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A Shadow On My Mind

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“I don’t like this.”

“You don’t have to like it.” Grantaire’s voice crackles across the headset even though the line should be clear, something clicking in the background. “You just have to sit and look pretty—which I don’t have to remind you that you’re very good at—while I get us in. Now shut up a minute, I need to concentrate for this bit.”

Enjolras lets his head fall against the wall where he’s waiting, tense and ready to run in either direction. Courfeyrac, a few feet away, rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “It’s an easy job, Enjolras. Child’s play.”

“The guards were too easy to distract.”

Courfeyrac snorts. “You set something on fire, of course they were easy to distract.”

“They didn’t leave anyone behind, and there are five of them. They should have left at least one.”

“The channel is open, you two, seriously, would you let me concentrate?” Grantaire says in his ear, though he sounds exasperated more than really annoyed.

Enjolras mutes his headset in response and catches Courfeyrac’s concerned look. “What?”

“If you’re that worried, we can check back with base, see if they’ve caught any hiccups. I can’t say I like it either, but I trust them to get in contact the second anything seems off.” Courfeyrac thumbs the button that will put a call through to Combeferre. “Should I check in anyway?”

Enjolras shakes his head. “They would have called. This is meant to be an easy job, considering its importance. That’s probably why I’m tense.”

“R to Apollo.”

“I told you not to call me that,” Enjolras snaps, more by rote than anything else, turning his headset back on. His mind is more on the empty warehouse and the information he’ll be going in to collect the second Grantaire has made it through the security to the underground vault.

“Just thought I’d let you know I’m almost through. Give it another minute before you start coming, though.” He starts humming something that sounds vaguely familiar, the sound of scraping and clicking closer to the headset than before, like he’s bent close to see what his hands are doing, something Enjolras has seen in person a hundred times before. After Enjolras counts out forty-three seconds, he makes a triumphant noise. “There we are. Just let me see if this swings open, but I’m sure it will. Don’t say I never—”

Anything more Grantaire was going to say is drowned out by the eardrum-bursting noise of an explosion, heard across his headset a second before the building shakes around him. He shouts Grantaire’s name into the radio even though anyone that close to the explosion would be temporarily deafened at the very least. “Grantaire, report.”

Courfeyrac catches his elbow, eyes wide, phone buzzing at his side until he picks it up, puts it on speakerphone. “This is Courfeyrac.”

“Grantaire, this isn’t funny.”

“Combeferre here, there’s been an explosion in your location, status report.” Somewhere in the background hum of activity that is home base in the middle of a disaster, Enjolras thinks he hears Cosette calling out Courferyrac’s name, asking if they’re okay, asking what’s going on.

“Enjolras and I are fine. We think the explosion came from Grantaire’s location.”

“R?” As if that’s some sort of cue, there’s a second explosion, the noise and vibrations coming to them without the warning from their radio connection to Grantaire, which means that best case scenario Grantaire’s radio has been damaged. Enjolras clenches his fist at his side and holsters his gun to go find him, only for Courfeyrac to catch his arm and grip tight when Enjolras tries to shake him off. “What? He could be injured, we don’t leave friends behind.”

“I’m arranging transportation out of the city for you, the job is obviously compromised, and possibly Les Amis as well,” Combeferre says on the phone, efficient as ever. “In the meantime, get out of the area.”

“We’re going back for him.” It’s unthinkable to do anything different. Grantaire may be difficult, a constant trial more interested in the crime than the good that comes from what they do, but he’s still a member of Les Amis, and Enjolras won’t leave a friend behind.

Combeferre doesn’t answer, but the phone keeps transmitting the background noise of their base, Joly talking fast about medical attention and a doctor friend not far away, Bahorel swearing before there’s the crash of something being pushed over. Courfeyrac shakes Enjolras’s shoulder until he meets his eyes. His own are wide and a little wet. “The vault was booby-trapped, and there were two explosions. Nobody got out of that.”

“We don’t know that for sure.”

“We need to get safe.” Courfeyrac bites his lip for a second, gaze dropping, but he brings it back up after a second. “There might be a third explosion. He would want you safe.”

Enjolras feels bewildered and stupid and angry and like his ears are ringing from the explosion still, even if he wasn’t even there for it. “He went back for Bossuet the last time there was trouble. You expect me to do less?”

“You think I don’t want to go back there?”

“Joly’s friend is on his way to meet you,” says Combeferre across the phone in the gentle tone that accompanies bad news. “I’ll text you the address in a second, but the two of you need to get out of there. Usual procedure for a job gone wrong.”

“Acknowledged,” says Courfeyrac, and hangs up, leaving them in silence. “They’re going to be back soon, to make sure the explosion got us. This is exactly why R told us to wait a ways away in the first place, so we’re going to get out.”

If Grantaire were conscious and there were a possible way to get in contact, he would have done it by now, Enjolras is certain of that. If Grantaire is unconscious but alive, Enjolras has no way of knowing, and that possibility is what makes him want to turn around and go after him, but Enjolras is good at being logical. He felt the strength of those explosions, heard Grantaire’s voice cut off, and Courfeyrac and Combeferre both think he’s dead. “Okay,” he says, and hates it. “Courfeyrac, you take point.”

“We’ll leave our phones on until Combeferre makes us turn them in,” Courfeyrac promises, and leads them out of the building, ducking through hallways while Enjolras waits for his phone to vibrate against his hip, anger rising up and choking in his throat.

*

The news in Athens that night is full of a dock fire that led to an explosion in a warehouse that was storing a few flammable chemicals, and Enjolras watches footage from a hotel bed while Courfeyrac talks to Marius on a burner phone, assures him for the twelfth time that he’s fine. One of the dock workers had managed to get a video on his phone (and part of Enjolras notes the name and face and wonders how someone who was meant to be fighting a fire had known to have a camera pointed at just the right window at the right moment) of basement windows blowing out.

When Courfeyrac hangs up, he sits on Enjolras’s bed instead of his own, their knees not quite touching, and watches with him. There are no mentions of a body, but neither of them get a call, either, from Grantaire laughing and wondering why they ever worried about him, or even from Grantaire in pain asking them to meet him at a hospital (Grantaire hates hospitals, Enjolras can’t remember how he knows that, but the knowledge keeps sticking in his head).

“I am going to find whoever made this happen,” Enjolras says when the news moves on to the economy, “and they are going to die.”

Courfeyrac doesn’t say anything at all, just changes the channel to some telenovela translated poorly into Greek and keeps sitting there while Enjolras stares at his phone and waits for it to ring.

*

It’s a week before they make it back to base, after trains and boats and a rickety ride on a mule cart back into Casablanca, where their latest base was set up last year because Courfeyrac has a sense of romance where revolution is concerned and Combeferre was willing to indulge it.

Everyone is there even though it’s eleven at night when they stumble through the door, and everyone looks behind Enjolras and Courfeyrac like they’re expecting a third person, though they can’t possibly be by now. Courfeyrac lets himself be swept into the subdued welcome, but Enjolras goes to Combeferre right away. “Who did this?”

“It seems Patron-Minette decided we’re a danger to them now that we’re being recognized, even if our aims are different. Or, more specifically, a man named Claquesous decided, though Jondrette may well have given his tacit permission to sell us out,” Combeferre says calmly, not even flickering a glance in Éponine’s direction at the mention of her father.

“I’ll deal with it.”

Combeferre raises his eyebrows. “You want to go down that road?”

Cosette is hugging Courfeyrac so tight it’s hard to see how either of them can be breathing. Bahorel was careless enough in a fight that he has a black eye. Joly and Éponine both look like they’ve been crying. Feuilly is tired-eyed and Bossuet is subdued and Musichetta’s jaw is tight and Jehan won’t look up and Marius has his hand clutched in the fabric of Cosette’s skirt like he’s afraid she’ll float away. They’ve never lost someone before. “Do you think we have a choice?”

“I think it’s one thing to dismantle governments and corruption with the information we gather and the missions we carry out, and another to kill a man in cold blood for revenge.” Combeferre looks around at their friends, at Courfeyrac dashing tears out of his eyes when Cosette releases him, at the horrible, frozen look on Éponine’s face. “We’re going to have to move bases, cut all our connections, rebuild without any connection to Patron-Minette that isn’t thoroughly vetted and secure. That first, and then I’ll help you.”

Enjolras breathes out. Combeferre’s support is what he’s been waiting for all week, and now that he has it he can find the patience to do other necessary tasks first, to make sure it’s safe to do what he needs to do. “Where will we move this time, then?”

Combeferre clasps his shoulder for a second before letting go. “I think it’s time to go back to Paris.”

*

Éponine is waiting by his bed when he wakes up at nine thirty, after only five hours of sleep. She looks like she slept less, but there’s a determination he recognizes in her eyes when he sits up and blinks the sleep out of his mind. “Apollo,” she says, her voice catching around the word.

It’s startling, hearing it from anyone but Grantaire. “You don’t call me that.”

“He made me promise, he said—he said if anything ever happened to him, I was supposed to keep you from getting too carried away with your plans or your ego. So that’s what I’ll do.” She looks down and picks at a hole in the rug next to his bed. “I want in.”

Enjolras frowns. “In on what?”

“I’m going to help you kill Claquesous. And maybe my father.” Éponine wraps her arms around her knees. “It’s my fault we’re connected with them at all, so it’s partly my fault R is dead. We’re going to hurt them.”

