The back room of the Café Musain, frequent home of the Friends of the ABC and incubator of revolution, was in many ways a veritable playground for belief. Despite the general agreement in purpose for most of those who frequented the room, they were individuals, and as in any group, those beliefs were as unique as the men who held them, which often made for some merry and fascinating interplay and duels between those beliefs, and by extension their believers, were far from uncommon.
Of course, lack of belief is very nearly a belief in itself, and one with skepticism steeped in his bones could contribute no less to this interplay, especially when placed in counterpart to a belief that shone more resolutely than nearly any other. This was the fundamental truth of Grantaire and Enjolras, and theirs was a tale of belief and unbelief and perhaps in the end, belief after all.
One evening found Enjolras sitting quietly while conversations drifted around the air, filling the background with no small amount of muted activity, albeit not activity in which he was taking part at the time. Instead, he was sitting with a book, absorbed in the words of Rousseau.
Grantaire, who was never far from Enjolras in such case that they were both present (which anyone could say who bothered to notice), glanced over from his wine. "I must say, Enjolras, that I am truly shocked."
It was a comment that begged for a reply, and yet Enjolras was very nearly tempted not to provide one on principle. Nevertheless, after a moment's hesitation, he did indeed respond. "How so, winecask?"
"That you have not yet memorized the Social Contract."
Enjolras almost huffed in reply, but settled for words instead. "It is always wise to have a reference."
"Ah," Grantaire replied with a sardonic grin. "So you have, then."
"I have a certain degree of familiarity with it, as you well know, so I am curious as to why you ask."
"I am simply impressed."
"It takes a strong mind to deal with that much idiocy."
And that, to the surprise of none, sharpened Enjolras's gaze in displeasure. "I will have no words against Rousseau."
Grantaire shrugged. "Well, you haven't had any so far; I wasn't expecting that you would all of a sudden."
"You knew my meaning."
"As well as you know the Contract, I'd wager."
Enjolras did not seem inclined to take Grantaire up on that wager. "Then were you deliberately being obtuse?"
"Well, of course I was."
"You are an idiot."
"Perhaps, but from what I can tell, I have more fun being an idiot than you have being a glittering paragon of republicanism. Do you even know what fun is?"
The only response Grantaire received to that question was a withering glare before Enjolras returned to his reading.
However, he seemed perfectly content with that.
For all Grantaire was drawn to his diametric opposite in Enjolras, he was also more than willing to metaphorically fence with the other regulars of the meeting-rooms of their small society.
One afternoon, Bossuet, in one of his better moods (which was truly saying something, as his moods were seldom anything less than congenial) was waxing eloquent on a new mistress, whom he had not yet lost to the slings and arrows of his terrible luck, with great and highly characteristic cheer. He expounded on her virtues, ending the litany with a comparison highly suited to his audience. "You see, friends, she sums up in her own person what makes the people of France great. You could say, in fact, that she is France itself in microcosm."
Grantaire could barely help but to reply. "Well, then I fear your luck will hold as it normally does, for you have some rather striking competition for the affection of fair France." He glanced rather pointedly at Enjolras, who merely rolled his eyes. Grantaire, however, was not finished. "I must warn you additionally that France, while indeed quite pleasing in many ways, is, for all that, rather demonstrably a whore."
Eyebrows were raised at that, from many in earshot, not least by Enjolras himself, who coolly replied, "Should I even bother to ask your rationale behind that statement?"
Grantaire grinned broadly at that. "Well, really, who hasn't France screwed?"
Although the aside garnered no small amount of amusement from those assembled, none of it came from the man to whom it had been directed. "Were you attempting to be rhetorical?"
"You did a poor job of it, in that case. Your premise was flawed."
"France is nothing but infinite promise and potential. It is not France who causes suffering within her, but those that subvert that potential for their own gain at the expense of the people and, by extension, the expense of France herself. And they are whom we work here to stop, not France."
