly’s need for a cane, and his constant fear of illness.
“And I’m here because Joly’s here!” said Bossuet, with a grin. “I would have thought that would be obvious, R.”
“And you’re here because I know you would be wrecked if you missed the revolution because you were at home, and I like to think you would much prefer our company to almost anyone else’s.”
“Well, you’re not wrong there, Jolllly,” said Grantaire, “plus I imagine they serve much nicer alcohol here than at the funeral.”
And the alcohol was nice, and it most certainly did flow. They started with the wine that had been placed in front of him, followed by several more, and by the time a message came via a friend of Gavroche’s that the funeral had started Grantaire had moved onto heavier drinks.
Which was fortunate, because the message had almost certainly come from Enjolras, and had made no indication that he thought Grantaire would be around. Which was unsurprising, but still cut through Grantaire like a bayonet.
There was a time when Achilles and Patroclus were each-other’s whole worlds. And now Grantaire was nothing to Enjolras, just an annoyance who would not be anywhere near him if he had his way.
And so Grantaire kept drinking, pushing such thoughts out of his mind. By the afternoon he was talking loudly about, well, something. He could barely remember what he was saying as he was saying it. At some point – Grantaire was rather hazy as to when – Joly and Bossuet cut him off from any more alcohol. He couldn’t even remember if he had paid.
He was still talking when a shout went up from the street. Grantaire turned to the window and saw with amazement a crowd of people running down it, weapons in hand, Enjolras streaming at front like an avenging angel. It looked like something out of a painting, though not any that Grantaire could have dreamed up.
Bossuet called down from the window, suggesting that this would be a good place for a barricade. Grantaire was inclined to agree, not least because there was plenty more alcohol downstairs that he would have no problem drinking once the staff had disappeared. Maybe that would help blank out the horror that was surely to come.
And the rest of Les Amis seemed to agree also, for they stopped, and before Grantaire really knew what was happening paving stones were being pulled up, and the street was blockaded. He was transfixed on watching his angel in a red jacket, and was hardly aware of the passage of time. Joly and Bossuet had disappeared from his side, presumably to help with the efforts, and eventually Grantaire pulled himself away from the window to do whatever he could.
But before he could exit the café, he was stopped by none other than the angel himself. Enjolras stood in the doorway, looking over the copious empty bottles on the table with a sneer of disdain. When he met Grantaire’s eyes, his expression didn’t change.
“Get out of here Grantaire. This is no place for drunkards.” The venom in his voice made Grantaire feel as though he was somehow sober, in spite of all the wine and brandy and goodness-knows-what else he had been pouring into his body for the past several hours.
“I cannot leave, Enjolras.”
“Get out!” Enjolras’ voice was harsh, and Grantaire could see almost nothing of Patroclus in him. And by the gods, Grantaire could not see how he himself had changed, he was still useless, and worthless, and everything else, but Patroclus was such a different man to how he had once been. And yet, and yet, Grantaire still loved him, with every fibre of his being.
“Let me stay here, and die with you.” The sneer on Enjolras’ face only grew.
“Grantaire you are incapable of believing, of thinking, of willing, of living, and of dying.” Grantaire felt like he was going to vomit.
“You will see, Enjolras.” He replied, aiming for mirth, but coming out only as dead as he felt. “You will see.”
With a cry of something akin to frustration, Enjolras left the café, and Grantaire sat back down again. He would go out and help again later. But now, he needed to return to some level of drunk where Enjolras’ words were no longer burning in the back of his skull.
Grantaire was almost ready to leave the café and face whatever was going on outside, when Gavroche walked, aiming several kicks at the doorframe on his way past.
This chapter is especially dedicated to courfeyrac_princess_glitter for making me almost cry on a train and persuading me to post it tonight when I was thinking of being lazy and waiting until the morning <3
Grantaire was almost ready to leave the café and face whatever was going on outside, when Gavroche walked, aiming several kicks at the doorframe on his way past.
“What’s wrong, Gavroche?” He called over, and when Gavroche saw him there, his face lit up a bit.
“Grantaire! I didn’t know you were in here!”
“And that’s why you were so annoyed at the door?” Gavroche rolled his eyes.
“No, I’m angry at your ‘beloved’ because he won’t give me a musket because I’m a child. Or something stupid like that. And then he called me a gamin!”
“Gavroche, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you are a child. And a gamin, for that matter.”
“Aha! So you won’t deny that he is your beloved!”
Grantaire sighed. “Only when he is not around to hear it. In any case, what good would you do with a musket? Surely it would almost be taller than you?”
Gavroche punched him. Grantaire was amazed that anyone so small could make his arm hurt that much.
“Anyway, what are you doing in here, R? The revolution is outside.”
“Well, my so-called ‘beloved’ told me I was useless for everything and wasn’t welcome here.”
“So… you’re going back out there now then?” Grantaire laughed, and Gavroche dragged him out by the wrist. Grantaire might have been able to resist him, but he wasn’t sure if he had maybe drunk a little too much, and he didn’t want to find out.
The people he knew, the core members of the ABC, greeted him with smiles and waves as he exited. Apart from Enjolras, of course, but considering their previous interaction, that was hardly surprising. Some others looked at him with the general curiosity of anyone new joining a group, but quickly turned back to their previous conversations.
Nothing much was happening, in the grand scheme of things. The Amis group, with the exception of their leader, were sitting around, focussed on Jehan Prouvaire, who was reciting poetry, and it was, obviously, to them that Gavroche led him. At his approach, they shifted around, leaving a gap for Grantaire and Gavroche to sit between Bahorel and Bossuet.
The poems were reminiscences about happier times, and Grantaire couldn’t help but wish that those were the times they still were in. Songs of youth and young love and happiness and spring, and all Grantaire could think of were long evenings on Pelion.