He isn’t stupid enough to say no, or protest, or say she doesn’t have to betray her family (they’re her family; Gavroche is her family, and Gavroche would probably be here next to her if she weren’t trying to keep him out of the worst of what they do even as Grantaire teaches—taught—him to pick locks). Instead, he sits up. “After we’ve moved to Paris. Les Amis come first.”

“You don’t deny you’re going to do it.”

“Of course I don’t.” He meets her eyes. “I don’t want this to be revenge, or only that. I want to let them know that nothing like this will ever happen again.”

She sighs and looks down at the carpet again. “I get it, okay? Of any of us, I get it. Grantaire did, Combeferre might, and I didn’t think you did until yesterday, but I get that sometimes being a criminal organization, no matter what good we’re trying to do or how noble our causes, means this. So I’m going to help you.”

“I’m sorry,” he says. She deserves it. Of all of them, she might have the most right to grieve Grantaire.

Éponine stands up, moving like she’s sore or just exhausted when he’s used to her moving like she expects to have to fight or dance at any second. “Yeah. Me too.”

*

“There’s something you should see downstairs,” says Feuilly, leaning in his doorframe that night.

“I’m packing.”

“We’re going to be in Casablanca for at least another week while Combeferre arranges our disappearance, the packing can wait. Come downstairs.”

Enjolras wants to object, but Feuilly is watching expectantly, drawn and tired (all of them look so tired, and Enjolras is avoiding mirrors because he doesn’t want to know if he looks that way too), and there’s not a real reason to say no. When he nods, Feuilly leads the way downstairs, and Enjolras follows down to the first floor, a sparse living space that they use when they have non-business company.

The front room is filled with people. Enjolras recognizes a few—friends of Gavroche’s from around the city, the wife of the man who owns the corner store, a man who sells alcohol from a market stall—and has no idea who others are, but they’re all there, arms filled with flowers, gifts, copies of the sketches Grantaire scattered around the city. “Word got out,” says Feuilly from next to him, unnecessarily.

His first instinct is anger. Grantaire isn’t theirs. Wasn’t. He was one of Les Amis, a friend and brother and colleague and as much as Enjolras got angry at him, Enjolras also knew he belonged there. These people don’t know about the collection of lock picks he always kept cared for and neat even when everything else around him was chaos, or how he stumbled into one of their early, almost-botched, jobs in Paris and saved it without blinking an eye, how he told Enjolras in the dawn light before he wandered off that he was an idiot if he thought crime would change anything but to give him a call if he ever needed his skills (how Enjolras found his number in his jacket pocket later even when he was sure Grantaire had never touched him).

After a minute, though, it bleeds into something else. They don’t know Grantaire, but that isn’t stopping Bahorel from laughing almost-hysterically with a young woman who seems to be reenacting a boxing match, or Musichetta from clasping the hand of an older man waxing poetic about the long conversations Grantaire had with him when they were both smoking, or the rest of Les Amis from mingling, receiving condolences and giving them in return. Grantaire may not have been Casablanca’s, but it loves him. Enjolras can’t begrudge anyone their grief, even if he wants to.

“He would hate that there isn’t alcohol,” he finally says. “What’s a wake without alcohol?”

Feuilly leans on the wall next to him, just close enough that their shoulders brush. “I’m sure it won’t take very long for that to happen. Though I’m shocked you approve.”

Enjolras shrugs helplessly. “It’s Grantaire. I know it doesn’t matter, he doesn’t know to care anymore, but we at least owe him the kind of funeral he would have wanted.”

“It isn’t your fault,” says Feuilly in the over-casual way that means he’s been weighing saying it all day.

“I could have called off the job, or been there at the vault with him.”

For a second, he thinks Feuilly isn’t going to answer, but then he looks at the floor, away from the woman who lives three houses down the street, who is looking through a little sheaf of pictures. “There was no sign that it was compromised until too late, and he wouldn’t have wanted you to get hurt. He would have given anything to keep you safe.”

“I don’t know why,” snaps Enjolras, digging his hands in his pockets so he doesn’t clench them into fists.

“Let him have his secrets.”

“They don’t do him any good anymore.”

“Leave it, Enjolras.” Feuilly goes back to watching the wake as Courfeyrac produces a bottle of wine for everyone to toast with, and Enjolras follows suit, the words stewing in him, nagging as he lets someone press a glass into his hand.

He stays there with Feuilly for twenty minutes, long enough for someone to start a round of songs he doesn’t recognize, and then he goes back to his room to continue packing, the few sips of wine sour in his mouth.

*

Their last night in Casablanca, Enjolras goes up to the roof of their base and finds Jehan sitting there, feet dangling off the edge, with a bottle of barely-touched wine in his lap. “Am I interrupting?” he asks.

“Just saying goodbye to the city. Have a seat if you want a seat.”

Enjolras thinks about saying no, because for the past week the only conversational topic besides the logistics of moving to Paris and cutting all unnecessary ties with outside organizations has been Grantaire. Jehan doesn’t look like he needs privacy, though, and Enjolras has his own goodbyes to make to Casablanca. It isn’t his favorite city he’s ever lived in, but it is where he’s stayed longest since they decided to leave Paris for a while. “Are you going to miss it?” he asks when he’s sitting, shaking his head when Jehan offers him the bottle (it’s one of Grantaire’s stash, Enjolras doesn’t know how he knows except that all of them have been sneaking into Grantaire’s room and stealing mementos all week).

“I miss every place we leave.” Jehan takes a swig and makes a face. “Grantaire loved Casablanca almost as much as he loved Paris.”

“He probably watched the movie a few too many times.”

“Haven’t we all?” Jehan shrugs and Enjolras doesn’t bother to answer, since both of them are more interested in watching the sun set than in going over memories. “One of us was always going to die, or die first,” he says eventually. “And Grantaire was probably glad it was him.”

Enjolras scowls, though more at himself than at Jehan. “People keep saying he would have wanted to keep me safe, that it would make him happy to save my life, like that’s some sort of comfort.”

“Of course it’s not a comfort,” says Jehan, as easy as that. “But I think they’re underestimating him. He would rather him than any of us, not just you. Grantaire loved us. Why else do you think he stayed?”

Enjolras exhales, surprised when his breath catches halfway through. When Jehan offers the bottle, he takes it again, even though the swallow is sour and bitter going down. Grantaire had terrible taste in wine, for all he drank it constantly. “I don’t think I ever thought about it.” He looks out over the city as far as he can. “I don’t think that’s comforting either.”

“It wasn’t really meant to be.” Jehan puts an arm around his shoulder, the kind of easy touch that Enjolras doesn’t allow from many people. “Nothing much is going to be, for a while. But that’s okay. And you’re going to do something about it.”

Enjolras and Éponine haven’t been talking much about their plans, but word has gone around anyway, or at least an educated guess that neither of them has cared to correct. “I thought you of all people would disapprove,” he says.

“I can’t say that I like it, and I know it won’t erase the fact that he’s dead, but I’m not above the desire for revenge.”

“We’re hoping it won’t only be that.”

Jehan hums a little, taking the wine bottle back and taking a bigger drink than Enjolras had dared. “Trying to make sure it won’t happen again?”

“I know that revenge usually assures the opposite,” Enjolras admits. “But Patron-Minette is just willing enough to stab itself in the back as individual members search for power that I think it’s a risk worth taking.”

“And even if it isn’t, we’re making ourselves hard to find.” It’s an assurance more than anything else, since Jehan is one of their specialists in covering tracks digital and physical both. If anyone can help Combeferre make sure Patron-Minette can’t get close enough to betray them again, it’s him. “It’s going to be okay.”

Enjolras stays there looking out over Casablanca until the sun goes down and Jehan excuses himself for some last-minute packing, and stays until Combeferre comes out to get him and make him get some sleep before he has to leave.

*

Paris seems just the same as it was before they left it—Enjolras recognizes less of the shops than he once did, and almost none of the people, but from the second he leaves the train station and starts towards the converted warehouse that they’re setting up as their new base, he knows how to fit into the rhythm of it. He remembers just how fast to walk, just how to acknowledge people he bumps going by, just what shortcuts he should take.

Everyone else has been back for a few days, or at least one. He offered to take the most circuitous route to get back, since traveling all together isn’t wise (or sometimes even possible) anymore, and missed a train on his way, so it’s the middle of the day instead of the middle of the night and he’s reintroduced to Paris in all of its thriving beauty and he’s forced to think about how much he missed it.

When he gets to the warehouse, still bare of everything but a security system and a lot of boxes, only a few people are there: Musichetta stringing their computer system slowly back together, Marius sprawled on top of a box not seeming to notice the corners while he reads a book, Joly sorting out their first aid kits. He’s the one who speaks first, mustering up a smile when he catches sight of Enjolras. “We need to tighten up the codes on this building, they’re letting any rabble in.”

“Very funny,” Enjolras says, and drops his traveling bag next to the stack of boxes in the common room. The one nearest him is labeled “R,” which answers the question of whether anyone packed Grantaire’s things to sort through officially. “Where is everyone?”

“Settling in,” says Musichetta. “We’ll get you a list of everyone’s addresses when we have a new phone cleared for you. Speaking of which …”

Enjolras hands over the burner phone he used during the last leg of his journey, and then when she continues looking expectant, his last real phone, which he kept past when he should have in case Grantaire managed to get out by some miracle and wanted to get in contact. At this point, it’s a stupid thought and a security risk, so he tries not to feel a twinge when she grabs the hammer sitting at her side and smashes both, extracting the SD cards to dispose of them still more permanently. “We’ll have a meeting tonight about what our next steps should be,” he says, grabbing a broom and dustpan from the corner at Joly’s pointed cough and sweeping up the remaining mess. “Get the word out.”

