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The Dividing of Our Grief

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It was Joly that he wanted to talk to, the day after it happened. And in that moment, Joly would have given anything in the world to have it not be him, for him to not be the doctor among their friends, not the person that they turned to when there was any kind of medical question.

He didn’t want to talk to him, didn’t want to face him.

But since he hadn’t talked at all to anyone else, Joly supposed that he couldn’t really deny him this. Not now. Not after everything.

So Joly left the group from where they were huddled downstairs in the Musain – Closed, the sign on the front door read, for a death in the family, and when Joly had seen it, he had given Musichetta such a hug (because it was true, after all; they were a family, their little dysfunctional family that lived, it seemed, at the Musain, and for a moment when he saw it Joly felt the ragged edges of his heart start to burn and it was all he could do to not cry out for the loss of one of his family) – and slowly made his way up the stairs.

Joly couldn’t cry, not when he was about to see him.

Joly felt he had no right to cry when he was about to talk to him.

He pushed the door to the upstairs room open without preamble. They had all heard the cries coming from it earlier in the morning, sharp, wounded sounds of pain that none of them would ever know or understand. There were no sounds now, and Joly turned to Combeferre, who was standing just inside the doorway, frown permanently creasing his forehead. “How is he?” Joly asked softly, closing the door behind him.

Combeferre shrugged, looking exhausted and, for a moment, at least a decade older than his real age. “About as well as can be expected, I guess. He has some questions for you. I wouldn’t...I wouldn’t ask this of you, but…” Combeferre’s voice broke and he closed his eyes for a long moment.

Joly squeezed his arm reassuringly. “I will answer what I can,” he told Combeferre, his voice quiet. Combeferre nodded, and Joly stepped forward, suddenly nervous, and cleared his throat before asking softly, “Enjolras?”

From where he sat facing the window, Enjolras turned, and the breath caught in Joly’s throat. He didn’t know what he had expected exactly, but this...this was so much worse.

Enjolras’s eyes were red and puffy, his face drawn and pale. His curls hung limply, his clothes were disheveled, but the worst part...the worst was the look in his eyes, the complete void of anything that had once grounded him and kept him alive and human. It was not grief; it went so far beyond grief that the very word paled in comparison to what was etched on Enjolras’s face.

Grantaire had once joked that Enjolras was like a statue; here, now, Enjolras looked like a death mask.

Joly swallowed, hard, before repeating, his voice even quieter than before, “Enjolras? You...you wanted to talk to me?”

Enjolras stared at him blankly for a long moment before gesturing at the chair next to his. “Sit. Please.”

His voice was raspy, whether from tears or disuse Joly couldn’t say, and he sat quickly, facing Enjolras as Enjolras turned to stare out the window again. “I...I wanted to ask…” There was a long pause as Enjolras tried to put the words together. Then he said, in a low voice, “I wanted you to tell me what his last moments were like. What he went through. What he felt.”

Joly’s mouth went dry. “Enjolras…” he started before breaking off. “I...I don’t know if I can…”

“Please.” Enjolras’s voice sounded nothing like his normal commanding tone; this was all raw brokenness, the pleading of a man who had already lost everything and was clinging to what few shreds remained. “Please.”

Bowing his head, Joly took a deep, steadying breath, trying to force himself into the detached, clinical mindset he used while at work. “It...he probably didn’t realize that it was an overdose right away,” he told Enjolras quietly, not looking at him. “It would have felt similar at first to a normal hit. The sudden rush of euphoria – maybe a little more intense than normal. He probably just thought it felt extra good.” He paused, trying to find the best way to say what he had to next, knowing Enjolras would not forgive him if he sugarcoated things. “The breathing was probably what went first, his airways constricting. Maybe not all the way. He...he might have thrown up a little, if his stomach spasmed. And he might’ve choked on his vomit, if he was lying on his back.” Joly closed his eyes and fought his own urge to be sick at the thoughts that followed, thoughts that sounded so clinical when not applied to one of his closest friends. “He most likely had a seizure, or several, depending. By that time, his lungs would be too weak to carry on, and his blood wouldn’t have enough oxygen in it. He would have suffered from respiratory failure, and then…”

He couldn’t force himself to say the word, even now couldn’t force himself to acknowledge it as true. He chanced a glance over at Enjolras, who had gone very still. “Did he…” Enjolras started, licking his cracked lips. “Did he know what was happening? Would he have been conscious through it? Do you think he was in pain?”

Joly shook his head slowly. “Most likely not. The...his consciousness would have still been under the euphoric effects of the drugs. He most likely did not know what happened. And chances are that he was unconscious before he would have felt any pain.”

“That’s...that’s good,” Enjolras said, heavily, his hands rubbing compulsively against his jeans. “I’m glad. I just...he was alone, you know? He was alone, and I just…” His voice broke into a sob, and he only just managed to choke out, “I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t scared.”

Tears were cascading freely down Joly’s cheeks, and he wanted nothing more than to pull Enjolras into a hug, to hold him tightly as he sobbed, to offer words of comfort that did not exist. Instead, he sat there, watching as Enjolras sobbed brokenly into his hands, standing numbly when Combeferre cleared his throat. “I’m sorry,” he whispered on his way out.

He didn’t know who he was apologizing to.

He didn’t know what he was apologizing for.

And he didn’t know if Enjolras heard him.

It wouldn’t have helped, anyway.


 

Joly frowned as Grantaire stumbled into the Musain, late as usual, his clothes even baggier than usual, his hair disheveled, a vacant grin on his face. “Jolllly,” Grantaire said enthusiastically upon seeing him. “How goes your night?”

“Fine,” Joly replied tightly, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “Enjolras is going to kill you if he sees you like this.”

Grantaire just laughed, his eyes wide, and Joly saw what he knew he would, what he had seen so many times before: Grantaire’s pupils narrowed to the size of pinpricks. “Enjolras can try to kill me, but he loves me too much to do any lasting damage. Besides, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right?”

This was aimed at Joly, whose frown deepened. “I’m pretty sure he already knows. He’s not stupid, R. He remembers what you were like last time.”

Some of the joy seemed to slide from Grantaire’s face, but he forced a laugh all the same. “It’s different this time,” he said, insisted really, though his hand automatically seemed to rub the crook his arm. “I’m fine, doc. I promise.”

Joly pursed his lips, but knew from experience that now was not the time to try and reason with Grantaire. “Here,” he said instead, pulling something out of his pocket. “I stopped by the needle exchange at the hospital on my way home. At least...at least be careful, alright?”

Grantaire accepted the clean syringe from him, pocketing it with a wink. He kissed Joly on the cheek, telling him as he went past, “I always am. You don’t need to worry about me.”