He shook his head. He didn’t want to think about that. He was far too drunk for his brain to think about that. He instead looked at Gavroche, who himself was clearly not listening to the poetry, his eyes trained on a man standing alone on the other side of the road. The other man appeared not to have noticed Gavroche’s staring, but Gavroche’s brow was creasing.
“What is it, Gavroche? Do you know that man?” Grantaire hissed, only loud enough for Gavroche to hear, so as not to disturb Jehan. Grantaire had a bad feeling that he may have been one of the boy’s father’s associates.
“He’s a police inspector.” Gavroche replied, equally as quietly. Grantaire blinked. That was… well, that was even worse. “He tried to arrest me not two weeks ago.”
“You better go tell Enjolras about this.”
“Well, I don’t have the authority to deal with a possible spy, do I?” Gavroche sighed, as if very put out, and pushed himself up and ran over to Enjolras, who was keeping a look out at the street from the corner of the barricade itself.
Grantaire would have loved to have turned his attention back to Jehan, but his eyes could only find Enjolras. His face was confused, at first, and then full of indignation. A passionate fire in his eyes, so different yet so similar to that Achilles had always known.
Grantaire watched as Enjolras made his way over to wear they were all sitting, steadfastly ignoring Grantaire as he asked Bahorel, Combeferre, and Coufeyrac to come with him. The four then approached the policeman, who seemed almost immediately resigned to his fate. He was tied up, his gun removed, and then Enjolras pulled him up.
“Citizens,” he proclaimed, and everyone’s attention was immediately drawn to him, “this man is a spy for police. He will be shot two minutes before the barricade falls. This is how traitors will be treated.”
“Why not kill me now with a knife?”
“We are judges, not murderers, monsieur.” Enjolras sounded almost indignant, before beginning to walk the man into the café.
Gavroche ran up as they were going. Grantaire could not hear what he was saying, but Enjolras fixed him with a stern look, and he scampered off towards the barricade, disappearing within the walls.
Grantaire looked for him for a while, but couldn’t see him re-emerge. When he looked around again, Enjolras had joined the group of them. He was about to ask where Gavroche had gone, but Courfeyrac beat him to it.
“Thanks for making Gavroche leave, Enjolras. He’s far too young to be here.” Enjolras looked almost bemused.
“Well, he’s coming back, I should hope. He’s bringing information from the other barricades.”
There was an outbreak of unhappy noises from around the group.
“He not old enough to be out fighting,” said Feuilly, and Grantaire could hear Hector in his voice, protective over his once-brother as he had always been for his city.
Enjolras merely shrugged, unmoved. “Every man is needed to do his part. And he isn’t fighting, merely looking.”
“He’s a child Enjolras!” came Courfeyrac’s cry.
“He will be fine, and you know it. He’s survived on the street up until this point.”
“There’s a war going on!”
“I was under the impression that he has lived through war before.”
“And that means that he should have to again?”
“It’s not as though any of us can stop him,” Grantaire interrupted, “he’s his own man.”
Courfeyrac spun around to face Grantaire instead, his eyes aflame, and this was an anger Achilles was more used to facing. “Oh, you would say that, wouldn’t you, Grantaire.”
Grantaire spread his hands, aiming at a benign smile. “Of course I would, I know Gavroche better than any of you.” He put his hands on his knees, and leaned forward. “Don’t get me wrong, Courfeyrac, I do not want him to be here. But I am not his father, nor is any man who is worth the title, and I have no business trying to tell him what to do.”
Courfeyrac looked about to retort back, and Grantaire felt a strike of fear, that Agamemnon would reveal Grantaire’s role in Troilus’ death, that Patroclus would know, when there came the sound of a gunshot.
Everyone jumped up, weapons at the ready, but the shot had come from their own side; a civilian was hanging out of a window, blood draining from a shot through his neck. His killer was stood beneath him, blowing the smoke from his musket. There was surely some build-up to this, some reason, perhaps, and maybe the group of people standing closer to the man could answer to that, but the answer still stood that a man who could hardly have posed threat and been murdered in cold blood by someone who was on the side of those who championed the people.
No-one on their side of the barricade moved. No-one but Enjolras. While everyone was still trying to work out what had happened, Enjolras was across the street, forcing the man on his knees, pointing a gun at his head.
“You have one minute. Make your peace.” Enjolras’ voice was cold. The man’s only attempt at peace was to beg and swear. Enjolras trained his eyes to his watch. A minute must have passed, for he put away his watch, and fired.
The man slumped to the ground. Someone, perhaps a few, made retching noises. Grantaire could do nothing but stare at Enjolras.
“Get rid of that.” Grantaire shuddered at the tone of Enjolras’ order. As the body was dragged away, Enjolras seemed to be addressing the group as a whole, but Grantaire could hear none of it, only a faint buzzing in his ears.
Enjolras stopped talking, people moved. Grantaire could only look at Enjolras, at the pool of blood on the floor from the execution. He simply could not connect the events he saw with the man he knew. Whoever Enjolras was now, he was not Patroclus.
Had he ever been, truly?
“Grantaire, what are you staring at?” And of course, the only thing that could snap Grantaire out of his reverie was Enjolras’ voice directed at him, full of fire and venom. His eyes snapped to Enjolras’. He stared into them searching for who knows what.
Enjolras looked back for a few moments, before shaking his head with a sneer and making to move away. It was only then that Grantaire found his voice.
“Who are you?” he asked, and even he could hear the broken tone in his voice.
“What are you talking about?” Enjolras lost his look of disdain for a few moments, replaced by utter confusion. Then he snorted, his face reverting to its former expression. “What am I asking, as if you ever know what you’re saying, winecask.”
“I…” Grantaire had never before felt so lost for words. “I had thought I knew the man you once were, but I feel I was mistaken.”