“Of course,” she says, and gives him half a smile before she returns to her work.

Marius looks up from his reading when Enjolras heads for the door so he can see the upstairs rooms in person—there are less than there were in Casablanca, because they’re maintaining separate residences in Paris, but there will be a few bedrooms for emergencies and plenty of rooms for work and storage. “Are you and Éponine leaving soon?”

Enjolras pauses, wary. “Probably. We’ll have to talk about it tonight.”

Marius frowns like there’s some objection he wants to make, but he doesn’t make it, whatever it is. Instead, he just says “Be careful” in a tone that’s a shade too earnest and goes back to reading, leaving Enjolras to go upstairs feeling a little more uneasy than he did before.

Bossuet is upstairs in the most secure room, unloading their weapons and installing a safe for the information they want some extra security on, and he gives Enjolras a quick nod when he sees him but doesn’t try to talk to him. Enjolras takes that for the favor it is and continues his exploration, finding Cosette putting sheets on the guest beds because she can’t stand leaving that sort of thing undone. He helps her, since there isn’t much else to do and he doesn’t have an apartment yet so he can’t go there to settle in.

“Take a nap,” Cosette suggests when they finish the last bed. “You’ve been traveling, I know you hate that, and everyone will show up this evening sometime. I think Combeferre has a list of apartments for you to look at when he gets here, and your—you can wait a few days to find one before you leave.”

Enjolras sighs. “Marius isn’t happy about it either.”

“Marius worries about Éponine. She can take care of herself, but, well. Things are always complicated.” Cosette squeezes his arm. “And I’m just worried what you’re going to do when you find out this doesn’t fix anything.”

“Do you think I should just let them get away with killing Grantaire?”

“My father would probably ask if you thought you had the right to dispense justice like that, but that’s a stupid question, given what we do.” Cosette rubs a hand across her face. “I hate that they did this to us, that they took R from us, just so they could get on the good side of an already-corrupt politician—which, thank you for not planning on killing him, I guess. But I’m worried that they’ll be prepared for some kind of retaliation, that we’ll lose you and Éponine too. Don’t let that happen. Whatever you do.”

“I won’t. And Éponine won’t. I doubt that they can prepare for us.”

She gives him a long look. “You’re angry.”

“I’m angry,” he agrees. He would burn the world down if he thought it would fix this. Restraining himself to one murder, perhaps two, is hard, and it’s everything he can do not to go after the man who asked for the explosives to be rigged, except he knows that it was Claquesous’s plan really, and there are other ways to take politicians down.

“Stay that way,” she says, and smiles when he can’t help showing his surprise. “You focus when you’re angry. It might be what gets you through this alive. Now take a nap, you’ve got mayhem to plan and I need to take Marius to find Courfeyrac.”

*

“We will need to find the proof of the vote tampering in Greece,” Enjolras says at the beginning of the meeting that night, after everyone’s greeted him with some mild ribbing for being late.

It takes any pretense at being light-hearted straight out of the meeting, and Enjolras isn’t sure if he feels more guilt or vicious satisfaction at that. “It might be wise to leave that for the time being,” Combeferre says, voice as even as ever. “There are plenty of other things we can turn our attention to. There’s something in Norway I’ve been keeping an eye—”

“If they tried to kill us, not just have us arrested with a police force who wouldn’t blink an eye because they’re that corrupt, there’s more that they’re hiding than we think there is. We can’t leave a job undone.”

Jehan sighs. “We’ll look into it while you’re gone.”

“I wanted to talk about that,” says Bahorel, fists already clenching on his lap as if in anticipation.

“No,” Éponine says immediately, before Enjolras can.

“Just because you’re his best friend and Enjolras is—”

“That’s enough,” Éponine snaps, sharp and fast, glaring across the circle at Bahorel. “It’s because Enjolras and I know how to do things quietly, and you would burn down half of Europe looking for Claquesous. Three people are harder to conceal than two, and besides, we need you for your connections, since obviously mine are shit. Got it?”

Bahorel glares, ready to object, but Feuilly cuts across it. “We understand. Now, can we talk about security and the new layers of it we need for anyone outside the core of our organization?”

The conversation moves on, turning into something close to a normal meeting (it isn’t normal at all, gaps in the conversation in odd places, the few plans they start making being rough at best now that they’re missing Grantaire’s skills at breaking not into computer systems but physical places, but they can at least pretend). Enjolras lets Combeferre take the lead, since he doesn’t know how long he and Éponine will be away and when the meeting finishes, he asks her to stay. She takes a minute to go over to Bahorel and give him a quick talking-to, hands on his shoulders while he looks marginally less resentful by the second until he finally gives a grudging nod and she lets go.

Afterwards, she comes over, and everyone else starts trickling out of the room, heading to the main room to talk or drink or catch up on how they’re all dealing with their reintegration to Paris. “We should talk planning,” she says.

“I should find an apartment before I leave the city, but Combeferre has a few places for me to look at. It should only take a few days.”

“That’s good, I need a few days myself. I need to get Gav enrolled in school, take care of a few things like that.” She holds up a hand before he can say anything. “Our covers are good, don’t worry. And I already have Marius and Cosette and Courfeyrac lined up to babysit. I figure between the three of them they can keep him out of jail and fed on something besides bread and cheese until we get back.”

“Do you know where to find Claquesous?”

“His branch of Patron-Minette is based out of Nice these days, and he doesn’t think we’re enough of a threat to have moved afterwards. Getting into their premises once we get there may be a problem, but I think I can find them.” She scowls down at the table. “Jondrette may be harder. Last I heard, he was in Munich, but he’s hard to track down. We’ll have to do reconnaissance there.”

Enjolras picks his next words carefully. “We don’t have to do anything about Jondrette. And even if we decide we do, you don’t have to.”

“Fuck that, Apollo.” She says the word like it tastes strange in her mouth. “He doesn’t count as family. Gavroche does, Grantaire did, Les Amis do.” She raises her eyes. “You do. If he needs to die, he needs to die.”

“Everyone keeps telling me not to make this about revenge.”

She snorts. “You and I know better than that. But I figure there’s no harm as long as it’s not the only reason. Now, we don’t we check in again in a few days and start making travel plans?” With that, she walks out, and Enjolras only waits a minute before going out to the common room himself to get the list of apartments to view from Combeferre.

*

It’s six days before they leave Paris, and Enjolras chafes at it, but he also knows the more time that passes, the more complacent Claquesous will become. He finds an apartment only a few blocks from the warehouse, oversees the beginning of the operation to find the information that they need to take down the politician who had Grantaire killed, and avoids talking about Grantaire whenever possible. His absence seems like less of a weight, since there’s no empty bedroom here like there was in Casablanca, no memory of ever running across him most of the way out a window trying to get the perfect angle for a photograph from the second floor, but even that feels wrong, like they’re trying to erase him, though the pile of boxes labeled “R” sits in one of the guest rooms untouched, tangible evidence that he was with them once.

Éponine meets him in the train station the morning they’re supposed to leave, dressed like they’re going to the beach instead of to kill a man. She gives him a sharp nod when she sees him and they board the train without talking. There isn’t much to say, or anyway nothing to be said in public, and Enjolras is content to spend the first hour of the journey sitting in an otherwise empty compartment staring out the window as they leave Paris again, heading south. “Gavroche wanted to come along,” she says after a while, tapping her fingers against the seat.

“Gavroche should have a chance at something else.”

She snorts. “Cause that’s likely.”

Enjolras acknowledges the truth of that with a nod. “He should at least wait until he’s of age to commit felonies.”

“Because of course you did.” She pauses. “And I did.”

“Isn’t that the point of us? To make it so someday people don’t have to make those kinds of sacrifices?”

“It didn’t exactly feel like a sacrifice at the time.” She looks out the window. “You’re going to need me to get close. You may even need me to be the one to do it, he’s got to know that we know what he did by now. Are you going to be able to deal with that?”

Enjolras does her the courtesy of thinking about it, though he’s been thinking of little else all week. “If I couldn’t, that would mean that I really was doing this only for revenge. Whoever has the shot takes the shot, as simple as that.”

“Do you want to talk to him first?”

Éponine made it clear when she joined Les Amis that her background wasn’t like theirs, hacking and theft and other crimes that wouldn’t hurt anyone except in a few cases. It’s one thing to know it, though, and another to hear her calmly discuss the logistics of the murder of a man she knew long before she knew them. “Talk to him?”

She shrugs. “Ask him why he did it, find out for sure if my father was involved, whatever.”

The thought of talking to him is appealing (Enjolras ought to be honest: the thought of slamming him into a floor with a hand on his throat and making him beg for his life is appealing, but he knows it isn’t a rational or useful thought), but the only reason to would be to find out the level of Jondrette’s involvement. “If we can talk to him to find out about Jondrette, that would be good,” he says finally. “But I would be just as happy tossing his office for information.”

“We’ll see what his security is like,” she says, and falls silent again.