"How unfortunate that we have to live in this thrice-damned world of reality instead of the one of your lofty ideals. Those you disparage are no less people than the people you elevate. Although I'm sure they would be no less loathe to hear it as you are." He waved a hand to indicate something perhaps only he knew. "You think the return of the republic will end misery, but will anyone say America is a shining beacon of equality for all, despite its republic having been in place for decades? People are the stones that make up the tower of your republic, Apollo, and not all people are you with your virtues. How high can you build that tower when most of the stones above the foundation are flawed?"
"So you propose what in its place, Grantaire?" Enjolras asked, all of his intent focus making its way to his voice. "Even if the people are not perfect, it will be at least improvement. You advocate what? Complacency? That will accomplish nothing, when people suffer. No, you advocate nothing, content to just sit back in your cups and find flaws wherever you look. We fight for change because we do believe that positive change is possible, even inevitable, and the virtues of the people will, over time, invariably wear away the flaws. You believe in nothing, Grantaire, and therefore nothing will ever please you."
Grantaire raised his glass in acquiescence. "You are not entirely right there, but I'll give you the point." He then fell silent for the rest of the afternoon.
Of course, as a rule, Grantaire was hardly a man to be prone to brooding, so that particular bout of silence did not last. Even as the discussions around the society grew more and more urgent, as if there was an underlying knowledge of their worlds and lives being more and more balanced on a precipice, Grantaire seemed more or less unchanged.
One day late in May, however, none of the frantic noise in the back room could be credited to him. And it was not, as it more than occasionally was, due to any drunken stupor on his part. He was drinking, but far less than would have ever caused him to fall insensible. There were no ironic asides from him, no irrelevant digressions. There was simply sitting silently, even late into the night when the denizens of the meeting place filtered out one by one, ultimately leading only himself and Enjolras. And then, at last, he spoke up.
"If everyone were you, your republic would actually have half a chance."
Enjolras looked over in mild surprise, possibly having utterly disregarded the other man's presence. "It does have a chance."
Grantaire rolled his eyes, provoking a similar, if less pointed, action from Enjolras. "It's going to kill you."
"The people are ready. We should not fail in this, but if it does, it does. I can think of no better cause for which to die."
"You don't deserve to die for something so stupid."
"It is not stupid."
"It is. You're going to throw your life away, and for what? Liberty, equality, fraternity? Pretty words, but they're just that. Nothing will change. People will remain people, and you will die, and you are better than the damned republic."
"Nothing and no one is more important than any of that will ever be."
Grantaire pushed away his empty glass. "I didn't say more important. I said better. Men live in reality and not in theory. But you can look forward and imagine a place that that's not true, and it makes you better than other people, and better than those ideas that, once they find foothold, will be dragged through the mud with all the other ideas before them."
With an aggrieved sigh, Enjolras began to collect his papers, preparing to leave. "I don't have to listen to this nonsense."
"It isn't -- you are the beam of light that you imagine your republic to be, and you are far too good to be throwing yourself away."
"Being willing to die for a cause is not tantamount to throwing oneself away."
Grantaire sighed and slumped in his chair, closing his eyes. "You're wrong. But if you say so, who am I to argue? Bring your fire to the people, and may doing so treat you better than it did Prometheus."
Enjolras shook his head and departed. Grantaire was entirely back to normal the next day.
The fire of revolution did, ultimately, blaze up in a moment of sublime glory. That particular flare, though, was short-lived. By the time the ending arrived, it was not, in and of itself, surprising. Parts of how it played out, though, absolutely were.
Enjolras standing resolute before the firing squad, staring down his own end, unafraid and knowing that even if this effort did not bring change, the next attempt would, or the next, because freedom would not, in the end, be denied-- that was not shocking at all.
Grantaire, though, being roused by the silence and standing and breaking that silence while going to stand beside Enjolras? Enjolras accepting the overture with as much conviction as he did his own impending death? That was not an ending that would have been foreseen, even, perhaps, by Grantaire himself.
Ultimately, relatively few people in the world end up with both the opportunity and inclination to die for what they believe in. Nobody who knew Enjolras would have been surprised to hear that he was one of them. Everyone who knew Grantaire would have been surprised to hear that he was another.