Enjolras laughed, the sound harsh, almost malicious. “Clearly you didn’t know Patroclus as well as you think you did, whoever you were.” Grantaire almost choked. He had known Patroclus better than anyone. But Enjolras continued. “I killed Sarpedon, I led the Greeks closer to the city than anyone had in ten years. Someone had to do something then, and someone has to do something now, and that person had to be Patroclus and it has to be me.”
His eyes softened, suddenly, the first time Enjolras had ever looked at Grantaire in such a way, but certainly not the first time Patroclus had ever looked like that at Achilles.
“Let go of what you think you know of me, Grantaire. I’m not the man you think I am.”
And with that he left, without giving Grantaire the chance to even think, let alone reply.
Grantaire stayed stood there, staring at the pool of blood, turning words over in his mind, for longer than he would readily have admitted to.
Gavroche came back, heralding the arrival of the troops. And suddenly the battle had begun.
Gavroche came back, heralding the arrival of the troops. And suddenly the battle had begun.
It was not war as Grantaire knew it.
Yes, there was still the noise, the chaos, the bodies. But it was also impersonal.
No longer did the two armies clash on their chariots, and throw spears and rocks. No longer did you have to look a man in the eye as you killed them. No longer did the soldiers stop and watch as the most renowned warriors on each side faced each-other.
Grantaire had been wrong when he had told Courfeyrac he was good for nothing but fighting. Whatever speed and strength and stealth he had retained from his life as Achilles were of no use here at the barricade. The sound of gunshot rattled his head, still heavy from drink. He recoiled back almost as soon as the volley had started.
And as quickly as it had started, it was over.
Grantaire was not a fool. As little experience with guns as he had, he was aware that they needed reloading, and that it was only a short amount of time before he would again be surrounded by gunfire.
The flag that had been placed atop the barricade had fallen, and Enjolras was calling for someone to replace it. No-one moved. The guns were soon to be fired again. Anyone who climbed up would surely be killed…
Grantaire was about to move forward, but before he could an old man appeared in the doorway of the café. He looked around the assembled revolutionaries, carefully meeting the eyes of all the Amis, before making his way towards Enjolras, snatching the flag from his hand and climbing up the stack of paving stones and broken furniture, as fragile as his own bones.
No-one moved to stop him, not least those who had lived a life before. For who were they to prevent the bravery of Nestor.
The rest of them who had fought on the plains of Ilium were still children now, but then, Nestor had always been old, for as long as anyone could remember. Grantaire did not know how his story had ended before, but he had certainly survived the war, and he wouldn’t be surprised if he had outlived all of them.
And here he was, climbing up the barricade, almost certainly to be the first to die in this new war, thousands of years later.
Nestor, or whoever the old man had been in this lifetime, reached the top, and held out the flag with a defiant “Long live the Republic!”
There was a hushed murmur from the other side, where the opposing soldiers were gathered, before a shout told him to get down. They could easily just have shot him down without a warning. Grantaire couldn’t tell if it was some form of protocol, or if these soldiers simply couldn’t deal with the idea of shooting someone they could see.
But Nestor would not stand down. He shouted again, waving the flag like a man calling out to a long-lost lover.
And if that lover was death, he was certainly greeted by her when the enemy fired.
The revolutionaries gathered around his prone form. It was Enjolras who spoke, of course it was, talking of bravery, of lessons they could learn.
All Grantaire could see was yet another dead body, and the certainty that none of them were going to make it out of this alive.
But he didn’t have time to dwell on the horror of seeing the once bold Nestor finally laid low. For while they were all distracted, while the body was being taken into the café, out of the way, soldiers had approached the barricade. Had Gavroche not been watching, the deaths of Grantaire and his friends would have come much more swiftly.
But Gavroche was watching, and cried out, and Les Amis came to meet their foes. Soldiers came over the top with their bayonets at the ready, and they were met by a host of the poor and downtrodden and students who had once been great soldiers.
This was more Grantaire’s type of battle. And as much as he did not believe that their deaths would really change anything, it was the least he could do being here, to try and stave of those deaths as long as possible.
And so he rushed forward with his friends, bayonet brandished like a sword – which was perhaps not how it was supposed to be used, but it was the only way Grantaire knew. He was lost in it, darting in where he could, parrying blows coming at his compatriots. It was different to how it had been before; he was not used to fighting in such close quarters, but no-one was stopping to watch Achilles singlehandedly defeat a swarm of enemy soldiers now.
In the flashes between batting away opponents, he looked around. They were going to be outnumbered. There was no way around it. Gavroche was being accosted by a man almost twice his height, Courfeyrac had been pushed to the ground and was screaming for someone, Bahorel was dead…
Bahorel was dead. The great Diomedes, one of the best of the Greek fighters. How could he have been laid so low, so quickly, he who had survived the horrors of Troy?
Grantaire shook his head. He didn’t have time to deal with that now. Courfeyrac needed help, Gavroche needed help. He could grieve for his second-eldest friend later, if he lived that long. Now he could only act.
A bullet-hole appeared in the forehead of the man opposing Gavroche, and then the man towering over Courfeyrac collapsed on top of him. Grantaire looked around to find the source of the bullets, only to see Marius Pontmercy throw down the two pistols he was holding.
Of all people, Marius was not the person Grantaire had expected to see on the barricade, let alone fire two killing shots. But then, why not? Because he had been Helen? Perhaps it was time to admit that Helen had always been stronger than anyone had given her credit for.
Grantaire’s attention was dragged back to his own battle – where it should have been anyway, how could he let himself get so distracted? – by a bullet catching his right arm, forcing him to drop his weapon. He hissed at the burn, and retreated back towards the café.
Grantaire kept moving back, until his shoulder met brick.
And just like that, the once noble warrior Achilles was trapped. He glanced left and right, to find his friends there too, Feuilly and Joly and Bossuet and Courfeyrac and Combeferre and Jehan and Patroclus.