It isn’t a long trip to Nice, at least not as long as many of the train trips Enjolras has had to take at times. Éponine takes her laptop out and spends most of the ride typing away with her brows knit, and Enjolras takes a book out of his bag, a thick novel that seems to involve a lot of symbolism for magical creatures that he picked up on a whim on his third day in Paris (there was a book among Grantaire’s things, a study of the monarchy in the modern world, that had an inscription on the inside cover for Apollo on the occasion of your birthday even though you insist on pretending that you don’t have one, whether you decide to read it or start fires with it, and he almost brought that, but it seemed an unnecessary piece of sentimentality when he needs to concentrate on the job at hand and not the reason behind it).

Enjolras is half-asleep by the time the train rolls into the station at Nice, but he’s woken by the sound of Éponine snapping her laptop shut and stuffing everything back in her bag. Enjolras follows suit, swallowing a yawn, and they make it off the train without incident and out to the streets.

“Sleep now, recon later?” Éponine asks, and Enjolras nods and lets her decide what hotel they’re going to stay in.

*

It’s four days before they find their way past Claquesous’s security and into his home. Patron-Minette is complacent in Nice, even though they’re obviously on alert, which Enjolras can’t help taking as a backhanded compliment. They watch until they find a hole in his security, which is entirely down to Éponine—she knows their methods, even if they decided to keep the element of surprise in case they need to use it on her father—and they wait until he dismisses his bodyguards that night to slip in.

Claquesous doesn’t startle or even reach for a weapon when he sees them, standing in front of his window looking out at the beach. Crime pays well, at times, and Patron-Minette doesn’t pay the bulk of their earnings on to charity. “I was wondering when I would have a visit from the esteemed Amis.” He raises his eyebrow at them. “Though I confess I’m a little surprised at the delegation.”

Éponine doesn’t scowl, doesn’t look at her weapon, doesn’t do anything but arch an eyebrow in response. “Didn’t think I’d stab you all in the back as fast as you did me?”

“Of course not. You’re your father’s daughter, after all.” Enjolras knows just what those words mean to her, but she doesn’t flinch. “No, I was referring to Enjolras. If you’d been the one caught in that explosion, I would have expected Grantaire on my doorstep within days, a trail of bloody murder in his wake of any who dared stand between us, but the reverse is something of a shock. I was quite sure you’d send someone else.”

Enjolras won’t give him the satisfaction of responding, even with a sick feeling growing in his chest at the words. “You aren’t calling your bodyguards, then?”

Claquesous smiles. “You aren’t shooting me. What would the point be? You want information that I have. Did I work alone, you’re wondering? Will Patron-Minette track you down, or is it enough that you’ve had to back out of a project we have an interest in?”

That, as far as Enjolras is concerned, is answer enough. If they were working against Patron-Minette’s interests in a specific situation, not just growing to be a potential rival, then Claquesous’s actions were almost certainly condoned and encouraged by Jondrette. “Éponine,” he says, and the second she nods, he draws his gun and clicks the safety off. For the first time, Claquesous looks alarmed, scrambling in his pocket for his phone, and Enjolras wants to say one last thing, wants to tell him he never should have fucking touched one of Enjolras’s friends, but he can’t risk Patron-Minette finding them, so he pulls the trigger instead, and it turns out it’s easy to commit his first pre-meditated murder, given the correct motivation.

They clean the scene after with the efficiency of long practice, even if it isn’t quite the kind of scene Enjolras is used to leaving. He takes a laptop and any other electronics he can find and Éponine breaks into the safe, hidden under an artfully messy pile of clothing in a closet, to remove a few valuables and files that they can go over back at base. All told, it’s less than half an hour before they’re on the street again, taking the most circuitous route they can back to their hotel.

“Back to Paris tomorrow?” Éponine asks when they get there, already working on stowing away all the evidence of what they’ve done.

Enjolras means to confirm, but he finds himself blurting out the words he’s been turning over in his mind since Claquesous got under his skin. “Is it really such a surprise that I did this for Grantaire?”

“He was one of us, no matter how much you two fought, so we weren’t surprised.” She doesn’t look at him as she disassembles her gun to stow away. “But for everyone else who ever knew the two of you? Yeah, it’s a surprise.”

“He was part of Les Amis. Did they really think I would work that closely with someone I disliked?”

Éponine finally looks up at him, a frown tugging at the corners of her mouth. “R thought it more often than not. He was—he never thought of you two being close, that’s all.”

They weren’t, or not really. They worked together often, and spoke often, but they never sought one another out for relaxing company or spent much time together in the common rooms of their bases or out in whatever city they were in. Still, the thought that Grantaire died not realizing Enjolras considered them friends makes him feel sick, even more than the thought of what they did tonight. “Fuck.”

“Yeah.” She sighs out. “Yeah, pretty much. I need a fucking cigarette.”

Enjolras doesn’t object when she lights up in the room, even though he usually can’t stand the smell caught in his clothes or pillows. When she offers the cigarette he takes it and inhales deep and tries not to think about it. What’s done is done, and if Grantaire didn’t know Enjolras cares about him, it’s Enjolras’s fault but not anything he can do something about now.

“My father?” Éponine asks at the end of the cigarette. She’s the only one of them who never flinches away from what he is to her—the rest of them call him Jondrette, or just the head of Patron-Minette. With Éponine and Gavroche, he’s always their father, or sometimes Thénardier.

“That’s at your discretion. Claquesous could have been enough of a message to them.”

“My father doesn’t get messages unless it suits him, and I suspect in this case it doesn’t.” She stands up and starts getting clothes to sleep in out of her bag. “We’ll track him with what we picked up tonight. Now go to sleep, we’re going to want to be on the early train out of Nice.”

Enjolras takes that as the end of the conversation and goes to brush his teeth in the bathroom while she gets ready for bed.

Neither of them sleeps much before they get up to pack for the morning train, but neither of them says another word for the rest of the night anyway.

*

By the time they get back to Paris, Claquesous’s death is in the headlines. Not on the front page, not a matter of constant coverage—he wasn’t notorious enough for that—but there, as Combeferre proves when he produces a newspaper the second Enjolras walks into the base. “What is the paper saying?” he asks, since Combeferre obviously wants him to.

“That he was killed by someone he crossed. No specific mention of us, and police don’t seem overly invested in investigating his murder.” Combeferre gives him an assessing look. “Are you okay?”

“Fine.”

Combeferre starts typing something on the keyboard in front of him, glancing down at his screen before he looks back up at Enjolras. “Jondrette?”

“We’re going to find him. He’ll double-cross us again, and Patron-Minette is backing the man we’re trying to take down, so he’ll do it violently. I won’t lose anyone else.”

“I’ll do what I can with the information you and Éponine brought.” He pushes his glasses up his nose. “You should take a rest.”

“I can’t. Not yet.”

Combeferre nods. “After you kill Jondrette, then. But you will take one after that. We can do jobs without you, or we can take a short break—I know it isn’t ideal, but we all need to regroup after R’s death.” He pauses. “It’s hit you harder than I expected.”

Enjolras sits down near him, since it seems he won’t be escaping this conversation without giving Combeferre what he wants. “Does everyone think I’m that unfeeling? Grantaire was a friend, no matter what anyone thought, and of course I’m mourning him.”

“I suppose most of us were used to thinking of—no one thinks or thought that you wouldn’t care, Enjolras.” Combeferre purses his lips, obviously weighing his next words carefully. “I suppose we all just weren’t used to thinking how you felt about him.”

There’s an odd emphasis on the words, and Enjolras isn’t fool enough to have missed the way people have been skirting around phrases where he and Grantaire are concerned. “He’s dead, Combeferre. Is it so important to protect his secrets?”

“When it won’t do anyone any good to tell them, yes,” Combeferre returns immediately.

“What sort of bad would come out of my knowing, then?”

Combeferre shrugs. “Most simply, it would make you unhappy, and not in a way you could do anything about.”

Enjolras raises his eyebrows. “And that isn’t what grieving is?”

“Your response to grieving has been to commit murder and begin planning another,” Combeferre points out. “I wouldn’t call that doing nothing, even if it doesn’t help as much as you want it to. No matter what, though, it isn’t my secret to tell.”

Enjolras scrubs a hand across his face. “Whose is it, then? Who inherited Grantaire’s secrets when he died? Because it has something to do with me, I can tell, and I think I have a right to know.”

For a minute, Combeferre just watches him, and then he shakes his head. “Think about it. You’ll figure it out or you won’t, but it isn’t going to make anything better.” When Enjolras opens his mouth to object, Combeferre just raises a hand to stop him. “We should talk about Patron-Minette some more. They aren’t going to disband, not even with their top two men dead, but Éponine thinks that Montparnasse is in a position to seize control if we make way for him, and he’s at least a devil we know. Not enough to trust him or them, but enough that we can have limited dealings, or at least trust them not to come after us.”

Enjolras allows the turn of subject, even though he knows decisions that big will require at least a talk with Courfeyrac and probably Feuilly, not to mention significant consultation with Éponine, but he spends the rest of the day thinking about what Grantaire’s secret might have been, what his friends won’t say even after his death.

*

“If Patron-Minette was involved in rigging the elections, it might be smart to stop work on that project until Jondrette has been dealt with,” Feuilly says at the meeting that night.

Marius shoots a very unsubtle worried look at Éponine. “Are we? Dealing with Jondrette?”

“Yes,” says Éponine in a tone that brooks no argument, and goes back to texting on her phone, probably Gavroche, who is seething about being barred from meetings until they go back to planning theft rather than assassinations.

“He’s a continued safety risk,” says Combeferre, looking around the table. “But yes, Feuilly, I agree that for the present we should consider other projects. It isn’t as though our list isn’t sizeable.”

“We’re still working on making sure our security is at its highest,” Joly says. “That should be priority one, as far as I’m concerned.”

“We can’t stop working because we got scared off,” Cosette counters. “Grantaire wouldn’t want that.”

“Grantaire also said we would all get ourselves killed one day,” Bahorel says, and there’s a long, breathless moment of silence while everyone takes that in. Bahorel keeps his chin up, though, and doesn’t let Éponine’s clenched fists or Jehan’s stricken look cow him. Enjolras doesn’t know what his face looks like, but Bahorel looks at him the longest. “It’s true,” he adds. “So chalk my vote up for working on our security for a while, at least unless something urgent comes up.”

“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you advocate for anything but a fight,” Éponine says, but she looks a little less angry.

“Like I said, it’s what R would want. I’m not going to cast votes on his behalf forever, but I figured I could for this one.”

Nobody finds much to say to that, so Enjolras makes a great point of shuffling his papers. “In that case, I don’t think there’s much more business we all have to go over as a group. Éponine and I will be doing our best to find Jondrette in the near future, though I imagine he’s running scared after Claquesous’s death. We may need to ask some of you to help us.”

“We’re at your disposal,” says Musichetta.

After that, the meeting dissolves into smaller conversations—Patron-Minette and Montparnasse’s chances of succeeding Jondrette are at the top of the list, but Courfeyrac and Cosette are arguing amiably about whose turn it is to do some chore or other, and Feuilly and Jehan are discussing online security. Enjolras watches more than he converses. They seem to be finding their rhythm again, but that only serves to make Grantaire’s absence more notable as far as he’s concerned. It’s strange not to be talking to him after a meeting, Grantaire laughing at him over a bottle of wine he hasn’t bothered to pour into a glass while Enjolras tries to convince him of some cause. He hadn’t realized how often it was the two of them during this space of time before, but now it’s all he can think of.

Of course, in the wake of Claquesous’s words, not to mention Éponine and Combeferre’s, he’s also stuck with the unpleasant thought of what Grantaire thought the conversations were, if not an argument between friends—not the friendliest of arguments, but with affection behind them nonetheless. Did he simply want to be contrary, or have a chance for debate? He had to have wanted something, because he sought the discussions and arguments out often, almost every time Enjolras wasn’t discussing business with Combeferre or Courfeyrac and sometimes even then. Grantaire never even looked at anyone else.

Grantaire never even looked at anyone else.

The words settle in a cold knot in his stomach, mixing with the words everyone’s been skirting around, the surprise at his mourning, the way Combeferre said “how you felt about him” in that odd way, the way that probably meant that they were used to thinking about the opposite. Mixing with everyone insisting that Grantaire would want him safe above anything else. And Combeferre was right, of course, that knowing Grantaire’s secret wouldn’t help anything, because everything Enjolras has is telling him that if Grantaire had told him, had kept trying, had had more time, Enjolras would have loved him too, and he doesn’t want to know that.

Nobody interrupts his thoughts as they start moving slowly out of the meeting room, and if they look at him and notice something is off Enjolras doesn’t notice or care. He waits, his hands clenched around his knees, until almost everyone is gone, and when he looks up, it’s just Courfeyrac sitting across the table from him, looking at him with all the sympathy Courfeyrac is so good at.

“Grantaire was in love with me, wasn’t he?” Enjolras manages.

Courfeyrac winces at the shake in his voice, but he doesn’t look away. “Yes.”

It isn’t the worst feeling he knows: that might be the first moment realizing R’s radio had cut off in the explosion, might be the simmering anger upon realizing they were betrayed, might even be the knowledge that a friend died without knowing Enjolras considered him such. It still feels like a knife through the ribs. “I had a right to know.”

“When would we have told you? Before he—before, it was his secret, and he didn’t want you to know. And after, what good would it do? You don’t look happy right now. Finding out someone loves you when you don’t feel the same is shit even when the person that loves you just died.”

“No, I—” He shakes his head. “Why didn’t he want me to know?”

“Why does anyone keep a secret like that? He didn’t want you to say no.”

Enjolras slams his fist on the table, and Courfeyrac startles out of just watching him sad-eyed. “Why is everyone so certain that I would have said no? I may not have—I may not be in love with him, but I would have been willing to try. I would have wanted to try.”

“Fuck, Enjolras.”

Courfeyrac doesn’t seem to have anything more to say to that, so Enjolras just nods. The silence rises up, and his mind is running a hundred times faster than usual, and too much of him wants to find Jondrette now, to kill him not only for taking Grantaire but for taking this opportunity as well. Instead, he stands up. “I need to go.”

Before he can get out of the room, Courfeyrac catches him in a hug. They’re both breathing shakily, and Enjolras is stiff, his throat tight, but he lets Courfeyrac hold him anyway, until the world isn’t screaming around him anymore, until some measure of rational thought returns. When he pulls back, there are tears in Courfeyrac’s eyes, and the lump in his throat only gets worse. “Be careful with yourself,” Courfeyrac warns, and Enjolras gives him a sharp nod before walking out of the warehouse as fast as he can, leaving his jacket in the common room because he doesn’t want to stop to talk to anyone long enough to put it on.

*

Everyone tiptoes around Enjolras after that.

Nobody mentions that they know, even though it’s obvious that they do, but it’s there in the air. They all act like he’s going to break at any moment, whether into shouts or tears is anyone’s guess. There are exceptions, which is all that keeps Enjolras from going out of his mind: Combeferre watches, but he always watches, and while he doesn’t talk about it he doesn’t treat Enjolras any differently either. Gavroche spends more time around him than before, and has a habit of trailing him when he goes for walks around Paris, though he doesn’t talk either.

Éponine plops down into a chair next to him the day after his talk with Courfeyrac. “You finally figured it out.”

“You should have told me,” he snaps back.

“Oh? Why?” She crosses her arms. “I don’t care if you would have said yes, Apollo. Grantaire never got the chance to ask, and it doesn’t help anyone if you start sulking now. Nothing’s changed at all, except that you know, and we have more important things to worry about than your regrets.”

Enjolras takes a breath. If anyone has the right to scold him, it’s Éponine. “Fine. Any word on your father?”

She gives him a brief smile for not sugarcoating and calling him by the name he chose after one too many arrests. “Not yet. Claquesous had his last known location as Florence, but he’ll be on the run by now. He’s not an idiot.”

“Keep me updated.”

Éponine nods and leaves, but things are easier with her from then on, and he ends up in her company more often than ever before. At first, they don’t talk about much but the mission at hand, but within a few days, as everyone works as hard as they can on researching Jondrette’s location and upping their security, he finds himself talking with her about Gavroche’s school projects, the sister she had to leave behind with her parents, Enjolras’s criminal training from a man named Lamarque, and, sometimes, Grantaire.

It seems to comfort everyone else that he’s spending time with Éponine, even if they still shoot him worried looks when they think he isn’t looking. Enjolras ignores them as well as he can and keeps to his routine: he issues orders when needed, joins the team pinpointing Jondrette’s location, walks through Paris when he needs a break and lets Gavroche trail him there.

It’s two excruciating weeks before Éponine pounds on the door to his apartment at eleven at night, three hours after Combeferre and Bahorel shoved him out the door to the warehouse on Joly’s orders. By the grim look on her face, he knows they’ve done it. “We tracked him to Zurich,” she says the second he opens his door. “Combeferre is booking us tickets as we speak, we should get electronic confirmation momentarily.”

“Morning train?”

“Start packing. I’ve got an emergency bag packed at my place, we can stop by there on our way to the train station in the morning, Cosette’s already getting Gavroche back to her place.” She shoves past him.

Enjolras’s phone buzzes with the notification that he has a ticket booked to Zurich, and he closes the door to get ready.

*

The train is crowded, so Enjolras and Éponine communicate only by significant looks on their way to Zurich, watching the scenery go by and trading books back and forth when it becomes clear that they both underpacked on them. Enjolras ends up sleeping most of the way there, in the end, and wakes in the station when Éponine shakes his shoulder.

He chooses the hotel this time, since he’s been to Zurich once before, and Éponine follows at his shoulder wordlessly, no expression on her face at all. Enjolras waits until they’ve booked their room (he had to insist four times before the concierge believed he really does want separate beds) and gone up to it before he tries to speak to her. “We can back out of this any time.”

“I don’t want to.”

“He’s your father.”

“And he was an abusive piece of shit my whole life. The world is better off without him in it.” She drops down onto one of the beds, shoes still on. “I always hoped someone else would take care of him before one of us had to.”

“I can pull the trigger.”

She snorts, but she doesn’t look amused. “Such chivalry, Apollo. I may swoon. Same deal as last time, though. If you have the shot, take the shot. If I do, I will.”

“Do you want to talk to him?”

“There’s no reason. I got my closure five fucking years ago when I walked out and ruined the name Thénardier forever. And do we really need information from him?”

“It might help Les Amis, but there are safer and better ways of getting the information. I would be comfortable making this as hands-off as possible, as long as you’re sure.”

Éponine props herself up on her elbows. “I’m sure. I was always going to come out of this with regrets, just like you are, when you don’t get to murder anyone else and things are still shitty. You’re going to think you shouldn’t have done it, and I’m going to think I shouldn’t have done it, but it needed to be done, okay? Claquesous and now my father, they’re a danger to Les Amis, and no matter what regrets I have afterwards it’s worth it if I don’t lose anyone like I lost R.”