And this was wrong, so wrong. Patroclus was not meant to die crowded into a corner, like a hunted deer finally chased into a ravine. He supposed to go out in a blaze of glory, always fighting, alone in a way that his heroism would never be diminished by someone being at his side. That was the way it always had been.
Instead, here they were, lined up with soldiers barely a guns-length away from them. Here it was, a final stand, a group of Greek and Trojan heroes, together against the oppression of the people of Paris.
Grantaire cocked his gun, ready to fire off a final round, to fight to the last.
“Stop!” Everyone froze, revolutionaries and soldiers alike, a swung their heads to face monsieur Marius Pontmercy, holding up a barrel of powder and a torch, eyes glittering in the flames. “Get out, or I’ll blow up the barricade.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Grantaire thought he saw Enjolras smile. A sergeant laughed, barely lowering his gun. “What, and kill yourself at the same time?”
Marius smiled, but it did not reach his eyes. “And myself, all the same.”
He began to lower the torch toward the barrel, and suddenly all the guards ran, more scared to die than those who remembered dying before, and terrified of the young man who threatened to destroy himself for the cause.
If anyone's interested, the translations I was using when I was writing this were the Penguin translation Denny (I'm sorry, I know it's notoriously bad, this is the one my gran gave to me) and the one on Project Gutenberg
Once all the guards had gone, there was finally movement on their own sides.
This chapter and the next one were originally one chapter, but it was twice as long as all the others, so I've split it into two. Sorry if I'm prolonging anyone's misery ;P <3
Once all the guards had gone, there was finally movement on their own sides. There were shouts of relief as Marius stumbled, throwing down the torch into a pool of rain and putting down the barrel to make sure none of the powder was lost. Then Courfeyrac had his arms around his friend’s neck, holding him close, and the rest all crowded round him.
Most of the rest. Grantaire found himself standing beside Bahorel, reaching down to shut his eyes. He paused, and dug into his pocket to find a penny, placing it under his friend’s tongue. For the ferryman.
It suddenly all felt very real. Grantaire clamped a hand over his mouth, stifling a sob.
Bahorel. The first person to pull him up off the streets, to sit with him as he recovered from his drunkenness. And here he was, face up on the streets of Paris, blood soaking through his waistcoat.
Grantaire had never been able to separate from Diomedes before, not really. And yet, and yet the parts that Grantaire now remembered, the things that made him Bahorel, that made him Grantaire’s friend, they were not Diomedes. It was strange, somehow. Grantaire knew that they were all different people to who they were before, he wasn’t completely without wits, but it was only truly hitting him, hard, in the heart, now.
Now that Bahorel was dead and it was too late for Grantaire to apologise.
There was a scuffle behind him.
“Enjolras!” And that was Odysseus’ – no, Combeferre’s – voice, out of breath, panicking. “Enjolras. Enjolras, they’ve taken Jehan.”
Grantaire froze. The poet. Ajax. The bravest and the best. And they’d, they’d taken him? How had no-one stopped them? How had no-one seen?
“Please, Enjolras,” Combeferre begged. He was standing right in front of the man, his hands clasped. All Grantaire could think was how similar it was to the position Enjolras – Patroclus – had been in when he begged Achilles to go out and fight in his place. A sudden fear gripped Grantaire. Surely, surely Combeferre didn’t want to go out to find him?
Achilles had never liked Odysseus, not quite. But Grantaire, suddenly, realised just how fond he was of Combeferre. He couldn’t let him sacrifice himself, not when the chances of rescuing Jehan were so slim, not when Bahorel was already gone.
“Please, we can swap him for our spy.” And a little tension released from Grantaire’s shoulders. Of course he had a plan, Combeferre always had a plan. He was always collected, always knew what was going on. Or was that Odysseus? Because Combeferre’s eyes were full of anguish and regret, where he had never seen Odysseus even consider such emotions. And Grantaire understood. Because maybe he was only just seeing some of his friends as separate people to who they had been, but they had still been. And he understood what a lifetime of blaming oneself for death felt like.
And Combeferre certainly had a reason to blame himself for the death of Ajax Telamon, even if Odysseus would never have regretted it.
Enjolras nodded. Combeferre sagged forward, as though his worry was the only thing keeping him upright. But quickly enough he pulled himself up, moving towards the café, starting to create some kind of flag of truce with a handkerchief.
Over the side of barricade, a cry was heard.
“Long live France!” There was no mistaking that voice. “Long live the future!”
A barrage of gun shots.
Combeferre crumpled to the ground, as though he himself had been shot. “They. They’ve shot him.”
All Grantaire could think was that he had never known Combeferre to be so ineloquent, in either lifetime.
He couldn’t allow himself to stand there and grieve. He had spent too much time with Bahorel, and this was a war, and people died. If he survived, he could grieve then, and if not, well, he could do so in his next life, if he was unfortunate enough to have one.
He looked around, peering through the lightly falling rain, trying to find something to do, to busy his mind. He saw a body slumped in the corner, that no-one seemed to have approached yet. Well, someone had to. He walked over, his eyes immediately focussing on the hand, which appeared to have been fully shot through, and the growing blossom of blood on the shirt. Finally, he looked up at the poor boy’s face, to see how far away he was from the afterlife, or if it had already taken him.
Grantaire felt like all the blood had drained from his body at once.
“Ép… Éponine.” He choked. She looked up to meet his eyes, her own almost completely glassy. Grantaire found he couldn’t move. No. Not Éponine. She reached towards him with her good hand, but it fell almost immediately. She whimpered in pain.
The sound was enough to inspire movement: lifting her back away from the wall gently, he slid in behind her. She seemed to melt a little into his warmth.
“Éponine. What. What happened? Why are you here?” His voice cracked. Bahorel’s death was awful, but watching Éponine fade tore him apart from the inside. He and Éponine had shared everything.