Enjolras takes his own turn at sitting down on his bed, though he stays at the edge, looking at his lap and twisting his hands together. “Let’s sleep off the trip and see if we can track him down, then.”

*

In the end, they’re in Zurich less than a week.

They find Jondrette on the second day entirely by chance and have three different plans for his death by the fourth. He’s dead the evening of the fifth, when Éponine puts a bullet through his forehead from the roof of a building across the street. Jondrette’s bodyguards, unlike Claquesous’s, are paying attention, and Enjolras and Éponine end up fleeing halfway across the city and only making it back to their hotel at dawn, to the knowing look of the night concierge.

Éponine breathes with her hand pressed against her chest for a few minutes when they get back to their room, and Enjolras lets her have a few minutes to collect herself. “You can find your mother and sister, if you like,” he offers when she starts packing her things into her bag.

“They won’t want to see me, and I don’t want to see them. Now shut up.”

If Enjolras were someone else—Jehan, maybe, or Cosette—he would ignore that, and try to comfort her, but he’s fully aware he would do more harm than good with anything he might say. Instead, he packs alongside her and the two of them check out as soon as they can, going to the train station and booking tickets for the first train out, even if it means they’ll be taking a circuitous route back to Paris.

Éponine makes it on the train before she starts crying, heaving sobs that shake her whole body but almost no tears at all. Enjolras, for lack of anything better to do, wraps her in his arms and hopes she doesn’t punch him, and when she doesn’t, leans into her while a woman in their car gives them an alarmed look. “We’ve been at a funeral,” he explains, and she looks away.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for Éponine’s sobs to subside, and soon she’s asleep, still leaning on his shoulder. Enjolras knows one of them should keep watch, to make sure no one from Patron-Minette took a chance on the train station and came after them, but he’s too tired to keep his eyes open, and wakes up hours later to find Éponine on her laptop, eyes red but dry, planning the fastest but safest route back to Paris.

“Regrets?” she asks when she notices he’s awake.

“Of course.”

“Yeah, me too.” She goes back to looking at her laptop, but after a few seconds she leans her shoulder against his and keeps it there.

*

The work goes on, because the work has to go on.

Enjolras takes a week off when he gets back to Paris, per Combeferre’s orders, and most of the rest of them also take the week to go to their boltholes and lick the wounds they’ve gained in the last few months. They all return tired but determined, and to Éponine’s news that Montparnasse did take over Patron-Minette and is willing to have cordial relations when they are. Jondrette’s death makes the news, but Montparnasse or someone in the government hushes it up as soon as possible.

They expose bad business practices from a corporation out of England, get a ring of human traffickers that works throughout Eastern Europe dismantled and arrested, and they continue work on the Greek politician, who remains slippery. Normally, Enjolras would let it go after a while (R used to say Enjolras and the others didn’t know when to give up on a lost cause, but the life Enjolras leads has made it necessary to prioritize some things over others, and he may hate it every time but he does know how to do it), but with the threats to Les Amis and his revenge over with, it still leaves him a way to do what he can.

It’s hard to do in-person jobs without Grantaire, and there are still gaps that no one knows how to fill yet: Enjolras often finds himself sitting alone at the end of meetings, watching everyone and their conversations and missing Grantaire fiercely, and no one remembers to bring alcohol to Courfeyrac’s birthday celebration. Sometimes, one of them slips up their tenses, and all of them look stricken when they stop and realize. Once, out of nowhere, Jehan tenses and asks if anyone ever thought to inform Grantaire’s blood relatives, whichever ones of them would care.

Still, it’s been two months, and meetings slowly get less tense. Everyone forgets to treat Enjolras with kid gloves after a while, and Gavroche gets back to spending all his free hours hanging around pestering them all to learn things that he really shouldn’t know. There are more evenings laughing, and less paranoia over security, even if they’re all still very careful.

Almost three months on, Combeferre greets Enjolras at the door to the warehouse with his eyebrows almost in his hairline. “Your pet project was rushed to the hospital this morning. Official statements say food poisoning, but the media suspects otherwise.”

Enjolras freezes where he is. “Montparnasse making amends? He always did like Grantaire.”

“I would call him calling off those who wanted to avenge Claquesous and Jondrette amends enough,” Combeferre says, but there’s a wrinkle between his brows.

“Then who do you think it is? They’ve done us a favor, whoever they are, especially if the poisoning works.”

“He doesn’t have many friends, other than the powerful ones. Without Patron-Minette’s support someone could have slipped through his defenses.”

Enjolras takes Combeferre’s phone from his hands to check on the news reports: critical condition, and a few sources are reporting signs of a break-in. “We’ll still have to work to discredit him—we can’t let them saint him after his death, or after an injury.”

“True, but whoever did this was smart. It’s hard to make a martyr of a man who died of food poisoning.”

“The media says it’s poison outright.”

“We’ll keep an eye on the situation.”

Everyone who comes to the warehouse ends up keeping an eye on the situation unfolding in Athens—along with the news of the food poisoning, the media also seems to have gotten its hands on information about some of the backroom dealings he was involved in, though the evidence of vote tampering hasn’t come to light.

News of his death hits the media around four in the afternoon, with many regretful quotes from colleagues and doctors about his great potential as a leader. None of Les Amis quite have the bad manners to cheer, but there is an air of some celebration afterwards, and Enjolras doesn’t try to call a proper meeting about it.

Éponine drifts over to him around the time Courfeyrac starts attempting to tango with Marius, perching on the arm of his chair. “Satisfied?”

“It doesn’t bring him back.”

“No, but all the ringleaders who were involved in his death are dead now.” He just sighs. “Yeah, that’s about my opinion too. But we did something, and now someone else did something. Isn’t that what you’re all about, inspiring other people to make change? A shady criminal organization is slightly less shady and a politician who cheated his way into office to strip rights away from people is out of the way.”

Enjolras doesn’t say he’d rather have Grantaire back. It’s true, but it feels selfish. Instead, he says, “Aren’t you supposed to keep my ego from running away with me?”

“I think he’d be okay with me telling you something good once in a while,” she says, and drifts off to talk to Musichetta.

*

Two weeks later, Enjolras still feels at loose ends. They’ve moved on to planning a move against some white collar criminals whose business practices and morals are both low, and it’s an engrossing job when they’re still missing someone with Grantaire’s experience with locks, but he’s still low on sleep and restless. The last job he was planning, the one that would have been the closest to some measure of closure he’s likely to get, was taken out of his hands, even if it was well done: the Greek government is doing a serious inquiry into several more politicians who were elected under dubious circumstances.

The restlessness leads him to the warehouse at six in the morning one day, after waking up from a nightmare. He can at least get work done, but that thought is chased out of his mind the moment he sees a light through the window. It’s just one, in the common area, and normally Enjolras wouldn’t pay attention except that he knows he was the last to leave last night, and when he keys in the security code it tells him that no one else has entered since he left. Someone’s broken in.

Enjolras eases his gun from its holster as quietly as he can, clicking the safety off and keeping it at the ready as he creeps towards the common room. The light spills out into the hallway, just one of the lamps from the side tables, and if Enjolras hadn’t been certain every single light was out, it wouldn’t have mattered at all. As it is, someone managed to find them, someone with the skill to get past their alarms even if they were foolish enough to do something obvious like leave a light on, and he should be sending an emergency text to everyone else before he goes in guns blazing.

When he stops outside the door to do just that, fumbling in his pocket for his phone, there’s a sound from inside the room, and then the intruder speaks. “You might as well come in, Apollo, I know you’re out there.”

Enjolras knows those words. More than that, he knows the cadence of them, and the sound of the voice, rough and low and amused, sounding on the edge of sleep or a cough. Within a second he’s scrambling through the doorway, gun falling stupidly to the floor, and zeroing his gaze in on Grantaire, reclining on the biggest couch in the room. “Grantaire,” he breathes.

“I can’t say I was expecting you to be the first one in, but I know the sound of you pretending you’re a super spy. You all never have enough security on your roofs, have I mentioned that to you before?”

Grantaire.”

“Probably not, Gav and I always took the opportunity to enter through the roof, it would have ruined my fun to help everyone make it more secure, and nobody ever thinks of getting in through the roof anyway, even though they should.”

The light is low, but it’s easy to see the effect the last few months have had on Grantaire. He’s pale and tired and thin, bags under his eyes and a bruise on his chin, scars Enjolras doesn’t recognize dotting the skin he can see. He’s there, though, there and alive and breathing and smiling like he expects Enjolras to snap and fall back into their old pattern. Instead, Enjolras chokes out an embarrassing “Oh my God, R,” and then he’s across the room, arms around Grantaire and holding on as tight as he can.

Grantaire lets out a pained noise. “Gently, if you please.”

Enjolras lets go and rocks back on his heels, looking Grantaire up and down and feeling a little wild. “What’s wrong?”

“It takes a while to recover from severe burns and broken ribs, as it turns out,” Grantaire says with a tiny shrug that makes it clear just how much moving hurts. “Especially when you sneak out of a hospital because your friends’ phones have been disconnected when you wake up from your medically induced coma and then you spend months hunting them down and kill a politician because he was the—”

“We need to get you to a hospital,” Enjolras says, because it’s all he can manage to say in the face of that, the thought of Grantaire on his own in a hospital (Grantaire hates hospitals, he hates them, it’s present tense), of all of them so sure he was dead that they didn’t leave him a way to get in touch on that last chance, of Grantaire breaking out and coming after them and committing murder because the job hadn’t been finished.