“Marius,” was all Éponine could say, and barely a whisper at that. There were tear tracks on her face.
“Hush, shhh. I’ll get him here, don’t worry.” Grantaire said, rubbing his hand up and down her uninjured arm, attempting to soothe her.
“M… Marius!” Grantaire called across the street, to where he still seemed to be being thanked by various people his actions had saved. Marius looked across with a frown, and Grantaire waved at him. He had to be here. Here was one person he had not been able to save.
Marius frowned a little, but ran across, Courfeyrac right on his heel. As they got close, Éponine raised her eyes dully to those approaching. Courfeyrac gasped.
“Éponine!” exclaimed Marius, almost diving to his knees at her side. Courfeyrac stayed where he was, his eyes wide. Marius grabbed Éponine’s hand in his and clutched it tight, before suddenly dropping it when Éponine almost sobbed in pain.
“Oh god, Éponine, what happened?”
“Someone aimed a musket at you, monsieur. I, I had to stop it.”
He bent his head towards her, and they were talking, low that Grantaire would not hear it if he didn’t try to. And he didn’t. Whatever this was, it was private. It was enough to hold his oldest friend close to him.
Instead, he gestured Courfeyrac over to him. “Listen, Courfeyrac, we need to… Gavroche is her brother, we should keep him away.”
Courfeyrac’s brow wrinkled. “I’m well aware that Troilus was P…”
“No.” Grantaire interrupted before Courfeyrac could get the name out. He knew that it would only upset Éponine to hear it spoken now. “I mean that Gavroche Thénardier and Éponine Thénardier are siblings, Courfeyrac.”
Courfeyrac swallowed, and nodded, apologetic. He looked around. “He’s not around right now, anyhow. But if I see him I’ll try and point him in another direction.”
Grantaire, nodded, then looked down at Éponine as she started moving between his arms.
Her hands trembling, she pulled a letter from her pocket and folded it into Marius’ palm. “It… from Cosette. For you.” She coughed a little. Grantaire felt her whole body convulse. His hands tightened a little, almost instinctively, wanting to hold her close for as long as he could.
She smiled up at Marius. “I have always been a little bit in love with you, Helen.” Her voice fell away. And just like that, Grantaire’s oldest friend had died for love.
Grantaire buried his face in Éponine’s hair.
Grantaire buried his face in Éponine’s hair. He couldn’t cry. He couldn’t. But this was Éponine. His first friend. The only one who understood just how he felt about the things he had done so so long ago. He was crying. Oh gods, Éponine.
Maybe she was right all along, and this was a punishment. And this, this was how it ended. Bleeding out on the cold streets of Paris, fighting another war, trying to change things that had not changed in thousands of years. The pair of them, fighting a war to protect those that they loved that would not love them back.
He took a deep breath. There was no time for feeling sorry for himself. He surreptitiously wiped his eyes and looked up.
Marius was still there, staring at her, his face blank. He was holding the letter tightly, almost crumpling it. His mind was elsewhere, his mouth moving silently. The same word over and over again. Helen. Helen. Helen.
And Grantaire had been too caught up to notice Éponine’s slip. Would this cause Marius to remember, or was he just confused? People around them were staring at them curiously, and the rest of the Amis kept peeking over, as if wondering whether everything was alright.
Eventually, Courfeyrac laid a careful hand on Marius’ shoulder.
“Marius, are you alright?”
“Am I… I was Helen? Before?” Marius looked like he was begging Courfeyrac to laugh it off, to say it was some strange dream. But all Courfeyrac could do was nod. “And you? You were Agamemnon?” Courfeyrac nodded again. Marius’ eyes fell back to Éponine’s limp body. “And Éponine was Paris…” Marius pressed a hand to his mouth, as though he might be ill. “Why did no-one tell me?”
“It didn’t seem fair to put all this on your shoulders. We all remembered ourselves. I don’t believe Paris did it intentionally either.” Said Courfeyrac.
“Éponine.” Grantaire interrupted before he could stop himself, before he could think. “Her name was Éponine.”
Marius’s flicked up to meet Grantaire’s, his eyes half wild. He stared for a second, then longer, his eyes narrowing as he struggled and struggled to work out just who Grantaire had been. Suddenly, his eye’s widened.
“Ach-” he didn’t get any further before Courfeyrac placed a hand over his mouth.
“Wait, Marius, don’t.” Grantaire looked up at Courfeyrac, trying to show just how thankful he was. He tried not to think of how Marius, who had only met him once or twice as Helen, could recognise him while Patroclus, with whom he had spent almost every waking hour for almost twenty years, could not.
“But, I don’t understand? A- Grantaire knew Paris, ah, Éponine. How can he not know himself?” Grantaire winced a little, and Courfeyrac gave a sympathetic smile.
“Grantaire knows who he was, but Enjolras does not recognise him.”
Marius looked around frantically, trying to spot Enjolras. The man had not been paying attention up to this point, having more important things to deal with than the death of a girl he did not know, but he looked up, as if he could feel their eyes on him. He frowned, and walked over to where the three of them were circled around Éponine’s body.
“Did you need something, Courfeyrac?”
“Marius has finally remembered, I was explaining how things were.”
Enjolras’ eyes flicked over to Marius, who blinked in shock. He looked over at Grantaire, opening his mouth, but Grantaire shook his head almost frantically. He could not, he did not need Enjolras to become suspicious of who he had been, not now.
“The letter,” Grantaire interrupted, as Marius did not seem to be getting his unspoken message, “the letter Éponine gave you. It is from Cosette, is it not? She was Menelaus.” Marius’ eyes widened, and his attention was immediately diverted.
“She was?” Marius’ voice was small. Grantaire nodded earnestly. “I… I need to…” He stood up, almost swaying and scurried off to somewhere he could read the letter alone.
Grantaire took a deep breath, looking down at Éponine’s body. She was smaller in death.
“So who was this, that made Marius remember, then?” Patroclus sounded a little curious. Grantaire looked up and opened his mouth to reply, but Courfeyrac beat him to it.
“Her name was Éponine, but she used to be Paris.” Grantaire watched as Patroclus’ interest turned to a cold disgust that Grantaire didn’t recognise
“Paris?” There was a sneer in his voice that Grantaire hated. Hated.
“Her name was Éponine, Enjolras,” and that may have been the first time Grantaire had ever used his given name of this lifetime. But this man before him was not Patroclus. Patroclus could never have hated anyone so vehemently, “and she gave her life to save Marius’. Show her some respect.”
“I thought you knew who I was before, Grantaire. You should surely remember that Paris was the one who killed the man I loved.”
“And were you not already dead by Hector’s hand at this point? And yet you have forgiven Feuilly.”
“I would not expect you of all people to understand what it is like to love, winecask, but I would have died a thousand times for Achilles to live forever. And he never even came back.” Enjolras’ voice broke a little at the end.
Grantaire was torn between wanting to laugh and cry. He did not think he was capable of doing either. He simply sat and stared.
Enjolras paused for a second, shaking his head. “I don’t know why I’m talking to you about this.” He turned on his heel and stalked off, no doubt to do something useful.
Grantaire stared after Enjolras. Enjolras, not Patroclus. Never Patroclus. Grantaire… Grantaire no longer felt like he knew this man at all.
Achilles had felt purposeless, worthless, ever since he had killed Hector. That emptiness had followed him into this life. But it had never consumed him as deeply as it did now. Patroclus had always loved Achilles. The man who had once been Patroclus, who Grantaire could see as no-one else, still did love Achilles. But he loathed Grantaire, with every fibre of his being.
And now Éponine was dead. And Jehan. And Bahorel. And soon, so everyone else would be, too.
Grantaire shucked off his coat, and gently covered Éponine with it, before standing up and going in search of some more alcohol. He was not drunk enough for this. For blood and death and memories.
By the time Grantaire stumbled back out, his head pleasantly fuzzy and decidedly not thinking about Éponine or Enjolras or anything really, the sky had turned dark.
By the time Grantaire stumbled back out, his head pleasantly fuzzy and decidedly not thinking about Éponine or Enjolras or anything really, the sky had turned dark.
There are fewer men than before, maybe? Not that Grantaire had been counting. There were too many people he cared about here to focus on people he didn’t even know. There is someone, though, an aging man who was not there before.
He caught Grantaire’s eye, and Grantaire was sure he had seen him before, somewhere in this lifetime, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on where. (That was good, he supposed. It meant the alcohol was doing its job).
The man recognised him though, from the way he frowned and pushed himself up from his place leaning against a wall. He made his way towards Grantaire.
“Aren’t you the painter from the Luxembourg.” It was phrased like a question, but his tone was sure. Grantaire merely looked at him dully. When had he…?
The ground swayed a little between Grantaire’s feet. He shook his head to himself – he hadn’t thought he had drunk quite enough to affect him so badly. The man looked at him closer, concern in his eyes. He clasped a hand to Grantaire’s shoulder. “Are you quite alright, son?”
Grantaire swayed again, and this time the old man swayed with him. The shudder was now accompanied by clanging sounds, and a frantic shout of “Cannon!” from Bossuet, who was looking out through a gap in the barricade.
Everyone ran forward, guns in hands, peering out into the street with various expressions of panic and horror.
“Load!” It was Enjolras who regained his sense the fastest, of course it was. Those with guns scrambled with them, panicked. “Aim!” A pause. “Fire!”
The barricade filled with smoke. But when it had cleared, it was apparent that the gunfire had not stopped the soldiers.
The cannon was huge, a bronze dragon, jaw gaping, ready to kill. The fuse was lit. The barricade was made of paving stones and an overturned cart. They were all going to die here.
Grantaire was shot through with fear. This was as foolhardy as facing the river Scamander. Except for this time, the odds were firmly against Grantaire. This time, he had something left to lose.
The cannon fired.
Grantaire was knocked backwards by the sheer weight of sound colliding with the alcohol in his brain. His ears rang. His vision blackened. This was it.
But then he could see again, and he could see that the cannon ball had somehow not passed through the barricade. Everyone was laughing and cheering, though the sound was still reverberating inside Grantaire’s skull and he couldn’t hear it. He exhaled, dragging a hand down his face.
They were alive. If they could survive a cannon, then maybe… maybe they could survive this?
Blinking tears away from his eyes – how did they get there? – he looked around. Joly and Bossuet were embracing, Feuilly, Combeferre and Courfeyrac shaking hands. Enjolras was still standing guard, watching to see what their opponent’s next move would be. Marius was talking to Gavroche, and look of concern on his face.
Gavroche seemed to shrug off whatever Marius was saying, and ran up to everyone else, gesturing wildly with his musket. Grantaire watched him. He was far too enthusiastic to be on the verge of death.
Grantaire slowly made his way over to Marius, who was looking at Gavroche with pain etched in his face, so focussed that he jumped a bit when Grantaire slumped next to him. He glanced over at Grantaire only briefly, his eyes full of tears, before looking back towards Gavroche, raising his sleeve to brush away the water.
“He was only a baby when I arrived in Troy. He wasn’t sup- he wasn’t supposed to die.” Marius’ voice was heavy. Grantaire winced. “I tried, I tried to make him leave, and he just came back, and I don’t know what to do.”
Grantaire reached out and wrapped an arm around Marius’ shoulders, squeezing his upper arm.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do. He’s his own person.” Marius’ breathing hitched. “And you tried your best, Marius, that’s all you could do.”