“Have mercy, at least let me say hello to everyone first.”

“You need a hospital, if you’re still in pain after so long.”

“In all fairness, I think I cracked a few of my ribs again falling off a garden wall while committing homicide.”

Enjolras can’t seem to keep his hands off Grantaire, though he’s forcing himself to be gentle as he checks him over ineffectually. “I don’t—we thought you were dead.”

“I assumed that,” Grantaire says, and it’s gentle, and Grantaire shouldn’t be the one comforting him right now, that should be Enjolras, because Grantaire is not dead and he’s hurt and he’s here. “I got blown back by the first explosion, hid behind the metal door for the second one. Still got knocked unconscious, and when I got out I was hurt and you were gone. So I followed procedure, got out of the city as fast as I could—”

“You should have gone to a hospital!”

“You and your obsession with hospitals.” Enjolras finally makes his hands stop moving, though he’s still clutching Grantaire’s shirt. “I got out of Athens, ended up in Istanbul, long story, remind me to tell you later, passed out because it turns out letting explosives burns and cracked ribs fester does not do you any good, which, yes, we’ve all learned a valuable lesson about medical care, Joly will be proud, and I woke up in the hospital. When they finally let me have a phone, all the numbers were disconnected.”

“I’m so sorry.”

Grantaire raises his eyebrows. “You’ve been replaced by your nice twin while I’ve been gone, I see.”

Enjolras drops his gaze, though that only brings his attention to the fact that he’s still holding Grantaire’s shirt like it may keep him from floating away. “So you broke out of the hospital to find us, went to Casablanca and couldn’t track us …”

“And have been hunting you down ever since. I knew you were still active, I heard about Claquesous and Jondrette, and I thought maybe if I finished that last job you might know I was out there, try to get in contact. When that didn’t work out, I paid an enormous amount in bribes, and yes, I’ll tell you who spilled later on, and found you.” He pauses. “Were you the one who killed them?”

“I killed Claquesous. Éponine—oh, fuck. Fuck, I need to call Éponine.” Enjolras snatches his phone out of his pocket, giving a quick glance up at Grantaire, who’s watching him like he’s trying to figure out the answer to a puzzle. “I’ll ask her to come here, she won’t believe me if I just tell her, will you listen to her if she makes you go to a hospital?”

“No one says no to Éponine.”

Enjolras dials, noting that his fingers are shaking but not able to do much about it, and Éponine answers after two rings. “What?”

“I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

Something in his tone must give him away, because when she speaks again she sounds much more alert. “I was getting Gav ready for school. What’s the matter?”

“I need you to come to the warehouse, alone and now.”

“Are you in danger?” He hears the sound of something banging around on her end of the line.

“Everything is fine.”

“Are you sure?”

He doesn’t take the opportunity to use any of the coded phrases they’ve set up to let each other know if there’s a danger they can’t talk about out loud. “I’m sure,” he says instead.

“I’m bringing my gun,” she says, and hangs up.

*

Éponine is there within fifteen minutes, and Enjolras still hasn’t managed to persuade himself to get off the floor next to the couch where Grantaire still is. They’ve fallen into silence, both of them darting looks at each other, and Enjolras is without words for the first time in a long time. He should be telling Grantaire how glad he is that he’s alive, but he’s still not completely certain he isn’t hallucinating.

When she comes, she keys her code in and then runs down the hall towards the common room without bothering with stealth. She stops in the door to the room, gun raised and aimed immediately on them until she seems to process what she’s seeing. She doesn’t drop her gun like Enjolras did, just puts it away, missing her holster three times while she stares. “R,” she says at last, and Enjolras moves out of her way half a second before she comes flying across the room, practically hurling herself on top of Grantaire.

Grantaire is gasping in pain, but Éponine doesn’t seem to care, saying his name over and over and calling him a bastard in between, tears spilling over.

Enjolras knows it’s a private reunion, knows he should leave them alone, but he can’t bear to have Grantaire out of his line of sight, not yet. He does force himself to stand and take a few steps away, though, turning as much as he can and still be able to see them from the corner of his eye as both of them apologize to each other and say how much they missed each other.

He gives them ten minutes before he taps out a text to Combeferre and Joly: warehouse ASAP, bring medical kits, don’t tell others yet, no danger. “Combeferre and Joly will be coming to see if you need a hospital or if we can take care of you here,” he says when there’s a lull in the words, turning around again.

“Thanks, Apollo,” says Éponine, moving guiltily off of Grantaire at his mention of medical attention and sitting on the arm of the couch instead.

Grantaire looks between them, bemused. “Since when does she call you that?”

“Since someone had to,” Éponine says, saving Enjolras from needing to say anything to that. “I suppose I can give it up now.” She punches Grantaire in the shoulder, making him wince. “Since you’re back to do it, you bastard.”

“I don’t think you get to complain,” Grantaire points out. “I was the one who was left in an explosion zone and then had no way to get in contact.”

Enjolras feels the words like a punch in the gut and looks at his phone instead of Grantaire, checking the return text from Combeferre confirming that he’s on his way. “I’m sorry,” he says when Éponine doesn’t answer Grantaire. “I wanted to go back for you, but Courfeyrac—well, we thought there was no way anyone had survived.” And Courfeyrac had said that Grantaire would have rather had him be safe, but Grantaire is here now, and the question of whether his feelings have changed in the past months is one Enjolras can’t bring himself to broach yet.

“Like the proverbial cat, I have nine lives,” says Grantaire, but he sounds curious, or maybe worried. “Enjolras—”

Enjolras is saved by his phone going off, Joly’s name lighting up the screen, and he finally makes himself walk out of the room, assuring Joly that there isn’t a danger, that Enjolras is fine, but that his present is urgently requested nonetheless, and that Enjolras isn’t sure what of his equipment he’ll need. As soon as he hangs up, Combeferre is at the door, keying himself in with a gun in one hand and his bag in the other, and Enjolras keeps himself to paying attention to the practical matters instead of Grantaire, alive if not well, in the next room.

*

It’s evening before he finds himself alone with Grantaire again. The rest of Les Amis are still having a giddy celebration, but Grantaire has been upstairs in a guest room since noon, sleeping off his injuries and the drugs Joly and Combeferre gave him when they decided he could be treated at home with two qualified doctors and some stolen medical equivalent. Enjolras stayed downstairs for a while, let everyone else take their own vigils by his bedside, saying whatever they need to say, but when Gavroche comes downstairs from his visit, Enjolras goes up—just to check on him, he tells himself.

Grantaire is awake, but groggy, when he gets there. “Gavroche yelled at me,” he explains.

“I understand the urge.”

“I figured you would.”

Enjolras sighs. “No, I’m sorry, that isn’t fair. What could you have done? Hired skywriters in every possible city we could have been in, scrawled ‘R is alive’ across the sky?”

“There’s a certain poetic satisfaction in that. I can’t reach my water glass, someone moved it between now and the last time I woke up.”

Enjolras moves into the room fully and moves the glass closer, and refills it from a nearby pitcher when Grantaire has had his fill. “Can I get anything else for you?”

“Entertainment, maybe. I’m not exactly a convalescent.” Enjolras raises his eyebrows. “Fine, maybe I am, but I’ve been this injured for ages and I still killed a man and tracked you lot halfway across Europe. I thought I caught your trail in Madrid and searched the city from the ground up before I lost my temper and went back to Athens.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Seriously, Enjolras, stop apologizing, it’s disconcerting.”

“You deserve apologies. I left you.”

“I would have done the same.”

Enjolras shakes his head and sits down in the chair by the bed. “No, you wouldn’t have. You would have taken the building apart brick by brick until you knew whether I was—we were alive or not. I should have done the same.” He purses his lips. “I was in shock, I suppose that’s the only excuse.”

“It’s fine. What if you’d gone after me and been caught in the second explosion?”

“Courfeyrac mentioned that.” Enjolras tips his head back against the chair, because he can’t say the next words and look at Grantaire. “I missed you. I—there were a lot of regrets, where you’re concerned. Mostly that I never made it clear that you were—are—my friend, not just someone I argue with.”

There’s a long, long silence, long enough that Enjolras starts to wonder if Grantaire fell back asleep, but he can’t bring himself to look and see. “That’s good to know,” Grantaire says at last, and it sounds like the words are choking him.

Grantaire still loves him. Grantaire still loves him, and for the first time those words aren’t painful, just exciting and a little terrifying. Enjolras could say it, could put all their cards on the table and work from there, but he knows enough to know that’s cruel. Grantaire didn’t want him to know, and if Enjolras says it and then says he want to try, Grantaire will never believe any of it is genuine. “When you feel better,” he says instead, “I want to take you out for dinner.”

He makes himself look at Grantaire again, and catches the quick change of expressions, shock to hope to disappointment. “A sorry-for-leaving-you-behind sort of dinner?”

“A date,” he makes himself say. “Though I am sorry for leaving you behind, but I’m so glad you’re alive, and when I thought you were dead there was a lot I wished I’d thought to do, and I want to take you on a date. Several dates.”

That only makes Grantaire look more unhappy, which is what Enjolras was afraid of. “So what? My untimely death made you fall in love with me?”