“I’m… I’m sorry. For crying so much. Gods, I shouldn’t be surprised I was Helen, I’m such a girl.” Marius almost spat, and then hissed when Grantaire pinched his arm. He pulled away, rubbing at the sore spot. “Ow, Grantaire, what was that for!”
“Women aren’t inherently weaker, Pontmercy. And not only women cry. Remember you’re talking to the world champion of grief here.”
Marius at least had the sense to look a little sheepish. He opened his mouth to reply, but whatever he was about to say was lost in Enjolras screaming “Get down!”, and the subsequent round of gunshot.
When it was quiet again, there were bodies on the ground. Grantaire’s heart stopped for a few seconds, but it was no-one he knew. He supposed he should still feel sad, but he could only bring himself to feel relieved.
Grantaire’s eyes immediately sought out Patroclus, as they always did. He seemed uninjured, climbing up from his sheltered position, and training his gun on someone on the other side. Grantaire almost couldn’t help himself as he left Marius, edging towards where Enjolras seemed to be having a fight with Combeferre.
“Look at him, Enjolras. He could be your brother.”
“We… you can’t just shoot him.”
“I have to.” Grantaire was now close enough to see that he was crying. He pulled the trigger. There was a distant cry. Grantaire could see just enough through the barricade to see blood blooming across a young sergeant’s back.
This was horrific. This was war… But, this was dishonourable. This wasn’t Patroclus. Not the Patroclus Achilles had known.
Grantaire was still reeling from the shock, but Enjolras had already recovered, ordering about to have someone blot up the hole the gunfire had come though. He turned around, and saw Grantaire, standing and just staring at him. He sneered.
“Still here, winecask? I thought I told you to leave.”
Grantaire ignored his question. “You shot a man in the back.”
“Someone had to do something.” Enjolras started walking past him.
“Patroclus, I don’t…” Enjolras stilled, and span, studying Grantaire’s face for a few moments.
“I’m sorry, is that not something you think the Patroclus you ‘knew’ would have done? Because he wouldn’t have. He spent time away from the battle, and too many people died because of it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got more important things to do.”
Enjolras walked off towards their ammunition stock, and Grantaire slowly, slowly made his way back to Marius. They sat together for a while, not talking. Eventually, Marius said softly:
“I don’t believe I shall ever see Cosette again.” Grantaire swallowed, and attempted to offer a small smile, but he didn’t think he quite managed it.
“I hope, for your sake, that you do. You deserve to.”
A cry from Courfeyrac, quiet but still aching with some kind of fear, was what eventually startled Grantaire and Marius out of their commiserating.
A cry from Courfeyrac, quiet but still aching with some kind of fear, was what eventually startled Grantaire and Marius out of their commiserating.
“Gavroche! What are you doing?” The pair looked at each-other, and ran to join Courfeyrac, who was looking over the barricade in a way that did not bode well for the answer to that question.
Because there was Gavroche, on the other side of the barricade, the wrong side, the dangerous side. The boy in question ran towards the nearest prone body, a guardsman with a styled moustache. He picked off the man’s ammunition pouch and waved it in their direction as an answer to Courfeyrac’s exclamation. He then dropped it in the basket he was holding, and darted towards the next man, doing the same.
“Gavroche, you don’t need to do that!” Marius cried. His voice was desperate. There was steady gunfire coming from the opposing soldiers. “What about the grapeshot?”
“We’re out of ammunition, the boss said so. Someone’s got to get some more. I’m small enough to miss the rain.” Gavroche called back. The three of them watching simultaneously caught their breath as he ran to the next corpse, exhaling when he was safely tucked away.
It was unlikely that the soldiers could see Gavroche, in the dark of the night and covered by the smoke of several hours’ worth of fighting, but all the same. This was Gavroche. A child.
“Was someone shouting at Gavroche?” Feuilly appeared behind them, out of breath, as though he had sprinted at the sound of the name of the boy who had once been his brother. “What is he...” His voice trailed off as he saw the boy in the street beyond the barricade. “Gavroche! Get back here now!” There was the tinge of command in his voice of a man used to caring for a myriad of careless younger siblings, but it did little good to hide the panic of watching the boy brave the jaws of death.
Gavroche merely waved. “I’ll be back soon, don’t you worry.”
The boy started singing, likely to block out the voices calling him back. The four young men stood helplessly as Gavroche ran from body to body: the man who had once been his brother, the man who had killed his own daughter at a similar age and burned with regret, the man who had once been the pawn of a war in which he died, and the man who had wielded the sword to kill him.
Not one of them dared to go out with him, at risk of their larger bodies getting the attention of the watching guards. Not one of them could bear to watch what was inevitable. Not one of them could turn away.
A bullet ricocheted off the body Gavroche had been picking from.
“Gavroche, get back now, please, they can see you.” Marius was crying again.
“Just a few more, come on! That one there’s got a load still, I can see it!” Gavroche carried on forward, dancing between bullet shots. He was still singing, drawing attention.
It was more than Grantaire could bear. He had promised that he would not stop Gavroche from doing what he wanted, that it wasn’t his place. But he could not watch the boy die, not if he could do something. He had already failed Éponine.
He backed away from where the others were standing, shouting now, frantic. He scanned his eyes across the barricade, before he finally spotted it; a place he could pull the barricade open, and get through.
He ran towards it, ripped it open with a strength he didn’t know he possessed.
“Grantaire, what are you doing?” came a voice behind him. Enjolras’ voice, he would always recognise it. He had always listened to it, took to heart everything that his one-time lover said. But he could only ignore it, now.
He pushed through, and ran towards Gavroche, leaping over bodies, ignoring bullets. He was almost there, he was so close. He reached out to grab Gavroche, to pull him back.
He was too late.
A bullet caught Gavroche’s head mid-verse. He fell backwards, right into Grantaire’s arms.