“No. It’s hard to fall in love with a dead man. But it made me realize I could have, if I’d thought to stop arguing or even if we’d had more time. And now that I have the opportunity, I’d like to fall in love with you.”

Grantaire makes a wounded noise and closes his eyes, and Enjolras regrets his words immediately. He should have waited, should have something, but those thoughts are erased when Grantaire finally says “Well, I shouldn’t be shocked. You’ve always been good with words.”

“Does that mean you will?”

“I’d do pretty much anything you asked, you should know that by now.” Grantaire opens his eyes again, and Enjolras can’t help leaning forward, even though the chair is close enough to the bed that his knee is almost brushing the mattress. “You should also know I’m already stupidly gone on you before we do this.”

“I know,” says Enjolras, because honesty is important, and then “I’m glad” before Grantaire’s smile can dim.

He can’t remember the last time Grantaire smiled at him, not properly. He’s smirked, maybe, but not smiled, like Enjolras has simply made him happy. Enjolras leans further, bracing his hands on the bed, and kisses Grantaire, a slow, lingering press. “Maybe I did die,” Grantaire says when Enjolras pulls back. His eyes are a little glassy, probably as much from exhaustion and pain as from Enjolras.

“Don’t, R.” There’s a cheer from downstairs, loud enough to remind Enjolras that he left the door cracked. He stands up and shuts it, and then comes to stand next to the bed. “I’d like to stay with you tonight. Just to stay with you. It’s hard to believe you’re alive, still.”

“Stay, then. The bed is big enough for two, if we squeeze.”

Enjolras had only meant to sleep in the chair, but the temptation of being able to touch Grantaire’s skin all night, to know he’s there, is too much. He toes off his shoes and thinks about removing his jeans, but Grantaire looks overwhelmed enough, and that can wait, instead, he goes around the far side of the bed and pulls the covers back until he can slide in next to him. “Let me know if I hurt you.”

“Just avoid the ribs and we should be fine.” Grantaire already sounds like he’s falling back asleep, like just Enjolras’s presence in his bed is helping him. Enjolras moves around a little until he’s more comfortable, a leg slung over Grantaire’s and an arm around his neck.

He thinks he’ll be awake all night, checking Grantaire’s heartbeat, but he’s asleep within minutes, no matter how early in the evening it is.

*

Enjolras wakes to the soft sound of voices. One he recognizes immediately as Combeferre, asking a series of quiet questions with an edge of amusement in his tone. The other takes him a moment, even though the sound is close enough that even with a near-whisper it’s vibrating in his fingertips, resting against someone’s throat. “We’ll be fine,” Grantaire is saying, and yesterday comes rushing back, making Enjolras stiffen and lift his head, blinking his eyes open to make sure.

Sure enough, Grantaire turns to meet his eyes just in time, a hesitant smile on his face. “Good morning,” says Enjolras, feeling breathless and stupid and so happy he isn’t sure what to do with it.

“Good morning,” says Combeferre, much louder than the hushed tones of before, and Enjolras starts and looks up at him, catching the edge of a smirk before he smoothes it out. “I’ll leave you two alone, I was just checking on the health of our patient. Éponine warned me you would be in here.”

Enjolras buries his face in Grantaire’s neck, close enough that he can feel Grantaire’s sharp, surprised intake of breath. “Thank you. And thank her. I’m sure she announced it to everyone.”

“There are congratulations all around, and also a collective vote that you aren’t allowed to work this week.” Enjolras raises his head to glare, but Combeferre has already turned to look at Grantaire again. “I’ll be by in a few hours with your next dose of painkillers.”

With that, he’s out the door and they’re alone again, light filtering in through the curtains enough for Enjolras to search Grantaire’s face again, to see all the bruises and the tired eyes and the smile tugging at his mouth, to see it up close and be sure. Grantaire kisses him after a moment, startling him, slow and thorough, and when he pulls back Enjolras is breathless again and Grantaire is frowning again. “Was that okay?”

“Yes,” Enjolras assures him, and kisses him to drive the point home, still clumsy as he comes out of sleep and not sure where to put his hands, but it’s amazing nonetheless. He’s beginning to suspect that every kiss from Grantaire will be amazing. When he pulls back, he has to take a few deep breaths. “Fuck.”

“We could.”

That brings too many dizzying possibilities to mind, of lips and hands and cocks and Grantaire looking at him the way he’s looking right now, but the collar of Grantaire’s t-shirt is askew, showing the edge of a purple bruise. “When you’re a little better, we will. I’m going to fuck you until you scream, and then you’ll do it for me—I haven’t been, we’ll have to be careful, but I want to try.”

“You’re going to kill me,” says Grantaire faintly.

Never,” says Enjolras, with more force than he means to, and kisses Grantaire again, as hard and deep as he dares.

It’s minutes before Grantaire pushes him gently away, long enough for Enjolras’s mouth to feel kiss-bruised. “Either we stop for a while or we go further,” he says, firm but with a grin curling up his mouth. “I won’t break.”

Enjolras is hard, and it’s difficult to deny Grantaire anything when he’s looking at Enjolras like that, when he’s alive and here and wants him. “Just a little,” he allows, and slides a hand gently down Grantaire’s stomach and into the waistband of the flannel pants someone lent him yesterday when it became clear he didn’t have any luggage. Grantaire is as hard as he is, and Enjolras wants to see him, but there’s later for that, when Enjolras gets him back to his apartment and his slightly bigger bed, and when Grantaire can move without wincing.

For now, though, he gets an easy grip around Grantaire’s cock and watches his face as he starts to stroke. Grantaire looks like he’s hardly breathing, and one of his hands flies up to grip Enjolras’s shoulder. Enjolras kisses him again and then draws back. He wants to see this, wants to watch it happen, so he can remember it later, the next time Grantaire is out of sight and Enjolras worries for him.

Grantaire responds beautifully, and Enjolras goes as gently as he can, wringing gasps out of him and using a leg to pin him as well as he can so he won’t buck his hips and hurt himself. For a while, they don’t look away from each other’s eyes, and it’s a surprising wrench when Grantaire finally closes his eyes, overcome by Enjolras’s hand or his gaze or both, and comes not too many strokes later, letting out a noise as happy as it is pained. “You’re all right?” Enjolras asks, worried.

“Fuck, I’m fine, I promise I’m fine, please do yourself, please.”

It’s probably not wise, given they’ve never had sex before and haven’t talked about it much, but Enjolras doesn’t bother to wipe his hand before he unbuttons his jeans and puts his hand inside, getting a grip around himself that’s much harder than the one he used on Grantaire. Grantaire tips his face up, and then they’re watching each other again while Enjolras gets himself off, brutal and fast and caring more about the way it makes Grantaire look at him like he wants to pin him down and strip him and make him come himself.

“God, I missed you,” Grantaire says, and that’s what makes him come, biting down on a groan and trying his best to keep his eyes open, to see Grantaire’s dazed smile.

“I missed you so much,” he whispers when he can breathe again, and remembers to wipe his hand before putting it on Grantaire’s face to steady them so they can kiss.

They fall back to sleep soon after, and Enjolras doesn’t even care how obvious it is what they’ve been doing when he wakes in an hour to Bahorel throwing open the door to say hello.

*

Epilogue

“Would you stop hovering? This is what I’m good at, in case you hadn’t remembered.”

“You’re good at a lot of things, and I’m not hovering.”

“Like a nursemaid, yes you are.” Grantaire makes a frustrated noise when the lock in front of him refuses another one of his tricks, and Enjolras tries to remain in his tense position across the room instead of exactly at his back, which would be hovering.

“Would the two of you stop flirting?” Éponine asks over the radio.

“I’m not flirting, he really is hovering,” says Grantaire, giving Enjolras a smile over his shoulder.

“I’m across the room from him.”

Her huge sigh causes a crackle of static. “I knew being the first one to go on a job with the two of you was a mistake. Can I change my mind? Can I go home? I’ll send Feuilly, Feuilly is more patient than I am.”

Grantaire takes another tool out of his roll of them, and this one seems to work much better, judging by his grin. Since he’s distracted by his work, Enjolras is the one to answer Éponine. “Unfortunately, we need your skills, but we’ll get you hazard pay.”

She snorts. “Like we get a paycheck.”

Enjolras lets the conversation lapse, since she’s their lookout while they break into an office after-hours and he doesn’t want anyone to take them by surprise. Instead, he watches Grantaire—not entirely in worry, no matter Grantaire’s opinion on that matter. It’s good to see Grantaire work again, the confident movements with the equipment, the way the task absorbs his focus but makes him smile nonetheless. Enjolras could probably give him a mess of padlocks for his birthday and he would be perfectly happy (though he won’t, he already has the ticket to Casablanca booked so they can say goodbye to the city together this time).

“Unlocked,” Grantaire says a minute later, grin spreading across his face, and Enjolras can’t help starting forward as he swings the door open without heed for anything else. Nothing happens, of course, but he can’t help his shaky exhale, and he hears Éponine swear quietly across the radio. Grantaire turns around to raise his eyebrows. “Come on, Apollo, aren’t we going inside? There’s justice to be done.”

There are words sitting heavy on his tongue that he thinks about saying, since of everyone they know Éponine would perhaps mind hearing them the least. Instead, he just smiles a little helplessly in the face of Grantaire’s fond annoyance. “I’m right behind you,” he promises, and follows Grantaire inside.