And Grantaire froze, in the middle of the street, bullets still being fired around him. It was as though all the life he had left in him had left, all he could do was clutch Gavroche’s body to his chest. He had failed both the Thénardiers, who had had so little but had given him so much. Everything was numb.
Hands pulled him backwards, someone else grabbing Gavroche’s basket. They were moved away from the gunfire, back through the barricade. Someone tried to pull Gavroche out of his arms. He merely held on tighter. People were talking to him, but their voices were blurred, he couldn’t hear what they were saying. Someone made to touch his head, but he only flinched away.
He had felt this kind of despair only once before.
But this was somehow different to when he had found out Patroclus was dead. Then, his heart had crumbled, falling away like ashes until he felt nothing at all. But now his despair was for everyone, for his friends already dead, for his friends who he now knew would never survive the barricade. He was not Achilles, Achilles-and-Patroclus anymore, he Grantaire, Grantaire-and-Les Amis. His heart was filled by so many people, and he did not know how it would survive this.
“Grantaire.” Enjolras. A hand at his shoulder. The only voice that could draw him out of his head was tenderer than he had ever heard it directed towards him. “Grantaire, you’re bleeding.”
Grantaire finally dragged his eyes away from the boy in his arms, looking up at the angel, once the only person he would have given his life for.
“Troy will fall without Troilus.” His voice sounded weak even to himself.
He felt someone gently take Gavroche’s body with a quiet sob. Someone else wrapped a bandage around his head. There was blood in the corner of his vision that he hadn’t noticed before. He must have been shot. Now he realised it was there, it started throbbing.
Still, he kept he eyes trained to Enjolras’. Enjolras stared back. He looked… Grantaire wasn’t sure. Confused? Conflicted?
Suddenly, someone was lifting him up.
“You’re injured, R, let’s get you inside.” Bossuet’s voice was soft.
Everything hurt. Everything hurt, his head and his heart and his soul.
Everything went black.
He awoke to a strange sort of silence.
He awoke to a strange sort of silence.
He was lying on a mattress, on the ground floor of the Corinth. He couldn’t entirely remember how he got there, or how the mattress had got there, for that matter. He had been drinking with Joly and Bossuet, and then…
The memories crashed into him like an enemy spear striking his bronze shield, like a runaway cart into whatever unfortunate things lay in its path. The funeral, the revolution. The execution, the spy, the guardsmen. Bahorel, Jehan, Éponine. Diomedes, Ajax, Paris. Gavroche. Troilus.
How long had he been unconscious?
The silence echoed over and over in his ears.
Was it over? Had the fighting stopped? Had he missed the pivotal point in the war, again?
Had everyone died while he was asleep?
He stood up, frantic. All the blood in his body seemed to rush into his head at once, dizzying him, but he had had enough practise from drink, and he managed to take the few steps towards the hole in the wall where the door used to hang.
When he reached it, his hand came instinctively to grasp the frame. Normally he needed the support because of wine. Now, it was all he could do to remain standing with the horror before him.
There they were. Courfeyrac, Agamemnon, blood still wet around his mouth. Joly and Bossuet, Philoctetes and Protesilaus, as close to each-other as they had always been in this lifetime, bullet wounds almost twins. Feuilly, Hector, close to the barricade, leading the charge to protect his people once again. Combeferre, Odysseus, three stab wounds in his stomach, staring at the sky.
Grantaire almost vomited. They had died, and he had been lying elsewhere, useless to prevent it. Useless, useless Achilles.
His eyes shifted around people he had once known, people he had never met, friends and enemies. People who were his friends now, his family, who knew him and got-to-know him and who he would have died for. Who he should have died for.
Suddenly, a clear thought broke through the clouds of internal loathing. Where was Marius? He blinked, and then again. Where was Enjolras?
“Shoot me then!” Came a shout from upstairs. And he would recognise Enjolras’ voice anywhere.
Grantaire rushed to the staircase, as fast as he could on his unstable legs. It should have taken more co-ordination than he had to climb them. But he was desperate. Desperate. He had to… Patroclus.
He reached the top. There was Enjolras, looking resplendent, stood in front of the window, clutching a flag. There was Patroclus, his chin up, determined. His only family from his first lifetime, his last remaining part of his family from this one. Patroclus, who loved Achilles. Enjolras, who hated Grantaire. He had fought to save people. He would always fight to save people. Patroclus who had died alone to try and end the slaughter of the Greeks at Troy, and Enjolras, who was willing to do so again to try and end the poverty of the people of Paris.
And in front of him, a firing squad.
Before he could think about it, Grantaire called out. He knew, though, that had he been given time to think, he would have done the same thing.
“Long live the Republic. I am one of them.” All eyes in the room turned to him. He carefully didn’t look at Enjolras as he picked his way over the broken furniture to where man he had always loved, always venerated and admired and believed in, was standing.
Finally, he stood beside Enjolras, taking a deep breath before looking up at the guardsmen. His last chance, to do something, to be something, to give back to the people he loved, who had become his family. His second chance to make sure Patroclus did not die alone.
“Long live the Republic. Finish us both at once.” Then he looked up at Enjolras, at Patroclus. It was strange. Patroclus had always been shorter than Achilles. “Do you permit it?”
He could not bring himself to belittle Enjolras’ grand end if the man still hated him. But when their eye’s met, Enjolras’ widened.
“Achilles.” Enjolras said, barely audible, but there all the same. He looked astounded. Proud. Heartbroken. He looked like he was about to laugh and to cry. Instead he took Grantaire’s hand, squeezing it tight. He smiled.
The smile had not ended when the resort rang out.
Wow! This is the final chapter! I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for reading, whether this is now or at any point in the future. I took a whole year to actually get this all written, and the concept has been with me longer than that, so it really means a lot that people have enjoyed it (or at least read it ;P).
I have a plan for a sort of epilogue, but it's not been written yet, so bear with me and I'll try and get it up soon.
Thanks again for everything <3